Updated 9/16/18. Whether you are young or old, parades are one of the best parts of visiting the Disneyland Resort. They provide a fun opportunity to see some of your favorite characters and interact with performers. They’re also a great way to break up your day. This is the Ultimate 2018 Disneyland Parades Guide.
Because Disneyland parades have become so popular, getting to see them can be nearly impossible (and at least very stressful!) if you don’t plan ahead and prioritize it in your day. That is where we step in to help with our Disneyland Parades Guide!
Trying to figure out when to line up? The least crowded viewing location? The best parade for your family? Keep reading for answers to all of this and more!
Let’s get started!
Disneyland Parades Guide: Current Offerings
Right now, there are two amazing parades at Disneyland Resort. Parade offerings typically change seasonally, so make sure to check Disney’s official website for current offerings. You can read more about the famous “A Christmas Fantasy” parade returning this winter here. To find out about the popular Frightfully Fun parade offered during Mickey’s Halloween Party in the fall, click here.
Paint the Night Parade (California Adventure)
This special nighttime parade dazzles with a million sparkling lights and favorite Disney characters including Ariel, Belle, Tinkerbell, Woody and Buzz, Mike and Sulley, Peter Pan, and Rapunzel. Plus, a brand new Incredibles float celebrates the release of the new Incredibles 2 movie in theaters. As this is returning for a limited-time only, it is truly a do-not-miss experience.
Pixar Play Parade (Disneyland)
Returning for Pixar Fest, the Pixar Play Parade celebrates Pixar’s stories of friendship and features beloved characters from all your favorite Pixar movies including Toy Story, Up, The Incredibles, and more! This parade used to be in California Adventure, but it has been revamped and updated with new floats, and it now runs twice a day along the Disneyland parade route. This is a special water parade, so you may get wet!
Disneyland Parades Guide: Best Viewing Locations in Disneyland
Most people grab a seat on Main Street, but this is actually one of the most crowded location choices. The more crowded a spot is, the less likely your children will get to interact with the performers! And if interaction isn’t your priority, it is still nice to get a spot separate from the hustle and bustle of the parks for a relaxing viewing experience.
When picking a viewing spot, it’s important to ask a Cast Member which direction the parade will be going, as it often changes. This can be a critical detail to your planning, especially if you have dinner reservations or a fast pass you’re trying to get to. In general, remember that sitting at the very front of the parade will have you finished about twenty minutes faster.
Close to It’s a Small World: This viewing location is typically less crowded and offers plenty of kiosks for your kids as they wait. As you make your way towards the ride, you’ll see some shady spots perfect for a sunny day. There is also a raised platform which provides excellent views of the parade.
On the side of Alice in Wonderland: This is a choice spot because it’s directly in front of drinking fountains and bathrooms. We also love it because at this point in the parade route, there isn’t seating on the other side of the path. This means that performers can spend all their time focusing on your side so you’ll get a great look at all your favorite characters!
Near the Disneyland Hub: A couple of hours before the parade begins, cast members will put up ropes preventing guests from entering the parade route. These ropes will be taken down about an hour before parade time, so if you stay close to the hub and wait for the ropes to be taken down, you can find a great front-row seat without having to wait two hours. This is a pretty small area, so it isn’t ideal for small children or big parties, but there is a lot to do on Main Street as you’re waiting for the parade to begin.
Disneyland Parades Guide: Best Viewing Locations in Disney’s California Adventure
Similar to parades in Disneyland, we recommend asking a Cast Member which direction the parade will be going as you make your plans. Additionally, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification. Some spots along the route may seem like a good viewing area, when in all reality, it is a “No View” zone to allow for traffic. Double check so you don’t get to parade time thinking you hit the jackpot, only to be asked to move.
Near Goofy’s Sky School: We like this viewing location because is one of the last to fill up, meaning that you line up later and still get to enjoy the parade. It still provides a good view of that area of the park, though, so there will be a lot for your children to look at while you wait.
Any spot with a wall or curb: This is a more generic tip, but spots along the parade route with benches, curbs, or walls to lean against are pretty sparse. If you see an open spot like this regardless of where it is, we recommend you grab it!
Along HollywoodLand: While this is the best spot for viewing convenience and comfort (lots of curbs and benches), it is also probably the first to fill up. If you don’t mind sitting for a few hours, this is a great spot. But we wouldn’t recommend looking here for a viewing space if it’s only a half hour before the parade.
Disneyland Parades Guide: When To Get a Spot
Typically, guests will not be allowed to reserve seats until two hours before the parade starts. As soon as Cast Members allow this, you’ll start to see families setting up blankets and reserving bench and curb spaces, which always go first.
If you want the best bench/curb space, we recommend getting to the spot 2.5 hours before the parade begins so you can reserve your spot as soon as Cast Members allow.
If you aren’t as picky with your viewing location, you have about 1.5 – 2 hours after this to get a spot, using some of our tips above. Try to be in your spot a half hour before the parade begins. Once you hit this half hour mark, it is pretty rare to get a front-row view of the parade and if you see a spot, we recommend taking it immediately.
As always, if you have any questions or need tips, ask a Cast Member!
Disneyland Parades Guide: Dining Packages
The best way to guarantee a good parade spot without having to line up too early is to purchase a dining package. This is a great option if you’re already planning on eating in the park, anyway. But it can get pretty expensive with large parties.
Dining package offerings differ as the parades do, but right now parade packages include Plaza Inn (Pixar Play Parade in Disneyland) and Carthay Circle Restaurant or Wine Country Trattoria (Paint the Night Parade California Adventure).
Space is limited and reservations can be made up to sixty days before the parade. To make reservations, book online or call (714) 781-DINE. Be sure to let them know of any dietary restrictions in the party when you call.
Plaza Inn (Pixar Play Parade in Disneyland)
This dining package features a picnic-style meal. You can either eat inside or outside, and then there will be a reserved viewing area along the parade route for you to sit in after you’re finished eating.
Price: $39.99 for adults 10 and up, $24.99 for children, and children 2 and under are free
Menu: Adults will enjoy Chicken Breast and Leg, White Cheddar Mac ‘n’ Cheese, Lemon Green Beans, Watermelon Salad, Pudding Dessert, and a choice of beverage. Kids will munch on Chicken Tenders, fruit, a choice of side, Pudding Dessert, and a choice of beverage.
Carthay Circle Restaurant (Paint the Night Parade in California Adventure)
Enjoy a full-service, 4-course dinner from the prix fixe menu plus a voucher for guaranteed seating at the reserved parade-viewing area next to the restaurant.
Price: Starts at $99 for adults 10 and up, $45 for children, and children 2 and under are free
Menu: Adults will enjoy an appetizer of Sautéed Delta Asparagus and Blue Crab, Lemon-Tarragon Gribiche, a second course of Moroccan Spiced Tomato Soup and Coriander Grilled Chicken and Minted Yogurt, a choice of fish or steak for the main entree, and a Velvet Dark Chocolate Mousse with Hazelnut Creme Anglaise for dessert. Children will enjoy a chopped salad, tomato soup, and a choice of either pasta, salmon, chicken tacos, or a beef filet for their main entree. A fun painter’s palette is served for dessert.
Wine Country Trattoria (Paint the Night Parade in California Adventure)
Enjoy California- and Mediterranean-inspired dishes with this dining package. You’ll experience a 3-course lunch or dinner from the prix fixe menu plus a spot in the reserved viewing space.
Price: Lunch starts at $38 for adults 10 and up, $21 for children, and children 2 and under are free. Dinner starts at $49 for adults 10 and up, $25 for children, and again, children 2 and under are free. Wine is also available at an additional cost.
Lunch Menu: Adults can choose from either Italian Insalata or Chef’s Soup Selection for an appetizer, they’ll choose from a variety of salads, pasta dishes, fish, and chicken for their main entree, and pick from either Tiramisu or Chocolate Panna Cotta for dessert. Children can choose between fish, chicken, pasta, or pizza. Their meal will be served with fruit and vegetables and a drink.
Dinner Menu: The dinner menu is fairly similar to the lunch menu, with the additions of some heavier main entrees for adults like Rib-Eye Steak and Chicken Parmesan.
Disneyland Parades Guide: Etiquette
Everybody wants to experience the magic! Follow these general etiquette tips to ensure everyone has an enjoyable time.
Let kids go in front: Obviously if you’ve reserved a spot you’re not obligated to let a family with young kids go in front of you, but oftentimes you’ll see one child with their parent towards the back. It can be a nice gesture to let them sit by your own kids if you’re in the front row.
Don’t put kids on shoulders: While shoulder-sitting ensures the best view for your child, it also ensures that someone behind you isn’t getting a good view at all. Instead, just arrive early enough that your kids can see the parade without this, or scope out one of our less-crowded area suggestions.
Don’t stand in a sitting zone: If everyone around you is sitting, don’t stand! Different locations offer different types of viewing experiences.
Disneyland Parades Guide: General Tips and Tricks
We get it. It can be hard for kids (and adults!) to wait a couple of hours for a fairly short parade. Here are some tricks to make the pass time faster!
Bring a blanket: Some people wouldn’t want to carry this around all day, but it’s a great way to add a little comfort so you aren’t sitting on pavement while you wait. Blankets also naturally reserve a viewing space for you and your family, so you don’t have to worry about other families crowding and losing some of your spots.
Pack a picnic: This requires a little planning ahead, but it’s a great way to pass the time while waiting for a parade to start. If you pack a picnic, you can leave it in a reserved locker until you need it.
Pick a designated spot-reserver: Once your whole party has picked out a viewing location, you can leave one or two people to reserve the spot while you take the kids on a ride, to get a treat, or to look at the shops, depending on what is nearby. If you have a bigger party, it can be difficult for one person alone to maintain the space you’d like. A blanket could remedy this problem.
Start Planning Your Disneyland Vacation!
Don’t want to miss out on all the fun parade offerings this summer? Now is the perfect time to start planning your vacation! The best way to get started is by subscribing to our FREE deals newsletter here. Subscribers receive helpful planning tips, Disney deals exclusive to our readers, and access to the lowest-priced park tickets around. Check out our other helpful resources for planning your trip: