Festival of Fantasy Parade Viewing Tips & Info
Festival of Fantasy is the daytime parade in Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. This guide offers viewing recommendations for the best & worst spots, photography tips, and whether it’s worth a Genie+ Lightning Lane selection. (Updated June 13, 2022.)
Let’s start with brief background. Disney’s Festival of Fantasy Parade debuted almost a decade ago as part of the New Fantasyland expansion of Magic Kingdom that also added Be Our Guest Restaurant, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, and Under the Sea ~ Journey of The Little Mermaid. It was dark for almost two years until returning in 2022 with performers and parade floats removed.
We’ve seen Disney’s Festival of Fantasy Parade many, many times and we absolutely love it. Unlike almost every Magic Kingdom parade in recent memory, this parade actually feels ambitious, and large in scale and scope. The parade floats are all large, detailed and have a lot of substance to them. A lot of films are featured, including The Little Mermaid, Dumbo, Pinocchio, Peter Pan, Sleepy Beauty, Tangled, Beauty and the Beast, and more.
Of course, there’s one float that stands out above all else. The float that has captured everyone’s attention is the steampunk-esque Maleficent dragon float, and this is understandable because it breathes fire, but the Tangled, Peter Pan, and Monstro floats don’t garner nearly as much attention, despite being quite well done.
Add to this performers in costumes that have a lot of detail and are, in some cases, a bit darker and more interesting than the ‘fantasy fluff’ you’d expect to find in a Magic Kingdom parade, a catchy soundtrack, and a great energy, and you have a parade that’s a real winner.
In terms of overall quality and appeal, I’d put Festival of Fantasy Parade up there with the parades I’ve seen at Tokyo Disneyland, and the park sets the gold standard for daytime parades. With that said, I don’t think the Festival of Fantasy Parade is entirely perfect.
My main criticism of the parade is that it is stylistically disjointed. Every float seems to have its own look, with no really aesthetic yarn or semblance of a unified style. Even this is a relatively minor quibble.
For one thing, numerous films are represented and each has its own distinct visual identity. For another, some of Festival of Fantasy Parades floats were “hand me downs” from Tokyo Disneyland. Still, it’s a fantastic parade with some very cool-looking floats, a catchy soundtrack, and just a great vibe to it in general.
Festival of Fantasy Parade is performed twice daily, usually once at noon and another time at 3 pm or 4 pm.
In our experience, each is about equally good from a crowd perspective. There’s a natural desire among guests to catch the first showing, but that’s at least partially offset by that coinciding with lunch.
Now, let’s turn to best locations to view Disney’s Festival of Fantasy Parade…
If you want the best experience and photos, there’s only one place where you should watch the Festival of Fantasy Parade, and that’s Main Street. This is because it’s a fantasy themed parade, and of the places the parade travels, only the backdrop of Cinderella Castle is fitting (ironically, the parade does not go through Fantasyland).
With that said, the sidewalks lining Main Street are among the worst viewing locations. Not only are these the most popular spots–meaning you have to arrive earlier or fight larger crowds–but you won’t get a clean background with Cinderella Castle. Instead, you’ll have the other side of Main Street and crowds of people as your backdrop. These spots have way more downside than upside, so we’d recommend avoiding them.
With that said, there are two specific locations around Main Street that remedy this issue and are among the best locations for viewing Disney’s Festival of Fantasy Parade. The first is the Hub or Central Plaza, which faces Cinderella Castle.
Within this area, the easiest choice is going to be the Genie+ Lightning Lane reserved viewing area, which spans the Cinderella Castle-facing side of Magic Kingdom’s Central Plaza or Hub. This reserved viewing area is pictured above–it’s the section that’s roped off.
Not all views in the Genie+ section are of equal quality, but if you’re facing Cinderella Castle, it’s tough to beat this location.
If you’re unfamiliar with Genie, see our Guide to Genie+ at Walt Disney World & Lightning Lane FAQ for all of the foundational need-to-know info about this replacement for free FastPass+. This whole system is confusing and convoluted, so you might have a question or two-dozen. That answers all of the most common ones we’ve been receiving from readers.
Festival of Fantasy Parade passes directly in front of you, allowing for postcard-perfect images of the characters, floats, and performers with Cinderella Castle in the background.
In my opinion, this is the #2 location for watching Festival of Fantasy Parade at Magic Kingdom. Fortunately, the #1 location doesn’t require paying money for Genie Plus!
The #1 location for viewing Disney’s Festival of Fantasy Parade is at the end of Main Street in Town Square.
For this, we recommend the area behind the flagpole and Sharing the Magic statue, on the curb that faces Cinderella Castle. However, we’ll get a little more specific than that…
Ideally, stand off-center to the left side of this area by a few feet.
Those of you who are driven bonkers by asymmetry might have a difficult time with this recommendation, but it’s for an important reason. The parade is coming directly towards you, so it can be difficult to photograph the next float and performers until the previous one passes. This happens faster to the left side, since the floats turn to the right.
This isn’t a huge deal–and is probably most important to photographers who will be using zoom lenses to capture floats in the distance, with Cinderella Castle in the background.
For reference, the above photo of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was captured while the prior float is still rounding the corner. The below photo was captured with a telephoto lens by zooming past those same performers.
All of this would be more difficult to impossible if standing in the dead center or off to the right.
Moreover, the asymmetry isn’t noticeable once you’re zooming in on specific floats or performers. To the contrary, having Cinderella Castle peek out behind the parade improves the composition of your photos.
This also can be an easier spot to score. Another big reason we love and recommend this area for parade viewing is that it’s a “secret spot” that doesn’t draw large crowds long in advance of Disney’s Festival of Fantasy Parade–because it doesn’t even exist!
Between the Emporium and left side of the curb behind the Sharing the Magic statue, a viewing area is “created” shortly before the parade starts in the street. Since the parade turns to the right, guests can stand in street on the left side–this gets roped off not long before the parade starts.
If you’re having a hard time understanding or envisioning where this is, just follow the lead of other guests who start lining up here before the rope appears. Failing that, linger in the second row on the left side behind the flagpole, and jump into position once the rope goes up.
Another good spot on this end of Main Street is directly in front of the Train Station. This also offers a view back at Cinderella Castle, albeit not as clean of a view.
If you opt to stand anywhere else on Main Street, consider strategically positioning yourself south of a trash can. Not for the delightful atmosphere or garbage-themed scents, but because it’ll give you a buffer between you and other parties, while also giving you a better chance at (some) photos with Cinderella Castle in the background.
Along these same lines, the Main Street, USA Train Station itself offers a nice and unique view of Festival of Fantasy. Unfortunately, it’s also a location where guests frequently camp out in advance (or that gets blocked off for VIP guests on occasion).
There are a lot of different locations from which you can shoot the parade to take advantage of this perspective, so it isn’t a “spot” per se, and it should be easy to snag one of these locations so long as you show up over 30 minutes before the parade steps off (adjust that time up if the Magic Kingdom is busier than average).
Circling back to the Central Plaza, our other recommendation closer to Cinderella Castle is the outer ‘ring’ of this area.
This is basically the same view as the Genie+ Lightning Lane reserved section. It gives you the view and backdrop pictured above in the Maleficent dragon photo.
This area gets incredibly crowded, and can have several rows of people, including the dreaded last-second shoulder kids.
If you’re not going to be in the first row, our recommendation would be to drop back even further, putting distance between you and the crowd. You won’t see the ground-level performers this way, but you wouldn’t regardless. You’ll also benefit from not having kids, phones, and heads directly blocking your field of view.
The two photos above were essentially taken back-to-back.
The only difference is that I dropped back about 10 feet between the two. This gave me a better, less obstructed view. There are also some trees over on this side of the Central Plaza that offer shade.
That’s it in terms of my recommended locations. Locations in Liberty Square and Frontierland are less crowded than Main Street, but it’s a bit of an incongruous experience seeing a fantasy parade in the wild west or colonial America.
If you find yourself somewhere in Liberty Square or Frontierland, I’d just look for a spot that will allow you to shoot the floats on a neutral backdrop, such as trees or blue sky. To accomplish this, stand on the side of Frontierland that has buildings, shooting towards the Rivers of America. Still not the best spot, but less crowded and a good way to photographically made lemonade out of lemons. Personally, I’d choose these spots over the sides of Main Street USA.
On another note, we are not fans of either the Festival of Fantasy Dining Package. The cost of this upcharge offering is simply not worth it. (This still hasn’t returned as of Summer 2022, so it’s temporarily irrelevant. If it does come back, we don’t recommend booking it.)
This is especially true given that Festival of Fantasy is not particularly difficult to watch. It’d be one thing if you had to camp out for over an hour or securing the best spots was impossible without the package. However, that’s not the case.
Hopefully this Guide to Disney’s Festival of Fantasy Parade has provided you with insight as to where to view the parade (if you don’t already have a favorite spot) and where to avoid. As mentioned above, the Genie+ viewing area is easiest and offers a great view, but that does come at the cost of a different Lightning Lane selection, so the opportunity cost may not make it worthwhile.
For most Walt Disney World guests, the “secret spot” at the end of Main Street is going to be the best bet. It can usually be grabbed shortly before the parade starts and offers a spectacular view. If you don’t have any experience with Magic Kingdom parades, the only difficulty is going to be finding this location as it literally does not exist as a viewing area until shortly before showtime.
Regardless of where you watch it, we do highly recommend that you make time to see Disney’s Festival of Fantasy Parade–potentially more than once. Consider staking out a front row location for your first viewing, and then a laid back spot for a subsequent performance. Even almost a decade after its debut, we still love Festival of Fantasy, and watch it frequently when we’re in Magic Kingdom. The fire-breathing Maleficent remains a showstopper, and it’s worth catching the parade for that float alone!
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If you’ve seen the Festival of Fantasy Parade, what did you think of it? If you haven’t, are you looking forward to this new Walt Disney World parade? Any tips of your own for best viewing locations? Do you agree or disagree with our advice? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!
Main Street is the place to watch it, however if you’re like me and you like to get close up shots of the performers, I found frontierland, right where it steps off to have the best lighting for those photos! A lot of the time, I’d watch it from there, then run through adventureland and watch it again right where it ends at the barbershop and I managed to get a front row even just getting there a few minutes before the parade came there! You get two lots of pictures then!
What time / how early do you suggest you arrive at the FastPass+ viewing area?
Trying to start putting together a skeletal day plan with my fast passes. About how long does the parade run?
Loved the parade and got some great photos from the FP area. Just wanted to advise others that there is no shade here, which did spoil for some, which was a shame.
Great post. What are your thoughts on the new FastPass viewing area? Is it worth a fastpass when you are interested in not only a good view but also some great pictures?
i apologize if the answer to my question is in the post and I just missed it- but my question is… What time is the parade? Is it the same time everyday, and does it in fact take place everyday? Thank you!! Love this blog!
Your site has been extremely helpful!! Ty
If I book dinner at Royal Tabke does this give us preferred seating for firework show?
I have to admit, the parade is awesome. We stumbled upon it, mid-parade, on our way to something else and didn’t have a prime viewing spot (were up in Liberty Square when we realized it was coming by) but found it really impressive all the same. Our first visit to Disney, and next time I would make arrangements to have a good seat to see it!
I have two Grandkids under 50 inches and I am concerned that they will not be able to see over the people in front of us. Does the fast pass spot help with this issue.
This is our first trip to Disney World. Thank you
The FastPass spot will help, but you should still show up to it a bit early, as the front row there will fill up.
We lucked out a few weeks ago and were able to grab a spot on the upper level of the train station about 10 minutes before the parade started. It was a great spot to view the parade as it was in the shade, had an awesome eye level view of some of the characters, and a good vantage point to look down on the other characrers. Plus, seeing the dragon breathe fire right in front of my face was something I will never forget!
We lucked out a couple of weeks ago and saw the parade with a view of the castle after finding spots only about 10-15 minutes ahead of time. I can’t remember exactly where we were, but it was pretty close to the spot where you can get the Dole Whip (which we did). We thought the parade was cool, but I was so sure I had ready that Anna, Elsa and Olaf were in this parade, and they were not.
Really? They were in it two weeks ago when we saw it. They were one of the very first floats.
The problem with that princess float is it’s double sided. Twice we’ve seen Tiana but not the Frozen characters, because when they went by our spot, they were facing the other way.
I have been waiting for this review! Going in 15 days to see it for the first time and I was hoping to hear where you suggested on viewing it from. Thanks!
We Watched this parade in Frontierland. Not the best angles, but the shaded outcrop we were standing under made it a very comfortable viewing spot.
I think it would’ve been cool if ALL of the floats had a steampunk-inspired aesthetic like that dragon float. I believe a few of the floats were brought over from Tokyo Disneyland. A couple of floats even ended up at Disneyland as well. Not sure why, since they’re just sitting backstage in pieces.
I saw this parade when I was there two weeks ago. I decided to use a fast pass allocation and so had a great spot in front of Cinderella’s castle. Definitely worth the fast pass, especially as being in a less crowded section made photographing it much easier. I thought the floats were just beautiful and well done, but of course, any float that has a fire breathing dragon is always going to be the winner.
I finally got to experience this parade two weeks ago, and I really think it’s the best daytime parade I’ve ever seen! I didn’t get a prime photo spot because I was with a large group that had little concept of how time works at WDW, but I was close enough to get several decent shots. Most importantly, I was able to SEE the details of the parade participants and the floats. Just amazing!!
In regards to the unharmonious feeling of the floats, I think it’s because a few of them were borrowed. The Garden/Princess float I know was taken from TDL. I loved the parade as well, but I do agree there isn’t a specific “style” to the floats (like in Soundsational).
I was just a WDW and was looking forward to this parade. Unfortunately, it was cancelled because of pouring rain. So sad!
I have to disagree about the FP+ viewing spot. We used a FP+ specifically because I wanted some great shots of the parade. I found that the viewing on the inside of the hub circle meant you didn’t get a good view of each float until it was practically on top of you. And I was shooting with a 17-55 lens on a crop body, which definitely was not wide enough to capture the floats this close. Oh yeah, and it was hotter than the surface of the sun (this was in August)! I think the only benefit of this spot was that I did get the castle spires in the background. If I had to do it over, I would stake out a spot on Main Street on the straightaway, so that I would have a chance to see what’s coming and compose my shot better. I do think the FP+ location offers good viewing for the parade, if you’re not photographing it.
If you ever go back to the FastPass+ viewing area, if you have have a telephoto lens, take a step back from the curb and stand back away from the crowd. From here, you can get full-float photos of the parade floats as they come across the Liberty Square Bridge (nothing but trees in the background) and close-up photos of the floats as they cross in front of Cinderella Castle.
Alternatively, if you have an ultra wide angle lens, the curb in front of the FastPass+ viewing area is perfect for full-float photos.
This parade was awesome. We too were able to get upstairs at the train station for it and weren’t disappointed. The floats all had a ton of detail and I must admit, it was neat to see Aurora’s Prince in his gear “fighting” the Maleficent dragon.
The only thing better that I would have liked to see, would’ve been to have the Maleficent dragon in the MNSSHP Boo to You parade. That would’ve been a definite highlight!
I just wish they’d get some new floats in the Boo to You Parade, in general (instead of recycling from other parades). It’s still an awesome parade, but I think it’s time to freshen it up a bit.
This is all new to me. Cam you please tell me where the train station is so i can try to get the spot you did/ Also, is there a place for a stroller/ thank you so much
The timing of this article is just perfect. We are leaving in a few days to WDW, and this seeing parade is at the top of my list. I’ve been wondering where to watch it from. So you are at the end of Main Street here? By the shop entrance? I imagine the close ups are from the FPP viewing spot. Thank you.
Most of the tight shots are from the FastPass+ viewing area, but some are from the end of Main Street. I used a telephoto lens.
My favorite location at the end of Main Street is between the first entrance to The Emporium and where the Sharing the Magic statue is (usually) located.
I was just in Disney at the end of September and saw Festival of Fantasy. We were on the 2nd floor of the train station, in the shade. I think we went about 45 minutes ahead to get that spot. Aside from being in the shade, we got a great up close view of the upper half of the floats. Plus the dragon showed off the fire breathing a few times as it came around the corner and passed the train station. Very impressive (and very hot) seeing it that close. And I got great pictures of Mickey on his balloon float.
I like the upper level of the Train Station alright for the parades (moreso the night parades), but there is such limited space up there that you have to arrive so early.
With that said, if you grab food from Casey’s (or elsewhere), it can make the wait more bearable.
Thanks for the tip!