Magic Kingdom New Year’s Eve Eve Report
We spent New Year’s Eve Eve in Magic Kingdom for a “soft opening” of 2022 at Walt Disney World, so to speak. In this report, we’ll share our thoughts and photos & video from the experience, and planning advice for anyone else debating between Magic Kingdom and Epcot for NYE, whether it be tonight or in the future.
Prior to this, it had been a couple of years since we’ve done a proper New Year’s Eve at Walt Disney World. Just like everyone else, due to circumstances that don’t need rehashing here. Given what that last full NYE at WDW ushered in only a few short weeks later, I’m not sure revisiting the festivities was such a wise move. Sorta like feeding Gizmo after midnight, just to see if that might fix the Gremlins outbreak. (I’m not sure that makes sense, but to my sleep-deprived brain, it’s amusing.)
We’ve been doing New Year’s Eve (Eve) at Walt Disney World for as long as we’ve been locals. We even did it a couple times prior to that as tourists, getting hooked on the experience after a stay at Bay Lake Tower exactly a decade ago. It’s absolutely not for everyone, but we enjoy it. So long as you follow the recommended strategy outlined in our Tips for Surviving New Year’s Eve at Walt Disney World, it tends to work out pretty well. Apparently, it also helps if you’re in your twenties, as my ability to operate on no sleep isn’t quite the same today. Weird how that works.
If you’re debating which park to visit at Walt Disney World for New Year’s Eve, it’s an easier decision than you might think. Magic Kingdom does its New Year’s Eve celebration on two nights—December 30th and 31st. There’s no material difference between the two in terms of entertainment, just no noisemakers and hats on New Year’s Eve (Eve).
Typically, Magic Kingdom is significantly less crowded on the night of December 30 and it’s the only park with New Year’s Eve entertainment on that night. In other words, doing Magic Kingdom on December 30 is a no brainer.
Epcot is the best park for New Year’s Eve. Animal Kingdom closes early, so it’s a non-factor (although it can be a good spot to start your day to avoid crowds–or if you can’t get a Disney Park Pass reservation anywhere else), and Disney’s Hollywood Studios doesn’t do much of anything special, so it’s also out.
All things being equal, Epcot also has the best party atmosphere for New Year’s Eve. At least, for adults without children. We don’t drink much anymore, but even if we did, we wouldn’t imbibe at Epcot on NYE. Everyone drinking around the world at Epcot on NYE has a good time…until they don’t. Lines for booze and bathrooms get outrageous and unless you’re dancing the night away, you need to lock in a fireworks spot early.
Usually, we’d spend most of the day in Magic Kingdom on New Year’s Eve Eve enjoying the park with friends. New Year’s Eve would begin with lunch in the Crescent Lake area, followed by a little quality park time at Epcot–but really, camping out most of the day in the Front of the House area for fireworks talking about Disney and the other dorky things that interest us. All of our friends are blocked out this year, so that put a damper on our plans.
Nevertheless, we headed out to Magic Kingdom for New Year’s Eve Eve, albeit much later than normal this year. Given the surrounding circumstances and since we have relatively important plans coming up that we don’t want to have to cancel, we opted to mitigate some risk and play it safer. Obviously, that’s a relative term since we still chose to visit the world’s busiest theme park on NYEE.
Getting to the park presented its own challenges. There was a huge accident near the Transportation & Ticket Center, which would’ve been easily avoidable had we checked traffic before leaving home and choosing our route. We didn’t, which tripled the commute time to Magic Kingdom. (Later, while chatting with a security guard, he mentioned that it was a really rough night–please be safe and responsible if you’re venturing out tonight.) This was further complicated by limited transportation options to Magic Kingdom after parking, which tacked on even more time to the commute. None of that is particularly interesting, so let’s skip to once we were inside the park…
We entered Magic Kingdom about 90 minutes later than originally intended, and stepped foot on Main Street at exactly 11:30 pm. That might seem like cutting it close, but we were relieved just to make it inside at all. We thought we were going to arrive too late, but the monorail and park entrance process were far smoother than anticipated, with tons of Cast Members around for crowd control.
Even though it was late, congestion on Main Street was minimal and there was even some space on “The Hump” past Casey’s Corner. While scouting out spots, it became a question of whether we wanted some breathing room and an obstructed view of the perimeter bursts, or a packed but perfective perspective. We chose the former, which was also a new-to-us location for Fantasy in the Sky.
As always, Fantasy in the Sky was excellent. Of course, a big component of that is the pyro. Given how much they’re lighting up the sky with so many big and beautiful explosions, Disney could probably have John C. Reilly read the phone book for the show “soundtrack,” and people would still love it.
Perhaps this is nostalgia speaking, but I think Fantasy in the Sky’s soundtrack is much better than John C. Reilly reading the phone book. You can tell it’s a more old school nighttime spectacular, and the arrangement can be a bit eclectic–but it has heart, personality, and evokes emotion.
With music from iconic films and attractions, I’d go as far as to say that Fantasy in the Sky would’ve been a far more enchanting 50th Anniversary fireworks show for Magic Kingdom.
I’m not going to bother “reviewing” Fantasy in the Sky as it’s only shown two nights a year at this point, but we enjoy it. Afterwards, Sarah turned to me and said, “now that is a Magic Kingdom nighttime spectacular.”
Here are more Fantasy in the Sky fireworks photos:
Never thought a shoulder kid behind me would pose photography problems, but that’s how it goes!
Sarah shot a video of the Countdown to New Year after Fantasy in the Sky:
It’s probably evident from the photos and video, but we do not recommend this location as a pure fireworks viewing spot for Fantasy in the Sky. I doubt anyone back here was disappointed, but you will be much more “immersed” in the pyro once you get past Casey’s Corner. (Also, there’s snow on Main Street during Fantasy in the Sky, which is a nice touch, but poses problems for photography.)
We avoided the Magic Kingdom mass exodus immediately after Fantasy in the Sky by heading to Tomorrowland.
We did a quick lap around the park, which was pretty much dead at that point. From what we saw, ~50% of guests still in the park had made a beeline to Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, which was posting a 95 minute wait. Judging by the overflow standby queue and lengthy Lightning Lane return line that spilled out towards the castle walls, that was probably accurate.
Other than that, Magic Kingdom was dead from midnight to around 1:30 am.
This isn’t particularly surprising, as this always happens on New Year’s Eve Eve at Magic Kingdom. Not only is it significantly less busy to begin with, but it clears out faster. After all, actual NYE is the following day and people need to rest up for that. Figured it was nonetheless worth mentioning as Disney Park Pass throw a monkey wrench in everything, and could’ve changed the dynamic. They did not. The only thing reservations did was make crowds significantly smaller this year.
No one who knows us would call us “dance party people,” but we spent a lot of time in front of the Cinderella Castle Forecourt Stage. (The Tomorrowland and Frontierland dance parties had totally cleared out by that point.) In the past, I’ve called it “jarring” to hear modern music being blasted by a DJ on Main Street, but that seems so trivial now.
Honestly, it felt great to have that bit of normalcy restored, and seeing people have fun ringing in 2022…or rehearsing how they’d do it, I guess. I even got in on the fun, unable to resist rocking out to today’s hit songs, such as “All Star” by Smash Mouth. Whatever I was doing can’t properly be categorized as dancing–more like vaguely rhythmic movement (even that’s a stretch).
In fitting fashion, our last ride of 2021 at Magic Kingdom was the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover. We jumped on the attraction just before park closing, and enjoyed a leisurely loop mostly devoid of other guests.
While riding, something interesting happened: fog rolled into Magic Kingdom.
We watched this happen in real time, which is no exaggeration. At 1 am, there was no fog in sight. Visibility was perfect, as far as I could tell (not something I was actively monitoring). When we rounded the first turn on the TTA heading towards the Progress City model, our view of Cinderella Castle was clear.
By the time the TTA exited Space Mountain, there was a thick fog between us and Cinderella Castle. By the time we got to Main Street, it was even thicker.
This was really awesome and added a neat moodiness to the evening. Foggy nights and mornings aren’t uncommon this time of year in Florida (we’ve been having them a lot lately), and I love this look around Christmas time for the ‘silent night/not a creature was stirring’ vibe.
I’ve never seen the fog roll in this quickly and heavily, though. Despite its lights still being on, you couldn’t see Cinderella Castle at all from the end of Main Street, let alone any of the monorail loop hotels from outside the park. Visibility was so bad that the boats stopped running, too. It was quite the sight (or lack thereof) to behold, and feel–by the time we walked back to our car, Sarah’s hair was wet and so were our clothes!
Finally, huge kudos to Magic Kingdom Cast Members. While we weren’t there all day, two things immediately stood out to us during our limited time that evening. First, crowd control had things totally under control and was fully prepared. This is always one of Disney’s strong suits around New Year’s Eve, but I’ll admit to be worried about the loss of institutional knowledge in the last two years. Thankfully, they’ve still got it.
Second, there were leaders all over the place picking up trash between midnight and when we left the park. This is something that should be commonplace, but I haven’t seen it nearly as much lately. Kudos to them. In addition to this, it was nice to see so many Cast Members in a cheery and upbeat mood after the fireworks. This might seem unremarkable–after all, it’s New Year’s Eve (Eve), a fun night. However, after the holiday season they’ve endured…it was a bit surprising.
In any case, everyone was in a great mood at Magic Kingdom, with guests and Cast Members feeding off one another’s positivity. As memorable as the fog and fireworks were, this is what made for such a special night at Walt Disney World, and a great ‘last visit’ of 2021 for us. We’ve had a lot of fantastic nights in Magic Kingdom over the years, but this one was definitely up there thanks to all of that. Hopefully this is a sign of good things to come in 2022–we are very much ready to turn the corner and start having overwhelmingly positive news to report and experiences to share in the new year!
Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!
Thoughts on anything covered here–fireworks, fog, or the fun we had in Magic Kingdom? What do you think about New Year’s Eve or the holiday season in general at Walt Disney World? Have you done New Year’s Eve at Walt Disney World? Which park is your favorite? Thinking about doing a future NYE at Epcot or Magic Kingdom? 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!
We were at Hollywood. We were amazed at how low the crowds ended up being once it got dark. The park emptied pretty quickly. Crowd control all week was amazing. Cast members were great all week.
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Hi! We are here and started NYE day at Hollywood, then went to magic Kingdom until about 10:45 (O – M – GOODNESS)!! The crowd!!! We headed over to Epcot after that. It was AMAZING in the front of the park, felt like we rented the place out. Bam – we got to the countries and it was CRAZY again. We headed near the exit. I’m not that kind of crowd person anymore, lol!! It was fun to watch from a distance though. :):)
We are having a blast! Crowds seem similar to when we were here late January 2020, beside NYE.
We were on the beach at Polynesian
We’re staying there and it was only for guests
The fireworks around the lake were unbelievably gorgeous
We plan to book again next year to celebrate NYE there again
I don’t have a particular emotional attachment to Fantasy in the Sky (never saw it live) but we watched the livestream last night and was taken by how many park references there are in the music. I don’t know that it should have been the 50th anniversary show, but it certainly should have been the jumping off point instead of … whatever Enchantment is supposed to be.
We have done Thanksgiving time at Wilderness Lodge and the parks many times over the years. This year was our 1st New Year’s Eve Eve at magic kingdom – so fun!! Then Epcot on NYE thanks to articles you had written before on how to celebrate . We grabbed a spot a little before 10 pm one row back from the railing around the 50 th Mickey and Minnie statues , right in the middle of the hub. As some grabbed snacks at the bakery, the teens loved dancing with the grandparents to the 90s music played. People were festive and excited ( not drunk ) and fireworks amazing. Really fun night. NYE at Epcot was okay. Really loud dance party music in Italy , lots of drunk people and fireworks show kind of small . Magic kingdom for us next year on both New Years Eve Eve and the actual New Years. Thanks for the great pictures to remember the evening
We just left WDW today after 5 days in the parks. I was impressed overall with the crowds and crowd control. I did not feel it was nearly as packed as I thought it would be. Genie+ worked well and was worth the extra money, especially with a 9 year old and two 5 year olds. The less you have to stand in the line the better! The only issue we had was ROTR going down and then booking full of LL passes so we couldn’t get them. This is the second time we’ve missed it. We also got stuck on Splash Mountain for 20 minutes and Thunder Mountain was down most of the day on our second MK day. But other than that, it was a great trip and we got to do everything we wanted. Even got in the queue for Ratatouille. Which was much better than expected. Happy New Year!!
Tom, love the pictures as always and special thanks to Sara for the video! Sitting here at home @ 11pm on New Years Eve watching this I feel like I was there with you guys, thanks for making my night! Here’s to 2022!
I’m wondering if you (or any NYE MK connoisseurs) have watched from California Grill or Top of the World…that seems like more my (over 50 now) speed than crowd-fighting inside the park!
We are going home tomorrow after a 2 week stay at Fort Wilderness. This has been hands down the worst vacation of our lives. Starting with having to wait at least 10 minutes and sometimes 30 minutes to get back in Fort Wilderness everything we left with our car. Not to mention our Magic Bands not working the first 4 days despite various attempts to have them reprogrammed. The crowds were in no way as bad as I thought they would be but that good news was offset by ride closure/ride breakdown one after another. We haven’t been back in about 3 years so the only real thing that was an absolute must do was Rise of The Resistance. We literally wasted 8 hours over 4 different attempts on 4 different days and it kept breaking down and this was with a DAS pass each time in the lightning lane. People with no regards of personal space or hygiene during a pandemic. Of course we knew the situation going in but you think people would have a sliver of common sense.
We went down to Trails End to do our favorite thing of sitting on the porch in the rocking chairs and having a drink while people watching. Problem is we couldn’t get a drink on 2 occasions because they didn’t have a bartender. ARE YOU SERIOUS?
On the 30th we decided to go to MK to watch the early fireworks. So we got to the dock and no boat shows up for an hour. SERIOUSLY? It is only a 40 minute ROUND TRIP!!!
We are going home tomorrow and we all agree that Disney World has definitely lost the Magic. Not only did they ruin our vacation, they ruined our Christmas as well.
Amazing photos as always. I would love a photography and gear update if you have the time between everything else you have to cover.
Thanks! I’ve been selling a lot of gear in preparation for changing systems in 2022, so I’ll post as soon as I’ve finished my acquisitions!
We did New Year’s Eve Eve in 2019 and just loved it! One of my favorite memories from this Christmas Week trip!!!
Awesome to hear!!!
Crowd control was fairly good all day. We arrived in the park at 5:30. We had stacked up 8 lighting passes(well 7 + an ILL for Mine Train. We did 3 before dinner plus another ride and Enchantment. After dinner we did the other 5 and another ride before Fantasy. We were center hub and beelined it to Space and then did a few more rides and ended with Big Thunder at 1:00am when the fog rolled in.
Tonight we are at Epcot.
Thanks for sharing your experience with what you were able to accomplish–enjoy Epcot!
Last night was really fun. This is our first year local and had a blast. We entered the park at 1030 and leisurely strolled around away from the castle crowd it was awesome. We caught the fireworks from the bridge near thunder mountain. We rode the dwarfs attraction right at closing and the fog literally as you said appeared after that lol. I really wish I had my real camera (Nikon Z5)with but my pixel 6 got some killer shots for what it is. I took a couple right next to you lol Happy New Year’s!!!
Sounds like an awesome way to end the night–riding SDMT and seeing the fog roll in, not taking photos next to me!
Happy New Year to you, too!