2021 is almost over. We’re especially excited because we get to say goodbye to what has been a chaotic, Covid-riddled dumpster fire of a year. But we’re also pretty jazzed because it means we get to celebrate its end with one heckuva party at The Happiest Place on Earth.
Really, what could be more magical than ringing in 2022 with fireworks exploding over Sleeping Beauty Castle? Even with the Omicron variant wreaking havoc, if you’re planning a Disneyland New Year’s Eve in 2021, you’ll still find plenty of ways to send another pandemic year packing, from glittering fireworks to a $300-per-person gala.
So, blow your noisemakers and put on a party hat while we go over how to ring in 2022 during New Year’s Eve at Disneyland and California Adventure (and make sure the crowds don’t drive you crazy).
Planning Your Disneyland New Year’s Eve 2021
Ready to say ‘hello’ to 2022 in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle? First, there are some things you should know about New Year’s Eve at Disneyland.
Does Disneyland do anything special on New Year’s Eve?
While Covid-19 put a damper on things in 2020, Disneyland is back, and that includes 2021’s New Year’s Eve celebrations. Although no official schedule of special events has been released, there are some clues that end-of-year festivities will be returning in some capacity, including extended Disneyland New Year’s Eve hours and a just-before-midnight showing of the Believe…In Holiday Magic Fireworks Spectacular.
When we aren’t in the throes of a pandemic, New Year’s Eve at Disneyland is typically one big party, with mini parties hosted by live DJs throughout the park, ritzy private events, celebratory menus and, of course, fireworks. Cast members even pass out complimentary party favors like noisemakers and party hats, so it really feels like everyone is ringing in the new year together.
And we do mean everyone. With some of the heaviest crowds of the year, you could start to feel as though all of Southern California decided to celebrate New Year’s Eve at Disneyland at once (more on that later).
This year, however, we do expect Disneyland’s New Year’s Eve merrymaking will be more subdued than in regular years. Remember that pandemic we mentioned earlier? Yup, it’s still mucking things up. So, while there will for sure be a fireworks finale at midnight in Disneyland Park, as of right now, it’s likely to be a largely firework-free evening over at Disney California Adventure. And as for those DJ-led dance parties, it remains to be seen whether they’ll be making an appearance this year.
Is Disneyland busy at New Year’s Eve?
Historically, yes. New Year’s Eve is one of Disneyland’s busiest days of the year. Guests from all over come to the parks to celebrate the new year and crowds get big. Most years this has caused Disneyland to shut off entry to the parks as they have reached capacity. When this happens, guests are not allowed to enter the parks until other guests leave. This can be a long wait as most guests don’t leave because they know they might now get back in.
The best strategy to ensure entry is to arrive very early to the parks and not leave after entering. Choose one park and stay there. Do not try to park hop as you may not get back in to either park.
Speaking of early, you will want to make your park reservation early as well. These will undoubtedly disappear quickly.
Which is better for New Year’s Eve: Disneyland or California Adventure?
In the battle between which west coast park is best for a Disney New Year’s Eve, it really depends on what kind of vibe you’re interested in, especially this year. There’s something romantic about the idea of watching fireworks burst over Sleeping Beauty Castle as the clock strikes midnight. For many people, however, that dreamy picture gets ripped to shreds when you add all the people crammed in alongside you like sardines.
If you’d prefer a more mellow way to party that’s largely free from the people-filled craziness, then Disney California Adventure Park is for you. This sizeable park is designed to manage the madness that is massive amounts of people much better than Disneyland, so it never feels overly crowded.
Although there aren’t any fireworks, you can get a distant view of those over in Disneyland Park, depending on where you are. Plus, adults will love all the places to grab a cocktail. Because what better way to celebrate all things “Auld Lang Syne” than with something a little boozy?
What is New Year’s Eve like in Disneyland?
Like we said above, if there’s one word to describe Disneyland on New Year’s Eve, it’s busy. Given that the image of fireworks bursting over Sleeping Beauty Castle (Walt Disney World’s Cinderella Castle too) is almost as iconic as the ball dropping in New York City’s Times Square, this is especially true for Disneyland Park.
With so many people also wanting to spend New Year’s Eve among Mickey, Minnie and the princesses, Disneyland can get busy. We’re talking some of the biggest crowds of the year. So, while the idea of watching New Year’s Eve fireworks next to the “Partners” statue sounds great, the whole thing can get old really quick. In contrast, while it doesn’t share the same fanfare or fireworks as Disneyland Park, California Adventure tends to be a more relaxed place to ring in the New Year.
No matter where you go, we recommend you have a plan. As we mentioned, you must have a Park Pass Reservation to enter either Disneyland Park or California Adventure. Unfortunately, as of now, no more reservations are available. Of course, people’s plans change, and Disney could release more openings as we get closer to December 31.
So, keep checking back in the upcoming days, as you could get lucky. Otherwise, you can always plan to head to the Downtown Disney District, where no park tickets are required, and you can even catch bits and pieces of the Disneyland fireworks.
Is Disneyland going to have fireworks for New Years?
There’s no better way to celebrate a year’s passing and ring in another than with a dazzling fireworks display. Fortunately, while you can’t watch Fantasmic or World of Color until sometime in 2022, you will be able to enjoy not just one but two showings of the Disneyland fireworks.
Currently, Disney’s “Believe…In Holiday Magic” Fireworks Spectacular is scheduled to dazzle guests at both 9 PM and 12 AM. However, don’t be surprised if you’re treated to a midnight viewing of Mickey’s Mix Magic or, as in past years, the “Fantasy in the Sky” New Year’s Eve Fireworks Spectacular.
The most popular place to take in the show is from in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle. However, if you want to do that (along with hundreds of other people), you’ll need to start early. How early? Well, some people start staking out a spot as early as noon. Otherwise, great views can also be had along Main Street, U.S.A., especially in between the Main Street Train Station and Central Plaza, in front of “it’s a small world” or over in Frontierland along Rivers of America.
Say Goodbye to 2021 with a Disneyland New Year’s Eve
New Year’s at Disneyland is an undeniably celebratory time. The parks are still all decked out for Christmas and festive events like Festival of Holidays at Disney California Adventure are still in full swing. Having said that, Disney has been pretty tightlipped this year about how the Anaheim theme parks will be ringing in the new year, leading us to think that typical offerings like DJ dance parties could be off the table.
Of course, it is possible that more details could be released in the week or so leading up to December 31. If you’re planning to do New Year’s Eve Disneyland-style in 2021, here are all the things you can do for your 2022 countdown at the theme parks, Downtown Disney and hotels.
Events During New Year’s Eve at Disneyland Park in 2021
If you’re planning to welcome 2022 from in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle, you’ll also be able to stay in the park long after the fireworks end, thanks to late-night Disneyland hours. New Year’s Eve will see Disneyland Park open from 8 AM to 2 AM, with Park Hopper availability from 1 PM to park close.
As we discussed earlier, Fantasmic isn’t showing this year, but fireworks will light up the night twice on New Year’s Eve 2021, at 9 PM – just in time for midnight at Walt Disney World – and again at 12 AM. Meanwhile, you can also get a celebratory mood watching the “it’s a small world” Holiday Lighting or Wintertime Enchantment at Sleeping Beauty’s Winter Castle. Or, during the day, catch A Christmas Fantasy Parade as it cruises by at 2 PM or 4:30 PM.
While you’re out and about making merry, keep an eye out for those DJ dance parties we keep talking about. Hosted by a live DJ, these tiny soirees are a fun break from the crowds, as well as an awesome spot to countdown to midnight, with locations previously near Sleeping Beauty Castle, Rivers of America, “it’s a small world,” Tomorrowland Terrace and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. Remember that these dance parties usually also celebrate the new year not once, but twice, with an east coast countdown at 9 PM and another at midnight on the west coast.
In past years, Disneyland has also offered exclusive dining experiences with prime views of the New Year’s Eve fireworks. The Plaza Inn typically hosts a meal offering reserved seating for the fireworks with a cozy celebratory menu, while the Tomorrowland Skyline Lounge has held a fireworks dessert party.
New Year’s Eve 2021 Events at Disney California Adventure Park
There might not usually be any fireworks at Disney California Adventure Park, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a great place to party on New Year’s Eve. Just like Disneyland Park, California Adventure will have extended hours for New Year’s Eve from 8 AM to 1 AM. So, don’t be surprised if you get to experience some sort of year-end soiree for New Year’s Eve at Disney California Adventure.
A couple of dance parties are typically held here too, one in the World of Color viewing area and the other in Hollywood Land. No specific events have been announced yet, but since World of Color has yet to make its return after being temporarily suspended due to the pandemic, who’s to say whether the dance parties there or in Hollywood Land will make an appearance. We hope they do because like those over in Disneyland, they are a ton of fun. Some dancers that show up can be impressively good, so don’t just pass them by even if you aren’t planning on dancing yourself. Plus, they’re the best places to enjoy the New Year’s countdown in California Adventure.
Aside from the dance parties, you’ll find plenty of entertainment to help you toast to the end of 2021. The holiday food marketplace kiosks for the Festival of Holidays serve all sorts of tasty, traditional dishes and spirited drinks perfect for the festive season. Looking for something to do as you sip and snack? Live bands play music at locations throughout California Adventure all day long, and don’t miss the fiesta over at the Disney ¡Viva Navidad! Street Party.
Downtown Disney New Year’s Eve 2021 Events
Since no park ticket is required, Downtown Disney can be an excellent place to celebrate New Year’s Eve. You still get to soak up the Disney magic, but there are far less people, so it will be easier to make your escape at the end of the night.
Depending on where you are, it can also be a great place to watch the fireworks. On the Esplanade in the middle of the parks is a popular choice for many. Or, for something less crowded, watch from the Mickey & Friends Parking Structure, then make a quick escape before the crowds get there.
For a whole evening of Disney New Year 2021 festivities, you can also consider booking dinner at one of the Downtown Disney restaurants. Catal has hosted a special New Year’s Eve meal before, with a four-course menu featuring everything from Beef Carpaccio to Tres Leches Cake and, of course, a champagne toast. There’s even a viewing terrace that’s perfect for watching the fireworks at midnight.
New Year’s Eve at Disneyland Hotels
You don’t need to be in the parks or at Downtown Disney to be part of the New Year’s Eve celebration. With events going on at one or more of the Disneyland hotels, you don’t even need to be far from your room to ring in the new year. Heck, depending on where your hotel room is, you might even be able to see the New Year’s Eve fireworks from your room for a truly exclusive countdown.
While past years have seen several New Year’s Eve events at hotels at Disneyland, this year there seems to really only be one: the New Year’s Eve Gala at Napa Rose. Complete with a live band, dance floor and multi-course meal, this swanky soiree will help you ring in 2022 in style. Tickets are priced at a cool $300 per person (plus tax).
Top Tips to Have a Magical Disneyland New Year’s Eve 2021
Ready to say ‘sayonara’ to 2021? Us too! Here are our suggestions for making the first moments of 2022 and the rest of your day at Disneyland as memorable and stress-free as possible.
- Make your reservations ASAP. As one of the most popular days of the year, dining and hotel reservations for New Year’s Eve at Disneyland can run out quick. If you want to go somewhere particular, secure your reservation right away when the booking window opens. If you’re out of luck, keep checking back regularly as cancelations can happen.
- Go early and stay late. The parks can fill up quickly if you aren’t careful on NYE. So, if there’s a certain park you know you want to ring in the new year at, go there right away in the morning, then stay there until midnight. This will let you take advantage of the morning’s shorter lines, while ensuring that you aren’t shut out of where you really want to be partying.
- Eat during off-periods. Instead of wasting time waiting for your food along with everyone else, plan your meals for early or late to get back out into the parks quicker.
- Consider paying for Genie+. If there was ever a time that’s a good investment to pay to skip the lines, it’s New Year’s Eve at Disneyland. To spend more time doing things and less time in line, think about paying for Genie+ and access to the Lightning Lanes.
So, that’s all there is. We don’t know about you, but we can’t wait to bring in 2022 surrounded by Disney magic. With the crazy year we’ve had, we can definitely use it. Have you had a Disneyland New Year’s Eve? Would you do it again? Let us know in the comments!
Then, learn how to get the most out of your day with our 1-Day Disneyland Park Plan. Trying to save some cash instead? Don’t miss our discount Disneyland tickets.
Amber is a proud former Walt Disney World Cast Member, an unabashed travel addict, and a hospitality and tourism specialist with over 10 years in the industry. She likes getting her wanderlust fix by sharing her favorite park tips and tricks with other Disney fans. When she isn’t working, you can usually catch her in a hot power yoga class or spending way too much money at Disney Springs.