After a lengthy pandemic pause, Disney parades are back at The Most Magical Place on Earth. And as much as we love the more fun-sized character cavalcades that appeared around Walt Disney World Resort during the pandemic, we couldn’t be more excited for the return of this classic Disney entertainment offering.
From popular Disney characters riding astride vibrant floats to exciting dancers decked out in over-the-top costumes, all set to a catchy soundtrack, Walt Disney World parades are the perfect way to see some of your favorite stories spring to life and a definite must-see when visiting the resort.
But, what character-filled processions are cruising through Walt Disney World in 2023, and where are the best places to watch them? Read on for our comprehensive guide to watching the Disney parades, including what’s showing and when and where you should sit along the parade route. Updated May 2, 2023
Walt Disney World Parades Are a Vacation Must
After being on hiatus for around two years during the pandemic, parades are back at Walt Disney World Resort, including the magnificent Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade at Magic Kingdom Park. And trust us, as a mainstay of the guest experience at Walt Disney World since Magic Kingdom’s Grand Opening Parade on October 25, 1971, their presence was definitely missed.
Typically, Disney park guests have the opportunity to enjoy a few different parades during their visit, whether an epic daytime display, a glow-in-the-dark electrical light spectacle or a seasonal show making a comeback especially for a holiday. Like watching the fireworks at Walt Disney World Resort, you can’t visit The Most Magical Place on Earth without catching at least one of these lively parades.
While they aren’t as intimate as a character meet-and-greet, these action-backed processions are an easy way to see a bunch of your favorite Disney characters in a rather short period of time and with little to no effort – a huge perk when you’re trying to do a lot in an already busy day. Plus, they’re a fun way to rest your feet for a bit, a must considering all those steps you’re sure to be putting in.
What’s Marching Through the Disney World Theme Parks in 2023?
So, what parades can you see at Walt Disney World Resort on your next visit? In general, depending on which theme park they’re visiting and how much time they have, guests can choose from a few different parades at Disney World, from quick and easy character cavalcades (AKA flotillas or river cruises) to the impressive Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade at Magic Kingdom.
Without a doubt, the biggest draw is the massive must-see Disney parades. However, clocking in at 15 minutes long or more from float to float, they’re also the biggest time commitment, especially if you want to get a front-row seat in a good spot along the route.
In contrast, cavalcades – or flotillas or river cruises, if you’re visiting Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park – are short but sweet, topping out at a mere 2 minutes and 30 seconds for the entire procession. With several showtimes throughout the day and run-throughs starring different casts of characters, these pint-sized parades are easy to slot in between attractions and provide a welcome splash of pixie dust.
Of course, keep in mind that Walt Disney World parades may be temporarily unavailable due to inclement weather. So, keep that in mind if there’s rain in the forecast for the day.
Magic Kingdom Parades & Disney Character Cavalcades
If you can’t picture a trip to The Most Magical Place on Earth without a Disney parade, Magic Kingdom is the theme park for you. This fantastical place is home to all sorts of Disney characters, with many of them parading down the streets multiple times per day.
Without a doubt, the fairy godmother of all Disney entertainment offerings at Magic Kingdom is the Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade, which typically rolls through Magic Kingdom a couple of times every day. However, character-loving guests can also see their favorite Disney friends cruise past several times daily as part of two different cavalcades.
Sadly, there is currently only one Disney parade at Magic Kingdom, as two of the park’s most popular parades have yet to make a return to Main Street, USA: the rowdy Move It! Shake It! MouskeDance It! Street Party and the twinkling Magic Kingdom night parade. There is no word yet on when, or if, either of these will be coming back in 2023.
Without our beloved Main Street Electrical Parade, our favorite way to light up the night is with a different kind of nighttime Disney parade: the Electrical Water Pageant. Although no Disney characters take part, this whimsical floating procession takes to the Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake each night and features glittering floats and an electronic soundtrack. Best of all, it’s completely free and is able to be viewed from the Magic Kingdom hotels, including:
- Disney’s Contemporary Resort
- Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground
- Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
- Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort
- Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade
At Magic Kingdom, the current headlining act marching down Main Street, U.S.A. (and through Liberty Square and Frontierland) is the must-see Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade. Inspired by the stories and inhabitants of Fantasyland, this enchanting spectacle is a kaleidoscope of vivid colors, beloved characters, larger-than-life floats and creative costumes.
A host of Disney characters make an appearance, such as Mickey and his pals, as well as friends from Tangled, Peter Pan, The Little Mermaid and more. However, the star of the show is Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty, who prowls through the park in her dragon form in all her steampunk-inspired, fire-breathing glory.
There are typically two performances daily of the Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade, with showtimes usually at 12:00 PM and 3:00 PM. The whole thing lasts around 12 minutes from the first float to the last float.
Disney Adventure Friends Cavalcade
Clocking in at 2 minutes and 30 seconds from beginning to end with an impressive lineup of almost 30 Disney and Pixar characters, the Disney Adventure Friends Cavalcade is Disney World’s biggest character cavalcade yet. Though it may be short, its cast of characters is mighty, featuring favorites from popular Disney and Pixar stories like Zootopia, The Jungle Book, Brave, Moana, The Incredibles, Toy Story, The Aristocats, Pocahontas, Aladdin, Mulan, Coco and even Encanto.
Typically, character-crazy guests have two opportunities to catch this cavalcade, with showtimes at 5:10 PM and 6:25 PM. The schedule can vary due to the season or special events. So, check the My Disney Experience app for the most up-to-date information.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios Parades & Disney Character Cavalcades
There currently aren’t any parades or cavalcades at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Epcot Parades & Disney Character Cavalcades
There currently aren’t any parades or cavalcades at Epcot.
Animal Kingdom Disney Character Flotillas & Discovery River Cruises
Like Disney’s Hollywood Studios, there hasn’t been an Animal Kingdom parade since Mickey’s Jammin’ Jungle Parade stopped grooving through the park back in June 2014. But, that doesn’t mean Mickey’s furry friends don’t make an appearance.
Rather, guests can watch as their favorites set sail for adventure – and wave at their adoring fans – as they float down Discovery River on a character-filled flotilla or river cruise. In fact, as the theme park with the most character cavalcades, you can expect one to drift past around every 15 to 20 minutes or so.
Adventure Flotilla Starring Scrooge McDuck from DuckTales and Launchpad McQuack or Russell and Dug from Up!
Whether you love Pixar’s Up or DuckTales, watch your favorite adventurers cruise down the Discovery River several times daily during this fun-loving flotilla. 8:45 AM, 9:45 AM, 10:45 AM, 11:45 AM, 1:45 PM, 2:45 PM and 3:45 PM for DuckTales and 9:5 AM, 10:15 AM, 11:15 AM, 12:15 PM, 2:15 PM, 3:15 PM and 4:15 PM for Up.
Discovery Island Drummers Flotilla
By night, Animal Kingdom Theme Park glows to life with the bioluminescence of Pandora. But by day, it’s the infectious rhythms of groups like Kora Tinga Tinga and the Viva Gaia Street Band that keep the park pulsing. Tap your toes to the beat of the Discovery Island Drummers Flotilla as they float by multiple times daily. Showtimes are typically offered at 9:25 AM, 10:25 AM, 11:25 AM, 12:25 PM, 1:25 PM, 2:25 PM, 3:25 PM and 4:25 PM.
Discovery River Cruises Featuring Characters from Pocahontas or The Lion King
See your Pocahontas pals discover what is just around the river bend, or watch furry friends from The Lion King live the Hakuna Matata life as they drift by on a Discovery River Cruise. Both take place several times each day, with showtimes typically at 8:45 AM, 9:45 AM, 10:45 AM, 11:45 AM, 1:45 PM, 2:45 PM and 3:45 PM for Pocahontas and 9:25 AM, 10:25 AM, 11:25 AM, 12:25 PM, 2:25 PM, 3:25 PM and 4:25 PM for The Lion King.
Seasonal Parades at Disney World
In addition to these daily displays of Disney characters on parade, depending on when you visit, guests can also take in one of the seasonal spectacles that return for a limited run during the holidays.
Along with Magic Kingdom’s Easter Procession starring Mr. Bunny and other springtime pals like Donald and Daisy Duck and Bambi’s Thumper, which is added on to the beginning of the park’s regular daytime parade, these festive, holiday-inspired shows typically include:
Mickey’s Boo-to-You Halloween Parade at Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party
Featuring a cast of creepy-crawlies, including waltzing ghosts from the Haunted Mansion and a gang of dancing gravediggers, alongside dastardly Disney Villains and characters in cute costumes, this spellbinding spook-tacle led by the Headless Horseman is one of the biggest treats at Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party at Magic Kingdom Park and an absolute must-see.
Alas, the only way to see this fan-favorite character parade is by purchasing a special ticket to Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. On party nights, Mickey’s Boo-to-You Halloween Parade is offered twice at 9:15 PM and 11:15 PM and runs for approximately 20 minutes.
Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party
Nothing puts us in the holiday spirit quite like a showing of Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party at the Magic Kingdom. Starring dancing gingerbread men, an army of toy soldiers, Disney characters donning their holiday finest and Santa Claus himself, this yuletide treasure is sure to leave you feeling festive.
Similar to Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party parade, the Christmas parade is usually only accessible for an additional charge to guests at the specially ticketed Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. That said, this Magic Kingdom Christmas parade has also been shown on a select few days during regular park hours in past years. The snowy display lasts approximately 25 minutes and usually jingles all the way down Main Street, U.S.A. at least a couple of times each day.
Where Should I Sit for a Disney Parade? – Disney World Parade Viewing Tips
Want to wave hello to your favorites as they roll past on parade? Provided that the parade isn’t canceled due to inclement weather, these helpful tips and tricks are sure to help you score a great view of the action during your next Disney World vacation:
Magic Kingdom Parade Route & Best Places to Watch
In general, each parade or cavalcade at Magic Kingdom follows the park’s longstanding parade route. Usually, floats wind their way from Frontierland next to the soon-to-be Tiana’s Bayou Adventure, through Liberty Square, over Liberty Square Bridge and into the Hub in front of Cinderella Castle, before finally coasting down Main Street, U.S.A. and exiting next to the Emporium.
Although it’s not currently running, the only real exception to this is Move It! Shake It! MouskeDance It! Street Party, which typically starts near Town Square on Main Street, U.S.A., jives up to Cinderella Castle and busts a move in the Hub before heading back to the front of the park.
Since they happen so quickly, you don’t need to plan too much to catch one of the character cavalcades. Simply post up near the route and wait for it to zoom past. However, for the best parade views, you’ll need to be prepared.
Things tend to get pretty crowded along the route before the Disney Festival of Fantasy Parade, especially at the more popular viewing locations in Magic Kingdom. So, to get near the front of the pack, plan to find a spot at least a half hour prior to showtime.
Need a front-row seat to the pageantry? Be ready to line up as much as an hour beforehand. (Pro Tip: On days with two parade times, the second showing tends to be less busy. If you can, wait it out for take two to enjoy fewer crowds.)
Best Magic Kingdom Parade Viewing Areas
Though you’ll find plenty of places to watch the characters march past, some parade-viewing locations are better than others. It’s all about what your priorities are, whether front-row views, a great photo backdrop or prime placement for your next attraction. Here are our favorites:
Anywhere Along Main Street, U.S.A.
You can’t beat the ambiance of watching the floats roll past with Cinderella Castle and the adorable storefronts of Main Street, U.S.A. in the background. This is also one of the most popular places to watch the parade, so line up an hour early to snag a front-row seat. Stand on the Emporium side of this old-timey avenue to try and soak up some shade.
In Town Square Near the Fire Station or Train Station
Not all spots along Main Street, U.S.A. are created equal. Much of Town Square near the Magic Kingdom entrance offers up some of the best views of the parade, as well as picturesque photo backdrops. For slightly off-center views with Cinderella Castle rising in the background, post up near the flagpole off to the left of the Sharing the Magic statue across from the Fire Station facing up Main Street.
Another great parade viewing location nearby is in front of or from the top of the Train Station. While the higher vantage point is perfect for keeping your sightline clear, watching from the loading platform can get packed. Fortunately, standing in front of the Train Station from the ground will also provide you with excellent views.
Close to the Upcoming Tiana’s Bayou Adventure and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
Located right near the start of the route in Frontierland, this is a great spot if you want to catch the parade before running to get in line for Tiana’s Bayou Adventure (once it opens) or Big Thunder Mountain Railroad – and hopefully beat most of the crowds. For the biggest head start, stand on the same side as these Magic Kingdom mountains facing Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn & Café.
On the Hub in Front of Cinderella Castle
Unsurprisingly, one of the best spots to watch the parade is in front of Cinderella Castle from the area known as the Hub. You can’t ask for a more magical setting to take in the show than with the iconic fairytale palace towering in the background.
For the ultimate mix of great views and convenience, reserve a spot in the Disney Genie+ viewing area. Alternatively, skip the Lightning Lane and watch from the outer ring of the Hub facing Cinderella Castle instead.
Animal Kingdom Parade Route & Best Places to Watch
Getting a good view of the character flotillas and river cruises at Animal Kingdom Theme Park usually isn’t all that difficult. With the park sporting no less than four character cruises, this is especially the case at Animal Kingdom.
Guests can easily enjoy the boats from one of the several bridges over Discovery River as they float by below. Or, for a slightly closer viewpoint, head over to Flame Tree Barbecue. Not only does the quick-service restaurant tout a few riverfront dining pavilions, but Expedition Everest soaring above the lagoon makes for an undeniably atmospheric backdrop.
Well, parade fanatics, that concludes our guide to this quintessential character-spotting experience at The Most Magical Place on Earth. Do you like watching parades at Disney World? Which one is your favorite? Let us know in the comments! Then, find out how to save some cash with our Walt Disney World discount tickets.