16 Can’t-Miss Disneyland Shows & Other Live Entertainment
As much as we love hopping through the Hundred Acre Wood with Winnie the Pooh (and Tigger, too!), zipping across Pixar Pier on the Incredicoaster, cruising around Cars Land or simply exploring Sleeping Beauty Castle, everyone once in a while, we love to sit down, rest our feet for a bit and enjoy one of the many great Disneyland shows. From stage shows and parades to dance parties with your favorite Disney characters to fireworks and other nighttime entertainment, there are live performances to fit your every mood. And don’t even get us started on all of the incredible musical acts!
But what Disneyland shows should you make time for on your next trip to The Happiest Place on Earth? No matter if you’re on the hunt for a daytime distraction or the perfect ending to your day in the theme park, these are the shows that you’re definitely going to want to catch on your next Disneyland vacation. Lights! Camera! Action!
Beyond Sleeping Beauty Castle: The Best Entertainment at Disneyland Resort
Between incredibly immersive dark rides like Haunted Mansion and “it’s a small world” and the family-friendly thrills offered by the likes of Space Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, slowing things down with one of the equally amazing Disneyland shows can sometimes be a tough sell, especially since they can often be more of a time commitment. (Trust us, we get it! There’s just so much to do, and your time is precious.) However, we love peppering in a good show whenever we get a chance because they’re a great way to take a little break without missing out on the Disney magic, especially if it’s a hot day and there’s air conditioning.
Fortunately, with a whole slew of Disneyland shows to choose from, you’re sure to find at least one or two that are a great fit for you and your crew, whether you’re hoping to sing along to some classic Disney melodies, see your favorite characters or possibly even learn a thing or two. Whatever you’re interested in, these shows at Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park are definitely worth adding to your vacation to-do list.
Keep in mind that while certain Disneyland shows run continuously throughout the day, others have specific showtimes that change from day to day and season to season. On top of that, some are only offered during seasonal special events. So, for the most current schedule, be sure to check out the Disneyland app.
From stage shows starring the Disney Princesses or Mickey Mouse to an Audio-Animatronic musical spectacular that’s been entertaining guests since 1963—and not to mention a glittering fireworks finale—there’s something for everyone at Disneyland Park. Here’s everything you won’t want to miss.
After a fun-filled day at Disneyland, there’s no better way to wrap up the magic than with a showing of the nightly fireworks. Between the delightful music, special appearances by Disney characters and, of course, the sparkling pyrotechnics bursting over Sleeping Beauty’s castle, they’re the perfect punctuation mark at the end of an already enchanting day. The Disneyland fireworks displays rotate throughout the year, undergoing a seasonal makeover with a new soundtrack to match.
While some, like the Disneyland fireworks on New Year’s Eve and the 4th of July, are only offered for one night each year, others have a limited-time run that lasts all season long. So, make sure you check out the Disneyland app to see what’s on the schedule during your trip. For the best views, plan to watch from in front of the castle, on Main Street, U.S.A., near “it’s a small world” or in Frontierland alongside the Rivers of America. Other fireworks shows include:
Mickey’s Mix Magic – A hip playlist of remixed Disney songs mixed by DJ Mickey with projections and a flashy laser light show
Halloween Screams – A spooky fireworks show with a haunting soundtrack starring Disney Villains like Jack Skellington, Maleficent and more
“Believe…In Holiday Magic” Fireworks Spectacular – Festive fireworks over Sleeping Beauty Castle, which has been decked with shimmering “icicles” and snow-covered turrets, with a faux snowfall
You can’t visit Disneyland and not take in a showing of Fantasmic. Held on the Rivers of America in Frontierland and New Orleans Square, this incredible production, which sees Sorcerer Mickey battle it out with some of Disney’s most dastardly villains, easily tops the list of the best Disneyland shows. With colorful projections of classic Disney scenes plastered across massive water screens, an awesome soundtrack, on-stage action featuring a star-studded cast of Disney characters and even a few fireworks, we guarantee that you’ll be on the edge of your seat the entire time.
As you can probably imagine, Fantasmic is incredibly popular. So, for the best views, you’ll either want to book one of the dining packages, which come with reserved viewing in a central location and a meal at either River Belle Terrace or Hungry Bear Restaurant, or arrive early at Rivers of America to make sure that you can score a good spot. If you can’t get enough of this nighttime spectacular, you can even see Fantasmic over at Walt Disney World in Hollywood Studios, where it’s just as big of a hit as it is at Disneyland.
Storytelling at Royal Theatre
Are you or someone in your group fans of the Disney Princesses? Then head on over to Fantasy Faire for Storytelling at Royal Theatre. This open-air Fantasyland theater designed to look like a medieval tent makes for a charming setting for humorous retellings of classic scenes from Tangled or Beauty and the Beast. The hosts, Mr. Jones and Mr. Smythe, are witty and funny. The shows themselves are short but sweet, with just the right amount of silliness. And the princesses are just as endearing as ever. All in all, guests both young and old are sure to have a royally good time at these whimsical Disneyland shows.
Tale of the Lion King
Another show in Fantasyland that is absolutely worth cramming into your day is Tale of the Lion King. (Are we the only ones who feel like this stirring production would be better placed in Adventureland? We digress…) Held in the Fantasyland Theatre, this inspirational musical journey immerses viewers in the rhythms and cultural roots of the Pride Lands with costumes, dancing and song arrangements that feel as if they’ve been ripped off the stage of The Lion King on Broadway and whisked away to the whimsy of Disneyland. The real highlights here are the Storytellers of the Pride Lands, who bring their incredible vocal talents to a story that we all know and love (or, at least, you should).
The Disneyland Story Presenting Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln
Experience a true piece of Disney history during a showing of The Disneyland Story Presenting Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln. One of the original Disneyland shows, this Audio-Animatronic performance held on Main Street, USA in Town Square first debuted at the New York World’s Fair in 1964 before moving to its home in Town Square in 1965, where it has been ever since. A modern marvel of its time (National Geographic magazine quipped that Honest Abe was so realistic that it was “alarming”), next-gen technology makes it just as impressive today as it was in the 1960s.
Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room
For a show of a different kind, fly on over to Adventureland for a showing of Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room. Playing for roomfuls of fans since its debut in 1963, this Audio-Animatronic show is a true Disneyland classic. Envisioned by Walt Disney himself, the Enchanted Tiki Room features an entire chorus of feathered friends, tiki gods and flowers that all join together to create a feast for both the ears and eyes. Best of all, since this show is held in the round, there isn’t a bad seat in the house. And to top it all off, it’s air-conditioned!
Disney California Adventure Park
If you’re a Marvel fan, then the shows at Disney California Adventure are right up your alley. Aside from action-packed shows starring your favorite Avengers, you’ll also find character-filled dance parties, an edu-taining Q&A session featuring everyone’s favorite sea turtle and one truly dazzling nighttime spectacular. While you’re there, you’ll also want to keep an eye out for the Citizens of Buena Vista Street, streetmosphere performers who help to bring the park to life with their playful and occasionally interactive antics. Now, without any further ado, be sure to make some space in your schedule for these Disney California Adventure shows.
Avengers, assemble! Feel like you’re a part of the Marvel action during the high-octane shows that take to the Avengers Headquarters in Avengers Campus. It’s no surprise that the command center for Earth’s Mightiest Heroes draws a lot of attention, and we don’t necessarily mean the good kind. So, throughout the day, you can often catch the likes of Black Widow, Captain America and Thor battling it out with intruders. These confrontations crop up all day long. So, don’t stress out if you happen to miss one. Just wait a little bit, and we guarantee that you’ll have another chance to immerse yourself in the action.
Do the heavy theme park crowds have you feeling a little stressed out? We have just the solution for you: a dance party! With two different dance parties happening on and off all day long across California Adventure, one starring popular Disney Junior characters and the other the Guardians of the Galaxy, there is no shortage of opportunities to bust a move alongside your favorite characters.
Disney Junior Dance Party! – See characters like Mickey and Minnie from Roadster Racers, Doc McStuffins and Vampirina boogie down during the Disney Junior Dance Party in Hollywood Land
Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Dance Off! – Party alongside Star-Lord, Gamora and even Groot to a mixtape of rock-and-roll hits played on Peter Quill’s boom box
Dr. Strange: Mysteries of the Mystic ArtsStep into the Ancient Sanctum for a mind-bending look at the mystic arts during this magical Avengers Campus demonstration starring Dr. Strange. Impressive illusions and special effects make this California Adventure show particularly enjoyable during the evening when the Ancient Sanctum glows to life with the hum of energy. However, it’s still worth a visit any time of the day. As the viewing area is relatively small, things can get cramped quickly. So, plan to arrive at least 15 minutes before the start time for the best view.
Ok, we’ll admit that this isn’t a Disneyland show in the traditional sense. However, it’s still a whole heckuva lot of fun and well worth your time, especially if you love the music from Disney’s beloved animated films. Led by Mickey Mouse as conductor, this 4D film in Hollywood Land is a charming kaleidoscope of catchy songs and scenes and effects like spritzes of water and even smells. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself singing (or, at the very least, humming) along. We know we do! The show also runs continuously throughout the day, so feel free to stop in whenever you need a break to rest your feet for a while and enjoy some A/C.
The Amazing Spider-Man!
Get ready to be amazed by the high-flying acrobatics of The Amazing Spider-Man (as well as the undeniable ingenuity and talent of Walt Disney Imagineering) during this awe-inspiring stunt show at California Adventure. Featuring one of the most advanced Audio-Animatronics the company has ever made, this jaw-dropping production sees your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man flip, tumble and soar through the air high above Avengers Campus with the greatest of ease. The fact that Spidey is actually a robot doesn’t make the whole thing any less impressive. (Don’t worry—we won’t tell your kiddos if you don’t.)
Turtle Talk with Crush
For a totally tubular lesson about life under the sea, be sure to make a visit to the Aquatorium in Hollywood Land for an extra-special question-and-answer session helmed by Crush from Finding Nemo. Thanks to his hydrophone, dudes and dudettes of all ages can find out the answers in real time to any questions they might have about the big, blue world. And since kids really can say the darndest things, you already know that these live chats can be laugh-out-loud funny.
Warriors of Wakanda: The Disciplines of the Dora Milaje
Ready for a jolt of girl power? Watch as aspiring Dora Milaje join General Okoye and her fellow Wakandan warriors as fierce (and adorable) allies. Sure, this short and simple California Adventure show is lacking in the storyline department. However, it’s hard not to be charmed by the crowd of kids, most of them young girls, as they try their hand at replicating the various fighting skills.
World of Color
If you can only see one show at California Adventure, let it be World of Color. Tied with Fantasmic as the best of the best Disneyland shows, World of Color is a vivid celebration of the magical storytelling of Disney and Pixar. The dazzling display takes place on Paradise Bay, right in front of Pixar Pier and the park’s iconic Ferris wheel, and features a fantastic fountain that pumps out 19,000 square feet of water. The screen-like spray is then painted with some of Disney’s most memorable film scenes, while vibrant lights, electrifying lasers, perfectly timed fireworks and a heart-pounding soundtrack of much-loved Disney songs gound out this kaleidoscopic show.
As one of the most popular Disneyland shows, World of Color unsurprisingly gets very busy. So, we recommend you reserve one of the dining packages at Wine Country Trattoria, Magic Key Terrace or Storytellers Cafe in Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel or, for something sweet on the side, the World of Color dessert party to enjoy reserved viewing. Alternatively, you can also opt to join the World of Color virtual queue.
Other Disneyland Resort Entertainment
Looking for even more Disneyland shows to enjoy during your day? Both Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park are home to must-see parades and live musical performances, some of which are available all year round and others that only grace the stage during seasonal celebrations. So, don’t miss the chance to drink in the infectious Disney magic at these lively entertainment offerings.
For a pleasant distraction that you can enjoy at your leisure, take in one of the many live musical performances located throughout both Disneyland and California Adventure. From the seasonal stylings of mariachi music during Dia de los Muertos to Disneyland classics like the Pearly Band or The Dapper Dans, there’s something to match whatever mood you’re in. Over in Disneyland, most of the musical acts can be found performing up and down Main Street, U.S.A. or over in New Orleans Square or Fantasyland. Meanwhile, live music can be enjoyed in several locations across California Adventure, like Paradise Gardens, Pixar Pier and Buena Vista Street. Check out the Disneyland app for the day’s scheduled performances.
Disneyland Band – An original opening-day act, this old-school marching band plays throughout the day on Main Street, U.S.A., in front of the castle and in Frontierland
Golden Horseshoe Piano Player – Listen to someone tickle the ivories with Wild West tunes inside this Old West-inspired quick-service restaurant
Jambalaya Jazz – Be transported to New Orleans during a performance by this soulful jazz band; performances are held throughout the day in New Orleans Square, as well as on a river barge in Frontierland
Pearly Band – Tap your toes to the upbeat setlist of the Pearly Band, which takes to the stage behind Sleeping Beauty’s castle (alongside Mary Poppins and Bert, if you’re lucky) and in front of “it’s a small world”
The Bootstrappers – Take a break from the crowds of Fantasyland during a performance by these tune-playing troubadours
The Dapper Dans – Be charmed by the four-part harmonies, tap dance skills and vaudeville humor of this barbershop quartet, who take to Main Street, U.S.A. several times a day
The Straw Hatters – Go back to a simpler time during an old-fashioned performance by this merry band of instrumentalists on Main Street, U.S.A.
Disney California Adventure Park
Five & Dime – Add some pizzazz to your day at California Adventure with a performance by this jazzy musical quintet on Buena Vista Street
Musical performances at Paradise Garden Bandstand – Grab something to eat from one of the restaurants to enjoy during a limited-time musical performance that rotates with the seasons
Operation: Playtime! Featuring the Green Army Patrol – Feel the rhythm during a toe-tapping and interactive percussion performance by the Green Army Men from Toy Story
No trip to the Happiest Place on Earth is complete without catching one of the character-filled Disneyland parades. Featuring a slew of Disney characters and other performers, these pixie-dusted Disneyland shows are an excellent way to take a break while keeping the fun rolling (literally). Much like other Disneyland shows and entertainment offers, along with the regular character cavalcades, guests can also enjoy limited-time seasonal parades for holidays like Halloween, Christmas and Chinese New Year.
Over in Disneyland, parades typically start near “it’s a small world” before cruising in front of the castle, down Main Street, USA, and out through Town Square. In California Adventure, meanwhile, parades usually take place in Paradise Gardens Park, with the possibility to extend over near the Hyperion Theatre, Carthay Circle Restaurant and Buena Vista Street. At Disneyland Park, in particular, the parades tend to be very busy. So, secure a great view by booking the Plaza Inn Dining Package. Like the other dining packages at Disneyland, the parade package comes with reserved viewing, which helps to save you the hassle of showing up early for a good spot.
“Magic Happens” Parade – A mesmerizing menagerie of larger-than-life floats and Disney characters led by Mickey Mouse, all set to updated twists on classic Disney hits, in honor of the Disney100 Celebration
A Christmas Fantasy Parade – A yuletide tradition starring Santa Claus, reindeer, toy soldiers, gingerbread cookies and, of course, a whole bunch of Disney characters in their wintry best
Disney California Adventure Park
Mulan’s Lunar New Year Procession – A cultural procession featuring a Chinese dragon puppet, dancers and drummers, with special guests Mulan and Mushu
Frightfully Fun Parade at Oogie Boogie Bash – A creepy cavalcade of characters in Halloween costumes, dastardly Disney Villains, ghostly gravediggers and ballroom dancers, and even the Headless Horseman (available exclusively at the separately ticketed Oogie Boogie Bash)
Disney ¡Viva Navidad! Street Party – Be swept away by this festive fiesta that features performances inspired by different Latin American cultures, like mariachi, folklórico dancers, Brazilian samba dancers and mojiganga puppets of Mr. and Mrs. Claus that tower over crowds at 12-feet tall
Well, that’s a wrap on our roundup of the best Disneyland shows. Before the credits roll, what’s your favorite entertainment offering at Disneyland Resort? World of Color? One of the Disneyland parades? How about Fantasmic or one of the fireworks shows? Let us know in the comments! Then, find out how to save some cash on your Disneyland vacation with our discount theme park tickets.