Sorcerer Mickey on parade float

Ultimate Disneyland Parades Guide – Times, Parade Route, Viewing Tips & More

While we may still be in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic, parades are finally back at Disneyland Resort for 2023. Best of all, we’ve got all the timing tips, seating tricks and other essential information you need to experience this quintessential Disney entertainment offering. 

Keep reading for everything you need to know about watching the “Magic Happens” Parade at Disneyland Park in 2023, along with helpful viewing suggestions for when other parades roll into The Happiest Place on Earth. Updated January 27, 2023 

Disneyland Parades, a Must-Do for Any Trip to The Happiest Place on Earth

Moana float for Disney parade

Parades have been a mainstay of the Disneyland guest experience ever since opening day way back in 1955. Though put on hiatus due to the pandemic, these magical processionals have finally made a comeback to The Happiest Place on Earth. 

The Disneyland Resort typically puts on a few different parades throughout the year, from glittering night parades featuring lit-up floats to limited-time, seasonal displays just for the holidays. Read on for the current parades at Disneyland, plus seasonal processionals and past parades that could (fingers crossed!) make a return sometime in the hopefully near-ish future. 

Current Disneyland Parades & Cavalcades

While the Disneyland Resort often hosts two or three parades at a time between the two theme parks, that is, unfortunately, not the case for 2023. Since the start of COVID-19, these massive gatherings of guests and Disney characters have been slowly phased back in, starting with mini-parades called cavalcades. 

Starting February 24, 2023, there will only one full-length parade offered at Disneyland: the “Magic Happens” Parade. 

“Magic Happens” Parade at Disneyland Park

Parade floats with characters at night

After making its debut in the bright, shiny days before the pandemic on February 28, 2020, the Magic Happens Parade, Disneyland’s first new daytime parade in close to ten years, was sadly shuttered just a few weeks into its run. Luckily, as of February 24, 2023, Magic Happens will soon be returning to its rightful place on Main Street, U.S.A. 

This stunning processional features a host of gorgeous new floats inspired by newer films like Moana, Coco and Frozen, as well as classic favorites, plus a high-energy soundtrack of beloved Disney songs with a contemporary twist. During its brief, pre-pandemic run, Magic Happens typically took place twice each day, typically at 3:30 PM and 6:00 PM. So, you can likely expect a similar schedule once it makes its re-debut.

Mickey Mouse in a red sports car

Seasonal Parades at Disneyland Resort

Along with regular showings of the above parades, guests can also enjoy different seasonal, holiday-themed parades for a limited time throughout the year at both Disneyland and California Adventure. These festive processionals usually include:

Frightfully Fun Parade at Disney California Adventure Park

Confirmed for a return to the 2023 Oogie Boogie Bash, the Frightfully Fun Parade fills the streets of California Adventure Park with your favorite Disney villains, including an impressively spooky appearance by Sleepy Hollow’s infamous Headless Horseman. 

Oogie Boogie Spin Wheel

Sadly, this fan-favorite parade is only available to guests going to the special-ticketed Oogie Boogie Bash. If you’re lucky enough to score some tickets, the Frightfully Fun Parade is usually offered twice per night during the Disney California Adventure Halloween party at 7:50 PM and 10:00 PM

A Christmas Fantasy Parade at Disneyland Park

It’s official! Santa Claus will be coming to Main Street, U.S.A. for the 2023 holiday season. Along with that jolly old elf and, of course, Mickey and Minnie, festive folks can also catch a glimpse of the Disney Princesses, characters from Frozen, marching toy soldiers, prancing reindeer and much more. 

Fortunately, this yuletide treasure is available to all Disneyland Park guests. Although the schedule has yet to be released, guests can typically see Santa’s sleigh cruise through the park two times a day at 3:00 PM and 5:30 PM, starting in mid-November.

Mickey and Minnie on parade float

Mulan’s Lunar New Year Procession at Disney California Adventure Park

Every year in China and other parts of Asia, dragon and lion dancers take to the streets during vibrant temple fairs to help welcome the Chinese New Year. Over at California Adventure Park, this tradition continues with Mulan’s Lunar New Year Procession

From the intricate costumes to the intoxicating music, this cultural display hosted by Mulan and Mushu is a must-see during January and February. Luckily, with multiple showtimes throughout the day – typically 1:00 PM, 2:15 PM, 4:15 PM, 5:15 PM and 6:30 PM – you’ll have several opportunities to do so. 

Previous Disneyland Parades That Could Return in the Future

Pete the Dragon parade float at night

Paint the Night Parade at Disneyland and California Adventure Park

Just like World of Color, the Paint the Night Parade at California Adventure Park brings your favorite Disney and Pixar characters to life in vibrant technicolor – and, in the case of Disneyland’s other electrical parade, tons of twinkling lights. Characters include the Disney Princesses and others from such beloved films as Cars, Monsters Inc., Toy Story, The Incredibles and more. 

This nighttime parade has made the rounds to other Disney Parks in the past, originating in Hong Kong Disneyland before traveling across the pond for runs at both Disneyland and California Adventure. 

Mickey’s Soundsational Parade at Disneyland Park

Who doesn’t love the music of the Walt Disney Company? We know we do! Mickey’s Soundsational Parade was an ode to some of Disney’s most well-loved songs. It’s been a few years since this melodious process last paraded through the streets of Disneyland, with its last run being back in 2019 in honor of Mickey Mouse’s 90th Birthday Celebration. 

Pixar Play Parade at Disneyland and California Adventure Park

Waiting around for the parade to roll by can get hot, especially during summertime at Disneyland. But, the Pixar Play Parade didn’t just dazzle guests with appearances by popular Pixar characters, it also helped keep them cool, with floats featuring small jets of water sprayed at unsuspecting spectators. The last time the Pixar Play Parade cruised through Disneyland was for Pixar Fest back in 2018. 

Disneyland Parade Viewing Tips & Tricks – Parade Routes & the Best Viewing Spots

Don’t want to miss the show on your next trip to Disneyland? Follow our simple tips and tricks to help snag the best viewing location possible, including reserved seating with a parade dining package. 

How & Where to Watch the Parade at Disneyland Park

No matter which Disneyland parade of the day you’re watching, the general route remains the same – it’s just the direction of the parade that changes from showing to showing. 

For example, on days when there are two showtimes for the same parade, the first parade typically begins near “it’s a small world” before winding past the Matterhorn and onto the Hub in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle. From there, it heads down Main Street, U.S.A., circles Town Square and exits near The Mad Hatter. Then, on days with a second parade (which is typically most days), the parade will make the return trip from Town Square back to “it’s a small world.” 

Best Parade Viewing & Seating Areas at Disneyland Park

Although there are plenty of spots to catch the floats as they cruise past, not all viewing locations are created equal. Here are some of our favorites:

Near “it’s a small world”

Arguably, the best place to watch the parade at Disneyland is near “it’s a small world.” Not only is it close to where the parade steps on and off, but this viewing location also tends to be less crowded than some other spots along the route. 

Add in some nearby restrooms and snack carts, plus a few shady spots and a raised platform, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a better parade-viewing area. If you want, you can even time things right to watch the Disneyland fireworks from the exact same location, saving you both precious time and lots of stress. 

Across From the Matterhorn Next to Alice in Wonderland

If you’re planning on camping out for a while, this next parade-viewing spot can be a great choice, as drinking fountains and restrooms are just a short walk away. To top it all off, there usually isn’t seating available on the opposite side of the path. So, you’re sure to get an awesome view of your favorite Disney characters as they float past. 

By the Hub and Sleeping Beauty Castle

As you can imagine, the central Disneyland Hub in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle is an incredibly popular place to watch the parade. On the bright side, since this viewing area tends to stay roped off until roughly an hour before parade time, you can usually snag a pretty decent seat without having to wait too long. Just keep in mind that there isn’t as much room here as elsewhere on the route, making it less than ideal for large groups. 

In Town Square on Main Street, U.S.A. by the Fire Station or Train Station

Unsurprisingly, Main Street, U.S.A. is another in-demand parading-viewing area. While the Disneyland Railroad Train Station provides unobstructed views of the floats thanks to its elevated position, roped-off locations near City Hall and the Fire Station typically open to guests about 20 to 30 minutes prior to start time, making for prime last-minute seating. 

Enjoy Reserved Viewing for the Parade with the Plaza Inn Dining Package

In the past, the only way to get reserved seats for Disneyland parades is with a Plaza Inn Dining Package. Previously available for $40 for adults and $25 for children ages 3 to 9 (plus tax and gratuity), the dining package comes with a delicious lunch of all-American fare, including the Plaza Inn’s famous fried chicken, as well as a reserved viewing voucher to watch the parade. Just keep in mind that with the dining package, you are usually limited to a particular showing. 

When to Claim Your Viewing Spot Along the Disneyland Parade Route

In general, guests are not allowed to begin reserving seats along the parade route until two hours before showtime. Then, everything is fair game. Naturally, benches, curb space and shady areas fill up quickly. 

So, if you want to be guaranteed a front-row seat, you’ll want to start hanging out around your desired viewing area about two-and-a-half hours prior to parade time. This will allow you to stake your claim as soon as cast members give the go-ahead.  

For those who don’t mind standing or being a few rows back, you do have a bit more flexibility. However, the latest you’ll want to show up is 30 minutes before start time. For a happy medium with a great chance of getting good seats, plan to arrive an hour before the parade begins. 

How & Where to Watch the Parade at California Adventure Park

The parade route at Disney California Adventure Park runs from near Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT!, through Hollywood Land and by the Carthay Circle Restaurant. From there, it cruises behind Grizzly Peak, past the entrances to Avengers Campus and Cars Land and onward to Paradise Gardens Park before finally ending near the IncrediCoaster. 

Just like parades at Disneyland, if there happens to be another showing, the route will reverse for the second parade of the day. Knowing this ahead of time can be invaluable when figuring out where to sit. 

Best Parade Viewing & Seating Areas at Disney California Adventure

Unlike when watching the Disneyland parades, there aren’t too many curbs or benches to sit on or walls to lean against along the California Adventure Park parade route. So, if you can grab one, be sure to do so. Other excellent parade-viewing areas include:

By Goofy’s Sky School

Similar to “it’s a small world” during Disneyland parades, the area around Goofy’s Sky School is typically one of the last viewing locations to fill up. This makes it a great pick if you don’t want to wait too long for a decent viewing spot. To avoid having the sun in your eyes, be sure to face Bayside Brews. 

In Hollywood Land

This is where you’ll find the majority of the benches and curbs along the parade route. As a result, this viewing area usually gets packed early. So, if you absolutely need a seat and don’t mind waiting a couple of hours to claim one, you’ll need to act fast. 

Near Ariel’s Undersea Adventure

Between the trees behind you and the waterfront views of Pixar Pier in front of you, this little corner of California Adventure can be another great choice to watch the parade float by. For the most comfortable spot possible, try to score a viewing spot under one of the trees for some much-needed shade.  

Enjoy Reserved Viewing with Disney California Adventure Parade Dining Packages

Similar to the Plaza Inn Dining Package for Disneyland parades, you can also get reserved seating for parades at Disney California Adventure with the help of a dining package. In the past, parade dining packages for California Adventure Park have been offered at both the Carthay Circle Restaurant and Wine Country Trattoria. 

When to Find a Viewing Location Along the Disney California Adventure Parade Route

As with watching the Disneyland parades, guests who would like to catch the parade at Disney California Adventure are unable to reserve a seat until two hours before start time. For those who want a front-row seat to the action, plan to arrive at your desired parade viewing area about two-and-a-half hours early so that you’re close by for when the free-for-all begins. 

Otherwise, if you’d rather use your time to go on rides instead of camping out for the parade, you’re better off watching the show from spots like Goofy’s Sky School. If you’re unsure whether a place has a good view, don’t hesitate to ask a cast member. 

Other Suggestions for Watching Disneyland Parades

Hoping for the best experience possible? Here are some helpful hints to make sure your Disneyland parade viewing goes smoothly. 

Bring a Blanket for Slightly Comfier Seating and to Block Off Your Viewing Location

For those wanting the best seats possible, chances are good that you’ll be camping out at your chosen parade viewing location for a while. Not only can a blanket make the hard pavement just a little more comfortable, but it also makes for an easy way to stake your claim on a spot. This can help give your group a little breathing room and keep interlopers from encroaching on your territory. 

Designate Someone to Watch Your Viewing Spot Until the Parade Starts

Why should everyone have to sit around for hours waiting for the parade to arrive? If you have a bigger group or someone who doesn’t mind missing out on a few rides, a designated spot-holder can ensure you have a great view without wasting a bunch of time. 

Book Your Parade Dining Package and Reserved Seating Early

It should come as no surprise that reserved seats for the Disneyland parades can fill up early, as can parade dining packages. So, if you know this is something you want to take advantage of, be sure to make your reservation as early as possible to avoid disappointment. 

Additionally, even with the dining packages, reserved seating for the parades is first-come, first-served. In other words, plan to arrive at the designated viewing area at least 30 to 45 minutes before start time to claim a good seat. 

If Possible, Stick Around for the Second Parade for Fewer Crowds

Since most folks tend to watch the first parade of the day, the second parade tends to be less busy, especially if it’s an evening parade. If you’re still going strong at the end of the night, take advantage of the mass exodus of people to enjoy a better view without the ridiculously long wait. 

Bring Something to Keep You and the Kids Entertained While You Wait

Whether it’s a picnic, something from a snack cart or the Play Disney Parks app, having something to keep your mind off the long wait can help the time pass faster until the parade arrives, particularly if you’re visiting with irritable little ones.  

Save Yourself Some Hassle by Watching the Parade and Fireworks from the Same Location

For most people, watching both the parade and fireworks is a must. Fortunately, as long as you choose your viewing area wisely, you can actually catch both nighttime entertainment offerings from the exact same spot. While it doesn’t offer a view of the fireworks over Sleeping Beauty Castle, the area by “it’s a small world” makes for a convenient double-whammy of a viewing location – and bonus, you’ll be closer to the launch area for the fireworks.  

Be Considerate of Other Guests

After a day spent fighting the theme park crowds, being respectful of your fellow guests can feel challenging, to say the least. However, avoid the temptation to hoist your kiddo on your shoulders to watch the parade or decide to stand up if everyone else behind you is sitting. This will help keep the parade-viewing experience as pleasant as possible. 

Well, Disney fans, that completes our guide to parade-watching at The Happiest Place on Earth. Are you happy the Magic Happens Parade is coming back to Disneyland? Which parade do you want to see roll down Main Street, U.S.A. or through Paradise Gardens Park once more? Let us know in the comments! Then, learn how to save on your next vacation with our Disneyland discount tickets