One area where we’ve seen some serious changes is Disney World’s holiday offerings for 2020. Although we’ve already gotten lots of details about what to expect for Halloween and Christmas, New Year’s Eve is still a large question mark. What will New Year’s Eve be like at Disney World this year? Here’s what we know.
New Year’s Eve is notoriously one of the busiest days in Disney World. Before the closures, many of the parks were known to hit capacity on this day as guests gather to celebrate and watch one of Disney World’s many New Year’s Eve fireworks shows. How will that work since fireworks are suspended (for now) and crowds are greatly reduced?
The LEAST Crowded New Year’s Eve…EVER??
If you think Disney World is crowded during a “typical” summer, you ain’t seen nothing like New Year’s Eve! We’re talking a SEA of humanity type crowds. We’re talking crammed so tight if you lifted your feet you wouldn’t fall over. OK, that one’s a bit of an exaggeration. What we’re trying to say: it’s MEGA crowded on a “normal” Disney World New Year’s. This year? Yeah, not so much.
The Park Pass Reservation system was introduced to control crowd levels at Disney World by limiting capacity in each park each day. Right now, according to CEO Bob Chapek, it’s capping capacity at about 25%. That’s still a lot of people when maxed out. How many? Well, look at that photo below from last New Year’s Eve when Magic Kingdom was at capacity. Pluck three out of four people out of this picture. That many.
Sure, it’s a lot fewer people but…it’s still a lot of people by social distancing standards. That’s a lot of folks to “please keep six feet apart!” Without the draw of big New Year’s Eve fireworks (more on that later) there may be no reason for crowds to congregate, making it essentially a regular — albeit busy — day at the parks. That said, guests might still experience the LEAST crowded New Year’s Eve on record in Disney World!
Just as we saw with Labor Day (and as we’re seeing with major holiday weekends like Thanksgiving and Halloween), we expect that Park Pass reservations for some, or even ALL, of the parks will likely fill up on and around New Year’s Eve.
At the time of writing, the Park Pass availability calendar is showing full availability for Theme Park Tickets Guests, Disney Resort Guests, and Annual Passholders on New Year’s Eve — but that could all change very quickly.
If you’re already planning a vacation to Disney World around New Year’s Eve, we highly recommend you get your park passes ASAP, as this has the potential to become a big issue in the future, and could possibly prevent you from visiting the park(s) you want to visit!
When you think of New Year’s Eve festivities you probably picture the countdown at midnight followed by loads of fireworks, right? Well, it’s going to be kind of difficult to do that this year in Disney World seeing as how the latest any of the parks are open is 8PM! By our calculations, that’s four hours shy of midnight 😬. (Math!)
When Disney reopened, park hours were significantly reduced from what they were pre-closure. We’ve also seen them change since then — with all park hours getting even SHORTER in September. On select weekends, we’ve seen an extra hour here or there added back in October as well as November. If you were expecting to party in the parks ’til the wee hours on New Year’s, you might be disappointed:
Let’s break that down per park:
- Magic Kingdom: 9AM to 7PM
- Epcot: 12PM to 8PM
- Disney’s Hollywood Studios: 10AM to 7PM
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom: 9AM to 5PM
Remember that in years past, the parks were often open ’til midnight on New Year’s Eve to ring in the New Year in each park. That’s just not the case this year. As far as the calendar is concerned it’s business as usual — just another Thursday in reopened Disney World. Disney could still surprise us though, but it seems doubtful given the circumstances. If the goal is crowd control and social distancing, traditional New Year’s festivities are basically the exact opposite.
Entertainment and Decor in the Parks
Fireworks go with New Year’s Eve like peanut butter goes with jelly. Problem is: all fireworks have been suspended for the time being at Disney World, and we anticipate that there will not be any fireworks at any of the parks to celebrate the coming of the New Year.
It’s not just Disney putting down the sparklers this year either. We’ve seen other spots around the world, such as London, already announce that their New Year’s Eve fireworks will be canceled this year due to the pandemic, according to Sky News. Additionally, News 6 has reported that the New Year’s Eve celebration in Times Square in New York City will be “scaled-down and socially distant,” and the event will only allow an “extremely limited group of in-person honorees” in terms of in-person attendance. However, a virtual experience will be created so that others can participate in the countdown to 2021.
In terms of other seasonal entertainment in Disney World, we’ve seen lots of holiday events canceled already, like Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party and the Candlelight Processional. When Disney canceled those events, they specifically noted that they were canceling “holiday experiences that draw big crowds.” But, not all holiday events are gone. EPCOT’s Festival of the Holidays will be back, Cinderella Castle will get some special projections, and other special holiday entertainment has been announced as well.
Will we see things like the concerts around World Showcase in Epcot or the DJ on Cinderella Castle’s stage in Magic Kingdom return? Those tend to draw large crowds, at least in some areas, which is something Disney is trying their best to avoid.
It’s possible some of these unique New Year’s Eve offerings could return in new or unique ways, similar to how performances by Mariachi Cobre were moved to the America Gardens Theatre. It’s also possible that these concerts will return with social distancing markers specifying where you can stand and party away — like what we’ve seen in the Disney Junior Dance Party! in Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
What about those complimentary plastic New Year’s Eve hats we’ve seen handed out in the past? It’s possible these may be offered again if they can be distributed safely. But, lines to get these would have to be socially distanced, and Disney would have to be able to handle that with what will likely be decently high crowd levels (people love a free hat!).
It’s possible we simply won’t see these return for now.
If you can’t celebrate at the parks, will you be able to enjoy New Year’s Eve in Disney Springs? The night owl of the bunch, Disney Springs is staying open from 10AM ’til 10PM!
We anticipate that, similar to what has been announced so far for Halloween and Christmas, there will be special food and/or entertainment offerings available, either continued from Christmas or specific to New Year’s Eve.
We can only look as far out as mid-December in terms of searching for dining reservations right now, and it looks like the latest reservation we could find (for now) at Disney Springs is 10:00PM at The BOATHOUSE. Assuming you can manage (and the restaurant will allow you) to turn that into a 2-hour dinner, you could potentially spend midnight there (just be thoughtful of your waitstaff if so!).
As we get closer to New Year’s Eve, we may see these hours change, however, so we’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for more updates.
Disney World Resort Hotels
If you can’t spend midnight on New Year’s Eve in other spots around Disney World, what about your Disney World Resort hotel? In previous years, hotels would have parties to celebrate New Year’s Eve. For example, you could dance and enjoy some time at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campgrounds, and then watch the Magic Kingdom fireworks from the beachfront areas. As we mentioned, fireworks seem unlikely, but that doesn’t mean hotels couldn’t hold special events if they wanted to.
Currently, we’ve seen various hotels offering resort activities, like “Movie Under the Stars,” so it’s possible that small recreation events may be held at some of the resorts on New Year’s Eve. We expect that if any events are held, they will be limited in size and scope, and may potentially only be offered during the day, not at night.
In terms of dining at the Disney Resort hotels, we can only search for dining reservations as far out as the mid-December right now, but it looks like the latest reservations available (for now) are for around 10PM at California Grill, and 10:30PM at Il Mulino. If you turn those into 2-hour dinners (or thereabouts), you could potentially have a midnight celebration there, but you’d be stretching it.
In other words, there’s a possibility you may just be left to throw a New Year’s Eve celebration in your own hotel room. And, perhaps that’s something that would feel more comfortable for you, as you would be able to control how many people you’re around for purposes of social distancing. But, we would strongly advise you to become very familiar with the food offerings at your hotel, and how late they’ll be staying open.
Although a few hotels have started to offer room service, note that many aren’t providing that service to guests yet, so you probably shouldn’t plan on having that be your source of late-night dining unless things change between now and New Year’s Eve. Some hotel restaurants are offering food to-go from their table service restaurants, so you may want to grab some of that and store it in your fridge or room for later so you’ve got a meal/snacks later on in the night.
You can also look at grabbing some items from nearby grocery stores, restaurants, or even your hotel’s quick service location, but again you’ll want to watch out for all of the operating hours. You wouldn’t want to head down in your pajamas only to find out that the spot you were planning to visit stopped selling your beloved Mickey Bars hours ago.
The Disney World’s website mentions of New Year’s Eve seem to have not been updated to reflect the current situation. But some items discussed on the website — like special snacks — we anticipate will still be available.
We’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for any changes to this website and we’ll let you know when we spot some updates.
Overall, we expect that things will likely look very different in Disney World on New Year’s Eve this year, but we anticipate that you’ll still be able to celebrate in some, perhaps smaller and more limited, ways.
The crowds will be significantly lighter than years past, but the parks will also be lacking the main reasons — fireworks and festivities — that people flock there in the first place on New Years. If you were planning to party ’til the AM to ring in the New Year though, you might be doing it in your jammies in your hotel room.
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Will you be headed to Disney World on New Years Eve this year? Let us know all your plans in the comments!