Updated March 15, 2019
Parades at Disneyland are some of my favorite experiences in the park. I absolutely adore them and think they’ve fun for all ages. I encourage you to work at least one into your schedule for the day.
Let’s discuss your parade strategy, what to bring, what to do while you’re waiting and what you can expect from each parade.
In this article
First, check this link to see which parade is running during your visit, how many times it’s running per day and what the times are.
Tips for Seeing Parades
Disneyland parades are more popular than ever. Grabbing a spot can sometimes be stressful.
Here are my suggestions for parade set up:
1. See the parade from the location I recommend. Less crowds and more space.
2. For nighttime parades, watch the second parade if there is one available. I know it’s late, but if you take your long afternoon nap, hopefully kids will still be awake. 1/4 of the people are there for the later parade.
3. Set up in time for the parade with all the people who get there early and then rotate someone watching your blanket. My husband often takes the kids on a few rides while I stay at the blanket. He does the same when I take the kids to find food. I actually LOVE the chore of watching the blanket. It’s quiet and I have a moment to myself!
4. If they’re offered, consider a dining package that will give you a reserved viewing spot for the parade.
If Disneyland is running one parade, it will start at “it’s a small world” and end at the front of the park in Town Square.
If Disneyland is running two parades in one day, the first will start at “it’s a small world” and end at Town Square. The second will start at Town Square and end at “it’s a small world”.
The New Rules
To prevent guests from camping out HOURS prior to parade time, Disneyland cast members are now clearing paths and preventing set up until 2 hours prior. At the 2 hour mark (or right around then), ropes will go up to start the official parade prep. At that point, guests may then secure their spots.
Blankets are still allowed to save your space, however, they cannot be left unattended.
Where to Sit for the Parade and When to Arrive
My favorite location for parade viewing is by “it’s a small world”. This area is typically the least crowded and has restrooms and snacks super close.
Also nearby? Toontown. While one adult saves a spot for everyone on the blanket, have the other wander through Toontown with kids to keep them busy.
Arrive 30 minutes early for a good spot. Arrive an hour early for front row.
What to Do While You’re Waiting
- I always recommend one adult sit on the blanket to reserve the spot (you cannot leave it unattended) and one adult takes kids on a nearby attraction. Depending on where you choose to sit (more on that later), you’ll have plenty of options. Know your timing before the attraction goers take off and be sure they return on time. And, make sure everyone uses the restroom before they return to the blanket.
- While the other adult is off taking kids somewhere to keep them busy, relax. I often bring a book to read. I clean out my bags, throw trash away as needed, straighten my stroller, etc, etc. It feels good to have a little time to re-set for the rest of the day. (This is actually one of my favorite times of the day!)
- Breathe. If you’re lucky enough to sit on the blanket solo, take a break. Enjoy the lack of fussing from your own kids. Ignore those from the children around you.
Mickey’s Soundsational Parade
This fun parade is one my favorites, so it’s return makes me very happy! I love this parade because it is high energy and has something for everyone.
And, the Mary Poppins float at the end is so dreamy.
Visit this link from Disney for more info on this parade. Click on the calendar provided to see if/when this parade is running during your visit.
Paint the Night Parade (on hiatus)
A million dazzling lights make this parade unforgettable. Long time Disneyland fans will recall the Electric Light Parade from their youth. This is an updated version with awesome effects and impressive costumes.
Visit this post for everything you need to know about Paint the Night.
Pixar Play Parade (on hiatus)
This parade is high energy and a little less stressful to see compared to Paint the Night. This parade includes many popular Pixar characters including those from Monsters University, Toy Story, and more.
Visit this post for everything you need to know about Pixar Play Parade.
- If you arrive early enough, you’ll be able to sit on the ground during the parade and be comfortable. If you’re later, you’ll stand closer to the back of the crowd. Try to arrive early. If you are standing, remember that there will likely be people behind you. Holding kids on shoulders might prevent others from watching the fun. Be considerate.
- Encourage your little ones to be interactive and get excited when they see characters. Princesses are big on eye contact and if your little one calls the princess’s name, she’ll likely get a wave. This is VERY exciting for little ones. If your child has a doll or toy that matches a character, have your child hold that up as the character cruises by. He or she will often notice and send your child a wave.
- Not all kids love the characters. My grumpy kid, Jack, once nearly kicked Stitch for coming too close and trying to cheer him up. These larger-than-life characters might frighten children. Be considerate of that and don’t insist on children interacting. Some prefer to just sit back and watch.
- When the parade is over, you can follow it along – behind the final rope ending the parade. One of my best Disney memories happened in 2003 when my then 2 year old was sure he was IN THE PARADE, behind the rope, blowing kisses at the guests.
- People often ask if there is seating available at restaurants that works with watching parades. (Specifically, at Plaza Inn, Jolly Holiday or Carnation Cafe.) While you may get a glimpse of some of the parade I don’t recommend setting up at any of these locations to see a parade at Disneyland. All three have guest walkways and parade watching areas that will block your view of pretty much anything 6 feet tall or shorter. You’ll miss the performers and dancers and smaller floats if you try to watch from one of these locations. The same applies for California Adventure. There are no restaurants that provide a good view for the parade route. Plus, many people think this strategy works, so the seats are scoped out hours before at the locations mentioned above. If you want to see the parade, use that time more wisely and go to one of the spots I listed previously in this post. Or, even better, buy a dining package!
- Watch the following videos if you have little ones who might be overwhelmed with the parades. They’re loud and exciting and it’s a lot of sensory overload for some children. Preparation could make all the difference in your experience. Check out my post on sensory issues, too, if you have a person in your group with such challenges.
The following are videos for these parades.
Mickey’s Soundsational Parade
Disneyland’s Paint the Night Parade
Pixar Play Parade