Paint the Night Parade

Updated May 25, 2018

Paint the Night Parade is back! Beginning with Pixar Fest on April 13, 2018, Paint the Night is now running at California Adventure, rather than Disneyland, where it began a few years ago. This is a VERY popular parade, so you’ll need to know how to prepare for it.

I was at the parks opening weekend of Pixar Fest and reviewed all three dining packages that coordinate viewing for this parade. Stay tuned for individual reviews on each with photos and directions on how to get the most for your money.

Below, I share everything you need to know to see Paint the Night, with or without a dining package. Enjoy!

Basic Info

Paint the Night Parade lasts approximately 20 minutes. Originally created to celebrate Disneyland turning 60 years old, it’s returning to delight crowds, young and old. Since I started this website in 2014, I haven’t seen a parade loved more than this one. It’s fantastic!

To see if/when this parade will run during your trip, visit this link and change the date on the calendar to your timing.

It looks like the parade will run at 8:45pm and 10:45pm on most days. When there is only one parade scheduled, it will run at 8:45pm.

We do not know if there will be a FASTPASS option to secure viewing for this parade.

What’s New

A float themed after The Incredibles will be added to line up.

Disney shares:

“Also coming in June is a dazzling new float for the popular “Paint the Night” parade featuring Mr. Incredible, Elastigirl and Frozone from “The Incredibles.” This new float will bring all of the fun and excitement of the Incredibles’ world to life with high-tech, pop-art effects inspired by the mid-century-modern style of the films. Dynamic and innovative visual technology will also bring Violet, Dash and Jack-Jack to life, showcasing their powers in surprising ways!”

What’s Returning

Look for these guys, returning from the original:

  • Peter Pan on the Paint the Night Drum (with Rosetta, Silvermist, Iridessa, and Tinkerbell)
  • Monster’s Inc Dance Party featuring Sully and Mike
  • Cars characters, including Lightnight McQueen, Mack and DJ
  • The Little Mermaid float featuring  Ariel, Sebastian, Flounder, and King Triton
  • Nemo and Marline from Finding Nemo
  • The Toy Story Electric Rodeo featuring Jessie, Slinky Dog, Woody, Buzz Lightyear, and Squeeze Toy Aliens
  • Candlelight Princess Procession with Belle, Rapunzel and Cinderella
  • Frozen float with Anna, Elsa and Olaf
  • Mickey’s Lighting Finale with friends Goofy, Minnie, and Donald

Parade Route

This parade starts just past Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta on the pier. It then travels by Paradise Gardens, past Goofy’s Sky School, past Ariel’s Undersea Adventure, next to Cars Land, by Carthay Circle, down Hollywood Blvd, and then after taking a right before the Hyperion Theater, it ends to the left of Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT!

Scroll down for a map showing the parade route.

Dining Packages

There are three dining packages that coordinate with Paint the Night Parade. I’ll be reviewing each opening weekend, so stay tuned for complete details on each of them.

Some notes on these packages for now:

  • Dining reservations are available 60 days out from the day you want to dine. Reservations are a must for these packages. Be ready to book on your first eligible day.
  • Wine Country Trattoria and Carthay Circle are not prepaid. You may make your reservation and then pay at the meal.
  • Sonoma Terrace requires pre-payment. You may book this package and then cancel up to 72 hours in advance to receive a full refund.
  • I recommend avoiding the latest dining time at either restaurant, as you will want to be at the viewing location well before it’s time to arrive if you aim for front row view. If possible, dine no later than 6:30pm. You don’t want to feel rushed during your meal.
  • Even with a dining package, I recommend arriving to your viewing/seating area (depending on which package you choose) an hour prior to parade time if you’re wanting the best view/seating.

For now, here is the info we have:

Wine Country Trattoria

Visit this link for my full review.

Cost:

Lunch – starts at $38 for adults; $21 for children (ages 3 to 9)
Dinner – starting at $49 for adults; $25 for children (ages 3 to 9)

*Pre-payment is not required. Annual Passport discounts will apply.

The Main Idea:

Dine at Wine Country Trattoria, a restaurant with mostly outdoor seating on a lovely patio, featuring Italian favorites and good wine. Then, find your spot within the viewing section for Paint the Night Parade. (This option does not include seating or chairs of any kind. Guests will stand or possibly sit on the curb, depending on where the location is.)

Make a Reservation:

Reserve this package at this link.

Disney shares the following about Wine Country Trattoria:

“At Wine Country Trattoria, prepare to be transported to the heart of Napa Valley as you savor a three-course culinary experience with flavors of California and the Mediterranean. Start of your meal with Italian Insalata with pepperocinis, Kalamata olives, Roma tomatoes, cucumbers, shaved parmesan and a red wine vinaigrette or the Chef’s Soup Selection – Italian Wedding Soup. Then enjoy the main course with selections such as Spaghetti Aglio e Olio with seasonal vegetables, arugula, tomatoes, garlic, chili flakes, Tuscan Salad, Linguine alle Vongole or Fettuccine Shrimp Alfredo. And finally, top off the meal with a decadent dessert of either Trattoria Tiramisù or Chocolate Panna Cotta!”

Carthay Circle

Visit this link for my full review.

Cost:

Dinner – starts at $99 for adults; $45 for children (ages 3 to 9)

*Pre-payment is not required. Annual Passholder discounts do not apply.

The Main Idea:

Dine at Carthay Circle Restaurant, which is the premier restaurant at California Adventure (and the best between the two parks, in my opinion). Most seating at this restaurant is indoors. This meal will take about an hour and a half. Then, enjoy an actual chair to watch the parade from in the reserved section next to the restaurant. This is one of two dining packages that provide an actual seat for you to sit in while watching the parade.

Make a Reservation:

Reserve this package at this link.

Disney shares:

“At Carthay Circle Restaurant, dine in style with a four-course meal as you take in the elegance and glamour of Hollywood’s Golden Age. For the first course, experience a delicious Crab Custard with chilled asparagus, and then move to the second course with a savory Soup of Roasted Parsnip accented with Winter Pears, Dried Cranberries and Rosemary Ham. For the main course – choose between the Sustainable Fish of the Day with Spanish chorizo, Bay shrimp and red bell pepper romesco, or Stone Creek Prime New York Steak with winter root whipped potatoes and Cabernet Essence. And finally – for dessert you can enjoy the sweet Painter’s Palette!”

Sonoma Terrace Reception

Visit this link for my full review.

Cost:

$79 per person (adult or child; tax and gratuity included)

*Pre-payment is required when you make your reservation. Annual Passport discounts will not apply. Cancel up to 72 hours prior to your reservation for a full refund.

The Main Idea:

Snack on a charcuterie tray served with wine, beer, or soda while watching the parade from a seat. Leave with boxed truffles to enjoy at a later time. This experience starts at 8:00pm and includes viewing of the parade at 8:45pm. Guests may check in up to an hour prior to parade time. This is one of two dining package options with an actual chair to sit in during the parade.

Make a Reservation:

Reserve this package at this link.

Disney shares:

“Ignite the night with tasty treats, libations, reserved viewing and a serving of Disney magic with the Sonoma Terrace “Paint the Night” Parade Reception. If you’re looking to end your night on a deliciously dazzling note, then this unforgettable evening is for you! This dining experience welcomes kids of all ages to experience “Paint the Night” parade from reserved seating in the beautiful Sonoma Terrace. At the event, you can help yourself to charcuterie and desserts served with wine, beer and other non-alcoholic beverages. You’ll even receive a box of tasty truffles to enjoy later!”

Where to Watch

I have three recommendations for you on where to watch this parade from. I’m listing these three spots based on what I saw when the Pixar Play Parade ran through DCA, the expected crowds for Paint the Night, and more. After the parade runs for a bit, these might change. Check back for updates.

For now, if you don’t secure your spot with a dining package, consider these locations to see Paint the Night:

  • In front of the outdoor queue for Ariel’s Undersea Adventure
  • Hollywood Blvd
  • Pacific Wharf (where you watch World of Color)

I’ve shared my thoughts on each of these here:

In front of Ariel’s Undersea Adventure

This was always my favorite for the Pixar Play Parade. It was often wide open just a few minutes before show time because many guests set up at Carthay Circle or closer to where Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT! is now. Set up an hour prior to parade time for your best view.

Watching close to dinner time? Have your group set up on a blanket holding your spot while an adult heads over to buy pizza from Boardwalk Pizza in Paradise Gardens. Enjoying a meal while you wait is a great way to pass the time.

Closest Restrooms: If you’re set up near the actual entrance of Ariel’s, visit the restrooms closest to the Grizzly Peak Water Wheel. If you’re set up on the other end, closer to Goofy’s Sky School, visit the restrooms in Paradise Gardens.

Closest Food: Snack kiosks selling cotton candy, ice cream, etc will appear closer to parade time. For pizza, pasta, and salads, visit Boardwalk Pizza in Paradise Gardens.

Advantages: This area is a long space that stretches all along the front of Ariel’s Undersea Adventure and typically allows for guests to find a space within an hour of parade time.

Disadvantages: Restrooms aren’t super close by.

Hollywood Blvd

This area has wider walkways than others on the parade route, so there’s a bit more room to set up here. Guests love to see a parade in a street setting…..similar to on Main Street at Disneyland…..so this is your best bet if you enjoy that, too. Grab a spot in front of Animation Academy or on the other side of the street, in front of Gone Hollywood. Consider arriving 1.5 hours prior to parade time for your best view.

Closest Restrooms: These are super close. To the right of Animation Academy and Off the Page, you’ll find restrooms. Set up on this side of the street if you need quick access.

Closest Food: Award Weiners Hot Dogs, Schmoozies, and the Fairfax Market can be found on the same side of the street as the shop, Gone Hollywood.

Advantages: The parade is viewed in a more traditional street setting here. Restrooms and food are very close.

Disadvantages: This area can get more congested than the previously mentioned spot in front of Ariel’s. It also requires you to set up earlier.

Pacific Wharf (Where You Watch World of Color)

This space is similar to what I suggest about Ariel’s Undersea Adventure, above. It has a little less structure since it’s competing with some benches and the railing for where guests watch World of Color. It’s still more spacious than other locations around the park. Set up about an hour prior to parade time.

Watching close to dinner time? Have your group set up on a blanket holding your spot while an adult buys pizza from Boardwalk Pizza in Paradise Gardens. Dinner is a nice distraction while you wait for the parade.

Closest Restrooms: If you’re set up closer to the bridge headed to the actual pier, visit the restrooms near the Grizzly Peak Water Wheel. If you’re set up on the other end, closer to Golden Zephyr, visit the restrooms in Paradise Gardens.

Closest Food: Snack kiosks selling cotton candy, ice cream, etc will appear closer to parade time. For pizza, pasta, and salads, visit Boardwalk Pizza in Paradise Gardens. There is also a coffee cart in the circle that connects the parade path to the bridge that leads to the pier.

Advantages: You can usually find a spot within an hour of parade time.

Disadvantages: Restrooms aren’t super close by. This side is a little more chaotic compared to across the parade route in front of Ariel’s.

Parade Viewing Map

Notes

  • Disney shares more on this parade at this link.
  • After many years of guests hanging out 5 hours prior to parade time to secure a spot, Disney set some limits to keep guests safe. Previous parades included guests setting up no more than 2 hours prior to parade time. I’m assuming this parade will include the same.
  • When you set up prior to the parade, you may use a blanket to secure your spot. You may not leave the blanket unattended in any way, but they are allowed. I recommend using a blanket to keep little ones off the ground, which can be hot or dirty. The blanket will also (hopefully) prevent a GROWN MAN from sitting RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOUR 3 YEAR OLD CHILD MOMENTS BEFORE THE PARADE STARTS. Sorry about that. I’m still bitter. A bulky blanket is no fun to haul through the park, so I highly recommend (and rarely stop rambling on about) the Matador blanket, which fits up to 4 people and folds into a small square that can literally fit inside your pocket. Like magic! I have one and have used it dozens and dozens of times, inside and outside of Disneyland. Find it at this link.

  • If your child (or you – I’m not judging) is dressed like a character that runs through the parade, be sure that he or she (or you) do your best to show that character when he or she goes by. Parade characters work hard to spot devoted fans dressed like them, but it can’t hurt to point to your little Jessie when she shows up. Most often, that character will wave or point or do something to show he or she sees the devotion. Calling out character names (within a respectful volume) can also be effective.
  • This parade is running through California Adventure for the first time. Performers and cast members are working hard to make everything run smoothly. Please show respect as everyone gets accustomed to this new experience.
  • Need help while waiting for the parade? Look for cast members in white shirts with blue ties. These cast members are more senior than others and are focused on crowd management and production set up.
  • There are no set Disability sections for this parade, as California Adventure was built with ADA standards in place. Take a look at the recommended viewing sections listed above for ideas on where to set up. The section in front of Ariel’s Undersea Adventure is my first choice for guests in a wheelchair, scooter or other mobility device. This section is often less crowded than others. For more on disabilities at Disneyland, visit this link.
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23 COMMENTS

  1. Is there a way to view the parade while dining at the Carthay Circle restaurant from a window or terrace? The only reservation we could get for the amount of people in our party is at the same time of the parade. And it’s my birthday!

    • There’s a patio upstairs that you can watch from – and that I have heard might be eventually offered as a PTN package – but it’s not official yet. Consider a 1.5 hour window for dining and time your reservation with the parade timing. There’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to sit there. Know that going in. But, it can’t hurt to ask kindly. I would even go by say around 5:00pm…….for a 7:30pm reservation……and speak to the cast members checking guests in. Let them know your dining time and intentions to sit on the patio. Be super polite and without any sort of expectations. Just let them know you’re coming by to see if they could write down your request. Then, arrive 30 minutes prior to your reservation time and remind them of your request. Good luck!

  2. Has paint the night returned permanently? Or do you know if they’ll still have the parade during Christmas celebrations?

    Also, have you heard if Pixar Fest will be a yearly event?

  3. Hi Casey,
    We’ll be there in about a month and wanted to the neon turned on at sunset in Carsland (8PM) but still get good viewing for the 8:45 parade. Does this sound doable? Is there also a place in DCA where we might be able to get a good view of the Disneyland fireworks at 9:30? Thanks for any input. Your web site has been super helpful in planning our visit!

  4. We are going this Thursday 4/19. Do you think a dining package will be necessary, or just take our chances with trying to find our own viewing spot? I’m hoping because it’s a week night, it won’t be too terribly crowded.

  5. What will happen to the parade times on a grad nite? It’s my understanding that DCA closes at 9, so we’ll still be able to catch the 8:45 parade?

  6. We purchased the Dining Package at Wine Country Trattoria at 5pm. I assume we get a Voucher to come back to the VIP viewing area around 60 minutes before the Parade starts? I also have 2 littles with me (age 6 and 3) I know the viewing is standing room only, do you think they will let the littles up front, or should we arrive in the section SUPER early and hope to get the curb space?”

    • Hi, Kerri.

      You’ll receive a ticket to enter the viewing area. Every paying guest will.

      Arrive super early to grab your spot. Kids will need return tickets, too. I’ll share more from that first weekend ASAP!

  7. thanks..I have looked at each and just trying to decide if we want a full meal or a box of candy..which do you think is more worth it…my husband can not stand a long periods of time that is why am looking at these 2 options

  8. going in May and wondered if you know if there is seating at Sonoma Terrace for the Paint the Night Parade and if so is it a good view?? This is my first visit to DL since 1971 and my husband has never been

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