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Plan Ahead for the Best Disneyland Parade Experience
A trip to Disneyland wouldn't be complete without stopping to watch a parade, and you usually have two or three chances to do so every day. But, a little preparation is in order so you and the kids can have a good view. Get there early and claim a spot if you don’t want to watch from a distance.
Get There On Time
The parade schedule at the Happiest Place on Earth generally features Mickey's Soundsational Parade starting at 4:30 p.m. and an after-dark illuminated parade such as Paint the Night or the Main Street Electrical Parade, with two showings scheduled at 8:45 p.m. and 10:45 p.m. Special seasonal parades might operate on a slightly different schedule, which is announced ahead of its start date. For the most up-to-date information, check the Disneyland website or ask a cast member while you're at the park.
Know the Parade Route
A Disneyland parade generally begins at Town Square near the park entrance, continues past the Disney Railroad, then on to Main Street and toward Cinderella Castle. The parade then makes a right, continuing between Matterhorn and Alice in Wonderland, past the Storybook Land Canal Boats and veering again to the right, ending at "It's a Small World." Sometimes the route will be reversed.
Scope Out a Spot
On busy days, it's not unheard of for patrons to start claiming spots along the parade route several hours in advance. You don't necessarily have to be among them, but if you want to have good visibility, think "strategy."
Keep the parade route in mind as you explore the park during the day. Ask your kids where they think the best spot might be. Also assess how busy the park is on the day of your visit—the busier it is, the earlier people start staking their claims on the best parade viewing spots.
Key viewing locations are around Town Square, on Main Street facing Cinderella Castle and along the "It's a Small World" Promenade. Main Street is probably the most popular place to view the parade, and spots along the curbside are akin to front row seats. The castle side of the promenade between Pixie Hollow and Matterhorn has benches and seating, which are naturally popular and fill up quickly. Town Square is a sensible spot if you want to leave the park soon after the parade ends, and it also offers "seats" on the steps near the train station. If there's a firework show scheduled shortly after the parade, prime spots for watching both include Main Street, looking toward Cinderella Castle, and near "It's a Small World," facing Toon Town.
Stake Your Claim
If you're aiming for a prime parade viewing spot and the park is especially busy, aim to claim your place at least one to two hours prior to the scheduled start time. On a less busy day you should be able to claim a decent spot 30 to 60 minutes in advance. If you're in the general area beforehand, you can get a good idea of how quickly good viewing spots are filling up.
Fortunately, your whole family doesn't have to wait in the spot to claim it. Bring a blanket or large towel to put on the ground where your family wants to stand for the parade. One adult or teenager must stay on the spot, so one of you should be prepared to sit for a while. The rest of the family can continue to explore the park and return to the spot in time to catch the parade. Never leave your blanket or towel unattended; it will be removed.
Consider an Alternative
Disneyland offers a couple of packages that include reserved viewing spots for the nighttime parades. Choose a three-course dinner at the Blue Bayou Restaurant inside Pirates of the Caribbean, or pick up a ready-to-go meal from Aladdin's Oasis. Both packages include access to special reserved viewing areas for the parade.
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A writer of diverse interests, Joanne Thomas has penned pieces about road trips for Hyundai, children's craft projects for Disney and wine cocktails for Robert Mondavi. She has lived on three continents and currently resides in Los Angeles, where she is co-owner and editor of a weekly newspaper. Thomas holds a BSc in politics from the University of Bristol, England.