Disney Parks and Resorts have a reputation for being magical, friendly, and a great place for a vacation. But as the branch of an entertainment company, Disney offers a variety of live entertainment options. We’re not talking about characters or the Dapper Dans or Mickey’s Soundsational Parade. We’re talking the Nighttime Spectaculars.
We’ll only be discussing ongoing or recently closed shows at the Disneyland Resort, including those in California Adventure. This will include holiday shows because let’s be real, most people travel during the holidays.
So before Galaxy’s Edge launches a new one, here is every Disneyland Nighttime Spectacular, ranked.
12 World Of Color - Season Of Light
World of Color, right now, is California Adventure’s sole recurring Nighttime Spectacular. Located at Pixar Pier, the show combines lights and water to create that prestigious Disney experience. Every year, around mid-November, Disney swaps out the usual show for the holiday special: Season of Light.
It’s definitely fun and festive, but it’s not the best holiday entertainment the parks have to offer or the best World of Light show. Do it if you’re a holly jolly nightmare during the holiday season.
11 Mickey’s Frightfully Fun Parade
If you want a lowkey Halloween experience and you’re a complete Disney nerd, you have to go to Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. It’s a separate ticket and can cost some serious money for a full family, but you get shorter attraction lines, unlimited trick-or-treating, and two exclusive Nighttime Spectaculars.
Mickey’s Frightfully Fun Parade runs twice in the night, so anyone with little kids who can’t stay up until 10pm can enjoy it. Floats include Mickey and Minnie, Dr. Facilier from The Princess and the Frog, The Haunted Mansion (complete with ghost partygoers and gravediggers), The Nightmare Before Christmas, and a massive villains float that also has Vampirina.
Halloween parties sell out fast and just because of the price and limited availability, but, there are other more accessible shows that are better.
10 “Believe... In Holiday Magic” Fireworks
Starting when the parks swap out their Halloween gear for fake snow and a giant tree, “Believe... In Holiday Magic” perfectly captures the spirit of the holidays and is the right level of over-the-top. There’s a Dreidel Dreidel thrown in, but it’s still an enjoyable show even if you don’t celebrate Christmas.
While this show runs more frequently, it is restricted to around mid-November to the first week in January. On the plus side, you don’t need to purchase an extra ticket to enjoy it. And at the end, you get gingerbread-scented snow!
9 “Halloween Screams!” Fireworks
Back-to-back fireworks spectaculars! The “Halloween Screams!” show, like the parade, is a Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party exclusive. If you’re a fan of The Nightmare Before Christmas, Disney villains, The Haunted Mansion, and “Pink Elephants on Parade,” then this show is for you.
With upbeat versions of “This Is Halloween” and “Grim Grinning Ghosts” that get the mashup treatment during the finale, you really can’t go wrong. Also, Zero flies across the castle instead of Tinker Bell and it’s adorable. Shine on, ghost dog.
8 New Year’s Eve “Fantasy In The Sky” Fireworks and Celebration
“Fantasy In The Sky” is a very short fireworks show, only running about 5 minutes. The magic comes from the party Disneyland throws. Did you miss High School Musical and Powerline? Because yeah, they play that music and it’s awesome.
Probably the icing on the cake is seeing the fireworks Mission: Breakout! launches in tandem with Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. Though you can’t really hear the music on the esplanade, you can see both sets of fireworks. Cast members outline places to stand to, you know, avoid fire hazards. This gets a mid-ranking because it only happens once per year, but you don’t have to buy a ticket to get the most out of the experience.
Fantasmic! contains snippets from various Disney movies, including Pirates of the Caribbean, Aladdin, The Lion King, Tangled, and a whole lot of Mickey. Oh, and the giant Maleficent dragon that breathes fire.
It’s an easy show to get to and very accessible, but there’s a terrible bottleneck that forms between Critter Country and The Haunted Mansion. At peak season, you will be shoulder-to-shoulder and it can take upwards of 30 minutes to make your way back to Main Street, USA. And Maleficent is prone to failure.
6 “Mickey’s Mix Magic” Fireworks
Introduced in 2018, “Mickey’s Mix Magic” incorporates old and new songs, giving them a contemporary remix. This fireworks show is notably shorter than any other at Disneyland, only running about 10 minutes long as opposed to the usual 16 minutes.
Projections are cast all over Main Street, USA, so that’s cool considering they’re usually reserved for special events, like during the holidays. But this gets knocked down a few pegs when the show remixes already contemporary songs in a repetitive fashion. "Un Poco Loco" did not need a remix, so put that thing back where it came from or so help me (so help me)!
5 Guardians of the Galaxy: Monsters After Dark
Ok, so technically, this isn’t a show. But Monsters After Dark deserves its place on the list for being the closest an attraction can get to being a Nighttime Spectacular. California Adventure joined the Halloween fun in 2017, and with that, debuted the nighttime attraction Guardians of the Galaxy: Monsters After Dark.
It’s such a fun addition to an already fun attraction. You and Rocket go back into the Collector’s lair to rescue Baby Groot from the monsters that were released during your first adventure. The drops become a bit faster and harsher, you get the corniest metal/rock music (in the best way possible), and Rocket says “Oh crap.”
4 Main Street Electrical Parade
To anyone who lives close enough to Disneyland to go more than once per year, the Main Street Electrical Parade is your baby. Composed of light up floats and costumes, it fulfills that base satisfaction of pretty lights at night. And oh boy, just try getting that music out of your head.
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The parade has since left Disneyland for Tokyo Disneyland. Honestly, as an outsider that got it hyped up from locals, it is a little underwhelming. But make no mistake, everyone loves this parade.
3 “Remember... Dreams Come True” Fireworks
Disneyland still lists this on their website as a show that “takes place on select nights,” so we’re gonna run with it! “Remember... Dreams Come True,” is Disneyland’s classic fireworks show. Running about 16 minutes in length, it takes you through the different attractions Disneyland has to offer.
Now you may be thinking gee, Disney is KNOWN for fireworks, why isn’t it number one? Easy, fireworks get canceled.
Do not plan your entire day around fireworks. As long as you get a spot on Main Street by about a half-hour to showtime, you’ll be fine and you’ll enjoy the show. But don’t bank on them happening. During non-peak seasons, fireworks shows only play on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night. If the winds are too high, they will cancel the show. So when you’re planning your trip, keep that in mind.
2 Paint The Night
The spiritual successor to the Main Street Electrical Parade, Paint the Night takes it up to eleven. Largely Pixar-themed, its base music revolves around “When Can I See You Again?” by Owl City from Wreck-It Ralph. All lights on the floats are LEDs and wow, does it show. The Cars characters actually look amazing too.
There are rumors that the park is trying to adapt the parade for Downtown Disney, but no official yet. Currently, it’s running in Hong Kong Disneyland after closing in California Adventure.
1 World Of Color
Finally up and running again after a major technical issue, World of Color is the most inventive Disney show to grace Anaheim. It’s a California Adventure exclusive, so there’s your incentive to check out the park.
World of Color projects light onto water, effectively using mist as a screen. Other effects include lasers, fog, lights on nearby attractions, and fire. Yes, fire. No spoilers, you need to experience that for yourself.
With a half-hour run time, stunning visuals, a unique experience, and consistent performance, World of Color ranks at the top of the list. When California Adventure is open until 10pm, the show plays twice. In order to enjoy the show, all you need is a view of Pixar Pier.