Disney parks are the premier theme park experience. Good for any age group, legendary customer service, character meet and greets, and nightly fireworks all help make the dream come true. But what if you don’t have kids and just enjoy large theme parks? What if you want to travel and experience another culture?
Well, Disney parks offer a variety of special events beyond Halloween and Christmas time. With parks in Asia, Europe, and the United States, here are the top 10 Disney parks events.
10 Disney After Hours - Walt Disney World
If you hate crowds and are willing to do anything to skip them, the Disney After Hours event is for you. Available for the Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom, this special ticket grants access to the park from 7:00 pm to either 12:00 am or 1:00 am depending on the park. Since only a limited amount of tickets are sold, this severely cuts down on wait times and overall crowdedness.
Mostly, these are offered during the summer, probably to compensate for the sheer amount of people during the school break. The biggest downside is the price tag. Maybe don’t do this if you’re planning on getting park access during the day. It’ll add up.
9 Disneyland Resort’s Summer Events
Disneyland and California Adventure (DCA) do not disappoint for the summer crowd. Usually, the parks will pick a theme and run with it, mostly placing emphasis on DCA over the original park. Understandable, given that DCA was built later and with a high volume of people in mind. Even at its capacity, you have enough space to move without feeling overcrowded.
Last year, the parks held the Pixar Fest, celebrating over 20 years of Pixar while promoting Incredibles 2 and the opening of Pixar Pier in DCA. This came with a special fireworks and World of Color show... before the fountains had a major breakdown. But like any Disney park during summer vacation, it’s crowded and very hot. Please make sure to drink plenty of water and rest when needed.
8 Disney Character Egg Hunt & Carnivale Of Stars - Hong Kong Disneyland
Occurring each year in the spring, Hong Kong Disneyland hosts the Carnivale of Stars to welcome in the new season. Typically running from March to late June, the Carnivale boasts seasonal foods, drinks, and merchandise. Probably its biggest draw is the fan-favorite Disney Character Egg Hunt.
The Egg Hunt scatters over 100 character eggs all over the park. Though you don’t get a prize for finding them all, it’s definitely a fun activity when the park continues adding more characters year after year. Recent additions include Captain Marvel, Bo Peep, Ralph and Vanellope, and The Wasp.
7 Disney H2O Glow Nights - Walt Disney World
Another summer exclusive event, this takes place in the Typhoon Lagoon Water Park. Running from 8:00 pm to 11:00 pm, guests are offered early entry to the park starting at 6:00 pm. Keep in mind this is also a separate ticket from the regular park entry, but the pricing is actually very doable.
The biggest draws seem to be the DJ party hosted on the beaches of the Surf Pool, limited-time themed food and drink, and a place for adults only. The Wharf is 21+, with a bar and entertainment separate from everything else. Just remember that the water park may close due to weather and that Orlando gets a lot of thunderstorms.
6 Marathons & Half-Marathons
Encouraging exercise and tapping into your inner Disney nerd, a good handful of the Disney parks offer marathons and half-marathons. Usually, these are themed races that, in the past, have focused on Pixar, Disney Princesses, and Star Wars.
Many guests create outfits to fit in with the theme, and there are some great pictures to prove it. Remember the Kronk runner? That was in Downtown Disney at Disneyland. Like all marathons, these start at the crack of dawn and cost money to compete. But the prices are fair based on how long the run is, and every participant receives a medal upon completion.
5 Tanabata Days - Tokyo Disneyland
Tapping into the culture of the location, Tokyo Disneyland celebrates Tanabata. Also known as the Star Festival, the event celebrates the meeting of star-crossed lovers. Legend has it that the deities Orihime and Hikoboshi are allowed to meet once a year on the seventh day of the seventh month on the lunar calendar. On that day, the Milky Way separates, allowing the lovers passage.
Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo Disney Sea take part in the festivities with new foods and parades. In the main Tanabata Days parade, Minnie takes the role of Orihime with Mickey as her Hikoboshi.
4 Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party
The holidays are always a fun time for family travel, but how about the holiday before the big holidays? Halloween is pure fun, offering easy access to your favorite villains and unlimited trick-or-treating. Seriously, people fill reusable bags with the candy.
There’s also a Halloween Party exclusive parade and fireworks show. If you’re a big Nightmare Before Christmas fan, you cannot miss this. Jack and Sally have their own float and the music track for the fireworks revolves around “This Is Halloween” and “Grim Grinning Ghosts.” Probably the best place to do this would be Disney World. Disneyland’s price tag has become astronomical in the past few years.
3 Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival
Usually taking place between March and April, the Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival draws foodies from all over California. Started in 2006, the event took a hiatus from 2010-2016 due to periods of construction.
The idea for this festival was inspired by the success of the Epcot version as a way to draw guests in during the slower parts of the year. Starting in 2016, the event was reestablished with eight different marketplace kiosks lining the parade route. So far, it shows no signs of stopping.
2 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival
Epcot can seem like a bit of a lawless land, but it’s definitely worth visiting for the annual Food & Wine Festival. Ok, so Epcot only seems lawless if you work there because think about it: there’s a lot of alcohol in a pretty small area.
With roots dating all the way back to 1995, Epcot’s festival runs from late August to late November. Even though it’s prime hurricane season, the people come. Aside from the food and wine, another big draw for the festival is the live music. Performed in the America Gardens Theatre, the concerts are free with admission. In the past, Epcot has invited The Plain White T’s, The Pointer Sisters, Boyz II Men, and many more in the Eat to the Beat Concert Series.
1 The Holidays!
Okay, so this is definitely the craziest time of the year to go, but there’s a reason. Disney has Santa Claus in the same parade as Mickey and Elsa. There’s a special holiday parade and fireworks show, complete with “snow” that smells like gingerbread! And wow, those exclusive holiday foods.
And if you’re lucky, maybe you can catch the Candlelight Processional. Every year, usually on the first weekend in December, Disneyland invites a surprise celebrity speaker to read the story of “The First Christmas.” Complete with a massive chorus (consisting of various cast members from the park), past speakers include Chris Hemsworth, Neil Patrick Harris, Cary Grant, and Dick Van Dyke.