7 Must-See Disney World Shows & Parades

Before my family’s first trip to Walt Disney World, I did loads of research on which restaurants I needed to book ahead of time. But the daily shows and Disney World shows and parades never really entered my mind as a “must-see.” Once we arrived, however, we were blown away by how elaborate and magical the shows and parades at Disney World can be. They were a great way to slow down and take a break from racing across the park, trying to catch the right rides at the right time.

Since that first trip, making sure that we stop and watch a few parades and shows has become a priority. Each one, with its own theme and feel, adds to the Disney magic and gives your trip an extra sprinkling of pixie dust.

1) Festival of Fantasy Parade

Filled with vibrant colors and popular Disney characters from Ariel to Maleficent's dragon, this Magic Kingdom parade is so popular that guests have been known to start lining up along the parade route an hour in advance. FastPass+ priority viewing areas allow you to save a spot without having to line up early. The parade route runs from Frontierland, through the hub, and down Main Street U.S.A.

What you need to know
When to see it: Everyday at 3 pm
Location: Magic Kingdom

2) Disney’s Star Wars Weekends

It’s not just Disney characters dressed up in Star Wars costumes. You’ll see droves of diehard fans dressed as their favorite character. On weekends from mid-May through mid-June, Mickey Mouse himself dresses as a Jedi Knight and joins in the Star Wars revelry with a daily parade, meet ’n greets with popular icons from the movie, and even celebrity guests. Want the uber-fan experience? Head to Hollywood Studios on May 4th where you can happily say, “May the 4th be with you.”

What you need to know
When to see it: Weekends in May and June; Dates change yearly
Location: Disney’s Hollywood Studios

3) Main Street Electrical Parade

Every night in Magic Kingdom, thousands of sparkling lights and a catchy, electro-synth soundtrack light up the park. This glittering, glowing Disney parade is a delight for kids. FastPass+ priority viewing is available around the flagpole at the park’s entrance but there’s plenty of viewing spots from Frontierland down to Main Street U.S.A.

What you need to know
When to see it: Nightly at 9 pm with additional parades at 11 pm on nights with extended openings
Location: Magic Kingdom

4) Wishes Nighttime Spectacular

Tinkerbell flies through the air on a zipline before a show of classic Disney songs and fireworks. Wishes Nighttime Spectacular, or just Wishes, combines the best inspirational clips from Disney cartoons and animated movies with an extravagant pyrotechnic display and a sing-along soundtrack. This Disney World show draws thousands each night in the hub and down Main Street.

Secret Tips: if you’ve scored a reservation at California Grill in the Contemporary Resort during show time, the restaurant has an open-air balcony with a primo view of the fireworks and they pump the soundtrack over speakers. You can also see it by booking a reservation for Tomorrowland Terrace Dessert Party. From September to November during Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party nights, Wishes puts a villainous take on the magic.

What you need to know
When to see it: Everyday around 9 pm
Location: Cinderella’s Castle, Magic Kingdom

5) Fantasmic: Ultimate Disney World Dinner Show

It’s a spectacular pyrotechnic battle between Mickey and a fire breathing dragon. Every night at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Mickey Mouse takes guests into his imagination where Disney villains are trying to take over his thoughts. Of, course Mickey always prevails! This wildly popular Disney World show nearly fills the 8,200 seat amphitheater every night. Packed with popular Disney characters, cool lighting, and fireworks, Mickey and pals thwart evil.

Secret Tips: even if you’ve scored a FastPass+ selection for the show, head to the amphitheater early (some folks head there up to 45 minutes in advance) so you can lock in great seats. The evil doers in the show may scare young children, so my advice is to let them watch the show on Youtube before you go, so they know what to expect.

What you need to know
When to see it: Nightly
Location: Behind Tower of Terror in the Hollywood Hills Amphitheater, Disney’s Hollywood Studios

6) IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth

IllumiNations is the nightly end to a magical day at Epcot. Filled with fireworks (Disney loves its fireworks!), the show adds lasers and imagery to the mix for a melding of world cultures and themes in a way that’s quintessential Disney! Finding a good spot for viewing is pretty easy once you know where to head and take into account how long you want to wait to get out of the park. FastPass+ allows you get a prime spot in Showcase Plaza. Several restaurants on the lake have outdoor seating which will give you an awesome place to see it. Need to bolt right after the show? Watch it from right near the entrance to World Showcase and head out immediately afterwards.

What you need to know
When to see it: One nightly showing before park closing
Location: World Showcase, Epcot

7) Move it! Shake it! Dance & Play it! Street Party

Move it! Shake it! Dance & Play it! Street Party starts with a small parade at the entrance to Magic Kingdom and ends with a whimsical street party at Cinderella’s Castle.  Once the parade floats stop, guests are invited to head right in the middle of them and dance Disney-style. Families with school-aged kids will love the mix of current pop hits and participators can even vote on the song they want to hear. It’s 20 minutes of energetic fun and a great way to get up close with popular Disney characters.

Secret Tip: Tweet the hashtag #MoveItShakeItPics during one of the performances and you may find your pic on the side of a float!

What you need to know
When to see it: Three times daily, times vary by day
Location: The Hub near Cinderella Castle, Magic Kingdom

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For more great tips on parenting and educational adventures check out Kayrn's blog Sand and Snow...and Everywhere in Between! You can also view her tips and tricks to vacation planning on TravelingMom.

About Karyn Locke

Karyn Locke is a traveler at heart. A former military brat who caught the travel bug at a very early age, Karyn loves road tripping with her family and writing about her travels from small town Ohio at Sand and Snow...and Everywhere in Between! Her passion for all things Disney can be seen in her blog as well as on TravelingMom where she shares tips and tricks to successful vacation planning.