There is a lot to see at Disney World! With four main theme parks filled with countless rides, characters, and shows it can be overwhelming to prioritize what to see. Here are the Top 7 Shows at Disney World. Did I pick your favorites?
Post updated April 2018
Disney World can be a little overwhelming at first glace. There are so many amazing rides, shows, restaurants, and things to see. So in case you are planning your next family vacation to Disney World I wanted to break down for you the 7 BEST Shows at Disney World.
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In no particular order, here are the best shows (in my opinion) at Disney World:
Best Shows at Disney World
Finding Nemo – The Musical
Finding Nemo – The Musical is an extraordinary puppet show is Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park.The puppeteers are cleverly camouflaged and do an amazing job in this live performance filled with music, drama, bubbles, and in-the-aisle action. The puppets are amazingly realistic and the sets are colorful and creative. The show takes place in a large theater where you will get to enjoy some much needed air conditioning.
The show is offered about 5 times a day and lasts about 40 minutes long. The line for the show starts lining up early through the stroller parking going towards Dinoland. To avoid waiting an hour in line for the show get Fastpass+ Passes or see the first or last show of the day. The show is appropriate for the entire family, although if your child is afraid of Bruce (the shark) they may be slightly frightened for one small number involving Bruce.
Festival of the Lion King
Festival of the Lion King is an amazing show found in Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park. The 30 minute show is filled with spectacular music from the Lion King, acrobatic monkey’s, and large floats that add to the large scale production.
You will love all the vivid colors in this show and the talented musicians they have performing. This is a must see for everyone. Children may get the chance to be picked from the audience to play an African instrument and join part of one of the songs. (Kids are mostly picked from lower in the stands sitting by the aisle)
Once Upon a Time
Once Upon a Time is slightly updated (to include Moana and other new movies) from the previously named show Celebrate the Magic. This 14 minute show projects images in an imaginative, beautiful way right on the castle in the Magic Kingdom. This is one of my favorite shows and once you see it you’ll understand why! Images are projected onto the castle creating an amazing effect! You’ll see colors, Mickey, classic movies like Lion King, Little Mermaid, and more all parading across the castle to music. This can be seen anywhere in front of the castle.
Happily Ever After
Wishes Nighttime Spectacular Fireworks was replaced in 2016 by Happily Ever After an 18 minute fireworks show at the Magic Kingdom on select nights. My favorite part is just prior to the fireworks, after Jimminey Cricket comes on the laud speaker, when Tinkerbell (a real person) come “flying” down from the top of the castle to the area just before Tomorrowland. It is really cool. The fireworks are launched to music. The best place to see them is in the court in front of the castle right by where main street joins is. Too close to the castle and you’ll miss the effect of the fireworks that are shot somewhat farther back. They can also be seen behind the castle for a unique vantage point by the entrance to the new Fantasyland, in the Rapunzel inspired restroom area, or even by the Haunted Mansion.
Our family likes to see the fireworks once during our visit in the prime spot (which can be reserved with a Fastpass+) in front of the Castle. We stay in the spot to “save” it to watch the Main Street Electrical Parade, Celebrate the Magic, and the finale – Wishes Nighttime Spectacular Fireworks. On subsequent nights the ride lines go down significantly during the fireworks so we take advantage of that. The fireworks look really cool from the Splash Mountain drop and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.
Beauty & The Beast – Live on Stage
Beauty & The Beast – Live on Stage is a delightful surprise! The talented musicians will sing and dance their way into your heart as they retell the tale as old as time. We especially loved the clever, colorful costumes, dancing spoons, and favorite characters like Chip. The outdoor theatre at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is not a great venue with Florida’s heat, but you can avoid the heat by going first thing or last thing in the day. This is a don’t miss for the entire family.
Fantasmic! is one of my favorite evening shows at Disney World. The show has everything – Mickey, Princesses, Villains, characters on boats, projecting of images on water, fog, special effects, and fire. The show is very thrilling and involves Villains and a large snake that can be frightening to younger children. Of all the shows you see at Disney, this may possibly be the most frightening to younger children. But it is an amazing not-to-be-missed show! You will find this amazing 30 minute show in Disney’s Hollywood Studio. The show takes place in an outdoor amphitheater so if there is adverse weather it will not go as scheduled.
HINT: In the past I use to advise people to do a Fantasmic Dinner Package to avoid the line to get in and have “reserved” seating for this show. I no longer advise this. You will still wait in the same line (albeit the line has improved and moves quite well) like everyone else and the reserved seats are fine, but you can get better spots in the amphitheater. The amphitheater is huge and there really is no such thing as a bad seat in the house. Just make sure to get in line and enter 30-45 minutes before the show to get your picking if you’d like. Food and drink are permitted.
Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular
8 More Shows to Consider
There are other good shows that didn’t make my Top 7 Shows at Disney World that are worth seeing. But if you have limited time and energy make sure you see the Top 7 shows! Here are a couple other favorites to squeeze in as possible: (they are listed from the best down)
Jedi Academy Training – If you have a young Star Wars Fan you will want to get over there early in the morning to get a special ticket to allow your child to be in the show. If your child is in the show this is a don’t miss – my kids still talk about fighting Darth Vadar. Hollywood Studios
Voices of Liberty – This acapella group that performs in the American area of the World Showcase is amazing. Their tight harmonies will delight both young and old. Don’t miss their performance, even if you don’t want to or feel you have time to stay for the presentation on America afterwards. Epcot
The Dapper Dans – I love the old time charm of Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom. One of my favorite ways to enjoy it is to sit on the curb and listen to the Dapper Dans sing in their beautiful tight harmonies as a barber shop quartet. It’s a great time to have a Mickey Ice Cream treat too!
Voyage of the Little Mermaid – I really think this show use to be better, but as it sits right now it is just an if you have time show. The 17 minute show is in an air-conditioned theatre and runs pretty much continuously – which may be it’s redeeming qualities. You will enjoy the retelling of the Little Mermaid story through songs, costumes, and special effects like bubbles in the air. Except for children that are extremely frightened by Ursula, this is great for the whole family. Hollywood Studios
IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth – This 12 minute show takes place over the center of the lake in Epcot. It focuses on the earth sphere that lights up and will have some fireworks around it as well. It is a good show that is easy to see – you can see it from anywhere around the lake! For some reason it was always just too slow getting started to grab my families attention – we’d rather see the beautifully lit fountains and get to the bus stop before the crowds hit.
Move It! Shake It! Celebrate It! Street Party – This is less of a parade although there are like 5 or 6 floats with lots of your favorite Disney characters on it. Just go around the circle in front of the castle and wait for them to stop. Then you will be invited to go in the street with them and dance with your favorite characters. My daughter’s favorite memory from one of our trips was dancing hand and hand with Chip. It plays lots of times and chances are you’ll happen to just catch it walking through the area during the day.
Disney Junior Live on Stage – This 24 minutes live puppet show is a good show to catch ONLY if you have preschoolers that know the Disney Junior shows well and love them. If not, skip it. If you go you will be sitting on the floor for this one. Hollywood Studios
Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular Show – If you have teenage kids that enjoy lots of action and adventure than you might want to catch this stunt show. They show you how they make several of the scenes from Indiana Jones including a plain truck action scene, rolling bolder after Indiana Jones, and more. Hollywood Studios
Main Street Electrical Parade Discontinued 2016
The Main Street Electrical Parade is a classic from back when I was a kid that has been brought out of the Disney vault to amaze and delight a whole new generation of kids. The 20 minute parade includes dazzling floats all lit up making a magical sight. You will see favorites like Peter Pan & Captain Hook, Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs, Tinkerbell, and more. There are two really good palces to see this parade: in front of the castle (Hint: Use your Fastpass + to save you a front row seat!) and then stay in your spot to watch the Celebrate the Magic and Wishes Fireworks OR if you are just catching the parade go to a less crowded spot anywhere along the parade route in Frontierland.
Unfortunately this classic evening parade originally started in Disneyland, California in 1972 that came back to Disney World, Florida in 2011 made its final performance on October 9, 2016. They have yet to replace it with an evening parade. We sure hope they do soon!!
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