Best shows in Disneyland and California Adventure (plus parades and experiences) Family Travel

Nobody wants to waste their time when they’re in Disneyland. There is always something to maintain and to maintain between trips and entertainment. This is our guide to the best shows in Disneyland that you shouldn’t miss.

Please note that many shows are subject to the weather and even the day of the week. Please check the Disneyland app (Google Play /. iTunes) before planning your time for a particular show at the Disneyland Entertainment event.

Disneyland and California Adventure are full of shows and entertainment year round. These are the best shows in the parks not to be missed! #Disney #Disneyland #California

Disneyland Events Don’t miss

Disney is known for creating magical experiences of all kinds, and live performances and shows in Disneyland complete these creations. There are performances throughout the park throughout the day. So knowing the options in advance will help you plan your time in Disneyland better.

Tip: always double Check the daily parking plan for updates, special shows or cancellations.

Partner statue with cherry blossoms Disneyland 2020 1

Music & parades you shouldn’t miss in Disneyland

Who doesn’t love a good parade? Our kids have enjoyed Disneyland parades since they were tiny and still do today. We fathers love them too! Depending on the time of year, you will find a variety of entertainment options for the parade, from Christmas marches and snowfall to local brass bands that run the entire parade route.

Magic happens parade

Always amaze Disneyland Parade Floats. Whether they’re moving up and towering over the crowd or swinging acrobats, they’re always amazing. As a rule, the parades are full of dancers, characters that pollute the audience, and catchy music.

Magic Happens Parade in front of the small world Disneyland 2020 3

To get the best seat if you want to see the entire parade, we recommend arriving at your preferred viewing area at least 20 minutes before the start of the parade.

Tip: The best place to see a Disneyland parade and then get out quickly is on the Adventureland / Frontierland side of the parade route in the hub. This way you can easily leave the parade and get to your next stop.

The current parade, Magic happensis one of my favorites Disneyland has ever created. It focuses on magical moments in Disney stories and offers the most catchy music and energy I have seen in a parade. The cars are smaller than the previous show cars, but the technology and puppet play elements are top notch.

The kids loved the parade dancers and all the characters on foot. Yes, the parade is pretty constant, but there are still plenty of ways to interact. Magic happens really surprised me and I hope it stays that way for a long time! (written in March 2020)

Frozen Float in Magic Happens Parade before Small World Disneyland 2020 1

Disneyland Marching Band

The Disneyland Marching Band is incredible. They always sound fantastic and the energy they add to the park is fantastic. Since they remain as a fairly compact group, sometimes accompanied by characters, you will hear them come and be able to leave and enjoy the parade route.

The Disneyland Marching Band usually makes a few short parade stops. So if you are in the hub area (in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle) you should be able to see a longer performance.

Disneyland Marching Band in Tomorrowland Disneyland 2020 2

Catch the Disneyland Pearly Band

Another favorite Disneyland performance is the Pearly Band. That what?! Yes, it’s the colorful brass band from the scene at the races in Mary Poppins. You know this scene in after the carousel horse racing when they sing supercalifragilisticexpialidocious?The pearl ribbon appears and makes its way through Fantasyland late in the morning and at other times. They play a wide range of lighthearted melodies and encourage guests to dance around. I love her the most.

Pearly Band in Fantasyland Disneyland 2020 1

Character events in Disneyland

You don’t have to be a small child to meet and see characters in Disneyland. As adults, we often take selfies with Mickey or Peter Pan just because it’s fun. No shame in being a child again.

City square characters

Town Square, located behind Main Street Station in Disneyland, is a great place to meet Mickey, Donald, Pluto, Minnie, Goofy and Mary Poppins … and also Chip and Dale! In fact, they are our favorites on the town square because they also do a little comedy show that fits their meet and greet.

You can often find Chip and Dale at the fire station. So keep your eyes open or as an actor when they’re back.

Taylor family with Mickey Mouse in Main Street USA Disneyland 1

Star Wars experiences and characters

Long ago in a galaxy far away … there was the Jedi Training Academy, but that’s not it anymore. Today there are three main areas where you can meet or accidentally meet Star Wars characters:

  1. Galaxy’s Edge – just walking around and sometimes accompanied by stormtroopers, you can meet Chewbacca, Rey, Kylo Ren and more.
  2. Tomorrowland Hub – where you can meet random Star Wars characters, including Boba Fet … Completely random and really cool.
  3. Star Wars Launch Bay – this is Tomorrowland’s former innovation area. Now it is both a Star Wars exhibition area and a place to meet Darth Vadar, Chewbacca and more.

The experience of walking around Galaxy’s Edge is amazing. Even if you don’t catch any characters, you will love the photo ops and attractions. Rise of resistance It’s amazing! Pay attention to the interactions of the characters in Galaxy’s Edge, because although there may not be a stage show, it’s basically a walking galactic theatrical performance.

Kylo Ren and Storm Troopers in Galaxys Edge Star Wars Land Disneyland 2020 1

Character Meet and Greets in Disneyland

In true Disneyland fashion, you will only find characters where they belong. For example, Darth Vadar will not hang on King Arthur’s carousel. If meeting characters is part of your ideal Disneyland experience and interacting with certain characters can be one of the best shows in Disneyland, the following guide will help you find your favorite Disney friends:

  • Princesses – Fantasy Faire or directly in the main gate. Sometimes you can also find them near Snow White’s Wishing Well or at the entrance to the Sleeping Beauty Castle.
  • Toons – Mickey and his friends have identified areas in Toon Town to meet people like Mickey’s Movie Barn, but they’ll also appear in Town Square. Mickey and Minnie often start their day opposite the town hall, and this is also the shortest wait to see them.
  • Star Wars – of course you can meet both heroes and villains from Star Wars in Galaxy’s Edge, but also in Tomorrow Land in Star Wars Launch Bay (formerly Innovations, Carousel of Progress, America Sings …)
  • Pooh and Friends – Critter Country is a great place to meet Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Piglet and Eeyore, but also the Splash Mountain Crew. Pooh and friends stay in their designated area, but Brer Bear and Brer Fox love to walk around.
  • Pirates and more – New Orleans Square has a lot of fun Disney characters. From Jack Sparrow to Jack Skellington to Princess Tiana, you can find them all here.

Taylor Family at Pixie Hollow with Tinkerbell Fantasyland Disneyland 2

Performances around Disneyland

Think of Disneyland as a huge stage where world-class performances take place at all times. Keep your eyes and ears open to catch who knows what! The best entertainment in Disneyland often feels unplanned and will surprise you as you walk through the countries.

Dapper Dans on Main Street

We love the Dapper Dans. As a colorful barbershop quartet, they roam from the city square to the Plaza Gardens of the Hub. The Dapper Dans define refined harmonies of the favorites of the classic barbershop quartet as well as the acapella arrangements of songs from Disney films.

They have crazy vocal skills and are among the best performers in Disneyland.

Participation of the Frontier Land audience

OH MY GOD. If you ever want to have a bunch of western dad jokes and uncomfortable moments, just stay an afternoon in front of the golden horseshoe. Cowboy performers appear funny by annoying each other and pulling people out of the audience to be part of their storytelling.

I love both of them and I’m afraid that someday they will pull me to the top of the crowd to participate.

Cowboy Show in the Golden Horseshoe Frontierland Disneyland 1

Fantasyland theater

We have seen some great shows at Fantasyland Theater over the years. The best Disneyland show ever was here: animation. Impressive. Maybe one day they’ll bring it back.

As a full-fledged theater with the skills of the best Broadway stages, you can expect a great experience.

Currently (2020) is the Fantasyland Theater Mickey and the magic card. It is very similar animation It brings together characters from multiple stories and there is great, energetic music. The show doesn’t happen every day, but check the daily schedule when you’re there to try to catch it!

Don’t miss Disneyland fireworks and night events

Nobody does fireworks and pyrotechnics like Disney. They are so good at creating some of the best, most exciting, and most surprising shows in a theme park.

Evening fireworks display – Main Street USA

We loved the fireworks show at Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, but Disneyland’s displays are always remarkable. The absolute best Disneyland firework show ever Remember dreams come true. You brought it back a couple of times, but Disney loves to change things.

The current show (2020) is called Mickey’s Mix Magic. It combines fireworks, large flames, light projections and more. The music and effects are fantastic! It is basically a whole park dance party. We all loved it!

Mickey's Mix Magic Fireworks ad Disneyland 2020 1

Best places to see Disneyland fireworks

With so many of the Disneyland fireworks shows taking place around Sleeping Beauty Castle, including high-tech light projections, it’s best to watch the fireworks on the lock side of the hub.

If you can’t be right in front of the castle, that’s fine. Instead, look for a free space on the other side of the hub, at the Plaza Inn or at the Plaza Gardens, where you can still see the castle. You can enjoy the show from anywhere, but these are the best places.

Fireworks in the Sleeping Beauty Castle Disneyland 3

Fantasmic! – Rivers of America

I remember when Fantasmic! debuted for the first time in Disneyland. It was one of the best shows ever and it is even better today. With years of innovations and updates Fantasmic! combines pyrotechnics, actors, the big ships on the Rivers of America and classic Disney music into one great show.

Depending on the season Fantasmic! can happen twice a night. If you plan it just right, you can see the fireworks as well Fantasmic! The same evening.

Fantasmic Show Disneyland 2020 7

Best seats for Fantasmic!

Since Fantasmic! takes place all over the Rivers of America, there are several great viewpoints. The best places for Fantasmic! are on Riverbelle Terrace. If you can’t score there, our next recommendation is closer to the Haunted Mansion, as close to the water as possible.

Fantasmic Show Disneyland 2020 8

Events in California adventure not to be missed

Disney’s California Adventure is a really varied theme park. When it comes to the best shows and entertainment in California Adventure, we not only talk about parades and fireworks, but also about special events and festivals!

Mickeys Fun Wheel Pixar Pier at night California Adventure Disneyland 2020 1

Best California Adventure Parades

There have been many parades over the years, both new and revived from previous years. Since much of this park focuses on Pixar characters and films, every new entertainment usually contains a Pixar element.

Note: Currently (2020) there are no planned parades in California Adventure, but there are many performances and experiences.

Pixar Play Parade

I remember the day the Pixar Play Parade debuted. It was fun, bouncy and had the catchiest music. After a couple of years bringing the best Pixar characters to California Adventure, it moved to Walt Disney World … and then it came back!

While the Pixar Play Parade has removed some additions and even some parts, it’s now as great as ever. What I think makes this parade so special are the unique costumes that also serve to give the characters amazing performance functions and spirit. For example the springy legs of the Incredible Dancers or the Blowfish tricycle for those Find Nemo Portion. Really, that will always be a favorite of ours. NOT UP TO DATE IN CALIFORNIA ADVENTURE (2020)

Taylor family with Toy Story Pixar game parade Disney's California Adventure 1

Mickey’s not so scary Halloween party

Mickey’s not so scary Halloween party is a special event that takes place in California Adventure in the fall. While you enjoy all the other Halloween fun and decorations in both parks as part of your admission, attending Mickey’s not-so-scary Halloween party is a separate ticket.

This great Disney Halloween event includes villain dance parties, additional characters, unique Halloween decor and treats, as well as all sorts of special effects throughout the park. It is really unique and fun!

Character events in California Adventure

Some of the best character interactions in Disneyland actually take place in California Adventure. Due to the many themed areas in the park, many popular Disney characters, including Mickey and Goofy, have special costumes. These unique versions of characters can be seen in Carthay Circle, Condor Flats, and even Hollywood. But there is more …

Carthay Circle Five & Dime and Newsies Performances

I love the Five & Dime Show! It takes place in the middle of the classic district of Los Angeles. Live music is the best and this performance always has a lot of energy.

Five & Dime Street actors in Carthay Circle Disney's California Adventure 2020 1

And if you’re lucky, they may bring back the newsies that appear with Mickey Mouse. It’s another fun, energetic show with dancers, live vocals, and vintage Mickey all doing their thing. It’s one of the best shows in Disneyland … um … California Adventure.

Mickey Mouse in Carthay Circle in Disney's California Adventure 2

Marvel Superhero events

We can’t wait to see the premiere of California Adventure’s new Marvel area (coming summer 2020), but in the meantime there are plenty of cool Marvel moments to enjoy. On the ****** stage near the Monsters Inc. attraction, you can see several characters demonstrating their skills and then hitting them.

You can even meet the crew from Guardians of the galaxy in the Hollywood area. It’s fun to pay attention to: the Awesome dance-off with Gamora and Peter Quill aka Star Lord.

Taylor family with Spiderman in Hollywood Backlot California Adventure Disneyland 2020 1

Pixar Pier characters and fun

Since not everyone comes to visit on Halloween, we do not focus on the amazing puppeteers from CocoBut there are many more moments of celebration and fun at Pixar Pier. There are constant character encounters and greetings, and there are also cool gigs. Our family very much enjoys the Toy Story Green Army Men Drum Corps. There is no information on the Disneyland website, but it is in the Pixar Pier area. Love it!

Toy Story Green Army Men's Performance Pixar Pier California Adventure Disneyland 2020 1

Best Performances in California Adventure

Summer can really be in Anaheim, so thank god some of the best shows in Disneyland are actually indoors! California Adventure offers some wonderful interactive experiences that are great for kids on hot days (and fun too!).

Turtle talk with crush

Forever, this will be our favorite pastime with the kids. Sitting on the floor and chatting with a life-size CGI sea turtle is pretty fun and great. Even though it’s a show on a screen, it’s different every time and the actors are great at making it a fun experience.

Note: You can also do Turtle Talk with Crush in EPCOT at Walt Disney World. It has a very similar structure and is just as fun.

Taylor Family at Turtle Talk with Crush California Adventure 2020 1

Disney Junior dance party

When we first went to the Disney Junior Dance Party, we didn’t think the kids would be interested. We don’t have a Disney Channel and we don’t watch the shows at home … but it didn’t matter! It was a hit between the hosts, who had all excited, and the familiar faces of Timon, Mickey and others.

Tip: This is a REALLY interactive show. So, if you’re not a particularly sociable or dance-loving child, the Disney Junior Dance Party may not be for you. We had a couple of minutes when it was pretty sensory overloaded, but finally they got through and had fun.

Disney Junior Dance Party Hollywood Studios Disney World Florida 1

Disney’s Animation Academy – so cool!

I don’t know how we have skipped doing the Animation Academy with all of our visits to California Adventure, but we finally did it and loved it. And yes, this is for sure a Disney performance and it’s impressive. With shows every 30 minutes, guests get to learn from a Disney animator how to draw a character. They guide you through step by step and you leave with your own Disney cartoon drawing.

Note: our oldest is quite the perfectionist and he didn’t enjoy the Animation Academy. It was really frustrating for him to work quickly. The Animation Academy cast member came over to him afterwards to comfort him and share her experience in drawing. She was so sweet and made the experience better.

Taylor Family at Disney Animation Academy California Adventure Disneyland 2020 1

Best Tips for the World of Color Show

World of Color is a laser light show played on the fountains of **** in California Adventure. It premiered in ****** and has been a hit ever since. Funny, but it actually took us seven visits to Disneyland since its premier to finally get to see it. Wow!

It’s completely different from Fantasmic! and is gorgeous. The show runs about twenty minutes and can be viewed from all around the lake in California Adventure.

World of Color Show California Adventure Disneyland 2020 4

Seating for World of Color

There are actually FastPasses availableFastPasses available to get the best seats for World of Color. You can sign up in advance using the Max Pass system or you can scan at one of the kiosks on the day of the show. In certain cases, premium seating may be available for purchase, usually in conjunction with special events

If you don’t get a FastPass and you’re going to just show up, be at least twenty minutes early. You’ll find viewing spots all along the lake, with some of the best non-reserved spots being close to the Corndog Castle and ***** Madness.

What to expect with World of Color

World of Color is not a pyrotechnic display. Unlike the fireworks in Disneyland or Fantasmic! It is all lights and fountains. If it’s a windy night, park officials may choose to delay or cancel the show. Even though you might not mind getting sprayed and soaked during the show, that’s not the goal so weather does impact the show.

Everyone will enjoy World of Color though, as it’s not geared towards one particular age group. If you’re visiting Disneyland with small kids, you should plan to arrive early to get the best seats, as the show takes place on the same plane as the viewers for the most part.

Best Photo Tips for World of Color

First of all, plan on just enjoying the show. No doubt you’ll want to snap photos, but it can be difficult to get good shots due to the nature of being a light show. For the best World of Color photos:

  • Secure an unobstructed view
  • Use a small/pocket tripod or grippy holder (many aren’t allowed)
  • Use a camera phone, not an actual camera
  • Be sure to use the most advanced low-light photo setting your phone will allow.

Tip: Google Nightsight is AMAZING for photographing light shows and fireworks. We recommend the Pixel 3 or higher for the best shots (they turn out way better than iPhone shots)

World of Color Show California Adventure Disneyland 2020 3

Wow! So many great opportunities for fun. These really are the best shows and experiences in Disneyland even though there are more that we didn’t cover them all. We invite you to check out our other Disneyland planning articles to really get a good handle on the parks and planning your visit to Disneyland.

Like always, please let us know how we can help. Leave us a comment or send us a note with any questions!

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