Should Auld Acquaintance be Forgot? How Do You Celebrate New Year’s in the World?
This article appeared in the November 15, 2005 Issue #321 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)
Last week we received a timely email in our mailbox from Charles Sullivan, who requested, very politely, we might add: Please do an article with tips for those of us going for New Year's Eve.
Well, it's not often that we're able to take requests such as this, since we usually have our editorial calendar planned pretty well in advance. But it just so happens that we had an unforeseen gap in our schedule and could accommodate this query. So Charles, your wish is our command!
We put the word out to you, our readers, asking for your best tips and stories on celebrating Auld Lang Syne, as well as New Year's Day. We also asked a few members of the AllEarsNet.com Team who have been to WDW on December 31 for their input, including ALL EARS® Researcher Kenny, who has been to Walt Disney World for New Year's Eve every year since 1999 (as well as a few times before that), and ALL EARS® Team Member Gloria from Miami, a veteran of many New Year's Eves at the World. Then we pulled together some of the best ideas and recollections of New Year's Eves gone by. For those of you planning for the coming holidays, start taking notes!
Gayle Hartleroad: We went for New Year's and WOW, was it an experience! Here are our tips: 1) GET THERE EARLY! The parks often close because of reaching capacity. We learned that if we had been in a park, that we were guaranteed admission back into the parks regardless if they had been "closed." 2) If you drive a car, park it and LEAVE it! The parking lots will be completely packed. Park your car at one park and use Disney transportation the rest of the day. We parked at the Magic Kingdom and rode the monorail to Epcot and back. On the way back, we saw they had closed the Magic Kingdom parking lot, so cars were lined up as far as the eye could see just waiting to get into the parking lot. Apparently the lot had been closed for some time because people had abandoned their cars to picnic and play ball in the median of the road!
KENNY CLARIFIES: Since New Year's Eve 1999, Walt Disney World has tweaked its policies for traffic movement and park admission. WDW works hard to make sure buses can move between the parks, and creates bus lanes so they can continue to get to the parks. Leaving your car in a theme park parking lot while park-hopping (on New Year's Eve) is advisable. And if you are staying at a Walt Disney World Resort, leave your car in the resort parking lot — leave the driving to WDW transportation. It's the best bet for the day.
By the way, Walt Disney World doesn't guarantee re-admission into a closed theme park. Your chances of entering are higher as a re-entry than as a new entry, but not guaranteed (see the next tip). In the late '90s, Walt Disney World guaranteed its guests access to their FIRST park entry for that day. Tickets were stamped with the park code so they could verify which park was your 'home' park for the day. It was very hard for them to estimate how many "places" to reserve for re-entries, so that they actually didn't always have the parks near capacity levels in the evenings by the time guests had settled on their park of choice.
Karen Cassidy-Goewert: Here are my tips for New Year's Eve in the Magic Kingdom: Begin by sleeping in and going to bed early on December 30. Then on December 31, be sure to be in the park by 10 a.m. and plan to stay there ALL day! Plan dinner (well in advance) at that special restaurant (for us it's the Crystal Palace). Take it slow and easy and don't plan on doing much during the day (it's very busy). We generally use the day to do some shopping (buy that New Year's Eve pin), go to Tom Sawyer Island and some of the less popular (or is it populated?) places. Begin staking out your spot to watch the midnight fireworks around 10:30ish (and on your way there be sure to grab a hat and noisemaker). Have your spouse take the kids to just one more ride. By the time they are done with their ride, the fireworks will be ready! After the fireworks (which are great!), run to your favorite ride and ride it as long as the Cast Members will let you — we were able to do Mickey's PhilharMagic, the teacups, the Indy cars and Buzz Lightyear three times each before we had to leave. By then the park is cleared out and you can leisurely stroll down Main Street and enjoy the snow that is falling! Most importantly, don't be in a rush to do anything. The crowds are huge, but the magic is worth it! I'd rather be at Disney than home in the slush, snow and ice!
KENNY CLARIFIES: Amen to that! Though "get there early" is not mandatory, since it depends on your access level. Disney Resort Hotel guests have top priority, followed by Annual Passholders, then re-entries, then cross-overs (park-hopping from other Disney theme parks), then first-time entries. If you go with ONLY the expectation to enjoy the New Year's Eve festivities with tens of thousands of other people, then you will enjoy yourself the most. It is not a time to expect to do any comando touring.
Teri De Marie of New York: I've been to WDW many times and twice on New Year's Eve. The first time we went to Epcot for the day… It was a long day and people were sleeping all over the park before the fireworks started. We were so tired that we couldn't wait for the fireworks to start so that we could go back to the hotel and finally get some sleep. There was a lot of music and way too many people. I thought I would never return for that holiday again. Last year we returned to WDW for a week after Christmas. This time we stayed with my son and daughter-in-law. They both work for WDW. We again went to Epcot, but that's where the story changes. We left the park at dinner time and ate at the Yacht Club restaurant where my daughter-in-law worked. After dinner, we stayed at the hotel and sat outside on the veranda. We played cards and enjoyed each other's company for the evening. At midnight she finished work and joined us on the Boardwalk. We could see the fireworks and toasted in the New Year without all the crowds in the park. We weren't alone — all the other guests came outside to join in the merriment. It was much nicer there and I would go back again.
Reneee Gitto: New Year's Eve at Walt Disney World was Magical. We were staying at the Beach Club and utilized their grounds to enjoy the New Year's Eve festivities. New Year's Eve day, we slept late, relaxed by the pool and avoided the parks. We had a wonderful dinner at the Yachtsman Steakhouse and then proceeded to the lounge chairs on the beach overlooking the Boardwalk. Cast Members were walking around handing out party hats and streamers and we bought our own champagne at the hotel shop. We were able to watch the party from the Boardwalk and hear the countdown to midnight. The BEST part was being able to see the fireworks from Epcot and Disney's Hollywood Studios simultaneously while listening to the cheering from all the surrounding resorts. The following day we ventured to the Studios for its opening and it was surprisingly empty, as most people were up late the night before!My tips: 1) Enjoy the Epcot resort area and its access to many dining establishments and view fireworks from the beach. 2) Don't go to the parks on New Year's Eve day (December 31). Way too crowded and not a fun vacation! 3) Go to the parks the day after New Year's Eve (aka January 1). They are somewhat empty for that time of year. 4) Make dining reservations as soon as you can, because places fill up fast!
GLORIA AGREES: Yes, that's my biggest tip (and it's probably already too late for this year) — to make your dining reservations VERY early. I book the day the reservation window opens up, just to make sure I get the restaurant and the time I want. Consider reservations at one of the BoardWalk area restaurants (or Yacht Club, Beach Club, Swan or Dolphin). There's always entertainment on the BoardWalk, including a band, jugglers, magicians, etc., and you can see some of the fireworks from both Epcot and Disney's Hollywood Studios.
VDerby: My suggestion for New Year's Eve at the Magic Kingdom is to avoid the "center hub." You will find that the less adventurous attractions have very few participants and very short lines. Try getting on Splash Mountain just before midnight and enjoy the fireworks as you take the plunge.
KENNY CLARIFIES: The Magic Kingdom Hub becomes impassable from the start of the last Castle Forecourt Stage show until after the fireworks have gone off. It IS a fun place to watch the fireworks from, just know that it will be extremely crowded and don't expect to move much.
Amy Pease: We will be celebrating our third year at WDW for New Year's Eve. My grandparents meet my husband and me — we are DVC members and stay at the Boardwalk Resort. Each New Year's Eve morning, I get up and sprint over to Epcot to get the pin, then try for lanyards while the rest stay and get some Z's in bed. We then go before lunch and hang out at Epcot, usually going to dinner at World Showcase. We watch the fireworks and just talk, then we move to the benches and camp out until the big 12 strikes. We sit so we can see Disney's Hollywood Studios fireworks as well. Last time we were able to see the tall ones from Magic Kingdom, too. We then slowly make our way back to the hotel and then start the next morning pin hunting! It's truly an awesome time, and I will always have those New Year memories with my grandparents, who I must say are 81 years old and can keep up with me!
GLORIA AGREES: Once the midnight fireworks are over, don't make a mad rush for the exits. The park is open until 1 or 2 a.m., so you still have time to buy a drink and find a nice quiet place to sit while everyone else is pushing and shoving to get out. If you just sit back and relax for about 45 minutes, you'll encounter much less "traffic" both in the parks and in the lines waiting for buses or other transportation.
Kelly: We've done two New Year's Eves at Disney. Both were amazing — lots of extra stuff going on and great fireworks. The only downside was the traffic — bumper to bumper. Even taking the Disney buses to a park was a nightmare. If you can stay onsite in a hotel where you can boat/monorail/walk to the park of your choice you'll be much happier.
KENNY CLARIFIES: If you do want to try to get around, remember ALL the options available. Some of the traditionally slower options might actually get you there more quickly. To get from the Magic Kingdom to the Disney's Hollywood Studios, for example, it might be faster to take the monorail to Epcot and then take the boat to the Studios, than to take a bus.
Noelle Landry: After a long day at the Disney's Hollywood Studios we decided to watch the fireworks from the parking lot to get a jump on traffic. We were close enough to the entrance to hear the music for the fireworks. When midnight struck, the sky lit up in every direction. We could see the fireworks from all the other parks. There was so much going on I didn't know where to look. It was beautiful!
KENNY CLARIFIES: The Studios is the one park that Disney controls the traffic the most after fireworks. Automobile traffic after the fireworks is dedicated to being sent OFF property in a manner that has the least impact on the traffic from other parks. For this reason it is harder to get back to a resort in your own vehicle than if you were taking Disney transportation.
Donna Morris: One year we went to Epcot for New Year's Eve. It was very crowded and hard to get around, especially with my father, who has Parkinson's disease and is in a wheelchair. We left Epcot and went back to Fort Wilderness. We made hot chocolate, popped some popcorn and took a blanket down to the beach to watch the fireworks from the Magic Kingdom at midnight. It was so peaceful and relaxing sitting on the beach. There were a few others around that came down to the beach, but nothing like being in one of the parks. If I were to go to Walt Disney World again during the New Year's celebration, this is how I would spend it.
Kathleen M. Norris: This will be my third year in Orlando for New Year's. The first year we did Citywalk at Universal Studios. The price was $100 per person, a little steep for us. It was just OK, and too crowded. Once someone recommended Jellyrolls. It was great! The price was $25 per person, and although there was no food, that was OK. The doors opened at 7:30 p.m., first come first serve, and at quarter to midnight, they rolled up the shades, and we had a great view of the Epcot fireworks display. It was lovely — you could also go out onto the Boardwalk and watch them from there, but we enjoyed them from our table just as well. They also played a lot of songs that included all four piano players, which was nice for a change to see them all interact. I'm looking for ideas for this year — otherwise we are going back to Jellyrolls.
Catherine Eckles: My son and I have spent many happy New Year's Days at WDW. My favorite was riding the monorail, boats and buses to all of the different hotels to look at the Christmas decorations and to try the different hotel restaurants.
Carolyn from England: The best tip we found for New Year's Eve was to go to Downtown Disney, stand in the large open space in front of the World of Disney store with our family, silly paper hats, party blowers and party poppers, and wait for midnight. You can see the fireworks from both Magic Kingdom and Epcot and everyone joins in with the wonderful feeling! The atmosphere is lovely and really friendly. Random people will offer you tiny glasses of champagne, and everyone links hands and sings at the magic hour!
Y2Kids56: Why would anyone spend New Year's Eve anywhere but "Around the World" at Epcot? Yes, midnight is just a moment in time, but strolling around the world enjoying the excitement of the evening, awaiting the start of "IllumiNations," and anticipating that moment when we begin a new year is an incredible experience at Epcot. Get there early (the parks do sometimes fill to capacity on New Year's Eve), bring a blanket (or purchase one in World Showcase — they are less expensive than a sweatshirt) and stroll "around the world" sampling the many foods and drinks offered at the counter service restaurants in each country.
GLORIA AGREES: We almost always spend New Year's Eve at Epcot. It's crowded, but, because of the size of the park, it doesn't seem as crowded (except for a few bottleneck areas, like in front of Mexico). Although lots of people want to be right up at the railing around the lagoon for IllumiNations and the fireworks, we have found them to be just as good if you find an area where there are no trees blocking your view of the sky — just stand back and watch from the far side of the walkway. You have just about as good a show and a lot more breathing room.
Debbie Cloos: Our family makes a dinner reservation at our favorite Epcot restaurant, the Rose & Crown, making sure we will be in the restaurant when it becomes midnight in the real United Kingdom itself. The mood is very festive, and it's fun to listen to the Cast Members run around wishing each other a Happy New Year a few hours before we celebrate ours in the States. When dinner is finished we're off to Future World for rides and dancing and then back to World Showcase to find our spot for the special fireworks presentation. Another tip: Epcot passes out hats and horns early in the evening. The horns can become somewhat of a noise problem; however, as the evening wears on, most of them have either been lost, broken or thrown away, returning the park to a normal sound level.
Sara Wood, Orlando: Two years ago, my family and I celebrated New Year's Eve at Epcot. We had a blast! The fireworks are AMAZING! My tip is to keep in mind that if the park is filled to capacity, ALL lines will be long, including lines to the restrooms. It is especially important to remember this if there are little ones in your group, as they may not be able to wait. Plan ahead. As midnight approaches, lines for the restrooms become very long (especially in parks that serve alcohol).
Nancy Keller: My life-long dream had come true — I was at WDW for New Year's Eve. However, after a few hours at the Studios, my family realized it was only going to get more crowded and more frustrating. We were fortunate enough to be staying at Shades of Green, so we took a shuttle back to the resort. We had a wonderful late dinner, and then walked over to the beach at the Polynesian Resort and watch the early fireworks… it was truly a dream come true. We sat in a cabana, drinking our hot chocolate and enjoying the piped-in music along with the fireworks. There were a number of other families there, and they were all "laid back" and enjoying the family friendly group and more relaxed "vibe" there than anywhere else in the whole WDW area. After the amazing fireworks and chatting with the people we shared the experience with, we walked back to the resort, stopping at Evergreens (the sports bar). We had a few drinks, played some games, and watched the midnight fireworks from the patio of our room. It was wonderful. We got to share the time as a family, as well as sharing the experience with other families that found the "in-park experience" too much. It was probably the best New Year's Eve we have ever spent, and the best one we shared with a few dozen of our "closest Disney friends."
KENNY'S FINAL ADVICE: There is nothing like being in one of the three theme parks for New Year's Eve. My favorite is always the Magic Kingdom, but then again, that IS my favorite park at night. There are many reasons to pick any one of the three parks: at Epcot, you can celebrate New Year's Eve in each pavilion as it reaches midnight in that particular country itself; it's one of the few times you can watch fireworks at the Disney's Hollywood Studios; in the Magic Kingdom, just being on Main Street USA is amazing. Expect, know, and accept the fact that the parks will be crowded, extremely crowded. In many cases, there will be twice the number of people you've ever experienced in the parks (unless you've been there before on New Year's Eve or the Fourth of July). Enjoy it for being New Year's Eve and expect to do the least number of attractions you've ever done. Take a deep breath, relax, and experience the atmosphere like you've never experienced before. There are plenty of entertainment opportunities in all three parks that don't require you to wait in line.
AND GLORIA AGREES: Yes — chill! It's so very crowded on New Year's Eve that you really don't want to try to do many/any of the attractions. Who wants to wait in line for an hour or two when you could be out on the "streets" of the world just enjoying the crowds, the noise and the excitement of New Year's Eve? So, grab a beverage of your choice and just sit back, relax and do some people-watching.
Many thanks to our readers who submitted tips on New Year's Eve!
Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.