Most Disney vacationers take time out of their busy theme park schedules to watch a parade. While a parade may seem less enticing than the rides and fireworks displays, you should try to make it to at least one of the parades offered to truly capture the essence of Disneyland.
Walt Disney's Parade of Dreams
Location: Main Street, U.S.A.
Once or twice a day (depending on the season), a lavish parade winds its way down Main Street, compete with colorful floats, upbeat music, dancing performers in colorful costumes, and, of course, all of the popular Disney characters. You're guaranteed to see Mickey, Minnie, Donald Duck, and many other Disney favorites as part of this parade, so have your camera handy.
To keep Disneyland looking its best, more than 5,000 gallons of paint are used each year. In addition, the park uses more than 100,000 light bulbs, including 11,000 rim lights to outline the buildings along Main Street.
Although the theme of the parade changes every year or two, the daytime character parade has been a staple since the early days. The parade represents the fun and excitement this park offers — especially to young people. The current version, Walt Disney's Parade of Dreams, salutes Disneyland's fiftieth anniversary. The parade features more than 100 performers, 20-foot-tall floats, confetti blasts, oversized puppets, and a cast of characters you've grown to love. Tinkerbelle appears atop the train on the lead float, an Animatronic Geppetto pulls the strings on some human marionettes, Alice in Wonderland characters dance in the street, and Mickey and Minnie bring up the rear, waving from the balcony of a replica Sleeping Beauty Castle.
Many digital cameras can also take short movies, a perfect way to capture the fun of a Disneyland parade. Resist the temptation to turn the camera sideways while filming; it's not easy to rotate the videos afterward. You'll need a fully charged battery or two and plenty of room on your digital media.
The parade takes about thirty-five to forty minutes to cover the entire route and about twenty minutes to pass a single spot. The first parade usually starts in midafternoon and the second one runs around dark. For parade times during your visit, see the Entertainment Times Guide or stop by the Wait Time board on Main Street, U.S.A.
The parade route begins at the end of Main Street, next to the Mad Hatter shop in the Town Square area, proceeds along the entire length of the street and around the Hub, turns to the right toward the Matterhorn Bobsleds, and concludes at the parade gate near “it's a small world.” If there's a second parade, the route is reversed.
When the park is busy, stake out your viewing spot about one hour early. If you'll be visiting Disneyland over several days and have seen the parade once, use parade time during the remaining days to do something else, taking advantage of shorter lines at the most popular rides and attractions.
Good parade-viewing locations include the platform of the main Disneyland Railroad station, and in and around Town Square (in front of the train station, near the flagpole). However, some of the best places to watch are from the terraced area along the Small World corridor, where surprisingly, you can often get a good spot even ten minutes before the parade starts.
The Disneyland Marching Band has been appearing at Disneyland since the park first opened in 1955. In that time, the band has marched over 3,500 miles up and down Main Street, U.S.A. It's not a parade on such a grand scale as the daily character parade, but it's fun to watch as drum major Mickey Mouse marches the players around the Hub while the brass band plays a selection of marching band favorites and Disney tunes.