By Megan VanWaus
(Megan was a Disney World cast member)
(Please note that the specific parades currently showing may change)
Disney parades are often the number one attraction for guests. Hundreds of families will find their spots hours ahead of time and camp out until the show begins! While the floats and characters move slowly down the street though, there are countless safety precautions being taken by cast members throughout the show. There are also some safety rules you, as guests should follow, as well, while enjoying a Disney parade.
Don’t get in front of a float! As beautiful as the floats featured in each Disney parade are, they are also incredibly large, heavy, moving vehicles. They move very slowly, usually at about 5 mph. Regardless, a float the size of 10 elephants may not always be able to stop soon enough when a curious guest gets too close. Neither would an elephant, I imagine.
So here’s what you should know:
- You should not step out in the street to catch a photo of Captain Hook or anyone else coming at you. You never know he might do with that hook! Keep in mind that may not be able to see very much.
- You should not sit or stand in the street. Not even all scrunched up with your knees by yours ears.
- You should keep all of your bags and other belongings with you up on the curb or behind the ropes. We wouldn’t want Snow White tripping on your camera strap would we?
Find your spot and stick to it! This is almost more for your comfort and convenience than safety. Unfortunately some guests do get a bit hostile when it comes time for the parade, because they want to have the best seats and aren’t concerned with the people around them. Actually, just this past year there was an incident between two women in line for Dumbo. My advice is that when a guests gets like that with you, ignore it and let it roll of your back. You’re at the happiest place in the world, and if other people around you can’t see that and be happy as well, you certainly shouldn’t let it ruin your fun! Try to find another spot, or just politely try to make room for everyone. It will usually blow over by the time the show starts! If you ever experience any actual violence towards you, you should contact a cast member immediately. They will then contact security and deal with it accordingly.
The location that will put you as close as possible to the parade anywhere directly on the curb of the street or behind the ropes set up along the perimeter of the parade route. These ropes and stanchions are set up daily to direct guests as to where they may view the parade, and for their own safety.
There are also designated viewing areas for guests with disabilities. These areas are provided for guest comfort and are filled on a first-come, first-served basis, so guests should plan to arrive early, as space is limited. Cast members will usually allow up to approximately 6 guests in your party to accompany the disabled guest. This number varies though, based on the size of the designated area and how full it may be. Unlike Cinderella’s Royal Table, you may not make reservations for these seats.
If you’re in a wheelchair or ECV, you don’t have to sit in these areas of course; only of you find them more convenient. Most areas along the parade route are accessible to guests with disabilities.
If you’ve chosen your viewing location and some of your party has to use the restroom before the parade starts, just be sure to politely let the guests around you know that they will be coming back, and that you are holding their place. Refrain from leaving bags or other belongings on the ground in their absence, because (a) someone may trip on them and (b) we wouldn’t want Robin Hood to come steal what you’ve left on the ground to give to the poor!
End of parade procedures. Each parade is different, but here are a few general tips. First, if you want to grab a few extra shots of the final float, guests are more than welcome to follow the banner or rope that signifies the end of the show. In fact, guests are often invited to help hold it up as the floats continue down the street. Just remember not to pass in front of it.
Second, before the show begins, it’s always a good idea to find out the direction of the parade. This can help you choose a good viewing spot with your future plans in mind. You can check your map for the route, usually signified by a red dotted line. A rule of thumb for the direction is that the parade will usually begin at the parks entrance, with the exception of Disney’s Dream Come True Parade at the Magic Kingdom, which ends at the park’s entrance.
So for example if you want to leave the park after Spectromagic ends at the Magic Kingdom, if you know that it begins at the parks entrance/exit, you can snag a viewing location next to the exit. Then after Pluto and Briar Bear (the last two characters in the parade) pass, you’ll be able to walk behind them and leave the park.
Spectromagic! The nighttime spectacular at the Magic Kingdom is a signature event, perfect for ending a thrilling day at the park. Nearly everyone makes time to see the light parade before heading to bed or the Wishes fireworks show. If you’ve never seen the parade, it is similar to the Main Street Electrical Parade. All of the street lights go off and the parade itself illuminates the area with sparkling color!
With this lighting situation, safety is extra important because it is difficult to see while the parade is moving. Parade Audience Controllers set up ropes and stanchions a few hours prior to the parade, so that guests may find and hold their viewing locations. They also will set up certain crossing points, most of which will be closed during the parade. One crossing point that stays open during the parade is just next to City Hall on Main Street. During the parade, between very specific, preplanned breaks, the cast members will move the ropes into the street for anywhere from 20 to 60 seconds. This allows guests who wish to exit the park during the show to cross the street in the middle of the parade, instead of having to wait until it is finished.
Guests may only cross at this specific location, and only when the ropes are moved into the street and the cast members allow guests to cross. This is very important for safety reasons, because there a reduction in visibility during this parade. You do not want to cross a float that is not expecting you.
One potential side effect of this maneuver that has caused some guests grief is that parties may be separated. Cast members have a very limited time to get guests across the street before the next float comes through. If some of the party is faster or slower than the rest and someone gets left behind because the crossing time is up, the party will be separated temporarily. Once again, it is always for your safety!
On one occasion, a parent was quite upset that their five-year-old child was the only one of their party that was left back on the other side when the crossing was cut. The thing to keep in mind with this is that the time between crossings is only a few minutes. The child was on the other side with a reliable cast member, and if she had been allowed to cross at the last second, she may not have gotten across safely or quickly enough. Say it with me this time! It is always for yoursafety!
Seating. Guests may not bring lawn chairs or benches or use any kind of seat while viewing the parade. Of course the exception is the use of an ECV or wheelchair. Again this is for the guests’ safety. There are possibilities that could be problematic such as if there were some type of evacuation or even if a little kid ran by a chair and tripped on it.
If you need to sit properly for the show, you may be able to request a wheelchair. I have actually gotten a wheelchair for guests in the past. On one hand, guests shouldn’t expect to be given a wheelchair just for the parade, but if you asked for one for that purpose of watching the parade, you would either be given one, or at the very least directed to the wheelchair rental area.
There are benches at the hub of the park in front of Cinderella Castle, near the Partners statue of Walt and Mickey Mouse that you may sit on and have a decent view of the parade!