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The do and don'ts of watching Fantasmic! at Disneyland

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Published: June 25, 2013 at 9:56 AM

Disney's Fantasmic! has been playing for more than 20 years, and despite it being the Disneyland Resort's longest running live-action show, a perfect system to get guests in and around it does not exist.

Orlando cheated. By that, I mean that Fantasmic! as it exists in Walt Disney World (Hollywood Studios, to be exact) takes place on a stage designed for it and guests get to — wait for it — sit in chairs while they watch it. Disneyland guests are not so lucky.

Mickey at the wheel, in the finale of Disneyland's Fantasmic!

The live-action show takes place on the Rivers of America, right in front of Pirates of the Caribbean and the Haunted Mansion, and it's just down the road from Indiana Jones, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Splash Mountain. In short, it's a mess on busy nights, which are most nights that it plays at Disneyland.

Guests trying to get from Main Street to Haunted Mansion are frustrated because it takes 20 more minutes to get to New Orleans Square than it did an hour ago. Guests who left strollers in front of Pirates of the Caribbean have to go around Tarzan's Treehouse because traffic is now under the strict control of Fantasmic! GC. That's "Guest Control" for those not in the know. Or, the Yellow People, if you prefer.

I was one of the flashlight-waving cast members for the better part of a year, and as such I feel like I'm well equipped to help you beat the system, or at least understand it.

First:

Go to the second show

Every day during the summer, Fantasmic! is shown twice; usually at 9:00pm, and then again at 10:15pm If you can, avoid the left side (west side) of the park from 8-9:30pm before heading over to the Rivers of America for the second show. The first show is routinely full during the summer months, while the second show rarely gets more than half full.

When you're at a theme park the number-one resource you have is time. Going to the second showing of Fantasmic! buys you an extra two hours that can be used for riding another attraction, taking another picture, or eating that sixth churro.

Get there early

Don't be the guest who complains that there aren't any spots left five minutes after the show begins. Heck, don't be that guest five minutes before the show begins. It's a popular show, yes, even 20 years after it debuted. Plan accordingly.

But don't get there at five

The show has been around for 20 years, and the view from 20 feet behind the river is as good as the view from 10 inches behind the river. Trust me. I've seen the show a few times. You don't need to get there that early; it's just not worth it.

Now, if you have to go to the first show, let's discuss where you want to be to see it. For me, the best spot to watch the show is over near the Haunted Mansion, just past the farthest light tower behind the small metal fence that lines the middle pathway. It's a standing spot, but it will usually be available as close as 30 minutes before show time.

If you're really hankering for a seated spot on the cold stones, you best show up early. Some guests will camp out at 5:30pm, but they're crazy. You can get a seated spot as late as 7:00pm on most nights — and the nights when you can't? Well, you don't want to be there for the first show on those nights.

Getting a seat is simple if you show up early enough, so let me throw a short list at you to address some recurring myths about Fantasmic! viewing.

Myth 1: Center stage is the only good view

With three water screens surrounding Tom Sawyer Island, there are fine views of the show from all sides as long as there is nothing obstructing your view. I'd always take center stage if it's available, but don't give up on the show if that area is starting to fill up.

Myth 2: It's cool to show up at 5:30 and leave all my stuff on the ground to save a spot

This is a big point of contention amongst Disneyland attendees. It's never a good idea to leave your stuff unattended for two reasons. (1) It might get stolen, and, (2) A cast member may pick it all up and move it. Trust me, I've done it dozens of times to much applause from surrounding guests. Don't leave your stuff unattended. It can pose a security threat, and it's just bad manners.

Myth 3: I can stand in a seating area

No. No you cannot. No. No. Stop. No.

Myth 4: The River Belle Terrace offers a good view of the show

No, the view is awful. But your butt is in a chair. So there's that. And you can't stand in this area. It's a seating-only area. I apologize for repeating myself, but you'd be surprised at how often this rule seems to confound people.

Myth 5: I can stand in a walkway to watch the show

Nope. You will be asked to move if you try to stand in a non-roped-in area. But you got there early for the second show! So this won't apply to you anyway, right!?

If you want to see Fantasmic! relatively stress-free, following this advice should help you to do that. The key to a good vacation is time management, and that's the key to watching a crowded theme park show, as well.

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Readers' Opinions

From 166.147.104.149 on June 25, 2013 at 11:43 AM
I will say about the bad viewing of the river bell Terrance. If you have seen the show in Florida and think Fanrasmic is just ok and not as cool as the fireworks, by all means go watch Magical first and then go watch the second show from the riverbell Terrance. This leads for one very amazing night of night time shows. That's if you want it all in one night
From Russell Meyer on June 25, 2013 at 12:20 PM
I really enjoyed watching from right behind the control board, except it doesn't provide a great view for most video cameras with board ops and the light towers playing havoc with the autofocus. The location provides for great framing of the center water screen with action on the island stage.
From 24.5.139.193 on June 25, 2013 at 4:58 PM
Another way to see the second show is to wait until about 9:50 when the 9:00 show is over and people have already begun moving toward Main Street. Get on the train at Tomorrowland or Main Street and take it to New Orleans Station. Get off and move into place as the audience from the first show leaves. You will get a good viewing and will not have to wait long for the show.
From 76.167.166.235 on June 25, 2013 at 6:29 PM
One thing to remember about the "take the train to the second show" idea is that sometimes the train is shut down for as long as 30 minutes after the fireworks end (depending on wind conditions at 'higher elevations').

I the fireworks go from 9:30-9:50 and the train is down until 10:20 with Fantasmic starting up at 10:30...well, you're cutting it close.

So while that method often works, it can back fire. That's part of the reason I didn't include it on the list.

From Beth Olliges on June 25, 2013 at 11:20 PM
My biggest tip would be to buy the VIP viewing package! I didn't know about it before my first trip there, but when another guest happened to mention it, I checked with guest services and was lucky enough to get two tickets that very night! My boyfriend and I had already watched it from "sidewalk seats," but he has a bad back, and sitting on the ground all that time can be very painful. With the VIP package, we loved having reserved seats (actual chairs!), plus getting all the yummy treats and all the soft drinks/hot chocolate/etc. we wanted!

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