Theme parks are not complete without shows in them. Yes, we all love rides but even the biggest roller coaster junkie can get tired of standing in line. But what shows should you see? In this post, we’ll go through all of Disneyland’s entertainment options and rate them to figure out what should be the highest priority.
Live entertainment is a big part of the theme park experience that can help balance out a ride-heavy itinerary. Disneyland, being the original park, has gone through loads of entertainment in the last 65+ years. While we won’t go through every show in Disneyland’s history (I’d like to sleep at some point this week) the park still has more live entertainment than most. That’s even with a cutback post-pandemic. This, along with the impressive attraction lineup, really help spread out the people. Before we get to the ratings, let’s brush up on the rules.
- The show has to be live, also no meet & greets – I covered 3D shows (and the like) in the attraction rankings. Meet & greet experiences differ from person-to-person so it’s nearly impossible to rate a typical experience, seeing how there really isn’t a ‘typical experience.’ For the record, I don’t often like meet & greets unless they involve King Louie.
- I’ll try to keep up! – Seasonal entertainment is hard to keep track of!
- Shows are rated mostly on production, minimally on subject – Some things are strictly for kids. I am not a kid, although some may argue that. I will try to rate fairly with the target audience in mind.
- Make up your own opinion – I’m always right… Except when I’m not. If I don’t like the show, that doesn’t mean you will feel the same. I don’t think my opinions are too outlandish and I try to rate things on show quality instead of subject but that doesn’t mean you should take my word as gospel.
The shows are rated on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being “stay away!” and 10 being “I question your intelligence if you never see this show.” I’ll list the attraction, then the ranking, followed by a little explanation below. Fantasmic!, Paint the Night parade, and Mickey and the Magical Map are all currently under refurbishment of some kind but I will include them anyway. We’ll go in alphabetical order.
The Dapper Dans – 8/10
Probably the most famous of Disney’s ‘streetmosphere’ entertainment. If you’ve never had the pleasure of coming across The Dapper Dans singing on Main Street I’d suggest making a plan to hear a set. The vocal quartet sings a mix of old and contemporary songs a cappella. The reason the score isn’t a little higher is because I do think the novelty wears off to a degree after a few experiences. That’s not to say it isn’t pleasant every time, just not a must-do for every single trip.
Fantasmic! – 10/10
Not much can beat sitting on the Rivers of America and watching Fantasmic! This is one of the quintessential Disney nighttime experiences. Unfortunately, Fantasmic is on hiatus right now but will return eventually and shouldn’t be missed when it does.
The Flag Retreat – 8/10
At about 4:45 PM each day, they lower the flag on Main Street in a special little ceremony featuring the Disneyland Band and the Dapper Dans. The show honors veterans and current members of the military. While not as flashy as other shows on this list, the ceremony is extremely well done and a special moment for any to watch. If you’ve never seen it before, I think you’re likely to enjoy yourself as long as you aren’t expecting some big production.
it’s a small world Encanto Projection – 7.5/10
This is a projection show that plays frequently every night on the Small World facade. It’s all of 2 minutes, which is why it rates fairly low. That said, those 2 minutes are pretty good! I wouldn’t go out of my way to see this but if you’re in the area and hear the music come on then it’s worth hanging around for.
Magic Happens – 9.5/10
This isn’t the best parade I’ve ever seen but it is my favorite of the domestic options. Magic Happens boasts character and incredibly costuming to go along with an upbeat soundtrack. While the floats aren’t audacious, they are well done and mesh well with each other. Don’t miss seeing Magic Happens, as it’s one of the best things on this list!
Tale of the Lion King – 8.5/10
Tale of the Lion King plays in the Fantasyland Theatre on certain days of the week and has entered into hidden gem status. Or as close to hidden gem status as one can get in the current day and age. This stage show hits some of the highlights of The Lion King, focusing largely on the songs while narrating other parts of the story. It’s worth checking out for a seat in the shade and to hear some of the incredibly vocal performances.
Wondrous Journeys – 10/10
The current firework show at Disneyland is one of the best created. There’s an incredible blend of projections and pyro to match a stunning soundtrack. Wondrous Journeys takes a few twists and turns but ends up being a heartwarming show through and through. Do not miss it! During Halloween and Christmas seasons, there will be seasonal fireworks and, frankly, they aren’t nearly as good.
Storytelling at Royal Theatre – 6/10
Like the Jedi Training, I’m far from the target audience here because I’m older than 12 and don’t care much about Disney princesses (except Ariel). With that said, the Storytelling just isn’t enjoyable for me. This involves narrators retelling classic Disney stories (currently Tangled and Beauty and the Beast) in a quirky way. Characters make an appearance and there is usually a song or two. If you have a young princess or prince then they might enjoy this. Otherwise, I don’t think this is a good use of time.
There are few items that can be stumbled upon in Disneyland. There are usually some pirates singing songs near New Orleans Square a few times a day. They are always entertaining and it’s fun to watch their short set. The piano player who plays by Refreshment Corner is always a good listen, as is the Disneyland Band! Other live music will come and go but I recommend stopping and listening if you get the chance!
Disneyland has a good amount of live entertainment and none of it scores too poorly. I think there are options that you definitely shouldn’t miss and there are plenty of ‘streetmosphere’ acts to happen upon. There is a nice array of live performances too. Disneyland does entertainment right.
What’s your favorite entertainment in Disneyland? Let us know what thoughts you have, along with any questions, in the comments below. Planning a trip to Disneyland Resort? Check out our Disneyland Trip Planning Guide to help you out. If you enjoy what you are reading here on Wandering in Disney please share this post with your friends and like our social media pages. You can also subscribe to the blog via WordPress or email. All of those links are on the right side of this page. Thank you for reading, we really appreciate it!
Categories: Entertainment Ratings