In a lot of ways, Walt Disney World was built for the Fourth of July.
In fact, Main Street USA is Walt’s idealized version of an American town – the fruition of the founding fathers’ collective dream.
You’ve got Liberty Square, of course, which is essentially patriotism distilled into its most saccharine form.
Frontierland and Tomorrowland are certainly the past and future of Walt’s vision of American exceptionalism.
Later, those ideals were expanded in EPCOT with the creation of The American Adventure Pavilion where it’s Independence Day all year.
I think July Fourth – with the freedom of summer break and family vacations – is the holiday that connects the most with the spirit Disney intended for his theme park.
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Does Disney do anything special for the Fourth of July?
Yes. The biggest part is the nighttime spectacular.
Traditionally, the fireworks show at EPCOT and the Magic Kingdom are specially prepared on the Fourth.
At the Magic Kingdom, Disney’s Celebrate America – A Fourth of July Concert in the Sky is scheduled for July 3 and July 4.
Currently, EPCOT’s calendar does not list a special Fourth of July fireworks show. Last year on July 4, EPCOT had the 4th of July Heartbeat of Freedom Fireworks show. However, this year, the calendar shows its typical EPCOT Forever show.
Is that an oversight? Possibly.
They have – in the past – lit Spaceship Earth up in red, white and blue stripes, which makes for an excellent photo opportunity. However, it wouldn’t really make up for the lack of a special fireworks show.
Neither Animal Kingdom nor Disney’s Hollywood Studios has anything listed special for the Fourth of July.
What happens in Disney World on the Fourth of July?
For the most part, July Fourth is the same at the Walt Disney World resorts as the rest of the year.
For example, guests push through the parks and ride attractions. They eat laugh, play, sweat, complain and fuss. It’s the whole experience of human emotions.
What will be different than the other days?
There will be special Fourth of July-themed snacks.
Additionally, some characters will be in special Independence Day outfits. You may see Mickey in an Uncle Sam-style American-themed get-up with star and stripes, much like Apollo Creed in “Rocky IV.”
Is Disney busy around the Fourth of July?
Yes! It’s one of the busiest times of the year.
Magic Kingdom frequently closes early in the day on the Fourth due to capacity limits.
Though I would say, if you wanted to zag while everyone else zigged, you could plan your vacation around the festivities at the other parks and hit a less crowded park, like Disney’s Animal Kingdom or Hollywood Studios while the massive crowds headed to EPCOT and Magic Kingdom.
Which Disney park is best for the Fourth of July?
It’s a battle between EPCOT and the Magic Kingdom.
EPCOT has the American Adventure Pavilion in the center of the World Showcase, which is essentially built as a year-round celebration of Independence Day and the founding fathers.
You also have the Voices of Liberty – a year-round show in the rotunda of The American Adventure Pavilion. Their pristine harmonies celebrate the American experience. It’s especially poignant around the fourth.
EPCOT also has American Adventure which is a stage show that tells the story of America with music and narration.
The Magic Kingdom park has Liberty Square with its patriotic Muppets, the Hall of Presidents and the Spirit of America Fife & Drum Corps. In addition to that, Main Street USA single-handedly keeps bunting suppliers in business all year long.
So which park is better? This year, I’d say go to the Magic Kingdom to guarantee special fireworks.
I would say consider park hopping between Magic Kingdom and EPCOT. However, the way crowds flock to the park on the Fourth, I don’t think there’s any way possible you could hop into the Magic Kingdom.
Which Disney Resort is best for the Fourth of July?
You’ve got some good options. I think a Contemporary Resort room with a view of the castle would probably be at the top of my list. Watching the Fourth of July show from the balcony of your room would certainly be a great way to celebrate the Fourth.
The other resorts on the Monorail line – the Polynesian and the Grand Floridian – offer views of the fireworks and pump in the sound. But the view is better than the Contemporary.
Fort Wilderness Resort would be my personal second choice. For instance, hanging out at the campgrounds with the family seems an inherently Fourth of July kind of activity.
Also, the resort hosts an elaborate Fourth of July golf cart parade featuring riders from the Tri-Circle-D Ranch and campers who have elaborately decorated their golf carts.
Mickey and Minnie will serve as grand marshals as well.
Last year’s Disney Yacht Club hosted a Star-Spangled Soiree on the Fourth on the Beach Club Lawn and had a Patriotic Poolside event as well.
Other Disney resorts will host a special movie night.
With this in mind, the best thing to do is check with the front desk upon your arrival for the full schedule of July Fourth-related events.
Where should I eat at Disney on the Fourth of July?
The following are some of my favorites:
6. Liberty Tree Tavern
Liberty Square, Magic Kingdom
Pay tribute to the founding fathers as you dine at this stately colonial-style inn serving traditional New England-inspired fare.
For example, the Patriot’s Platter is all-you-can-eat American favorites like roasted turkey, pot roast and oven-roasted pork with mashed potatoes, seasonal vegetables, herb stuffing and house-made macaroni and cheese.
Desserts include Oooey Gooey Toffee Cake – vanilla toffee cake, chocolate sauce and vanilla ice cream – and Johnny Appleseed’s Warm Apple Cake – with caramel and whipped topping.
5. Fife & Drum Tavern
American Adventure Pavilion, EPCOT
Look for The American Dream at the Fife & Drum. It’s a red, white and blue concoction of Frozen Fanta wild cherry, vanilla ice cream and frozen Fanta blue raspberry slushy.
You don’t have to stand at attention when you order it, but you should probably keep a weathered eye out for brain freeze.
Main Street USA, Magic Kingdom
Is there anything more American than celebrating the Fourth with an all-beef hot dog? I’m fond of the Chicago style, but Casey’s always has an interesting variety of dogs.
During the 50th Celebration, I was fond of the funnel cake dog that was served with powdered sugar, strawberries and funnel cake. Mustard and ketchup? Get out of here. It’s the Fourth, let’s push some boundaries.
But, be sure to mobile order.
3. Regal Eagle
The American Adventure, EPCOT
What’s better than a hot dog on the Fourth? Maybe spicy ribs? A little bit of barbecue? Or a frosty beer?
Located in EPCOT’s beating heart of patriotism, the most American thing on the menu is probably the Samuel Adams Boston Lager, a 20-oz draft of golden-colored lager with flavors that are dry, clean, crisp and refreshing with subtle bitterness.
However, as an old Knoxville boy, I’m partial to the Tennessee Lemonade, which has Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey with Minute Maid Premium Lemonade and peach flavoring.
But either one is perfect to wash down an order of Kansas City Smoked Half-Chicken, with slow-smoked half-chicken smothered with sweet barbecue sauce. The Memphis dry rub also works here as well.
2. Tomorrowland Terrace Restaurant
Tomorrowland, Magic Kingdom
At this Fourth of July Fireworks Dessert Party, you can treat yourself to fantastic desserts as you watch the fireworks from a premium spot in the park.
Each night there’s a pre, during and post-show dessert party with wines, cheeses and possibly specially themed desserts.
1. The California Grill
It’s probably too late this year to get dining reservations for this restaurant atop the Contemporary Resort. However, in addition to a fantastic meal – with three-course prix fixe dining – you get a great view of the Fourth of July fireworks show.
There’s nothing especially patriotic about the regular menu, unless you feel a certain way about fire-roasted venison with hasselback potatoes, leek soubise, artichoke barigoule, ramp pesto or Meyer lemon chiffon cake chevre whip, meringue, blueberry foam and blueberry gel.
However, there may be some off-menu specialties for the holiday.
What are some of the best Independence Day snacks Disney has offered?
Each year, Disney rolls out some classic specialties around the Fourth. With this in mind, some of my favorites that I’m hoping will return include:
9. Star-Spangled Cupcake
Pop Century or Art of Animation Resort
This yellow cupcake was filled with watermelon basil curd and lemon buttercream with white chocolate stars.
8. Fourth of July Fruit Tart
From the Contempo Café at the Contemporary, this blackberry custard was topped with fresh berries and also a vanilla panna cotta popsicle.
7. Firecracker Brownie
Caribbean Beach or Disney’s Port Orleans Resorts
This graham cracker crust and chocolate chip fudgy brownie is topped with a brown butter caramel mousse, popping candy and also chocolate décor.
6. Red Velvet Cookie Ice Cream Sandwich
Plaza Ice Cream Parlour, Magic Kingdom
This treat was red velvet cookies and vanilla ice cream with star sprinkles.
5. Apple Pie Cupcake
Backlot Express, Hollywood Studios
This yellow cupcake with apple pie filling was topped with salted caramel buttercream and cinnamon streusel and also garnished with rainbow silver sparkle, red, white and blue Mickey ears.
4. Berry Blast Trifle
Beach Club and Yacht Club
This dessert had layers of strawberry mousse, blueberry compote, vanilla cake crumbles and also whipped cream.
3. Caribbean Sticky Ribs
Not every patriotic snack has to be sweet. In particular, this Caribbean Beach savory dish featured orange-chili sticky spareribs with crispy tostones and a side of creamy mango slaw. Disney loves slaw.
2. Lunch Box Parfait
Woody’s Lunch Box Cafe
The Lunch Box Parfait featured blue raspberry gelatin, whipped cream, strawberry gelatin, fresh strawberries and blueberries.
They have also offered a Fourth of July Lunch Box Tart which features cherry pie filling, vanilla fondant and star sprinkles. Woody’s is located in Toy Story Land.
1. The Fourth of July Liege Waffle
Connections Cafe, EPCOT
This waffle treat is made with sweet brioche dough and also has pearl sugar.
Is July 4th a good time to go to Disney?
Of course, anytime is a good time to go to Disney. My son’s birthday is July 3rd, so we’ve been in the park in the heat of July.
It’s challenging and it will be crowded but, on some level, that’s part of the fun. It adds to the memories in later years to have had a little bit of hardship.
However, I’m at a point in my life where I’d rather go earlier in the spring or later in the fall. My favorite times to go, currently, are late May before the Northern schools let out and on fall break in October.
September would surely be ideal if the kids weren’t in school.
I will do Disney in the absolute heat of the summer again at some point. But I’m not sure the July Fourth festivities are worth the extra trouble.
I might aim for August when many Southern school students have started going back to class.
Have you been to Disney on July Fourth? Did you have a special meal? Let us know in the comments!