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How to Ring In the New Year at Walt Disney World

If you’re like me and still trying to decide what to do on New Year’s Eve, here’s a handy guide as to what’s going on at each park. As always you can ring in the new year while a kaleidoscope of colors and elaborate light displays decorate the skies on the final night of 2008 at Walt Disney World.

At Epcot, a special version of “IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth,” the laser-light spectacular featuring dancing flames and cascading fountains orchestrated to an original musical score, will be presented at 7:30 p.m. and 11:40 p.m. We fans call the finale of this “World War Three” for the amount of explosives detonated during the special segment. The park’s Dec. 31 operating hours are 8 a.m. to 1 a.m.

Disney’s Hollywood Studios will host “Fantasmic!,” the lavish spectacular of water animation, lasers and fireworks, at 6:30 p.m. and 8 and 10 p.m. Revelers can “rock on” with live performances by in-park band “Mulch, Sweat and Shears,” plus a DJ spinning tunes at Mickey’s Sorcerer’s Hat. A special “Lights, Camera, Happy New Year” fireworks show brings in the new year at 11:50 p.m. The park is open from 8 a.m. until midnight on Dec. 31.

Late-nighters can party at Magic Kingdom until the wee hours with parades and fireworks galore. The park is aglow with “Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmastime Parade” at 12 noon and 3:30 p.m., followed by the wondrous “SpectroMagic” parade at 7 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. “Holiday Wishes” fireworks, the boldest and brightest pyrotechnics show at Disney, takes place at 8:30 p.m. capped with the grand finale “Fantasy in the Sky” fireworks at 11:50 p.m. The “Fantasy in the Sky” show will also play on Tuesday and Wednesday nights so, you can see it twice or see it and the EPCOT display if you choose. On Dec. 31, the park is open from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Dec. 31. and is therefore not really an option. If you plan to visit the MK, my advice is to get there early and plan to stay all day. They have been known to close the gates to that park. EPCOT can absorb a lot more people, so it’s a safer bet for an early afternoon arrival if you hit DAK in the morning.

Walt Disney World continues to be a popular destination for end of the year celebrations. However, Disney has been paring down the entertainment offerings on New Years Eve these last few years. I expect this year to be about the same as last year, if a bit slower, so plan accordingly.