Even Disney parks newcomers are likely familiar with — or at least aware of — the major shows in and around the parks. Fireworks, parades, and Fantasmic can be a big parks draw, where guests camp out for the best spots for hours to see the show. But these big shows aren't the only shows at Disney parks — and, in fact, sometimes it's the smaller shows that are the most enjoyable.
You might not know about these shows unless you happen to run into them, but once you do, chances are you'll want to come back for more. Here are our 10 favorite Disney parks shows and street performances that you should definitely take the time to track down.
10. Musical Chairs with the Mad Hatter, Disneyland
Playing musical chairs with the Mad Hatter, Alice, and sometimes Peter Pan, Mary Poppins, or any other characters around Main Street, is a decidedly unique experience. If you want to join in, however, you'll have to be at the right place at the right time: that's at Disneyland's Coke Corner around 2:30 in the afternoon. Win or lose (or just watch), you're certain to have fun... even if you do have to put all the chairs back when you're done.
9. The Dapper Dans, Disneyland, Magic Kingdom, Hong Kong Disneyland
There's nothing that defines Main Street USA more than The Dapper Dans, a barbershop-style quartet that wanders the length of Main Street singing era-appropriate tunes (mostly). Sometimes they'll even take requests or sing happy birthday if you're at the park to celebrate. When and where you'll find them varies, but check your park schedule for times — and keep your eyes open for their distinctive striped vests and your ears open for four-part harmonies whenever you're on Main Street. It's always worth taking the time to stop and listen.
8. Flag Retreat Ceremony, Disneyland, Magic Kingdom
Every day before dusk at Disneyland and Magic Kingdom, there's a formal flag retreat ceremony on Main Street. It's a patriotic celebration, albeit in miniature (it's only about 15 minutes long), featuring songs, music, and guest participation as the flag is taken down and folded.
7. Five & Dime, Disney California Adventure
A jazzy sextet — there's five musicians plus Dime, the singer — that pulls up in front of the Carthay Circle on Buena Vista Street to do a 15-minute act several times a day. Though the music and interaction is always fun — Dime usually gets both kids and adults to join the fun and dance — the highlight is Goofy (appropriately dressed for the occasion in a brightly colored zoot suit) coming out to join the party.
6. Dream Along with Mickey, Magic Kingdom
The ideal introduction to any Disney day, this 20 minute show is probably the most elaborate on this list, featuring Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, a huge extended cast of Disney characters, and even a few pyrotechnics. The best part is that all of the characters are expressive versions — which really helps bring the cartoon crew to life. Think of it as a sort of mini-Fantasmic (but with more Donald), performed in front of the castle several times a day. Check the park schedule for times and be sure to make it to a performance!
5. BoardWalk Street Performers, Disney's BoardWalk
Themed after turn-of-the-century seaside town — think Coney Island or Atlantic City — the BoardWalk area is a quaint place to take an evening stroll, grab dinner, do some shopping, visit a night club, or enjoy the street performers who wander the area at certain times of day. The BoardWalk is a great place to wander in the evenings, when it's beautifully lit. Keep your eyes open for jugglers, musicians, acrobats, and magicians who tend to roam the boardwalk in the evenings — you never know what you might find!
4. JAMMitors, Epcot
Even the janitors at Disney parks are experts at entertainment, as proven by Epcot's JAMMitors. They perform short shows — from 5 to 10 minutes — in the Future World area of Epcot, playing music using trash cans and other janitorial instruments as percussion and telling plenty of jokes. This STOMP-style show is high energy, lots of fun, and generally more entertaining than you'd think janitors — even Disney janitors — would be.
3. DiVine, Disney's Animal Kingdom
A particularly unusual performer at Disney's Animal Kingdom, DiVine walks on stilts and is covered in leaves and foliage... so much so that, when she's standing in the plant life, you might not notice her at all. When DiVine does make an entrance, she moves with languid, acrobatic grace... the sort that might make you think she may actually be part of the plant life. DiVine typically appears daily, but you may need to talk to a Cast Member to find out exactly when and where she'll be next.
2. Jedi Training Academy, Disneyland, Disney Hollywood Studios
Kids will look forward to participating in the training academy, but a adults are likely to have just as much fun watching it. In each 20 minute show, kids between 4 and 12 will be selected to participate in a Jedi training course, learning how to fight with lightsabers and even dueling Darth Vader himself. The show is never not adorable.
1. Citizens of Hollywood, Disney Hollywood Studios
Nothing says Hollywood like improv, and this comedy troupe roams the streets of Hollywood Studios putting on a show throughout the day — usually with a bit of help from the audience. The Citizens are a diverse group and you can never be sure exactly which of them will be out or where they'll be, so if you're looking for a fun show just keep your eyes open along Hollywood and Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood Studios for any out of the ordinary activity... which could well be this Disney "streetmosphere" team in action!
There's always something happening in Disney parks... and some of the most interesting things might not even make it on the schedule. Be sure to keep your eyes open for entertainment, no matter where you wander!