The nightly fireworks across the various parks of Disney World are the stuff of legend, it blows my mind to think that such spectacular fireworks take place each night and at multiple parks. There are loads of different spots to watch fireworks from, some offering their own additional entertainment to that offered inside the parks themselves.
Magic Kingdom: Wishes
Magic Kingdom’s Wishes are “the daddy” of fireworks displays and plays out a story of good versus evil by projecting lights and graphics on to Cinderella’s Castle.
Where to watch Wishes in Magic Kingdom?
The most popular place to watch Wishes is anywhere along Main Street – a direct view of the Castle is a great place to take it all in. There are plenty of side streets that have their good spots too, and there’s a subtle “hump” in Main Street to get your head above the crowds. There’s a great colour-coded map by DisneyTouristBlog showing the best and worst places to stand.
If you want to get a head start on the ride home at the end of the night, you can also catch Wishes from the boat dock at the Transportation and Ticket Centre, which is the hub for transporting guests between the Magic Kingdom and hotels via monorail, bus or boat. The Wishes music is piped out to this area so you don’t miss out on some of the details.
Wishes Dessert Party
These are some of my most favourite words all sat next to each other. The Wishes Dessert Party is an all-you-can-eat pudding buffet and includes access to a balcony offering an “almost totally unobstructed” view of the Castle and Wishes fireworks. Hosted in the Tomorrowland Terrace Restaurant, it’s no fine-dining experience, but I’m pretty sure the desserts and fireworks do all the talking here. EasyWDW have a great post about the Dessert Party here with lots of photos of the desserts. Pretty much all looks god damn delish. The view isn’t the best, I think it’s a side-on angle to the Castle, and there’s not a great view of the Electrical Parade from over there, but the idea of sharing the viewing balcony with a (comparably) small crowd does sound pretty appealing. There are 3 very prominent sweet tooths in the family, so the force may be strong with this one.
Restaurants and their viewing decks
There are a few very popular, and rather expensive, restaurants at the deluxe Disney Resort hotels which offer views of the fireworks either directly from your seats or a nearby viewing deck, around which your meals are served so as to not interrupt your dining with the Fireworks. The California Grill at the Contemporary, Narcoossee’s at the Grand Floridian and ‘Ohana at the Polynesian. Reservations get snapped up crazy-quick for coinciding with Wishes, however the Contemporary allows guests dining earlier in the evening to return to the restaurant to access the viewing deck adjoining the restaurant. Which is nice.
Viewing the Wishes fireworks from the Polynesian is the option that most catches my eye. The Polynesian is a deluxe Disney World Resort hotel situated on the monorail loop en route to the Magic Kingdom. The resort includes a couple of ‘beaches’ where you can watch the Wishes fireworks from a distance, taking in the full works such as perimeter bursts on special occasions – which can be hard to see from up-close on Main Street. The Wishes music is piped out on to the beach area to complete the experience. The extra bonus of watching Wishes from the Polynesian is that you can also view the Electrical Water Pageant which runs right along the beach here. The Pageant starts its journey at the Polynesian at 9pm and continues along select resorts til it reaches the Contemporary around 10pm. The Pageant itself a pretty small parade of illuminated barges (hear that Dad? Barges!) and takes around 10-15 minutes to pass by. Extra bonus points to the Polynesian fireworks viewing for it’s refreshment options – you can grab a Pineapple Dole Whip (a soft serve ice cream with cultish status amongst Disney fans) or head to the Tambu Lounge for a Lapu Lapu, a rum and tropical fruit juice cocktail served in a suitably camp hollowed-out pineapple. When in Rome.
The last time I saw Wishes we were stood on Main Street, right in the thick of it with the Ooohing and Ahhhing all around us. It was pretty magical. The original is still the best, but I would love to try out one of the unconventional viewing spots to experience Wishes in a slightly different way.
Epcot: Illuminations – Reflections of Earth
The Illuminations fireworks take place nightly and centre on the World Showcase Lagoon where the water offers gorgeous reflections of the show. True to the Epcot vibe, the show is themed around the story of Earth – its birth, triumph and hope for the future. It is a feat of technology and engineering in its combination of fireworks, lasers, lights, video, fountains and fire to create a jaw-dropping spectacle. Plus there are barges on the water. Hear that Dad!? More barges! There’s a special edition of Illuminations for the Christmas season, including a closing piece narrated by Walter Cronkite. It’s tradition to wear something on your head that wobbles around and glows in the dark for the ultimate Illuminations viewing experience.
Watching Illuminations outside of the park isn’t as easy as it is with Wishes, as Illuminations is much lower in height and plays around a lot with the water on the Lagoon. You can see some of the higher elements of the fireworks from the Boardwalk, a hotel resort 10 minutes walk from Epcot. It’s best seen from the bridge that crosses the water. The Boardwalk has some interesting places for food and drinks, but catching Illuminations from your table is not going to happen, so you could end your meal before the fireworks and take a stroll along the Boardwalk afterwards and see what you can see.
Hollywood Studios: Fantasmic!
Fantasmic! is Hollywood Studios’ nightly show of fireworks, dancing water and lasers against the backdrop of a huge animatronic set playing out the story of Fantasia with Mickey Mouse doing battle against a cohort of Disney villains.
Hosted in the Hollywood Hills Ampitheatre, the show can accommodate up to 10,000 spectators each show, and yet still it reaches full capacity every night. So arriving early, like an hour early, is a Good Thing To Do and bringing a cushion or blanket pad out the benches will help you avoid the numbius buttius that comes with sitting on a hard bench for that long.
It’s not feasible to see the fireworks from outside of the park like Epcot’s or Magic Kingdom’s, so be prepared for the queues and the crowds – but it’s so worth it.
And what about Animal Kingdom? No fireworks there, silly! Scare the zebras init!
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