When the first shell shoots in the sky and the goosebumps appear, you realize there isn’t any place else in the world you’d rather be.
The Happiest Place, indeed.
Until someone raises their iPad high into the air to record the fireworks. Or a tired child starts to melt down to your right. Or you can see the fireworks perfectly, but Tinkerbell’s descent is blocked by a tree.
If you want to have the ultimate fireworks experience at Magic Kingdom and Epcot, a little extra planning will guarantee you’ll have a relaxing, inspiring, unobstructed view of “IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth” or “Wishes Nighttime Spectacular.”
And if you’re good, you might discover some little-known viewing spots.
“Finding a good viewing spot is critical, absolutely. And if you can find a place that not everyone else has found, even better,” said AJ Wolfe, who has been writing Disney Food Blog out of her Dallas home since 2009.
Here are some vantage points at Magic Kingdom and Epcot that are worth a try. But sssssh, don’t tell everyone.
Disney’s fireworks show changes every so often, but the current production is called “Wishes Nighttime Spectacular” and includes a heroes-versus-villains light show on and around Cinderella’s Castle, accompanied by music and fireworks.
“Wishes” is offered just about every night of the year, except for special occasions, such as Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party and Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. On certain holidays, the fireworks show expands.
Behind Cinderella’s Castle. Next to Prince Charming’s Regal Carousel is a great new expanse for seeing the fireworks set off behind the castle as well as the ones in front of the castle. If you have already seen the projection show on the front of the castle, this offers a different perspective. It’s not very crowded, and there are benches and tables. It’s laid back enough that patrons can squat on the ground. If you’re not worried about a little dirt, kids can even lie down to get the full effect of the pyrotechnics all around them.
California Grill Lounge. For the same great view that comes with a sophisticated meal at theCalifornia Grill inside the Contemporary Resort, you can arrive about sunset to this lounge outside the Pacific Coast restaurant and see the fireworks for little to no cost. It’s first-come, first-serve. Order a cocktail or appetizers and you’ve got yourself a primo viewing spot, with little cost. The fireworks music is piped in, and the lights are dimmed.
Inside Cinderella’s Castle. At Cinderella’s Royal Table, where reservations are book about six months out, you can get a most unusual fireworks experience, particularly since Fantasyland was remodeled. “I recommend (Cinderella’s Royal Table) now,” said Wolfe, who visits Disney parks an average of five times a year. You have to time your reservations just right and make sure you get a table by one of the expansive, leaded glass windows. Highlights: a great view of the fireworks going off over the new Beast’s Castle in Fantasyland and an insider’s view of some of the shells going off.
Polynesian Resort Beach. At no extra cost, you can have a great view of the fireworks, particularly with the 360-degree perimeter fireworks set off at special times of the year, such as Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. “It’s really, really cool,” Wolfe said. Just hop on the monorail, and the beach area is open to the public. Speakers pipe in the music, but if you can’t get near one, the relaxing beach ambience is worth the tradeoff.
Pontoon Boat. This fireworks cruise offers synchronized audio on board and a stunning view of the fireworks from Bay Lake. “One of my favorite places, if you have the resources, is to rent a pontoon boat,” said Deb Wills, founder of AllEars.net, a 17-year-old website dedicated to travel information regarding Walt Disney World. “The view from the water is breathtaking.” A 21-foot pontoon boat can be rented for $320 and can carry up to eight people. A 25-foot pontoon boat can be rented for about $370 and can carry up to 10 people.
Pirates and Pals fireworks voyage. For a really special fireworks experience, climb aboard this ship for snacks, stories, singalongs and a great view of the sky. Peter Pan characters offer photo opportunities and fun. You’ll also catch a view of the Electrical Water Pageant. Admission is $34 for a child and $59 for an adult.
Every night, a show of fire, lasers and pyrotechnics lights up the World Showcase Lagoon at Epcot. During the holidays, the show also features holiday touches. Inclement weather may affect the fireworks as well. “One thing you have to check is the wind,” Wills explains about scouting a location. “Not only do you not want smoke from the fireworks clouding your view, but also can get little sprinkles of the fireworks residue.”
La Hacienda de San Angel. Yes, Rose & Crown Pub in the United Kingdom Pavilion is probably the best-known -- and most sought-after -- viewing spot for Epcot’s Illuminations. But in the Mexico pavilion, La Hacienda sits out into the water and features giant windows, making it easy to view IllumiNations. “Just about every table will have a view,” Wolfe said.
New Moroccan Restaurant. Spice Road Table in the Morocco pavilion, complete with a fabulous view of the World Showcase Lagoon. The restaurant has outdoor seating for 120 diners and also sits out into the water. Grab an outdoor table and a spectacular view of ”IllumiNations.”
Canada Pavilion. Right when the show starts, you might be able to find a spot on the steps of the Canada Pavilion. Officials won’t let you stand there until the show starts because it is a passageway, but be ready to move in when the lights go down.
Between the Disney Boardwalk and Disney Beach Club. You also can find a less crowded spot near this promenade of shops and restaurants that is within walking distance of Epcot. You won’t be able to see the globe barge and laser show, but you will have a great view of the fireworks.
Boardwalk. If you go toward the villas side of the Disney Boardwalk, you’ll be able to see ”IllumiNations” at Epcot and “Wishes” at Magic Kingdom. “It’s not up close and personal, but they’re kind of neat spots,” Wills said.
While this may seem like a bunch of planning for a 15- or 20-minute fireworks show, it’s worth it so even the tiniest folks in your party can be swept up in the magic.
“The fireworks are huge. You’re not going to see a display like that in your hometown.
“Fireworks are the kind of celebration you don’t get to see every day,” Wolfe said.
Even Fourth of July fireworks generally have nothing on Disney’s pyrotechnics shows.
“I’ve seen fireworks all over the country, and there’s nothing like a Disney fireworks show,” Wills said.
Many guests make a point of coming back at night or coming to a park just for the fireworks extravaganzas.
“Fireworks shows are particularly special, since they’re often the last bit of entertainment our guests see during their visit,” said Reed Jones, creative director for Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Creative Environment. “We think of them as the ‘fond farewell’ at the end of a magical day.”