Fireworks—the quintessential Walt Disney World evening entertainment. No trip is complete without seeing at least one of the nighttime spectaculars. Fireworks are available at Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and Hollywood Studios. Animal Kingdom does not allow for fireworks due to the animals, but we do love their Rivers of Light and Tree of Life Awakenings nighttime activities! When it is time to find your spot to watch the fireworks you can choose a traditional location (you’ll know those by all of the people gathered) or one of these cool alternatives (note: if it is your very first & only time seeing that particular show you may prefer to go with a traditional location to get the full effect of the show as the Imagineers envisioned it).
10. Top of the Word Lounge
High atop Bay Lake Tower is a special lounge that is restricted to Disney Vacation Club Members (so unless you are one of those—or their guest—you will not be able to access this spot). If you are able to make it up you will be treated with an amazing view of the Magic Kingdom and Happily Ever After Fireworks where you are pretty much parallel with the fireworks themselves. This unique view is definitely worth trying if you are a Disney Vacation Club member and qualify to go up to the lounge on your vacation.
9. Moderate Resorts
What?!?! I know that’s what you’re saying. But it is true. There are some locations on the beach at Caribbean Beach resort near Old Port Royale where you can see most of Illuminations fireworks, not the globe, the lasers or the really low fireworks, but you can see the higher ones. You can also see some of them from the pool at Caribbean Beach. If you have the right room there I’ve been able to watch both Illuminations and Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular fireworks from the balcony walkway. And that’s not the only moderate with a fireworks view . . . over at Coronado Springs you have a pretty decent view, especially over by the Casitas section. I was just there and they even have a bench facing out over the water and directly toward the fireworks. If you stay in one of the Cabins at Fort Wilderness you can go down to the beach for a view of Happily Ever After as well.
8. While riding attractions
This is the trickiest one to time and it really only works in the Magic Kingdom. If you time it just right you can watch Wishes as you spin on Dumbo, or whiz around Big Thunder Mountain (my personal favorite), weave through the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train or even while you splash down at Splash Mountain. It just makes it seem extra magical and special when everything aligns and you are enjoying one of your favorite attractions and the fireworks are going off all around you!
7. Dessert Parties
This one will cost you, but it is a very nice way to celebrate a special occasion if you can make a reservation for one of the dessert parties that includes fireworks viewing. Dessert Parties are available at all three parks during the fireworks with specially themed desserts. The Happily Ever After dessert parties are probably the most popular. It is a splurge and a luxury to get a private seating area to enjoy the fireworks without the crowd while you are enjoying all you care to eat sweets! For Happily Ever After you can also reserve a fireworks cruise on one of the Magic Kingdom transportation ferries that includes desserts as well.
6. Watch Fireworks While you are Dining
There are several restaurant locations that will serve double duty giving you a great view of the fireworks. At Epcot it is somewhat obvious which World Showcase dining locations are the best for watching Illuminations—if there is a clear view of the World Showcase Lagoon chances are you will have a good view of the fireworks depending on where you are seated in the restaurant. Tokyo Dining, La Hacienda de San Angel (and the Cantina), Rose & Crown, and Spice Road Table are all good choices—with the knowledge that your actual table location makes all the difference. If it is Happily Ever After you are hoping to see your best dining bets are outside the park—Narcoossee’s at the Grand Floridian, the California Grill at the Contemporary and ‘Ohana at the Polynesian both offer nice views (if you have the right table). Some of these also have options to move to a viewing area for the fireworks.
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5. The “Secret” Walkway from Disney’s Hollywood Studios
Well, it isn’t really a secret, but not many people think of it as a place to watch the amazing Star Wars fireworks. Guests staying at the Epcot area resorts like the Boardwalk can use this walking path to get to Hollywood Studios—if you are not staying there you could still walk down to it to watch the fireworks. As you exit the park you will see that there is boat transportation to the left, the buses over to the right (& a bit forward), and if you walk pretty straight out of the park exit you will see a sign for the walking path. You will pass the buses to both Disney resorts and some outside resort pickups and the walkway forks off to the left (the signs will say to the Boardwalk). You don’t need to go very far down the path to have a great view of the fireworks—find a spot where the trees don’t obscure your view and you have a clear view of the entrance plaza—you will be sort of directly across from the Tower of Terror. You will miss the music here and you won’t be able to see any projections, but it is usually not crowded and because all of the fireworks are high you can see the whole show. And, depending on where your bus pick up is for your resort it may make for a quicker exit for you.
4. Watch Like a VIP
In Epcot there are several areas that Disney often has roped off for special groups, meetings, weddings, etc. But, they are not always reserved so take some time to look around to see if you can get to a VIP spot. One of my favorites are the lower area down below the bridge between the UK and France. It is pretty rare to find this area open for “regular” visitors, and if it is you may need to get there early to get the best spot. In this area you are right beside where the boats for the private Illuminations cruise dock, so you know it is a good spot—right on the water for an up close experience. There are other good spots on the water around the Germany/Italy area (look for the Venetian boats) if they are not rented out.
3. Belle’s Village
For a completely different perspective of Happily Ever After go back to the Belle’s village area of Fantasyland. You can pick up a Lefou’s Brew at Gaston’s Tavern and wait for the show to start in this uncrowded area. The best viewing is on the pathway between Be Our Guest and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. 95% of the fireworks are fired off from behind the Magic Kingdom so you will actually watch them over Beast’s Castle. There are a few that are right at Cinderella Castle, so you’ll do a little bit of head turning, but not fighting the crowds on Main Street and being in the perfect position to hit Fantasyland attractions as soon as the fireworks end with shorter lines make it totally worth it. Note that you will also miss the castle projection show from this location—I love that show and highly recommend that you see it at least once or twice, so this location is only good if you’ve already seen it a few times.
2. Fireworks Cruise
If you want to really feel like a VIP or if you have a special occasion to celebrate you should try out one of the private fireworks cruises. These are available for both Happily Ever After and Illuminations and depart from the Contemporary, Grand Floridian, Polynesian or Yacht Club. Advance reservations are required and availability is limited so you will want to book as far in advance as you possibly can. You can even contact private dining to have a special cake, food or beverage onboard (or how about a butler?). Assorted snacks and soft drinks are always included. At the Magic Kingdom you can celebrate like a celebrity by renting out the 52 foot Grand 1 Yacht for a cruise with 17 of your closest Disney fan friends (don’t forget me). If you don’t want to go the private route there is the Pirate & Pals Fireworks Voyage that departs from the Contemporary. This experience includes entertainment as you and your band of pirates head out on the salty sea to watch Happily Ever After from the Seven Seas Lagoon. On the way back you hear pirate stories and meet a special guest at the end of your cruise.
1. Magic Kingdom Resorts
I write this with the caveat that at any time resorts could limit access to their property for guests staying at that resort only. With that said, there are some excellent Happily Ever After viewing locations at the resorts that surround the Magic Kingdom. At the Contemporary you can watch from the fourth floor balcony/overlook. At the Grand Floridian you can see Happily Ever After from the beach areas as well as the boat dock/marina but please keep away from the waterline (and also pretty well from outside Gasparilla Island Grill). But my favorite, #1 relaxing place to watch Happily Ever After is from the beach of the Polynesian. I do think that resort guests should have priority to these locations, but there is a good amount of space so if you are at one of these resorts for a late dinner reservation and don’t want to try to get to the Magic Kingdom in time for the fireworks you have some nice viewing location options at these resorts.
Do you have a favorite “secret” fireworks viewing spot to share?