by Sam Burnham
Fireworks. A method of celebration that crosses every language and cultural barrier on Earth. Independence Day, New Year’s Eve, Chinese New Year. Bastille Day, and The Olympic Games all use fireworks.
But no one does fireworks like Disney.
Standing in front of Cinderella Castle watching the special show for Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party with fireworks in front of, above, on each side of, and yes, even behind you is an incredible experience. The best way to take in this show is to be there. The same goes for Wishes, Illuminations, and Fantasmic.
Best Places to Watch Disney Fireworks OUTSIDE the Parks
But that is not the only way to see Walt Disney World fireworks. In fact, I’ve seen Disney fireworks from outside the parks as much, and probably even more, than I have from inside the gates. That’s because Wishes and Illuminations can be seen in many locations outside the actual theme parks. (Sorry, but as far as I know, Fantasmic is only visible from inside the stadium on Sunset Boulevard.)
Disney has planned for this and offers fireworks cruises for both Magic Kingdom and Epcot evening shows. These cruises are available on the Disney Parks website. They recommend booking them in advance as they are popular. The Epcot cruise is aboard a pontoon boat and brings passengers to the waterway just outside the International Gateway. The Magic Kingdom cruise includes synchronized audio inside the boat so you don’t miss out on the sights or the sounds.
My wife and I took an anniversary trip that included dinner at the Spirit of Aloha show at Polynesian Resort. After the luau we took a stroll along the beach and then sat in one of the swings to watch Wishes from across the Seven Seas Lagoon. At show time the lights are dimmed and synchronized audio is pumped into the beach. Anyone along the beach or sitting poolside can enjoy the fireworks from there. Considering the proximity, the show should be excellent from the Grand Floridian, the Contemporary, and Bay Lake Tower as well as the boat docks at the TTC. We were even able to catch a glimpse of them from the boat launch at Ft. Wilderness Campground. So anywhere near the waterfront at Magic Kingdom Resorts is a good choice. Disney Transportation boats in this area offer views as well.
The first time I saw fireworks from Epcot was from our balcony at the Best Western-Lake Buena Vista in the Downtown Disney area. The location was so close that we could see the top half of Spaceship Earth from the sliding glass door. And the Magic Kingdom fireworks could be seen off in the distance as well.
Another place to see Illuminations fireworks is from the pool at Disney’s Art of Animation Resort. The best view is from the higher ground near the Cars buildings facing back toward the pool. I even caught a glimpse of them through the trees from our room at the Caribbean Beach Resort (not a great view but I wasn’t expecting any view at all).
But one of the best locations for Epcot on my list is just outside the International Gateway. The Swan & Dolphin, Boardwalk, and Yacht & Beach Clubs are all located around a lagoon in this area. This lagoon is part of the Epcot fireworks cruise so, again, anywhere along the waterfront is great. But I recommend the Boardwalk as there is plenty going on there as the evening progresses. We enjoyed the antics of two street performers before sundown. A caricature artist was available as well as many other offerings you’d expect to find on the traditional beachfront boardwalk. But then, after sundown the fireworks from Illuminations could be seen just over the tops of the buildings.
I’m sure this list is incomplete as the shows are spectacular and visible from such far distances along the flat Florida terrain. I’d also note that there is nowhere to see either of these shows that could top being inside the parks. But if you are staying at one of these resorts or eating at one of these locations, this is a great way to catch the fireworks on a day when you are not visiting the parks or maybe after leaving Animal Kingdom or one of the water parks. So while there’s nothing like the real thing, these are good options if you’re in the neighborhood.
Sam Burnham is a southern writer, bibliophile, polymath, and modern-day gentleman. He shares the love of all things Southern and Georgian critiques of everything else at All the Biscuits in Georgia