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Disney’s night shows extend the magic for families. You’ll want to catch at least one during your vacation at Disney World. Here’s everything you need to know about 2021 productions and changes coming soon. Plus the best photo spots and where to stand if you want to hit the park exit quickly after the fireworks finale.
There’s no question that Disney brings the magic to a family vacation. One of our family’s favorites are the Disney World nighttime shows and fireworks. The music! The projections! It’s enough to make me feel like a little girl all over again. At the time of reopening from their Covid closure, these shows were paused due to pandemic restrictions. As of July, some have returned. Take a magical journey with us as we outline the best Disney World night shows, nostalgic favorite fireworks from the past, what’s new for the future and which nighttime spectaculars we hope return soon.
Currently, there are two Disney World night shows running. If you’re planning your Walt Disney World vacation, know that fireworks are limited currently. The situation is fluid and things can change. If you don’t already have the My Disney Experience app on your phone, download it. You’ll be able to check showtimes and available experiences easily from the convenience of your phone with this app.
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Best Fireworks at Walt Disney World: The Complete Guide
Let’s run through all of the fireworks shows available at each of the Walt Disney World theme parks. With only two shows currently available, we’ll skip the rankings (for now). We promise to update with rankings after new shows open on October 1st, 2021. Currently, in the battle of EPCOT Forever vs Happily Ever After, Happily Ever After at Magic Kingdom is our #1 and EPCOT Forever is #2. We gave the #1 to Happily Ever After because it makes our feelings get caught in our throat and we (might) cry happy tears along to the soundtrack.
Magic Kingdom Nighttime Spectacular
Ahh, the quintessential Disney park. Magic Kingdom is where kids of all ages come to see their favorite princesses and beloved characters like Mickey Mouse. But one of the best things about Magic Kingdom happens after dark. The Happily Ever After fireworks are one of my personal favorites. When it opens with “…And they all lived happily ever after” you’ll be sucked in. The music is deeply moving and emotional. I saw it when this show launched in 2017 (replacing Wishes: A Magical Gathering of Disney Dreams) and it remains a favorite. This show combines a moving score with a castle projection show, lasers, Tinker Bell flying through the air and pyrotechnics.
What time is Happily Ever After at Magic Kingdom?
Showtime for this 18 minute long Disney nighttime spectacular is 8:45pm for visitors before September 7th, 2021. On September 7th, 2021 the showtime moves up to 8:15pm.
If you want to see Happily Ever After you’ll need to plan your trip to Magic Kingdom park before September 29, 2021. A new nighttime spectacular, Disney Enchantment, will launch on October 1st to celebrate Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary. We’re sad to see it go but very excited to witness Disney Enchantment for ourselves.
Best Viewing Spots for Happily Ever After Disney Fireworks
If you walk down Main Street in Magic Kingdom towards Cinderella Castle you’ll see multiple areas that you can settle in. You’ll want to make sure you have a clear view of the castle since that’s where the majority of the action is. Setting yourself up near the Partners Statue in front of the Cinderella Castle will give you a great view, but it can be crowded. Personally, I’m a fan of the bridge area going towards Tomorrowland. As long as you’re closer to the end of Main Street than to Tomorrowland your view will be decent.
If the projection show isn’t as important to you (and you’re looking to make a run for the Disney transportation at the end) set up at the end of Main Street U.S.A. near the Walt Disney World Railroad Station. The overall view won’t be as good, but you’ll get a decent view with a quick exit. Once the train station reopens, viewing from the station itself gives you a unique and elevated view.
TravelingMom Tip: If you aren’t a huge fireworks fan or have already seen them on your trip, use the showtime to ride all the thrill rides like Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Seven Dwarves Mine Train! The lines are significantly shorter.
Disney Enchantment: Coming October 1st 2021!
Here’s what we know about the new Disney Enchantment night show. Beginning on October 1st, Disney Enchantment will feature music, enhanced lighting, fireworks and a completely new projection immersion that will come all the way from Cinderella Castle down Main Street, U.S.A.. It is currently scheduled for a 9:00pm showtime, making it one of the earliest nighttime shows at Disney. We believe this one will be a family favorite.
EPCOT: Changes are Coming to this Disney World Night Show
I may get a little teary in this section. We did our first multigenerational Walt Disney World Resort vacation in 2000 with my immediate family, my grandparents, my aunt and uncle and my cousins. EPCOT was my favorite Disney World theme park. In a hint of my travel writing future, I was fascinated with other cultures and cuisines. I still remember the way that I felt on that unseasonably cool Florida night leaning on a metal fence watching Illuminations: Reflections of Earth. It was bittersweet when fellow travel writer Breeze Leonard (on a kid-free Disney trip which i highly recommend) watched one of the last Illuminations showtimes in September of 2019, just shy of 20 years later.
To continue down my sappy fireworks path, Breeze and I were lucky enough to watch the new show at EPCOT, EPCOT Forever, in early March 2020. We were sitting along the fence in Mexico happily chomping down on nachos and drinking margaritas, blissfully unaware of how the world would be changing in just a few short weeks.
EPCOT Forever is going to have a short run though. The last night that you can gather around the World Showcase Lagoon and watch it is September 28, 2021. On October 1, 2021 Disney will launch Harmonious.
TravelingMom Tip: If you are able to get a late reservation for La Hacienda restaurant in Mexico, the open air patio provides the perfect viewing spot for this Disney World night show!
Best EPCOT Forever Fireworks Viewing Spots
Since the Disney World night show at EPCOT takes place around the World Showcase Lagoon there are TONS of spots with a good view. The busiest areas tend to be near the World Showcase entrance (World Showcase Plaza) between Mexico and Canada and on the other side of the showcase around France and the United Kingdom. Why are these spots busy? Well, they’re the closest to the two park exits. If running for transportation near the close of the show is important to you, then the World Showcase entrance will put you close to the monorail and the busses. Hanging out near France will put you near the Skyliner and the Friendship boats.
Unlike Illuminations, all of the action for EPCOT Forever is in the air so proximity to the water isn’t as important. If you drove or are fine with taking your time to get out, think about hanging out up near the gift shop area in Japan. You’ll be up a little higher and the photos with the Torii gate in them are impressive. Another option is the bridge between France and the United Kingdom. It tends to be a bit quieter here because it’s further back from the water and folks who saw Illuminations assume the best views are near the water. If you’d like to get some food and a drink, join the walk up list for Morocco’s Spice Table. Their waterfront patio views are perfect for taking in the nighttime spectacular.
Pre-covid, you could reserve a Fastpass+ to view the nighttime show from the World Showcase Plaza. This option isn’t currently available but we’ll be watching for it to return.
Harmonious at EPCOT: Coming October 1st 2021!
Harmonious is being billed as one of the largest nighttime spectaculars (and most expensive) ever created for a Disney park. I’m super curious to see it because it will involve a diverse ensemble of 240 artists from around the world. Will there be an element in each of the countries of the World Showcase? Time will tell. Currently, the start time for the new show is appearing as 9:45pm in the Disney calendar.
Disney’s Animal Kingdom: Things to Do at Night
The Disney light show, Tree of Life Awakenings, inspired by the story of The Lion King is currently unavailable. This shorter nighttime show traditionally occurs every 10 minutes until the park closes. The Tree of Life comes to life with lights and music. Since you can’t see it in person, feel free to watch the whole show in the below video.
If you’re looking to see Rivers of Light, I’m sorry to let you know that this show ended in 2020. One of the things I loved about this show was the amphitheater style seating. It was one of the few shows where getting a spot to sit was fairly easy. In case you missed the opportunity to see it, definitely check out the Rivers of Light full length video below!
Disney Kite Tails: Coming October 1st, 2021!
This one isn’t a Disney nighttime spectacular, but we just have to mention it. First of all, it will utilize the Discovery River Amphitheater which means you can watch it seated – fantastic news for parents with young kiddos! This daytime entertainment will feature performers flying windcatchers and kites alongside music. The kites will be three dimensional and showcase different Disney animal friends like Simba, Zazu and more.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios: Fireworks and More
Sadly, Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular is one of the shows that hasn’t returned yet. This spectacular combines music, fireworks and projections as well as live actors. Perfect for any Star Wars fanatic making the trek to visit Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
What is Beacons of Magic?
There are all sorts of exciting things coming to the Walt Disney World Resort for their 50th anniversary. One of those is Beacons of Magic. This nighttime spectacular will run across all four theme parks, lighting up iconic Disney landmarks. While this won’t be a “show”, we are excited for the photo opportunities it will provide!
- Magic Kingdom- Cinderella Castle
- Animal Kingdom- Tree of Life
- Hollywood Studios- Tower Hotel
- EPCOT- Spaceship Earth
Walt Disney World Resorts: Nighttime Offerings and Fireworks Viewing
A question that always comes up is – what resorts can I see fireworks from? If you’re looking to spot pyrotechnics from outside the park, these are your best bets.
- Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort – You can view fireworks at Magic Kingdom from the beach at the Polynesian. Nothing better than watching the fireworks while eating a Dole Whip from Pineapple Lanai. Or have a meal at Ohana while watching the fireworks.
- Grand Floridian Resort and Spa – View from the shore or book a meal at Narcoossee’s and enjoy a meal with a Disney fireworks view.
- Contemporary Resort – Head to the fourth floor to view fireworks or make a reservation at the California Grill for a yummy meal and access to their outdoor viewing area. I’ve done this once and it was a great experience!
- Boardwalk Area – Your mileage may vary here but some rooms have fireworks views to EPCOT. There are also plenty of spots to snag a treat before you sit down to try to catch a view.
Disney’s Electrical Water Pageant
If you’re looking for Disney nighttime spectaculars outside of the theme parks themselves, you’re in luck. There’s a fun floating nighttime parade called the Electrical Water Pageant. This show starts near the Polynesian Village Resort and winds its way past several resorts before culminating at the Contemporary Resort. You’ll want to pay attention to the timing to be sure that you don’t miss it passing your Walt Disney World Resort! The pageant runs from 9:00pm until 10:30pm. During that time the barges that display the lights are moving along the waterways. Timing is therefore an estimate and you should be in place a little early so that you don’t miss it. Here’s the current Electrical Water Pageant resort order:
- Polynesian Village Resort (about 9:10-9:15)
- Grand Floridian Resort & Spa (including Narcoossee’s) (about 9:15-9:30)
- Wilderness Lodge (about 9:30-9:45)
- Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground (about 9:45-10:00)
- Contemporary Resort (about 10:00-10:15)
Even with recent adjustments to the schedules Walt Disney World night shows are still thriving and just as magical as ever! What is your favorite Disney World night show?