Epcot’s nightly fireworks show “Illuminations: Reflections of Earth” is my favorite fireworks show in all of Walt Disney World. The huge scale of the show itself, the music, the surroundings… Even though I’ve seen the show dozens of times, it brings me to tears every time.
Curious about where the die-hard fans like me like to stand to enjoy all that Epcot’s most spectacular fireworks display? Well, here’s my personal list of the best places to view “Illuminations: Reflections of Earth.”
7. Front and Center – Clearly, one of the most popular spots to view “Illuminations” is where the main walkway from Future World meets with the walkway around World Showcase. And why not? It’s a straight shot to the fireworks, a straight shot back to the buses, and you won’t miss a beat of the action.
Advantages: It’s literally postcard perfect viewing of the show. You can easily see the low-level effects, the higher up fireworks clearly and easily. There are no trees or other obstructions and when it’s over, you are as close to the front of the park as you can be.
Disadvantages: It’s super crowded, and it crowds up early. Be prepared to show up well before fireworks time to get a slot. And with the addition of the Fastpass+ viewing area, you won’t be standing up against the railing. You may have to stand near a walkway with people walking in front of you… And this is a spot where people try to squeeze in at the last minute, potentially sneaking your spot away. Super annoying.
6. FastPass+ Viewing – All the advantages above, but by using your FastPass+, you’re guaranteed to be towards the front of the crowd. You’ll have to show up a bit early, but not early as those without FastPass+ reservations.
Advantages – It takes a huge chunk out of the hassle of trying to find a good spot. It’s the best way to plan ahead and know you’ll have a great spot (besides tip #2 below).
Disadvantages – With Epcot relying on tiered FastPass+ distribution, you’re sacrificing your ability to get FastPass+ reservations for Epcot’s signature rides: “Test Track” and “Soarin,” and it probably means skipping a FastPass for the new “Frozen” ride (when it opens) too. With so many other great places to see “Illuminations,” this may not be the best use of the FastPass system for Epcot.
5. Italy Isola in the Italy Pavilion – I actually lucked into this one during one of the off-peak travel times and was treated to a spectacular view. It’s relatively open and a bit on the water, bringing the “reflections” part of “Illuminations” to a whole new level! While it does get pretty packed (this isn’t the secret viewing area it once was), it’s still not as crowded as viewing the show from the front of the park.
Advantages: Great “on the water” view that offers unobstructed views of all levels of the show.
Disadvantages: It can get crowded and you have to arrive early. While it was once a secret, it’s now the preferred “I know a great secret spot” location for folks who want the views without the crowds at the front of the park.
4. Special VIP Viewing Areas – Occasionally, usually during special events at Epcot, special viewing areas open up for the Disney Visa members. These are blissfully uncrowded, easy to access, and allow you to wander in only minutes before the show. Then, of course, there’s the Illuminations Sparkling Dessert Party, which also offers a special roped off section to enjoy some fantastic drinks and desserts from a spectacular viewing area. If you can find them, you’ll luck into relatively crowd-free spots to take in all the magic.
Advantages: You don’t have to arrive super early for the Visa spot, while the Dessert Party has you arriving earlier, but with the promise of desserts and alcohol… Not a bad compromise! Because these are fairly exclusive perks, you’ll have more space to yourself than you would in some of the public areas.
Disadvantages: The Visa spot is only available during special events (Epcot International Food and Wine Festival and the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival) and some peak travel dates, plus you have to have a Disney Visa. The Dessert Party requires a separate (and pricey) package that should be booked as far in advance as possible.
3. In the Fireworks – Ok, so I’m not saying hop a boat and go park yourself in the middle of the lagoon (though you can do that…)… But “Illuminations: Reflections of Earth” is a 360 degree fireworks experience. Elements of the show happen all around the World Showcase. The Pavilions light up, lasers are projected from the American Pavilion, and a few fireworks (including some key to the finale of the whole show itself) are shot from the shores of the World Showcase, almost right at your feet. Walk around during the day and look for little tubes or boxes on the shore, wrapped in chicken wire-like fencing. During the finale, you’ll be glad you picked there to stand! If memory serves, the best, closest spots to these points can be found in China, Africa, Canada, and in the promenade between Canada and the front of the World Showcase.
Advantages: It’s really, really cool. Plus, you impress your friends with your truly unique knowledge of the show. If you’re a photographer, the opportunities for really unique pictures are second-to-none at these spots.
Disadvantages: Unless you know exactly what you’re looking for, it may be hard to find these spots at night.
2. Your Dinner Table – If you time it correctly, you can actually watch “Illuminations” from your dinner table. La Hacienda de San Angel, Tokyo Dining, Spice Road Table, and Rose and Crown Pub and Dining Room are the favorites of people looking to enjoy all the wonder of the fireworks from the comfort of their dining table. Be sure to make your reservations for about 1.25 hours before the show. Because the window or outdoor seats that offer the best fireworks views will be in high demand, and you’ll have to specially request window seats when you check in, you may have to wait until something opens up.
Advantages: Fireworks, dinner, and you get to sit down… I mean, the advantages to that speak for themselves. When you know the secrets, this is a surprisingly easy way to secure primo seats with little hassle. I suggest Rose and Crown on the patio for best viewing.
Disadvantages: You’ve got to make your reservations 180 days in advance for the best shot at finding a window table, and you may have to wait past your reservation times to get a seat. Rose and Crown seating is outside, and your view Hacienda may be obstructed, even by the window. Tokyo Dining may also be obstructed by people using the outdoor walkway (but you’ll be allowed to leave your table to go outside and view them… Just tell your server).
1. The Japan Pavilion – Here it is, my number one spot… It’s almost perfectly centered to all of the action, you get a clean view of all of the elements of the show, from the water jets to the low-level fireworks, and that Torri in the foreground in the foreground adds a fantastic, unique element that’s distinctly Epcot. To top it all off, you have a clean shot of “Spaceship Earth” in the background. It doesn’t get any more Epcot than that.
Advantages: Lots of space by the railing, not the first spot people gravitate to when looking for viewing areas. Lots of distinctive Epcot photo opportunities.
Disadvantages: It is the furthest from the front gate, longest walk to buses/monorails… By the time the show ends and you make it to the front of the park, lines may be long back to your resort (but if you really take your time, you may have no line at all).