Three of the four main theme parks have nighttime fireworks/light shows. Animal Kingdom does not do fireworks or light shows and often is the first park to close...sometimes as early as 5pm depending on what time of year (a big reason I always recommend park hopper tickets...you can spend all day in Animal Kingdom and then hop over to any of the other parks for dinner and fireworks. Magic Kingdom and Epcot's shows are nightly but the Hollywood Studios show is only held two or three nights a week based on park hours so be sure to look up the show times before you go. WDW Entertainment is a great place to look up show times for an upcoming trip.
Magic Kingdom's fireworks show is called Wishes and has been the fireworks show for Magic Kingdom since 2003. Before Wishes, Magic Kingdom had a show called Fantasy in the Sky which was preformed nightly for almost 30 years. There are certain times of the year such as the 4th of July and New Years when an extended version (more fireworks) are preformed. Also, Disney has a few specific nights leading up to both Halloween and Christmas when a totally different show will be preformed. Both the Halloween and Christmas shows are part of what Disney calls "hard-ticketed" events...meaning that entrance to the park starting usually at 7pm and going until midnight requires a separate special ticket to either the Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party or Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party.
But, the vast majority of the year, Magic Kingdom is home to Wishes. The show lasts for 12 minutes (although we've always thought it felt much longer because it's so spectacular). Narrated by Jiminy Cricket and with the help of classic Disney songs and character voices, Wishes isn't just fireworks...it's fireworks, lights, and music coming together to tell the story of wishes coming true.
Check the times guide when you first enter the park but more often than not, Wishes starts at 9pm...which means you should be wherever you plan to watch it by 8:30pm if not earlier. We always like to sit in front of the Castle by the statue of Mickey and Walt so we can see (SPOILER ALERT) Tinker Bell fly down from the Castle. Wherever you are in the park, you'll be able to hear the Wishes music and probably see at least some of the fireworks. One year, Joshua and I happened to be riding Big Thunder Railroad (my favorite ride) when Wishes began. Another year, we were taking the boy on Dumbo when it started.
Little known facts:
*Has 557 fireworks firing cues and 655 individual pieces of pyrotechnics
*Uses 15 songs from 10 different Disney movies
*Used the same fireworks designer, Eric Tucker and the same show director, Steven Davison as Epcot's IllumiNations: A Reflection of Earth
*Features the voices of...Jiminy Cricket, Snow White and the Evil Queen, Aladdin and the Genie, Cinderella, Ariel, and Peter Pan
(from behind the Castle...after Wishes began while we were on Dumbo)
Epcot doesn't just have a fireworks show. Epcot has an LED, laser light and fireworks show that is absolutely amazing call IllumiNations: A Reflection of Earth. IllumiNations is a 13 minute show that starts with fireworks and a grand explosion over the lagoon...the smoke from which is used to help illuminate the laser lights which shoot out from all of the country pavilions that surround the lagoon. Slowly a giant globe of LED lights floats out into the center of the lagoon and lights up to show video images from around the world. IllumiNations also usually starts at 9pm so be sure to find your spot by 8:30pm...earlier if it's a particularly busy day in the park. We prefer the little bridge in front of the Italian pavilion but since that area is frequently used for private events (wedding receptions and the like), we also really enjoy the walkway between the UK and French pavilions but we don't mind waiting for the crowds to thin out before we leave. If you're wanting to get to your car or the buses as soon as possible after the show, be sure to be on the other side of the lagoon...closer to the Canadian or Mexican pavilions.
Little known facts:
*Uses the world's first spherical video display system covered in 15,000 LED lights
*Uses laser lights and per FAA regulations, Disney is required to notify the Orlando International Airport every night prior to the show so that air traffic controllers can advice and direct airplanes accordingly
*Has 67 different computers in 40 different locations controlling the show
(photo: Walt Disney Company)
Hollywood Studios doesn't just do a fireworks or light show...it does a nightly 25 minute extravaganza called Fantasmic. The show takes place inside the Hollywood Hills Amphitheater...just go towards the Tower of Terror and the entrance will be on your right. During busier times of year, Fantasmic will have two showings in one night. The second showing is almost always less busy. The ampitheater holds 6,500 sitting guests and up to 2,500 standing guests. We have gone at the slowest, least crowded times of year and still have yet to see a Fantasmic show where they didn't run out of sitting room. Arriving 30 minutes early is a necessity...45-60 minutes early would be better if you want the closest seats.
The show starts out with Mickey falling asleep. His dream starts out filled with animated fountains and wonderfully magical moments including three huge "water screens." Disney projects video clips on the water screens that correspond with the story and music. The show takes a dark turn when villains invade Mickey's dream including a giant snake, the evil queen and a black dragon. It can be frightening for small children but if they stick with it, Mickey triumphs over evil.
There really isn't a bad seat in the house but if you don't want to risk having to stand and don't want to arrive early to the show, consider purchasing the Fantasmic Dinner Package...it includes dinner at either Mama Melrose ($32.99 adults/11.99 children) or at Hollywood & Vine ($26.99 adults/$13.99 children) and reserved seating at Fantasmic. Also if you're on the Disney Dining Plan, you can use dining credits for the package at no extra charge.
Little known facts:
*Is held on an island stage with a 59 foot man made mountain surrounded by a moat that holds 1.9 million gallons of water
*Has a fire breathing dragon which rises 50 feet into the air and has a 50 foot wing span
*Originated in Disneyland and although the shows are very similar, there are a few differences including incorporating scenes from The Lion King, Pocahontas, Hercules and Mulan