It’s pretty common knowledge that the nighttime spectaculars of Wishes, Disney’s Main Street Electrical Parade, Illuminations and Fantasmic! are integral parts of a day at a Disney park. So, why not truly make them an experience?! Make it a true family event and don’t just sit on the benches of Fantasmic!, don’t just camp out on Main Street for the parade and fireworks.
First, I will give you my preliminary tips for these night time spectaculars and then give you tips on making it a truly memorable event!
I will start with the most classic, Wishes at the Magic Kingdom. I would not be realistic if I gave advice on Wishes by itself, because I know and every Disney veteran knows…Wishes, Disney’s Main Street Electrical Parade and now Celebrate the Magic are a package deal. Moving from one spot to another during these is ill advised. The crowds get crazy during this part of the day, but it is worth it to brave the crowds to get a good spot to see this trio of magic! If you can…get a spot on the Train Station, up the stairs somewhere toward the middle of the balcony (with chairs if you are very lucky!). This area provides perfect viewing for Celebrate the Magic and Wishes and a very unique view for the Main Street Electrical Parade. However, note that if you sit there, you will not be facing the parade face on, you will be seeing it from above. I advise picking your spot, whether on the bridge into Tomorrowland (another one of my favorite spots for fireworks), on the train station or somewhere on Main Street, at least an hour to forty-five minutes ahead of time. I also wouldn’t try to leave right away; the crowds are insane, so plan one last attraction or trip to a store before you book it out of the park!
If you want to turn normal fireworks viewing up a bit, you can book the Wishes dessert party through AAA. It provides special fireworks viewing on the Tomorrowland Terrace area with dessert to boot! It is an extra cost but it’s definitely something to consider! Fastpassing the Parade and Fireworks is also now an option with the new FastPass+, however, I think scouting out a spot is part of the fun and the fast passes are better used on attractions during the day.
If you aren’t a AAA member or you don’t want to commit to the dessert party, you can always still have dessert or snacks during your night time tradition. A Mickey Premium Ice Cream bar is one of the most classic dessert treats at the park and is just the icing on the cake to watching the fireworks. Some of my other favorite snacks for the occasion include Main Street Popcorn or Cotton Candy from the Confectionery, a Mickey shaped Rice Crispy Treat (complete with M&Ms of course!), fudge from the Confectionery (a favorite of my brother) or hot chocolate from the Main Street Bakery! Whichever dessert or snack you choose, that’s the best way to keep the little ones happy during what could be a long wait for the parade. You can also play some games on an iPad or smartphone while you are waiting or have some toys on hand for them to play with (Disney themed always makes the wait a little more magical); nothing like a recreation of Toy Story to make the wait go quickly!
* Cast Member insider tip: Make sure you follow the rules set by Parade Audience Control. This includes following the direction of traffic flow, crossing when it’s safe, standing inside the tape and not sitting on the trash cans. It makes everyone’s experience better if no one is trying to sneak around the rules that are set in place for the safety of all guests!
The next spectacular of the night is Fantasmic! This show takes place once or twice a night at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and is my personal favorite…as you may have guessed. If your little one is deathly afraid of villains, I would either stand during the show in case you need a quick get away or bypass the show since it is centered on the villains trying to wreak havoc on Mickey’s dreams. However, it is a must do for villains fans!
That being said, if you decide that this is a must do, and you don’t have any sort of advanced seating like the VIP dessert event, Fantasmic dining package or Fastpass, definitely get there around an hour or forty-five minutes early for a decent seat! Now, since this my favorite night time event, I have a tradition. I’m an itty bitty thing who loves the mac n cheese of WDW, don’t ask why, I just do. So at the lovely age of 23, I hop on over to FairFax Faire and grab a kid’s mac n cheese meal with two cookies and a coke. I much on all of that until the show starts or the Fantasmic hosts show up. If you don’t want to eat your dinner while you wait for the show…you can definitely book the Fantasmic Dining package; which is a GREAT alternative to using one of your three fast passes for the show (since it is on the same level as Rockin Roller Coaster and Toy Story Midway Mania and those are more worth it to Fastpass). Dining is available at the Brown Derby, Hollywood and Vine and Mama Melrose Place. The prices vary between the restaurants, but all three guarantee you a seat in the reserved area of the Hollywood Hills Amphitheater. However, the seats in this area are on a first come first serve basis. With this package, alcoholic drinks are not included, but are available. What could be better than having a lovely dinner followed by an awesome show! The reserved seating is available for only the first show on the nights that Fantasmic! is performed twice. As with Wishes and the other Magic Kingdom entertainment in the evening, I suggest having snacks and entertainment for before the official pre show starts! The pre show is excellent by the way and seriously a great way for the crowd to get excited for the show that seriously brings out the kid in every Disney fan! My last tip that applies to both Fantasmic! and nighttime spectaculars at Magic Kingdom, grab yourself a pair of Glow with the Show ears and make yourself part of the show! It feels so cool to be part of it and to see the ears on other avid Disney fans!!
The last of the late night shows at WDW is Illuminations: Reflections of Earth. I think this one is so different from the others; it’s not exactly Disney-esque per say, but it embodies Walt’s optimism about how the world could be. It’s REALLY beautiful and inspiring. It takes place on the World Showcase Lagoon on the World Showcase side of EPCOT. It typically only has one showing per night and there are occasional times of the year where VIP viewing is offered to those who have purchased a package or are Chase Visa account holders. It happens during the Food and Wine Festival and the Candlelight Christmas Processional season. The are is now the FastPass+ viewing ares between the two gift shops at the beginning of the World Showcase. I always choose to experience Illuminations with a cocktail from one of my favorite countries (England, Norway or Germany) and/or some candy from Japan or a pretzel or chocolate bar from Germany, there are so many options, so when you grab your spot for the show, grab an international snack to take with you! Another amazing option is to book a dinner reservation for the Rose and Crown or La Hacienda de San Angel and request seating that you can see the show from. You may have to wait a bit but it’s well worth it!