Top 5 Disney Nighttime Shows You Cannot Miss, PLUS Insider Tips!

Wishes - Magic Kingdom
Wishes - Magic Kingdom

Each visit to Walt Disney World is unique, but there are some things that are SO good, they need to be seen time and time again. For first time visitors, here is a list of 5 nighttime shows that you absolutely MUST experience before you leave, each with an insider tip on how to make it that much better!

5. Wishes Night Time Spectacular

If there was literally only one nighttime show you could see on your next trip to WDW it should be the Wishes Night Time Spectacular. Every night in the Magic Kingdom, your dreams and wishes really do come true, as Cinderella castle is the focal point of this nightly fireworks extravaganza. Set to a glorious musical score, Wishes makes you believe that all your wishes CAN come true. Told through the voices of Jiminy Cricket, Pinocchio, Cinderella, Peter Pan and more, Wishes makes every other fireworks show you have ever seen in your life almost a moot point. It is Disney storytelling at it’s finest. Nearly impossible not to shed a tear, Disney Storytellers know exactly how to tug on your heartstrings and dazzle you with the most stunning visuals combined with classic Disney music that will leave you in awe. Pretty much anywhere on Main Street is a great spot to view the show, particularly just past Casey’s Corner in the middle of Main Street USA. Be sure to keep an eye out for Tinkerbell as she flies from the top of Cinderella Castle into Tomorrowland.

INSIDER TIP: There are many great spots to watch Wishes in the MK, but the one spot you want to avoid is BEHIND Cinderella castle. Wishes was meant to be seen with the front of Cinderella Castle as the focal point. The show will seem fragmented and disjointed if seen from behind.

4. Celebrate the Magic – Castle Projection Show

Celebrate the Magic begins 15 minutes before the Wishes Nighttime Spectacular Fireworks in the Magic Kingdom and is a perfect precursor to watching the fireworks. Disney Imagineers transform Cinderella Castle into a blank canvas and use “projection mapping” technology to tell the longstanding legacy of Disney storytelling and imagination. Celebrate the Magic takes you on a breathtaking visual and musical journey as spectacular Disney imagery is visually painted onto Cinderella Castle to transform it in ways you literally have to see to believe. In some ways, Celebrate the Magic is beloved by Disney fans more so than Wishes. If you visit during the holiday season, expect to see the characters from Frozen integrated into the show. Click here for a stunning 60 second time-lapse video of Celebrate the Magic.

INSIDER TIP: Once Celebrate the Magic is finished, stay where you are, the Wishes Nighttime Spectacular begins only 5 minutes after Celebrate the Magic and 15 minutes after Wishes!

3. Illuminations – Reflections of Earth

Illuminations is like a combination of Fantasmic and Wishes on steroids. It is such an astounding display of technology, pyrotechnics, fireworks, laser light and classic Disney storytelling all focused on mother Earth. You can’t help but ponder the brotherhood of humanity when all is done. Set on World Showcase lagoon at Epcot, this nightly extravaganza happens every evening at 9:30 PM. Be sure to stake your place early as many sections of World Showcase are reserved for guests for the nightly desert party or other reserved eating. During the holiday season, there is an additional show immediately following illuminations that is set to the score of “Let There Be Peace on Earth.” There is so much firepower that happens during this show, you may be pulling debris from your hair, but know that you will leave with your jaw on the floor as there is nothing like this anywhere I have ever seen. Illuminations is a right of passage for Disney fans young and old.

INSIDER TIP: Anywhere around World Showcase lagoon is a great spot to see the show, but watching in either Italy or on the other side of the lagoon between the 2 gift shops that flank the entrance to World Showcase are prime spots.

2. Fantasmic

Without a doubt, Fantasmic is like the perfect storm of pyrotechnics, theatrical storytelling and special effects all combined with fire, water and live action. The first time I saw Fantasmic I was so blown away, I could not stop telling everyone about it. It is Disney theatrics at it’s best. Set at the very far end of Disney’s Hollywood Studios in the Hollywood Hills Amphitheater around a lake, you’ll watch sorcerer Mickey battle Disney villains in this sensational 26 minute laser light show that will literally dazzle your senses. The theatre opens 90 minutes before showtime but if you really want to get the best seating, consider booking the Fantasmic Dining Package where an area directly center stage is reserved for those guests… Do NOT miss Fantasmic!

INSIDER TIP: You may be tempted to sit right in front, but take a tip from me, you WILL get wet once the show begins if you sit too close. Middle seating, center stage is best

Bonus Tip!

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1. Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show

Set in an open-air theatre at Luau Cove at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, you will delight in the authentic Polynesian dances and performances from Tahiti, Samoa, Tonga, New Zealand and Hawaii. Having lived in Hawaii while I served in the U.S. Navy, I can you tell you that this is probably the MOST authentic show featured anywhere on Walt Disney World property. While there is the classic Disney storytelling incorporated into the theme, the dancing and music is so true to Polynesian heritage, that I am always transformed back to Hawaii when I see the show. There are 3 tiers of seating at this performance and depending on your dining plan you may or may not be in the front. Tier 1 seating is right in the front but almost anywhere here is a great view of the show. You don’t need to be on the dining plan for this show but you will get access to Tier 2 seating if you are on the deluxe plan and Tier 1 if you are on the Platinum plan with no additional charge. After being first seated, the themed island feast is served family style all you can eat Polynesian fare like Island pulled pork, BBQ ribs, lanai roasted chicken and pineapple bead pudding. The real treat though comes when the 3rd act begins. Backed by a live Hawaiian band, the authentic hula dancers and Fire and Knife performers will have you on the edge of your seat as they perform the dances and songs from an ancient Polynesian time.

INSIDER TIP: Purchase Tier 2 seating and arrive to the theatre early requesting they seat you in the front of tier 2 which is nearly front row.

For more Disney insider tips, start planning your next Disney trip with an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner. They’ll help you get the best price for your vacation, share their expert advice and their services are totally FREE!

About Tony

Born in Connecticut and a veteran of the United States Navy stationed at Pearl Harbor Hawaii, Tony currently works as a web designer in New York City and is a Disney Annual Passholder. He travels several times a year to Walt Disney World in Orlando where he enjoys photographing EVERYTHING Disney, exploring new restaurants and attractions and just being in that positive Disney vibe. Tony is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to planning Disney vacations and enjoys sharing his tips and tricks with his friends and family. "There's nothing like the feeling of knowing your next Disney trip is right around the corner, knowing that you'll be back in the magic soon!"

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