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Cinderella's Castle - Photo by Silver Pin Studios

8 Shows to Add to Your Disney Bucket List

With so much to see and do at Disney World, you’ll have to make some tough choices about how to spend your time. Here are 8 shows (in no particular order) that are well worth adding to your Disney bucket list- if you miss any of these on your next trip, make sure to keep them on that list until you’ve seen them!

8. IllumiNations

Epcot’s nighttime show, IllumiNations, is truly an experience that can’t be missed. The World Showcase takes on an entirely different look at night, with lights twinkling, blazing torches along the water, and buildings lit up in every country. Once the show begins over the World Showcase Lagoon, you’ll be amazed by pyrotechnics, fireworks, laser lights, and water effects. You’ll also see a massive globe move toward the center of the water, as if floating on the water. Images of people, countries, and landmarks around the world are projected on the globe. Don’t try to leave early to beat the crowds- the fireworks finale is one of the best you’ll ever see.

7. Celebrate the Magic Castle Projection Show

Ever wonder what Cinderella’s would look like striped, or with polka dots, or painted in a rainbow of colors? In this unique show, Cinderella Castle is transformed into a magical canvas. You’ll be in awe as you watch both classic animated films and new favorites come to life right on the castle’s surface. Depending on the time of year that you see the show, you may see some seasonal variations. Most recently, Frozen has been featured in the show.

6. Wishes Nighttime Spectacular

Wishes begins immediately following the Castle Projection Show. Wishes is the Magic Kingdom’s nighttime fireworks show, set to narration by beloved Disney characters. Wishes combines many classic Disney songs and characters with a story of good vs. evil. If you look carefully, you’ll even get to see Tinkerbell fly from the castle to a perch in Tomorrowland (weather and wind permitting). Even adults will be convinced by this moving show- if you believe, wishes do come true. For prime viewing, consider reserving a spot at the Wishes Dessert Party in advance of your trip.

5. Fantasmic!

You know you’re in for quite a spectacle when a show’s title includes an exclamation point! Fantasmic! is Hollywood Studios’ nighttime show that takes you on a journey into Mickey’s imagination as he fends off evil. Your breath will be taken away at the sight of Jafar, transformed into a giant, glowing-eyed snake that torments and chases Mickey. Another unique show feature is the use of water screens. Look carefully and you’ll see many infamous Disney villains and cherished heroes projected onto the spray. Consider taking advantage of the Fantasmic Dining Package, which is a great value!

4. Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage

An abridged retelling of the classic Disney film, Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage is a great show that you should experience at least once in your travels to Disney. The show is set in an outdoor amphitheater near the Tower of Terror. You’ll enjoy the classic songs from the film while watching china and flatware dance across the stage. By show’s end, you, like Belle, will soften to the Beast’s charms. This top-notch performance is highly recommended for children and adults alike.

3. Flights of Wonder

The Flights of Wonder show at Animal Kingdom blends elements of comedy, bird tricks, and messages about conservation, into an entertaining show. During the show, you’ll be delighted by a variety of tricks, including a parrot who can do math and one who can sing countless tunes. Other birds in the show are trained to catch objects in mid-air and snatch items from audience participants. The only people who will not be delighted by this show are those who have an intense fear of birds, as the birds do soar fairly close to audience members’ heads. There’s always a bird presentation that occurs about 30 minutes prior to the show, so if you’d like to see a spectacular creature up close, be sure to arrive early for that.



2. Finding Nemo: The Musical

If you love musicals, you’ll love this musical adaptation of Finding Nemo at Animal Kingdom. Finding Nemo is the story of a young clownfish who, ignoring his overly protective dad, finds himself involved in a series of deep sea adventures. Nemo’s quest to find his way back to his father is emotional and sends a positive message of perseverance and family relationships. With a score composed by Tony Award winner Robert Lopez, you’re truly seeing a Broadway caliber performance in the park. In addition to the great music, you’ll love watching the camouflaged (but still visible) puppeteers. They not only voice their characters, but also guide their puppets gracefully through the “sea.”

1. Festival of the Lion King

Festival of the Lion King is a great show, and probably my favorite of any live entertainment in all four parks. The quality of the performances- tumbling, fire juggling, acrobatics, and singing- is superb. This is a show that is sure to delight all members of your party, from young children to adults. Some children will be chosen to participate, as well, so “be prepared” for that!

Which of our “bucket list” shows is your favorite? Are there any you haven’t seen yet? Are there some that you have to see every time you visit the most magical place on Earth? Let us know!

Related Articles:

– 5 Disney Nighttime Shows You Cannot Miss

About Meredith Smisek

Meredith Smisek is a kid at heart and works as an elementary school guidance counselor. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, dog, and parrot. Meredith's hobbies include cooking, playing ukulele, and "talking Disney" with anyone she knows who is planning a trip to Disney or has just returned.