As I stated in the opening of my Best Magic Kingdom Fireworks Viewing Locations post, not all Walt Disney World fireworks viewing locations were created equal. This was true for the Magic Kingdom, and it’s certainly true for Epcot. At least in the Magic Kingdom it’s easy to find the best place to view Wishes!, just wander to on Main Street, USA and you’re pretty much set. In Epcot, the best area to view Illuminations: Reflections of Earth is obviously World Showcase, but from there, due to various viewing obstructions, choosing a prime location can be more difficult.
Before even delving into some of my favorite locations, there are a few things to keep in mind that can spoil even the best viewing locations, especially if you plan on taking photos. First, light-posts and torch posts. You may not notice them so much when it’s dark out, but when the torches are illuminated, suddenly you see a large “World Showcase” banner hanging from the post that’s directly in your field of view.
Second, trees. During hot days, it seems like trees are nowhere to be found in World Showcase. Then, at night, suddenly they’re everywhere. Be mindful of not only the trees directly in your field of view, but also of stray branches that hang into the space overhead. Since fireworks are shot off in the sky, it’s important that you avoid viewing locations with these stray branches.
Third, another instance of trees being problematic. (Although trees offer wonderful shade, if you’re a photographer, they will quickly become your arch nemesis at Walt Disney World!) This time, in the form of the three tree islands in the middle of World Showcase Lagoon. While these don’t obstruct the aerial fireworks, they can obstruct your view of the Earth Globe barge, so keep an eye on these islands. Avoiding these three things that can obstruct your view is just as important as choosing one of the better viewing locations, so keep this checklist in mind once you arrive at your desired viewing location.
Fourth, determine which way the wind is blowing (I use the time-honored method of licking my finger and sticking it in the air) and avoid locations that will be down wind of smoke from the fireworks. This isn’t really an issue with Wishes, but it can be an issue with some showings of Illuminations, especially for the final third of the show. Wind is the wild card that can quickly turn even a great viewing location into a bad one.
As for the best viewing locations (see this map for reference), many spots around World Showcase Lagoon offer prime views of Illuminations (jeez, I sound like the pre-show spiel!), but there are definitely a few that are better than others. Two really stand out, and offer starkly different views of the show. Unfortunately, these locations can be difficult to secure during busier times of year, meaning you might need to camp out 45 minutes or longer in advance. This also means that impatient or tardy folks like myself will rarely view the shows from these locations (special thanks to the guys at Disney Photography Blog for providing me with photos for these two locations).
The best view of the show, is known among Disney photographers as the “Front of the House.” The name is somewhat self-explanatory, as this location is literally at the front of World Showcase, right between the two gift shops. You can score a really great view from this location if the wind is light, as the fire marshal will actually open up even closer viewing (with the requirement that Guests stay seated in this location) about 5 minutes before the show.
The next location isn’t necessarily the greatest view, but it’s one of the most unique views and is pretty good, too. This view is available from the second story of the Japan Pavilion (above the Mitsukoshi Department Store), and offers very limited seating. The Torii Gate will obstruct the show a little, but if you’re taking photos, it definitely adds an interesting element to the shot. Plus, being high above and behind the crowd really adds some perspective to the scale of the fireworks, as you can see how large they are in comparison to the Guests below. This location has very limited seating, and fills up about an hour before the show during peak seasons.
My favorite location is the Italy Isola, which is the raised part of the Italy pavilion near the lagoon. Unfortunately, this is often used for private parties. If it’s not, head all the way to the corner of the Isola closest to the American Adventure for the best view. If the Isola is in use for a private party, try for a spot that is close to the Lagoon and on the American Adventure side.
Another great location, and another location that may not be open depending upon private events, is the Lagoon seating area towards the France side of the Yorkshire County Fish Shop in the United Kingdom pavilion. This location is very low to the water, but it’s somewhat out of the way, so if it’s open, there frequently are not a lot of people down there. It’s also relatively unobstructed. If this location isn’t open, opt instead for the bridge between the United Kingdom and France, preferably nearer to the United Kingdom, as the view is less obstructed.
The area between Norway and Mexico offers little in the way of obstructions, but is generally more popular because the influx of Guests coming from Future World to view Illuminations don’t want to walk all the way around World Showcase Lagoon to get a spot for the show. Here, get as close to Mexico as you can to avoid one of the three tree islands. This is a solid location, but if you’re going to wait 45 minutes of longer, opt for one of the above locations.
There are other great locations all around World Showcase Lagoon, including the Mexico dining area and the walkway near the water in Canada, but these are my favorites. My favorite aspect of the show is the inferno barge, so I always prefer a waterfront view right from the rail rather than one farther away or obstructed by someone’s head. If you’re really only concerned with the fireworks, it’s worth noting that there are many cool viewing locations throughout Future World where crowds do not form. Some favorites include the upside down waterfall at the Imagination pavilion and the Fountain of Nations!
With my second Fireworks Touring Plan under my belt, I think I’m now officially a statistician! (That’s how it works, right?!)
From where do you prefer watching Illuminations: Reflections of Earth? Share your favorite locations and other thoughts in the comments!