One of the most spectacular highlights of your Disney World vacation will be viewing Epcot‘s amazing fireworks display – Illuminations Reflections of Earth. This extravaganza can be seen every night of the year at Disney’s Epcot just as the park closes.
If I had to pick one not to be missed attraction at Disney World then Illuminations would be the one. A powerful mix of fireworks, music, lights, and pyrotechnics this really is Disney World at it’s very best. A visit to Epcot is not complete without viewing this spectacular fireworks display.
So what makes Epcot’s Illuminations so unmissable? What are the secrets behind the magic, where is the best place to view the fireworks and what should you always do before you start to view Illuminations – Reflections of Earth?
What is the Story of Epcot Reflections of Earth?
True to Disney’s attention to detail, Reflections of Earth does have a story. The lights around Epcot go dim and there is a sense of anticipation. Then there is a single firework that shoots across the World Showcase Lagoon from the United Kingdom Pavillion. The start of the fireworks show is meant to represent the Big Bang and the creation of the universe. Then things become a little calmer with scenes evoking the nativity of the earth.
After this spectacular introduction the mood changes with a more sedate tempo and the beginning of the journey of the huge globe across the World Showcase Lagoon. This is a 350,000-pound globe on a barge! Images are projected on to this to give the illusion of floating earth. The display uses almost 300 LED screens to project images depicting the earth from the dinosaurs to the present day.
The globe then opens out, signaling the finale of pyrotechnics and fireworks which is the part of the story which symbolizes a new age.
Best Epcot Illuminations Viewing Place
What must you do first when choosing a place to view Epcot Illuminations?
The most important thing? Work out how you are going to leave the park after Illuminations! The park closes when the final firework has left the sky – and up to 30,000 people will be leaving at the same time that you are. So you need to plan how important it is to you to leave the park quickly and balance that against where your ideal or available viewing spot is.
For those guests staying at one of the Disney Epcot resort hotels then you are going to want to be close to the World Showcase exit located between France and the United Kingdom.
The majority of guests will be leaving via the main exit at Future World and getting to that point can sometimes be a time consuming and crowded experience! The crowds tend to thin out by the time you get to Future World approaching Spaceship Earth but up to that point, you can be walking at a snail’s pace. If you want to plan a quick escape from here then a viewing spot somewhere between Canada and Mexico is your best bet.
Not worried about getting out of Epcot quickly? I like to sit down for a while and watch the bulk of the crowds leave the park rather than fight my way through them. Your path to the exit usually isn’t that much slower as you can then walk quickly to the exit. And of course, I am never in a hurry to leave!
Best Places to View Epcot Reflections of Earth
Do you really have to stake out your viewing spot for the Epcot Illuminations fireworks?
Everyone will, of course, have their own opinion about this but there are definitely some places which are better than others! Depending on how busy Epcot is you will find that some popular spots are already staked out 60 minutes ahead of time. Don’t be too concerned if you do not manage to get a prime viewing spot – most places around the World Showcase Lagoon will give you a good view, just watch out for your view being blocked by trees.
But if viewing Illuminations is a top priority then you may want to start grabbing that prime viewing place at least an hour before the show starts. At busy times and for popular spots then you will find people reserving the best spots up to 2 hours before the fireworks start. Personally I would not do this – but if this is your one shot at seeing the show then you may decide you want to.
Rose and Crown Restaurant
One of my favorite spots in the Rose and Crown Restaurant if you can snag a table near the window. Make your Advance Dining Reservation for around 45 minutes to one hour before Illuminations starts and ask for a table where you can view the fireworks. Even if you don’t get a great viewing table then one thing you can do is eat in the restaurant and stay until showtime – the staff will usually help you find a good viewing spot outside. This gives you a very close view of the pyrotechnics and it does get surprisingly warm! This is perhaps the most intense viewing spot for the show.
Cantina de San Angel restaurant
Perhaps the most popular viewing place is the terrace of the Cantina de San Angel restaurant in the Mexico Pavilion. Even at slow times, this one is going to fill up first. It probably does give you the best view but you do have to be committed to keeping that viewing spot!
Another favorite place of mine is the Japan Pavilion. If you get there early enough to snag a place on the raised viewing platform outside the restaurant then this is a great viewing place.
Bridge between UK & France Pavilion
The bridge between the United Kingdom and France Pavilion is another good viewing place for Illuminations. Not only do you get a great view but you also have an easy route out of Epcot if you are taking either the World Showcase or Future World exit.
Between Canada & Mexico
The area between Canada and Mexico is a very popular viewing place, although not one of my personal favorites. The advantage of this though is that you are close to the bridge taking you to the Future World exit. So if you want to be one of the first out to that parking lot then this is a good place.
Lagoon between China & Germany
Another personal favorite of mine is the side of the lagoon between China and Germany. This is a good viewing point provided you are careful to avoid the places where your view will be blocked by trees. The boat dock of Germany is also a good spot.
A final word on picking a viewing spot?
You will get a good view from most places around the lagoon. Avoid trees or obvious landmarks blocking your view. I do not like waiting! But I have seen the show many many times so it is not a top priority for me to have the very best vantage point. For me it is enough to be there, have a reasonable view and soak in the atmosphere and the music. One of my favorite things to do it sit in the Moroccan cafe away from the crowds with a snack! Wait for the crowds to rush out of the park and then just have a leisurely walk to the exit.
Spectacular Epcot Illuminations Picture
The Epcot Fireworks
This picture is taken from one of the best viewing spots around the World Showcase Lagoon – the platform outside the restaurant in the Japanese Pavilion.
Disney Epcot Illuminations Trivia
Disney Reflections of Earth is a 13 minute long fireworks show. The opening words are:
Good evening. On behalf of Walt Disney World, the place where dreams come true, we welcome all of you to Epcot and World Showcase. We’ve gathered here tonight around the fire as people of all lands have gathered for thousands and thousands of years before us… to share the light… and to share a story. An amazing story as old as time itself, but still being written. And though each of us has our own individual stories to tell, a true adventure emerges when we bring them all together as one. We hope you enjoy our show tonight:Reflections of Earth.
1,105 shells are used for each Illuminations show.
Disney Reflections of Earth
Disney Epcot Fireworks
Reflections of Earth uses lasers in the display – they come from the American, Canada, and Mexico Pavillions. One point of Disney trivia is that the FAA requires advance permission for any system using lasers outdoors. So Orlando International Airport has to be notified every night of the year when the Illuminations show starts so that air traffic control can be advised!
Epcot Illuminations Cruise
Would you like to know a very special way of viewing the Epcot Illuminations fireworks? Well for those looking for a unique experience how about booking the Disney Epcot Illuminations Cruise?
The 24-foot Breathless craft is available for hire for that truly memorable experience. The Breathless can accommodate up to 6 people and is available for hire starting at $275 plus tax which includes a driver.
You can also hire a pontoon boat for up to 10 people for an Illuminations cruise and costs from $275 plus tax.
Getting a reservation for an Illuminations cruise does require planning ahead. Not surprisingly these cruises do book up early. To reserve call 407-WDW-PLAY, between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m EST up to 90 days in advance. You do have to give a credit card guarantee and your card will be charged unless you cancel 24 hours in advance.
Each boat will be positioned under the International Gateway Bridge and you will get an amazing view of Illuminations. Guests do report that this splurge really is worth it.