Best IllumiNations Viewing Spots

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This post highlights the best viewing spots for the IllumiNations fireworks at Epcot in Walt Disney World. Here we will provide some general tips about the best locations, and point out the best of these on a map of World Showcase. I’ve watched and photographed IllumiNations way too many times (actually, you can never see IllumiNations too many times–it’s by far the best nighttime spectacular at Walt Disney World) and can say that not all viewing spots for Illuminations were created equally.

Unfortunately, unlike my Best Magic Kingdom Fireworks Viewing Spots post which contained an easy to follow map with color coded areas of good, bad, and okay spots from which to watch Wishes!, the same really isn’t possible for Epcot. This is because within a span of 10 feet, you might have both an awesome and awful viewing spot, due to trees, food carts, or other obstructions.

Instead of a color-coded map that won’t really be helpful, for this post I’m going to instead highlight my 5 favorite spots, along with some alternatives to those spots, and general discussions about choosing a spot for watching IllumiNations. Choosing a prime location for IllumiNations is actually easier said than done, as certain variables, such as the direction of the wind and where there might be IllumiNations dessert parties or private events that eliminate potential viewings areas as options for regular park guests change often.

Before choosing a spot for IllumiNations on a particular day, determine which way the wind is blowing. There are all sorts of scientific ways for doing this (and there’s probably an app for it), but it should be as simple feeling the wind blow on you. If it’s intense enough that you can feel the wind, you will want to avoid anywhere that will be down-wind of the center of the fireworks in the middle of World Showcase Lagoon. The show can produce a lot of smoke, and if you’re down-wind of that, you may not see much of the second half of the show. Most nights it’s not windy enough for this to be a problem, but it’s still something to keep in mind.

The first thing you should do when arriving at any potential viewing spot is to survey the area above and around you to see if there are any torches, light poles, or trees blocking your view of the Lagoon. If so, and you still have the time to find a different spot, do so.

If you didn't blink for 103 seconds, this is what Illuminations would look like to you. I don't recommend not blinking for 103 seconds. This fireworks photo was shot with a neutral density filter.More on neutral density filters: http://www.disneytouristblog.com/neutral-density-filter-reviews-buying-guide/

Along the same lines, but easier said than done, look towards the middle of World Showcase Lagoon to determine whether you can see to the middle, or if your view is blocked by a little island of trees. There are a couple of these that can impact views of the Earth Globe barge during the show.

The good news is that, obstructions and weather aside, since IllumiNations takes place in the center of World Showcase Lagoon, if you pick a spot that can see the center of the Lagoon, you will be able to see IllumiNations. It isn’t like Wishes in this regard, as some spots that have good views of Cinderella Castle actually are poor views of the fireworks due to perspective distortion. There’s no perspective distortion here. The bad news is that IllumiNations doesn’t just take place high in the air…it also has low-level fireworks and a globe display, meaning you really will want a “front row” spot along the rails around World Showcase Lagoon.

That pretty much covers the basics, now let’s take a look at my favorite specific spots…

#1 – Front of the House: The best view of the show is known informally as the “Front of the House,” and is located between the two gift shops at the entrance to World Showcase. Supposedly, this is the view around which the show was designed. This is now the FastPass+ viewing area most nights–although sometimes FastPass+ moves to one side or the other if there’s a large corporate event reserving the Front of the House. I’m a huge fan of this spot not only because it’s a centered viewing of IllumiNations (this doesn’t matter much, but it’s now) but also because it’s one of the few locations that doesn’t require a front row spot for a great view because of the way the area becomes ever-so-slightly elevated as you move away from the rail.

In my Guide to FastPass+ at Walt Disney World, I cover why I don’t recommend getting an IllumiNations FastPass+ for most guests, but I always get an IllumiNations FastPass+ now. Other Annual Passholders and “regulars” (or huge fans of IllumiNations) might similarly see the value in using a FastPass+ here.

Listening to the 68 minute

#2 – Mitsukoshi Department Store: This spot is a great combination of great and unique views. This view is available from the second story of the Mitsukoshi Department Store in the Japan pavilion, right outside the Tokyo Dining windows (contrary to popular belief, Tokyo Dining is not a great spot for watching IllumiNations). The Torii Gate at the edge of the water in Japan does obstruct the view a bit, but it also makes for more interesting photos, as does the elevated perspective. Word has really gotten out about this location (and it’s incredibly popular with photographers), so even though it’s off the beaten path, don’t expect to be able to show up here at the last minute. It often fills up 45 minutes before IllumiNations. Ground level in Japan anywhere to the sides of the Torii Gate also provides a good view.

#3 – France Bridge: The bridge between the United Kingdom and France is one of my favorite spots, although on paper, it doesn’t quite stack up. First, its location is a bit farther back than any of the other waterfront spots, making you feel a little less like you’re a part of the action. Second, there is one of those tree islands that blocks a small part of the action, albeit not the Earth Globe barge. Despite this, the France Bridge is still a really good spot, providing a bit of elevation plus great views of each of the pavilions as they light up during the show. The IllumiNations cruise boats typically park under or in front of this bridge during the show, so you know it must be a good spot. (That, or they can’t go any farther into the Lagoon.) Alternatively, try for the the Lagoon seating area behind the Yorkshire County Fish Shop in the United Kingdom pavilion for stellar waterfront seating (albeit seating that’s often not available).

#4 – Mexico: This isn’t nearly as specific as the other recommendations on this list, but that’s because there is no single spot in Mexico that stands out. Rather, there are several really good spots, plus the entire area between Norway and Mexico, as it has little in the way of obstructions. The best spots in Mexico are La Hacienda (the restaurant with the best view in World Showcase) and near the boat dock (if you’re lucky, you may actually be able to watch from the boat dock, as some guests are selected to sit out there each night).

#5 – Italy Isola – One of my absolute favorite spots for IllumiNations is the Italy Isola, which is the raised part of the Italy pavilion near World Showcase Lagoon that juts out towards the water. However, it is used for private IllumiNations dessert parties so regularly now that it falls to the #5 slot since it’s almost never available. It’s a very immersive location that feels close to the action. The photo above demonstrates the immersion of this area, but not really how great of a view it is. The first actual photo in this post was shot from the Italy Isola…that should give you a much better idea of the view quality. If you’re wanting to shoot from this area but a dessert party is taking place, typically there will be some room between Italy and the American Adventure that has nearly as good of a view.

There are other great locations all around World Showcase Lagoon, and really anywhere that offers a clear view to the center of World Showcase Lagoon is going to be perfectly fine. Other large areas of unobstructed viewing include the rails in front of Canada (the elevated area in Canada isn’t half bad, either), Rose & Crown’s seating area, and portions of the waterfront between China and the Outpost.

One final bonus “spot” is really not a single spot at all, but rather, anywhere deeper in the World Showcase pavilions. If you step away from the rail at the edge of World Showcase Lagoon, you won’t be able to see the Earth Globe barge or some other things, but you’ll get away from crowds and can have some potentially interesting photos of different parts of the world with fireworks exploding overhead. With a lot of these spots, you’ll really be rolling the dice as to what you can see, but it’s a high-risk, high-reward kind of scenario if you’re into taking unique Disney photos!

Same goes for Future World, but it’s even riskier. I’ve seen some pretty cool photos from near the Fountain of Nations, Journey into Imagination’s upside-down waterfall, and various topiaries and other decorations. Personally, I don’t try these off-the-beaten-path spots very often as I love IllumiNations and want to enjoy the full show (and photograph it in more “classic” ways), but it’s sometimes fun to try something new…and get away from the crowds!

Illuminations: Reflections of Earth with the Peace on Earth finale tag and the Epcot Christmas tree in the foreground! Captured with the Nikon D600 and Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 lens. Read more: http://www.disneytouristblog.com/illuminations-peace-on-earth-photo-christmas-tree/

If you are planning a trip to Walt Disney World, make sure to check out our Disney Tips & Tricks page for a lot of helpful tips to outsmart the masses. Also read our dining reviews to find the best restaurants and our trip planning posts to figure out what to pack,  where to buy Walt Disney World tickets to save money, which discounts to look for, and all the other ins and outs of a trip to Walt Disney World, all of which are covered extensively in our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide.

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Your Thoughts

Have you watched IllumiNations from one of these spots? What did you think? Any favorite spots of your own to add? Any questions you have about viewing IllumiNations? Please share your thoughts in the comments!


35 Responses to “Best IllumiNations Viewing Spots”
  1. Dee October 3, 2016
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