Watching the Magic Kingdom fireworks can be the highlight of a trip to Walt Disney World, but due to crowds and other factors, finding the best spot to watch Wishes! (or other seasonal fireworks shows) can be difficult. I’ve watched and photographed the fireworks in the Magic Kingdom probably around 100 times, and have gotten a good idea of the best and worst spots from which to view the various shows. Given the popularity of my Best Cinderella Castle Photo Spots post, and since the Fourth of July “Salute to America” Limited Time Magic fireworks parties, now seems like a good time to share these locations.
The map above works sort of like a stoplight (with orange added). Consider yellow on the map the “stoplight” version of go, with green on the map being the cream of the crop for views (okay, that part isn’t really like a stoplight). Orange on the map is a step down from yellow, but still isn’t bad. Red is bad–you should avoid these spots. There are numerous other “quiet” spots around the Magic Kingdom where you can see parts of the fireworks, but it’s incredibly important to know that all of the Magic Kingdom fireworks shows were designed to be viewed straight-on from Main Street, USA. Watching from elsewhere in the park may help you avoid the crowds or enable you to have a fun experience while watching (riding Big Thunder Mountain or Splash Mountain during Wishes! is awesome), but you absolutely will miss parts of the show. Due to that, I haven’t included any other spots in the rest of the park on this map. If avoiding crowds is really important to you, consider one of these other locations around the park, as Main Street, USA is crowded before, during, and after the fireworks.
As for the numbered locations on the map, since I’ve photographed Wishes! so many times, I’m sharing photos from the exact same scene in Wishes! shoot from each numbered spot. I call this scene “The Fan,” and to me it’s the most iconic part of Wishes. It occurs at the crescendo of the score approximately 3 minutes and 45 seconds (give or take depending upon when you start the timer) into the show…so get those cameras ready! The map plus the various views of this scene should give you visual thinkers a great idea of what to expect from different fireworks viewing places in the Magic Kingdom.
However, it must be noted that this map is a rough idea of the best spots. Fireworks map-making is not an exact science, and obviously consulting the map to the degree that you blindly stand directly behind a tree because the map lists that spot as a yellow (a la Michael Scott driving his car into the lake because his GPS “told him to”) would be foolish. Avoid stray trees and other obstructions, as this map doesn’t account for those except in heavily obstructed areas.
Okay, let’s get started with the specific spots!
1. Front and Center – One of the first times I photographed Wishes!, I opted to go for a spot close to Cinderella Castle. I’ve made this mistake only once. There’s a reason the Hub quickly goes from yellow to red, and that’s because once you pass Partners, perspective distortion (the spatial relationship of you, Cinderella Castle, and the fireworks shot off behind the Castle) prevents you from seeing much of the show. To get a visual idea of how perspective distortion works for these fireworks, notice the height of the bursts above Cinderella Castle as we move farther away from the Castle. In this shot, they’re directly behind it, but they move progressively higher as we move back. If you stand this close, you will miss a good percentage of the show. As a personal rule, I now never go beyond the Partners statue, but there are still some okay spots right behind it.
2. Partners – I am a big fan of this location, but it’s primarily to add a foreground subject into my photos, not because this is actually a great spot. It offers a good view, but guests often stake this location out hours in advance (usually to watch the Main Street Electrical Parade, Celebrate the Magic (Cinderella Castle projection show), and Wishes! all without moving), and it’s just not a great pure viewing location given how long you might have to stake this location out.
3. Crystal Palace Fence – It may be difficult to tell because it’s such a small spot (go too close to Crystal Palace and you’re too far off-center for a good view; move closer to Casey’s and your view will be obstructed by trees), but this is yellow on the map. It came very close to being green, but since it’s a bit off-center and there’s sometimes PhotoPass keeping you from staking out this spot, it fell into yellow. So those are the cons. The pros are that it’s about the perfect viewing distance from the show, since it’s at a fence you don’t have to worry about people getting in front of you, and it is easy to grab not too far in advance of the fireworks. It’s even a good view for fireworks shows with perimeter bursts! I’m almost reluctant to divulge this location because there’s not much room here and it’s my go-to last minute spot for photographing Wishes. I’ll make a deal with you–if you see me come up to this area after you’ve snagged this spot, try to make a bit of room for my tripod. It won’t bite!
Note: for the duration of 2014, construction walls in the Hub may make block this area in #3, making it a terrible view for fireworks.
4. “The Hump” – This spot isn’t very large, and since it’s a straight-on view, it’s incredibly popular. However, I’d hazard a guess that most guests who stand here have no idea why it’s the absolute best spot inside the Magic Kingdom for viewing Wishes. This location is great not just because it is the perfect distance from Cinderella Castle, but also because Main Street, USA slopes downward between here and Cinderella Castle, making this a bit of a “high point.” You can see this in the photo, as the heads in front of me are clearly lower than me (and I’m not tall at all). Cast Members often prevent guests from lingering in this area before Wishes (they’re usually directing traffic), so it can be pretty easy to snag this location 15 minutes before Wishes, depending upon when you visit. This is also a pretty good location for the Cinderella Castle projection show.
5. Wishes Dessert Party (Tomorrowland Terrace) – Since Disney annexed this area for the Wishes Dessert Parties a few years ago, I’ve heard multiple people refer to this as the best place to view Wishes! This is absolutely not true. I think people might just assume it’s a great spot because it’s now private, and it stands to reason that Disney would have chosen the best spot for their private viewing area. (In reality, there weren’t any other feasible alternatives…not like you can rope off the middle of Main Street for a dessert party.) Most of the views from the Dessert Party area obstruct the lower part of Cinderella Castle, and all of them are pretty far off-center. To make matters worse, the roof on the Terrace can obstruct your view if you aren’t able to grab a “front row” table by the water. This area borders on being a yellow location if you sit as close to the Main Street side (rather than the Tomorrowland side) of the Terrace as possible.
6. End of Main Street – This location offers all of the same advantages as “The Hump,” except there is no hump here to give you an elevated view. All it takes is one shoulder-kid in front of you and you’ve got an obstructed view. If you’re tall or you don’t end up with anyone tall in front of you, this location is still superb. Although there are still good views all the way down Main Street, this is typically as far back as I’ll go unless I go all the way to the Train Station. Views further back on Main Street are more or less the same as this for Wishes, but I find that the buildings creeping into your field of view as you move back from here make the fireworks less immersive, and if you’re watching one of the hard ticket events’ fireworks (HalloWishes at Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party or Holiday Wishes at Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party) these buildings can actually block out the 180-degree perimeter fireworks bursts that occur during those shows. Perimeter bursts are also a part of the Fourth of July and New Year’s shows, so avoid being in the part of Main Street with buildings then, too. If you do end up in this area, here is the view you can expect during a regular show. Not too bad, right?
7. Main Street, USA Train Station – This location is yellow, but like the Partners location, it’s a mixed bag. On the plus side, you can grab a seat here and have a spot to view the Main Street Electrical Parade, Castle projection show, and Wishes. On the negative side, there is normally a flagpole obstructing your view of the fireworks (the photo above was taken on one of the few days each year it’s removed for various reasons), people stake out these seats hours in advance, and the ambiance isn’t the best (the Train Station lights remain on and the soundtrack isn’t as loud here as elsewhere). Personally, I only go up here when the flagpole is out, and even then, it’s only for photos. However, if you want to relax and soak up the ambiance of Main Street for a couple hours, staking out a spot here can be a good way to do it…and it keeps you away from crowds.
8. Ticket & Transportation Center Dock – This location is denoted by the green arrow on the bottom of the map. It’s green for a reason, and that’s because this is one of the two best spots for viewing the Magic Kingdom fireworks shows. Comparing the photo from this location to the first location should be a good indication of perspective distortion in action. Those bursts in the first photo that are behind Cinderella Castle are the same bursts that in this photo appear to be way above the Castle! The pros for watching the fireworks from here are that you don’t need park admission, it’s rarely crowded, the music is played, and the view is straight-on and spectacular. On nights when we don’t have tickets for Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party or Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, we sometimes watch the fireworks from this location. The scope and scale are amazing–perhaps superior to being anywhere in the Magic Kingdom! The beach of Disney’s Polynesian Resort, Top of the World Lounge at Bay Lake Tower, and various restaurants around the monorail resorts are all other popular “free” fireworks viewing locations, but none hold a candle to this spot (unless there are perimeter bursts, then Top of the World takes the cake–see the photo below).
So there you have my “review” of some fireworks viewing spots around the Magic Kingdom (and outside it!), along with some photos to back me up. While it should be clear that there are some spots that are better than others, you really can’t screw up too badly if you can see the face of Cinderella Castle!
If you have fireworks photos from other locations in the Magic Kingdom (ones of “The Fan” are best for comparison’s sake, but anything will work), please feel free to share links to them in the comments. The more information people have when trying determine where to watch Wishes!, the better!
If you’re interested in improving your fireworks photos, check out the How to Photograph Fireworks eBook I co-authored! It’s 46 pages long, and filled with great tips for everyone from point & shoot beginners to advanced DSLR users. Now through the Fourth of July, you can get 50% off by using code DTB50. An exclusive savings for blog readers!
For Walt Disney World trip planning tips and comprehensive advice, make sure to read our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide and related articles.
Where is your favorite spot to watch Wishes? Do you like to go for a traditional Main Street location, or do you opt to avoid the crowds and watch from elsewhere? Any attractions that you think are enhanced during the fireworks? Share your thoughts in the comments!