Many of us enjoy celebrating the U.S.A. every year by either popping fireworks, or by finding a nearby fireworks show. Well, Disney has taken that tradition and expanded it over the entire year. As a result, there are currently 4 shows at Walt Disney World that incorporate fireworks. While all 4 are great in their own way, only one park gets the backdrop of Cinderella’s Castle. Today, we are heading down Main Street U.S.A. in the Magic Kingdom for a show that aspires to make your wishes come true. Let’s get started with our…
Know Before You Go Essential Facts
- The show is located in the Magic Kingdom
- Fastpass + NOT offered
- The fright factor is 2 out of 5, due to the loud sound of the fireworks
- Guests may remain in a wheelchair/ECV
- The show is 12 minutes long
- The show debuted on October 9, 2003
What is your wish? Do you wish you never had to grow up? Do you wish to be a part of another world? Do you wish to be a real boy, or maybe for your prince to come? Well, no matter what it is, no wish is too extreme at Walt Disney World. Just like the Magic Kingdom itself, the Wishes Nighttime Spectacular is all about inviting you into a world of fantasy. A fantastic dream world where your wishes can come true.
With Cinderella’s Castle serving as the stage, Wishes dances high over the castle spires with beautifully orchestrated pops of color. Joining the bursts of light is an inspiring soundtrack that features 12 songs from 10 animated Disney classics. Everyone’s favorite conscience, Jiminy Cricket serves as the narrator. He is joined by several other familiar voices like Ariel, Aladdin, and Peter Pan. Speaking of Peter Pan, his pal Tinker Bell helps sprinkle a little pixie dust over the castle to get the show started off right. It’s not just Tink’s voice you will hear though, you will actually see the green fairy fly! Pay close attention to the right side of the castle right after the show’s opening number. You will hear Jiminy say, “It all starts with a wish.” That’s when Tinker Bell literally lights up the night sky as she flies over the audience with her wings and hair aglow. This is a touch of magic kids of all ages are sure to enjoy.
From here, Wishes continues to dazzle with a wide array of fireworks in different sizes, shapes, and colors. It’s not just the fireworks that bring the show to life though, the castle itself gets in on the act. The standard palette of white and blue changes throughout the show to coordinate with the fireworks above. One of my favorite examples of this is when the castle is completely bathed in blue, except for several white stars and moon shapes. The whimsical march of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice came be heard over the speakers and it is then you realize the castle has become a giant Sorcerer Mickey hat! Next, single balls of red light begin to shoot straight up into the sky as they dance in perfect unison with the music. The timing of the fireworks and the music is simply amazing to me. How they are able to coordinate such an elaborate display is just magical. Eric Tucker is the pyrotechnics designer who put together both Wishes and Illuminations: Reflections of Earth. Talk about a cool job! I wish someone would have told me I could grow up to be a pyrotechnics designer!
Well, Eric isn’t the only one who helped assemble this amazing show. Steven Davison is the creator and show director, Steve Scorija is the music director, and Gregory Smith is the composer for Wishes. To each of them and their team I say job well done! Together they have created the biggest fireworks extravaganza in Magic Kingdom history. Each night Wishes displays over 650 individual pieces of pyrotechnics to dazzle the crowd below. What really sets this show apart is the fact that the fireworks are launched from 11 different locations. Depending on where you choose to view the show, this will be more or less noticeable. That brings me to what I really want to spend a few minutes talking about today. Where is the best place to view Wishes?
At first glance, this might seem like a simple question with a simple answer: right in front of Cinderella’s Castle of course! Well, that is partly true, but did you know how far back you are from the castle greatly affects what you see? Actually, numerous vantage points all offer a different Wishes experience. So, sit back, pull out your Magic Kingdom map and let’s pick your ideal spot!
First things first, you must understand Wishes was designed to be viewed square on from Main Street U.S.A. All 11 platforms are shooting fireworks up into the sky with this central location in mind. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t highly enjoy seeing this show from other places both in and out of the park. To help keep things simple, I’m going to start close to the castle and work our way out.
Most visitors will scramble to find a spot somewhere between the Main Street U.S.A. Train Station and Cinderella’s Castle. While many of the views between these two areas are very good, some are much better and some should be avoided all together. To begin, do NOT stand too close to the castle! This is one show where you don’t want a front row seat. Placing yourself too close to the castle will greatly impede your ability to see the fireworks firing off well behind the castle. Look for the Partners Statue at the center of the hub, this is the cute bronze stature of Walt and Mickey holding hands. You want to find a spot somewhere from here on back. Any closer and you will miss parts of the show. From here you can go left or right, almost all the way to the entrance of Adventureland on one side, or Tomorrowland on the other and still have a good view. With the newly designed hub, there are a lot of great areas in between these spots to view Wishes. One of my favorites is right in front of the Crystal Palace restaurant. You don’t have to fight as many crowds here but you are still close to the action and near enough to the center to get the full effect of the show.
If you don’t mind squeezing into crowded areas, you will want to move closer to Main Street. Specifically, look for what they call “the hump.” This is a high point near the end of Main Street U.S.A. that offers a natural elevation over the crowd in front. From there the path slopes down all the way to Cinderella’s Castle. Because it is directly in the middle of the street, Cast Members will keep this area cleared until a few minutes before the show. The trick is to be camped out on the sidewalk and ready to swoop into position as soon as you are allowed. This spot is incredibly popular and will be crowded, but the view is second to none inside the park.
As we move further out from the castle, your view won’t be as immersive, but there is one advantage. A quick exit! With fewer people between you and the park’s exit, you can have a pretty good view of the show and avoid much of the cattle call that immediately follows. Just be aware, if you move all the way back to the plaza between the train station and Main Street you will have some obstructed views due to the buildings. At this point I think you are better off going up to the second floor of the train station. Here you are once again elevated and will have a view of more fireworks and less heads. If this is your desired destination, you will need to arrive early as the platform has limited room. Also, the flagpole in the center of the plaza will be in your way.
All right, those are the obvious viewing locations. At this point you might be thinking, “Thanks a lot Ben, I’ve never even been to the Magic Kingdom and I could have figured that out by looking at a map!” Perhaps, but if you have never been before, you probably won’t know about these next few spots. Why is that? Because we are moving outside of the park! Yep, I bet you didn’t think about that! Again, working our way out, our first stop will be Disney’s Contemporary Resort. This resort not only boasts a monorail track running right through the middle of the hotel, but it also proudly claims one of the best viewing areas for Wishes. The California Grill is one of Walt Disney World’s most popular fine dining spots. Nestled at the top of the resort this restaurant serves up the finest in California cooking and offers magnificent views of the Seven Seas Lagoon and the Magic Kingdom. Those with dinner reservations have the opportunity to watch right from their table, the restaurant lounge, or an observation deck above the restaurant. Should you want to savor your last bite while seeing the night sky illuminated with gigantic bursts of red and white, I recommend obtaining an Advanced Dining Reservation about 1 hour before Wishes is scheduled to start. If you can’t grab this coveted time, have no fear. Diners with reservations before, or even after Wishes, are granted access to the lounge and observation deck during the show. If you are looking to make a romantic memory, look no further than the California Grill during Wishes.
Of course, we are going to continue to look further and I think we might find a few more romantic spots along the way. If California cuisine or heights aren’t your favorite dish, let me suggest ‘Ohana or Narcoossee’s. ‘Ohana is your ticket to a Hawaiian feast, and a pretty decent view of the fireworks from the second floor of Disney’s Polynesian Resort. Or better yet, make your reservation early enough to finish your meal in time to walk down to the resort’s beach. Here you will have an unobstructed view. Kick off your shoes and feel the sand between your toes as Wishes explodes in the distance across the lagoon. Now we’re talking romance! Plus, this option offers the bonus of grabbing a late night Dole Whip right there at the Pineapple Lanai! Let’s see, Hawaiian feast, walk on the beach, fireworks, and Dole Whip. Sounds like the perfect evening to me!
Let’s not forget about our seafood lovers though. If you prefer business dress to Hawaiian shirts and flip flops, then you should set sail for Narcoossee’s. This signature dining restaurant located at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort offers coastal cuisine with waterfront views. While you can walk down to the beach here as well, the mandatory dress code will probably have you wanting a reservation time that coordinates with Wishes. The show will be more of a backdrop here, but it adds to the ambiance of the already dreamy Grand Floridian.
If you are on a budget you can visit any of these 3 resorts for free, but only the Grand Floridian and the Polynesian will offer good views from ground level. My pick would be the Polynesian because of the more central vantage point. That and the Dole Whips of course. But wait, there’s more! We are going still further out for perhaps the best viewing spot of them all. The great part, there is no dining reservation needed and this spot is free! I mean free, as in you don’t even have to have a park ticket. Where could this be? Why the Ticket & Transportation Center of course! The dock of the Ticket & Transportation Center offers a magnificent view. The castle is straight ahead and is dwarfed by the enormous fireworks above. It is unbelievable how this vantage point puts the fireworks in perspective. When you are in standing at the end of Main Street, the fireworks look smaller than the castle itself. However, from the Ticket & Transportation Center you can see how many spread their fiery wings over the entire Magic Kingdom. Plus, they pipe in the show music here so you can get the full experience. Ask any photographer what their favorite Wishes viewing spot is and I bet the majority will say the Ticket & Transportation Center. This could be a great way to save money on a park ticket the day of your arrival. Settle into your resort, grab dinner outside of the parks, and then head over to this amazing viewing area. If you do, you will kick off your vacation with one of the best fireworks views in all of Walt Disney World.
Now, I do have to mention that the weather plays a significant role in your enjoyment of the show, especially with all of the viewing spots I’ve listed outside of the Magic Kingdom. In fact, the show can be cancelled for inclement weather, so keep this in mind when making those dining reservations. You may get to enjoy a great meal, but you may not get the show you were hoping for. Something as simple as the wind direction can put a damper on the experience. I have watched the show from the Seven Seas Lagoon before, but had the misfortune of a headwind. This meant all the smoke from the fireworks blew from the castle out towards the lagoon, creating a smoke screen in-between our boat and the fireworks. We could still see the fireworks, but the experience was a little less magical than I had hoped.
Did you notice I said we were on a boat? Well, you just thought I had finished recounting all the viewing areas didn’t you? There are actually a couple of different cruises that allow you to view the show right from the water! We don’t have time to go into the details today, but here is a quick overview. First, Ferrytale Wishes: A Fireworks Dessert Cruise, gives you the chance to board the General Joe Potter ferryboat. Once aboard you will indulge in a dessert party featuring key lime tarts, pineapple upside down cakes, “fireworks” cupcakes and more! Advanced reservations are strongly recommended. The current price is $99 for adults and $69 for children ages 3-9.
If kids be in your group, then might I recommend the Pirates & Pals Fireworks Voyage. Your high seas adventure begins on land at the Contemporary Resort. Popcorn, ice cream, and pirate punch are served while the entire crew gets to take their picture with Captain Hook and Mr. Smee. From there you set sail with your pirate captain. He will navigate the Seven Seas Lagoon before dropping anchor at the ideal spot to view Wishes. The evening ends with one more surprise back on land. The current price is $69 for adults and $41 for children.
So, what view of Wishes sounds most appealing to you? If you would like to see what these different vantage points look like, check out this fantastic blog post from the Disney Tourist Blog. In their post you can see pictures of Wishes from many of the locations we discussed today. These shots help put the scope of the fireworks into perspective and illustrate the many different experiences you can have from the same show.
The best spot for you might depend on how many times you have visited the Magic Kingdom. If you are going for the first time, setting up near “the hump” at the end of Main Street is my top recommendation. If you have seen the show many times, you might want to consider a fireworks cruise. Or, if you are like me, chances are you will see Wishes more than once during your vacation. I love being in the Magic Kingdom at night, and spending a couple of evenings here allows the chance to enjoy Wishes from multiple vantage points. My family likes to start our vacation with the Wishes Nighttime Spectacular. Like I said before, we usually find a good spot in front of the Crystal Palace for that first viewing. However, my favorite thing to do these days is to experience Wishes while enjoying a ride! Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, and The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train all offer outdoor views. Seeing the large explosions overhead while you are cresting Chickapin Hill, or flying through the town of Tumbleweed adds a dynamite dose of Disney magic.
Now that Fantasyland has been updated and expanded, I also love just walking through this area while the fireworks boom all around. There aren’t many people back in this land during the show, because most will be on the front side of the castle. You won’t see the original vision of the show from this perspective, but it feels like you are in a fairytale. The cobbled walls and arches between Prince Charming’s Regal Carousel and The Seven Dwarf Mine give you the sense you are strolling through a truly magical kingdom where wishes do come true. Again, I recommend walking through this area only after having viewed the show at least once from the front of the castle.
Before we go, two more quick notes. One, Fastpass+ is no longer available for Wishes. Once upon a time you could stand in a reserved area just off the hub, but at the time of our podcast that is no longer the case. If a reserved viewing area is must, you can make a reservation for the Wishes Fireworks Dessert Party. Chocolate dipped strawberries, cupcakes, and ice cream await at the Tomorrowland Terrace Restaurant. $59 for adults, and $39 for children gives you a reserved spot at the outdoor covered patio. Reservations can be made 180 days in advance. The view here is good, but not the best available. You are paying more for the convenience of a reserved area and for the food than you are an amazing view.
Once you decide where you are going to stake your claim, you need to plan your time of arrival. The premium spots will be claimed before the evening parade even begins. Some will set up camp very early and watch the parade, the Celebrate the Magic Show, and then Wishes. Check the performance times when you are at the park and plan accordingly. I do strongly recommend you get to your spot at least 20 minutes prior to the start of the Wishes Nighttime Spectacular. Celebrate the Magic is the 10 minute show that takes place on the castle itself about 15 minutes prior to the start of Wishes. Normally, Wishes will begin at 10 pm, with Celebrate the Magic at 9:45 pm. We will save the details of Celebrate the Magic for another podcast, but you can’t miss this show. As much as I love Wishes, I might enjoy Celebrate the Magic even more. Through some amazing digital projection technology, Cinderella’s Castle becomes the canvas for the most amazing artistic display.
O.k., I’m sure I am forgetting something. Oh, I know. We haven’t talked about the special holiday editions of Wishes. There are unique touches added for Halloween, Christmas, New Year’s and the 4th of July! Someday we will discuss these details on another podcast. Hopefully today gives you a good place to start. With so many viewing possibilities, this is a show you can experience over and over and over again. Once you see the Wishes Nighttime Spectacular I believe you will want to do just that. This can be the perfect bookend to your vacation. Start with Wishes the day you arrive and end with Wishes the night before you leave. Just be warned, those 4th of July fireworks back home may never be the same!
Speaking of the 4th, if you happen to be listening at our initial airing of this episode, I hope you have a wonderful 4th of July. If you are in the parks, lucky you! If not, I have one more treat to share. You can actually watch a live stream of Wishes on the 4th of July starting at 8:50 p.m. ET via The Disney Parks Blog. I will add the link to our Facebook page on Monday if you want to enjoy a little taste of the Disney magic from home!