Epcot’s Illuminations – Reflections of Earth

Every evening in the Epcot theme park, guests gather around the World Showcase Lagoon to watch Epcot’s fireworks show, Illuminations – Reflections of Earth. A blend of lasers, fireworks, music and special effects, this show has always been a personal favorite of mine. In this article, we’ll give you a little background on the show, and a few details that you might not have known. But most importantly, we will give you some extremely helpful tips. Some of the questions we’ll answer:

  • Should I use a Fastpass on Illuminations?
  • When do I need to look for seats or good viewing places to watch this show?
  • How are wait times on many of the top Epcot rides during the fireworks show?
  • What time should we eat, if we are planning on watching the show?

Let’s get started, by looking at the history of the Illuminations fireworks show.

illuminations epcot

Picture, copyright Walt Disney World

Illuminations Fireworks Show

The centerpiece of the show is a huge 28 ft high globe that sits on a 350 ton barge. During the day, the globe/barge are on the edge of the lagoon. But as the show begins, the globe begins moving out to the middle of the lagoon. The globe has over 15,000 LED clusters, which allows the globe to be seen from all areas of the lagoon.

There is also a large barge that houses the fireworks system. This barge is commonly called the Inferno Barge and houses many of the fireworks and fire displays that you see throughout the show. It is capable of sending balls of fire that can go over 40 feet into the air.

Finally, lasers are used in this show, and these lasers come from three different sources around the lagoon. Not only do these lasers send light into the air, but they also are aimed at conveniently placed mirrors that are around the park, which enhances the laser effects.

The total cost of the show has been estimated to be around $25,000 per show!

We don’t want to give you a play-by-play, as that could spoil the fun for you. But the combination of fire, music, lasers and fireworks combines to make a breath-taking show that you should not miss. If you are heading to Disney World, it’s highly recommended that you make time to see this show.

Illumination Viewing Tips

The popularity of this show is immense and draws everyone in the park to the Lagoon. The show marks the closing of the day at Epcot, and generally begins just as the park closes. That means you can’t skip Illuminations and go ride rides. Due to this, the World showcase fills up with spectators that want to end their day watching this fireworks show.

By the way, you will find that in the hour preceding the show, wait times will drop heavily on rides throughout the park as people gather in the World Showcase to eat and stake a claim to seats.  So if you AREN’T interested in watching the show, this is a good time to catch some of the rides.  You can probably hit 3-4 rides from 8-8:50 and then hit Soarin about 5-10 minutes before the park closes.

Back to Illuminations:  When you get thousands of people lining up to do one thing, crowds get heavy. This makes it difficult to find a good viewing location. Once the show is over and you head out to catch your bus to the hotel, you will find yourself surrounded by a throng of people, long bus lines and chaos at the exits. As a result, many have had poor experiences with this show.

Don’t let that happen to you. We have four recommendations we guarantee will help you have a great time.

Be Careful with Dinner Reservations

Many people that book dinner reservations make the mistake of assuming that their dinner is going to be like most dining experiences that they’ve had in their life. As a result, a lot of times guests will book dinner reservations at 7:30, and then expect to watch Illuminations at 9. This sounds like a very reasonable plan, but it’s not.

First of all, a dinner reservation is not a guarantee that you’ll sit down when you arrive. Many times, especially if you have large groups, you’ll still have to wait 20-30 minutes to be seated. Also, dinners just take longer in Disney. Especially if you have the dining plan, you’ll have appetizers, your main course, and then dessert.

We don’t want you rushing through a $150 meal just so that you can see the fireworks. If you are rushing, you’ll likely get a bad viewing spot, you won’t enjoy your dinner, and then you’ll be faced with heavy crowds when you leave.

Give yourself 2.5 hours AT LEAST. If seeing Illuminations is your primary goal, try and eat at 5:30-6, to be safe. Then shop, grab a beer, or explore the World Showcase until it’s time to get your spot. Don’t rush through your meal.

illuminations fireworks

Be ready an hour before the show starts

Find a spot with a good view of the lagoon. I hesitate to give exact times and locations. Why? Because it changes nightly. Some nights, one group might stake out a specific location 2 hours ahead of time. If that happens, just move on.

Ideally, what you’ll do is to begin taking stock of what’s happening about 90 minutes ahead of time. If Epcot is quite busy, you may need to get a seat earlier than 60 minutes. If not, you might have time to do a few more things before you try to get a seat.

This isn’t rocket science. You’re just finding a spot around the lagoon. Also, get prepared to sit there for 45 minutes and then have people crowd around you and try and take as much of your space as possible. That’s life for this show. In the end, do the best you can and just try to enjoy it.

Fastpass + or not?

I don’t like using the fastpass option, primarily because it is a Group A Fastpass. That means you will be unable to use one on Soarin, and you’ll have to wait a long time in the line for Soarin. Now you may argue, “you have to wait an hour for a seat at Illuminations”, and that might be true. But I prefer sitting outside, letting the kids eat some dessert and enjoying the Epcot night. That being said, if you do decide to use the fastpass, you will get a good spot. If Soarin and/or Test Track doesn’t appeal to you, then by all means use a fastpass for Illuminations.

When Illuminations is Over

One thing you need to consider is what you are going to do when Illuminations ends. If you are stuck in the very back of the World Showcase, you’ll be fighting major crowds to get back to the front. If you need to leave quickly when it ends, try and get spots near the front, or in Mexico/Canada/UK.

However, if you don’t have a reason to rush back, then don’t! Personally, we like to try and be in the very back of the park. When Illuminations ends, we will go in a few shops, maybe grab a quick snack, and let people flee from the park. In just 10-15 minutes, the World Showcase Lagoon will be practically empty. We find it very relaxing. Disney won’t be kicking anyone out, so take your time and enjoy yourself for a few minutes.

Illuminations Info

  • Fastpass + eligible
  • Show usually begins at 9pm
  • Wheelchair Accessible

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