By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2020, the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever.

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Review: Illuminations at Epcot

By Dave Shute


Illuminations: Reflections of Earth is a 12 minute nightly fireworks (and more) show in and around Epcot’s World Showcase Lagoon.

It combines fireworks, music, flames, a cool thingy (I won’t be more specific, you’ll know it when you see it!), and lasers into a surprising and exciting show.

Other than a few introductory and ending comments, the show is not narrated.

Without giving the scoop away, the show is essentially the story of the world–from its beginnings to the present.

Illuminations is in the top five of many repeat visitors to Walt Disney World, and it is listed as a favorite on this site’s Comprehensive Guide to Rides.


Illuminations is the only current Walt Disney World evening show that is produced every single night.

  • About 90% of evenings it happens at 9p. 
  • During the Christmas season–from the day after Thanksgiving on–it traditionally is presented at 9.30p. 
  • On New Year’s Eve and the 4th of July its time can be modified to better link to the traditional fireworks also shown these nights.

Check the Epcot Calendar (find your month, then click on the days of your visit) to double check when it is being shown during the time you will be at Walt Disney World.

(Disney’s calendars are harder to use than they should be–see this if you need help.)


Unlike Wishes, which was designed to be seen from a specific axis, Illuminations can be seen at its best from many places in the World Showcase.

That said, the view of the thingy can easily be blocked–by people or islands.

Islands near the Outpost, China, Morocco and France make Illuminations hard to see from these areas.  The same is true for parts of the Norway and Japan areas.

You can tell from where you are standing if the islands will block your view.  Don’t worry about islands all the way across the lagoon–the issue is islands between you and the center of the lagoon.

If you follow one of the itineraries of this site, then you will be seeing Illuminations on a night when Epcot has evening Extra Magic Hours

This means that, unlike all other nights, the park does not close immediately after the show.  As a result, you can stay in the park after and avoid the tens of thousands of people who leave when the show ends.

You can, because of this, pick a spot on the south end of the World showcase–in Germany, Italy, or America–and other than the busiest times of the year should be able to get a good spot by 30 minutes before showtime.

If you are at Epcot on a night when you cannot stay after the show’s end–and are not staying at one of the Epcot resorts, to which you can walk after the show– then your trade-off is between time spent holding a spot versus time spent trying to leave the park. 

If you want to be one of the first group to leave the park after the show ends, then you need at spot at the north end of the World Showcase.  Good spots here can require claiming 60 minutes before or more.

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1 Dave { 09.05.12 at 10:24 am }


2 solomani { 10.08.12 at 5:11 am }

Hi Dave,

Do you recommend it viewing it from a boat? I was thinking of having a private cruise with my wife and then capping the night with Illuminations.

Thanks in advance.

3 Dave { 10.08.12 at 6:48 am }

I don’t particularly recommend it, as the view is no better than from land, it’s expensive (you have to rent a ten person boat, even if it’s just the two of you) and because of the logistics involved (getting to the Beach Club to get the boat, etc.) you don’t save any time compared to camping on a good Illuminations viewing spot.

For pure charm, I think the Wishes fireworks cruise is a better bet. But you should view it not as an alternative way to view Wishes, but rather as a different way to spend an evening with your wife

4 Solomani { 10.08.12 at 8:53 pm }

Hi Dave, Noted and thanks.

5 Morgan { 12.30.13 at 4:01 pm }

Does Epcot (and all WDW parks for that matter) have the same hours on Sunday? And therefore same times for Sunday fireworks like these, etc? We are going in Oct 2014, and we want to spend that Sunday, 10/5, at Epcot, Food & Wine Fest, etc. Would be fun to top the night off at Illuminations with the kiddos.

Also- After snacking at the Food Festival there at Epcot during lunch, should we take them (4 & 5yr olds) to Akershus or San Angel Inn for dinner, in your opinion? Will probably do Cinderella’s Table and Chef Mickey’s on this trip, as well.


6 Dave { 12.31.13 at 7:04 am }

Hi Morgan! The short answer to the first question is “no.” See this for the hours on the equivalent dates in 2013: It’s a good bet that Epcot will be open 9-9 that day, with Illuminations at 9p.

San Angel Inn may be too subtle for kids that young. Akershus would be good for more princesses, Garden Grill for SHip and Dale, Biergarten for music and action, or the Coral Reef for drama among the fishes…

7 Morgan { 01.07.14 at 3:30 pm }

Thanks very much!

8 Michelle { 01.09.14 at 2:16 pm }

Hi Dave –

We are doing askershus at 8m pm on saturday. thinking we will get out of there about 9 maybe? and realizing EPCOT also closes at that time…. Does that mean its going to be zoo to get on the bus with my 2 (very) young kids? any strategy you can advise? we werent planning on watching illuminations that day, but we could? if that matters. thanks.

9 Dave { 01.10.14 at 7:11 am }

Michelle, the zoo starts around 9.20 when Illuminations ends. So long as you are out of World showcase before then, you should be fine!

10 Michelle { 01.10.14 at 5:05 pm }

Adding to this question – i’ve now realized that both days we are going to EPCOT(2/1) and 2/6, the park closes at 9. So i wanted to see illuminations atleast once….. will either day be better as far as crowds? on 2/1 we are eating at 8 at skershus and on 2/6 we are eating at 6:15 in mexico. any suggested plan of attack? do some people try to sneak out of illuminations early, does that help? (not something i really want to do, sneak out early from a vacation attraction, but just asking)

11 Dave { 01.11.14 at 8:58 am }

Michelle, Epcot closes at 9 pretty much 95% of the time–Illuminations then shows at 9p, and most people leave after Illuminations.

Both those dates should be great at Epcot. I’d have a slight preference for the 6th…bu either is a good choice!

12 Jennifer M { 01.10.14 at 6:25 pm }

Hi Dave, just a quick question, is the place where the Fast Pass+ reservations sit to watch Illuminations a good spot? Or should we forgo the Fast Pass and find a better spot? Where would a better spot be?

13 Dave { 01.11.14 at 9:06 am }
14 Michelle { 01.11.14 at 10:24 am }

thanks. So how long is realistic time to expect to wait after illuminations to get back to my hotel? POFQ. Are the busses the best option for me?

15 Dave { 01.12.14 at 9:09 am }

Michelle, buses are the best choice if you can get to the bus stop quickly. If your group walks slowly then a car would be the best choice if you drive or have a rental. . If you catch the first bus, you’ll be back before 10p…

16 Jane { 11.20.14 at 3:53 pm }

Hi Dave, we are not sure whether to attempt Illuminations or not. It will be closing the park at 9 on Mon Nov 24. We have the option of either driving or using the bus. The question really is, can we hang around the world showcase for awhile after the show, or will everything shut down immediately? If we can hang around, at what point would we risk not getting a bus at all? We will be a slow moving group Thanks! (BTW we are also considering skipping Illuminations and park hopping earlier to MK to see the parade and fireworks–which do not close the park.)

17 Dave { 11.22.14 at 7:00 am }

Jane, stores and such stay open, and you can also just simply see the settings of World Showcase. We actually recommend this tactic in our book The easy Guide to Your First Walt Disney World Visit 2015

18 Jane { 12.01.14 at 11:50 pm }

Hi Dave, yes, I have the easy guide and probably read that advice and just didn’t remember. It worked! We saw Illuminations, waited around for about 20 minutes, then walked out slowly. The crowd had thinned considerably by then. We ended up with a somewhat blocked view of the fireworks b/c we were running in from a ride, but it was still fantastic and the kids didn’t seem to mind.

19 Dave { 12.02.14 at 8:10 am }

Great, Jane!

20 vera { 12.17.14 at 11:17 am }

Hi! I made dinner reservations for two at Teppan Edo because it was the last restaurant with availability for new years eve in Epcot. Our reservations are at 11:20 and I was wondering would we be able to see the illuminations from within the restaurant? I’m not sure which park or place would be best for two adults in Disney for NYE. Thanks in advance!

21 Dave { 12.18.14 at 8:10 am }

Vera, no–and your reservation is too late to be done with dinner and be outside for the fireworks. I would skip it.

22 Kerryann { 04.11.15 at 4:13 pm }

So….to clarify….epcot closes at 9pm and illuminations is at 9pm….if i am NOT staying at the resorts i can still see illuminations but will be ushered out of the park after?

23 Dave { 04.12.15 at 10:43 am }

Kerryann, if it’s not an EMH night, all ride lines close at 9p. If it is an EMH night, you have to show your WDW hotel MagicBand or key to get on a ride after 9p. Shops remain open after 9p, so you can linger a bit…

24 Kerryann { 04.11.15 at 5:35 pm }

And while i am at it…..which asian restaurant at epcot do you recommend?

25 Dave { 04.12.15 at 10:44 am }

All three are good–pick based on the cuisine!!

26 Kerryann { 04.14.15 at 6:29 am }

Thanks Dave…..that helps….considered doing fast pass for illuminations if we had one available, would like to have a good view (read your recommendations on fastpass and fireworks…….thx). We are going earlier in the day with 2 small kids both under 3 and considering the time of year/day (May 11th) i dont think we’ll have much waiting at epcot or need to use fastpass for the stuff they will be interested in. The evening will be parents night out hitting the world showcase and fireworks…….is captain eo still showing? Shows fastpass eligible but never an option to select when i go to reserve…..assume its not necessary. Thanks – we are staying off site so hope to linger a bit and avoid crowds when leaving.

27 Dave { 04.14.15 at 8:00 am }

Kerryann, word is that a preview of the “Tomorrowland” movie will be showing in the Captain EO theater then.

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