Walt Disney World Nighttime Spectaculars that are Worth Your Time (And Which Ones Aren’t)

The fun doesn’t stop at Walt Disney World just because the sun goes down. One of the best ways to cap off your Disney day is by catching any of the nighttime spectacular shows at the parks.

Happily Ever After Fireworks

Not all shows are created equal, however, and we’ve distilled the list to bring your our favorites — and the ones that you might want to skip.

Best Nighttime Shows at Walt Disney World

Fantasmic! — Hollywood Studios

This classic show follows Mickey down the delightful rabbit hole of his imagination as he has to thwart the scheming Disney villains from taking over. You will see many classic Disney characters over the course of the show, all while being dazzled by fireworks, water projections, and laser effects.

Fantasmic!

One of the biggest reasons we put this one in the “must see” column is the music. The score for this show expertly interweaves classic Disney songs with an original melody created just for Fantasmic. The combination is downright emotional and is the perfect accompaniment to the action happening on stage.

Happily Ever After — Magic Kingdom

At the risk of getting the infectious theme song stuck in our heads for the next couple of hours, we have to put Happily Ever After up there on the list of shows to watch. Catching the fireworks show at Magic Kingdom is an iconic part of any Disney World vacation, and this show ticks all of the nighttime spectacular boxes.

Happily Ever After

Combining fireworks, projection mapping onto Cinderella Castle, and a score that includes a 75-piece orchestra and a 90-voice gospel choir, this show’s message of finding your happy ever after is a fitting successor to Wishes.

Epcot Forever — Epcot

Yes, we are just as distraught over the loss of Illuminations: Reflections of Earth as you are. Before Harmonious debuts later this year, however, we’ve had Epcot Forever to keep us company over the lagoon, and it actually does a decent job of filling the vacant position of a nighttime spectacular at Epcot.

Epcot Forever

If you’re a die-hard Epcot fan, you will love the historical references throughout the show’s run-time that include various musical scores from beloved, extinct attractions. In addition to the normal fireworks and lasers we were used to, Epcot Forever even uses stunt kites with pyro effects that fly over the lagoon. It’s not a perfect show, but it won’t be around much longer, so you should catch a showing while you can.

Walt Disney World Nighttime Shows to Skip

Rivers of Light: We Are One — Animal Kingdom

We love that Animal Kingdom is now open after dark so we can explore the Park and its nighttime effects. And we think Rivers of Light is actually a beautiful show, but because it’s Animal Kingdom, you won’t be seeing fireworks or anything else explosive during this one.

Rivers of Light

The show tries to tell a story of the laws of nature and the natural world, but it’s a little confusing. If you’re cutting nighttime shows so you can get an early start the next day, this one can go.

Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular — Hollywood Studios

We’re huge Star Wars fans, so this one is a controversial pick for us. Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular, much like Rivers of Light, is visually impressive, but confusingly jumps around between all the movies in the saga. The show moves from the battle on the icy plains of Hoth to Rey on Jakku within the span of a minute!

Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular

While the musical compositions by John Williams that the show is set to are phenomenal and bring back fond memories of watching the films on our couches, it kind of just makes us want to go home and watch the movies again. If you’re going to pick one nighttime spectacular at Hollywood Studios to watch, we definitely recommend Fantasmic instead.

What do you think of our list? Anything you’d switch up? Let us know down in the comments!

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3 Replies to “Walt Disney World Nighttime Spectaculars that are Worth Your Time (And Which Ones Aren’t)”

  1. Rivers of Light is actually my favorite of the night shows. The story-line is irrelevant – I just enjoy the lights and colors and sheer serenity of the experience. It is so peaceful to sit and soak it all in at the end of a very full day. As an adult with sensory issues that are often triggered by fireworks, this is the one show that I absolutely must stay to see. It really is all a matter of preference so I encourage everyone to see this at least once and form their own opinion.

  2. There really isn’t a must-see show at WDW anymore. Fantasmic really requires a seat in the center of the theatre and Disney now sells those at a premium. Happily Ever After is great technology but again if you don’t have a good viewing spot much of it is missed. Disney sells a lot of those spots too. And the hub gets so crowded with people desperate for a good view that I literally witnessed a fight between two moms last weekend. The Epcot show is actually better fireworks than Illuminations and easier to enjoy from anywhere. The Star Wars show is hard to see from many places in the park. I have not seen the AK show.