Good evening. We are gathered here around the blog, as Disney nerds have gathered for thousands and thousands of nanoseconds before us to share a story about Illuminations: Reflections of Earth! If you’ve listened to an episode of the WDW DISCussion Show or follow me on Twitter, you probably already know that Illuminaitions is my favorite nighttime show at Walt Disney World. I’ve seen the show more than 50 times over its tenure from various locations around the park, and I’m going to share with you a few of my favorites viewing spots. Recently I’ve begun to take my camera and tripod into EPCOT to take photographs of the show, so I will also share a few of what I consider to be the best locations to set up your gear.
First and foremost I have to mention a few things that could affect your ability to choose a certain location. Disney rents out several of these sites for private parties on any given night, so you may not be able to watch from your preferred location. Another important thing to keep in mind is timing. If you’re at EPCOT on a busy night, you may need to arrive up to 45 minutes or earlier to get a prime viewing location. My suggestion would be to grab a snack or beverage from one of the several locations throughout World Showcase and enjoy the evening until its showtime. The viewing areas in the World Showcase promenade area typically fill up quickly, so be sure to plan ahead according to the location you choose. A note about photography: trees, light poles and torches can be nice things to look at, but you don’t necessarily want them in your photographs. Try choosing an area with an open, unobstructed view of the lake.
World Showcase Promenade
This viewing area is right down on the waterfront, as soon as you enter World Showcase. From here you will have an excellent view of the show with no obstructions. Keep in mind that this area is typically very busy because of its proximity to the exit to Future World and its center view of the lagoon. On recent trips I’ve noticed this area being used for private parties, so if its booked up look to the next best sites, on either side of the shops. I’ve not been able to photograph from this location yet, but it is perfect for capturing the show due to its proximity to the barges.
This viewing area is located between the United Kingdom and France and offers a good angle towards the center of the lagoon. The show is largely unobstructed, save for the island which sits just to the right of the barges in your view. If there is a party at this location (it is the location I’ve seen booked most frequently), try standing on the bridge between the UK and France or the small standing area behind the Yorkshire County Fish Shop. I have photographed from this area on a couple trips and in my opinion it is not the best location to choose from. The island to the right can get in the way of some shots, so keep that in mind when choosing a location based on photography.
The Japanese pavilion has a couple of options to choose from as far as views go. The primary location is along the lagoon where the Torii Gate sits. There is an island to the left of this area and trees can get in the way here, but you do get a nice close-up of the globe barge. I’ve taken some nice photographs from this location, though it is one of the furthest points from the center of the lagoon. The second location to consider is on the second floor of the Mitsukoshi building. There is very limited space here, but it provides a wonderful view of the show. You won’t have to worry about trees blocking your view from up there. If you want to try for this space, grab some tasty snacks from the back room of Mitsukoshi and get there early.
This is my preferred location to set up and watch Illuminations, as you have an unobstructed view and are at a nice angle to the center of the lagoon. There is plenty of room along the railings to set up your tripod and take that perfect photograph. The only drawback is that this is also one of the more frequently occupied locations for private parties. If it is in use for a party, sometimes they do not use all of the location, so you may be able to stand along the railings if you’re lucky.
Norway and Mexico
The last location I’m going to mention is between Norway and Mexico. Here you have a wide and open area to view the show, though if you’re too far into Norway you may be obstructed by trees or the island to the left of you. This area fills up fast and can become extremely crowded on any given night, so make it a point to show up early if you’re going to choose this location. I have not attempted to take photographs in this location because it is usually too crowded for a tripod, but it is very close to the action in the center of the lagoon.
So there you have it, my favorite locations to view Illuminations from around World Showcase. There are plenty of fine places to view the show, which also includes Future World if you want a quieter, less crowded location. If you are like me and interested in taking high quality photographs of the show, arrive to your location up to an hour early to ensure that you have ample time to set up your equipment and that you have a spot along the railing. What is your preferred location to view Illuminations?
Thanks for reading, and remember you can now listen to us each and every Monday night at 7pm on WTSC Radio at Live365.com!