Whenever I find myself at Disney World and the sky is beginning to darken, there’s this voice inside of me that never fails to whisper: “Wishes is starting soon. YOU MUST SEE IT.”
It doesn’t matter if the vacation plans for that evening include Wishes. It doesn’t matter if I just saw Wishes the previous night. That little suggestion makes itself heard all the same.
Wishes is so magical, and there are so many different perspectives to choose: it’s fun to try to experience them all. There’s the beach at the Polynesian, the stairwells and bridge at the Contemporary, the dock at the Grand Floridian, and of course all the various spots within the Magic Kingdom itself. So that must-watch-Wishes instinct isn’t such a bad one to have on vacation…
But when you move to Florida and become a cast member and still feel, every night at 9 o’ clock, that really you ought to be somewhere watching Wishes, then you know you’ve got a problem.
Luckily, during my time working as a cast member, I was constantly discovering new and unusual spots where you can glimpse Disney fireworks going off. It was like little sprinkles of unexpected pixie dust! To paraphrase the one-and-only Jiminy Cricket: Sometimes, Wishes can be seen in the most unexpected places!
For instance, because Florida is so flat, Wishes can be seen pretty well from many of the neighborhoods and streets and parking lots located behind the Magic Kingdom – one of which I happened to live in! Sometimes after a late shift I would be driving to the grocery store and right across a field would be Disney fireworks filling the sky. I’m used to thinking of Wishes as a super-special, once-a-year-during-vacation kind of thing, so seeing it in the course of a chore as mundane as a grocery run was pretty mind blowing!
Wishes never lost its magic, and I would get so excited just to catch pinches of it. The most obscure but maybe most magical fireworks viewing I ever discovered was during a shift on the front desk at the Boardwalk one night. It was quiet in the lobby, and you could hear the booms of fireworks going off – not only from Illuminations but Wishes as well. There are actually a few rooms and places on the Boardwalk where you can get a glimpse of Wishes – I obviously couldn’t leave the lobby to watch that night, but it turns out I didn’t need to!
Out of the corner of my eye I noticed flashes of color in the lobby: it was Wishes! You see, there’s a miniature carousel in the lobby of the Boardwalk, and it has a clear glass/plastic case surrounding it. One of the panels of that case happened to be at just the right angle so that it was reflecting the Magic Kingdom fireworks. I know, it sounds ridiculous to get so excited over such a small peek at the fireworks, but it totally made my night. I mean, what are the chances that the fireworks would be reflected just right? I couldn’t stop marveling over it!
For the more obvious and better-quality fireworks viewing at the Boardwalk, you have to turn your attention back to Epcot. Did you know you can see the higher Illuminations fireworks from the Boardwalk’s Concierge Lounge? I worked up in the Innkeeper’s Club for a little while, and it was so fun to have the colorful pixie dust filling the sky just outside the lounge’s balcony.
Another night (when I was not working!), I was nipping out of Epcot just before Illuminations to avoid the crowds. I got to the parking lot only to have my quick getaway plan foiled by a dead car battery! One of the nice Disney security guys soon fixed the battery, and at 9 o’ clock I discovered another piece of magic. It was a night when both Illuminations and Wishes were going at 9, and I could see them both from right there in the parking lot – to my left were the bursts from Epcot’s fireworks, to my right those from the Magic Kingdom. So cool!
To tell the truth, most of the unusual fireworks viewing that I found as a cast member was not technically very good viewing. I got excited about the little glimpses because I’m crazy about Disney fireworks that way.
There was, however, one really stunning and unusual view of Wishes I experienced multiple times, driving home from work. Sometimes, if I got lucky and had a shift that got out at just the right time, Wishes would be going off right above me as I drove past the Magic Kingdom. Of course, when you’re driving you can’t pay much attention to it; you’ve got to give your attention to the road. But whenever someone else was driving and I was the passenger, my face would be glued to the car window to watch!
Driving north beyond the Contemporary takes you past the backstage buildings behind the Magic Kingdom, and also past where the fireworks are shot up. To see the trails of light shooting into the sky from so close, just behind the trees, was INCREDIBLE, and the way the fireworks would sparkle above you was truly breathtaking.
Fireworks are one of the things that make Disney at Night so magical – the way pixie dust just fills the sky – and you never know how or when some of it will find its way to you!
What’s your favorite fireworks-watching spot in Orlando? Let us know in the comments!!
Emma is a writer, photographer and self-described Disney snob. She blogs at the super, duper fun A Pinch of Pixie Dust. She recently left her position as a cast member at Walt Disney World in Orlando and is working as a freelance writer. You can also catch up with her on twitter: she’s @bookishprincess.