Description And Comments
Epcot's great outdoor spectacle, integrates fireworks, laser lights, neon, and music in a stirring tribute to the nations of the world. It’s the climax of every Epcot day, and not to be missed.
IllumiNations has a plot and a theme, both fairly freighted with symbolism. The show kicks off with colliding stars that suggest the Big Bang, following which “chaos reigns in the universe.” This display is soon replaced by twittering songbirds and various other manifestations signaling the nativity of the Earth. Next comes a brief history of time, from the dinosaurs to ancient Rome, all projected in images on a huge, floating globe. Man’s art and inspiration then flash across the globe “in a collage of creativity.” All this stimulates the globe to unfold “like a massive flower,” bringing on the fireworks crescendo heralding the dawn of a new age.
Word around the lagoon is that a new nighttime extravaganza will replace IllumiNations sometime in the next few years. While we don’t know the plot, we’re reasonably sure the show will contain lasers, fireworks, and music. There are hints that it’ll have some sort of interactive element, too, but no information of any substance.
Getting Out of Epcot after IllumiNations
(Read This before Selecting a Viewing Spot)
IllumiNations ends the day at Epcot. When it’s over, only a couple of gift shops remain open. Because there’s nothing to do, everyone leaves at once. This creates a great snarl at Package Pick-Up, the Epcot monorail station, and the Disney bus stop. It also pushes to the limit the tram system hauling guests to their cars in the parking lot. It’s important, then, to decide how quickly you want to leave the park after the show, and then pick your vantage point.
If you’re staying at an Epcot resort (Swan, Dolphin, Yacht & Beach Club Resorts, and BoardWalk Inn & Villas), watch the show from somewhere on the southern (US Pavilion) half of World Showcase Lagoon, then leave through the International Gateway between France and the United Kingdom. You can walk or take a boat back to your hotel from the International Gateway. If you have a car and you’re visiting Epcot in the evening for dinner and IllumiNations, park at the Yacht Club or Beach Club. After the show, duck out the International Gateway and be on the road to your hotel in 15 minutes.
If you’re staying at any other Disney hotel and you don’t have a car, the fastest way home is to join the mass exodus through the main gate after IllumiNations and catch a bus or the monorail.
Those who have a car in the Epcot lot have a more problematic situation. To beat the crowd, find a viewing spot at the end of World Showcase Lagoon nearest Future World (and the exits). Leave as soon as the show concludes, trying to exit ahead of the crowd (note that thousands of people will be doing exactly the same thing). To get a good vantage point between Mexico and Canada on the northern end of the lagoon, stake out your spot 60–100 minutes before the show (45–90 minutes during less-busy periods), or use FastPass+. Otherwise, you may squander more time holding your spot before IllumiNations than you would if you watched from the less-congested southern end of the lagoon and took your chances with the crowd upon departure.
More groups get separated and more kids get lost following IllumiNations than at any other time. In summer, you’ll be walking in a throng of up to 30,000 people. If you’re heading for the parking lot, anticipate this congestion and preselect a point in the Epcot entrance area where you can meet if someone gets separated from the group. We recommend the fountain just inside the main entrance.
For those with a car, the main problem is reaching the parking lot. Once you’re there, traffic leaves the parking lot pretty well. If you paid close attention to where you parked, consider skipping the tram and walking. If you walk, watch your children closely and hang on to them for all they’re worth—the parking lot is pretty wild at this time of night, with hundreds of moving cars.
Good Locations for Viewing IllumiNations and Other World Showcase Lagoon Performances
The best place to be for any presentation on World Showcase Lagoon is in a seat on the lakeside veranda of the La Cantina de San Angel in Mexico. Come early (at least 90 minutes before IllumiNations) and relax with a cold drink or snack while you wait for the show.
A woman from Pasadena, California, nailed down the seat but missed the relaxation. She writes:
Stake out a prime site for IllumiNations at least 2 hours ahead, and be prepared to defend it. We got a lakeside table at the Cantina de San Angel at 6:30 p.m. and had a great view of IllumiNations. Unfortunately, we had to put up with troops of people asking us to share our table and trying to wedge themselves between our table and the fence.
La Hacienda de San Angel in Mexico, the Rose & Crown Pub in the United Kingdom, and Spice Road Table in Morocco also have lagoon-side seating. Because of a small wall, however, the view isn't quite as good as from the Cantina.
If you want to combine dinner at either location with Illuminations, make a dinner reservation for about 1 hour and 15 minutes before showtime. Report a few minutes early for your seating and tell the host that you want a table outside where you can view IllumiNations during or after dinner. Our experience is that the staff will bend over backward to accommodate you. If you aren't able to obtain a table outside, eat inside, then hang out until showtime. When the lights dim, indicating the start of IllumiNations, you'll be allowed to join the diners to watch the show.
Because most guests run for the exits after a presentation, and because islands in the southern (US Pavilion) half of the lagoon block the view from some places, the most popular spectator positions are along the northern waterfront from Norway and Mexico on around to Canada and the United Kingdom. Although the northern half of the lagoon unquestionably offers excellent viewing, it's usually necessary to claim a spot 60-100 minutes before IllumiNations begins.
For those who are late finishing dinner, can’t use FastPass+, or don’t want to spend an hour or more standing by a rail, here are some good viewing spots along the southern perimeter (moving counterclockwise from the United Kingdom to Germany) that often go unnoticed until 10–30 minutes before showtime:
- International Gateway Island.The pedestrian bridge across the canal near International Gateway spans an island that offers great viewing. This island normally fills 30 minutes or more before showtime.
- Second-floor (Restaurant-level) Deck of the Mitsukoshi Building in Japan. An Asian arch slightly blocks your sight line, but this covered deck offers a great vantage point, especially if the weather is iffy. Only La Hacienda de San Angel in Mexico is more protected. If you take up a position on the Mitsukoshi deck and find the wind blowing directly at you, you can be reasonably sure that the smoke from the fireworks won’t be far behind.
- Gondola Landing at Italy. An elaborate waterfront promenade offers excellent viewing. Claim a spot at least 30 minutes before showtime.
- The Boat Dock Opposite Germany. Another good vantage point, the dock generally fills 30 minutes before IllumiNations. Note: This area may be exposed to more smoke from the fireworks because of Epcot's prevailing winds.
- Waterfront Promenade by Germany. Views are good from the 90-foot-long lagoon-side walkway between Germany and China.
None of the viewing locations are reservable, and good spots go early on busier nights. But speaking personally, we refuse to hold down a slab of concrete for 2 hours before IllumiNations as some people do. Most nights, you can find an acceptable vantage point 15–30 minutes before the show. Don’t position yourself under a tree, an awning, or anything that blocks your overhead view.
IllumiNations and FastPass+
We don’t recommend IllumiNations as a good use of one of your first three advance FastPass+ reservations, but if you have only one day to tour Epcot and you’re using our standard touring plan, you should be able to pick up a same-day FastPass+ reservation for IllumiNations just after 2 p.m., after you’ve experienced all of Epcot’s headliners.
Norway’s new Frozen-themed boat ride makes for some tough FastPass+ choices. FastPasses for IllumiNations usually run out by 2 p.m., but it’s unlikely that most guests will be finished with their Frozen Ever After FastPass+ experiences by then. However, plenty of excellent IllumiNations viewing locations can be found around World Showcase, so it’s not as critical to have a FastPass+ for this nighttime show.
Readers confirm that even when you do have a FastPass+ reservation for IllumiNations, it doesn’t work very well. These comments are representative:
It wasn’t worth it to me. There were a LOT of people and a small amount of railing space, which everyone was jostling for. I’m vertically challenged (5'4"), and I couldn’t see the globe very well. The lineup to get into the spot was INSANE. We went early and had to wait in line for about 20 minutes just to get into the viewing area.
Best Epcot IllumiNations Viewing Locations
Foto Face-off Friday: IllumiNations vs Magic Kingdom Fireworks
SATURDAY SIX: Six Things We Wish Theme Park Fans Would Stop Complaining About (featuring "IllumiNations Needs to be Changed"
- This attraction offers FastPass+.
- We rate this attraction as Not To Be Missed.
Other Attractions in World Showcase
- Agent P's World Showcase Adventure
- American Music Machine
- British Revolution
- Candlelight Processional
- Frozen Ever After
- Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros
- Holidays Around the World: Chinese Lion Dancers
- Holidays Around the World: Daruma in Japan
- Holidays Around the World: Father Christmas in United Kingdom
- Holidays Around the World: Hanukkah in American Adventure
- Holidays Around the World: Helga in Germany
- Holidays Around the World: Kwanzaa in American Adventure
- Holidays Around the World: Le Befana in Italy
- Holidays Around the World: Morocco
- Holidays Around the World: Père Noël in France
- Holidays Around the World: Sigrid and Julenissen in Norway
- Holidays Around the World: The Canadian Holiday Voyageurs
- Impressions de France
- Margret Almer & The Bavarian Band
- Mariachi Cobre
- Meet Anna and Elsa at Royal Sommerhus
- Musique Aramenco
- O Canada!
- Reflections of China
- Rose & Crown Pub Musician
- Serveur Amusant
- The American Adventure
- The Jeweled Dragon Acrobats
- Voices of Liberty
Touring Plans with IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth
- Epcot One-Day Touring Plan for Active Seniors
- Epcot One-Day Touring Plan for Tweens and Their Parents
- Epcot One-Day Holiday Touring Plan for Parents with Small Children
- Epcot Late Arrival One-Day Touring Plan for Parents with Small Children
- Epcot Two-Day Touring Plan for Active Seniors - Day 2
- Epcot Unofficial Guide Two-Day Sunrise/Starlight Touring Plan - Starlight
- Epcot Late Arrival Selective One-Day Touring Plan for Adults
- Epcot Two-Day Late Arrival Touring Plan for Adults - Day 1
- Epcot Two-Day Late Arrival Touring Plan for Adults - Day 2
- Epcot One-Day Holiday Touring Plan for Adults
- Epcot One-Day Not-A-Touring-Plan Plan for Parents and Adults
- Epcot Late Arrival Not-A-Touring-Plan Plan for Parents and Adults
- Epcot Two-Day Not-A-Touring-Plan Plan for Parents and Adults
- Epcot World Showcase Afternoon Touring Plan
- Epcot Afternoon Touring Plan for Future World
- Ultimate Touring Plan: Epcot
- Epcot One-Day Touring Plan for Adults
- Epcot Unofficial Guide Two-Day Sunrise/Starlight Touring Plan - Starlight
- Epcot One-Day Touring Plan for Parents with Small Children
- Epcot Early Riser Two-Day Touring Plan - Day 2
- Parent's Epcot Plan:1 Afternoon and 1 Full Day (Afternoon)
- See all Touring Plans...