WDW Magazine - - Front Page - BY DAVE SHUTE

Walt Dis­ney World dur­ing the day is delightful, but the vary­ing blues of the sky and dif­fer­ent de­grees of cloud cover—even, bless us, rain clouds—make it hard for Walt Dis­ney World to al­ways show at its best.

Night, though, is dif­fer­ent. Darkness re­duces dis­trac­tions, and pro­vides a dif­fer­ent can­vas for light and color to ap­pear. Know­ing this, the Imag­i­neers show off some of their best work at night—not just the fa­mous evening spec­tac­u­lars like Il­lu­mi­na­tions and Fan­tas­mic!, but also some lower key shows, and even some of the rides.

Here’s what First Timers ought not to miss:


Each park has a key­stone evening show—hol­ly­wood Stu­dios has two—that most First Timers should add to their “Must Do” lists.

May 11 marked the last day of Magic King­dom’s night­time fire­works show, Wishes, which was many guests’ fa­vorite night­time event at the WDW parks, be­ing re­placed by Hap­pily Ever Af­ter, a com­bined fire­works and pro­jec­tion show. Dead­lines mean that I haven’t seen the new show yet as I write this, but the odds are bet­ter than 80% that it will con­tinue to be a “Can’t Miss” show. Most of the year, such a show has been on al­most ev­ery night, with times typ­i­cally vary­ing from 8:00 PM un­til 10:00 PM, but from late Au­gust un­til mid-de­cem­ber, most weeks, it’s on only 3-4 nights a week.

At Ep­cot, Il­lu­mi­na­tions: Re­flec­tions of Earth, a fire­works, video, and laser show, is on pretty much ev­ery night, most com­monly at 9:00 PM, but af­ter Thanks­giv­ing, at 9.30 PM.

At Dis­ney’s An­i­mal King­dom, the new Rivers of Light evening show is a sub­tle com­bi­na­tion of light, mu­sic, color, and wa­ter. Pos­si­bly a bit dull for the youngest of kids, its love­li­ness grows on every­one else. It shows one or two times a night, ev­ery night dur­ing the busier parts of the year, and once or twice a night, four times a week dur­ing the rest of the year.

Dis­ney’s Hol­ly­wood Stu­dios has two evening spec­tac­u­lars. Its Star Wars: A Galac­tic Spec­tac­u­lar com­bines some fire­works with many Star Wars pro­jec­tions, and is best for Star Wars fans. Fan­tas­mic! com­bines live ac­tion with char­ac­ters, pro­jec­tions, and some mi­nor fire­works into, per­haps, the most Dis­ney of all the Night­time Spec­tac­u­lars.

Re­cently, each has been on nightly, but their tim­ing has been such that on nights with only one Fan­tas­mic!—which is by far most com­mon—you can’t re­ally see both.


Magic King­dom and Dis­ney’s An­i­mal King­dom each have other shows that only oc­cur af­ter dark. At Magic King­dom, the pro­jec­tion show, Once Upon a Time is typ­i­cally shown 45 min­utes af­ter the fire­works show, and is well worth the wait. At An­i­mal King­dom, the pro­jec­tion show Tree of Life Awak­en­ings of­fers a se­ries of sub­tle mo­ments, with in­ter­ludes be­tween each evening. These can be on for as briefly as about an hour, or as long as sev­eral hours, de­pend­ing on park clos­ing hours and sun­set times.


For those at­trac­tions with out­door com­po­nents, darkness can change ei­ther the ex­pe­ri­ence of the ride, or the views of the rest of the park—or both. Af­ter dark is the only

pe­riod when Dis­ney Imag­i­neers can fully con­trol the lights and col­ors ex­pe­ri­enced by rid­ers of out­door rides, and many are sim­ply at their best then.

Ep­cot and Hol­ly­wood Stu­dios are es­sen­tially in­door parks as their at­trac­tions go (the ex­cep­tion is Tower of Ter­ror at the Stu­dios, which is great fun af­ter dark), so most of the rides that gain new di­men­sions af­ter dark are at An­i­mal King­dom and Magic King­dom. At An­i­mal King­dom es­pe­cially, do Expedition Everest af­ter dark, and, if you have al­ready seen it dur­ing day­light, Kil­i­man­jaro Safaris as well. At Magic King­dom, the top af­ter dark rides are: Splash Moun­tain, Big Thun­der Moun­tain, and Jun­gle Cruise, but also con­sider Dumbo and the Astro-or­biter.

Walt Dis­ney World af­ter dark presents some of its most spe­cial mo­ments, and ev­ery vis­i­tor should plan at least one evening in each of the four theme parks!

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