Disney excels in many things - and the Disney World fireworks and night time entertainment is definitely one of them. What they produce every single night, in multiple parks, trumps any other displays I've ever seen. They are absolutely not to be missed - so below is a summary of what you need to plan for.
Disney World Fireworks: Magic Kingdom
Magic Kingdom has two night time shows; Once Upon a Time and Happily Ever After.
Once Upon a Time is the shorter show - roughly 15 minutes, and is a projection and music show - hosted by Mrs Potts and Chip. Cinderella Castle is lit up with projections of your favourite movies and characters, with the accompanying soundtrack. It is fantastic.
However the principal show at Magic Kingdom is called Happily Ever After and it is so much more than a fireworks show. Cinderella Castle is again lit up with projections, with music, a storyline, lasers and just the most amazing fireworks. It really is incredible and a must see.
The only downside to both of the Magic Kingdom shows is that because they are actually projected on the castle, you really do have to be on Mainstreet, USA in order to get a good view. Ideally relatively close to the castle. Which means it gets ridiculously busy and the cast members move you along and cram you in. Get their early to stake out your spot.
The time of these shows changes, dependent on the opening hours of the parks, so check out the times for your trip on the My Disney Experience app or website.
Disney World Fireworks: Epcot
IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth has been running at Epcot since 1988 - originally as just 'IllumiNations' and changed in 1998 to its current form. It is set over World Showcase Lagoon and features a powerful story of people around the world. It was once my favourite show - I'd well up every time. Unfortunately, it really has served its time, and Disney have realised this and are in the process of replacing it. They are currently planning two future shows. Epcot Forever will start on October 1st, 2019 and will be an interim show, until the more permanent show is developed, which is expected to launch in 2020. Thats not to say that Epcot Forever won't be great - it is featuring fireworks, lasers and lit up special effects kites!
IlluminNations is still is a fantastic show, (just not as cutting edge as at the other parks) so catch it if you can. You can view it from all around World Showcase Lagoon. It will continue to run at 9pm, every night, until September 30th, 2019.
Disney World Fireworks: Hollywood Studios
There are two nighttime shows at Hollywoods Studios. Fantasmic is a sit down show, in a huge outdoor amphitheatre. It seats 6900 people, with additional space for up to 3000 people standing. The show is fantastic - it is all about Mickey and his dream, interacting with lots of characters. It becomes a nightmare, forcing Mickey and his friends to defeat evil, with the Evil Queen, Ursula and Maleficent fighting him. Of course good conquers evil and the finale sees lots of characters sail past you on Steamboat Willie. It features lights, fire, pyrotechnics, water projections and a fab score.
The amphitheatre opens 90 mins in advance of opening and in very busy season, people start queuing an hour before that (we've never found that necessary!) But you can take in food, so if you plan to be there a while, perhaps make a picnic out of it.
One thing to bear in mind - it is dark as it is night time and there is a 'Villains' section. Without fail, there is a parent or two that has to take out crying children. If yours are the sensitive sort, wait until they are older.
The newer fireworks show at Hollywood Studios is Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular. This is entirely dedicated to Star Wars and is projected onto the front of the Chinese Theatre and the sound stages either side. The show features lights, cinematic projections, lasers, and of course, fireworks. This includes clips from every movie in the franchise it as updated after the Solo movie came out, for example. You don't have to be a big fan, but it probably helps if you've at least seen some of the films, so you can follow along.
The two shows are usually timed to be overlapping - forcing you to chose one to watch. If you're a big Star Wars fan, the choice is obvious. If it is your first time and you're not dedicated to Star Wars, Fantasmic is definitely more of a 'classic' not to be missed. We'd recommend visiting twice during your trip, so you don't miss either one!
Disney World fireworks: Animal Kingdom
There isn't any! One of the most encouraging things about Animal Kingdom is that Disney really do put the animals first. That means paper straws (before they were rolled out everywhere) and no balloons as they might be dangerous - and so of course, no fireworks, as they would scare the animals. They also used the close the park early too so the animals could be put to bed 🙂 but this has been lifted in recent years.
There are night time shows though. Tree of Life Awakenings is a short show, featuring light projections onto the huge Tree of Life in Discovery Island, as the animals 'come to life'. It is shown every ten minutes after dark. It is a lovely show, and one we recommend you stop and watch if you're there - but not one to make a special trip for.
Rivers of Light: We are One is the main night time show at Animal Kingdom. It is set on the lagoon, with seating in both Asia and DinoLand USA. It features light projections, lasers, boats, floats and fountains as it shows you the 'magic of nature'.
This version of the show only launched in May 2019 and saw the addition of characters from Disneynature and animation. The original version had its fans, but was more commonly criticised. It was meant to be much more ambitious and had to be scaled back due to technical issues. It has a beautiful score, but is quite 'artsy' and quite slow paced. We would have best described it as 'nice' - one to try and catch if you are in the park, but we don't plan our trip around it and often skip it altogether. With young children it tends to capture their attention at the beginning, because it is beautiful, but they often get antsy by the end. The 'We are one' reincarnation has tried to appeal to a wider audience by adding the characters. Because it is so new, the jury is still out on whether it has made a significant improvement - the addition of familiar faces has certainly made it more appealing for many.
Because the seating isn't huge, even the original version often got to capacity, so if you definitely want to see it, consider a FastPass+ or get there early.
The Disney World fireworks are phenomenal. They are among one of our favourite things about most of the parks, and a fab ending to any day! I hope you can catch some of them while you are there.