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Touring Tips – Illuminations

Illuminations began at Epcot on January 30, 1988 and ran until Sept 20, 1996 when it became Illuminations 25 to celebrate WDW’s 25th anniversary. Then, on October 1, 1999, the show was changed to Illuminations 2000: Reflections of Earth. The 2000 was dropped form the title Jan 1, 2001, but the show lived on and has become one of the most popular nighttime shows at all of Walt Disney World.

In the past, I had been one of those people who always want to make sure I get a good spot for Illuminations. At the same time, I wanted to beat the crowd out of the park after it is over. I always stay at a Disney resort so the bus lines can get very long after Illuminations ends.

This typically involves me parking myself at the entrance to World Showcase at least and hour and often one hour and a half prior to show time. As it gets closer to show time, this involves getting crowded in by the hundreds of other people that show up and try to claim a spot. At the end, everyone sprints for the exit. I was really tired of doing this and thought there must be a better way. I wanted to enjoy the show without worrying about getting a good spot, and planning my exit.

Here is what I did, and what I will suggest to you.

Visit Epcot during Extra Magic Hour Evenings and plan to watch Illuminations at that time. About ½ hour prior to show time, make your way around World Showcase to Germany or Italy. You can usually find a prime viewing location still open at that time and will only have to allocate 15-20 minutes of standing and waiting for the show to start.

Once the show is over, you can now take your time coming back around World Showcase, visiting pavilions and visiting attractions. You have planned to be there late so you are not in any hurry to exit as this is part of the schedule you have developed for yourself and you can take your time and let the crowds thin out.

For those that do not stay at a Disney resort and can’t participate in Evening Extra Magic Hours, you can still use this method. During Evening Extra Magic hours, you can still wander the park and visit the various World Showcase pavilions. The only thing you cannot do is ride any attractions. Of course, you will not be taking Disney transportation, so bus lines will not be a concern. You will, however, have an easier time leaving the parking lot as most of the crowd will have left at the end of the show.

During my visit, I stopped at Germany, China, Norway (rode Malestrom), and Mexico on my way back to Future World. Upon arriving at Future World, I went over and did the Seas with Nemo and Turtle Talk with no wait at all. I then did Spaceship Earth on my way out before going to the bus stop for Port Orleans around 11:15 p.m. There was still a line but I was able to get on the next bus that came and was back at the hotel by 11:45 p.m.

This really took the stress out of viewing Illuminations and my family was actually able to view Illuminations from a great location and relax while doing it. I would highly recommend trying this strategy and see how it works out for you.

I know I will always use this for the future.

Until next time, Happy Touring…

Photos by Colin Carroll

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