Wishes is one of those must-do events when you visit Walt Disney World. Who hasn’t seen the iconic images of fire exploding above the castle?
Wishes also regularly plays a part in big life events. I’ve personally seen marriage proposals take place during Wishes. And many other guests make Wishes a special event for honeymoons, anniversaries, birthdays and the like.
So, obviously, people want the best experience for their Wishes excursion. The fact of the matter is, there are a number of excellent options when it comes to watching Wishes. I’ll give you all of the options that I possibly can and try to highlight the pros and cons of each.
It’s important to note that there is a location within the Magic Kingdom that dims the lights during Wishes. I’ve outlined this area on the map below. While there are some not-so-great spots in this area, I’d easily say that the best spots to view Wishes are right within this area:
(Note: Changing over to new servers, so map is missing at the moment, but will be back soon.)
Now that’s out of the way, the locations…
Prime Locations for Wishes:
- Main Street U.S.A. – Obviously, this is just a given. Unlike Wishes predecessor, Fantasy in the Sky, Wishes uses the Castle as a showpiece and as a stage, if you will, for the performance. There are, of course, “prime” locations to watch Wishes on Main Street. And then, there are some, well, not so prime locations. I’ll detail each:
- Main Street Midway (Prime) – This path that runs between the shops on either side of Main Street obviously provides a central location for viewing the show with little to no blockage of view by light posts and the like. However, despite warnings given before the show to remain stationary while the lights are dimmed, some people just can’t listen. They will be the ones trying to walk toward the park exit – occasionally bumping into you as they do. When the park is especially crowded, this is obviously a much bigger problem than during off-season times. Still, it’s a good spot to view the show.
- Sidewalks of Main Street – Not such a good idea. During Wishes, the shops on Main Street will still be open and, as such, people will be attempting to get into the shops. Not to mention, your view will be blocked by awnings, trees and light posts.
- The Tables at Casey’s Corner – Some people swear by this, but I can’t see why. While it’s nice to have a place to sit, you also put yourself at a disadvantage by viewing Wishes here. Mainly because you will be getting a great view of the behinds of people who stop in front of you to watch the show. On the other hand, if you get there early enough and can get a table near the railing just beside the pond, you have a better chance of having a good viewing spot. Take note, however, that these tables disappear quickly and that there are people who will actually be eating at Casey’s and looking for a spot. For all of these reasons, I don’t really recommend it unless you are at the World during a very off-season time.
- The Tables at the Plaza Restaurant - I actually find this a little bit better than the tables at Casey’s, but only by a smidge. If you get by the railing, like Casey’s, you have a better chance of enjoying the show.
- The Smoking Area in front of The Plaza Restaurant – This actually isn’t such a bad area if you’re a smoker. If you’re not, forget it. It gets quite smoky here.
- The North End of Main Street, Closer to the Castle (Prime) - There are some things to keep in mind. When you stake out your spot (necessary during higher traffic times), see if you have anything blocking your view. There are a couple of light posts on the sidewalk that can wind up blocking your view. I found that my view was blocked one night by one of these too late while watching Hallowishes as you can see in the video below.
- Castle Hub – This is one of the most popular spots for viewing Wishes and with good reason. It provides a fantastic view of the castle and the fireworks and there’s no obstructive lighting. Here’s a breakdown of the various areas of the Hub.
- Around the “Partners” statue (Prime) – In the event you’re unfamiliar with the Partners statue, it’s the statue of Walt and Mickey that stands in the hub – central to the castle. This is probably the most popular spot for viewing Wishes and in peak seasons, this spot will fill quickly, so stake your spot right after the parade. If you’re taping the show with a tripod, you’ll probably want to stand on the edge of the hub, nearest to Main Street. The reason for this is that there’s a good number of people congregating around the statue and they will constantly knock your tripod around (always, always, always hold onto your tripod – otherwise, chances are good that your camera will meet the concrete). However, make sure you get on the sidewalk and don’t remain in the street. You can view the footage I took about ten feet from the Partners statue (no tripod) below. This was actually Holiday Wishes, but the set up is virtually the same.
- The Pathway from Fantasyland to Castle Hub (Very Good) – This is a good location for viewing Tinkerbell’s flight. In the above video, you can see that I spliced some footage from this area into the video. That will be your view of Tinkerbell from the bench area closest to the walkway that leads to the Wishing Well.
- The Pathway from Tomorrowland to Castle Hub (Very Good) - Another good spot. The large walkway allows people to get through without too many problems. There’s also not too much greenery to get in the way of your viewing like on the other side near Liberty Square and Adventureland. This provides another good spot for viewing Tinkerbell’s Flight.
- Rose Garden near Tomorrowland (Very Good) – If there’s not a ticketed event going on later that night, this makes a nice viewing spot as well. However, when ticketed events will be taking place later that night, this will serve as a queue for wristbands and will be off limits to viewing.
- Elsewhere in the Magic Kingdom – If you view Wishes any other place within the Magic Kingdom, you’re doing yourself a disservice, in my humble opinion. First of all, the lights will be blazing all around as people will be entering the surrounding attractions. Second, while you will hear the audio (assuming you’re not inside a restaurant or attraction), you won’t be able to view the projections on the castle or the explosions on or near the castle. However, for the most part, you will be able to see the bigger explosions. One thing you should be aware of is that sometimes a small drift of smoke might drift your way if you’re in Fantasyland, Adventureland or parts of Tomorrowland. This really just depends on the weather and the wind and it’s usually not a very big problem at all. Just something to be aware of. Take a look at the second video on this page and notice the rolling smoke from the near castle explosions. That’s what I’m talking about.
Outside the Magic Kingdom
Wishes can be viewed from numerous areas outside the Magic Kingdom, around the Seven Seas Lagoon & Bay Lake. Here’s a rundown of those locations.
- California Grill @ The Contemporary Resort – One of the pricier restaurants in Disney is the California Grill. Located at the top of the Contemporary Resort, many people swear by its view of Wishes. While the view of the Magic Kingdom and the fireworks are fairly cool, I still feel as if you don’t get the full effect of the show here. Music is piped in – volume low – so it’s nice for a romantic evening. Tastes seem to vary on this one. Note: California Grill does have a dress code, though I’ve heard they have become somewhat lax recently. When you make reservations, ask what the dress code is. Better safe than sorry.
- Ohana @ The Polynesian Resort - Like California Grill, you can watch Wishes here with the music piped in. If you’re not one for the immersive experience of Wishes, then you might like this.
- Narcoossee’s @ The Grand Floridian – Another restaurant in which the music will be piped in during the fireworks. This one is nice because of the atmosphere and how it sits on the water. You’re not going to get the full-on experience of Wishes here, but if you’ve seen the show before, this is a nice spot for a repeat viewing.
- Other Spots Along Bay Lake & the Seven Seas Lagoon (Via the resort beaches and docks) – You can view Wishes most anywhere along Bay Lake and the Seven Seas Lagoon via the Contemporary Resort, The Grand Floridian Resort, The Polynesian Resort, Wilderness Lodge and Fort Wilderness. Having done this, I can tell you that it’s nowhere near the magical experience it would be in the park. If you’ve seen the show before, it’s not so bad to catch the fireworks from afar, however you won’t get the music and, depending on where you are, your view of the castle might be obstructed. Also, if it’s during the warmer seasons, be prepared to contend with some insects.
- The Wishes Cruise – This is a speciality cruise that you can book for around $225 (prices vary – call (407)-WDW-PLAY to book and for more information). With this cruise, you can order a full dinner from one of the surrounding resorts. You’ll be given a tour of Bay Lake and the Seven Seas Lagoon. When it’s time for Wishes to begin, the boat, along with the other boats taking the cruise that night, will park in front of the Magic Kingdom. Music is piped into the boat as you watch the fireworks from the water. For viewing the show outside of the Magic Kingdom, this is probably one of the best views. Of course, it does come with a price.
My ultimate opinion: if you’ve never seen Wishes, see it inside the park, near the castle hub at one of the prime locations stated above. Dimmed lighting, music and being near the castle make it magical. Of course, be ready to contend with the crowds after the show, but it’s a small price to pay for the best seat in the house.