Do you have a family member who has a fear of fireworks, AND you’re headed to Disney World? Let’s talk about 3 ways you can manage fear of fireworks at Disney World!
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Being scared of fireworks isn’t uncommon at all. In fact, I would say the majority of highly sensitive, sensory sensitive, and anxious kids have been fearful of fireworks at some point in their lives. The loud popping noises. The bright colors across the sky. The rumble of the “boom” that you feel in your body. Lots of hazy smoke and the smell that might come from it. So many people crowded together. All of this can be sensory overload for ANYONE. But it can be even more so for those who are already sensitive and anxious to begin with.
Our Personal Experience with Fear of Fireworks at Disney
We’ve dealt with this in our own family as my firstborn was VERY afraid of fireworks. 4th of July was an issue every year because of all the explosions we could hear in our neighborhood.
During our first ever trip to Disney World when she was 4.5 years old, we didn’t do any nighttime shows. We were that family that was racing out of the park before the fireworks started, while the crowds poured in to stake out their ideal spot.
When she was 5 years old, we did our first stay at Disney World as DVC members and we splurged our points to stay at Bay Lake Tower of the Contemporary Resort. We got to watch the fireworks from the comfort of our hotel room
At almost 6 years old, I was able to convince her to try sticking around the park for Magic Kingdom’s Happily Ever After. She was reluctant but tolerated the experience by hiding out in our double stroller with the canopy covering her while wearing noise canceling headphones. I didn’t pressure her, but she decided to crawl out during the last few minutes and caught the finale of the show.
After not returning to Walt Disney World for several years due to the pandemic, we finally got to visit again in 2022 when she was 8.5 years old. We watched the Magic Kingdom fireworks from the hub. And she did it too—with no tears, no meltdown, and she didn’t even ask for her noise canceling headphones!
Will this be the outcome for every child? No, because everyone is different and we can’t expect every child to outgrow their fears! But I share this story to validate your very real struggle. And to give light to the possibility that your sensitive kids could be able to tolerate or even enjoy something that was once hard for them.
Before we get into the 3 ways you can manage fear of fireworks at Disney World, let’s overview what to expect in terms of fireworks and nighttime shows at each of the Disney World theme parks.
Table of Contents
Magic Kingdom Fireworks
The iconic image of fireworks bursting behind the castle is always associated with what people think of as “Disney”. And Magic Kingdom is exactly where you’ll find it. Magic Kingdom has a nightly fireworks show that also includes projections on Cinderella Castle and down Main Street U.S.A.
Disney’s Enchantment will be running until April 2, 2023. After that, it will transition back to a revamped version of Happily Ever After. There are also special firework shows during holiday specific ticketed parties (Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party).
There are a few instances of daytime fireworks to be mindful as well, which isn’t mentioned often enough! The opening show in front of the castle is called Let the Magic Begin. Guests are allowed to enter the park and gather in front of the castle one hour before opening. At the end of this short and adorable show (featuring Mickey!), there will be a little pop of fireworks to signal the start of the day!
There is also a stage show called Mickey’s Magical Friendship Faire which runs several times a day. It features many of your favorite Disney characters with lots of songs and dance. Again, this show ends with a small blast of fireworks. Nothing extensive by any means. But if you have someone in your travel party who is scared of fireworks, make sure to be aware of all these shows that involve fireworks.
EPCOT has a nightly fireworks show, which is displayed on the water in the World Showcase section of the park. The show Harmonius will run until April 2, 2023. They will then bring back EPCOT Forever for a limited time while Imagineers work on a more permanent show. There are no other times when fireworks are used throughout the day.
Hollywood Studios Fireworks
There are two nighttime fireworks/projection shows at Hollywood Studios. The first is Fantasmic! which you can find at the very end of Sunset Boulevard. This nighttime spectacular takes place in an open air theater with limited seats. The shorter and lesser known show is the the Wonderful World of Imagination, which involves projections and fireworks in front of the Chinese Theater.
Animal Kingdom Fireworks
The ONLY Disney theme park where you won’t experience any fireworks is Animal Kingdom. Due to the numerous animals who call Animal Kingdom home, Disney makes sure to protect and ensure their well-being. And this means no loud explosions to startle them at night!
There is a nighttime projection show on the Tree of Life every night, and the land of Pandora also lights up beautifully. But there will be no colorful booms across the sky here, and it’s unlikely for that to ever change.
So now that we know about where you’ll find fireworks throughout Disney World, let’s get into the nitty gritty of HOW we can help manage the fear of fireworks for our sensitive and anxious children (or adult family members too!).
STEP 1: PREPARE BEFOREHAND
Addressing your child’s fear of fireworks should happen before you ever step foot into a Disney park. It’s often the fear of the unknown that causes more anxiety for sensitive kids, so I’ve found that it has helped to give them as much information as possible. Knowledge is power and can give them some sense of control!
Watching Youtube videos of the Disney fireworks show beforehand DOESN’T “ruin the magic”. It’s always different when experienced in person. But it’s a great first step to prepare them for what it could be like. For us, we repeatedly watched the Magic Kingdom fireworks show on Youtube for several months before we ever attempted it in person.
For some older kids, it might be helpful to listen to a podcast or read a book about how fireworks work. The more they know and understand how they work, the less scared they might feel. One of our favorite podcasts But Why: A Podcast for Curious Kids has an entire episode about the origin of fireworks, how they work, and why they are bright and loud. We love it because it features real and honest questions from kids that are answered by an expert of that specific topic.
STEP 2: GRADUALLY INCREASE EXPOSURE
Continued avoidance of what is “scary” can actually INCREASE the sense of fear. So it can really be worth trying to face your sensitive kid’s fears in a planned and supportive way.
If you have any familiarity with psychology, you may have heard of exposure therapy. This is a method often used with phobias of various kinds. The hope is that the child’s behavioral and sensory response to the feared stimulus (…in this case, fireworks) will reduce over time after repeated exposure to the feared stimulus.
You can help your kiddo climb their “fear ladder” by facing their feared situation in:
- increasing increments of time and/or
- decreasing the use of safety behaviors/accommodations
LOWEST RUNG: WATCH FIREWORKS FROM OUTSIDE OF THE PARKS
What might this look like in terms of the fireworks at the Disney theme parks? One of the lower “rungs” of the fear ladder might be watching the fireworks from outside the parks. The physical distance from the fireworks may help your child tolerate this a little better. There are so many options when it comes to watching the fireworks from outside the parks.
Magic Kingdom Fireworks Viewing Outside of Parks
To watch the Magic Kingdom fireworks from outside of the theme park, you can view them from any of the monorail resorts. These are the Contemporary Resort, Polynesian Resort, and Grand Floridian Resort.
We got a decent glimpse of the fireworks from the Skyway Bridge which connects Bay Lake Tower and the main building of the Contemporary Resort. You can also watch the fireworks from California Grill, a popular restaurant at the top of the Contemporary Resort. For Disney Vacation Club (DVC) members, you can also catch the fireworks from the Top of the World Lounge.
At the Polynesian, the beaches are a great place to watch the fireworks. They even pipe in the music so the experience is even better. If you’ve got a reservation at Ohana timed just right, you could see the fireworks from there as well.
From the Grand Floridian, there are several places to see the Magic Kingdom fireworks. You can get a good view from the boat dock outside of the resort. If you’ve got a dining reservation at Narcoosee’s, it’s possible for you to catch some of the show from your table. But you can also step outside onto the porch for a better view. No reservation? Don’t fret. Hang out by the Grand Floridian Marina and you’ll also be able to see the fireworks.
Wilderness Lodge and Fort Wilderness, while not on the monorail, are still considered “Magic Kingdom area” resorts. This is because they are both a short boat ride away. Although it’s a little further away, you can still see Magic Kingdom fireworks from those resort areas.
Ticket and Transportation Center
Another place you can watch the Magic Kingdom fireworks outside of the park is from the Ticket and Transportation Center. Its location near the Polynesian Resort makes it a great viewing spot.
For a more unique experience, you could also watch the fireworks from a boat! Ferrytale Fireworks: A Sparkling Dessert Cruise sets sail on the Seven Seas Lagoon with small bites, sweet desserts, and beverages while getting to see the fireworks from out on the water. It costs $99 per adult and $69 per child ages 3-9. Alternatively, you could reserve a completely private boat ride for up to 10 people, which would cost $399.
My only concern about doing a boat experience is that there is no way to “escape” or leave, in the event your child ends up having a massive meltdown and the experience is totally intolerable or them.
EPCOT and Hollywood Studios Fireworks Viewing Outside of the Parks
There are several options when it comes to viewing EPCOT and Hollywood Studios fireworks from outside the parks. You can see parts of the show from any of the hotels around Crescent Lake.
This includes Boardwalk, Yacht & Beach Club, and the Swan and Dolphin (the latter two are not Disney resorts—they are actually Marriott properties). All of these hotels are both walking distance from EPCOT and Hollywood Studios. This means they are all close enough to see some of those colorful explosions.
Disney’s Riviera Resort is not considered an EPCOT area resort, BUT you may be able to view the fireworks from the upper floors. Even if you’re not a guest there, you can dine at Topolino’s Terrace in the evening and see the fireworks from there! It is located on the top floor of the Riviera, and is most commonly known for its character breakfast. Instead of trying to snag that breakfast reservation, try grabbing a dinner slot and trade in the characters for some firework views instead.
MIDDLE RUNG: WATCH FROM INSIDE THE PARKS BUT FROM A DISTANCE
The next “rung” on the fear ladder could be watching the fireworks from inside the parks but from a location that would allow for an easy out. This is helpful because knowing that you have an exit plan in case it becomes too overwhelming may ease some of your child’s anxiousness.
For Magic Kingdom, this might mean watching from the Main Street Train Station right above the entrance. It gives you some space away from the bulk of the crowds on Main Street U.S.A. and in front of Cinderella Castle.
Being so close to the front of the park makes it easy to beat the crowds when leaving after the fireworks show. Not only that, it is always good to have the option to leave mid-fireworks if your child is experiencing sensory overload and cannot tolerate it at all.
Magic Kingdom also offers various dessert parties with designated viewing areas. The Treats & Seats dessert party could be a good option for your family, if you’re okay with the added cost. This party allows you to watch the fireworks and projections from Tomorrowland Terrace patio! You can sit at tables with your family while enjoying some drinks and snacks.
The other dessert parties have you watch the fireworks from a roped off area in the Plaza Garden where it is standing room only. The Plaza Garden is much closer to the action and offers better views. BUT having some distance and being able to sit comfortably may make the fireworks experience more tolerable.
Planning to watch the fireworks show at EPCOT? Try watching from the International Gateway Bridge, located between the France pavilion and the U.K. pavilion in World Showcase. You can easily exit through International Gateway (which is NOT the main entrance of the park). This is where you would enter or exit if arriving at EPCOT via the Skyliner, or if you are walking over from Boardwalk, Beach Club, or Swan and Dolphin hotels.
Another option is to watch the EPCOT fireworks from the center promenade towards World Showcase. While it’s not super close to the main entrance, it still puts you further back enough to exit early if needed. Most EPCOT firework viewers will stake out a spot around World Showcase, closer to the water. So, being on that center walkway gives you a little more space from the main crowds.
Fantasmic at Hollywood Studios takes place in a large outdoor amphitheater with actual seating. This is clearly different than the nighttime spectaculars at the other Disney theme parks. Since Fantasmic is a combination of fireworks, lasers, fountains, and a stage show, you can only really experience it within the theater. If you’d like to watch from an area with an easy out, try sitting in the back or top row of each section.
TOP RUNG: WATCH THE FIREWORKS SHOW WITH THE REST OF THE CROWDS
Obviously, the top of the “fear ladder” when it comes to fireworks is actually being able to watch the whole show with the rest of the crowds. This might not be a realistic goal for your family. And that’s totally okay. Everyone has different preferences and interests, so it’s totally possible that your child may not ever get to this point.
But the hope is with gradually increasing exposure, and lots of support and reassurance, your sensitive child will be able to face something that was once really hard and scary for them.
STEP 3: PROVIDE ACCOMMODATIONS
As your kids face their fear of fireworks, it might still be necessary to provide supportive accommodations for them. No one wins extra brownie points by “toughing it out”.
What do I mean by accommodations? These are little adjustments to help your child have a better experience when it comes to doing Disney fireworks.
Some examples of accommodations that could be beneficial for your child include:
- ear plugs or noise canceling headphones for loud noises
- a stroller to provide a safe enclosed space among crowds
- comfort item, like a lovey or a favorite book
- sunglasses for the bright lights from the fireworks
- weighted vest or lap pad to provide a sense of security when experiencing the vibration in their body from the explosions
- reduce stimulation and get some rest before the evening of the fireworks show
The most important thing is to figure out what exactly makes fireworks so scary for your child. And THEN, choosing the appropriate accommodation. Using any of these at random will not be helpful, as this should be individualized plan for your specific kid.
So there you have it–3 ways to manage fear of fireworks at Disney World!
The caveat here is that doing these things will NOT guarantee that your child will suddenly love fireworks. There are some people who have never and will never enjoy fireworks. And that’s perfectly okay. Just like some people who have never and will never enjoy a specific type of food.
We all have our preferences and sometimes we have to respect that… even if it can feel a little disappointing for you as a parent who had hoped to enjoy fireworks together as a family.
But hopefully some of these tips will give you and your child some tools to face their fears. And they can perhaps get to the point where something that was once scary and overwhelming is no longer. Imagine how proud of themselves they will feel!
If you need extra support and community from other parents of highly sensitive kids going to Disney World, I encourage you to join my new private Facebook group—Planning Disney for Highly Sensitive Kids (and Adults too!)!
You can ask all your questions and get feedback from a wonderful group of Disney-loving parents who are also looking to minimize meltdowns and maximize the magic during their Disney World vacation.
Lastly, don’t forget to download your FREE copy of my must-have Disney ride planner tool! Use it so you can easily keep track of which rides you want to avoid and which you want to try with your highly sensitive kids. It will make planning your park days SO much easier! It is an editable and fillable PDF file, but there is an option to print a blank copy so you can fill it out by hand.