Walt Disney World - fireworks

Watching the fireworks over Cinderella's Castle at the Magic Kingdom is perhaps one of the most popular experiences at Walt Disney World. What's not so magical? The hoard of crowds during the show and the mad crush to exit the theme park after. If you're done with all the rides, we suggest saving your sanity by enjoying the show at these locations outside of the parks.

Disney's Contemporary Resort
Widely considered the best place to view Magic Kingdom fireworks without being in the park, this resort offers several night sky viewing options. Free for resort guests and those using the Disney monorail to get to other resorts, the fourth floor public balcony behind the gift shops offers stellar views. For everyone else, dinner at California Grill ($30-$60) also delivers a colorful show, with lights dimmed and accompanying music playing in the dining room, lounge, and outdoor viewing platform.

Disney's BoardWalk
The old-fashioned wooden walkway near but not in the theme parks is a good spot to see the fireworks of Epcot's Illuminations. While you'll miss the low-level lasers of the performance, this viewing area won't cost you anything --and is lined with a quarter-mile of shops, dining, and fun. (Free.)

The 17th floor Spanish steakhouse at the Four Seasons Orlando is a splurge ($30-$70), but it's a double whammy. The aerial views of fireworks from two theme parks -- both the Magic Kingdom and Epcot -- are worth it.

Disney's Polynesian Village Resort
Fancy the ultimate tropical viewing? Enjoy sand between your toes -- and a cocktail from the pool bar -- while bursts of color fill the sky at Polynesia Village Resort's beach. As with Contemporary Resort, the location is free if you're a Polynesian resort guest or use the monorail. Otherwise, you'll need a dinner reservation to score entry to the property ($30-60).

The eleventh floor restaurant and rooftop lounge at the Reunion Resort isn't on Disney property, but the views definitely won't disappoint. If you don't want to commit to a full meal, simply grab a drink at the bar to watch the show from the patio ($9-14). Otherwise, entrees at the steakhouse are comparable with if not a bit more affordable than area restaurants, from $26 to $42.

Disney's Grand Floridian Resort and Spa
Cozy up on the dock at the edge of Bay Lake for a great view of the Magic Kingdom fireworks. If you're not a resort guest or arriving via Disney transportation, you'll need a dining reservation to get in. Narcoossee's ($30-60) allows diners to step out on the verandah on the lake for great views with accompanying music. The Grand Floridian Cafe ($15-$30) is a more affordable option, but you'll need to walk to a viewing location after your meal.

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