Love the magnificent nighttime display of fireworks and lasers at Epcot during Illuminations? Here’s your guide to the best restaurants from which to watch Illuminations!
This is the second in our series of Best Disney World Restaurants for Fireworks Viewing! Today, we’ll discuss the restaurants with the best views for Illuminations fireworks viewing. (The previous blog post, Part I, has information about Happily Ever After fireworks viewing.)
Illuminations, Reflections of Earth, is shown at Epcot at 9:00PM every night, Saturday-Thursday. Friday nights vary between 9:00PM and 8:00PM depending on Epcot’s schedule.
Rose and Crown Pub and Dining Room, patio table
Rose and Crown in Epcot’s United Kingdom pavilion is the quintessential dining and viewing spot for Illuminations. If you’re lucky enough to get one of the coveted tables out on the covered patio, Rose and Crown’s view of Illuminations will offer you one of best experiences in Walt Disney World. There’s simply nothing like it.
That said, the fierce competition for these tables has made me forego even making a reservation for dinner at Rose and Crown over the past few visits to Disney World. While Rose and Crown cannot guarantee their ability to grant requests for patio tables, hopefuls begin crowding the podium before 7:00PM each night, willing to wait as long as it takes. The line of patrons waiting to check in can stretch all the way to Tudor Lane. As a result, Rose and Crown has instituted a policy (in my experience) that those checking in at the podium may wait only one hour for a table request; after an hour, they must take the table offered, or choose not to dine at Rose and Crown.
How can you improve your chances? Visit Disney World during a slow season (e.g. Winter or early Fall), book your reservation for around 7:30-7:45pm (it’s simply not fair to the servers to book earlier; unless, of course, you’re willing to pay three times the tip!), and tell the cast members when you check in that you’re willing to wait the hour for a fireworks-view, patio table.
Note that the Rose and Crown patio stretches around the Rose and Crown, meaning you might be seated at the side of the restaurant. You can still see the fireworks here, but the view will not be as good as from the back patio, directly next to the lagoon. You can specify that you’re requesting a back-patio, fireworks-view table, but patio is patio…
Rose and Crown is a casual restaurant; park-wear is acceptable. No reason to dress up. By the way, the potato and leek soup is to die for!
La Hacienda de San Angel
One of the restaurants in Epcot’s Mexico Pavilion, La Hacienda de San Angel, offers — for the first time in Epcot history — an Illuminations view rivaling that at Rose & Crown! While many of the tables offer excellent views (the windows are expansive), those that are right up against the windows will be highly prized.
This high-end restaurant located on the second floor of the building housing Les Chefs de France in Epcot’s France pavilion has excellent Illuminations viewing. Again, you’ll want to arrive early and request a window table, but a steep price and nearly hidden entrance (the entrance to Monsieur Paul is hidden around the back of the Le Chefs de France building) mean that competition for seating is limited compared to Rose and Crown.
The dining here is top-notch, but the view from the second story windows can’t be beat. Dress up for this one, and make it a celebration.
Cantina de San Angel
The Mexico pavilion’s counter service dining option has been touted by some, panned by others, but everyone agrees that it’s a good option for watching Illuminations…assuming you can commandeer a table and stand your ground!
Because the tables are lined up along the World Showcase Lagoon, patrons have complained about kiddos squeezing themselves between tables and fence to get a better view. Also, folks who might not have as much need for personal space as you do may invite themselves to infringe upon yours by “sharing” your table.
This spot might be more hassle than it’s worth, but it’s an inexpensive way to get one of the best views in the park. And the food’s tasty, too!
Tokyo Dining, in Epcot’s Japan pavilion specializes in sushi and tempura, and the restaurant shares the second floor of the Mitsukoshi Department Store building with Japan’s other table-service restaurant, Teppan Edo.
This might be your best bet for getting an advanced dining reservation fewer than 90 days out, as many folks don’t yet know about Tokyo Dining, aren’t sure where it is, or simply don’t want to try the food. Luckily, this means that the floor-to-ceiling window views are up for grabs!
As with the other restaurants, make a reservation for an hour or so before Illuminations and arrive early. Request a window table (tell them you’ll wait if necessary). Once seated, enjoy your meal leisurely until the show begins.
Note that there is an outdoor, public walkway along the windows at Tokyo Dining. If people notice it’s there, they may crowd it before the show. You’ll still be able to see the fireworks, but this could possibly block the view a bit.
Tokyo Dining is a more casual restaurant; park-wear is acceptable.
Other Potential Viewing Spots With Dining
While I wouldn’t necessarily recommend either of these spots for Illuminations viewing, Tangierine Cafe in Morocco and Liberty Inn at the American Adventure might offer a decent place to sit to see the higher-up fireworks. At Tangierine Cafe, even if you’re sitting outside (the windows are too opaque to see from the inside), the crowds will likely mar your view of the action on the water. At Liberty Inn, the American Gardens Theater tends to block out the lagoon view. But both offer spots to sit, take a load off, and nosh a bit while you listen to the music and enjoy at least some of the show.
If you have other ideas and options, be sure to let me know in the comments section below!
Check out the other “Best Disney World Restaurants” in our series!
Something to note about Bistro de Paris: you cannot hear the music inside the restaurant. You also can only make reservations 30 days out.
Fantastic restaurant and highly recommend it, but it’s more like, oh look, out the window there’s some fireworks… Rather than making it a point to dine there based on the fireworks.
Hi Kelly! Wow–thanks for your comment! I’m so glad to know all of that. And I’d love to hear more about your experience at Bistro de Paris; have you been there several times?
You make a good point about the crowd demand for tables for viewing Illuminations. It’s one reason why I haven’t even tried for a table at a restaurant to view the show (the other being that it’s too late at night for dinner for me). Perhaps Disney should consider creating more options for dining or lounge views of Illuminations?
I do have to say, the more you talk about Tokyo Dining, the more I’m thinking it’s got to go on my list for my next trip.
Thanks for all the tips! The first night of our first trip it rained, but luckily, nothing stops Illuminations! We finished dinner at Teppan Edo & one of the managers invited us to grab a window seat in the nearly empty Tokyo Dining to watch the show. It was a little hard to see without making a “menu tent” to block the glare off the glass (is this true for other indoor restaurants?). People were lined up on the balcony, but still below our line of sight. I remember hearing music, but don’t know if it was just vibrating off the glass or if it was being broadcast over the restaurant speakers. FYI in the middle of our trip we transfered monorails at EPCOT & did the loop around the fireball. WOW! For our last night, we were determined to finally see the entire show after dinner at Rose & Crown! Having a good spot makes it even more magical.
i haven’t been to bistro de paris, but i was able to make an adr there more than 30 days out. i think i was 80 days out when i made it. if music doesn’t come in, that would be disappointing. i have a 7 pm adr but am contemplating moving it later.
i’ve done tokyo dining and was seated immediately by the window. the people on the walkway didn’t bother me too much. music comes into tokyo dining.
Cliff — Yep — no music at Bistro. Still, you can sort of hear it from outside. I’d like to try Tokyo Dining.
MaryAnn Romagnano says
We had a 7:30 pm reservation at La Hacienda de San Angel. We sat right next to the windows even though I had not asked for a specific location. We finshed our delicious dinner right about when Illuminations began. Our waiter told us to stay and get cozy to watch Illuminations. It was spectacular. I have been to WDW many times and watched Illuminations many times, nothing compared to this view. It was our first evening at WDW, what a wonderful way to start our vacation.
Oh, that’s wonderful, MaryAnn! Thanks for sharing this with us!
Last March, my boys and I were at Epcot without dinner reservations, but could not pass up some Fish N Chips from England at the World Showcase. We managed to get it at the Yorkshire County Fish Shop to find a spot to eat on a bench or someplace nearby. I did discover that to the left of the Rose & Crown check in podium were bistro tables that were empty and found out that they were available for anyone to use. While there were trees blocking a bit of the view of the lagoon, it was better than nothing, and to enjoy dinner during Illuminations. It beat standing at other areas with crowds of people.
Amanda Y. says
What about Via Napoli, any view from there? We’d like a late night pizza as our food
We recently had dinner at Tokyo Dining as was suggested here, in time for Illuminations! i was able to make same day reservations while at EPCOT, and was able to get a window table! The food was out of this world. The service was OUTSTANDING!
Ju Barth says
I had dinner in Tokyo Dinning on sep 06 and there is a tree blocking 50% ofthe view… 🙁
The night after that I watched from France and it was PERFECT!
I recently went to Epcot (Oct 23, 2012) and we ate at Tokyo Dining. We were seated in a window table at 8:30pm . I had reservations for 8:00pm but requested that I would wait for a window table and that I could wait longer. The view was excellent. Some people were outside our window but they didn’t block our view because they are on a lower deck.
I was happy but at 9:00pm the lights were dimmed just a little bit. The restaurant did NOT play the music of Illuminations although I asked our waitress if they played it and she said yes. And also, I was very surprised that nobody at the restaurant seemed to care about the fireworks outside. Everyone kept talking loud and because the lights were not completely dimmed, I saw a lot of reflections on the window.
Overall, I DO NOT recommend watching Illuminations from a restaurant. I have been to Epcot before and have always watched Illuminations from outside. This was my first time watching Illuminations from a restaurant. I was not pleased and didn’t like it. If you want to dine, then do it, but if you want to see Illuminations do it outside. }
The food was excellent and everyone was super nice to us. The dining experience was great, but I don’t recommend watching Illuminations from a restaurant. I won’t do it again.
I have to say this is a great post! I found Illuminations to be one of the hardest shows to find a good place to watch that you can see the whole show without tons of people hovering around. This is the reason its my least favorite show. But I will be trying a few of these spots now 🙂
Can you hear the music for Illuninations inside La Hacienda? Thanks!
Pete — Yes!
Pete — Yes, you can hear the narration and music for Illuminations all around World Showcase Lagoon.
Thanks guys!! Going to try for that ADR now!!
Is San Angel Inn (in Mexico) the same as La Hacienda de San Angel? We have reservations there at 8pm, but now I’m thinking this isn’t the right spot?! Help please! 😉
Jenn — San Angel Inn is inside the Mexico pyramid and has no windows to the outside. La Hacienda de San Angel is across the promenade from the Mexico pyramid and sits on the water with ample fireworks viewing tables.
Are 8:30pm reservations too late? I was hoping that we could arrive a bit before our reservation and request a window table at la hacienda de San Angel. Should I keep checking for an earlier reservation? Thank you!
Do you know if illumination can be watched from a reserved eat to the beat concert seat for the last concert of the night at the american gardens theatre? We will be watching a concert and wondered if we would be able to remain seated and see illumination without an extra charge.
Joy — I don’t think you’d really be able to see much of Illuminations from the American Gardens Theater. The theater backs up to the lagoon where the fireworks and laser show takes place.