It’s October and you know what holiday that means...Christmas! Well, at least in Walt Disney World because in a few weeks Disney will be turning on its annual celebration of Sylvania products by illuminating the Streets of America with the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights. Believe it or not, it’s almost time for the lights to be turned on (hard to think of in October but Disney has been preparing for it since August). Since Residential Street was demolished a few years ago to make way for Lights, Motors, Action! Extreme Stunt Show, the Osborne Lights had been knocked by many for not being as good just being on the Streets of America but the addition of the dancing lights last year and the addition of new displays have really put some of the luster back on the lights and they’ve become increasingly difficult to see. The dancing lights do make a huge difference. If you’ve never seen the lights before (or if you haven’t seen them dance yet), basically every 20 minutes the music changes and the light displays start to blink in sequence with the music. It’s the kind of display that stops everyone in their tracks and you have a crowd of people just looking all around and for good reason because the lights really are that amazing.
I wish I could say seeing the lights requires no strategy and just see it whenever you can but you can avoid the elbow-to-elbow crowds that can persist if you follow some basic guidelines for avoiding the crowds when “everyone else” is out to see them. Let’s start with the basics of the Lights. The lights will be turned on for the first time to the public on November 12th and the lights themselves go on at 6pm each night. At the very basic level, you’ll need to pick a day to go see the lights. The first couple of days the lights are on will see some elevated crowds, mostly from locals and Cast Members who want to see them because it’s something new for those in the area. Even with the novelty folks, crows will be (pardon the pun) light the week of Thanksgiving when crowds really come in and then the crowds diminish following Thanksgiving until the week of Christmas and New Years. Obviously if you can see the lights during one of the non-holiday times, you’re one step ahead of the game.
Which day of your trip to actually see the lights is also important. If you can skip days where the Studios have Extra Magic Hours and to a lesser extent weekends (locals tend to come out more on weekends than on weekdays, although I’m not sure how big of an effect they have), you will find it a much easier task to see the lights. The Extra Magic Hour days really drive up the crowds, especially the evening Extra Magic Hour offerings because many guests come to the park just to see the lights and love the extra time.
I mentioned earlier the lights turn on at 6pm but you shouldn’t actually see the lights at 6pm. Instead, ride something or see a show or have something to eat. A large crowd hits the lights right when they are turned on and these crowds are the people who just want to see the lights and leave the park. By about 6:45 that first rush should clear out and you will see the area much easier to navigate. Ideally, you should see the lights during a showing of Fantasmic! as you’ll have somewhere in the ballpark of 9000 guests on the opposite end of the park for 30 minutes or so (even longer when you consider many have to show up well before the show to get a seat) so if you can see the lights during a showing of Fantasmic!, you will have the Osborne Lights to yourself, in essence.
If you absolutely must see Fantasmic! on the night you also want to see the Osborne Lights, then I would recommend seeing Fantasmic! and then after the show, proceed directly to see the lights. Although technically the park is supposed to be closed often on nights where there is just one showing of Fantasmic!, Disney allows park guests to see the lights immediately following the show. The reason why I’m not a fan of this “solution” is you’ll be stuck with the Fantasmic! crowd and you can’t really wait them out since the park is all but closed. It’s not perfect, but it is a solution for folks who can only come to the Studios once on their trip.
The actual displays of the lights are terrific and I encourage you to really take your time to observe all of the displays. Disney has meticulously placed a large amount of detail into their displays and for those who have never seen the lights, it will blow away whatever you’ve seen in your local displays. Combine that with some great music and the smell of nuts roasting (yes, they sell them during the evening) and snow falling (well, soap bubbles shaped like snow), it will really make you feel for a little while like you’re not in Florida.