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Guide to the Lights

Walt Disney World has developed some staples of entertainment during the holiday season such as Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party, Candlelight Processional and the Winter Lights to name a few.  At the Studios, the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights is the premier holiday event and the inception of making them dance have made the evening event very popular.  On my recent trip to the Studios during Mousefest, I found myself stuck in a sea of people gazing up at the lights and it was human gridlock on the Streets of America.  There’s no doubt that word is out about the Lights and as a result, has become increasingly crowded and this year I really saw a spike in the crowds to see them. 

If you’re thinking about seeing the Lights, you should try to keep a couple of handy tips in mind so you avoid those human gridlock situations.

Skip the turning on Unlike the tree lighting ceremonies, the turning on of the Osborne Lights really isn’t that impressive, or at least isn’t for me.  They’re turned on and they start their first dance routine.  It’s neat but the first half hour when the lights are turned on is pure chaos as everyone in the park is trying to see them, most hoping to see them before Fantasmic!.  It can make for some really tight crowds and try to avoid the lights until about 6:30 or so.  The closer you can get to that first showing of Fantasmic, the better.

They’re on even when you think they’re not Unknown to many guests is the fact that on most nights, the Osborne Lights are on even after the park closes.  So when you go see the last showing of Fantasmic! you can stop by after the show and see the lights with next to no crowd at all.  On my trip I stopped in after a showing of Fantasmic! and could count about 30 people seeing the Lights so there was plenty of elbow room.  It should be noted they’re only on for about 30 minutes after Fantasmic! ends but that’s enough tme for most people to go through the Osborne Lights, especially with next to no crowds in the way.  Of course, you could drop by the lights during the last showing of the evening of Fantasmic! for that night and see the Lights with light crowds that ought to thin out as the official park closing comes closer.

Take the short cut There’s a few ways to get into certain areas that may be blocked off.  Often as the crowd builds early in the evening in anticipation for the Osborne Lights, Cast Members will rope off the entrances to the Streets of America from Commissary Lane and Star Tours and direct folks to the area near Al’s Toy Barn and the defunct Backlot Theater, in effect sending guests “backwards” into the show.  To bypass this, walk down Commissary Lane, walk into the Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater, keep to the left and you’ll see a walkway that leads to the Writer’s Stop store on your left.  Exit the Writer’s Stop and you’ll be right at the beginning of the Streets of America near the Empire State Building cutout.

Get a discount on yuletide beverages Disney has setup little stands near the Lights that sell these neat little holiday drinks with cute names and also cost quite a bit ($10 generally).  Want to get the same drinks for cheaper? Head over to the Tune-In Lounge and ask for these same drinks and use your Disney Dining Experience card to get 20% off.  They may not have the souvenir cups there but they do have the glowing ice cubes if you must have it along your concoction.

Skip the weekends If you can, avoid seeing the lights on Friday, Saturday or Sunday, especially on those beautiful evenings in the winter when many locals decide to drop in for a quick visit.  The local factor has often been a bit overplayed in my opinion but since the Lights do not have an additional charge to see beyond your theme park admission (as opposed to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party or the Candlelight Processional Dinner Package) so many locals like to drop in to catch the show.

While you’re looking at the calendar… I just suggested skipping weekends but you will also want to ideally avoid nights where Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is being shown at the Magic Kingdom and/or nights when the Studios have Extra Magic Hours.  On these nights, the Studios really gets packed.  Where Epcot can handle the overflow from the Magic Kingdom guests who did not purchase a ticket to Very Merry, the Studios can quickly get flooded and you will notice the crowds far more.

If you take these general tips in mind when you drop in to see the Osborne Lights this year (or any year really), I think you’ll find a much better experience and gain an advantage over many guests who aren’t aware of these details.  Enjoy and be sure to let me know if I missed a tip that you know about by emailing me.

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A regular look into Disney's Hollywood Studios, both past and present, with commentary and analysis from Matt Hochberg.


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Posted: Wednesday, December 12, 2007 by