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The ultimate guide to the Osborne Lights

In just two weeks the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights debuts at Disney's Hollywood Studios and while this is one of the best holiday events at Walt Disney World, it's also one of the most crowded. Even during slower times of the year, it seems like the entire park descends upon the Streets of America to see the lights. The important thing to understand is you don't have to suffer in a flood of humans in order to see the lights. In fact, you can see the lights without the huge crowd so you can actually enjoy the lights.

Let's start with the basics. The lights turn on at 6pm and run through the end of the operating hours for the Studios. A little before 6pm, everyone tries to see the lights and that first hour is one of the worst times to see the lights. If anything, you should try to go do something else around 6pm like ride Tower of Terror again because many guests will go through their day and likely be hanging around to see the lights and possibly see Fantasmic!. So the best time to see the lights is during a showing of Fantasmic!. Without a doubt, the 15-20 minutes before Fantasmic! and the 25 minutes or so the show runs will be the best 35-45 minutes to see the lights. And without a massive crowd, you ought to be able to see it all fairly easily.

If you want to see Fantasmic! as well as the Osborne Lights, then you ought to see the lights on one day and Fantasmic! on another day. If that's not an option because your time at Disney World is limited, then see Fantasmic! first and then see the lights after. A little known fact is after Fantasmic! ends, the park is technically closed. However, Disney anticipates the opportunity for guests to see both shows in the same day so immediatley following Fantasmic!, you can either exit the park or see the lights and you'll find the lights much more accessible than trying to see them before Fantasmic!. The only issue is your time to see the lights may not be as much as you would like since the park is technically closed and Disney may close down the display for the evening at any time.

Now that you know what time to see the lights, you should know what day you should see them. Ideally, you should try to see the lights Sunday-Thursday to avoid the locals that may try to see the lights on the weekend. The effect locals have on crowds aren't substantial, but certainly they can sway the crowd from manageable to monster and personally, I would prefer to see the lights with a few hundred less people if I can. With the exception of the holidays of Thanksgiving, New Years, Christmas and the days around them, seeing the lights on a weekday as opposed to a weekend would be ideal.

Now that you have a day and time picked, how about tackling the issue of which way to see the lights. In my opinion, the lights are meant to be seen starting from around where the Sci-Fi Drive-In Theater Restaurant and Writers Stop are, going down the main drag of the Streets of America, then hook a left near Lights Motors Action, come up and take a left down the side street (heading towards the main drag) then take a U-turn and see the other side of that same street and hook a left when you get to the huge mural and see whatever is left and exit by Mama Melrose and Muppets. Again, during that first hour this route may take an hour or more to accomplish whereas during Fantasmic!, I'd bet you could do it in half the time and enjoy the experience a whole lot more.

Don't forget during the lights to not just look at the lights. Disney has put a lot of thought into the displays so don't just look to your left and right, but look up. Keep an eye out for Hidden Mickeys and look into the different windows along the street to see the different takes each "family" has taken to the holiday. For example, there's a sailor who has a very nautical theme, another family that is watching ABC Family and even some Jewish folks who have Hannukah lights up. There's a lot more detail than just that so be sure to look for everything you can see beyond the obvious. Speaking of looking at the lights, I haven't mentioned the dancing aspect to them. Every 20 minutes or so, the background music will change into a high-tempo song that the lights blink along to (or dance, as it's called). It's really fantastic and odds are it will happen a few times during your visit to the lights. When it happens, the crowd tends to stop dead in the their tracks but when you're done, you may consider going back to the area of Lights, Motors, Action and look back up the main drag of the Streets of America because seeing the lights dance from that vantage point is one of the best. Think of it like standing halfway down Main Street USA during Wishes.

So there you have it, the absolute best guide to seeing the Osborne Lights this year. The display is the best holiday event in my opinion (and yes, I am a little bias) and one of the premier events of Walt Disney World throughout the entire year. Be sure to stop by and see the lights, but be sure to use this guide to your advantage and ensure your stop to see the lights doesn't make you feel like you're a salmon trying to swim up stream.

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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, November 19, 2008 by