Courtesy of Disney
Carlye Wisel

Visiting Walt Disney World can be stressful and tiresome, especially when the weather in Florida creeps toward the triple digits. If you want to avoid the summer heat while still packing in everything you came for, believe it or not, you can. Take a day off to relax and truly enjoy your vacation while still managing to check out the best fireworks, attractions, and entertainment Walt Disney World has to offer.

Here’s how to avoid some of the larger crowds, forget the sunburns, and still have the perfect Disney day:

Enjoy fireworks with a totally unique view.

Book dinner at Cinderella’s Royal Table and time your meal to coincide with the evening fireworks, whose launch can be seen from a fresh perspective through the dining room’s lattice windows. If you can’t snag a reservation or have simply seen Wishes a million times, secure a late-night FastPass for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad from your phone, which can be booked same-day on the My Disney Experience app. Time your arrival to about 10 minutes before the show starts, and you’ll enjoy a backdrop that’ll change the way you view the coaster.

Instead of racing to entertainment, splurge a little and relax.

VIP Tours are the holy grail of experiencing evenings at Disney like actual royalty, but at $400 to $600 per hour with multi-hour minimums, guides tend to be out of most vacationers’ budgets. If you can only splurge within reason, grab access to a prime viewing area by booking a nighttime dessert party, offered at all Disney parks except Animal Kingdom. Parties are charged per-person, ranging from about $49 to $69 for adults and $29 to $39 for children (park admission not included), but with a variety of sweet treats as well as guaranteed viewing locations, it’s a reasonable fee for offsetting any need to dash over early to hold spots.

Dedicate yourself to not repeating anything.

Seen Epcot’s Illuminations: Reflections of Earth so often you know the instrumental music by heart? Switch it up and take in one of Walt Disney World’s two new evening options: the bombastic Star Wars: A Galactic Spectacular fireworks show or the more subdued The Jungle Book: Alive With Magic performance. Either way, prepare yourself for some next-level pyrotechnics. The Star Wars display has jaw-dropping blazes you can feel down Hollywood Boulevard and the fire dancers in Animal Kingdom’s twice-nightly performances are easily one of the highlights.

Squeeze two nighttime shows into one evening.

All four parks now offer evening shows or fireworks — Hollywood Studios even has both! — and if you plan your night out accordingly, you can experience them back-to-back. Though Fantasmic and the new Star Wars shows are both at Hollywood Studios, it’s tough to make both, as the first is located so far back within the park. Instead, take your pick (or attend Magic Kingdom’s or Epcot’s entertainment) and head to Animal Kingdom afterward for The Jungle Book: Alive With Magic by bus or taxi. Its second performance is typically at 10:30 p.m. and should have decent walk-up availability.

Experience rides that are even better at night.

Being plunged into darkness when you finally get a peek of the nighttime sky on Hollywood Studios’ Twilight Zone Tower of Terror or bursting outside on Epcot’s Test Track is beyond special. Charming Magic Kingdom classics, like Mad Tea Party or even the park’s carousel look better at night, too. And for thrill-seekers, the low-visibility twists and turns throughout the park’s Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and pitch-black mountain plunge of Animal Kingdom’s Expedition Everest takes nighttime riding to an entirely new level.

Cram in any missed character meet-and-greets.

Why waste a FastPass or an hour in line when you can breeze through once the sun sets? Throughout summer, guests can meet safari-ready Mickey and Minnie at Animal Kingdom, encounter Cinderella and friends at Magic Kingdom’s Princess Fairytale Hall and even converse with Tinker Bell or Mickey Mouse at the Town Square Theatre as late as 10:30 p.m. (or even 11:30 p.m.) depending on the day.  Be sure to check times guides for Hollywood Studios later this summer, too — guests will likely be able to meet everyone from Kylo Ren to Buzz Lightyear well into the evening hours.

Go in on some late-night eats.

Still hungry? Thankfully, there are now more options than the grab-and-go Mickey Mouse popcorn at your hotel gift shop. With Disney Springs’ recent expansion comes plenty of new dining options that are open well into the evening hours, like Rick Bayless’ Frontera Cocina, which serves up tortas, enchiladas, and bacon guacamole ‘til 10 p.m. and 10:45 p.m. on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Looking to chow even later? Dine alongside lively DJ beats at STK until 11 p.m. on weekdays and midnight on Friday and Saturday nights. Or visit Morimoto Asia’s new late night Forbidden Lounge, which serves pork bao buns, award-winning sliders, and ramen ‘til midnight on weekdays and 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. There are plenty of spot-on drinks to pair with your orders at both, and kids are welcome to all three.

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