- “A Mad Russian’s Christmas” – Trans-Siberian Orchestra
- “Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12-24)” – Trans-Siberian Orchestra
- “Feliz Navidad” – José Feliciano
- “Jingle Bells” – Barbra Streisand
- “What’s This?” – Jack Skellington from Nightmare Before Christmas
Most people know the story of the Osborne Lights by now, but if you don’t, here goes. The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights began in Arkansas when Jennings Osborne put up a lot of lights one year for his daughter, Breezy.
Every subsequent year, he added more and more. Some of these light displays were just plain crazy (you can still find some of these odd items on display at the Studios), but crazy in a good way.
In the mid-1990s, Jennings was sued by his neighbors for the spectacle and traffic problems the lights were solving. A settlement was reached that seemingly ended the situation, but after violating the terms of the settlement, Jennings was sued again.
Ordered to dismantle his awesome display (as Sam the Eagle would say, the judge must have been distinctly un-patriotic), the Osborne family decided to share their lights, and offered the display to Walt Disney World Resort. You can read the full story here–it’s pretty heartwarming and has a bit of a fairytale ending.
The display first ran on Residential Street, but when that was eliminated for Lights, Motors, Action!, the display was expanded and moved to the Streets of America. The Osbornes were special guests for the lighting ceremony of the lights at Walt Disney World numerous times throughout the years.
In 2011, Jennings Osborne passed away. In the years since, Walt Disney World has added a nice tribute to him in the form of a lone white angel amongst the angels that circle the globe. A fitting nod to the man who created that shine so brightly on the ‘World.
Before I get ahead of myself with the review, here are some tips…
In the way of tips, there really aren’t many. When The Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights are running, the Streets of America can get packed. This is especially true for 2015, as many locals are reportedly visiting often to see the Osborne Lights in their last year, and many tourists are making special trips down to Walt Disney World to see the lights. In other words, the Streets of America are always going to be crowded this year–it’s just a matter of how crowded.
Before you even get to the park, though, you should know about the parking situation (if you’re driving) that has been occurring regularly since the beginning of December 2015. Basically, from mid-afternoon on, guests trying to park at Disney’s Hollywood Studios are being redirected to Epcot and bussed over to DHS. This is every bit as inconvenient as it sounds, and if you can avoid driving to DHS, you really, really should. (We’d go as far as to recommend walking from International Gateway in Epcot to DHS as the most convenient option, as traffic has been bad, too.)
As for the Osborne Lights themselves, right when the lights are turned on is the absolute worst in terms of crowds. We highly recommend avoiding the lighting ceremony (it’s not really that cool). In fact, for the first hour or two of operation, it’s really difficult to move through the Osborne Lights, so our tip is to wait until after this.
Once you are on the Streets of America, head towards the side streets or the sidewalk of the main streets to get out of the sea of people. If you’re standing in the center of the street, expect to be bumped, pushed, and just generally “touched” by a lot of other people trying to get past you. (This might sound like an unpleasant experience, but really, the Osborne Lights are awesome–and worth it.)
In terms of crowds, we have found that the Osborne Lights are the least busy on nights when Disney’s Hollywood Studios does not have Extra Magic Hours and there is not a Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party taking place at the Magic Kingdom. Crowds are also lighter during showings of Fantasmic and at the very end of the night.
Although this can be one of the best times for photography since you will have the deep blue dusk sky to compliment the colorful lights, you will find crowds to be much lower if you wait. As far as photography goes, in general, the lights actually aren’t much of a challenge.
It’s so bright back here that most cameras should be able to handle photographing the lights fairly easily in an auto mode. If you shoot in manual modes, consider opening up the aperture a bit (wide open isn’t necessary). You might also have to lower the shutter speed a tad and raise your ISO a tad.
All in all, though, the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights is probably the single-easiest environment for nighttime photography at Walt Disney World from a technical perspective since the lights are so bright. The real challenge is avoiding the crowds to take the photos! For thorough photography advice, read our Christmas Photography Tips post.
In years past, the lights have not been turned off until one hour after the park closes. This is true every night except when on the rare nights when there are private events. Heading over to the Osborne Lights around forty-five minutes before park closing will give you time to explore the display, stay after closing, and avoid the crowds.