5 theme park drone shows to watch this summer

Summer 2024 is shaping up to be the season of theme park drone shows, with nighttime entertainment at Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, Dollywood and more. Even smaller theme parks like Indiana’s Holiday World are jumping on the drone light show train.

I’ve documented most of the biggest drone shows in 2024 happening around the country. That list is much broader, incorporating festivals, conferences, rodeos and even some semi-private events. But here, I’ve honed in on just theme parks.

Universal Orlando Resort (Orlando, Florida)

I’m not going to even bother saving the best for last. I’m putting what’s very likely set to be not just the best theme park drone show of summer 2024, but perhaps the best drone show of the entire year, at the front of my list.

Dubbed CineSational: A Symphonic Spectacular, the nighttime show at Universal Studios Orlando will feature 600 drones. They’ll fly in sync to a soundtrack featuring songs from some of Universal’s most beloved films including “Harry Potter,” “Jaws,” “Shrek,” “Ghostbusters,” “Trolls, Back to the Future, Universal Monsters, Transformers, How to Train Your Dragon, E.T., Fast and Furious, “The Super Mario Bros. Movie,” “Minions,” “The Mummy” and King Kong.

True to its name, this is not just a drone show but a full spectacular. The show takes advantage of its location on the waters of the Universal Studios Florida lagoon by incorporating water effects too. The show features 228 fountains that reach heights up to 131 feet, as well as 4K projection mapping on the buildings around the lagoon.

“CineSational: A Symphonic Spectacular” kicks off on Friday, June 14.

To watch it, you’ll need a Universal Studios Florida theme park ticket. The cost of Universal Orlando tickets starts at $116. But, they cost more on busy seasons — which is, yes — most summer nights.

Walt Disney World Resort (Lake Buena Vista, Florida)

The Universal Orlando drone show is not the only drone show in Orlando this summer. You could see drone shows on back-to-back nights by heading over to Disney Springs. That’s the outdoor shopping, dining and entertainment district at Walt Disney World.

There, you can watch “Disney Dreams That Soar”, which features state-of-the-art drones choreographed to create scenes and characters from beloved Disney stories. It’s all set to a soaring musical score.

The show runs nightly from May 24 through September 2, 2024.

And though we anticipate the Disney World drone show to likely not be as large of a spectacle as Universal’s show, there’s one big reason why this one is better. It’s free to watch. With its seemingly-endless dining and shops, Disney Springs makes for one of the best free things to do outside the Orlando theme parks. The larger-than-life Disney Lego models at the Lego Store are museum-worthy. Meanwhile, the Disney Springs shops sell unique Disney merchandise beyond the usual plush dolls and jackets. Don’t miss The Art of Disney for gallery-style framed prints, DisneyStyle for on-trend fashion, Disney’s Candy Cauldron and Disney’s Days of Christmas.

Throw in this free Disney drone show, and Disney Springs is the place to be this summer.

Disneyland Paris (Marne-la-Vallée, France)

The 2024 Paris Olympics aren’t the only excitement happening over in France this summer.

Head just outside of Paris to Marne-la-Vallée, France for Disneyland Paris’s “Disney Electrical Sky Parade.” This drone show pays homage to the classic Main Street Electrical Parade, featuring iconic characters and scenes formed by hundreds of drones.

The Disney Electrical Sky Parade show has received rave reviews, with avid park goers calling it the park’s best show yet. Yes, that means Disneyland Paris has held multiple drone light shows in the past, including a Marvel drone show. Another, called Disney D-Light, flew over the theme park’s iconic Sleeping Beauty Castle.

This show actually kicked off back in January 2024, and it runs nightly through Sept. 30, 2024. Consider it one of the best things to do in Paris this summer besides the Olympics.

Dollywood (Pigeon Forge, Tennessee)

Photo courtesy of Dollywood

Dollywood’s Sweet Summer Nights will be back bigger and brighter than ever this year.

This popular event is becoming something of an annual tradition. The first Dollywood drone light show debuted in 2021, and it’s been going strong ever since.

In 2024, its nighttime drone features hundreds of drones that accompany fireworks. And just ahead of the show, there’s a dance party, too.

In a 30-minute drone pre-show of sorts, a hyped DJ and energetic dancers build up anticipation in the park’s Wildwood Grove section. Drones sync up with the culmination of the dance party, launching just as the dance party ends.

The Dollywood’s Sweet Summer Nights Dance Party and Drone Show occurs nightly at 9:40 p.m., weather permitting.

Holiday World (Santa Claus, Indiana)

Theme park drone shows aren’t just limited to the major players. Indiana’s Holiday World has a drone show of its own, featuring 500 drones. Other than the free Disney World drone show, this ranks among the most affordable theme park drone shows you’ll ever see.

Tickets cost just $75 at the gate (and are even cheaper when booked online). With a Holiday World ticket, you also get incredibly generous bonuses you won’t get at the other theme parks. That includes free parking, free soft drinks and free sunscreen. For context around just how valuable that is, parking alone at Universal Orlando costs $32.

If you do want to splurge a bit more, consider booking the Drone Show Dessert Party. For an additional $30 on top of your theme park admission ticket, you’ll get premium seating plus bottled water, fruit, cheese and dessert.

The Holiday World Drone Show kicks off on Saturday, June 22. Weather-permitting, shows run nightly through Sunday, Aug. 4.

Related read: The biggest drone show companies in the world

There are a few reasons why theme parks continue to display enthusiasm for drone shows.

  • Stunning visuals: Drone shows offer a whole new level of creativity and flexibility for nighttime entertainment. Drones can create intricate formations, dynamic animations, and vibrant colors that traditional fireworks displays simply can’t match.
  • Environmentally friendly: Unlike fireworks, drones don’t produce smoke or air pollution. This is a major advantage for theme parks looking to reduce their environmental impact.
  • Quieter experience: Fireworks can be loud and startling for some guests, especially young children. Drone shows, on the other hand, are much quieter, making them a more inclusive form of entertainment.
  • Scalability and flexibility: Drone shows can easily scale up or down to fit a theme park’s size and budget. They can also adapt to different themes and stories, giving park creators more creative freedom.
  • Long-term affordability:  Unlike fireworks, which necessitate the purchase of a fresh batch of gunpowder for each show, drone shows are largely a fixed, upfront cost. Typically, light show drones cost about $1,000 each. That’s per drone, but since they’re reusable, drone light shows can cost about $15,000 for smaller shows (which means about 100 drones). The cost per theme parks can be even lower given the repeatability. Rather than one-off drone show events for festivals or sporting events, these shows can keep costs down since there’s less setup, and no travel costs involved.

Want to put on your drone show? For $10,000, you could launch your own 10-drone light show display. Find out how you could make this $10,000 drone light show kit yours.

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