After Paris, we only had six more Disney Parks to go – and four of them are at Walt Disney World! Lucky for us, my parents were game to go to Florida and we spent five days at one of the most magical places on earth. If you have been to Walt Disney World, you know that five days is really not enough. Actually, you can spend two weeks here and still not do it all. We made the most of our short time there.
How We Got There & Around
If felt like just yesterday we were landing at Dulles and greeted by family, but we returned just six days later to catch a flight to Orlando. We took a United flight down to Orlando early in the morning. Our flight was nice and actually landed early in Orlando.
Once arriving in Orlando we took Disney’s Magical Express to our hotel. The service is awesome. Once we booked our hotel, they sent us special tags for our bags. Once we land, we don’t have to worry about picking up our bags at the carousel, we just get “whisked” away in one of their busses and our baggage magically shows up in our hotel room! It is about a 30-minute drive from the airport to the resort.
Getting around the resort is easy when staying on a WDW property – they provide busses to the parks. Normally when we go to WDW, we don’t have to wait longer than 20 minutes for a bus. Well, this time we noticed busses didn’t run as often. We even waited 40 minutes for an EPCOT bus from our hotel. I read that with Shanghai’s budget being over, many of the US parks are having budget cuts – my guess is they slashed the bus budget.
Where We Stayed
Our family is proud Disney Vacation Club members, meaning we have a time-share with Disney properties. We love staying at Disney properties at WDW because they are nice hotels and close to the parks. We often try different hotels with each visit. On this visit, we stayed at the Wilderness Lodge Resort. The hotel is themed to a Yellowstone National Park style hotel. It is even positioned on a lake and offers guests opportunities to boat, fish and hike in the area. The hotel also has nearby campgrounds and cabins. The hotel had a few great restaurants, pools, and even a nightly Water Pageant, which is said to have inspired the original Electric Light Parade.
Walking around the resort was nice and even serene – if you can get over the mosquitos!
We purchased our tickets a few months ago and ended up getting season passes because of a sale they were running at the time. Our hope is we can make it to Walt Disney World one more time before they expire. Whenever you buy Disney tickets for any of their parks, it always pays to do your research and see at what point annual passes make more sense than regular tickets.
The FastPass+ system is quite different than normal fastpasses at Disneyland (up until the recent addition of the MaxPass). FastPass+ is connected to the guests MagicBand and allows the guest to book 3 passes a day 60 days prior to the visit. When all of the passes are done for the day, the guest can look at their phone and request another pass. If you are a super planner, this is a great system, if you are not – it sucks. It doesn’t allow for much flexibility. My mom had booked our FastPass+ passes 60 days before our trip, but even then we weren’t able to get all the passes we want. With only 3 a day, we ended up waiting in lines a lot it seemed.
Five Magical Days
Like I mentioned, we spent only five days at the four parks, which really wasn’t enough time to do it all. We spent our first day at EPCOT doing a Drink/Eat challenge around all 11 countries at the world showcase. We spent the next four days hopping between all four parks.
EPCOT opened in 1982, as the second of the four theme parks at Walt Disney World. The original concept looks somewhat different than what opened in 1982. The overall theme of the park is one of a World Fair – highlighting cultural contributions as well as technology advancements. This is actually Steve’s favorite of Disney parks, because it is so vastly different than most parks. There are a lot of changes in store for the park, so this might change his opinion, but in the mean time – we enjoy the atmosphere, the food, and the exhibits.
Attractions & Areas to Highlight:
Future World – This is the area you first walk into at EPCOT. Many people will recognize the iconic sphere that holds the attraction, Spaceship Earth. The themes of Future World range from Human’s technology accomplishments, power conservation, growing food, imagination, etc. During our time in Future World we didn’t have time to complete all attractions (we have ridden before on previous trips) – The Seas with Nemo & Friends (including Bruce’s shark world play area), Turtle Talk with Crush, Journey into Imagination with Figment, Circle of Life and Living with the Land.
Spaceship Earth – The giant sphere actually is a ride! It is a cheesy, but wonderful ride that explores mankind’s progress through communication. The rider travels back in time to prehistoric times to witness a tribe hunting and communicating via signals, to modern times with the invention of the computer.
Mission: Space – This ride was closed during our time there for refurbishment, but I can tell you from experience that this ride is very intense. There are actually two levels, mild and intense – where riders experience what it feels like to travel to space. Riders are even assigned jobs. The ride itself is a centrifuge, spinning so riders can feel forces up to 2.5Gs (on the intense one).
Test Track – Before riding Tron in Shanghai, this was Steve’s favorite ride. The ride opened up in 1999 sponsored originally by General Motors. In 2012, the ride got a facelift and changed sponsors to Chevrolet. I rode the GM ride back in 2010, but I really don’t remember the ride. Since then, the Chevrolet version is actually quite memorable. The guests get to design a Sim-Car in the queue. During the ride, the sim-cars get tested and rated through various stages, including the famous Speed test – where guests get to ride up to 64 MPH. At the end of the ride, we get the results of our sim-car’s performance, get to create our own commercials, and even see the latest Chevrolet car lineup! The ride portion is similar to the ride in California Adventure, Radiators Springs Racers, which I actually prefer, though Steve and my dad love designing their own cars and trying to out perform everyone else.
Soarin’ Around the World – The Soarin’ ride has been changed from a California theme to World theme (for all parks). I had seen it at California Adventure when I was there June 2016, but Steve had not seen it yet. We didn’t get to ride it in Shanghai because it was a 2-hour wait! So luckily we got a fastpass and rode it on this trip. I love the world theme! The shots are just breathtaking. This ride cannot be passed up!
Innoventions – One of our favorite things to do at EPCOT is to explore Innoventions, sadly, most of Innoventions is gone including the part where you can design your own roller coaster (The Sum of all Thrills). Today, the only exhibit open is Colortopia. There are rumors that a new ride will be put in the building of Innoventions, although its hard to speculate. Regardless, we are pretty disappointed that the exhibits are gone; I thought most of the science related experiments truly embodied the EPCOT spirits. However, I am excited to see what Disney Imagineers has in store for the area.
Universe of Energy – This ride officially closed a few days after we left. The ride was themed around energy usage and conversation, hosted by Ellen and Bill Nye the Science Guy. The ride is 40 minutes long, and the ride technology was a bit out of date. The ride was partially powered by Solar panels on the roof, so cool! I actually enjoy the ride, but Steve didn’t care for it at all. The new ride going in its place is a Guardians of the Galaxy themed coaster. I really do look forward to the new coaster, although, I do wish EPCOT would carry on its legacy somehow in spreading the word about conservation of energy and alternative fuels.
Meet & Greet Character Expo – We did meet Mickey, Minnie & Goofy at EPCOT.
World Showcase – This area is dedicated to 11 pavilions all representing a country. Countries are fun to explore with few rides, lots of shopping, art, food, drinks and more. For kids, there are even passport stamp stations with activities set up. During our time here, we did the Giusti “Eat, Drink & Repeat Challenge” – attempting to eat and/or drink something from each country. We arrived at the park around 4, so with a 9PM close time, this was challenging. I am happy to say that Steve, Moey and I finished the challenge!
Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros – This ride is so adorable! The ride is similar to “It’s a small world” but slightly different. The boat travels through various parts of Mexico in search of Donald Duck. The Three Caballeros have a performance that night and need Donald! The ride highlights various regions and cities of Mexico, and the culture.
Norway Pavilion – Trolls and fun Norwegian goods can be found here. In fact, the area itself has been revitalized since the movie Frozen (set in Norway) has come out. This is where guests can wait to meet their favorite Frozen characters. We also enjoyed their delicious pastries!
Frozen Ever After – This ride debuted in June 2016 so it can have a line of over two hours. We had a fastpass and of course the ride broke down before we could board. They gave us a fastpass to return thank goodness. The ride was exactly like the previous ride there, Maelstrom, except for the theming. The animatronic technology used is the same used for the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. I really enjoyed the ride, Steve… not so much. In his defense (if you call it that), he is not a fan of the movie. I thought the animatronics were great, and the ride went well with the theming. I can’t get enough of the Snowgies too! If only my sneezes produced something so cute!
China Pavilion – The China pavilion has a lot to offer, including a beautiful video of China highlights. New to the pavilion is a sneak preview of the Shanghai Disney Resort. We had fun reliving our memories of China and enjoying some fried dumplings with my family.
Germany Pavilion – This is our favorite pavilion just for shopping, food and good German beer. Originally Germany was meant to have a ride, however, the funding never happened for it. Nonetheless, we can always spend a lot of time here gazing in the stores and drinking beer.
Italy Pavilion – The Italy Pavilion is a treat – I mean sweet treats. Cannoli and gelato – yum! The shops here are okay, but not as good as some other pavilions. I have also yet to see Pinocchio here on a meet & greet.
The American Adventure – If you are into beers, funnel cakes and burgers – this place is for you! The shops also include Presidential merchandise, so Trump fans can buy Trump on a mug and more. The main attraction is the show, The American Adventure, which takes guests through the 200+ year journey of America – hosted by Benjamin Franklin and Mark Twain. The history stops abruptly around WWII with a video montage catching viewers up to current events. The show is not just a movie, but also displays animatronics of historic figures. In our family, there are mixed reviews of the show. The last update to the show was in 2007, and with so much happening in our world the last 10 years – maybe its time for a new montage?
Japan Pavilion – My sister’s favorite pavilion – why – anime lovers delight! The shops here have anything that you can imagine from Japan! Although there is no ride here, the food, sake and shops are fun enough. I had read that at one point Disney was thinking about a Mt. Fuji ride – that would be cool!
Morocco Pavilion – This small pavilion doesn’t have a lot to offer, with minimal shops and restaurants. It does have a stage with live music performing intermitted throughout the day. This is probably my least liked pavilion.
France Pavilion – France has many restaurants, pastries, shops and meet & greets with Belle and Aurora. I am looking forward to returning in a few years to see the new ride – Ratatouille! We rode it in Paris and LOVED it. I think it will make a good addition to the France Pavilion.
United Kingdom Pavilion – For fans of English Rock, Tea and Football (soccer) – this is a shopping place for you. We particularly like the fish and chips. There is no attraction here, but a meet & greet of Alice in Wonderland.
Canada Pavilion – Next to Germany, this is my second favorite pavilion. The shops here have funny slogans, maple deliciousness, and hockey references! Martin Short hosts the movie, “O Canada”. We also ate at the steak house, Le Cellier – which was delicious!
IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth – This is the nighttime show at EPCOT done over the lake. The show involves fire, fireworks, lasers, and water features. The show is on the lake, so anyone standing/sitting in the pavilions can watch the show. The show has been on since 1999 and still receives awards! It is a fun show to watch.
Like I mentioned, one of the best things at EPCOT is the food at the Country Pavilions. We ended up eating/drinking our way through 11 countries and enjoyed it. If you ever visit, save room in your stomach to try all of the international goodies!
EPCOT is one of our favorite parks. I cannot wait to see what the next 5,10, &15 years has in store for the park.