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Sunday, 30 September 2018

Our adventures in Disney World- Exploring Epcot

Spaceship Earth

We spent two weeks in Florida in August and I am sharing our travels through blog posts this Autumn, a fantastic way to relive our amazing holiday. Epcot really is a game of two halves and we spent two whole days exploring the park, although we didn't manage to neatly spend one day around the World Showcase and a day around the rest, we did do some going back and to in order to fit it all in.

Monorail
Monorail passing through the park

It is impossible upon entering the park to miss the iconic Spaceship Earth and, although we passed this in order to start our day with our first fast pass of the Frozen ride in World Showcase we soon returned to experience Spaceship Earth. We had a fastpass for it but really didn't need one. Over the two days we spent in the park we rode this attraction three times and never waited longer than 5 minutes. This was a favourite attraction of my daughter, much like the other vintage animatronic offerings in the Magic Kingdom had been. She was just blown away by the historic scenes on the journey and it was magical to see. The scale of the journey inside the giant golf ball is fantastic in my view both on the way up and when among the stars on the return journey too. I was a bit disappointed that the technology wasn't communicating well enough for our postcards to be sent but it was fun watching the personalised videos.

Another fastpass we had on the first day at Epcot was Journey into Imagination with my favorite dragon, Figment. This gentle journey was fun and I do love the Figment character, it infuriated my daughter, however, who just kept saying "Figment has ruined the ride", she obviously didn't think the little pink dragon had taken this exploration of the senses seriously enough! Or perhaps her expectations were just too high! To be honest, the adventure with Figment is not one we had any desire to repeat, it is cute but lacked the 'wow' factor. We also saw fun street entertainment around this area of the park including Bunsen and Beaker.

Bunsen and Beaker
Bunsen and Beaker

We were lucky that we noticed that the queue for Soarin was only 20 minutes so we took the opportunity to ride this, no Fastpass needed mid afternoon. When I say we were lucky, I might have to re evaluate this as I will be honest- Soarin was for me the scariest ride I went on at Walt Disney World! Far scarier than I found Flights of Passage at Animal Kingdom. The main reason for this is that because the scenes are actual film footage rather than computer generated I geniunely felt like I was soaring over the mountains and the deserts. It was breath taking and terrifying at the same time but I am so glad that I went on this spectacular journey.

Another fun and very refreshing 'attraction' in the same area of the park was the 'Club Cool', an opportunity to try drinks sold by the Coca Cola Company all over the world. This was fun and a good way to get chatting to other guests! The 'Beverley' wasn't nearly as bad as I expected but I really think you need to try it for yourselves...

Club Cool
Trying drinks in Club Cool

Most of our first day and the afternoon of our second day were spent in the area around the lake called the World Showcase. This consists of 11 countries represented through buildings and iconic architecture, attractions and films, Restaurants selling food and drink from the country, Cast Members from the country, shops selling items from the country, musicians and entertainment from the country. On the first day we skipped into Norway to go on the Frozen Ever After ride. This was a fun family adventure through the film with a small slide which was perfectly choreographed into the music and action. We left via the shop and I was thrilled to see that the very talented artist, Larry Dotson, was sighing his artwork. I purchase a print which Larry signed and I had delivered safely back to the shop at our Disney hotel.
Picture signing with Larry Dotson
Artist, Larry Dotson, signs my print

The kids also begun their World Showcase Kidcot bags. These used to be cute Duffy Bears but have been replaced this summer by a sweet little Ziplock bag designed as a suitcase. As I am lucky enough to have some of the Duffy Bears I can safely say that the Ziplock bag is far more practical for carrying around. Both kids absolutely loved finding the Kidcot stops in each country and getting their colour-in postcard signed by the country representative and adding it to their 'suitcase bag'. It is also possible to buy a passport to get stamped in all the counties in the World Showcase.

Kidcot station
My daughter holds her ziplock suitcase whilst the kids get their postcards signed at a Kidspot. 

I was blown away by all the countries but the architecture of China was stunning and I loved the exhibition about Shanghai Disneyland as well as the 360 degree film. We didn't queue to meet Mulin but I happened across her anyway...
Mulan
Hi Mulan


China in Epcot
Part of the China Pavilion

Italy was special for us as my son was chosen to support the mime artist with his act. For ten minutes he was part of the show and very cute catching his juggling balls in the net. He was given a lovely signed postcard by Sergio the mime as a thank you for taking part.

Sergio the mime in Epcot
My son helps Sergio the mime in Italy.

My son loved visiting Mexico as he is a massive fan of the Three Cabaleros so this was his favourite gentle ride and rode it both days we visited, think It's A Small World. I loved the Coco display and had my photo taken with Donald. We also enjoyed a great Mexican quick service meal at La Cantina de San Angel with a very refreshing margarita!


A highlight for me was seeing the acapella singing group, Voices of Liberty perform at The American Adventure attraction. The group sing traditional American folk songs and I was blown away by the beauty of their performance. The American Adventure takes episodes from American history and, using the sort of animatronics so loved by my kids, tells stories of key moments in American history. This is, by in large, a very selective history, with a very small scene including a native American. I feel that the opening of the native American artefacts exhibition 'Creating Tradition' in the same building is a way in which Disney is trying to address this. The final thing that we loved was the Guardians of the Galaxy concert which we saw on our first visit and which had ended by our second visit- lots of familiars songs and lots of energy meant for a great show.

Voices of Liberty singing in Epcot
Voices of Liberty


On our second visit to Epcot we focused on visiting The Land including a fastpass for Living the Land and lunch at Garden Grill which as well as character interactions, provides an opportunity to see scenes from living the Land from a different perspective. For Brits, Living the Land reminds we a little of the UK's Eden Project with controlled environments for growing different plants in glass houses which the gentle 'ride' passes through. This is an area of the park which I think in an age of increasing environmental awareness could really be developed. Food grown in this area is used within the Garden Grill Restaurant which I was fascinated to visit again having been there 20 years ago.

Living the Land in Epcot
Hidden Mickey in Living the Land

After visiting the Land we went on to The Seas for our FastPass on Nemo and Friends, a fun ride through scenes from the film. We all enjoyed 'Turtle Talk with Crush' which I thought was similar in concept to Stitch Live in the Disneyland Paris Studios Park. My daughter asked Crush a question about life in the sea which he answered. The aquariums themselves were very impressive and well presented with a wide variety of weird and wonderful sea life.
Aquarium at the Seas in Epcot
Another Mickey in the Seas Aquarium

TestTrack was a surprise hit with my son! He was keen to visit our last fastpass attraction but had no idea what was in store for him. After designing our cars to be the best we joined some other guests in our car (I really don't understand how this works when we have all designed different cars?). Nothing could have prepared him or the rest of us for the exhilarating ride ahead but, as a child who hates fast rollercoasters, TestTrack didn't phase him for a moment he had a grin from ear to ear!

Whilst at Epcot we also did some different Meet and Greets. We met Baymax first who gave the biggest hugs in the world! We then queued in the same building to meet Joy and Sadness which was a really fun meet and greet, we ended up having a dance around with them which was lots of fun.

Meeting Baymax at Epcot
When you try for a hug with Baymax!

All through the trip the kids had said that they didn't want to meet Elsa and Anna so at the end of our second Epcot day when I stayed in the park to watch Illuminations and the kids returned to the hotel with keith for a swim, I met Donald in Mexico and then couldn't resist the 10 minute queue to see Elsa and Anna in Norway. I also was glad that at the last minute I took the chance to visit the beautiful Stave Church Gallery with it's exhibition about Norse Mythology.

The Stave Church, Epcot
Carvings in the Stave Church, Norway


IllumiNations:Reflections of Earth is the traditional nighttime show at Epcot and it has just been announced that this will be closing. I will be honest in saying that I don't see this as a major loss. Apologies to Illuminations fans but I thought it was ok! I quite liked the spinning Earth and the countries with their lights but found the big fire in the lake at the beginning which I guess was meant to represent the BigBang just, well, big! I can see how Epcot might be ready for a new night time show.

Illuminations
IllumiNations


We really enjoyed our visits to all areas of Epcot. I was inspired to learn on my Keys to the Kingdom Tour that, through the use of solar panels, the hope is that eventually Epcot will be fully powered by renewables. I think that this 'prototype community of tomorrow' still has much to teach and share.



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