Sunday, February 17, 2013

Epcot, more than a big ball

In my opinion, Epcot is all about rides and food. The park itself is broken up into 2 sections: Future World and the World Showcase. The opening and closing times for the 2 sections are offset from each other, with Future World opening and closing before the World Showcase. I recommend that Epcot be broken up into at least 3 days if time allows. There is a lot to see and do.

Upon entering the park, you first enter Future World, where most of the rides and attractions are located. This is the point where you choose your own adventure (come in with a plan), because the rides and attractions are in different directions. Rope drop definitely brings a rush to the big ones, such as Soarin', Test Track, and Mission: Space. If any of these are a priority, go get a fast pass right away. Stephanie and I did a divide and conquer, where I went to Test Track right away and hopped into the single rider queue while she retrieved fast passes for Soarin'. I definitely recommend saving Spaceship Earth (the big ball) for later in the day. We have had much success riding it as we leave the park in the evening and only having at most a 5 minute wait.

If you have anyone in your party that wants to meet some characters, a great time to go find them is right after you have retrieved your fast passes first thing. There is a character spot in Innoventions West near the ice cream place. It is inside and deserted first thing, and a great time to meet 3-4 of your favorite characters (Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Pluto). Other characters will appear around the park throughout the day, and the World Showcase is a great place to find the princesses.

Inside the Lands Pavilion is the popular Soarin' ride. If not all of your party can ride, make sure that you get a rider swap pass. This allows 3 people to ride on one fast pass, so one parent can wait with the youngin's while everyone else rides, and then swap parents. If all of the kids like a ride, this allows them to ride twice without having to wait more than the time it takes to ride and having to get more fast passes. This is available on any ride, and we use it almost everywhere. Also, if someone has to wait, a great diversion is riding the Living With The Land boats that tour through the greenhouses. Both rides take about the same time, so no one is left sitting bored.

Should the little ones need to get some silliness and wiggles out, head over to the Journey into Imagination. After a ride with Figment and a catchy tune, there is an area to play, wiggle, and create. This area is a lot of fun, as long as it is not too crowded. Usually it is not, because everyone is at the big rides.

The Seas With Nemo and Friends is a very neat underwater experience. If the line is too long to get onto the ride itself (inside is about 15-20 minutes, so if there is a line outside, factor that in), you can walk around to the left (facing the building) and go in through the store to view the aquarium and other features. Inside is a play area with Bruce the shark, Turtle Talk with Crush (fun and interactive), a scuba diver demonstration, and a lot of underwater friends swimming in the 6 million gallon tank.

Innoventions East and West are some great places to take a break. They both offer some activities to do, but since they are away from everything it can be a quiet area to chill.

The World Showcase offers the culinary delights from around the world. It opens at 11, so you can plan a lunch or dinner here. If you are not on the Disney Dining Plan or have a Tables in Wonderland card, stop, go rectify the situation, and then come back. One of the best deals with the Dining Plan is Akershus House in Norway, where you get a character meal with 4 princesses (Belle, Ariel, Sleeping Beauty, and Snow White). This is one of only two character meals (the other being Cinderella's Royal Table in the Magic Kingdom) where a photo package is included with your meal, not an additional charge.

Some of the countries offer rides (Mexico, Norway), others a movie or presentation, but all offer shopping and food. Just walking around can be a full day if you are the browsing, take-it-all-in type. If you plan your meals ahead of time, you can enjoy a later dinner followed by the evening show, Illuminations. The show is not until 9, and because of the offset hours (Future World pretty much shuts down at 7), there is not much to do except eat. So, either plan your schedule to come back to the park for the evening show, or time is so that you are done with dinner before the show. The whole lake offers good seating since the show is on the water. Obviously, the spots right on the fence are claimed early. You can see the show pretty well along the walkway to Future World, if you want to get a head start on the rush after the show.

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