It’s been a week since we posted, and what a week it’s been! Just to get everyone up to speed, we had a relatively uneventful drive from New Orleans to Orlando. The drive through the Florida panhandle is long, rolling, and frankly reminds me of driving on the Mass Turnpike but without the mountains – which is to say it’s very heavily treed and you can’t really see much of anything.
We arrived in Orlando only an hour or so late picking my mom up at the airport, and got ourselves to our friend Sid’s rental townhome in Kissimmee without any trouble. This was the part of our trip where I realized the mistake we made by not giving ourselves more downtime. I guess I’m so used to compressing trips into a week or 9 days at most, and I’m still operating from that paradigm. It’s definitely time to relearn how to travel!
Disney & Epcot
For those who don’t know, Disney World, also known as Walt Disney World Resorts are comprised of 4 theme parks, 2 water parks, numerous resort hotels, Downtown Disney, a huge boardwalk area, and much much more. It’s overwhelmingly huge, but also extremely well laid out and therefore relatively easy to find your way around. We had the added benefit of having Sid along with us the first day, and Sid knows Disney well, so that helped.
We were primarily concerned with the 4 theme parks:
Disney Park passes work in a such a way that if you buy a 4 day pass you can visit each of the parks on a different day. Beyond 4 (or 5) days you can buy additional days for $5 each, so we purchased 6-day passes just to make sure we’d see everything we wanted to see. I’ve been to Magic Kingdom in California many times, and figured 1 day in Magic Kingdom would be plenty, 2 days as Epcot as I’d heard that it’s huge, a day each at Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom, and a day left over just in case.
We arrived at Epcot early on Thursday morning, and found that we had the park almost entirely to ourselves. That’s probably a bit of an overstatement, but suffice it to say we were spoiled the first day. We didn’t have to wait in line for anything, and didn’t experience the crush of humanity I’m used to at Disneyland in California.
Epcot is my favorite of the Disney World parks. I suspected that it might be ahead of time, and it lived up to my expectations and much more. I would say that Epcot is the most adult-friendly of the parks, as it has the most restaurants, far and away the most alcohol, and more shows and presentations than the other parks. In typical Disney style many of the rides are information-based and make excellent use of animatronics and props.
That isn’t to say that Epcot is lacking rides, as there are several good ones, however both my mother and I get motion sick, so I avoid potentially nausea-inducing rides. For those who’ve never gotten motion sick, I’ll tell you that it’s a pretty awful experience. Once your equilibrium is thrown off, it can stay that way for hours, so it really isn’t worth taking the risk on some rides. I’m actually fine on most roller coasters, but stuff that throws me around can do a number on me!
I’ll list Epcot’s top attractions and give you my impressions.
Spaceship Earth – This is the huge golf ball that you see in all the Epcot literature (and my picture above). It’s a 16 minute ride that takes you through 40,000 years of history, complete with excellent sets and animatronics. Well worth the time it takes!
Test Track – I didn’t do this ride. It’s a simulation of what cars go through when they’re tested. It’s one of Disney’s fastest rides, at up to 60mph, and looked fun, but it goes over lots of bumps and high-speed turns, and is located near the front of Epcot. I didn’t want to end my day before it began just in case!
Soarin’ – The same ride as is in Disney’s California Adventure park in California. This is a fun ride, that involves being lifted up against a large screen depicting scenes from California, and ‘flying’ through and around them. I’ve been on it many times in California, but that didn’t stop me from riding it again at Epcot!
Innoventions – includes lots of educational stuff, but also has The Sum of All Thrills, which uses the same technology as the new and popular Universal Studios ride, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. Worth checking out if you like to be flipped upside down!
My list is far from complete, but those are the bulk of the ‘rides’ in Epcot. The majority of the park is made up of the world pavilions, and that’s why I like Epcot as much as I do. The Pavilions each consist of miniature landmarks from the country they represent, and additional shops and restaurants styled to match. Most of the pavilions have a show, a movie, a sit-down restaurant, a counter-service restaurant, and shops.
My favorite part of the pavilions is that each is manned by people from the country they represent! Disney actually recruits Norwegians for the Norway Pavilion, French for the France pavilion, and Japanese for the Japan pavilion. The majority of the recruits are younger people that have a 1-year work visa to work at Disney World. Disney pays for their room and board, plus they’re paid to work at the Parks. They wear what we think of as traditional clothing for their country, and their presence adds a lot to the Epcot experience in my opinion.
The World Pavilions include:
I especially enjoyed the UK pavilion as it has a nice pub, pricey beer not withstanding. The Norway pavilion is also excellent, and includes a boat ride – Maelstrom – which is similar to Pirates of the Caribbean, although not nearly as long or as well done.
We watched the Matsuriza drummers at the Japan Pavilion, the Dragon Legend Acrobats at the China Pavilion (crazy!), Off Kilter – the Celtic rockers outside the Canada Pavilion, The British Invasion Beatles tribute band, and many many more.
To top it all off, Epcot has one of the best fireworks and light shows I’ve seen. They call it Illuminations: Reflections of Earth, and the show is set over the lake in the center of Epcot, and features a massive floating globe with videos playing on each continent. I’ll let the video I recorded speak for itself. Click on the image below to view. We were VERY close to one of the mortars, and you can see that in my video.
[image img=”http://trekwithus.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/09/illuminations-300×225.jpg” url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bU4Cktykzeg” rounded=”all”/]
Over the next few days Kathy and I will add posts for each of the 3 other Disney theme parks. I’m heading North in the morning, and Kathy will be visiting family for the next 2 weeks, so our travels are going to be on hold for a few weeks. If we do anything, we’ll be sure to post it here. Check back for our other Disney posts in the meantime, and Happy Travels!