Observations from Epcot: December 2

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Date: December 2, 2013

Weather: High 73, low 61. 64 degrees at around 7 p.m.

Crowd Level: 3

Epcot’s holiday season is fully geared up this week and I decided to take a few hours last night to check out the park’s evening offerings at Holidays Around the World in World Showcase.

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Though World Showcase has a whole lot of holiday, Future World is right in the mix with Fab 5 and Bambi-themed Christmas topiaries at the entrance and in the central walkway, a holiday soundtrack for the Fountain of Nations, and a gingerbread village at the Land Pavilion. Because I arrived in the early evening and wanted to get to the Candlelight Processional quickly, I bypassed the Land Pavilion. But I’ll be back. I did take a few minutes to snap some topiary pictures.

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While I arrived at the park at about 4:30, a little hiccup with my Annual Pass put me through the gates at about 5:15. Candlelight Processional Shows are nightly at 5, 6:45, and 8:15 p.m., so I knew I’d missed the first one. I did a little shop wandering and finally saw the gift cards with special edition pins that the Parks Blog has been promoting for weeks but that have actually just been put out. The cards are $75 each and there are four pins to “collect”. Here are the Minnie and Mickey. These were available at the Pin Spot just in front of the Fountain of Nations.

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Just inside World Showcase, I picked up my Holiday Passport. There may come a day when I don’t get a thrill out of picking these up and getting them stamped, but today is not that day. I only got one stamp this time around, but it’s pretty cute.

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The passport has all kinds of great information including showtimes, merchandise offerings and locations, and food and beverage selections for each country. You can also find a shorter offerings summary in the guide brochure available all around the park and here.

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I was working my way around the Showcase toward the America Pavilion because I figured I had time to kill. I went left when I reached entrance to World Showcase and walked past Mexico, the Outpost, and Norway. As I neared Germany, I noticed a line. A really, really long line. The end of the line was somewhere mid-Italy while as far as I could tell, the beginning was at the America Gardens Theatre. A kind guest near the end of the line confirmed it was the standby line for the 6:45 p.m. showing of Candlelight Processional.

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Candlelight Processional has three showtimes each night at 5 p.m., 6:45 p.m., and 8:15 p.m. I knew that if the standby line was so massive at 5:40 p.m. when the first show hadn’t even ended, it was unlikely that I’d be getting a seat in second show, and possibly in the third. I found out that the likelihood of my seeing the show from the benches was even less when I walked to the America Pavilion and found that guests who had guaranteed seats because they’d purchased a dining package were lined up on the other side of the pavilion in an equally lengthy queue. While those purchasing dining packages do have the right to seats before those in standby, they must line up and wait as well. This differs from shows like Fantasmic where dining packages score you seats at specific shows in specific areas.

Because the narrator was Neil Patrick Harris (likely the reason for the massive crowds for the show – some narrators are much more popular than others), I really wanted to catch at least part of the show. I worked through my problem by going to the Christmas marketplace in the America Pavilion and obtaining a Cocoa Candy Cane (hot chocolate with Peppermint Schnapps) and a gingerbread man.

Epcot Treats American Pavilion

Here comes a treat tangent. This is the best hot chocolate I’ve ever had. It’s rich, it’s creamy, it’s pepperminty, and it packs a little extra warmth on the tail end that makes everyone’s holiday merrier and brighter. This is, hands down, the best $6.50 (or in my case $13.00) you’ll spend in the parks this season. It’s that good. Mr. Gingerbread was nothing to scoff at either with his surprisingly soft ginger goodness, though I did find myself wondering how many Cocoa Candy Canes his decorator had before picking up the icing bag.

Back to the problem at hand. On the suggestion of a good friend, we huddled into the space behind the theatre ropes at about 6 p.m. to watch the show from there. No, we wouldn’t be sitting down, but according to Twitter the standby line had taken over Norway at that point, so we weren’t going to be sitting anyway. I was a little miffed at first because the view wasn’t so great, but as the show progressed, I thought it was actually a really neat place to watch from because the choir filed in all around us, making for a pretty awesome experience. I took lots of pictures but the show’s lighting and my lack of a bigger lens means they didn’t turn out so hot.

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Our view with my friend the inconveniently-placed tree.

The show was wonderful and I would recommend either getting to the venue very early for the first show or getting a dining package around 3 p.m. and lining up around 4 p.m. if the narrator you want to see is wildly popular (Whoopi Goldberg, Trace Adkins, etc.). In any event, maybe swing by the lineup areas just to check before having dinner or getting a Cocoa Candy Cane.

After the show, I moseyed around to the France Pavilion to try the Chocolate Yule Log from the bakery. France has added some festive peppermint and snowflake decorations this year that are kitschy but nonetheless fun.

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The Chocolate Christmas Log is offered in France’s bakery, Les Halles Boulangerie & Patisserie (pictured above). Because yule logs are pretty standard (cake plus some kind of cream rolled up and thusly named “log”) I was expecting a pretty tasty snack break in France. I was sadly disappointed when I was handed a box with what I like to term the “Christmas Brick”.

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I’m not really a foodie given my mostly pedestrian palate, but I know this: yule logs should have neither mirengue poofy things, nor chocolate fins. They should be moist and sweet and, in this log’s case, chocolatey. The Yule Brick was none of these things. Pretty? Yes. Tasty? No. My friend ate one fork full, tossed the fork and declared, “I’m out.”  I suggest skipping the Chocolate Christmas Log in France and subbing in another tasty treat.

Fear not – the night did not end on such a sad note. My Chocolate Christmas Log disappointment was lifted as I walked back to Future World via the main pathway and its fun snowflake topiaries. Nothing can be bad when twinkle lights abound.

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I will be back soon to try the other treats and get a glimpse of the Future World gingerbread village. Until then, keep it magical.

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Posted on December 6, 2013

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