In the Parks

Hidden Details of Epcot

by on July 31, 2014

There are many reasons why the Disney Parks stand apart from other theme parks around the world, but one of the biggest has to be Disney’s incredible attention to detail. You can see the extra mile in the form of details just about everywhere on Disney property, from attractions to parade costumes to resorts to transportation to even the bathrooms! Personally, I love the details. They are not only appealing to the eye and fun to find, but almost always meaningful to the history of an attraction or to the story the Imagineers are trying to tell. For today’s post, we are focusing on some of the hidden details of Epcot!

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Epcot’s Drawbridge

Did you know that a section of World Showcase is actually a drawbridge? If you have been to Epcot, you have surely walked over it but probably didn’t even know it! The purpose for the drawbridge is so that the barges carrying fireworks and the huge globe for Illuminations can pass from the backstage area onto the lagoon. This usually takes place in the afternoon near the Refreshment Outpost. Warning: If you happen to be in this part of World Showcase when the bridge lifts, you may be stranded for a short time!

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Epcot’s France Pavilion

Epcot’s France Pavilion is absolutely lovely and picturesque, especially at night. However, the hidden detail we uncovered at this pavilion is near the water, next to the silhouette stand just over the bridge. In addition to an old fashioned camera and a case of postcards and photos is a a box of paintings. If you flip through the canvases, you may discover that a few changes have been made to these masterpieces, like this little reference to Mickey!

Epcot’s Morocco Pavilion is one of our favorites in that there are so many corners and streets to explore. Many guests don’t know that a little museum can be found in this pavilion. It’s not clearly marked and the doors are usually closed, but go ahead and pull it open. You’re allowed!

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O’Canada Theater

Inside, you will find exhibits and artifacts native to the Moroccan culture and it’s very interesting! I often use it as a go-to when it rains, as few know about it and it gives me something to do until the weather clears.

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The Seas with Nemo and Friends

Several World Showcase pavilions, such as the Canada Pavilion, show entertaining films to inform guests about their respective country’s landscape and culture. However, few guests know that the O’Canada Theater is tucked at the very back of the pavilion among the rock work and waterfalls. The theater is meant to resemble a mine; and the waiting area inside truly looks like you’re in a shaft. It also offers another view of the waterfalls and streams! This little hideaway is packed full of details and shouldn’t be missed.

The Seas with Nemo and Friends in Epcot’s Future World is one of our favorite pavilions in the whole park and is home to a massive aquarium that can easily entertain young and old alike for hours. When you pass through the queue for the Finding Nemo dark ride at the pavilion entrance, look up to see the boat which Nemo was dared to touch in the film! Also, in the pavilion’s massive aquarium, look for a Disney character shaped out of rocks at the bottom of the tank. I’ve seen a Mickey in the past; but during my last trip, I discovered a Goofy.

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Epcot’s United Kingdom Pavilion

Epcot’s United Kingdom pavilion is packed full of history and details, but for one you may not have noticed, look up! The chimneys atop the shops in the United Kingdom pavilion are dark with soot.  This is a clever hidden detail used for historical accuracy and to create the illusion that these chimneys are still working.

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Le Cellier Steakhouse

Have you ever been to Epcot in the rain? If you have, think about walking under Spaceship Earth. You didn’t get wet, did you? It would make sense though that rainwater would flow down the grooves and onto the people below, but it doesn’t! This is due to a special system in Spaceship Earth which collects the water so that guests don’t get soaked entering and exiting the park, a truly hidden detail!

One of the most popular restaurants in all of Epcot, and one of my personal favorites, is Canada’s Le Cellier Steakhouse. This delicious restaurant is known for its filet mignon and Cheddar Cheese Soup. What guests probably don’t know is that each section of this restaurant is themed after a Canadian province. Be sure to ask your waiter or waitress about the history of the province in which you are dining, as well as what province they are from. It’s very interesting!

So these are just a few of the many details to be discovered at Epcot. Which of these have you found? Do you have a favorite?

 

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Planning for Spontaneity: Disney World Counter Service Meals

by on July 30, 2014

By nature, our family tends to over-plan. On one vacation, we even set aside specific time to ‘be spontaneous – within our own limitations.’ But for some reason, our quick dining – while generally guided – wasn’t set in stone. On our first day in Epcot, we chose Sunshine Seasons, one of the jewels of counter service dining in the parks, according to all the checks we’d made. We began enjoying our Asian-infused lunch until our only adventurous eater started to look a little queasy. The sights and aromas had overcome our (somewhat) melodramatic child. Thankfully, she was only four. And we didn’t stick around for the clean-up.

A nice variety of food offered at Casey's Corner, but tough to locate an indoor seat.

A nice variety of food offered at Casey’s Corner, but tough to locate an indoor seat.

Since then, we have planned all of our meals. For many Walt Disney World vacationers, counter service fills up half – or more- of our theme park dining. Plenty of information exists for table service restaurants: menus, meal reviews, countdown to reservation times, and strategies for landing the elusive meal spot. Comparatively little exists for the compulsive planner when it comes to quick service. While outlining burgers and nachos may seem overly obsessive, building a plan – with a back-up, too – may save time, effort, and enable you to put more enjoyment into your vacation. If nothing else, you might slide a column into your managed spreadsheet for your ‘other’ meal.

Counter service restaurants participate uniquely with the Disney Dining plan. Almost all table service restaurants in Disney World parks are on the meal plan, but only some counter service restaurants are. Some will serve snacks only. The leg conundrum for me seems the strangest. Some places – like the pork shank legs at Min and Bill’s in Hollywood Studios-Covered. Gaston’s Tavern in Magic Kingdom-Not covered. You can use a snack credit there, just not on the shank.

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Snacks Around the World Showcase – Japan

by on July 29, 2014

Mickey Pretzel and Plastic Cheese

Mickey Pretzel and Plastic Cheese. Perfection.

When Epcot enters the conversation, the first thing many people mention is eating (or drinking) around the world. While there are many worthy restaurants scattered around the World Showcase with a wide variety of different foods to try, there are also many pre-packaged snacking alternatives to tempt an adventurous diner.

In addition to interesting snacks to be eaten while in the park, those packaged snacks make great souvenirs. They are relatively inexpensive, won’t take up much space in luggage, and make a different sort of present to bring home.

Instead of just showing the different options, I decided it would be much more interesting to turn snacking into a challenge. Since the World Showcase has so many options, there had to be some parameters in the snacking quest. There are 11 countries represented in the World Showcase portion of Epcot, which could get expensive quickly if you are to get something in each country. In addition, since the point was trying new things, I would avoid things that are readily available in the United States or things that aren’t particularly strange. Finally, I wanted it to be something I was actually willing to try.

So, here are the rules for the World Showcase Snacking Challenge:

  • No snacks over $10; preferably less than $5
  • As unusual as possible
  • Something I personally would eat

Let’s get started!

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Magic Kingdom Attractions for Ride Chickens

by on July 25, 2014

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The scariest ride… ever?! No drops on this ride, but what if you get stuck? That song… forever?!

Many times, when people talk about planning a trip to Walt Disney World, and more specifically Magic Kingdom, the talk quickly turns to the attractions that are the most exciting. These attractions are generally the ones that have height restrictions, with required restraints to keep you in the vehicle.

As a self-professed ride chicken, there’s a lot of things that give me pause at Disney World: attractions that are so mind-bogglingly scary, I’m not sure how anyone is brave enough to attempt them.

With that being said, there are far more attractions that even ride chickens can handle. There’s obviously a variety of reasons people do not like certain attractions, and for a long time I just assumed my fear was roller coasters. While I still cannot ride huge coasters, I have since realized that I actually can’t handle changing altitudes quickly.

This leaves out most of the flume-style rides, as well as the larger coasters.

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Enhancing Fireworks Displays at Disney Parks

by on July 23, 2014

FireworksSummer is here, and by now hopefully everyone has had a chance to enjoy a fireworks display. I got a chance to enjoy the fireworks in a small Colorado town on the 4th of July. My friends’ house had a great view of the town’s fireworks display from their back deck, so all we had to do was sit down and enjoy!

I did notice that something was missing. While the display was an impressive sight and had a variety of fireworks, there wasn’t really any plan to the show. One shot went up. BOOM! Another shot went up. BOOM! Oh – here’s a change of pace - two going off at the same time! BOOM BOOM! The only time the show really ratcheted it up was at the end, when the sky was smothered with all of the fireworks they had left.

Was your viewing of fireworks the same as mine? Did you feel like it was missing…well…a little Disney magic?

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Best Sweet Treats at Disney World

by on July 21, 2014

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There’s more where these came from

Sugar. Sweet treats are made of this. There are times when it seems to me the whole of Walt Disney World itself was made of it. A word of caution; however inviting the great wall of honey at The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh may appear, please don’t lick it. Sure, it may seem like a good idea, but there are plenty of better options available, and besides, it’s not really all that sweet. If anything, the flavor hints faintly of grime and germs. If that’s your idea of a treat, who am I to disagree?

Finding something sweet to eat at Walt Disney World is not a difficult task, but it can be daunting if you’re intent on finding that perfect treat. I’ve traveled Disney World and the Seven Seas Lagoon and the sheer volume of goodies on offer is overwhelming, to be sure. In my explorations, I’ve found that pretty much everybody is searching for something sweet.They’ve certainly come to the right place. One need not take more than a few steps in any park without spying some tantalizing confection in the quivering hand of a giddy park guest, or from a myriad of cleverly-disguised gingerbread houses beckoning you to come inside. Fortunately, whether you discover that special goody, or wicked witch, your sweet tooth can take comfort in knowing that even the least-inspiring treat still packs enough sweet to satisfy it. Treats are something Disney does well, even those times when they don’t especially.

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Magic Kingdom AtMousePhere: Tomorrowland Music

by on July 21, 2014

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Tomorrowland is so different from the other lands – it holds a special place in my heart.

One of the most incredible aspects of Walt Disney World music is the way it captures the essence of the land. For one minute, you’re imagining yourself with a top hat or parasol walking right down the middle of Main Street,  U.S.A. The next, you want to be on a mighty steed galloping through Fantasyland. And after that, you’re picturing yourself in a coonskin cap strolling through Frontierland.

My favorite bit of Magic Kindgom music, however, has to be the Tomorrowland loop. Before I started listening to Walt Disney World music online, I could still remember bits of that music in my head from time to time. Even though the music of the future isn’t as easy to pinpoint as music from the turn of the century, it still pulls you into that atmosphere.

Strap in folks; we’re ready for blast-off!

To truly immerse yourself in Tomorrowland, click on the video below, courtesy of Disney Dreaming on YouTube, before continuing: 

Tomorrowland Music Loop

The Unique Nostalgia Music

In almost every other area of Magic Kingdom park,  many pieces of music are taken from movies. As we saw in the Main Street, U.S.A. loop, several of the pieces were from movie musicals set in the early 20th century. Other lands arrange or compose music that closely matches the area’s setting, like the rollicking drums of Adventureland.

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Taking Disney World by Storm

by on July 20, 2014

First of all, I am not a meteorologist. I don’t even play one on TV.

That being said, I have thirty years of experience in Orlando weather, including doing extensive research on hurricanes.

The 2014 hurricane season has begun, and the year marks the tenth anniversary of Orlando’s “Year of Three Hurricanes”. In this article, I’ll cover the issue of hurricanes and Orlando’s famous thunderstorms as well as how to avoid them and vacation around them.

Orlando street view the morning after Hurricane Charley in 2004.  Photo by Thomas Cook

Orlando street view the morning after Hurricane Charley in 2004. Photo by Thomas Cook

Officially known as “tropical cyclones” but colloquially as hurricanes, the massive summer storms are one of the most powerful and dangerous natural events on earth. The amount of energy released in one day by an average cyclone in producing rain (which is 400 times greater than the wind energy) is equal to the yearly energy production of the U.S.

So you’re thinking hurricanes and Florida go hand-in-hand like Vermont and snow, right? Well, sort of. Florida is a big state. Not only in terms of square miles, but it’s long. For instance, it takes 12 hours to drive from Key West to Pensacola.

Of course, every mile is a potential hurricane target, but Walt Disney World is only some 40 miles square. Additionally it’s in the center of the state, relatively far from the Atlantic or the Gulf of Mexico. This means every time your local news tells about a hurricane in Florida, it’s unlikely to be passing close to Disney world.

The U.S. government started regular tracking of tropical cyclones in 1851. Looking at those statistics gives excellent news: The frequency of a hurricane passing through the Walt Disney World area in any year is 1 in 10. A 10% chance each year is all local have to worry about. Want even better news? If you’re visiting for a week or two, you have an even smaller chance of having to deal with one of nature’s super storms.

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Daisy Lauren’s Best Week Ever: July 17, 2014

by on July 17, 2014

Hi, Everyone! Welcome to the Best Week Ever here at Walt Disney World! I have tons of Frozen fun to share, but to start let’s pop over to Epcot. While the weather has been incredibly hot, the skies have been beautiful! Check out those blue skies and fluffy white clouds! 

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I wasn’t just there to admire the skies, though. I’d heard online that personalized bottles of Coke were available for free. It wasn’t something I was excited about but I wanted to check it out for you guys. I got there about 15 minutes before the posted start time thinking I’d beat the rush. As you can see from the photo below, I could not have been more wrong! There must have been 100 people in line! I quickly decided that Coke bottles were not newsworthy and moved on. ;)

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Favorite Parks Series: Disney’s Animal Kingdom

by on July 16, 2014

We’re at the half way point in our Favorite Parks journey! (Read about Disney’s Hollywood Studios here.) Before doing research for this article, I’ll admit that Disney’s Animal Kingdom was my least favorite park. However, the more I delved into the MAGIC* behind the park, the more I realized how spectacular and incredibly unique Animal Kingdom is.

Memorable Moments

Since Animal Kingdom is known for its hot environment, Kali River Rapids is just the attraction to cool you off. As the unpredictable rapids decide which way the raft spins, no one is safe from the surprising splashes and torrents. Once you’ve become thoroughly soaked, dry yourself off by enjoying two delightful shows; Finding Nemo – The Musical and the Festival of the Lion King. Adrenaline junkies will love running into the Yeti on Expedition Everest, while those looking for further adventure can experience DINOSAUR. An underrated attraction at Animal Kingdom worth attending is Flights of Wonder, an educational and entertaining exotic bird show. You’ll be ‘squawking’ about it for days!

How many animals can you spot?

How many animals can you spot?

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