Welcome to the first Best Week Ever of 2016! I hope that you all had a wonderful New Year’s Eve celebration, and didn’t suffer too badly for it the next day. As it turns out, Walt Disney World itself requires a little “hair of the dog” to recover from the previous week’s capacity crowds. Peak season may have passed, but the Epcot holiday hangover lingers on…
My first Epcot visit of 2016 occurred 4 days into the new year, but the aftermath of holiday crowds — and the flood of cars that had to be parked on every available surface, including the lawn — was still in evidence as I approached the park.
Illuminations: Reflections of Earth, the long-running nighttime spectacular at Epcot, is beloved by many. But is it really that good? Let’s break it down.
Backstory: The first incarnation of an Epcot nighttime show premiered in the fall of 1982 and was called Carnival de Lumiere (no relation to the candelabra from the not yet conceived Beauty and the Beast film.) This small scale fountain show was replaced a year later by A New World Fantasy and that show was replaced yet another year later by Laserphonic Fantasy. Both of these shows used fireworks, lasers, lights, and projection screens on barges all set to classical music. The first version of the show actually titled IllumiNations began in 1988 and continued with some variations until 1999 when it was replaced by the current show Reflections of Earth. This version of the show was originally conceived as a signature attraction of the Walt Disney World Millennium Celebration but has been showed continuously ever since with the only variation being a special ending for the Christmas holiday season.
Touring Strategy: The show takes place at the center of World Showcase lagoon so it can be seen in full from anywhere around the lagoon, with the fireworks visible from many parts of Future World as well. The really good spots for IllumiNations do go early, however, especially in busier times of year. Without a reservation at a restaurant on the lagoon, your best walk-up locations to see IllumiNations are the raised area in front of the Italy pavilion and the area in front of the Yorkshire County Fish Shop in the United Kingdom pavilion. If these areas are being used for special events, consider the bridge between France and the United Kingdom and the area between Mexico and Norway. Just keep in mind that these locations can fill up by 45-minutes before showtime. If you don’t mind being partially blocked by a tree, a fence, or a guy taking selfies in front of you, then you can grab a location at pretty much any point before the show begins. (FastPass+ is not recommended but if you choose to use it, you will be positioned between the gift shops at the front of World Showcase and should arrive at least 20 minutes before showtime.)
Whenever I’m at Walt Disney World, I’m all about taking advantage of every valuable minute so I can squeeze as much magic and memories as possible. Unfortunately, there are number of factors and obstacles that tend to zap some of my valuable vacation time, ranging from long wait times for my favorite attraction to having to wait for buses. I’ve learned a few tricks over the years for how to better maximize my time in the magic, and today I’m letting you in on a few of the best in My Top 10 Disney World Time Savers.
10. Strategize Your FastPass+ Reservations – FastPass+ is all about saving guests time in line, but to truly maximize the service some strategy is necessary. For starters, do NOT book a FastPass+ for a show. Typically — although there are exceptions on especially busy days — FastPass+ does not get you into a show any quicker as you have to wait for the show ahead of you to end. By that time, the standby crowd has already caught up to those who used the service. In addition, the theaters for the shows at the parks are huge and almost everyone can secure themselves a great seat even without a FastPass+. What I’ve learned is to save those FastPass+ reservation slots for attractions. Secondly, don’t book a FastPass+ reservation for a time within the first two hours of park opening. Even on busy days, most attractions are walk-ons within that first hour and lengthy lines don’t really form until about two hours into the day. One of the best time saving strategies of all is to arrive at the park for rope-drop and then ride the most popular attractions first, saving FastPass+ reservation slots for the attractions you want to ride or re-ride in the afternoon or evening or for another park you plan to visit later in the day.
This week marks the fourth ever D23 Expo, which is the exposition event for Disney D23 (the official fan club for The Walt Disney Company). Since 2009, and every second year after that, the event has offered fans the chance to come together and celebrate all things Disney while also getting a sneak peek at upcoming projects across the company’s numerous divisions including parks, film and even video games. With rumors swirling about possible announcements for quite some time now, speculation and anticipation are at a fever pitch. One of my favorite parts of any event like this is making predictions because a) it offers me the chance to brag about how right I was or b) laugh at how wrong I was. I can’t lose! With that in mind, here are my ten predictions for the D23 Expo.
Let’s get one of the big ones out of the way. Every Disney fan at this point knows that Hollywood Studios is getting a huge revamp. With the new changes will also come a new name for the park, which was previously revealed by Disney CEO Bob Iger after he got tricked by a young fan at the annual shareholders’ meeting. From everything I’ve read, the most popular new name appears to be Hollywood Adventure but at this point, it’s anybody’s guess.
The year is almost over, and I’m back again with one more newsworthy update for 2014! There are quite a few things that guests should know about the Walt Disney World Resort for the beginning of the new year, so I’m here to share everything with you. Ready to get to it? Let’s go!
Back a few months ago, (October to be exact), we found out that Island Supply shop would be closing in Adventureland for a new concept. Many in the Disney community were hopeful…would we be getting a shop featuring some of the great Adventureland-themed merchandise sold at the Marketplace Co-Op? Well, I have your answer, and the answer is, “No.” The shop will reopen on January 8 as Island Supply by Sunglass Hut. That means you can purchase high-end sunglasses and other products offered by this new operating participant. In addition, another store selling similar merchandise will open on January 4 at Typhoon Lagoon: Sal’s Shades by Sunglass Hut.
Two of Epcot’s Innoventions exhibits will close in the beginning of January. The first is the THINK Exhibit by IBM. This exhibit in Innoventions East allowed guests to take part in three unique experiences that allowed them to engage in a conversation about how we can improve the way we live and work. This exhibit will close January 1. Also closing in Innoventions East is the Test the Limits Lab. Here guests can “test” products to make sure they are safe for consumers by shattering a TV screen, dropping a safe, and more. It will close on January 6. There is no word on whether anything will be replacing either of these two exhibits.
*Twiddles thumbs. Checks Twitter. Reads a blog post.*
Done? Okay, let’s ‘soar’ right in!
Pick your mode of transportation! Soarin’ is a popular ride that allows you to hang-glide over California, feeling the wind in your face whilst smelling the fragrance of zesty orange trees. (Fun Fact: The first model for Soarin’ was made out of an erector set!) Once you land on solid ground, hop in a Chevy at Test Track. Strap yourself in and brace yourself for the ride of your life! Put on your space suit, join the NASA team and shoot for the stars as you travel to Mars in your rocket via Mission: Space. To ease back into Earth’s gravity, swim underwater to the ‘clamobile’ where The Seas with Nemo & Friends take you “under the sea.” Finally, use those feet and travel indoors to Innoventions where you’ll find interactive and educational games the whole family will enjoy.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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?
Summer 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?
There’s something wildly appealing about special viewing for fireworks. Whenever we travel to Disneyland we always book packages that include exclusive spots to see the evening finales. But even as a local I was excited to see what FastPass+ viewing for IllumiNations would offer. Most of all I wanted to know if it was really worth burning one of your valuable tier one FastPass+ choices. So this week I set out to find out if IllumiNations is really worth your FastPass+.
I arrived on a Wednesday night around 7:15pm to very low crowds. Looking at the photo on the left, you can tell the park was pretty empty. My FastPass+ window for arrival was set between 8:35pm – 8:55pm. I had some time to kill, so I hopped a ride on Spaceship Earth with no wait before taking a leisurely walk back to the World Showcase.
Along the way I formulated a plan to try something completely new to me. You’ll have to forgive me if I take a little detour from the subject at hand, but have you tried a cronut? I hadn’t, and now I’m sad I waited so long! They’re available at Refreshment Port on your way to Canada when entering the World Showcase. Half donut, half croissant – but all delicious! You really have to try one the next time you’re here. You’ll be glad you did!
After finishing my snack I decided to find this FastPass+ viewing area. I lucked out because I was already in Canada. The entrance is on the right hand side of the Port of Entry gift shop you see when first entering that side of World Showcase. That’s where my luck ended, because at just a little after 8:00pm the line already stretched pretty far!