New Year’s Eve 2014: A Tour of Epcot

by on January 2, 2014 21 Comments

Filed under: Observations, Walt Disney World (FL)

If you’d asked me a week ago what my plans were for New Year’s Eve, I would have told you that we’d decided to stay in for a quiet night on the couch. We’d been in the parks the last several years, and my hubby had asked for a year off. I’m sure you can imagine how thrilled I was when on December 30 he declared we were going to Epcot because we hadn’t been there to ring in the New Year in ages! I thought I would take you guys with me to see what it’s really like to celebrate at Disney!

For starters, we certainly didn’t follow my ultimate plan. We left our house at 6pm and did not hit a bit of traffic until we got through Epcot’s gates.

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On a normal night this kind of traffic would cripple the Epcot parking lot. However, they had four cast members directing the lanes of traffic, and we were quickly in a parking spot in less than ten minutes despite the crowds. We started walking in, and to my surprise we’d made it in time to catch the 6:30pm fireworks from the parking lot.

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We watched a lot of people running into the park trying to get a better view of the fireworks. I’m sure anyone reading here knows that’s a lost cause. But just in case, you physically can’t make it into Epcot quickly enough to get a better view, so it’s better to enjoy seeing it from the parking lot if you are in this situation. After the fireworks we headed to bag check. Again, the line was moving incredibly quickly because there were so many stations open.

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The same was true at the park turnstiles. (Ok- they aren’t really turnstiles anymore but I don’t know what to call them? MagicBand thingies?) So far getting into the park had been remarkably smooth! I was beginning to think maybe the crowds weren’t going to be a rough as in years past.

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But then… we found the crowd. Walking up to Spaceship Earth the posted wait time was 45 minutes. The more ridiculous thing was the line for the bathrooms found on the right. Believe it or not, the photo below is actually the ladies room line! Good news for the guys, though: my husband was able to get in and out in less than 5 minutes.

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After this we continued on toward the first party of the night. This was a huge stage just past the Fountain of Nations. You have to understand that this one night a year Epcot turns into a huge rave party. To give you an idea of the atmosphere, I’ve added a series of short video clips from each of the parties. I have added these to my YouTube page, but remember for all the latest news you should definitely subscribe to the Touring Plans page!

The Fountain of Nations stage is widely considered to be the family dance party. There were tons of kids dancing here, and everyone was having a great time! We passed this party a few times throughout the night, and it never seemed as crowded as the others. The music was also our favorite. Just past this stage are the wide open grassy areas that you only see open to guests on New Year’s Eve.

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There were also upgraded portable toilets this year! In the past I had only seen the typical stall kind that you would find on a construction site. These trailers seemed very nice, but like everywhere else, the ladies room line was a mile long! They also had a very nice handicapped stall with a ramp (not photographed here). If anyone needed these facilities, it would make sense to head for these!

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As we strolled along, I was sure to get a photo of the globe in the World Showcase Lagoon. It displays a countdown to midnight all night long! It was fun to be able to just glance that way all night and figure out how much longer we had to go.

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After this we headed over to check out the wait for Test Track and to use a backstage walkway beside the ride. The wait time was 200 minutes! Considering the wait got up to 300 minutes earlier in the day, I guess you can’t be surprised, but there was no way we were going to wait. We headed towards the World Showcase through this quiet walkway:

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During New Year’s Eve the backstage walkways are always preferable to walking through the lands, where it’s just wall to wall people. Of course, we didn’t practice what we preach as we emerged in Mexico and walked through the countries to get to the next party in China. To give you an idea what it’s like walking through World Showcase on New Year’s Eve, check out this video:

But it really is worth it! We never got into the middle of any of the parties around the World Showcase, but we got close enough to really get a feel for them. If I had to only pick one it would have to be China. The Dragon is just amazing! But on the down side, the music is so, so loud. The bass will just make your heart rattle in your chest!

The next party around the World Showcase is Italy. This party is known for the laser show that goes along with the DJ. At this point in the night I had to switch over to my GoPro as it had started raining. The sound quality on this video isn’t the best, but the rain made the lasers look extra brilliant! Again, this isn’t somewhere that we could have hung out for very long, but it was amazing to see!

From here we kept moving with a skip in our step because the next party was in America! Now, ironically the party in America is all Latin music. However, it was one of the better parties around the World Showcase as it wasn’t so terribly loud. It also looked like guests were being allowed to salsa dance on the America Gardens Theatre stage. It was roughly 9pm by this time, so we grabbed a snack and a seat to watch them perform for a while.

After this there was only one party left that we hadn’t visited yet; it was in the United Kingdom, so we headed that way. It seemed like one side of World Showcase is set aside for partying, and the other side is a little more quiet. As we started walking, we noticed that Japan was remarkably slow for how crowded the park was at that time!

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The walk was unremarkable as the crowd didn’t really get thick again until we reached the United Kingdom. The party here was small and probably our least favorite. There wasn’t really a draw to make it special like the others had. We only spent a few minutes here before deciding to head back to Future World for a break.

As I expected, the crowd was pretty thin in Future World. The wait for Soarin’ had even dropped to a somewhat reasonable 100 minutes. It was a nice escape from the crowds in World Showcase.

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We decided to visit The Seas with Nemo and Friends. We experienced both attractions in the pavilion with just a 10 minute wait each. Then we spent some time exploring while it was quiet. As the clock got close to 11pm, we decided to head back towards World Showcase to find a spot for midnight. When we faced the crowds heading back past Canada, we decided to camp out closer to the entrance!

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We settled near the large planter at the entrance of World Showcase. Considering we had seen people camping out for spots since we arrived, we didn’t do too bad swinging this view. We only arrived about 20 minutes before the fireworks, but a crowd very quickly formed behind us! Check this out!!

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As we settled and the show started, we realized we’d positioned ourselves behind an annoying tourist. The lady in front of us busted out her tablet to hold over her head and film the show. I thought that our view was ruined! Luckily, all the people around me rioted, and after the first few minutes she put it away. I don’t know if anyone really goes home and watches these low res videos.. but if you ever think about doing this take a look at the photo below and realize that you’re ruining the show for LOTS of people!!

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For this very reason I chose not to film most of the show. The fireworks at Epcot start with regular IllumiNations and then lead into a celebration for each of the countries in the order they rang in the New Year around the world. (You can find the full show on YouTube.). This leads up to midnight and an amazing celebration, which I did film for you:

(My apologies for the focusing issues.) After this we turned around and bolted out of there as fast as we could. From this vantage point it honestly was no worse than fighting the crowd out on any other night. We darted out to our car (in the next to last row) and made it out of there in record time! If you can believe it, I was home on the couch by 12:45am! This was thanks to the fact that Disney closes down many, many road exits this time of night in an effort to streamline traffic. This meant that you couldn’t get into Epcot at 12:30am, but it sure made it easy to get out!

So what do you think? Did this post make you decide you might try a New Year’s Eve at Disney? Or did it make you very, very sure you never will? It had been a lot of years since we’d celebrated at Epcot, and I much prefer the Magic Kingdom! In any case, I hope this made you feel like you were there. Happy New Year from everyone at Touring Plans!  (Especially me 🙂 )

 

Posted on January 2, 2014

21 Responses to “New Year’s Eve 2014: A Tour of Epcot”

  • A five hour wait for Test Track??? Wow. If I ever did consider visiting for New Years I would have to do it with no kids, and not plan to get on the main rides. I would have to just go for the experience. Oh, and I can’t stand when people pull out tablets to record things, or hold their phones up to do the same thing. If you’re holding it above your head, you’re blocking someone else’s view. 😛

    • Hey Neula! Amen – I don’t understand why people can’t hold their cameras in front of their face and block their own view! You’ll notice my fireworks video is angled very high up because I was holding it over my chest.

      You’d be amazed how many kids were there! They were troopers too! I didn’t see much crying. I don’t think I could do it with kids, though! Thanks for reading and commenting! 🙂

  • This isn’t quite related to New Year’s, but a confusion on the Refurb calendar – we’ll be arriving on January 5, around noon. Many things seem marked to begin refurb on the 6th, but they’re NOT on the showtimes calendar for the 5th.

    (I’m mostly concerned about Festival of the Lion King, but I wouldn’t mind seeing Osborne Lights for the first time. Any thoughts on which, if any, will actually be there on the 5th?

    Do I have to brave the horribly designed WDW-go site, and would that necessarily be more accurate?

    • Hi April – good catch! That is strange and I don’t know why those showtimes aren’t updated. I’ll make sure to report it.

      January 5 is the last day Festival of the Lion King will show in its current location. You can catch it at: 10:30AM, 11:30AM, 12:30PM, 1:30PM, 2:30PM, 3:30PM, 4:30PM, 5:30PM, and
      6:30PM.

      It is also the last day to see the Osborne Lights. Sounds like you’re going to have a very full first day!! 🙂

  • I loved this tour. Thank You! I would love to go to Epcot for New Years!

  • Great post! Disney really does this kind of thing very well. That said, we usually go to WDW in September primarily to avoid 6-7 crowd levels. This clearly was a 10+ – no way. I’ll just live vicariously through your videos.

  • I would absolutely love to do this. But I would only want to do it solo or with ONE other adult who shared the same goal of being there to ‘be’ there and take in the atmosphere, rather than try to ‘do’ things. There is every other vacation day to do the rides and shows so to me, this would be more like a hard ticket event, where I’d want to enjoy any aspect of the park that is not around on every other day.

    Yeah, I’m even more sold now 🙂 Thank you for the wonderful review and all the photos and videos

    • Hi Lee! Thanks for reading – I really hope you get to visit for NYE! It can be a blast if you know what you are getting yourself into! 🙂

  • Daisy,
    Thanks for the glimpse of Epcot. It looked a much better experience than the Magic Kingdom. We’ve done Universal but we had never done New Year’s Eve at Disney and will NEVER NEVER NEVER do that again. It was a miserable experience and I now understand why your site recommends avoiding Magic Kingdom on New Year’s. Just getting into the park, I took a photo showing the crowd at maybe twice the density of your photo of people waiting behind you for fireworks and Disney had all of 3 bag checkers! It took us nearly 2 hours (8am to 10am) to get through the traffic, parking, bussing, and bag checking just getting in. Then we waited on the Railroad to take us up to Fantasyland. Crowds there just as dense and there was no getting through it. The Fastpass for the new (lame) Mermaid attraction was nowhere near it, instead we still ended up hiking through vast fields of strollers just to get to the machines near the center and then all the way back. The entire day we kept getting trapped by parades we didn’t want to see but could not escape. Foolishly, I had dinner reservations at the Rainforest at Animal Kingdom because it was the only thing available. When I checked, if we left MK we’d be locked out, so instead Disney charges the $20 cancellation (for nothing, since they don’t lose anything on it). We were in Tomorrowland 15 minutes before the Electrical Parade started, and in order to catch it, the only strategy was to go the long way counterclockwise around the park to try to cut it off. We got as far as the Liberty Belle and could go no further (unlike the 2 times earlier in the day when we got forced to a crawl along the water). Serendipity smiled this once on us as we managed to slip onto the boat up to the top deck and caught a little of the parade from this vantage as the boat paddled away. Back in Tomorrowland prior to the evening fireworks is probably the worst place to be. Disney doesn’t post it in their daily events times, but they completely cut off EVERY route to the center about 9:30-10pm with guards waving the red flashlights. They’ll tell you to just go around to the next route (which you discover is also cut off). The only option is a back route towards the park exit. So we were trapped in Tomorrowland and could not even see the castle—which was the whole point, we did not get a single photograph. I think you must have to get a camping spot by 3pm. We settled for riding the PeopleMover over and over which gave brief 10 second glimpses of what were missing (at least we were sitting). At midnight the ride broke down and we were stuck, fortunately it was outside and we could see some of the fireworks coming from the backside of the Speedway. Leaving at 1am was just as much a mess as Disney shut down the monorail and busses so all we could do was wait for the ferry. Then all the roads we needed to take were also cut off so we had to stay in the mass of traffic until far past Osceola. We managed to get to bed by 3am but it surely wasn’t due to partying or drinking anything. I can’t imagine how or why people brought children or even infants to the park for this and most of them were bawling. I guess it was certainly memorable for the misery but magical is the opposite of this place.

    • Aw, Mark. You had a rough night! I live here and I won’t even try to see the fireworks from Main Street. It gets to capacity and they have to shut it down. I’m sorry you had such a touch time!

  • Thanks for this great post! We were there for New Years Eve a few years ago and LOVED how we could hear so many languages spoken as we wandered around World Showcase. Can you imagine coming to WDW for NYE from Italy or Spain? Well apparently lots of people do! It was so much fun hearing all the music as well. I had no idea it would be such a party! People were incredibly well-behaved, even though it was shoulder-to-shoulder at some spots. Your videos brought back good memories.

    • Hey Jan- wasn’t it incredible?? I’m pretty sure the guys chanting “USA” at the end of my video aren’t actually American! (But I think that makes it even better!)

  • Oh boy… Hope there are no videos of my very adult family and me drinking and dancing the night away in America, Italy, and China.

    I apparently “helped” my bus driver by yelling out all the Saratoga Springs bus stops and letting her know when the passengers exited out the back.

    It was my second time at WDW for NYE, and both years were flat out amazing.

    You CAN go to WDW Christmas and New Years week and have a great time, but if you’re expecting to experience attractions on the 31st, then you’re crazy.

    We did MK on the 30th for Fantasy in the Sky (which I enjoy much more as a fireworks display than NYE IllumiNations), and then Epcot for the 31st. We had a party of 15 people, arrived in the park at 3:45pm by bus, did Soarin with FP+, Livin the Land for 20 minute wait, and then Spaceship Earth FP+.

    We then went to World Showcase, plopped down three blankets between the entrance to WS and Mexico, left the parents there to fend for themselves and went drinking and dancing around the world for five hours until 11:15. Came back for the show, and made it back to the busses.

    It was a fantastic day and night. If you’ve been to WDW once or twice or even worse never… I’d NEVER EVER EVER go remotely near this time of year. If you’re an AP holder who goes twice a year or more… then its an awesome time if you know what to expect and what you can do.

    • Hi John – I totally agree with you!! This isn’t the time for that “once in a lifetime” trip. Going NYE is for the experience.. it pretty much has to be since you can’t do much else!!!

  • Thanks for the post!! We are planning on Disney for DEC27 – JAN3 this year. We planned on EPCOT and now I believe we will definitely be going there for the New Year’s Eve celebration. When you say you used backstage paths and such how will we know where to find them?
    Thanks

    • Hi Stephanie – I just realized I didn’t include any photos! 🙁 You can’t miss them. There are huge (like 12ft) inflatable, lit signs in world showcase. They look like columns. However, if you are entering from future world you really have to know what you’re looking for as they aren’t well marked. I would ask a cast member.

  • We were in Orlando a couple of years ago on New Year’s Eve for a bowl game. We did not go to the parks, but did ride the monorail around to see the crowds. We were VERY glad we opted out of a park visit, but still got to enjoy the fireworks from our hotel room that night! (Gaylord Palms).

    We had a similar experience for the Electric parade in the Magic Kingdom last August. Despite repeated announcements to turn off the flash so as not to ruin the experience for the ones around you, a man behind us kept taking flash photos. I told him a couple of times to turn the flash off. On the third time he told me “This is a phone, not a camera.” Yeah, well the flash is the same…. Ugh, he did finally move and go annoy someone else.