Years ago, I absolutely hated coming to Epcot.
Let’s face it: it was boring. But lots of improvements have been made to the park, new rides have been introduced and its layout and design make it feel spacious, even when it’s really crowded.
This was the better Disney park for us.
I had planned to visit Epcot and drink around the world. I felt reasonably confident that DH and I could do it. Our friend told us that she goes to the gift shop, buys herself a passport (generally sold to small children), drinks in each country and gets herself a stamp. A full passport at the end of the visit is the sure sign of a good time!
Turns out, DH and I probably could have drunk our way around the world, but we ended up having such a great time in France (and a prohibitive number of slushies) that we sat there and people watched for a few hours. Really, the people watching and the family fighting on a Disney vacation is something to behold!
In France, we had my favorite drink: the Grand Mariner slushy. Oh my yum. They also had a limited edition lemonade slushy, but it lacked the specialness of the Grand Marnier concoction.
When we had finally overdosed on observation of countless family meltdowns, we went to Teppan Edo, our favorite restaurant and started shopping and riding the rides.
Here’s a recap of what we did and what we thought:
EPCOT FLOWER SHOW
Each Spring, gardeners transform Epcot into a floral spectacle. I was impressed by the design and skill of the Disney Character topiaries. This year, there are more than 100 topiaries and more than 30 million blooms!! With a garden show of that size, it’s no surprise that it takes Disney more than a year to prepare for the event. I really liked the topiary of Daisy playing badminton. Daisy is part of a cook-out scene with Donald, Mickey and Goofy that features 15 varieties of flowers, plants and other garden materials! The flower show is something to behold–especially for those guests coming from cold, snowy places!!
We eat an unprecedented amount of Teppanyaki in our house. We love it!! And at Epcot, always seem to end up at the Teppanyaki restaurant. On this visit, were seated with a very nice family from Indiana. They decided to visit Epcot before going on the Disney cruise for Spring Break. The mom, a doctor, had forgotten to purchase their plane tickets (oops!) and so they rented an RV and drove down!! Our chef was a woman–the first time I’ve ever had a female chef at a Teppanaki restaurant. She was entertaining and the children at the table cheered (and jeered) at her antics.
In my quest to drink something Japanese, I decided to be a little adventurous and try a drink called “Chu Hi”. It’s made with Shochu, a Japanese distilled beverage. It’s not as potent as vodka, though it tastes very similar. Epcot’s shochu is distilled from natural barley. I ordered mine with fresh lemon juice. It was light and refreshing. Highly recommend!
Epcot appealed to us in ways that Disney World did not. It was spacious. There were single rider lines. The FastPasses didn’t spit out tickets offering entry 12 hours from the point of receipt. Digital signs were centrally located and communicated up-to-the-minute wait times. For us, it was a more pleasant and user friendly experience.
My favorite ride was Chevrolet’s Test Track! Recently re-opened in December, this ride simulates the testing procedures General Motors puts its vehicles through. A mile-long race track around the exterior of the Test Track zooms along at a speed of 65 miles per hour!
We also enjoyed both versions of the Mission: Space ride. I don’t usually like motion-simulator rides, but this one was fun. There are two versions, an intense version (orange) which simulates g-force, and a moderate version (green). This ride simulates hyper sleep, g-force and each rider is assigned an on-board role (navigator, pilot, etc.). During the mission, you are given two tasks to perform (which pretty much amounts to pressing a lit button when told). If you’re prone to motion sickness, this probably isn’t the ride for you. However, barf bags are in the capsule should you require them.
Epcot is especially famous for its World Showcase section. This section of the park contains 11 pavilions that represent different countries of the world. Each country has a variety of shops, restaurants, cafes and drink carts staffed by residents of those countries. It’s fun to chat with these Cast Members about their experience and also their countries of orgin. Generally, I have found them to be extremely excited if you know a few words of their language (Americans are not known for their language skills, globally) or have visited their country!
One of the coolest things about Epcot are the Special Mouse Ears available at Epcot. Currently, ears from five countries are available: Mexico, England, Germany, Italy and Canada. The ears feature the flag on one ear and a symbol of the nation on the other. While I really liked the ears, I decided to go retro and purchase an embroidered pair for my son and my Spanish teacher.
All told, Epcot was a wonderful experience. I’m not sure it’s the best park for families with small children, but for older kids and adults it’s exciting, engaging and there’s plenty to see, do and drink!