My husband and I spent our 19th wedding anniversary at Walt Disney World and had the time of our lives!
Who says Disney is just for kids? People of all ages can and do experience the magic of this enchanted place, which is much more than just an amusement park. Here’s a look at how to enjoy Epcot as a kid at heart.
Making Our Plan
After taking two days in the Magic Kingdom, we decided that we could see everything we wanted at Epcot in a single day. We used the one-day touring plan from our Unofficial Guide Walt Disney World 2018 tour book to help us make our plan. The day at Epcot happened to be our actual anniversary and we wanted it to be really special. As with the tour plan for the Magic Kingdom, we varied some of the attractions to fit our particular needs, but it was a great resource to have on hand and we referred to it often.
Entertainment Before Park Opens
While we waited in line for the park to open, we were entertained by a drumming group called the Jamitors. They used garbage cans for their drums and these guys really got their “jam” on! It definitely helped pass the time and distracted us from our excitement to see Epcot.
How Epcot is Set Up
Epcot is divided into two main areas: Future World which is where all the cool rides are, and the World Showcase, a miniature sampling of 11 different countries complete with the cuisine that each country is famous for as well as the different characteristics of their culture.
Favorite Epcot Rides in Future World
As soon as the park gates opened we ran (almost literally) to the first ride, Soarin’ Around the World. This was a “must do” for us and it is very popular, so we followed the guidebook’s advice and made it our first stop. In Soarin’ you’re strapped into seats, and with your feet dangling, you’re lifted 79 feet in the air as if you’re in a glider. It’s the ultimate virtual reality experience—you feel like you are actually flying over various iconic locations around the world. You smell different scents throughout the experience, feel a breeze blowing your hair or even mist in your face. Truly an amazing ride!
Using our guidebook, we only had to wait for 15 minutes to get on Soarin’ which gave us a false sense of security. We were so encouraged by the quick turnaround time that we decided to try to do Test Track, another incredibly popular ride. We originally thought we wouldn’t have time since we didn’t have a fast pass, but the “standby” sign said it was only a 30-minute wait so we went for it. The sign was wrong and we ended up waiting in line for over an hour!
It was really fun and fast! We sped around the track at record speeds, through curves and straightaways, inside a dark cavernous stretch then bursting outside, skirting the edge of a drop-off so close all you could see was space and the ground far below, then we whipped around and into a hairpin turn barely able to hold on—exhilarating!
We even got to design our own car (The Pixie Duck) and “test” it on the track. At the end, the results of the run were displayed on a large computerized screen so you got to see how your car measured up against others. What a blast! However, it took so long getting through the ride we had to run (literally) to the next stop because we did have a fast pass for the next one.
We got right into Spaceship Earth with our fast pass and felt like a couple of celebrities whizzing past the much-longer standby line. It was a welcome feeling after having just waited over an hour to ride Test Track and racing to get there before our pass expired. Spaceship Earth was a cool ride—much slower paced than Test Track—it depicted the evolution of technology and how it shaped humankind.
I know it sounds boring, but trust me, it was really interesting. You kicked back in your little time machine as you slowly meandered through each period in history that marked important advances in our society all shaped by technology. From the dinosaurs right through to Disney’s prediction of the future. You could even design your “future you” at the end. Maybe it’s because I’m middle-aged, but I really did enjoy this trip through history.
Other Rides in Future World
We rode a few other rides before transitioning to the main attraction, The World Showcase, but I’m not going to go into great detail because they didn’t make much of an impression on us. I will, however, list them out with a brief description and you can decide for yourself when you go to Epcot which rides are your favorites. Your list may be different than ours!
- Finding Nemo—a little disappointing after experiencing the ride in Disneyland. Lots of cardboard cutouts etc. We did enjoy the huge fish aquarium at the end, though.
- Mission Space—you are on a NASA space mission to Mars. Three people fit in each cockpit which felt cramped and claustrophobic. Each of you are assigned a role as a crew member. It sounded more fun than it turned out to be—rather boring. Of course, it may be because we chose the “green mission” which doesn’t spin you around as opposed to the much more exciting (so I’m told) orange mission.
- Living With the Land—this is a slow-moving boat ride that offers a lesson in sustainability and a behind the scenes glimpse of what Disney is doing to be good stewards for their many properties. Your boat ride takes you past greenhouses where you can view their horticulture techniques for the future. It’s interesting, but not what I would consider “Disney caliber”.
After the rides in Future World, we were feeling hungry so we stopped by a little stand and bought a giant pretzel to split. It was delicious and fun too—shaped like Micky Mouse—warm, soft and just the right amount of salty, with gooey, warm cheese sauce to dip it in. So yummy!
The World Showcase
The second part of Epcot is the World Showcase—which was the main reason we wanted to visit Epcot on the day of our actual anniversary. We thought it would be quite romantic to stroll through the different countries, sampling all they had to offer. We were able to tour the whole world in a single night!
At the World Showcase, we strolled along the walkway that took us by 11 different “countries”. With only having one day, we decided to stick to the countries we were most interested in. If you have more time, you can certainly go deeper into the experience.
My husband and I decided that this part of Epcot is really all about the food. Of course, you can get a sample of the architecture of each country and there are plenty of shopping opportunities to satisfy that itch. They even had “street” entertainment in some of the locations. But really, the main attraction was the different cuisines and local beverages—alcoholic and otherwise—representative of each country, which we partook of in abundance.
Instead of taking in each country as we came to it, we skipped around a bit due to reservations we had for certain restaurants that our guidebook said were particularly good. There were specific cuisines that we really wanted to try here, either because it was one of our favorite types of food, like Italian and Mexican, or it was from a country whose cuisine we’ve never tried, such as Morocco.
Our first stop: Tutto Gusto in Italy. It looked like an old world Italian wine cellar with chunky wood tables and very dim light—so dim we couldn’t read the menu. There were candles on each table and an extensive wine display on the wall. It seemed very authentic (although I’ve never actually been to Italy). We knew we’d be eating a lot during our world tour so at this first stop we kept it to a glass of white wine, very crisp and slightly sweet, and an appetizer plate that offered a wonderful mix of meats and cheeses, crisp crackers and salty green olives. I have to say, this was our favorite overall eating experience of the day. Although the prices were a bit on the spendy side, the food and wine were wonderful.
Japan—a side trip
We didn’t eat in Japan but we did shop, as our granddaughter loves Japanese culture, especially anime. We found some fun souvenirs to take home for the grandkids. While there, we played an interactive game called Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure. You access the app on your smartphone and then follow the instructions and clues to help Agent P save the world.
As you help Agent P by solving parts of the puzzle, spontaneous reactions occur with objects located around the country, such as fire suddenly starting to burn or water pouring out of a fountain. It was entertaining. You can actually play this game throughout the different countries, but it is time consuming and we wanted to make sure we got to everything on our list for that day so we only played the game in Japan.
In France, we perused the various shops but didn’t find anything to buy. For our food choice, we sampled French ice cream, which is very different from the American version. It was smooth and creamy (somewhat heavy) but not as fluffy and sweet as we were used to. Never the less, it was quite enjoyable, and according to the attendant in the shop, very authentic. In fact, in every country that we visited the staff that we encountered were native to that country, adding to the authentic feel.
In the UK we chose to focus on the beer so we visited a traditional looking English pub. The style of the pub was very representative of a true English tavern (I have been to England and Scotland) but we felt the beer too cold to be authentic English brew. None the less, it was tasty and we really enjoyed the atmosphere. In Epcot, throughout the World Showcase, you’re allowed to carry your alcoholic beverages with you from place to place. So that’s precisely what we did with our pints—we were anxious to get on to the next stop and see everything we could in our limited time!
Other Countries We Visited Without Sampling the Food or Drink
Besides Japan, we also spent some time looking through the shops and admiring the amazing architecture in Germany, China, and Norway; we went back to Norway later that evening for Frozen, a ride that we had a fast pass for. We couldn’t possibly eat in all these locations and we knew we had more reservations coming up in Morocco and Mexico.
Our “first” dinner was at Spice Road Table in Morocco. We were led to a table adorned with a white linen table cloth and glass candle holder, which was located outside under a large canopy and overlooked the water—very romantic. We decided to try the fig brandy as it sounded unique. For the price, we were underwhelmed by this choice. It was virtually tasteless and burned going down. It was also quite expensive.
For dinner, we split the Mediterranean vegetable platter, consisting of harissa hummus fries, rice-stuffed grape leaves, couscous salad, and babaganoush (an authentic Moroccan dish) served with pita bread. We also ordered the lamb sliders to share. The sliders came with more hummus fries and was served with mint tzatziki sauce. By sharing back and forth between these two dinners, we were able to sample more of a cuisine we new very little about. It was good, but not our favorite.
Frozen Ever After, the ride
After dinner in Morocco, we headed back to Norway to use our fast pass for Frozen Ever After. The ride follows the story line of the Disney movie Frozen. It has sparkly scenery and great animated characters from the movie. You ride in a boat in an underground passageway as it slowly meanders through the story. Cute, but not as good as we were expecting from all the hype.
Our final destination was La Hacienda de San Angel in Mexico. Both my husband and I are real suckers for a good Mexican meal, but I have to admit, we had ulterior motives for this particular location. We’ve been to Mexico a number of times, and we were feeling quite full by this time, so we could have easily skipped eating here. But, this was a prime viewing spot for the big finale at the end of the night, a light show out over the water called Illuminations. People gather all around the World Showcase (which encircles a small lake), wherever they can find a spot to watch this spectacular display of lights, story and fireworks. We just happened to have the inside scoop (i.e. guidebook) as to the very best viewing locations and outside La Hacienda de San Angel was one such place.
We read that if you make reservations at the restaurant near showtime, you can get a table on their outside patio to dine and watch the show at the same time. That was our plan, but unfortunately, that was one time the book led us slightly astray-there was no space on the patio. We ate mini tacos, chips and salsa and sipped champagne, while we waited for Illuminations to start. The food was excellent, but we were so stuffed by this time that we didn’t enjoy it as much as we could have.
Illuminations Reflections of Earth—The Grand Finale
When it got close to time (within 20 minutes) for the show to start, we headed outside and were fortunate enough to find a place along the railing close to the restaurant. This turned out to be a great choice! The show was fantastic—we could see everything so well. I’m sure we couldn’t have picked a better location. Illuminations closed out the park for all the visitors, and when it was over we joined the massive crowd of people moving towards the exit gates. What a whirlwind day! Our bellies and heads were full and we were ready for bed after this grand adventure. It takes a lot of energy to tour the world in a single day and we needed a good night’s sleep for our upcoming visit to Animal Kingdom, our next stop on our Disney World fantasy trip.
For more tips on how to make the most of your Disney experience see the article: "Experience Walt Disney World as a 'Kid at Heart' at Animal Kingdom".
Liz Westwood from UK on December 16, 2018:
This gives a great flavour of Epcot for anyone planning a visit there. I look forward to the next instalment.