As we have gone through this journey for 5 weeks, we’ve learned a lot about the parks and resorts within the Universal family. And as we indicated last week, we have come to the end of our “first-time” series with the grand finale – My thoughts on my recent EPCOT trip. So let’s roll the intro to a much anticipated article…
Welcome to another weekly post from Believe Vacations where today, we conclude our 6-article series about “first-time visits” to 3 of the most famous theme parks in the world. Today, we answer the questions that I had during last week’s article, “First Time at EPCOT Questions.” How were my predictions and what happened? Well, as it turns out…..a ton of fun!
10) How is the food?
As I mentioned in the questions article, food was never going to be the issue at EPCOT. Naturally, you’re looking at a large variety of tasty morsels from a dozen or so nations around the world. But my goodness was the Saturday of MLK Jr. Weekend in the middle of a pandemic on a perfect, breezy day in EPCOT during IFARTS packed! And that’s a good thing! It means Disney is starting to come back. And this type of festival drives people to EPCOT every season of the year. So good for large crowds who are not waiting in line for rides, simply for food from all the different vendors and nations!
How was my Prediction: I’m not discrediting the guacamole I had in the Mexico pavilion because it was fantastic. Of course, my fellow agent Kyle Holland and I got the meatiest pizza we could find. And while it was incredibly good, the price of said pizza was a little harder to digest. I mean, it is Disney, I get that, but there is a part of me that says if the price was a little lower, the pizza would’ve tasted so much better. But it was still really good!
9) What character will be my favorite?
When all the agents first arrived, cast members were shouting our way to move over. A CALVACADE WAS COMING!!!! And it was the classic characters! And then I saw Winnie-the-Pooh for 15 seconds as I walked by him towards The Land Pavilion. Other agents saw the Princess Cavalcade but to be honest, the crowd was so large, I don’t think they ran those through World Showcase too often that day.
But as much as I joke about EPCOT, I love Figment! Everyone’s favorite inspirational purple dragon is the Mickey of EPCOT and he is everywhere during IFARTS. And now, Figment lives on in my own home with a special mask made by my wonderful friend, agent Kim Haig!
How was my Prediction: Never saw Joy and Winnie never moved. I wore a Goofy face mask, he acknowledged it and there you go.
8) Will lines be ridiculous in January during a national pandemic?
Posted wait times for Soarin and Test Track hovered around 1 hour for the majority of the day. Frozen Ever After was slightly lower and you could barely get into the PYRAMID of Mexico, let alone then get in line for Gran Fiesta Tour.
How was my Prediction: Nailed it! The headliners saw the traffic while Living with the Land and Spaceship Earth had posted wait times of less than 15 minutes.
7) What will be my favorite non-attraction activity?
There was no escaping IFARTS! It is EVERYWHERE at this park. And again, not a bad thing. But there was no way we could truly stop and take in the countries like we did at the totally immersive Diagon Alley at Universal Studios.
But there was one small activity I took part of that really sunk in as the day went on. I painted five 1″ x 1″ squares yellow. This was a part of the large mural for IFARTS that guests are encouraged to help paint and eventually, it becomes an incredible mural. Needless to say, it has a long way to go. But my fellow agent Ashley Suit told me “it’s being a part of something bigger than yourself.” And I think that comment alone sums up why I’m and agent and I think many at Believe Vacations love our job – it’s not about us the happiness and memories for our families bigger than us. So I was proud of Ashley for that…and for being a rebel and painting 6 squares but who’s reading this anyways!
How was my Prediction: World Showcase was fun but really crowded and couldn’t get as interactive as I wanted!
6) What will be my favorite land?
Alright, explanation time. My lovely wife was able to join me halfway through the day so I was able to pass through the countries many times on my way back to Yacht Club to check-in and unpack after her flight. So when we re-entered the park, the majority of our agents were in the Mexico Pavilion and we met up with them all there for over an hour! It was running away with this question until…
How was my Prediction: …we had 45 minutes to kill before our dining reservation in Italy so we caught the American Adventure. For many, this may be a throw-away attraction show because people want to experience other nations, not sit for a history show and ride the thrill attractions. But with everything going on in our world these days on a variety of topics, it was an emotional, patriotic kick in the pants reminder of how blessed we are as Americans, how far we’ve come in less than 300 years but also, how much further we have to go. USA! USA!
5) What will be my favorite attraction?
While the attraction list was limited, I still got in Living with the Land, Spaceship Earth, Test Track, Frozen Ever After and the American Adventure. All were fun but I knew which one I was looking forward to the most. It was in one of my favorite areas for photos, Norway!
How was my Prediction: Nailed It! Frozen Ever After is literally the last major attraction in the 4 WDW parks I had yet to experience, so of course it wound up being my favorite. All kidding aside, it’s cute and fun for all ages!
4) What keeps kids most entertained?
Now that I think about it, I did not see many kids at all the day I went to EPCOT. The Festival truly is geared more towards adults, the World Showcase saw a heavy influence of adults, and the 2 thrill attractions (Test Track and Soarin) were full of adults. So it was the characters, I guess. We saw Winnie the Pooh…and that was it for characters too! Don’t get me wrong, EPCOT can still be done with kids, but on this day, it was like all the COVID-quarantined adults came out to play after a long 2020 nap!
How was my Prediction: I didn’t even get to go into The Seas pavilion. It was probably nice and crowded with adults as well.
3) What keeps adults most entertained?
Obviously it was World Showcase and it was even heightened by the Festival but please, allow me a disclaimer if you are going to do Drinking Around the World:
First, Believe Vacations would like to caution you that should you participate in this activity, please know your limit, please do not attempt if you are unable due to health conditions or age and please make sure you have suitable transportation to arrive at your destination later in the evening.
Now, for those who want to attempt this charade created by guests and bridesmaids over the decades, the suggestion is to start at Canada and work that way. If you start in Mexico, game over! You will run out of time and money being inside, cooling off, shopping and partaking of one too many adult libations from South of the Border.
How was my Prediction: World Showcase. It was obvious but still shocking to see ALL the people!
2a) Best part about Yacht Club Resort?
As a Deluxe resort, Yacht Club obviously has a luxury feel to it. I loved hardwoods in the rooms, the beds had room under them for storage, I had a patio outside my room, the Marketplace had a nice food selection and the Cast Members were very friendly.
But I will go with the walking proximity to both EPCOT and Hollywood Studios. For both days, we went to the parks by foot. It took about 10 minutes to get to International Gateway at EPCOT and slightly longer to get to Hollywood Studios. Considering buses and other transportation take a while to get people to the front of the gates at the respective parks, the walks were very convenient.
How was my Prediction: It was a change of scenery not having the Disney theming all up in my face. I didn’t mind it at all. And it did solidify that Disney can be done as an adult.
2b) Best part about Contemporary Resort?
I’m still giddy as I publish this. I was at this resort for 17 hours and it was my FAVORITE resort experience ever! We used bell services from Yacht Club to transfer our luggage to Contemporary and our room was ready at 3pm. We arrived and asked for our luggage to be brought to our room. It was not in the main tower but that was okay. We had a small view of the Monorail tracks and the lake heading to Wilderness Lodge. The room was HUGE with 2 vanity sinks in the same room with the tub and a closed off toilet! After a late dinner at California Grill, it was amazing to simply ride downstairs and be in your room in 5-10 minutes. And about that walk to Magic Kingdom? 7-10 minutes from the lobby! Can’t beat it!
How was my Prediction: I said it would be worth every penny and it was….for 2 adults for one night. If we’re being honest, a few nights for my 5 total at Contemporary would be a little steep. But I now recommend split-stays, where you stay at one resort for a few days and then stay at another for the remaining nights.
Here is what I recommend for a family on a budget – Book at one of the All-Stars or Pop Century and do Animal Kingdom/Hollywood Studios for 2 days. On the 3rd day, switch to Contemporary and do Magic Kingdom. That way, when you shut down Magic Kingdom, it’s only a short walk to your room as opposed to a long wait and long bus ride back to your resort.
If you have a more moderate budget – Book at Caribbean Beach and use the Skyliner to get over to EPCOT/Hollywood Studios for 2 days, then Contemporary and Magic Kingdom. Give yourself a reward and a treat at the end of the trip is all I’m saying!
1) If I re-ranked my WDW parks in order of which was my favorite, is EPCOT still at the bottom?
My fellow agents are great. We broke up into teams for EPCOT day and my wonderful EPCOT loving owner and 3-4 other EPCOT lovers were with me. They were going to make me a Believer if it killed them! And I will say, being around people who KNOW EPCOT does help me appreciate the park even more. I found myself describing EPCOT as a park you have to “experience,” not just “enter and ride!” And that’s why it’s tough for my family to appreciate the park like my fellow agents. My family is the type that wants to show up early, ride amazing attractions, immerse themselves in the cartoons and movies watched as a young child and embrace “vacation” mode.
At EPCOT, you have to immerse yourself into the show of the different cultures or it will not be fun. You have to appreciate the different nations and see the movies or participate in the pavilion shows/experiences. You have to sample the food/drinks. You have to shop. You have to take you time and let the imagination and science surround you.
I went into it with that type of attitude and admittedly, it was more fun. I don’t think my kids would like it so may I recommend adult groups going together for this park. It’s perfect for reunions, bridal parties, and other adult-aged meet-ups. Especially during Festival of the Arts or any other festival. I’m glad I gave it a chance!
How was my Prediction: I still love Magic Kingdom! And I have new memories of Hollywood Studios with my agents that cements it as #2 for now. I didn’t get back to Animal Kingdom this trip and EPCOT was amazingly packed, even according to our local agents. So here is how I’ll answer if it still ranks at the bottom of my parks – I reserve the right to re-rank until I come back and experience EPCOT with a festival going on during a holiday weekend. But that just means I’ll have to go back which is more hope than I ever had for EPCOT prior to my trip.