at: Disney World
I always have a strange love-hate relationship with Epcot.
hold on… hate is entirely the wrong word. It’s more of a love-like
relationship, which at times borders on love-confusion.
people to give an order to their favorite parks at Disney World,
and Epcot will finish fourth.
all the time. This wouldn’t be some sort of blazing obvious trip
to fourth out of four options. Plenty of people like Epcot well
enough that it may even be their favorite. And some enjoy the
incredible diversity and options of the park enough to place it
ahead of the Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom.
I feel very confident that if you approach 50… 100… 1,000 people
that are planning to head to Disney World… and you catch them
in their home and at least six months removed from the visit to
Orlando… then yes, Epcot will rank fourth.
Magic Kingdom will be first. Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom
will be in the middle in some order. And Epcot will be fourth.
note this flies directly in the face of all statistics. Epcot
regularly finishes second out of the four Disney parks for annual
attendance… outpacing both Hollywood Studios and the Animal Kingdom
by at least one million people each year.
once you’ve been to the park, perceptions changes.
there’s this fuddy-duddy-stuffy impression people have about Epcot
when they aren’t at Epcot. It’s the World Showcase… it’s how easy
it is to not immediately think of an outstanding thrill ride if
you haven’t ridden Soarin’ or visited the park in several years…
and maybe, just maybe, it’s even the flower and wine festivals.
Animal Kingdom is the Tree of Life… Magic Kingdom is the Three
Mountains… Hollywood Studios is Star Wars weekends… Epcot is…
is… well, frankly, a lot of walking and movies in some of the
you’re at home, and trying to think of how many days to spend
in the parks… and you have young children… and you’re talking
Little Mermaid and New Fantasyland… and you’re considering Muppets
and Toy Story… and there’s a safari ride with live animals, a
roller coaster with the abominable snowman, and shows featuring
Nemo and the Lion King… perhaps you see what I mean.
just seems like a distant fourth.
you get there and walk inside. You experience Soarin’ and Test
Track. You have to think about dinner because there are so many
terrific options. And IllumiNations is pure Disney magic. You
experience the Maelstrom in Norway or The Seas with Nemo &
Friends or Journey Into Imagination with Figment and…
has a list of very powerful surprises for visitors. There is much,
much more here than people give it credit for having. And frankly,
for a theme park, the choices on where to eat are second to none
when it comes to variety and quality.
we went on:
Gran Fiesta Tour
Living with the Land
Journey Into Imagination
The Seas with Nemo & Friends
we ate… or food we enjoyed:
San Angel Inn Restaurante
best of the best: Hard not to mention Soarin’ here. This
attraction is so different and well done that it eclipses just
about any Disney attraction at any theme park around the world.
I’m not saying it is the best… and I’m not saying it is my favorite…
I’m saying every person that boards the glider in this attraction
LOVES it. And it is brilliant.
new Test Track was a lot of fun, but I encountered my usual Disney-Tech
phenomenon during this Epcot visit, where offers to send pictures
and videos and memories directly to my e-mail address was met
with limited success. And the Test Track opportunities were some
of the ones that did not make it to the promised destination.
Seas with Nemo & Friends, from the ride to the exhibits, was
I always enjoy the Maelstrom.
really need to know (and other observations): The ability
of Disney retail… its guest merchandising… to take care of you.
hosts several festivals during the year. Food and Wine… Flower
and Garden… and special events like the holiday Candlelight Processional.
Our visit coincided with the 2013 International Flower and Garden
these events, here in Epcot as well as for events in other places
on the Disney World property, there is select merchandise that
is specific to the event… and quite possibly only available in
that park during the event. As you will see from my story, this
only-here-and-only-now concept isn’t 100% true. But, Disney does
have exclusives, and there are plenty of stories of heartache
from people that hesitated and then never saw the item again.
my office I have a stuffed Eeyore that was purchased at the Animal
Kingdom. He is decked out in safari gear. I have never seen this
item again, in any form, in any place other than the Animal Kingdom.
us, Tinker Bell is involved in the dilemma.
have a garden fairy of Tink. She is seated, holding a gazing ball
on her lap. The problem was, simply, the size. By the time it
was safely packaged in a box, the item would have been well over
a cubic foot… and that’s definitely underestimating it, since
it is over 11-inches high and with Tink sitting makes a fairly
decent square package.
having left Epcot, Terry and I decided that if we saw it again,
we would pounce on it and make the purchase. We never did see
we did get it.
met a cast member in the World of Disney store in Downtown Disney.
She gave me the business card of Disney Merchandising and told
me to call once I got home. I did… and they came through.
past columns I have expressed that quite often… if you see something
you like at Disney and it has a specific association with a park
or event… you have two choices: (1) Buy it then, or, (2) regret
the most part, that is still true. Obviously Disney is a huge
merchandising machine, and many items are available in not just
multiple locations, but virtually everywhere. Still, there is
an incredibly impressive assortment of items attached to very
specific attractions, parks, and other outlets. Love the shower
curtain in your Art of Animation resort room? Just a hunch, but
I’m guessing that away from that resort’s gift shop, availability
will be limited (if at all).
still, Disney consistently amazes me with their organizational
abilities, and the lengths they will go in order to satisfy a
guest. Look… absolutely, no question… they are trying to make
a sale. They want your money. But the trick of any business is
balancing supply and demand while maintaining a positive image.
You’re crazy if you think the folks at Disney aren’t aware of
their reputation and “Disney magic” image, or that they won’t
strive to keep that as intact as possible.
the end result… ask the question. In Disney, it is very possible
the retail branch will have an answer, even for the seemingly
unexpected fun we had (or special moments we experienced):
Have to mention The Seas with Nemo & Friends.
visited Soarin’ and Test Track… having had something for dinner…
waiting for IllumiNations… we were kind of looking over the map
and trying to find something nearby to do that we really hadn’t
done recently. We had been thinking about the Living Seas on this
and previous trips, and finally made the call to do it.
and I couldn’t recall visiting the Living Seas portion of Future
World since Nemo had taken up his residency. And the idea that
I call it the “Living Seas” should tip you off to how long it
may have actually been since we last stopped by. We discussed
it later, and figure it was likely during one of two trips in
praise (or complaints): Our visit this time was limited
to the basics, and no complaints there. We got to the rides we
wanted to see… we found some unexpected moments… and enjoyed our
I do want to cover some ground here…
-- I truly believe that the World Showcase offers the most diverse
selection of food, and the best food, you will find in any theme
every park has something to offer in this regard… depending on
your tastes, wallet and patience… the reality is a huge portion
is designed for quick service fare, chicken and burgers, and children
that want fries with their order. Yes… yes… vegetarian options
and apple slices are available. Lovely. Kids want chicken fingers,
fries, and honey mustard to dip them in. Many adults are the same.
It’s pretty basic.
in Epcot, you can pretty much find counter service, casual dining,
and fine dining options available in every country. (There are
more than 25 dining options listed on the park map for the World
Showcase from the day of our visit… 11 countries… do the math.
And that doesn’t include what is scattered around during festivals
and special events.)
-- Very similar concept to the one I expressed for dining, though
let’s not get as carried away as far as overwhelming at a level
better than any other.
year, I think it was 1997 during our first visit to Epcot together,
Terry and I decided to buy a small item in every country to display
on a shelf back at home. I know we found something inexpensive
and yet amazingly unique and appropriate as far as our intentions,
while spending under $100 (and likely closer to $50) to get the
set we assembled. And those items are still proudly displayed
in my office today.
a ribbon on the day: Epcot is different.
times, you will see this park the most in need of an overhaul.
Not changes… just some newer things for changing times. It has
celebrated 30 years now, and a few corners show that age… since
the technology that was amazing in 1982 has now effectively been
placed in the history books of 2013.
it is an impressive place. When opened, it was intended to be
a unique theme park experience… and unique even by comparison
to the “Disney theme park” that are Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom.
I’ve heard it described by so many as a Disney World Fair, which
to an extent works, and works quite nicely. But even that doesn’t
convey what is available from Test Track, Soarin’, or Figment.
is a combination of technology and the environment, thrills and
relaxation, architecture and landscaping… with Disney flair.