Thursday, June 16, 2016

Walt Disney World Trip 2016 Day 1: Epcot

Read about our arrival to Orlando HERE, in my Day 0 post!

Note: Before we begin, I encourage you to click onto this link and listen to this fantastic music! This music is the pre-show music that plays 30 minutes before the start of Epcot's nighttime show. I hope you enjoy!


To say I was excited for Day 1 is an understatement. I barely slept the night before, and I don't think my parents slept much, either. We were ready in record time, and we headed to the main Art of Animation building to catch the bus to Epcot!

Family Powers...
As soon as we got in line for the Epcot bus, it pulled up! That was the first of our Family Power moments. We decided to use our Magic Bands and bump fists together whenever something awesome happened, and this was our first instance of that. 

We arrived early, but the lines for bag check and the metal detectors were pretty short. Mom and Dad never had to do bag check, since I was carrying all their supplies in my backpack. But at Epcot, they do metal detector checks for anyone without a bag, too. 

...activate!
We settled down at the entrance and waited for it to open up. Mom struck up a conversation with the lady in front of us, whose family was all there. Turns out her husband was a Baptist pastor! That meant he and Dad had a nice conversation about preaching schedules and the like. But then he found out that I wrote for TouringPlans.com, and he and I got in a conversation about TouringPlans and the WDW Today podcast!

Eventually, though, we were all let into the park!...well, not quite. We were allowed to enter the front entrance, walk past Spaceship Earth, and go into the fountain area between Innoventions East and West. But the side entrances to Soarin' and Test Track were still roped off. So we waited in another queue for 10 minutes! But we got in a conversation with people around us about hats (Dad was hoping to find a nice one) and kid toys that are bought at Walmart and then presented to the kids at Disney to avoid paying the high prices! (Genius!)

We were caught up in a giant mass of humanity to get into the Land pavilion and Soarin'. The Land was definitely not built in a way to accomodate a large group of people. When you enter, you have to go around a balcony and take either an escalator or stairs to get down to the attractions and (most of) the food. The cast members took everyone down the stairs, and we immediately got in line.

I'd say we waited about 15 minutes in the Soarin' line - which is the longest I've ever waited for Soarin'. The attraction had been closed for quite a long time before our trip to get ready for its new video, but at this point in time they were showing the old video - the one that takes you around California - for the last time. (We wouldn't be in Epcot when the new video debuted on June 17...bummer.) 

Now let me set the flashback scene: July of 1995. My family decides to go to Epcot as their first park of the trip. Then we decide to see Honey! I Shrunk the Audience as our first attraction/show. BIG MISTAKE. My 2-year-old brother was terrified and refused to do anything else on that trip. (His most famous phrase was "I would like to go home now.") It definitely did not set the right tone for the trip.

Now we return to June of 2016. My parents and I decide to go to Epcot as our first park of the trip. Then we decide to do Soarin' as our first attraction/show. BEST IDEA EVER. We had the most perfect seats - middle section, top row, so we had no feet dangling in front of us. We got off and my parents were hooked! My mother exclaimed "That was so cool!" It set the right tone for the rest of the trip! (We made sure to wave to my older brother when they showed San Francisco.)

After Soarin' we went right over and did Living With the Land, which Mom has always liked because of the food that is grown in the greenhouses. Then I used my lovely Contigo waterbottle and filled it up with ice and water at Sunshine Seasons. Note: We didn't pay for water or ice at all on this trip. But we made sure to ask for it at every food stop! Eventually my mother figured out the best order: two cups of ice water, one cup of ice. Worked like a charm.

We walked to the Imagination Pavilion and rode Journey Into the Imagination with Figment. My parents enjoyed the Imageworks that are after the attraction - probably more than the attraction itself! Then we went outside and enjoyed the leapfrogging water and the reverse waterfall - the two best things at the Imagination Pavilion!

We backtracked and hit Spaceship Earth with our first Fastpass+ of the trip. I had scheduled our Fastpass+ reservations way back on March 31, when the window opened for our trip. We could pick up to three attractions initially, and after those were done, we could add one more at a time. 

It was very easy: arrive in the time window they gave us (an hour, most of the time), tap your Magic Band on the Mickey, and when it turns green, you're good to go! 

Once upon a time, we had gotten stuck at the very top of Spaceship Earth for a LONG time. (Apparently my Papa got sick, but I don't remember that.) This time we only stalled for a little bit near the painting of the Sistine Chapel, which meant we got to hear some great church choral music for a little longer than normal!

My parents were keen on finding lunch somewhere in World Showcase, since each country presents its own food through table and counter service. I suggested Via Napoli, a restaurant in Italy that featured authentic Italian pizzas cooked in giant wood-fired ovens. They agreed, so we started the slow amble in that direction. 

When we got there, the restaurant hadn't opened yet, but we were the first ones to put our names down. As soon as they opened up the restaurant, we got seated! 

Now in my excitement before the trip started, I watched a vlog series on YouTube called "See Ya Reel Soon" which has become one of my favorite series to watch. It's hosted by a married couple, Joe and Ashley. They love Via Napoli, too, and I found out that you can order half-and-half pizzas, and that the piccante (spicy sausage) pizza was excellent. Dad likes meat on his pizza, so he agreed to half piccante, and Mom decided on the margherita for her half. I know I was pleased with our choices, and they seemed to like them, too!

Both our hostess and waitress were natives of Italy, and the hostess especially was eager to tell us all about where she grew up. Mom immediately knew the area she was referencing, all because of her blonde hair!

Here's where we hit a little snag in our trip: Dad decided to pay with a Disney gift card that I'd given him, which was no problem. But he also decided to do the tip with the gift card. This is very doable, BUT about 10 minutes later, we found the perfect hat for him at the African Outpost shop. He used the same gift card, and to our dismay we realized the tip hadn't been applied to the gift card yet. So we had just gypped our great waitress out of her tip!

Dad wasn't going to let this go, and was ready to head back to the Italy pavilion and pay our waitress in cash. But we also had a Fastpass+ reservation for Test Track, on the complete opposite area of the park, and it was going to expire! I volunteered to take the cash back to the restaurant and told the two of them to go and wait by the entrance for Test Track. If I didn't get back in time, they should just go on the ride without me - I'd been on it before, and while it's a great attraction, it's not a "must-do" for me.

The Jammitors, a percussion group in Future World
And thus began my post-Bolder Boulder run. Yes, I ran. I mean, I was wearing exercise clothing and my running shoes, anyway! The only change was that I was wearing my bag, and suddenly pins were popping off! I think I caught them all, though. (I removed the unnecessary ones that night, and didn't have any troubles after that.)

I got back to Via Napoli, and the assistant manager must have misheard what I said, because he kept saying they'd have to cancel the check and all of that. I was there for about 10 minutes longer than I had to be, until the manager came up, realized that the meal had already been charged to the gift card, but the tip hadn't, so she canceled the gift card tip, I gave her the cash as the replacement tip, and I was running again!

You'd think with all this running that I made it to Test Track in time, right? Wrong. I was 2 minutes late for my Fastpass. Oh, well. My parents liked it, at least!

We went up to the Mexico pavilion and rode on the Gran Fiesta Tour boat ride, which neither of my parents realized was a boat ride until we got into the queue and both of them said, "Oh, it's a boat ride!" Still a cute ride with a very small wait.

We finished up all of Future World (which I'd never done in one day) with a ride on the very long, very boring Energy ride (called Ellen's Energy Adventure, but could be called Ellen's Energy Adventure From Way Back in 1995), the more-fun-than-we-anticipated Mission:Space (we did the green version, which is much tamer), and The Seas with Nemo and Friends. We wrapped it up with a viewing of Turtle Talk With Crush, which my parents didn't realize was an interactive show until Crush started talking to kids by name and mentioning what color their clothes (or, in his terms, "shells") were. It was really a hoot! Crush really knows how to be witty. My parents were very impressed. The show also incorporated new characters from Finding Dory, and I'm sure that will be more exciting for kids once the movie opens. 

Mom was game for a mid-afternoon break (well, a bit later than mid-afternoon), but Dad actually wanted to keep going, since he was feeling fine and didn't feel like a break was necessary! (In hingsight, Dad, aren't you glad we took a break?!) We waited pretty long for the bus, and while we were waiting, I realized something: we had a rental car, and if you're staying on property, you get free parking at the parks! Why are we not using the car?! So I suggested we take the car into Epcot for the evening, and they agreed. This would save us a lot of waiting, the long walk to the front of our resort, and provide us with private transportation. 

We made it back to Art of Animation, and while Dad was content with flipping through the TV and dozing off, Mom and I changed into our swimsuits and went to one of the three pools at the resort. The one in which we swam was right outside our door! There were lots of people, but not enough to be super annoying. 

I have driven to the parks before, so I didn't have any troubles following the parking attendants and finding a spot. They actually parked us pretty close, which meant we didn't need to wait for the tram. 

Since Future World was completed, I suggested that we do dinner at a counter service place up in the France Pavilion called Les Halles Boulangerie-Patisserie. To get there, we would have to walk all the way to the back of the park. Mom loves boats, and right when we were starting to make our journey around the lagoon, she spotted the Friendship Boat, which takes people from the front of World Showcase to the back. Now it had just closed the gate and was starting to untie its knots from the shore, but Mom still had to run to the entrance, just to make sure they wouldn't let us on! (They wouldn't. But Spoiler Alert: We did do many more boat rides on our second Epcot day!)

The Patisserie had just been remodeled a few years ago, so now the queue and ordering is waaaaaaay easier. Mom found us a table, and Dad and I got our food. Dad had a delicious lobster bisque (Bisque de Homard), Mom (I think) had the toasted ham and cheese (Croque Monsieur), and I got an amazing chicken sandwich that I could not for the life of me pronounce (Poulet au Pistou), but it was really tasty! We also had some of the desserts - Mom and Dad had chocolate mousse, and I had the chocolate tart, which was topped with the chocolate mousse. In short, all these items are highly recommended!

Before we made it to the France pavilion, we had stopped and watched the Circle 360 Canada film, which is hosted by Martin Short. I felt bad, because we actually did the best World Showcase film first! After supper we watched the film for France, and it was nice (especially because there are seats, and not lean rails) but not as good as Canada's film.

My intention was to grab a spot to watch Illuminations: Reflections of Earth, which is Epcot's nighttime show over the World Showcase lagoon. But when we departed from the France pavilion, it started to rain! I broke out our ponchos, but fortunately the rain was light, and didn't last long. We were heading to the front of the park, when Mom spotted a seating area near the bridge that connects the France and Great Britain pavilions. When we looked, there was no one there! I was nervous that some sort of private event was supposed to be there (that area is sometimes closed off for that), but since there were no signs or cast members around, it was fair game for that evening! 

Our Illuminations viewing area, taken from the Friendship
Boat the second day we were there. We were up on the
second level!
We were on the second level, right up against a railing, and had the second-most-perfect view to see Illuminations. (Where is the perfect view? I'll never tell!) We sent Snapchats and caught up on text messages and Twitter while we listened to the perfect pre-show soundtrack. And when Illuminations occured, we had an unobstructed view!

It was a great way to end the day. We got back to the car (and didn't have to wait in long lines for a bus!) got back to our resort, and collapsed. I did NOT have a hard time sleeping, that's for sure!

Dad's Epcot Top 3:
Bronze - Turtle Talk with Crush
Silver - Illuminations: Reflections of Earth
Gold - Soarin'

Read up on Day 2 of our trip HERE!

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