Continuing our return tour of the Disney parks, we visited Epcot yesterday. In no hurry to get there, we arrived just before 11, not realizing that the park did not technically open until 11. The first thing that we noticed was how beautiful the entrance area is, and it's vastly different from the state it was in on our last visit over a year ago. The Leave A Legacy photos have been reimagined and posted out of the way to the east of the main gate, outside of the park, where you are not likely to see them. (Apparently the contract to purchase a photo on these was 20 years, and the last one was sold in 2007.) The tram roads no longer lead into the area under the monorail station. The one up the middle stops just short, and the one from the eastern lots ends in front of the new security checkpoints built forward of the ticket booths. The result is that people disperse in a less crowded way when the park closes, which is good. The gates now have signs hanging from the roof, similar to the other parks, directing entrances and exits. They still have a passholder entrance, which was shockingly empty, so the return of passholders is clearly going to be slow going.
The new plaza without the Leave A Legacy nonsense is far more open and green. It's a spectacular and inviting area now, with the fountain in front of Spaceship Earth restored to its glass monolithic glory. Unfortunately, that's where the beauty ends, because from there on, it's construction walls everywhere as the old Innoventions buildings are renovated and replaced. The concept art they were showing before the pandemic had them repurposing the east building, and erecting some multi-story structure with trees on top in place of the south end of the west building, but who knows how it will shake out now.
With no Fastpasses, we headed to Frozen first, and waited about a half-hour. This is when I noticed the first weird thing: There were no Norwegian people anywhere to be found. As you went around World Showcase, this continued to be the case everywhere except for China (I didn't check every country). Obviously the pandemic has restricted travel, so it's not surprising, just odd. The theme park industry in general is having a tough go of it because of the inability to hire internationally this year.
The rule for masks now is that you have to wear them inside the buildings and on attractions. As it gets warmer, this is a welcome change, and I applaud the CDC for committing to the science and making this the recommendation. Simon, 11 and unvaccinated, preferred to wear his in more crowded situations, as he's used to it in school anyway. I'm OK with him making that informed decision for himself. That said, I'm starting to feel like the parks should optionally vaccine card people for wristbands at this point, and if you have one, you don't need a mask inside. I feel like that would incentivize people to get vaccinated, because literally every adult and teenager can at this point. There's no excuse. Yeah, I'm unapologetically judgy.
Simon is a picky eater, and when it comes to Disney food, the mac and cheese is one of his only agreeable things. The only place you can find it at Epcot is Sunshine Seasons, in The Land. Unfortunately, this location, which used to have some decent seafood and Asian choices, is in basic mode, with burgers and hot dogs, so that's a drag. If it weren't for the Flower & Garden Festival, the counter service choices would just be dismal in Epcot right now.
The lines for Soarin' and Living With The Land were nuts, so we headed back out to World Showcase. We stopped in to that big tent thing they call World Showplace, between Canada and the UK, where the Cider Place stand is. I've never been in there for anything, but it's frankly a great place to stop in and get drinks under the air conditioning, as a guy plays piano. They have a fantastic cider flight, and a cold salmon sandwich on a cheddar biscuit that Diana was into.
Next I grabbed proper "chips" from the UK. I'd like to point out that this is a pile of thick fries for $4.25, whereas you'll spend something like $8 at Cedar Point or Kings Island.
Since it was just after 1, meaning we could park hop, we used the opportunity to exit the park and get on the Skyliner to Hollywood Studios. I absolutely adore this transportation ride. With Covid, you'll always get your own gondola. When they first announced this system, I thought it was kind of odd, but it is fantastic and efficient.
We wanted to get a lap on Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railway, Simon's current favorite, but unfortunately, it broke down while we were in the queue. We wasted about a half-hour, and it was down for some time after that. We went to see the Mickey short compilation in the theater down the midway, and then got some early dinner for Simon and me, knowing how things all close early. It's funny how a kid's chicken strip meal borders on too much food for me. I don't need a lot.
Hollywood Studios without any of the live shows is kind of a disaster. What normally takes thousands of people off of the midways leaves you with just the rides, and while there are more there than we had a few years ago, it's still not a ton to do. Worse, Rise of the Resistance is simply not available unless you are there when the park opens and you get a boarding group.
Back at Epcot, we continued to work our way around World Showcase. Morocco is basically closed off. Restaurant Marrakesh is closed. The festival cart there did have a delicious pineapple and pear cider, however, from Spain. At this point, we encountered the Disney Princess horse carriage coming around for about the third time. I guess since you can't get photos with them, you can at least see them roll by.
In the American Adventure, they have some kind of delightful rum punch thing, and that was delicious. Voices of Liberty is performing outside in the amphitheater, finally. Simon had his first funnel cake. It was a solid stop.
We hoped to get some frozen margaritas in Mexico, one of my favorite things available year-round at Epcot, but the line was insane.
It's worth mentioning that the new night time show pieces are all floating out in the World Showcase lagoon, and they're massive. I understand that they've been working quite a bit on this show lately, and I look forward to seeing what they come up with. It still sounds a lot like a jukebox show, which is why I loved Illuminations for not being that, but we'll see. Every indication is that it will be the most epic of their shows.
We rolled into Test Track, which was Simon's greatest priority. Posted wait was 40 minutes, but it ended up being a few minutes less. No designing your own car, unfortunately. What a release for the kid though. We ended up being solo in our car, but the photo still hasn't shown up in the app, which is a huge drag. It would have been frameable.
We ended the day on Spaceship Earth. Is it weird that there's something comfortable and familiar about the smell of that ride? We paid proper tribute to the Phoenicians, then left a little before 7.
Overall it was a fun day, even though we didn't do much other than log 18,000+ steps. We did Frozen, the Skyliner, the Mickey short and Test Track, with lots of walking, eating and drinking in between. Probably not ideal for Simon, but it was satisfying for me.