WARNING!! Heavy use of pictures ahead!
Our first full day at Disney World! I’m surprised I was able to sleep! Being the good travel agent that I am, I had already planned out all our days according to the projections of crowds during our time there. While most people prefer to go to Magic Kingdom first, I prefer to go where the crowds aren’t and for our first day, that was Epcot!
Do you know what Epcot means? It means “Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow”. That was Walt’s origin design for the park. He had planned a community that was self-sufficient, but unfortunately, he didn’t live long enough to see his dream come true.
Most people either love or hate Epcot. I’m actually one of those that loves Epcot. One of my all-time favorite rides, Test Track, is at Epcot. I also love the World Showcase with all the beautiful buildings and countries that are represented there.
We had our FastPasses already scheduled– Test Track, Mission Space and Spaceship Earth. We could have passed on Spaceship Earth, but it was the only one of the remaining choices that we would have gone on. I wish you could choose ANY ride at Epcot like you can at Magic Kingdom. I’m not a fan of most of the rides at Epcot, but I do enjoy Test Track and Mission Space. I rode Soarin’ when it first opened in 2005, but it made me sick, so I haven’t gone on it since then. I wasn’t planning on riding it again this year either. We always ride on Spaceship Earth when it’s really hot outside and we’re tired. The ride is about 20 minutes long and it’s air conditioned!! We ride it to take a little nap and cool off…lol.
We arrived just as the park opened, but I had to stop and rent a locker to store my camera equipment that I’d need later in the evening so I could take pictures of Illuminations. My girls ran on ahead so they could get in line for Test Track. We knew we could get one ride on it before it got too busy and before we had to use our FastPass for it. I rented my locker, stored my stuff and got in line at Test Track. The wait wasn’t too long (about 20 minutes), but we feel it’s worth the wait. When we went in 2012. it was closed because they were refurbishing it. We were really excited to see what the new one was like. We were not disappointed! You begin by building your own car. You are in teams and you design a car from the ground up. It was a lot of fun to design a car. Once the design is done, you get on the ride to test your design. There are several performance tests you go through and they score how your car would have performed. At the end of it, you get flung outside, going over 60 mph on a round test track. I love this ride!!
After Test Track, we headed over to Mission Space, which we had scheduled as our first FP. There are 2 versions of Mission Space: Green and Orange. Green is pretty mild, while Orange pulls a few G’s and spins. I don’t do well spinning, so I always opt for the Green side. It’s a simulator, so it can make you sick if you don’t do well in simulators. You are broken down into groups of 4 and each one of you is given a role in your mission. You are basically just pushing buttons and I don’t think anything really happens if you don’t push them, but it’s fun to be an astronaut for a few minutes. If you are prone to motion sickness, I would probably skip this ride, but if you want to give it a try, at least stick to the Green!
By this time, it was time for us to use our Test Track FP, so we got in the FP line and got to ride for a second time of the day! It was just as fun the second time around, and this time we knew when the ride picture was taken so we had preplanned poses for the picture! (Since I am a professional photographer, my children are expert posers! They pose for any and every picture ever taken of them! I think we’re the only ones that actually plan what we’re going to look like in our ride images!)
After Test Track, we were hungry so headed over to La Cantina de San Angel for a quick service lunch. We get the Dining Plan, which I think it totally worth every penny! Not only is it convenient, but we don’t have to look at prices and we can order what we want! La Cantina de San Angel has wonderful QS meals. I love the shredded beef tacos, but the nachos look delicious too!
We met up with the other half of our family after lunch. They didn’t want to get up early like we did, so they had just arrived at the park. I don’t really advise this because you can get more rides done in the first hour of park opening than the rest of the day. However, my family does not listen to me so what can you do??!? They were just getting ready to start on their FP rides, so we went and used our last FP, and to take our cool little nap at Spaceship Earth!
Be sure to stop off at Club Cool before heading into the World Pavilion. You can try different kinds of soda beverages from all over the world. Be sure to try Beverly—she’s a favorite!
We try to do all the rides in the morning, so that we can dedicate the afternoon to walking around the World Showcase. There is a lot of great entertainment in the World Showcase, so be sure to pick up an Entertainment Guide at the front of the park (or inside any store in the park) so you can plan which entertainment you want to see. Most of the entertainment and characters appear periodically throughout the day, so you usually get at least one chance to see them all.
One of my all-time favorite acts is Off Kilter. Off Kilter is a Celtic rock band. I bought their CD back in 2005 because I loved them so much! They are still the same guys that have been performing since then, and they sounded even better this year. Yes, the wear kilts (I love a man in a skirt!!) and they sing songs with a rock beat and bagpipes! They perform in the Canadian Pavilion, so don’t miss them!
The Canadian Pavilion is one of my favorites because it’s so beautiful! Be sure to check out the whole pavilion. There is a beautiful garden and lovely waterfall if you walk far enough back.
After the Canadian Pavilion and Off Kilter, is the UK Pavilion. I think it’s probably a tie for me between the UK and Canadian Pavilion. Walking around the UK pavilion is like stepping into the English countryside. There’s even a little fish and chips shop! In the UK Gardens you can catch a band called The British Revolution. These guys sing songs made famous by British bands like The Beatles and the Rolling Stones. These guys are fantastic!!! They sing a rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody that is almost better than Queen! Don’t miss them!
There are 11 countries in all in the World Pavilion, and they are all spectacular! All the people that work in each pavilion, all the food and all the souvenirs are actually from that country. If you’ve got kids, you can get an Epcot passport, and take them to each country, where there is an activity the kids can do. At each stop, they will get a stamp in their passport.
Dinner this evening was at the Rose and Crown in the UK Pavilion. I have wanted to try this restaurant since I heard they served Bangers and Mash! Last year, we went to the Biergarten in Germany, which was delicious, but we wanted to try different restaurants this time. Since there were 15 of us, they had to put us at separate tables, but they were gracious enough to put us next to each other on the patio overlooking the World Showcase Lagoon. A storm was brewing so it was a little chilly and windy, but not too bad. I finally got to try my Bangers and Mash!! For those of you that are wondering….bangers and mash are English sausages served over mashed potatoes with a shallot gravy. It was delicious! Everyone seemed to enjoy their meals, which ranged from fish and chips to Indian Style Chicken Marsala. Dessert comes with the dining plan, and most of us opted for the dessert that was offered on the children’s menu because they were really different! We were glad we tried this little restaurant!
Following dinner, we finished walking around the World Showcase, just waiting to claim our spot for Illuminations, the evening show at Epcot. As a professional photographer, I can say I waste an inordinate amount of time claiming a spot to stand in to get the best pictures of the evening shows or parades. To get a good spot to watch any of the big events like this, most people start claiming their spots about an hour early. I knew that I wanted to shoot from the deck in the Japan Pavilion and I knew I’d need to get there early. I got in position around 7:45pm to claim my spot. I set my camera up and did some practice shots. I had never used a tripod to shoot these shows before, and my girls had just given me a shutter release cord and app for my iPhone for Christmas. I was anxious to use so hadn’t really read the directions, so figured I knew what I was doing. Note to self: Read the directions before using any electronics that will record an event that you won’t get a second chance of shooting for another year or two.
Illuminations began at 9pm. I had a decent vantage point, but with a new camera and new electronics to work with, my pictures weren’t that great. I was really disappointed. The show was still amazing, though.
When the show was over, the exodus began. Everyone swarms to the buses to go back to their resorts. You don’t have to do that! The buses run for at least an hour after a park closes. Take your time. Shop at this time instead of during the day when you should be riding rides. I hung back, while my girls went back to the resort. I wanted to get some night shots of some of the pavilions. Because I didn’t have a good understanding of how to use my shutter release, my images were not what I had hoped for, but it was fun to walk around the World Showcase when it was fairly empty of any people! Here are some of the images I was able to get…
By the time I got to the bus stop, I was the only one on the bus so had a quiet ride back to the resort. I was exhausted, my feet were aching and I had developed a blister on the bottom of my foot!! How many times do I warn my clients about breaking in new shoes before they go to WDW?!? I thought I had broken them in, but apparently wearing them for two weeks off and on is not breaking them in….ugh!! I was so glad to see my bed! And even more glad that I did not have to walk the death march all they way back to the back of the resort….did I mention the extra cost for a preferred room is totally worth it?!?!
Until then….have a magical day!
All photos ©Monica Bryant Photography, 2014. You may not copy, screen shot, download or print any of these images without express written permission from Monica Bryant Photography.
Interested in booking a vacation to any Disney location? Please contact me at monica@ mousetriptravel.com . Also visit our website at www.buildabettermousetrip.com .