When I was thinking about how to write our trip report from our 2016 summer vacation to Walt Disney World, I thought that it would be best to parcel out the reports with regard to theme parks, rather than dates. Dan and I had premium annual passes that we bought on our adult-only winter trip, and we purchased ten-day park hoppers for the kids, with the water park options. This meant that we visited each park more than once, so rather than writing a day-by-day, I'm taking the highlights from our experiences at each park and you will see that we are wearing different clothes in different pictures, to reflect a separate day.
EPCOT is so big, that I also decided that it would be easiest to write about Future World and the World Showcase separately. We actually did visit EPCOT with a focus on Future World on the very first day of our trip.
This was my step-kids, Zoe (turning 9) and Felix (almost 7), first visit to Walt Disney World. I'm a huge Disney fan and Dan has lots of fond WDW trip memories from when he was a child, so we wanted this to be a spectacular trip for them. Spaceship Earth makes a huge impression, so that was the first ride of the vacation. Who isn't curious about a ride inside of a giant golf ball?
Our first day also happened to be Dan's birthday, so we stopped at Guest Relations to pick up a free birthday button. It's always fun to get these buttons when you're celebrating at the park, whether it be a birthday, anniversary, or even your first trip to Disney! The kids got their first visit buttons!
When Dan and I visited over Christmas in 2016, we experienced a new program called Fast-Pass plus, where guests can prebook up to three ( I believe it's four if you're staying on WDW property) fast passes in advance of your visit. This was a life-saver for us. It wasn't that the parks were necessarily super-crowded, but we were wilting in the heat, especially the kids who are from Sweden and not used to the Florida weather. We quickly learned that we could only do half days in the park, usually 4-7 rides max.
On our visits, we used the Fast Pass Plus for : Spaceship Earth, Journey Into Imagination with Figment, Test Track, Soarin', and Mission: Space. As a generality, Zoe was a thrill seeker, ready to try anything and Felix was hesitant on the bigger rides, but didn't actually skip anything. Both were tall enough for all rides in all parks.
We weren't sure if they'd want to do the "Big Kid" rides, so we eased in with gentle attractions on that first day.
We headed to Journey into Imagination with Figment. I love Figment and think this ride is cute. The kids were less impressed, but they did like playing in the Imagelabs after the ride. Imagelabs is a fun, indoor play-area with games that involve music and visual creativity. It's a great place to get a break in an air-conditioned area, especially with young children.
Here is a picture of the water fountain outside of the Imagination Institute.
One of my favorite memories of EPCOT from my first visit ( when I had just turned 13) was The Land. This is a building dedicated to environmental education.
Living with the Land is a leisurely boat ride through a green house showcasing various innovations in farming techniques. They have really big cucumbers!
Sure, the ride's a little dated, but I still love it. They kids were not as enamored. Luckily, they did enjoy our next ride, Soarin'.
Soarin' is a gentle, aviation themed ride. The original iteration was Soarin' Over California, but the film has been changed to Soarin' Around the World. I had experienced the changed attraction one time before at Disney's California Adventure Park, and Dan had seen a rough cut of the film during a visit to the Disney Studio in Burbank, so this was a somewhat new attraction for all of us. The film footage is stunning and this attraction just has a lot of "wow" factor. It's really one that everyone should experience and that is appropriate for all ages. The only caveat is if the rider is extremely afraid of heights, they may want to skip it. It's a very tame ride, but it goes high up!
Dan's birthday lunch was at the Coral Reef restaurant. We had not planned this, but we managed to score last minute reservations, after a cancelation occurred and we snagged it using the Disney park app. The Coral Reef was actually my first WDW dining experience, from my first trip to Florida!
The cool feature of the Coral Reef is an enormous tank feature sharks, sea turtles, sting rays, and colorful fish. It's beautiful and during our lunch, we even watched a diver working in the tank. We were provided with a fish guide to try to identify the salt water residents.
Felix is a rather picky eater and I appreciate that at any of the WDW restaurants, he can easily find mac and cheese ( his favorite and something he'd eat every meal if he could). This means that we could feel free to enjoy any restaurant and that everyone would be able to find something to eat. Happy everyone. We had yummy fish and he had his favorite. Since it was the first day of the trip and Dan's birthday, we splurged on drinks with flashing ice cubes and various desserts. Let's start this vacation in style!
The tank that we could see from The Coral Reef, is part of The Seas with Nemo and Friends, where guests can view the giant aquarium from other vantage points.
The main entrance to the exhibit takes you on a Nemo themed clam shell ride, which merges the live aquarium fish with overlay videos of characters from the Nemo films. We did this twice and the kids enjoyed it. I love the technology of mixing the real fish with the characters. I love anything to do with animals, so I could spend all day watching the fish tank. They have exhibit with rescued Manatees aka Sea Cows. Although we didn't do it with the kids, Turtle Talk with Crush is an adorable attraction, especially if you have little ones.
Test Track is the attraction that we knew would be a big hit.
Felix is car-obsessed and Zoe likes thrill rides, so this was our number one EPCOT attraction. It did prove to be one of the over-all favorites of the trip and we rode it multiple times.
A new addition to the original ride, that we saw when we visited in the winter, is a pre-board area where you can design your own car. You have a few minutes at a computer station, where you work through prompts that give you choices to build your own virtual car that you can test on the track. Is your car nimble, yet not fuel-efficient? Maybe eco-friendly, yet sluggish? You have choices and are graded on several areas. Here are cars that Zoe and Felix designed.
Our official ride picture! (first go)
Mission: Space gives riders a choice of an intense (spinning) and less intense (no spinning, just the show elements) version of the ride. I can ride the intense version, but I do feel slightly queasy afterwards and need a break from rides. We decided to try the intense side with the kids. Felix loved it and rode it a second time, but Zoe had similar motion issues to mine. Luckily, no one needed the vomit bag!
Ellen's Universe of Energy is a dated ( now closed) slow ride that features Ellen DeGeneres, and includes: Alex Trek, dinosaurs, and Jamie Lee Curtis. It's an educational attraction regarding various types of energy. I've ridden it many times over the years, but this was my last opportunity and the ride broke down at the end. We missed the last few minutes of the ride and I suppose because this wasn't a very popular attraction and it was going to be closing for good soon, none of the employees or managers on site seemed to care that it broke. We did not experience the normal Disney customer service, which was a surprise.
We sat in the ride vehicles for about twenty minutes and then we were ushered out without so much as an apology, which as a former theme park employee, I thought was awkward. I didn't expect to get front of the line passes, but I was expecting a "Sorry, the attraction went down or we apologize that you had to wait during the evacuation." We got a rather snarky commentary explaining how the ride would have ended. It was most un-disney like. I will miss this classic attraction, but it wasn't a hit with the kids.
Another bizarre Disney situation occurred at the EPCOT meet and greet in Future World. I had heard, this may just be a rumor, that you'll never see two of the same characters at a park at the same time. False.
We had fast passes to the character meet and greet in EPCOT, where we met Mickey, Minnie and Goofy. Immediately, not more than minutes later, we decided to visit the characters in the special Disney VISA meet and greet area, which is located very close to the other meet and greet. This was a "Mystery" character encounter with not more than a two minute wait. We told the attendant in line, who we just saw and she didn't say anything. She actually walked in ahead of letting us in, to see who was in the room. When she let us in, low and behold, we met Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy.
We laughed it off and took another picture. Luckily, Zoe and Felix were at the age, where although they enjoyed meeting the characters, it wasn't a deal-breaker for their vacation. There wasn't a particular character that they HAD to meet and they know that it's people in costumes. The best result was we had a great picture for our Christmas card. Luckily we didn't wait long, otherwise, I think we'd be disappointed that we waited in-line to see the same characters. Perhaps the mystery element isn't the best idea?
The very last attraction we did on the very last day of the trip, was Sum of All Thrills. I believe this may not be at EPCOT anymore, but it was a really fun attraction, where we built our own roller coaster and rode a virtual version of it. Zoe and I created ours together and we were giggling the entire ride.
I'll end with a beautiful night time shot of Spaceship Earth.