What in the Giant Golf Ball is Happening at Epcot?!
Feb 03, 2021
There was a television show almost 20 years ago called, "The Swan." It was a tacky show, but a guilty pleasure the husband and I are guilty of watching and still reference to this day. If you aren't familiar, then you're probably a really nice human and didn't miss much. It was an EXTREME makeover show, where average-looking gluttons for punishment underwent plastic surgery and all kinds of torturous makeover extremes to then be crowned, "The Swan." Sounds horrifying, right? Well, that's kind of what I feel like is happening over at Epcot right now.
I am never one of those people that advocate "skipping a park." In fact whenever a guest asks me, "Which park should we skip," I pretty much start to break out in a cold sweat and may even develop a hive or two. Maybe I'm crazy, but I just feel attached to all of the parks and think that they are all unique and offer something special, ESPECIALLY the parks too often deemed as "half-day" parks.
For years, once upon a time, Epcot was a tough sell in my family. The kids were younger with shorter attention spans (the nerve) and didn't want to be fooled into learning on vacation. (Those may actually be one of their exact words.)That all changed for us the year that we purchased Epcot Passports. The girls went nuts for these, loved the stickers, loved meeting the Cast Members in EACH country, and loved seeing how "Hello" was written in each language. They BEGGED us to come back for a SECOND FULL Epcot day. (It was a Food & Wine Festival miracle, mimosa for Mom, stickers for the kids-everyone wins!)
From then on, the love affair only continued to grow, a love of the various festivals, the competitive desire to beat family members in "Test Track" car design, spotting Hidden Mickeys on "Living with the Land" and tempting fate every time we forgot to stow our flip flops on Soarin'. Our favorite restaurants are all over the World Showcase, the addition of "Frozen Ever After" and the precious Elsa and Anna meeting spot only added to the charm for us.
And then, 2020 hit. HOLY CONSTRUCTION PROJECT PHINEAS! Before our summer trip, I was admittedly unprepared for the construction and changes happening at Epcot. In all honesty, we were just thrilled to be well and able to travel to Disney during this unprecedented time. We embraced the phased reopening as a time to visit the parks with lighter crowds and ran with it. We were THRILLED that the "Food & Wine Festival" was still going to happen, even if slightly modified, and elated that the refurbishment on Spaceship Earth was being postponed indefinitely. (Yahoo, Thank YOU Phoenicians!) We were CERTAINLY bummed that some things we thought for sure would be opening as promised in 2020 (such as the "Space 220" restaurant and "Remy's Ratatouille Adventure" ) became paused due to covid-19 stinkiness. But...we were going to Epcot and it was going to be a GREAT day.
Until it really kinda wasn't. We have been visiting Walt Disney World forever. The girls go annually and have been every year of their lives. The husband and I have been countless times before the girls and as kids ourselves, we know it all like the back of our hands. We ACTUALLY got lost at Epcot. I know that sounds crazy, but there was so much construction in Future World and so many REALLY tall partitions up to hide the ugly that we literally got turned around and lost. It was a pretty deflating moment. The heat (hello August) and the masks were instant mood busters, we were annoyed for sure. Many of our tried and true "duck in here" spots that we were accustomed to having during pop-up Summer showers or unbearable heat were closed off. It was a bummer. I can say it, we lost perspective and our moods weren't magical. HOWEVER, I refuse to let one bad day turn me into an...Epcot skipper.
First off, what is still at Epcot to enjoy? SO MUCH! All of the marquee attractions are still alive and well. Test Track, Soarin', The Seas with Nemo, Frozen Ever After, Journey into the Imagination with Figment, Spaceship Earth, Mission Space-those are all there, and more! If you haven't visited in a while, you're going to want to check out the Pixar Short Film Festival, it's a great break for your feet and a perfect rainy day escape with all of our favorite shorts.
The Festivals are still happening, and will continue to happen and will make more and more of a return to normal. The "Festival of the Arts" is currently underway and has some of the cutest merchandise I have ever seen in all of my Disney days. We also have dates for the lovely, "Flower and Garden Festival" which will run from March 3rd- July 5th. This Festival is the perfect way to kick off Spring, try some delicious food and drinks in the various kiosks all while taking in Disney's famous florals and topiaries.
New food has popped up in Epcot as we anxiously await the arrival of "Space 220." Perhaps not on the same scale, but Quick Service restaurant, "Regal Eagle Smokehouse" is an absolute gem! (A salute to all cook-offs, but mostly Barbecue.) This new BBQ spot is located in the American Pavilion has ample indoor, blissfully air-conditioned seating, a large menu to suit all tastes, and some of the best sauces this North Carolinian has tasted.
World Showcase favorite, "Spice Road Table" has reopened under Disney's ownership with a revamped menu that is getting rave reviews. One of the biggest hits during the phased reopening is the lack of character dining opportunities. Over at the "Garden Grill" guests are able to have a modified, family-style meal with Chip, Dale, Mickey, and Pluto. It may look a little different than what character meals looked like pre-covid, but it's certainly still a thrill to see those guys in their cute "on the farm"duds.
In case you somehow missed the Instagram-worthy pictures blanketing the internet, Epcot has a brand new fountain at the center, front entrance focal point of the park and it is stunning. It beautifully frames Spaceship Earth while drawing your eye up to the sky with its illuminating color and light. It is truly the change that maybe none of us realized that area needed but are so glad they went ahead with. It is stunning and will be the perfect family photo spot on your next trip.
A must-see exhibit currently housed in the "Odyssey Events Pavilion" is "Walt Disney Imagineering presents the Epcot Experience." This sensory overload of a projection and model display will walk you through the amazing plans that are in store for Epcot. It makes all these plans feel very tangible, alive, and imminent. I'm not going to lie to you guys, there was a portion of the program where Walt speaks, and I teared up. The feeling of Epcot, and what is at the core of its plan feels so intensely in line again with Walt's vision for this park that you can't help but get misty. You will walk out of that exhibit hopeful, energized, and incredibly excited to see the other side of this epic-sized renovation. (Bonus points, there is a great bathroom and snack stand at this pavilion as well.)
So, what IS coming to Epcot, thought you'd never ask...
- For starters, Moana is getting some love with an incredible, water maze area paying homage to our favorite ocean navigator. "Journey of Water" will be a unique interactive exploration trail showing the live nature and beauty of both water and nature. This spot will be a welcome change from the "concrete jungle" that is Epcot.
- Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind is a Marvel-themed indoor "storytelling" coaster that will be the first of its kind at Walt Disney World. For Marvel fans like me, I'm just thrilled to be getting a little Marvel love in Orlando!
- A new nighttime show will also be debuting in Epcot hopefully as we began to see Covid restrictions ease in the coming months. "HarmonioUS" is being called the largest nighttime spectacular ever designed for a Disney Park. It will have 5 floating platforms (almost like a compass), moving arms, LED screens, fountains, lasers, and of course plenty of fireworks. Details are still pretty hush-hush, but I'm really excited to see what Disney has up their sleeve. I was admittedly never really wowed by any of Epcot's previous nighttime shows, this one has got me excited.
- Probably the most imminent opening we have to look forward to is, "Remy's Ratatouille Adventure." I can't wait to experience life from Remy's perspective as we hustle around and escape all the dangers awaiting cute rodent chefs at the great Gusteau's restaurant in beautiful France.
- AND MORE, think digital playgrounds, still rumors of some Mary Poppins love in France...the scale is HUGE and I bet there are still surprises in store for us!
Okay, maybe it was unfair to compare Epcot to that mean, reality TV show yuck fest, but the truth is when all of these plans have come to fruition, this Park will be the ULTIMATE Swan. It will be a near-complete overhaul and will be an almost unimaginable breath of new, energy, and fresh air. Until then, there is still SO much beauty and fun to be had at Epcot. Like a proud Momma, I want to witness the stages of its growth and capture as many photos of its metamorphosis as possible. Go and eat ALL the snacks, live it up at ALL of the Festivals, pick up those adorable Kid Cot Zip-lock baggie suitcases (even without your kids!), linger in the aquarium, tear up at great short films, learn some funky gardening trips, tempt your lunch fate on Mission Space, blow your hair back on Test Track and belt out "Let it Go" at the top of your lungs. This is Disney people, the magic is EVERYWHERE!
Might we just (gasp) spend a half-day at Epcot while the construction is still sky high and the parks are still mid-phased reopening, yeah, that's the beauty of Park Hoppers, but Epcot will never EVER be a park that we ever skip. You can bet your Avocado Margarita on that!
You can hang out with Christie and get her daily dose of Disney wisdom in her private Facebook Group, Main Street Magic!
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