Friday morning arrived early, as we were Melissa, my mom, and I were off to walk the Star Wars Dark Side 5K. I already wrote about that experience here, so I won’t rehash that early morning too much. To reiterate my feelings on the 5K, I did enjoy it but I wouldn’t do one again by myself or just with Melissa. I didn’t think the price matched the actual experience. With that being said, I will look back fondly on that morning for years to come. I’m very proud of my mom for finishing her first 5K. Not to mention, being in Epcot at sunrise is pretty special.
After we finished the race, it was off to Olivia’s Cafe for breakfast. One of my runDisney rules is always have a meal planned for when you’re done because food is more enjoyable than running. Our breakfast this morning was a little more spur of the moment as we rode back to Old Key West and ended up meeting my dad at Olivia’s. Here’s my review of our somewhat disappointing meal. Even with the food being average, we had a nice time relaxing and watching others walk in with their 5K medals on.
For those not keeping score at home, I was still sick. Not to brag. Turns out the ‘sleeping 5 hours each night and walking 12 miles a day’ plan doesn’t instantly relieve having a cold. So, after breakfast we headed back to our room for a nap. Eventually, Melissa and my parents got up and headed to Epcot while I stayed behind and slept a little longer. I woke up feeling much and better and headed to park in time to snap a few photos and enjoy our Frozen Ever After FastPass.
I’d never been to Epcot for the Flower & Garden Festival. That morning during the 5K was actually the first time I’d seen it. We didn’t stop to look at much that morning, so I was eager to take photos that afternoon.
In possibly the most obvious statement of all time, the flowers really brighten Epcot up. The Flower & Garden Festival makes Future World much more inviting, while also enhancing World Showcase.
After stopping every 30 feet to take a new photo, I eventually ended up at the Norway Pavilion in time for our FastPass.
My opinion of Frozen Ever After remained mostly unchanged after our most recent ride through. I will say that the attraction looks really nice now that they have worked most of the kinks out.
I like the blue lighting throughout the attraction and I think the screens are utilized well. The face projection on the animatronics still weirds me out to some extent. I can see why some would think these projections are an upgrade to a more standard animatronic, as the face can show more emotions. On the other hand, with the incredible audio-animatronic being showcased Pandora, the figures in Frozen Ever After seem a little bit lazy. I lean towards the latter viewpoint, but that’s not enough to ruin the attraction for me. Oh, and Frozen Ever After still doesn’t fit in the Norway Pavilion. That won’t change unless Frozen 2 is about Elsa throwing Anna a Bachelorette Party where they sail to Norway and explore the culture over a long weekend. I’m guessing that won’t happen although it’s not the worst idea I’ve ever had.
After our ride we headed out of Epcot and boarded a bus to Fort Wilderness. It was time for the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue Dinner Show! We arrived at Fort Wilderness and instead of hop on the internal bus-service that the resort offers, I made my family walk over a mile in 90 degree heat for no good reason. I didn’t realize how far it was from the Fort Wilderness bus stop to Pioneer Hall, which houses the Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue.
If conditions had been different (say, 15 degrees cooler and not in a hurry) I would have really enjoyed the walk. The Fort Wilderness grounds are really beautiful and worth exploring.
As for the show, it was fantastic. I’ll have a review of Hoop-Dee-Doo but I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and thought it was something very different to do at Disney World. We learned our lesson and took the internal bus back to the bus stop. Before we knew it, we were back at Epcot.
Back in Epcot, we saw that Living With The Land had a short wait time and headed there. The show scenes here could use an update but I love the greenhouse section. The whole Land Pavilion could use a refresh with more color and exploration like Living With The Land showcases. Maybe the whole pavilion is a commentary about our planet being a little dark but if you explore or wait long enough (Soarin’ and Living With The Land) you can find something beautiful. Not really, I think it’s just outdated.
We were headed towards the butterfly garden before getting sidetracked by my favorite topiary at Flower & Garden. I’m a sucker for anything Fantasia and thought this scene was really elaborate and colorful. As is customary in Epcot, I needed to stick around and wait for a monorail to pass by. My wife and parents are too patient with me.
The butterfly garden was beautiful and one of my favorite aspects of the festival. We spent about half an hour in there and could have easily spent more time. I appreciated that there were hundreds of plants in there that were almost as interesting as the butterflies themselves.
We were about an hour from sunset at this point and I was hoping for some good light to take photos around World Showcase. We were off to France, but took a pretty slow pace as we soaked in some of the areas of Epcot that we hadn’t seen yet.
The Peter Pan topiary was also one of my favorites.
The sunset was mostly a dud, save for a few interesting clouds. If I had been more patient and took my tripod out I might have caught something more interesting. As is, the photo above was my favorite of that time but I don’t love this.
World Showcase was really lovely that night and not overcrowded. I’ve probably done a little too much complaining about Epcot over the last week. While it surely needs help, a stroll around World Showcase in the evening covers up a whole lot of warts. It is still one of the best experiences at any Disney Park in the World.
After completing our FastPasses for the day, Melissa made the wise decision to get an available FastPass for Illuminations that night. I underestimated just how great the viewing area for Illuminations is. The area is in the front of house (the start of World Showcase) and was not very crowded this night. The ground was sloped up so everyone could see the lagoon easily. I wouldn’t opt for an Illuminations FastPass over Soarin’ or Frozen Ever After but I think it may be more valuable than Test Track.
All this to say, it was one of my favorite viewings of Illuminations. This is still my favorite nighttime show at Walt Disney World and a great viewing spot can really enhance that.
After Illuminations, we probably should have headed towards the exit but instead got out of the FastPass area quickly and headed straight to the back of World Showcase near Japan. Even after park closing, security will let guests linger in World Showcase as many people are still in the restaurants. I spent the next hour taking photos moving from Japan to Mexico. Here are a few of my favorites.
Melissa and I had a great time that night, as my parents went back to the hotel after Illuminations. Even after closing, walking around World Showcase is a perfect way to end the night. If you are able to stay out late, then an after-hours stroll is one of those quaint Disney Park experiences that keep people like me coming back.
We stumbled back to the hotel, exhausted and fell asleep before long. The next morning after sleeping in to a reasonable hour we headed over to Animal Kingdom. It was Earth Day and also the park’s 19th anniversary.
We started our day on Expedition Everest. One of my biggest regrets of the trip is not riding Everest at night. Next time!
After narrowly escaping the Yeti we took a relaxing walk to Africa. Melissa hadn’t had a cinnamon roll yet this trip and it was past time for that. While the anticipation of buying a cinnamon roll will drive some of you crazy, that’s where we’ll leave off this installment. The next installment will feature that cinnamon roll, Festival of the Lion King, and a surprising safari.
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