After a late night in Magic Kingdom, we were up fairly early the next morning to check out of Coronado Springs and head right back to the park. We dropped off our bags at Bell Services to be transferred to Pop Century, our hotel for that night, and then headed to Magic Kingdom.
By the time we were inside the park, time was somewhat limited before our brunch reservation. Even then, there’s always enough time to ride Space Mountain! Rubbing sleep from my eyes took away some of the worry that I was about to be hurled to my death on the coaster. In reality, Space Mountain doesn’t actually scare me. Shocking, I know, but I think I’ve been on it enough times to not worry.
In a previous installment, I wrote about how Merry Menagerie succeeds despite it being a low budget, simple decor. Space Mountain is far from a low budget attraction but stands the test of time due to a simple concept – an enclosed roller coaster with the lights off. Attractions continue to be more and more complex and that’s generally a good thing, ambition is better than a lack thereof. But some of the classics stand the test of time due to being a simple idea executed well. I guess the point I’m trying to get at is there are multiple ways to make something outstanding.
A big reason why we decided on going to WDW one last time before our Annual Passes expired was for one last brunch at California Grill. I’m aware of how ridiculous that statement is, there are plenty of incredible restaurants near where we live or in Disneyland. But our friends had made a reservation and we were eager to experience our favorite meal in Disney World again with them.
The meal did not disappoint and remains our favorite meal at Disney World and one of our favorite experiences overall. Comparing it to Victoria & Albert’s is tricky as the only thing they really have in common is that they’re expensive, nice meals. California Grill’s brunch is far more relaxed and at a much lower cost while still offering a wonderful upscale experience. It still feels elegant but a little bit of swanky pretense is dropped. This probably says more about me than either of the restaurants, and again they’re both extraordinary, but the California Grill brunch is a meal I’d like to go to over and over again while Victoria & Albert’s feels more like a once-in-a-lifetime thing.
After brunch we went around to check out the gingerbread houses at the Contemporary and Grand Floridian. They’re both impressive and worth checking out at Christmas time. Unsurprisingly, the Grand Floridian’s gingerbread model was a bit more grandiose with an actual shop inside of it. The tree wasn’t up at Grand Floridian yet, sadly, although I guess we got our fill of trees this trip.
We took a convoluted route to get to Pop Century, trying to avoid using buses. It worked out and gave us a bonus ride on the Skyliner! By the time we arrived at Pop our room was ready and we were waiting for our bags to get there to put on some warmer clothes. After sitting in our room for a while, Melissa ended up calling Bell Services. Instead of sending her to the actual Bell Services, the phone system sent her to the WDW call center where she sat on hold for 45 minutes. Growing frustrated and wanting to get to Epcot, I decided to just walk down there and check why our bags weren’t there. I was told that Coronado Springs had an issue getting their bags out that day and that they’d arrive in a couple of hours. One way or another, we were supposed to get a call about that issue but never did.
The whole thing was off-putting and I went over to Concierge to file a complaint. Thankfully, they were very accommodating and apologetic. They gave us a Disney gift card so that Melissa could buy some warmer clothes for the evening along with a token FastPass or two. I certainly understand that things happen and really I was never upset about the actual situation. What does frustrate me is that the phones in WDW’s hotel rooms redirect to a call center instead of the actual hotel. Outside of saving a nominal amount of money, I truly don’t understand this decision. It hurts the guest experience and I hope the action is reversed soon.
Armed with a decent amount of snack credits, some Disney gift cards and leaving a couple hours later than we anticipated, we were off for the night at Epcot. Looking for warmer clothes, we started in Mousegear and, oh boy, do I not like that place. It’s so crowded in that store and is the worst smelling place in Disney World. After about 10 minutes, I got out of dodge and went outside while Melissa shopped. I’m not usually claustrophobic but that night was an exception.
Eventually we moved on to Epcot Experience, the park’s new preview center in The Odyssey building. I realize that I’m going pretty negative for the last few paragraphs and I promise that the post will brighten up in a minute, but I was underwhelmed by Epcot Experience. Some of this may just be because of personal preference. I wanted to see models of future projects and more details. That’s a lot to ask for someone who keeps on the Disney Parks news daily. Still, the whole experience struck me as more flash than substance.
That said, I really liked all of the attraction posters. It was a nice mix of past, current and future attractions. That Spaceship Earth poster is fantastic.
The rest of the night was devoted to food and watching Epcot Forever. It was our last night of the Disney Dining Plan and we were saving up snack credits for the Food & Wine Festival, going with the food booths instead of a traditional dinner.
This is a favorite pastime at Epcot and is one of the more fun things to do in the park’s current state. If you’re at Epcot during a festival then this is easily the best use of snack credits from a value standpoint. Listing everything we ate isn’t all that interesting but a few of my favorites included the tostada in Mexico and a seafood soup from the Brazil booth.
We had less time than anticipated that night due to the suitcase disaster so the extra FastPass did us some good as we used it for Epcot Forever. I’ve already reviewed the show so I won’t dive deep into it here. There are times when the show works and pays homage to the ambitious theme park but there are some fatal flaws that end up making it a lackluster show.
We took our usual World Showcase stroll after the show ended. I really missed the Tapestry of Nations soundtrack playing as we walked. Change is inevitable of course but it will take a while to get used to that.
What won’t take any getting used to is taking the Skyliner back to a hotel from Epcot and Hollywood Studios. This is a such a pleasant change and experience and makes staying at a Skyliner resort incredibly appealing, especially with the gains that Hollywood Studios has made in the last year.
Our bags had arrived at the resort! We grabbed them, Melissa went to bed and I walked around to take a few photos in the cold night. Pop Century, or any of the values, doesn’t have my favorite aesthetic but there’s definitely some interesting objects to photograph. I also enjoy going out and taking photos while people are coming back from the parks. Some look utterly exhausted while others are still bouncing with energy. Before long, my energy was fading and I called it a night.
Our last morning at Disney World we started by taking our bags to Bell Services and then heading off to Spyglass Grill at Caribbean Beach for breakfast. This is a great option if you’re riding the Skyliner. After a little snafu finding the restaurant (it’s across the water from the Caribbean Beach Skyliner station) we sat with our excellent breakfast. I’m not usually one to compliment a counter-service breakfast but this was fantastic. I’ll have a review up shortly but go there so that they keep serving ambitious items!
We went to Epcot for the last few hours before our plane ride. Honestly, we didn’t do too much. The first place we stopped was the Canada theater that was a temporary Cider place for Food & Wine. This is totally outdated information now since a movie will be playing there in a matter of weeks, but the little center there was pretty cool.
Epcot is in absolute disarray right now thanks to construction walls all over Future World. Maybe that’s why those few hours hold next to no memories for me. The park isn’t especially fun to walk around right now outside of the usual World Showcase bliss. I am a big fan of this construction wall though!
In the long run, Epcot needed help and these renovations, additions and overhauls will reinvigorate the park in one way or another. In the short term, the park will be a frustrating endeavor. World Showcase still makes the park worth going to but expecting much from Future World is not wise at this point.
We wandered back through the beautiful Morocco Pavilion, taking in the alleys and corners. If Future World is a reason not to go to Epcot right now, Morocco is the opposite, offering substance and beauty, rewarding fans for exploring a little deeper.
We did a little bit of shopping and watched the drummers in the Japan Pavilion before heading off to lunch at Nine Dragons. A review is coming up soon but the restaurant is a decent lunch option if you’re on a budget.
After lunch, we walked around the Norway Pavilion for a while and then headed off to Soarin’ for one last ride before leaving Disney World. It was a little bittersweet as we knew we wouldn’t be back to WDW for a few years, as we plan for some different travels. There was some symbolism in ending our trip with Soarin’ that I didn’t pick up on at the time. I’m ready for a little break from Disney World, as there are moments where I’m more cynical about the resort than I should be.
Now a month removed from going, I know I’ll miss walking around Epcot at night or running around Magic Kingdom in the last hour of the park being open, trying to get on as many rides as possible. Hollywood Studios has transformed and become a park well worth going to. Then there’s Animal Kingdom, a place I’ve always adored and that’s inspired this blog and other travels. I’m looking forward to going back for the 50th anniversary and catching up!
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Categories: Trip Reports