Orlando, Part V: City of Tomorrow

“Dad, how is EPCOT different from the Magic Kingdom?”

“Well, I always think of it as the Magic Kingdom is for rides, and EPCOT is for walking and seeing what there is to see.”

“Uh, and what is there to see?”

“Characters! Characters as far as the eye can see!”

“Good, cuz there were hardly any in the Magic Kingdom”

Which was true, of course, though not too many people like to point that out ahead of time. If the Magic Kingdom is for inhaling the magic, then EPCOT is for bringing that magic to life and interacting with it. There were no fewer than 20 characters brought to life that we wanted to meet on that Wednesday when we rolled out of bed and got ourselves ready for Day 2 of our park journey. I’ll admit it was kind of sad to me that we would not be going back to the Magic Kingdom, but I was looking forward to the more expansive, more wide open EPCOT.

From the start, it was obvious it would be a different kind of trip that day. After parking in a smaller parking lot there was no need to ride the monorail as we were already there! Going through the gates was a much simpler process because there were fewer people and because we had gone through the procedure with the magic bands a couple of days before. We were veterans by that point, grabbing the wheelchair for Madeline and getting moving right away. Straight off I saw Pluto chilling, taking pictures with newly arriving guests.

It was a sign of things to come. After he put his paw over Alexa’s face, and we all laughed, we took a few pictures, he signed the girls’ autograph books (on his nose), and we took off for one of only four rides we would go on that day: Spaceship Earth. (Side note: I really missed not getting to see Captain EO, as it was the first place I went the last time I was at EPCOT, 25 years previously.) As at the Magic Kingdom, Madeline’s wheelchair and disability pass were very helpful in getting us on the ride quickly. Honestly, it would have been a far more difficult situation if we hadn’t had the disability pass.

My remembrances of the ride were pretty hazy, although I did smile at the places and parts I did recall from so long ago, and the kids loved it, which was the point. It wasn’t that fast, it was old school, and it made an indelible impression on them. Of course I was in a seat all by myself because of my long legs, but at least they let me on the ride (this wasn’t always the case throughout our trip).

The character bonanza continued when we headed out of Future Land. In the Epcot Character Spot we stood in line to finally get our pictures with Mickey, Goofy, and Minnie (all conveniently in one space). Mickey was first, and he was quite gracious. Even Madeline smiled and laughed when he was fooling around. Then it was on to Goofy who pretended to trip over his own big feet, and lastly Minnie, who Madeline really took to as well. In just under forty minutes we had already bested the haul of two characters we met in the Magic Kingdom.

Then it was on to The Seas: With Nemo & Friends. Funnily enough, Alexa and I had to sprint off to get a return time for Soarin’ Around the World while the rest of our party went to The Seas to get in line. We almost didn’t make it back in time to get on the ride, but we got our return time.

I’m glad we did, too, because as cute as The Seas was, Soarin’ was absolutely epic. I was worried I wasn’t going to be able to take it, as it’s a dizzying enterprise on a ride that really doesn’t go much of anywhere. But the 3D screen and the adjustments the seats made created a realistic experience that took my breath away. My mom remembered it from her last time there and probably enjoyed it the most because of how familiar it was to her, while it was the first time for the rest of us.

Once we were done on those two rides it was finally time for what I was most excited about: the World Showcase. I have always loved how it’s spread out in a circle, surrounding the huge lake, almost like you’re really going around the world (albeit a really small world). As with the Magic Kingdom, it was amazing to see so many photographers at all the good spots, and we were able to catch most of them with a small wait time. The Memory Maker came through again, as we were able to get all of us in so many pictures without resorting to leaving one out or asking a stranger to take one of us all.

Now, the plan, originally, was to do what we had done two days prior — enjoy the sights and rides, and by midday head off in order to return to the park at night, when it was invariably at least a little bit cooler. However, we realized pretty quickly it was probably going to be a bit of a longer day, considering the lines waiting for characters. Oh, and lunch. We made it to Italy in time to enjoy a delicious pizza cooked and served by authentic Italians. That’s one of the things I really love about the World Showcase, how each “nation” includes people from that region who work there.

I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about the Snow White debacle. We passed by Germany and saw her holding court, but she never stayed out there for very long, and the line was already cut off when we passed. We decided we would come back for the next scheduled time, but we missed it as we were having lunch in Italy. When we passed by again she wasn’t out, and we saw her next time was scheduled for when we decided we would head out and come back later. We never did get that picture with the ever popular Snow White.

But we did get photos with Daisy and Donald, who were hanging out in Mexico, he in a sombrero, she under a canopy. That completed the entire gang of the original Disney characters, which was a proud moment, for me anyway. After lunch we headed to the Frozen Ever After ride, which pretty much took us through the entire movie. It was well done, one of my favorite rides overall during the entire trip. Madeline was in her glory, and Alexa had a blast too.

Meeting Anna and Elsa (and having a dynamic time interacting with both of them) was another highlight of the trip. Those are great pictures because Madeline was still in her glory, the big Frozen fan that she is. She hugged them both enthusiastically and grinned from ear to ear throughout.

The rest of the day went by in a whirlwind, primarily because we never ended up leaving in the middle of the day, deciding instead to stick it out so we could meet more characters and add to the autograph books. Other characters we met included Jasmine & Aladdin, Princess Aurora, Beymax, and Joy & Sadness (from Inside Out). We also completed the trip around the world, passing through France, Morocco, and Japan (where we spent an inordinate amount of time in the store).

It was overall an amazing day, punctuated by a nighttime picture of mom and me in front of the giant, iconic Spaceship Earth sphere, but storm clouds were coming, not real storms but some members of our group were starting to feel a little unwell. I would be grateful once more for an in-between day after EPCOT. That’s all I’ll say.

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