February 2013 Florida road trip – part 5

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

photo by Kristen

We started our Disney adventure at EPCOT. We figured that this would be the least intimidating park so it would ease the boys into the Disney experience. It’s the largest park with lots of open space so it’s less crowded and not overwhelmingly overrun with characters. Plus, we assumed that the boys would enjoy Magic Kingdom more so we didn’t want EPCOT to be a let-down if we visited Magic Kingdom first! We wanted to keep our schedule flexible (anything we do with a two-year-old needs to be flexible!) while still making sure we saw all of the main attractions since we had lots of ground to cover in just one day. We arrived just as the park gates were opening at 9:00 AM and since World Showcase didn’t open for another two hours, we had a solid plan for covering Future World first.

a two stroller day – photo by Kristen

We started at Soarin’ in The Land since it’s one of the most popular attractions (translation: longest line) so we hit the line first while it was the shortest it would be all day. Jasper was too vertically challenged to ride so he waited with Daddy outside. Gmummy, Aunt Kristen, and I accompanied Gavin on his first-ever Disney ride! I held his hand the entire time and told him to sit criss-cross applesauce in his hang glider seat instead of dangling his feet over the edge to make it less scary. He loved it! We took advantage of the Ride Swap perk for adults accompanying children too small to ride when the ride was over and Jeff and Kristen (again) were able to jump onto the FastPass return line and walk on with little wait. While they rode, the boys, Gmummy, and I went on Livin’ With The Land – Jasper’s first-ever Disney ride! They both thoroughly enjoyed this slow boat ride.

Next, we grabbed FastPasses for Test Track and headed to Spaceship Earth. No matter how many times we correct him, Jasper calls this “The Spaceship of Earth.” Jasper wasn’t thrilled during the dark parts of this ride, but cuddled beside me the entire time. We shared a time machine vehicle with Daddy and Gavin in the back.

As expected, our FastPass return time window had just opened so we returned to Test Track (I had an immense feeling of planning satisfaction that this whole FastPass plan worked!). Again, Jasper was too short, but Gavin surprised us by being unintimidated by the racing cars and screaming riders on the outside track (even after we told him, “Do you hear those people screaming because the car is driving so fast?” so that he understood!). Test Track was recently redesigned so it was like being on a new ride for all of us. Gavin wasn’t scared during the ride, even during the fast track outside, but he told us he didn’t want to go on it again. Kristen and Gmummy had watched Jasper while we rode, so we switched  and looked at all of the new Chevys in the ride exit area while they enjoyed the ride. I think the boys enjoyed sitting in all of the new cars more than the actual ride!

Gavin designing our test car…

We opt to take a picture of the picture instead of buying the snapshots for sale because we’re classy like that…

By now, World Showcase was open and, thanks to our planning, we were just around the corner from starting our journey in Mexico. I’ll note here that Jasper’s diaper was changed at this juncture only because I used the awesome baby care center at the Odyssey. Never visiting Disney World with a toddler before, I had no idea that each park had one of these luxurious baby centers that featured the largest and most comfortable changing tables I’ve ever seen, small movie viewing room for kids who just need a quiet break, kitchen with microwaves and kid snacks for sale, small dining area to eat snacks… really amazing place!

With so many delicious food choices around World Showcase, we knew we didn’t want to load up on a heavy meal at any one location, so we chose to eat our way around the world! It was nearing lunch time, so we began a with small mid-day meal of loaded nachos and tacos on the Mexican waterfront at La Cantina de San Angel.

photo by Kristen

We remembered that we wanted to document our “eating around the world” adventure only after we were nearly done with our Mexican mini-lunch. We were really hungry!

We purchased each of the boys a Disney autograph book, planning on requesting an autograph from one cast member in each of the countries around World Showcase. I’d read about this activity on many “EPCOT tips with toddlers” web sites in hopes that it would make World Showcase a little more fun for the boys since they’re really too young to appreciate the architecture, shops, and entertainment that the countries offer. While eating in Mexico, a custodial cast member happily assisted us by cleaning fresh bird doo-doo off our table and left his post to bring me two large cups of ice water when I merely requested the location of the nearest water fountain to refill our water bottles. Immediately, I knew that Leo should be our representative from Mexico! I helped the boys ask him for his autograph and he was thrilled to sign for them!

photos by Kristen

We continued our visit in Mexico by taking the Gran Fiesta Tour boat ride. This is a slow boat ride inside the enclosed pavilion featuring Donald Duck and the Three Caballeros. The boys enjoyed this, as they enjoyed every slow-moving boat ride at the parks!

Next up was Norway. In years past, we’d wait up to a full hour in the hot, outdoor queue and then inside. On this day, we literally walked right onto the ride. It almost made us a little sad to see what was once among the park’s most popular attractions go practically unnoticed by guests. As expected, the boys weren’t thrilled with this ride. It’s a little dark at times, a little loud, a little fast, a little scary (polar bears!), and maybe even a little wet. But they need to step out of their comfort zones occasionally and I knew this ride would stretch their comfort level while not being too scary. Neither was begging to ride again but I know in a couple of years they’ll love this ride! The movie afterward is always one of our favorites and the odd-looking seats are actually extremely comfortable.

It wasn’t much past noon, but we were ready for our first snack of the day. Norway’s Kringla Bakeri Og Kafe serves one of our favorite foods in all of Disney World – school bread! I still remember the first time we ever visited this cafe when none of the selections seemed to stand apart from the rest so we asked the cast member behind the counter what she recommended. Without hesitation, her answer was, “school bread!” Since then, eating school bread has been at the top of our EPCOT “must do” list every time we have visited! It was just as delicious as we all remembered.

photos by Kristen


photo by Kristen

photos by Kristen

We passed by China, beat a few drums at the African outpost, walked through some of the shops in Germany, and grabbed a signature in Italy before settling in at The American Adventure. Outside, a patriot fife and drum band was playing and we followed them inside after they concluded, taking a seat on the floor around the inner oval and waited for the Voices of Liberty.

Their sound was incredible, as usual, and the boys behaved so well for their up-close-and-personal concert. We’d continued collecting signatures along the way and chose one of the singers for our America signature.

photos by Kristen

We filed into the theater and chose seats up front so the boys could see the animatronic figures easily. Jasper quickly tired in the darkness and eventually fell asleep in my lap. Even after the show concluded and I jostled him around to a more secure position over my shoulder, he didn’t wake up! For a boy stopped taking afternoon naps long ago, he was in a surprisingly deep sleep!

We transferred him to the stroller and continued on to Japan, the country with the largest shopping mall on the lagoon. Kristen had been begging us to try sushi for several months and decided that EPCOT’s Japan would be the perfect place for our first taste. We shared a plate of California rolls at the Katsura Grill. I’ll admit that they were delicious, but still don’t understand why so many people go ga ga for sushi! I really adore the Japanese pavilion now that I’m older, though. I don’t recall ever spending much time there when we were younger (we usually skipped the countries that only offered food and shopping without any attractions), but the grounds are beautiful, the shopping is fantastic, and now we know that there is great food, too!

At this point, we gave up on the quest for autographs. The boys were disinterested after the first two or three and too shy to ask. So, we quit seeking out the KidCot tables where we obtained the remaining autographs and saved their books for any Disney characters we might bump into along the way.

Up next was the pièce de résistance: France! This is by far my favorite country at EPCOT – the movie (my favorite attraction at the park), food, and architecture with beautiful gardens are incredible! Jasper woke up when we arrived at the Impressions de France movie and I extracted him from the stroller. Inside the theater, I urged him to rest his head on my shoulder. He kept stirring because he couldn’t turn completely away from the 180-degree screen, but he quietly rested the entire time. Both boys were so well-behaved in all of the movie theaters we visited at EPCOT, particularly at this France movie which has little commentary and is mostly gorgeous French classical music, often quiet and exposed. It’s easy for little ones to get restless and we’ve watched often when other kids have started making a fuss. I was so proud of them!

Out in the daylight, Jasper was now fully awake from his afternoon nap as we visited the newly renovated pastry shop for more goodies. The boys each got huge chocolate chip cookies while Jeff and I shared a delicious almond pastry and Kristen and Mom shared a couple of desserts. Rather than eat in the crowded dining hall or cramped tables just outside, we brought our goodies over to the park beside the International Gateway waterway. It was a lovely, quiet place to enjoy our sugar-filled French goodies.

The sun was getting lower in the sky so we hustled through the rest of World Showcase, stopping for some shopping in the United Kingdom where we stumbled upon a Pooh and Tigger character meet and greet (and the boys actually wanted to meet them and get signatures but not pose for photos!) and passing by Canada. As we were standing in the brief line to meet Pooh and Tigger, Gavin told me he wanted to know what Pooh’s foot felt like. Sure enough, when it was his turn, he crouched down and touched his plush foot while Pooh signed his book!

Back in Future World, Captain EO was next on our list. Oh, how we were thrilled that this movie had returned! We knew the boys wouldn’t be interested in a loud 3D movie, so Jeff took them on the Journey Into Imagination ride right next door while Kristen, Mom, and I watched the movie. Just recently, Gavin told me, “When we were on the imagination ride with Daddy, Figment wanted us to listen with our imagination instead of our ears.” Weeks later, he’s still mentioning little moments like this from the trip!

photos by Kristen

After an afternoon of sporadic snacks, we were ready for a real meal so we returned to The Land for dinner at Sunshine Seasons. We usually end up eating one meal there every time we visit EPCOT because of the large selection and relatively healthy options. We enjoyed chicken and rice dishes from the Asian counter.

And now, this is where our perfect EPCOT day came crashing down to a disappointing end. Well, it wasn’t that dramatic, but part of the general plan that I mentioned three hours ago in the first paragraph of his blog entry was that we would save The Seas With Nemo and Friends for the end of the day. The pavilion is at the front of the park, so it should either be done first or last and we quickly decided to close the day with Nemo because, even if the boys were really tired, they would still likely want to visit Nemo at an aquarium. It seemed like the perfect plan … until we arrived at the entrance to The Seas just a few minutes past 7:00 PM and were told that the attraction closes at 7:00 PM. AAHHH! In all my planning (and I spent a LOT of time planning!) I never noticed an earlier closing time for The Seas.

They look a little tired … ha!

Fortunately, the boys were quite tired and seemed more confused than disappointed that I’d been talking about “going to find Nemo” for the previous hour and now we weren’t. Instead, we closed our EPCOT day with a trip to the park’s largest gift shop, Mouse Gear, for souvenirs. The boys were allowed to choose one souvenir for each day at the parks. Today, Gavin chose a plush Lightning McQueen that he’d seen earlier in the day at the Test Track gift shop and, after a few initial selections, Jasper finally decided on a stuffed Rex.

Jeff, Gmummy, and the boys headed back to the car and the hotel while Kristen and I stayed to explore World Showcase after dark and take photos. We didn’t want to get stuck in the Illuminations crowd, so we just visited the UK again and returned to France. Finally, we headed back to Test Track one more time to ride in the dark and then drove back to the hotel before the boys were even asleep.

The UK at night…

On to beautiful France…

Our rooms at the hotel had connecting doors which was wonderful on these evenings when we could visit between the rooms. We could read bedtime stories to the boys and then they could head right next door for good night hugs and kisses! In our room, Jeff and I shared a king bed with Jasper (which went surprisingly well – he never kicked us or woke us up once!) while Gavin slept on a folding bed. Within five minutes of lights out, the exhausted boys were both asleep.

Daily Disney Summary – Day 1: EPCOT

  1. Soarin’
  2. Livin’ With The Land
  3. Spaceship Earth
  4. Test Track
  5. Mexico – lunch at La Cantina de San Angel
  6. Mexico – Gran Fiesta Tour
  7. Norway – Maelstrom
  8. Norway – snack at Kringla Bakeri Og Kafe
  9. Germany – shopping
  10. The American Adventure
  11. Japan – shopping and sushi at Katsura Grill
  12. France – Impressions de France
  13. France – snack at Les Halles Boulangerie & Patisserie
  14. United Kingdom – shopping and Winnie the Pooh character meeting
  15. Captain EO/Journey Into Imagination
  16. The Land – dinner at Sunshine Seasons
  17. Mouse Gear shopping
  18. Pictures and Test Track again for Kristen and Traci
Total distance: 9.18 mi
Max elevation: 223 ft
Min elevation: -417 ft
Total climbing: 3048 ft
Total descent: -3061 ft
Total Time: 11:24:09

5 Responses to February 2013 Florida road trip – part 5

  1. kristind says:

    Beautiful photos of Epcot! I’ll throw my two cents in as well about the baby centers in each of the four Disney parks….they are a wonderful feature! Traci is right – the changing tables are huge and there’s cold water available for a refreshing and free drink and a private bathroom, which is perfect for potty-training toddlers. The best part is a lot of people don’t know about them so they’re never very crowded. It’s the perfect place to take care of baby and toddler business and catch a quiet moment away from the crowds.

  2. saraharmstrong says:

    9 miles! Holy cow, I never would have guessed it was that long. How far did you walk in the Magic Kingdom? I hadn’t been planning on taking a stroller when we go next month, but maybe I need to rethink that!!

    • jenandroy says:

      This is about as close to Disney World that we’ll get, so thanks for sharing. Looks like you had a blast. We’ve been to Disneyland many times and loved it, so I’m sure Disney World is an awesome place to visit, too. Miss you all.

    • Traci says:

      Magic Kingdom is much smaller than EPCOT (half the size, I think) and we only brought a stroller for Gavin one of the two days we’re there. I’d say you can probably skip it for Piper. There are stroller parking areas scattered around the park, so you end up parking it and then walk to 4-5 rides nearby anyway. There was just one place to park strollers in Fantasyland, so we were actually stroller-less for several hours while we went on the rides there. There’s much more space at EPCOT so you can basically park strollers in front of each attraction, but I really got tired of searching for the designated parking areas at Magic Kingdom!

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