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Monthly Archives: January 2009

Disneyworld: Epcot

We’ve been home from our Disneyworld “vacation” for nearly a week now, and it’s taken nearly that long to recover from all the FUN…

Robin has posted a good review of the trip on her blog. Overall we had a great time, although it was a bit stressful with colder weather, whining kids and so much to see and do in a limited time. I thought it would be fun to write a post reviewing each park and discussing the highlights and lowlights. Today’s post is on EPCOT.

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“Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow” (EPCOT) opened October 1, 1982. It is truly the most unique theme park in all the world. Walt Disney’s original  vision for the project is really fascinating. He wanted to create an actual living, breathing community of the future. There is an entire website devoted to Disney’s original vision for EPCOT, including a YouTube video with Walt himself explaining the amazing concept shortly before his death in 1966. To check out the site, click here.

The project as originally planned never came to fruition, but Epcot today is still a great tribute to American ingenuity, technology, energy and transportation, and educates guests about living in harmony with the land, sea and with other cultures throughout the world.  It’s the most “adult” of all the four theme parks at Walt Disneyworld, but is still fun for the whole family.

We were there on Tuesday, January 20 (inauguration day) and while it was sunny, it was fairly chilly too. We got there 20 minutes before it opened and we all couldn’t wait to go into the park. We were so excited!

Future World
The three big rides at EPCOT are Soarin’, Test Track and Mission Space. Brianna especially loved Soarin’, which is a relatively new ride in the “Land” pavilion at EPCOT, in which you feel like you’re soaring over California on a glider. The ride combines big screen arial shots with movement of your seat and simulated wind to give you the sensation of flight. Test Track, sponsored by GM, was being built the last time we were at EPCOT, which was 11 years ago while on our honeymoon. I have wanted to go on it ever since. In this ride, you’re in a car that is being “tested” on its safety features and its ability handle a variety of road conditions. I especially enjoyed the demonstration of the antilock breaks and the speed section. Mission Space is a simulator ride in which you go on a mission to Mars. Each rider has a role to play (Pilot, Engineer, Navigator or Commander). The ride simulates G force by spinning you around and has some fun special effects. However, I was somewhat underwhelmed by this one, but Parley really loved it.

World Showcase
World Showcase is EPCOT’s collection of 11 different countries surrounding a Lagoon. We didn’t venture into this area until late afternoon and the kids weren’t very interested in it, even if Robin and I were. There are two fairly tame rides in this area in Mexico and Norway, along with two Circle Vision movies in Canada and China. We caught part of the Chinese acrobats show, which was really cool.

We had planned to have dinner in Morocco at the Restaurant Marakesh, but by the time we arrived, we were 30 minutes late for our reservation and everyone was starving. And after looking at the menu prices ($25 – $35 per person), we opted for the fast food version of the restaurant. Same food, cheaper prices and faster service. Robin really wanted to try this one since she is always interested in trying new and exotic cuisine.

IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth
Our day ended huddled together for warmth in front of China, looking out onto the lake to see an amazing multi-media show called IllumiNations. On a barge in the lagoon was a huge spinning globe with cool video and lighting effects. Fountains, fireworks, lasers and fireballs were all timed to music and narration and was fantastic. The finale was great, although I wish we had been standing in another location to get a better view of all the “countries” surrounding the lake which lit up spectacularly at the end. Defininitely a must see.

If you go…

  • Get Fast Passes to the big rides early. This allows you to skip “stand-by” line and save a lot of time. You can get a Fast Pass for every ticket you have and it’s like making an appointment to come back later. Be sure to get your next Fast Pass as soon another one is available. (The time the next one will be available is printed on your current Fast Pass.) Even if it says to return between 12:10 and 1:10, you can actually come back anytime after 12:10 and they’ll accept it. It’s a great way to ensure you see the big rides without waiting in excruciatingly long lines. 
  • Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure is a great way for kids to enjoy the World Showcase’s countries. The kids get a cell phone-type communicator and participate in a scavenger hunt, finding clues and doing some interesting interactive things.
  • Turtle Talk with Crush is a great experience for the whole family. The sea turtle from “Finding Nemo” actually talks to the kids in a very interactive experience. We saw this at Disney’s California Adventure and it was hilarious each time.
  • Coral Reef Restaurant in “The Seas with Nemo and Friends” pavilion was fun. The atmosphere was unique as we dined next to an enormous aquarium and got to see fish, sharks and sea turtles swim by during lunch. The food was okay, but nothing to get too excited about.
  • The American Adventure show was an inspiring history lesson hosted by audio-animatronic Ben Franklin and Mark Twain. However, those robot facsimiles of people start to get old after a while. The kids were faily bored with that one. Lily fell asleep (which was a good thing).
  • Spaceship Earth (the big Epcot landmark that looks like a giant golf ball), was re-imagined  in 2008 and has some fun new features including a touch screen computer in each car that makes the experience more interactive and fun. Again, lots of audio-animatronics, but new narration done by Judy Dench.
  • The “Innoventions” pavilion has a great attraction where a camera captures video of guests running and jumping and then puts them in as characters in a video game which they can then play. My kids LOVED that.
  • Be sure to take breaks and keep some snacks on hand to keep the kids happy.

Next up… Magic Kingdom!

(Here’s a cute picture taken just before entering Epcot…)

epcot

 
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Posted by on January 30, 2009 in Trips

 

“I’m Going to Disneyworld”

disneyworld

“I’m Going to Disneyworld!!!”

Those words have become part of the lexicon of pop culture. When sports stars reach the pinnacle of achievement, what better way to reward themselves that to visit the vacation capital of the world?! What better way, indeed?

Nearly 12 years ago, Robin and I were planning our honeymoon. We thought about driving to Yellowstone or Jackson Hole, two of my favorite places in the world. Then a co-worker of mine told me about fares to Orlando for $139 round trip. It sounded too good to be true. But I called the reservation line, and soon I was booking a flight for both of us in late August. We spent one day in the Magic Kingdom and one day at EPCOT. It was hot, humid and crowded, but we had a great time (especially at EPCOT). Six months later we returned to Orlando with Robin’s company and went to Magic Kingdom, EPCOT and Magic Kingdom. It was in February and the weather wasn’t as good. It was actually colder in Orlando than it was in Salt Lake that week.

Ever since then, we’ve always wanted to take our children to this magical place. We told Parley that it was our goal to go back there as a family by the time he was 12 years old. That’s because it’s so expensive. Taking the whole family for a week would cost at least $5,000.

Well, through a series of fortunate events, we got some travel vouchers from Delta and found some round-trip, non-stop fares for $220, resulting in five free tickets. What a lucky break! So we booked the trip during Disney’s off season, hoping to enjoy cooler (but not cold) weather and fewer crowds. The kids are off track too and one of the days I’m on vacation is a holiday, Martin Luther King Day. I’m hoping to keep costs to less than $2,500 for six nights in hotels, food for seven days for five people, rental minivan and tickets to Disneyworld and the Kennedy Space Center. The weather is supposed to be in the low 60s and gradually warming to 77 by Sunday. Gotta love that!

Our plan is to travel on Monday, visit EPCOT on Tuesday, Magic Kingdom on Wednesday, Disney’s Hollywood Studios on Thursday and Animal Kingdom on Friday. The four-day base tickets we bought came with a fifth day for free, so we might go back for half day on Saturday to whichever park we didn’t get enough of. (Of course, we may be so sick of Disney by then that we want to run away, but I doubt it.) We’ll drive to Coco Beach and see the Kennedy Space Center before flying back to SLC on Sunday.

Again, we’ll probably need a vacation from our vacation, but I’m sure we’ll have a good time, provided that we don’t push the little ones too hard. Speaking of which, we decided to leave baby James with some of our relatives. I didn’t like the idea initially, but Robin convinced me that it will be much easier without him. We will be able to ride the rides together and not have to lug around a stroller, car seat, diapers, etc. We won’t have to worry about accommodating his nap time or trying to control his wanderlust during the shows and activities.

Our flight leaves at 9:50 Monday morning. Disneyworld, here we come!

 
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Posted by on January 18, 2009 in Trips

 

Don’t Knock the Beard

It’s been two weeks since my play ended and I shaved my beard. It’s nice to have a cleanly shaved face and short, easy to manage hair. Robin seems more willing to kiss me and I once again look like a sharp banker. However, some have lamented the loss of my beard. My bearded brother-in-law Chris wrote the following comment which I had to repost here because it made me laugh out loud. He writes:

“I liked the beard and the hair could’ve worked too with the right shaping (that sounded pretty gay didn’t it?). I wish you had the freedom to grow it without needing to be in a play because it really suited you. I also think you need to learn to accept your beard and not treat it like a second-class body part that is only good for being a stage prop when it is trying so hard to make you look good and keep your face warm. Consider the feelings of your beard Andrew. It wants to be handsome and useful yet you discard it immediately after your shepard’s role is finished.”

 
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Posted by on January 9, 2009 in Silly Stuff