A couple of weekends ago, my wife and I flew down to Orlando to take my parents to Epcot for the day. What we found, was something I had an inkling of from past trips, that is: Disney is more than just rides!
We ended up getting hotel rooms at the Dolphin hotel, which is on property, but is a SPG property – it ended up being an excellent choice, aside from the resort fee, which is a disturbing trend that does not seem to be slowing. One benefit however, is that if you do end up paying for parking at the hotel you can get standard parking at one of the parks. This is a huge benefit if you have a multi-day pass, because you can check out of your hotel and still enjoy a park for the day, and assuming you move your car, you can leave right from that park.
The reason we had chosen the Dolphin, other than the SPG sync up–which netted us a few free drinks and rooms ready when we arrived first thing in the morning–was because it is part of the group of hotels between Hollywood Studios–yet I’ll always know it as MGM Studios–and Epcot. It’s less than a 12 minute walk, if you are so bold, and if you aren’t, there’s a boat–and who doesn’t love a boat ride? We even got lucky on our evening ride back to the park to see a rocket launch out of Cape Canaveral.
The infrastructure that Disney has put in place, and continues to put in place makes a huge difference for staying on property. That might sound like a no brainer, but, it really changes the day.
A day at Disney’s Epcot
We had chosen Epcot for a number of reasons; mostly because we were there to celebrate my mom’s birthday and she wanted to go to Epcot. It was an excellent choice, given that the Flower and Garden festival is currently running (I think through early May). My friend Ed wrote a post last week that got me really looking forward to this visit–and it had nothing to do with the rides! You see, in addition to amazing flower arrangements and designs, they have a variety of special authentic cuisine on offer.
Don’t get me wrong, there were definitely some cool flowers, plants, and characters!
Figment perhaps had the best location with Spaceship Earth as a backdrop.
In fact, even Captain Hook and Peter Pan made appearances!
But the food, wine, and beer options were wonderful. There were great options, like fried cauliflower and kabobs in Morocco:
Beef tenderloin tips in Canada:
Each “booth” had a different menu, like this at the United Kingdom’s Cider House:
Or a wonderful taste of Marrakesh (the Fried Cauliflower was a great choice!)
You can find the full menu of all the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival here.
Full disclosure – this is the first time that my wife and I had been to Epcot since grad school. Back then we had an annual, Florida resident pass – we’d literally drive down I-4 for a ride or two and dinner, or sometimes just to ride Mission Space (or Aerosmith, or a brief Star Tour….).
We rode 3 awesome rides. Not only that, but all 3 rides were different than we remembered them from over a decade ago. My mother’s #1 ride was Frozen – so much so that she made a beeline for it. I have to say – having remembered the old maelstrom, I thought the ride was rather well done in adaptation to the movie.
Our second ride was the Test Track. It was completely on a whim, considering we had remembered the old version with the heat test and the Belgium blocks (not the greatest for a bad back). I’m glad to report that it has been updated, with more speed, some curves, and thankfully, no Belgium blocks!
Like many, we sought air conditioning in the heat of the afternoon… Our final ride came at night. After dinner, my father, wife and I ventured back to the park and made our way to Soarin’. That was also new for us, and rather special. We’ve been awfully blessed with so many travel opportunities. Here we are on this ride, Soarin’ by the Eiffel Tower, through Sydney Harbour, Taj Mahal, and so many other places, more often than not I was thinking “wow, this looks great from above” then “but I remember this from the ground” or from this vantage point or another. If anything, Soarin’, which was really well done, reminded me of how truly blessed my family and I are, in that many of the places we “flew” over, we had seen with our own eyes as well!
Wrapping up: Disney is more than just rides!
While the rides were quite enjoyable, the real value for us on our one day visit to Epcot was spending time with family, and enjoying the flower and garden festival. The Flower and Garden festival brought so many interesting foods, beers, wines, and flowers into the art of the possible for a significantly larger population. The care and quality that Disney takes in everything they do, is very clear and present in the Flower and Garden festival. The food, wine, and beer are definitely worth a visit and give a view into the cultures from which they came. Bottom line: Disney is more than just rides!
Have you been to Disney’s Epcot Flower and Garden Festival?