Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Green Organic Family Visits Walt Disney World - Part 5 - EPCOT

Continued from Part 4 - Disney's Hollywood Studios

We were in for another fun-filled day when we arrived at EPCOT.  Here we were, standing in front of the infamous giant... golf ball?  I don't know.  But it's cool looking!!

EPCOT is another one of those endless, sprawling parks that is impossible to cover in a single day.  Out of the four parks, I would have to say that EPCOT is probably the best choice for a big family.  There are so many attractions that would appeal to everybody from toddlers to grandma and grandpa.

EPCOT is comprised of "Future World", made up of many sit-down, air-conditioned rides and shows, and exhibits, and the "World Showcase", the more famous part, consisting of re-creations of eleven nation, surrounding a huge lagoon.  You can take a rocket to space, and then see a Mayan pyramid, all in the same day. 

We started our day out in Future World.  I can't even begin to describe all there is to do.  We even missed several attractions, as we only had one day at this park, and still wanted to make time for the World Showcase.  One of our favorites early in the day, was "Ellen's Energy Adventure"; a 45-minute show hosted by Ellen Degeneres.  It's a combination ride/show.  A word of warning: children frightened by large animatronic creatures should probably pass on this one.  Green Organic Girl did just fine on this one, and I was pleased that this show was all about conserving energy.  It gets a green, organic thumbs up :)

After watching some family vacation videos posted on YouTube, I was really eager to take the little one over to "The Seas with Nemo and Friends".   This building is packed with exhibits, all sorts of sea life, and two very popular attractions which I was very eager for Green Organic Girl to see.  We enjoyed two turns, seated in a giant clam shell, watching a 10-minute ride version of "Finding Nemo".  Very cute, lots of fun for us parents and the little one, and not scary at all.

The next is an innovative and funny show; probably the most high-tech interactive puppet show out there: Turtle Talk with Crush.  Crush is the hilarious "surfer dude" sea turtle from the Finding Nemo movie.  You and your children enter a "people tank" and sit in front of a giant screen ... err... glass window, looking out on the ocean floor.  The host instructs everyone to call out to Crush, and invite him over to chat.  And that he does!  Almost like watching the movie, an animated Crush swims up to the screen, and greets the group!  The host goes around the room, and lets children (and parents) ask Crush questions.  Then some very high-tech digital puppeteering and a real actor as the voice of Crush, respond in real time!  After seeing some YouTube videos of some of these chat sessions, it appears they are very different each time, with some unexpected antics and possible appearances by other sea creatures during your 10-minute chat.  It's seamless, so realistic (as far as cartoon sea turtles go), and full of laughs.  This is definitely worth taking your children to, and I'm sure you'll get a kick out of it, too!  This was one of our favorite pavillions over all.  Just watch out for sharks.

After visiting Nemo, it was close to the return time for hubby to use his FastPass tickets to get on Mission: Space and Fast Track; two fast-paced rides, a little too intense for the little one.  So, we decided to meet up later at the Electric Umbrella for another burger-and-fries lunch.  Now, had I known beforehand, we would have headed straight over to the cafeteria over at The Land pavillion, for much healthier lunch options.  The Sunshine Seasons cafeteria on the lower level of The Land pavillion is HUGE!  There is plenty of seating, and I saw several tour groups, wearing matching t-shirts, occupying several tables at once.  But there was still plenty of room, and lots of cleaning staff, keeping tables immediately available.  This would be a great spot to stop and eat your own food brought from home, too.  It's wide open, with lots of people-watching opportunity.  The food at Sunshine Seasons is fantastic.  There's just an amazing assortment: fresh homemade soups, salads, stir fries, noodles, sandwiches, bakery items, frozen treats, and the largest selection of drinks (including beer and wine) out of all the parks.  The prices are standard park prices, like $3.99 for the homemade vegetable soup I had for a snack later in the day, which BTW was just perfectly made and hit the spot.  I really do think that this cafeteria would make the perfect organic food venue, tying in with the nature theme of this pavillion.  I hope that's something Disney will consider doing.

Back to our lunch, poor hubby was a little green by the time he met us at the Electric Umbrella, but he did enjoy his two adrenaline-rush rides.  When his stomach settled, he had his burger, and then we were off to The Land pavillion for more shows, and of course, our late afternoon snack.  We headed over to the "Circle of Life"; another sit-down show.  Another green plus for Disney!  The Circle of Life show is a movie, hosted by Simba, Timon, and Pumbaa from The Lion King, as Simba takes his "entrepreneurial" friends on an environmental awareness adventure.  Now, I really enjoyed it, and I'm sure it was a combination of it being just after lunch, and nice and dark and cool, because Green Organic Girl and Green Organic Dad fell asleep.  I don't know how -- it was rather loud!  Oh well. I watched the whole thing and thought it was very well put together.

The next show we headed off to was Soarin'; a hang-glider simulation ride.  It's not scary at all.  It's an exhiliarating adventure, as you sit in a row of special seats, with your feet dangling, and you're carried around and pitched and spun against a giant video screen, to simulate flying.  The three of us really enjoyed it, and had we had extra time, we would have lined up for a second round.

By this time, we figured to head over into the World Showcase, and do some leisurely walking around, before picking a place for dinner.  I guess we took the back door in, and started out in Canada, my home country!  Well, not really.  LOL!  It was a miniature approximation, but not really a true depiction of life in  Canada.  We stopped and enjoyed live music from the band "Off Kilter", as they entertained everybody in their kilts, and continued on to the United Kingdom.

I loved the little shops in the United Kingdom!  The one tea shop even carried Twinnings tea in K-cups!  WOOHOO :)  My parents are from Hong Kong, a former British colony; so growing up, visiting relatives brought a lot of British goodies as gifts.  So I was super excited when I saw that this tea shop also had all sorts of British snacks available! I haven't eaten these in years -- all sorts of biscuits, Curly Wurly, Ripple... mmm!!  Too bad I've developed a milk protein allergy since.  *sigh*  That's okay... not like I need to eat more junk food ;)

Our next stop was France, and Green Organic Girl was in for a special treat.  One of the street vendors was selling custom-designed, hand-painted parasols!  Green Organic Girl has a special place in her heart for anything to do with umbrellas and balloons.  There were sample pictures to choose from, so we selected a mini parasol, which includes her name and flowers hand-painted on the panels.  For $5 extra, additional designs were available -- unicorns, Cinderella's castle, ladybugs, all sorts of things.  As this was Green Organic Girl's special custom souvenir from her very first trip to Disney World, I chose images of the Mickey ears balloons to be painted on two of the parasol's panels.  The finished parasol was ready in an hour, and it was lovely!!  For $21, this adorable personalized souvenir was well worth it. It's a unique way for our little one to remember this vacation :)

We continued walking through Morocco, and then arrived in Japan.  This is where we spent the most amount of time.  We got there just in time, and caught one of the live performances by three drummers.  They had so much energy!!  Highly entertaining show :)  By then, it had started to rain, so we ducked inside the gift shop.  This was no ordinary gift shop.  It was almost like a mini department store, full of all sorts of Japanese knick-knacks.  We're talking Hello Kitty everything, anime shirts, toys, and posters, Japanese swords, and the cutest little wind-up toys, which kept the little one amused while we waited for the rain to stop.  Well, the rain didn't want to let up, so we figured to have some dinner.  We dashed across the way, up the stairs to Yakitori House, for some teriyaki.  Now, I've eaten my fair share of Japanese food; from mall food, to upscale.  Yakitori House is right around "mall food" quality, at Disney prices.  I was a little peeved that the side of veggies were nothing but cheap grocery store frozen vegetable mix.  Peas, corn, carrots, and beans.  Exactly what is Japanese about that?  Some iceberg lettuce with some miso dressing would have been more appropriate.  Oh well.  We hung around Japan a little while longer, waiting out the rain, stopping to buy some Japanese lollipops, which I haven't eaten since I was probably seven years old.  They brought back memories :)

By the time the rain tapered off, it was getting dark, so we continued on our way, in search of a good spot to sit and be ready for the nightly IllumiNations fireworks closing ceremony, that occurs in and above the lagoon.  Our guidebooks said to find a spot early, but they didn't tell us that the better locations are closer to the other side of World Showcase; Mexico and Norway.  It was almost showtime, as pre-recorded announcements started to play, advising guests to find a seat.  Huge gas torches started to light, all around the lagoon.  We did find a decent spot in Germany, but it was near a torch that wasn't lit, and was spilling out natural gas.  People were sitting all around this, breathing in the gas.  Nobody could smell this??  I kept my eyes open for a Cast Member, to advise them of the gas, but at this point in the day, it appeared they were all gone somewhere, getting ready for the park's closing.  So, we decided to sit elsewhere, and headed back over by China.  We found some bench seating, but our line of sight was obscured a little bit by some trees.  No big deal.  It's a BIG show, and it is absolutely phenomenal.  Don't miss this one!!

By the end of it, we were tired, and ready to go back to the hotel.  We followed the crowds toward the main entrance, only to be waved into one of the giant gift shops by store staff.  Okay, I guess the gift shops stay open later than the rest of the park.  That was probably a good idea, as everybody was heading out at this time, and we would have had a long wait for a shuttle.  So, this was when we did our big souvenir run, and took advantage of the 10% off a $50 or more purchase by using our Disney Chase Visa card.

This was our last night at our resort at Old Key West, so we boarded the shuttle, and headed back to rest up.  Tomorrow would be full of packing, and then off to the Animal Kingdom, before heading home.  Did we really have to go home?  Couldn't we just stay a little longer?  We were having so much fun :)

To be continued in Part 6.

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