By Erik Johnson
Here we go. Last day! It’s always a tough part of your Disney vacation. Have you gotten everything done? Bought all the souvenirs for yourself and everybody else? What last items do you need to check off that Disney list?
In our case, we had yet to visit our favorite park, Epcot. Simple choice. We spend the day grazing on food and heading toward that evening meal at Japan’s hibachi grill, Teppan Edo. It’s another day that will feel all-too-short, so let’s get started!
If you have ever been to Epcot at all, but especially during one of their festivals, you are probably used to my term “grazing.” In addition to the many fine food choices around the World Showcase, guests can visit multiple kiosks scattered around the lagoon. These smaller meals are generally designed so you can enjoy many, sharing them, with your family and friends. You wander the virtual earth in a state of perpetual not-quite-satiety. It’s fun and it allows you to try many food items you might never order off a menu.
The problem with this model during pandemic times is the way we have to responsibly eat and drink around other people. Epcot invites you to stroll around its 1.2 miles of World Showcase while you sip on your drink. Current rules require you to stay put, eating and drinking with your mask off only while stationary.
Thankfully, Epcot has done a great job of adding in more tables and benches where you can enjoy your tiny meals. The Epcot Food and Wine Festival this year is greatly reduced in scope with approximately half of the kiosks we normally see. This makes sense financially, but it also opens up a lot of physical space. Walkways are less crowded and tables are everywhere. I never had to look far for a place to eat.
It still took some retraining my brain, as in all things mask-related. I found this issue at the other parks as well, but I ate so much and so often at Epcot that these lessons were reinforced. Pulling over for a sip of water is easy enough. I found myself ordering smaller tastes of drinks just so I could finish up earlier and not have to carry a beer I could not drink without stopping. Less beer is probably a good thing anyway!
Some tips for the day! If you happen to come in through the International Gateway by virtue of staying at one of the Epcot-adjacent resorts like Boardwalk or by traveling via Skyliner, you are in luck. You are right in the middle of the action! The park does not currently open until 11 am, which is when the World Showcase usually opens for food and drink anyway. Start your morning with a mimosa or grab some of those sought-after dishes from a busy kiosk like Hawaii before the rest of the crowd joins you.
Coming in through the front gate, you have a bewildering array of choices due to the ongoing construction. Avoid Spaceship Earth first thing in the morning. When we came back around 3 pm, there was zero line. Figure out where you want to go first. Follow the signs and construction walls because there is almost no view once inside. If you’re headed for Soarin’, go to the right. If you want to get to World Showcase, you can choose either direction, but don’t expect a straight walk through!
Take time to see some of the shows at Epcot. The Wonders of China is a great film shot in 360 degrees. The original is still playing, but a new version is coming soon. The theater in China also boasts it’s the coldest room in Epcot and I believe it. Impressions de France and the Beauty and the Beast Singalong play in the French pavilion. Canada hosts a new 360-degree film as well. The American Adventure still runs its impressive animatronic American history show. All of these are great ways to take a break in a cool space for a bit. All have plenty of space and areas marked for appropriate physical distance.
You can also stop by the America Gardens Theater for a quick show! Epcot hosts some great musicians during its festivals, but few bands are traveling right now. What to do? Epcot showcases its internal music acts with the excellent Mariachi Cobre and JAMMitors. Mariachi Cobre brings out their entire ensemble of nine to entertain with traditional Mexican songs mixed with some Disney favorites. The JAMMitors are in their chef’s gear for a percussive demonstration on pots and pans. They sing and dance around as they drum for a high-energy experience. It’s great to see such good musical talent finally take center stage. Each set is short and the two bands rotate back and forth, so you can get a great show without too much wait!
Epcot has some great ways to see Disney characters just like the other parks. Three cavalcades circle the World Showcase through the day. There’s the Mickey & Friends World Tour, a Frozen Promenade, and a Princess Promenade. Each follows that theme of a few walking or dancing characters and a few on a vehicle. We were excited to get so close up once again. Joy from Inside Out and Winnie the Pooh can be found playing in the gardens outside The Land. Mary Poppins and Alice are often seen in the garden in the United Kingdom. These characters are happy to wave and pose for pictures, but they do not get close up. It was a lot of fun to see Joy looking at plants and skipping around, even from afar!
We got in some quality souvenir time. Even though MouseGear is currently under renovation, it still had a lot to see. The old Kodak shop under Spaceship Earth finally has a new tenant as the park’s new Pin Trading Shop. Some of the festival locations still have merchandise from the Flower and Garden Festival from this Spring. Disney is selling a lot of festival gear and summer wear for 30% off which is weird to see in the park.
We finished our Epcot trip by meeting up with Spectro Jeremy for one more dinner. Teppan Edo is a great place to eat and is always a family favorite. To help out with distancing, shields were placed at all of the tables to keep parties separate but keep the enjoyment of eating together at a hibachi grill. It was great to see they kept that dining experience going.
A quick walk out the International Gateway should have brought us to the Skyliner and thus back to our hotel, but we had other ideas. We continued onward to one of our favorite haunts on the Boardwalk. Abracadabar (you read that right) is a small bar that is themed after old-time magicians. The dark room is packed with books and relics from the golden age of magic. Posters slowly change over time. Oh, and they serve excellent cocktails and have some amazing truffle fries. It was the perfect, relaxing end to our final day at the parks.
A visit to Epcot is challenging enough with all of the construction, but our experience was not dimmed in the slightest. Another bit of flexibility allowed us to enjoy all the food and fun without too much hassle. We had a great day exploring our favorite park and both my wife and I wish we could get just a few more hours in. Too bad the park opens at 11 and we need to head to the airport at noon.
Until next time, Epcot!
Until next time, Disney World!
Guess we ought to hook up with our favorite travel planners sooner rather than later. I hear there are some good deals on rooms in early 2021 after all!
This blog is part of a series! If you want to see the rest of our adventure, click below: