With just about two weeks until the start of the International Food and Wine Festival, we return to Epcot for some easy late morning touring.
We continue from the first part of this series, where we took a look at the current state of construction at the entrance to the Park. We also saw what it takes to rope drop Test Track, the Park’s highest priority attraction.
In the next part, we scooted over to Soarin’ Around the World to see what kind of a wait we could expect closer to 9:30am, after first riding Test Track. With some of the lowest crowds of the year at Epcot during the summer, the posted wait was just ten minutes and I didn’t run into any resistance until after the merge point with FastPass+, so my total experience time ended up being shorter than it would have been with FP+ later in the day. Our day continued with Living with the Land, The Seas with Nemo, and Journey into Imagination, along with further consideration of current and upcoming projects.
It’s 11:12am and things have picked up a bit outside the Imagination Pavilion. You might remember that I “literally” rode Journey into Imagination alone after I got in line at 10:30am and didn’t run into a single guest at any point, even after stopping to take a few queue pictures.
You would have to think that Disney would want this path that leads up to World Showcase done by August 29th. There are at least three Festival kiosks up there on the right and three more just up ahead on the left, where the Butterfly Garden is located during Flower and Garden.
I’m not sure if I’m more distraught over losing this air-conditioned hallway or not being able to make fun of the Light Lab this year.
I would reassert that it’s going to be a rough year-plus at Epcot with all of the Future World closures. With the popularity of the Food and Wine Festival, with some of the biggest crowds of the year on Saturdays in October and November, it may be a bit curious that the majority of the projects are starting just about a week after the event gets underway. It might also be why Disney has been a bit more vague about when the likes of Electric Umbrella and Fountain View Starbucks will close. Displacing Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy at the Character Spot is not a huge deal for the majority of the weekend Food and Wine crowd, but the Fountain of Nations is expected to close on September 8th and we already have walls up around the fountain closer to Spaceship Earth. You wouldn’t think they’d close this Fountain unless they planned to puts walls up and remove it. Something like 99.2% of the people that visit Epcot are going to pass by the walls, and what will become narrower paths, come Food and Wine time.
The D23 Expo, with a couple of presentations focusing on Epcot scheduled, is just over a week away. We may find some clarity on the dates that certain elements will close at that time, or Disney may just announce a Toy Story marionette show is replacing Country Bear Jamboree. You never know.
MouseGear’s interior has been overhauled almost in its entirety at least twice in the last couple of years, to the point where I don’t even know where much of anything is anymore. We’ll see what the future holds after it closes for a lengthy refurbishment.
Big changes are coming to the Odyssey Building as well. We’re expecting a Blue Sky Cellar-like exhibit inside, perhaps with the addition of a temporary Starbucks.
Inside the Odyssey, a lot of work has already been completed over the last couple of years, including a major makeover for this year’s Flower and Garden Festival, when the space hosted the excellent Arbor kiosk. It almost looks like a Starbucks back there already with the wood and wallpaper.
Here’s the previous setup when curtains and a large ice chest made up the majority of the counter.
But at least all of these walls will come down in just about two weeks.
The Toy Story theming has come down at this playground outside of MouseGear. It was previously sort of themed to Wreck-It Ralph.
These sorts of playgrounds typically go up for Flower and Garden, but are taken down in time for Food and Wine. I’m not sure there’s a hotter surface on the planet than these handlebars, though someone will probably tell me that they once were at a playground in Laos and it was probably hotter there.
Taste Track, the popular kiosk outside Test Track that has served a variety of Croissant Doughnuts during the last several Festivals, is still missing. It doesn’t look like it will be returning for the Festival this year, which is surprising considering Epcot is down a few kiosks with the Odyssey, Festival Center inside the old Wonders of Life, and various Innoventions kiosks not returning this year, either. Croissant Doughnuts are currently available at Electric Umbrella, but with that outlet likely closing before Food and Wine ends, Disney hasn’t announced anything special available there for the Festival. You won’t hear me complain about “needing” to order one less dessert.
Cool Wash, which might be an underappreciated aspect of Epcot, remains standing, at least.
It’s possible that management doesn’t remember that it exists, either, considering it would probably be ripe for some Food and Wine Festival-exclusive alcoholic beverages.
As I mentioned in Part One, Test Track is easily the Park’s highest priority attraction with the longest waits and lowest FastPass+ availability. I recently reworked the Epcot touring plans to take that into consideration.
We didn’t have a lot of trouble rope dropping Test Track, but the area is a bit of a mess here at 11:30am with an 85-minute wait. Single rider is still viable, likely with a wait under 20 minutes, but more and more people are going to get in that line as the wait time creeps up. At the same time of day, Soarin’ is at 45 minutes and Frozen remains at 25 minutes. My third FastPass+ will be for Frozen, since I’m planning on heading up to World Showcase for lunch after noon.
While it probably doesn’t look like it from the photo taken outside Mission: SPACE at 11:30am, the ride is actually your highest Tier 2 FastPass+ priority, at least in terms of availability. It’s not uncommon at all for SPACE FP+ to be gone, while Test Track, Frozen, Spaceship Earth, and others still have availability.
From a wait times perspective, Spaceship Earth will save you more time, on average, particularly if you’re planning on riding the Green/Earth mission at Mission: SPACE. You might remember that the Orange/Mars wait will always be longer than Green, because Disney doesn’t want you riding the more intense version just because the wait is supposed to be shorter. Interest may also increase with the addition of the Space Restaurant, which is still somehow slated for a 2019 opening as the entrance to said restaurant will also basically be through the queue for the simulator ride.
Of course, all eyes are on the Guardians of the Galaxy ride.
Even with all of the animatronics potentially cut from the final design, the ride’s price tag is still supposed to be 500+ million dollars…or about eight Mickey Pretzels in 2021 dollars.
The roller coaster’s proximity to what will become the Play Pavilion is probably not coincidental.
Probably in about two years, the old Wonders of Life Pavilion will be home to a variety of meet and greets.
According to Disney:
The ongoing evolution of Epcot includes plans for a play pavilion that’ll be unlike anything you’ve ever seen at the park. This new space will be devoted to playful fun and feature an innovative city that’ll come to life under the dome of the un-named pavilion previously known as Wonders of Life. The pavilion’s city will be bursting with interactive experiences, your favorite Disney characters, hands-on activities and engaging entertainment when it opens just in time for the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World Resort!
“This innovative, new pavilion is beyond anything we’ve ever created and is completely unique to Epcot,” said Zach Riddley, portfolio executive, Walt Disney Imagineering. “Built on the power of play, it introduces an immersive and interactive ‘city’ where you can explore, create, and interact with some of your favorite Disney characters. This is an experience worthy of our bold vision for Epcot – and another signature element of our transformation.”
The reality may not turn out to be quite as grand, but it will be nice to have a single location where guests can meet a number of characters indoors. Honestly, I’d be more excited if Disney announced that they were going to build a large, quiet, comfortable room where I could sit down and the water was free. But beggars can’t be choosers. Whatever we get will certainly be an upgrade over Character Spot and the haphazard meet and greets across the way in Character Spot Innoventions.
Maybe if Disney had bought Fox in time to get some Dark Phoenix monorail wraps going, the movie wouldn’t have lost 200 million.
Innoventions had so much potential for so long. We don’t even necessarily know if this building will end up being demolished.
Things remain pretty chill as we head towards Spaceship Earth at 11:38am.
Unless you’re planning on getting in standby after 6pm, using FastPass+ at Spaceship Earth makes a lot of sense. You might key in on visiting on your way out if you’re heading for the main entrance. Unfortunately, Spaceship Earth is going to be awfully inconvenient for those arriving on the Skyliner come September 29th, as this is just about as far away from the International Gateway as you can get.
With the huge number of FastPass+ experiences distributed over the course of the day, it’s hard to say how accurate the 45-minute posted wait will end up being. With standby as long as it, the wait would only be about ten minutes without FastPass+. With FP+, you’re probably looking at 35 to 45 minutes.
With FastPass+, I was on-board in under three minutes.
After watching “Dark” on Netflix, time machines are not something that I want to mess with.
But here we are:
I was back out front at 12:11pm for a total experience time of 26 minutes, which included a couple of stops during the ride for this or that.
Overall, my day went quite well with the low crowds. I was able to accomplish:
- Test Track: 8:57am – 9:20am
- Soarin’: 9:29am – 9:53am
- Living with the Land: 9:55am – 10:15am
- Journey into Imagination: 10:29am – 10:42am
- The Seas with Nemo and a walk around The Seas and Future World: 10:48am – 11:40am
- Spaceship Earth with FastPass+: 11:45am – 12:11pm
- Frozen Ever After with FastPass+: 12:25pm – 12:41pm
Riding Soarin’ immediately after Test Track in standby doesn’t always result in a short wait for the hang-gliding simulator, but with low crowds, it’s perfectly doable. On a busier day, my wait would likely be closer to 20 minutes, plus the usual wait for the pre-show and then to board. On the busiest days, actual waits of 45 to 60 minutes may pop up. If you can swing it, visiting Soarin’ after 7pm is a better bet, but you might find it out of the way, particularly up the hill and then down the escalator inside the Land Pavilion. Using FastPass+ on it is obviously the easiest and with the number of experiences distributed per day, you should be able to acquire Soarin’ as a 4th FP+ with a little bit of refreshing. The only exception might be December 31st, and even then, the ride will eventually become available, even for larger parties.
Things will be more interesting in about six weeks with the Skyliner opening. Guests arriving from the International Gateway are currently at a big disadvantage when it comes to rope dropping Test Track or Soarin’ due to how far away they start. We’ll see what, if anything, Disney does to mitigate that.