Larger: https://www.easywdw.com/reports9/ttcbig.jpg. Construction continues at the Transportation and Ticket Center. This is where you’ll be dropped off if you’re arriving from an off-site resort, Shades of Green, or one of the Downtown Disney resorts. It’s also the drop-off spot for the buses to/from Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom. And where you’ll get on/off the bus if the Epcot monorail is down. To get to the water parks or Downtown Disney from here, you’d need to walk/monorail over to the Polynesian Resort. The construction in the middle looks to be a step in the right direction with defined parking spaces and designated waiting areas. Prior to construction, people would just stand out in the middle of a parking lot waiting for their (often late) bus to arrive. It was sort of hectic and not particularly safe. We may see additional changes once the expanded bus loop at Magic Kingdom opens.
More turnstile conversion here at Epcot as the middle turnstiles are behind walls.
That makes your 8:15am or earlier arrival for the 8:45am unofficial open all the more important.
Mickey Readers are located down to the right with the last remaining traditional turnstiles located down to the left.
Maybe to hang over your collection of Precious Moments dolls.
Walt is pointing to where he dreams Starbucks will go one day. These items are all available at the Art of Disney Store to the right of Spaceship Earth.
Royal Afternoon by Manny Hernandez would set you back $695.
Adventure Life by Rodel Gonzalez for $795.
Letter Plaques by Dave Avanzino for $150 each:
Another pricey collection to start.
It’s 9:55am and Disney is displaying a 5 minute wait for Test Track. It’s not a five minute wait.
Work on the Starbucks conversion at Fountain View continues at a dazney pace.
There are three wait times boards inside Epcot. The first board was pictured a couple images above this one. It’s located in front of the fountain. As you walk left and pass Mouse Gear on your way to Test Track, you’ll see the wait times board above. And in the opposite direction toward the Land Pavilion, you’ll see another wait times board before heading up the hill to the Land. Of course, you could visit www.easywdw.com/waits and look at the same information from wherever you are.
The scene at Test Track at 10am as the standby line spills outside the building. Remember that FASTPASS users move through the full design experience, unlike the original configuration where FASTPASS users spent about 30 seconds picking a generic pre-designed automobile. While this improves the FASTPASS experience, it also causes standby waits to be much longer than they would be if FASTPASS users bypassed the lengthy design stage.
Single rider still bypasses the design stage and results in the shortest waits possible. Because the ride vehicle seating configuration is two rows of three seats, single riders move through quicker than Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster (in particular) or Expedition Everest. While a group of four would be seated in two rows on either of those roller coasters with no room for single riders, that same group of four would be seated in two rows on Test Track with room for a single rider in each row.
Mission: Space remains a much lower priority than either Soarin’ or Test Track. You can easily use FASTPASS and waits are short through at least 10:30am. It also stays open through 9pm and sees short waits again no later than 7:30pm.
Habit Heroes haha
With Character Spot seeing dramatically reduced wait times since it reopened with two rooms and zero curb appeal, Sum of All Thrills moves up to third on the attraction priority list. With a capacity in the neighborhood of 150 riders/hour, it doesn’t take much for waits to balloon to 30 or 40 minutes. This is the line at 10:05am, where you’d be waiting at least 30 minutes to get into the pre-show and then another 15 minutes to experience the attraction. It’s why it’s prioritized so highly on the Epcot Cheat Sheet.
Stormstruck is a decent minor attraction also in Innoventions East. It’s a seated 3D simulator of the effects of a storm on an animated house. There are limited in-theater effects. Like other attractions, once a line develops, it tends to stay long. That makes wait times erratic. If you can walk into the pre-show it’s worth doing if you have two days at Epcot, but is otherwise skippable in most situations.
Nothing going on in Innoventions West.
IBM’s THINK is still here.
Giving The Lone Ranger a run for its money on box office receipts.
It may or may not be sad that the most popular “attraction” in Innoventions West is this bank of Playstation 3 consoles with below-average games tied to the Brave, Cars, Wall-E. etc. franchises. You might want to rope drop it if you want a spot at the Toy Story 3 console.
Looks like there’s an expansion pad for Playstation 4s (which will be added when the price drops in 2k16).
Over in the Land Pavilion, the escalator is back.
You may remember it looked like this a few weeks ago.
The menu at Sunshine Seasons looked mostly unchanged. We should see a major round of updates at the end of August when pricing goes up across the board. Larger: https://www.easywdw.com/reports9/ss.jpg.
I’ve found Breakfast Panini quality depends primarily on how long the current batch has been sitting there. If there’s one or two pieces sitting on a tray, you may want to pretend to look other items over while some poor unfortunate souls order the last of yesterday’s deliciousness. Lines are short to nonexistent here in the morning, so you can grab whatever you want and be on your way in a matter of moments. Stopping to eat a below average breakfast platter will only lead to longer waits at Epcot’s two or three other rides.
Grab and go options should be available in the early morning should you be looking for some potato salad or California rolls at 9:45am. And I mean really. Who isn’t? Larger: https://www.easywdw.com/reports9/breakfastpotatosalad.jpg. You’re on your own on that Tomato Cuke Salad.
The original name of this website was going to be Toufayan.com but it was already taken.
Pair with a plastic cup of the finest in Sutter Home White Zinfandel.
More quick, cold options including the same sushi you’d order at the resorts or back in the Japan Pavilion. Larger: https://www.easywdw.com/reports9/10amsushi.jpg. Most people pass right by the cold case at Sunshine Seasons, but it actually offers some nice quick, potentially healthy options. The Asian Chicken Salad, Italian Antipasto Salad, and other items actually sound pretty good.
And of course, the treats are available at 9am as well. I think they even get a Mickey Check before 10am. Larger: https://www.easywdw.com/reports9/thecaloriesdontcountforbreakfast.jpg.
Pretty much everything is good here at one of Disney’s best quick services.
What’s going on at Garden Grill.
It’s not Garden Grill. IT’S A SMUCKERS!
Coral Reef, located to the right of the entrance to The Seas with Nemo and Friends, is one of the more off-the-beaten-path restaurants. It doesn’t seem to matter as it’s one of the more difficult reservations to score. As I’m terrified of underseas creatures, it’s the only restaurant inside a WDW theme park that I’ve never been to. But I have reservations at the end of August and will try to be a big boy, even if it means a handful of Xanax and Mickey sunglasses.
The menus are virtually identical other than a couple less expensive entrees (the Trout and Caesar Salad) for lunch.
I’ll be surprised if we aren’t riding Journey into Imagination on January 2nd, despite what the “rumors” seem to indicate.
Spaceship Earth remains a good choice late in the evening or after a midday break. Compare the 35 minute line at 10:45am.
To the two minute line at 5:45pm.
As it turns out, if you choose the Japanese language on the start screen, the entire narration is in Japanese.
Lisa was not pleased.
Fast forwarding from the morning, it’s now 6:02pm on July 20th. Wait times for the only two attractions anyone cares about remain 60+ minutes, but just about anything else is a walk-on, including Character Spot.
If you can’t swing Sum of All Thrills before 9:45am (and ideally by 9:30am), an arrival as close to 7pm as possible is your best bet. Here around 6:10pm, waits are still in the 30ish minute range.
And there’s still literally nobody in line for Habit Heroes.
Or Test Limits Lab.
Or Character Spot.
As the website has covered over the last month or two, Character Spot waits have dropped from afternoon highs in the 35 to 50 minute range to the five to ten minute range. There are two primary reasons – double capacity and zero curb appeal as the characters are no longer visible outside the building.
Lines look like this now. If you’re planning a break or do as the website suggests and return to Future World after 5pm when crowds move up to World Showcase, Character Spot is still best visited after 6pm. It’s no longer a morning priority.
There are two rooms with characters now and guests meet just Minnie, Mickey, and Pluto with Goofy now greeting at the front of the Park on the right and Donald meeting only back in Mexico. The characters meet in the same order in both rooms (Mickey then Pluto then Minnie) but in one room, Mickey first meets on the right and in the other, he meets on the left.
It’s not uncommon to see 15 to 25 minute waits develop at Living with the Land from about 10:30am to around 4pm as guests look for something to do in the wasteland that is Future World. In that respect, Future World as it sits today may be tres authentic. But once 6pm rolls around, Living with the Land regains its walk-on status.
Somehow I never noticed the crocs that rise up out of the water.
Living with the Land seemed to have more interesting things growing than usual. Disney seems to think we’ll be impressed with potatoes on a stick and corn. This is vanilla.
Disney doesn’t even grow lettuce without a sponsor.
Check out the base of this tomato “tree.”
You can bank on the 60+ minute wait at Soarin’ most of the year from 9:45am to at least 6pm. If you can’t visit first thing or with FASTPASS, the website recommends getting in line as close to Park close as possible. If you’re skipping IllumiNations, getting in line for Soarin’ or Test Track around 8:55pm is best. We’ll return to Soarin’ at 8:50pm to see how long it takes to ride at the end of the night in practice.
Now up to World Showcase for dinner at Nine Dragons in China.
Nine Dragons is, I believe, the worst rated Epcot restaurant on Trip Advisor, coming in at a whopping 650th place in the city of Orlando. To compare, Josh’s Poorly Balanced Cocktails and Costco Freezer Food comes in at 197th. And I operate that out of my shed. Heck, Chef Mickey’s is 241st and there’s only one positive review of that on the Internet (Disney Food Blog). Sci-Fi is 305th. The Denny’s near my house, where three to five people are shot every weekend, comes in about 300 places higher at 373. There’s a Golden Corral at 483. Beaten out by Hollywood Studios’ Backlot Express at 482. There’s an Arby’s at 632 (with a total of two reviews). A KFC at 633. But finally, on page 23, we come across Nine Dragons. To its credit, it did beat out my seventh favorite CiCi’s pizza, home of the $2.99 all-you-can-physically-keep-down “pizza” buffet. The ratings on Yelp are not much better. Nine Dragons does beat out Maya Grill (665), ABC Commissary (700), Bongos (703), Restaurantosaurus (757), a Burger King (774), Pizza Planet (789), and potentially a few more spots.
The restaurant is a pleasant, open space. That translates to a loud dining room without much privacy, but that’s the norm here at Epcot.
Or as Disney describes it:
Delight in Cantonese, Mongolian, Szechuan, Hunan and Kiangche-style specialties under the soft glow of Chinese lamps.
Greeted by a stunning glass etching of 2 dragons chasing a glowing pearl, diners can feast on such favorites as honey-sesame chicken, peppery shrimp and fried rice. Request a table by one of the windows for a sweeping view of the World Showcase Lagoon promenade.
One nice thing about Nine Dragons is that they virtually always have room for you. It’s basically the Stitch’s Great Escape of restaurants – high capacity and lousy reputation. I made a reservation earlier in the day for 7pm and we were seated immediately after checking in, which is rarer than you might imagine. Even with a reservation, be prepared to wait five to fifteen minutes. I don’t think I’ve had to wait more than 15 minutes to be seated this year outside of an Easter-week reservation at Restaurant Marrakesh, which is another restaurant that almost always has availability.
Anyway, our meal began a bit oddly, as most do at Nine Dragons. We were seated and then a moment or two later, beckoned to stand up and move to another table because they put us in the wrong place. We moved from the center of the restaurant to the back corner next to the kitchen. Go figure. Upon picking up her napkin, Lisa noticed her plate was dirty and had some leftover crumbs waiting to say hello. Magical beginnings indeed.
Nine Dragons is one of the least expensive table service options in World Showcase. You can get out of here with an entree for as little as $12.98 for the Chinese Chicken Salad. That’s less expensive than the appetizer portion salads at Le Cellier, Monsier Paul, and others. Most other entrees come in below $20 and there’s a three-course dinner for $23.98 – all perfectly reasonable prices for Disney World.
I briefly considered the more expensive three-course option presented table-side. For an extra ten bucks, it didn’t seem to present much of a value compared to the other options. The General Tso’s Chicken Duo sounded interesting, but was available as an appetizer (that serves two) for $10.98.
The drink menu is not particularly inspired, but there might not be a substantial market for the limited number of Chinese wines available for export. At least they have the website’s favorite, Beringer White Zinfandel.
I don’t think I’ve ever been on a date where the girl didn’t order a handful of drinks upon being seated. Pictured is a $7.98 South Sea Breeze – Coconut Rum, Grenadine, Pineapple, and Orange Juice. It was sweet and awfully coconut-y. Lisa was not particularly enthusiastic about it
The placemats are kind of fun – you’ll learn how to draw a few Chinese characters.
I started with the Hot & Sour Soup – $3.98 or as part of the three-course dinner for $23.98.
The soup arrived piping hot, which is a rarity at Disney restaurants. It was as good as any Hot and Sour soup I’ve tried in a restaurant on or off property. It had a kick to it, but wasn’t unpleasantly spicy. And it was a fairly large bowl. In a land of $10 bowls of soup, I thought the $4 cup at Nine Dragons held up well and would happily order another.
We ordered the Shrimp and Chicken Egg Rolls to go with it – Tender Shrimp, Roast Chicken and fresh Bell Peppers, served with Plum-Chili and Ginger-Soy Sauces – $7.98.
Two large rolls stuffed with stuff and conveniently cut in half, the egg rolls were heftier than they were tasty.
The chicken was bone dry and one can assume the rolls were sitting under a heat lamp for some number of minutes. It was less than ten minutes between the time we sat down and the appetizers arrived, if you can believe that. On one hand, that’s excellent time! But it’s also way too fast (in my opinion).
Continuing with Nine Dragons’ knack for the weird, it was at this point that our server either demanded or suggested I place Tom on the bench seating where Lisa was sitting. My camera usually sits on the table as you never know when I’m going to spin around and take a zoomed in shot of your face as you try to enjoy your meal with your family. I’m not sure if she was trying to be helpful or was tired of reaching over the camera to make room for another dish. But out of 100+ meals, it was the first time anyone has mentioned Tom and she looked dissatisfied for the rest of the meal that it still sat next to me.
Eleven minutes after the drinks were delivered and nine minutes after the appetizers arrived, the entrees were served. This is the Honey-Sesame Chicken, which is normally $18.98. Six dollars adds the soup appetizer and ice cream dessert.
This was a tremendous amount of food. There were over 25 fried chicken nuggets dipped in sweet honey sauce and then sprinkled with sesame seeds. Thankfully, the chicken was “lightly fried” with a thin, crispy exterior and the chicken inside remained juicy. Like the Hot-and-Sour soup, the chicken was as good as I’ve received at any Chinese restaurant. There is not a whole lot to it, but I’m not sure you could prepare it any better. Most people could share a single order, especially if you add a cup of soup or an appetizer or two.
The rice tasted like rice.
Lisa ordered the Zha Jiang Noodle Sampler – Fun and interactive – Mix and match your own noodles with fresh vegetables and two classic Zha Jiang Sauces – savory sweet Minced Pork and spicy Diced Chicken. If it was truly interactive, it would be called the Noodle Sampler+. This was also a tremendous amount of food and another item that is easily sharable. They even give you two bowls – I guess so you don’t have to cross-contaminate the meats that look and taste mostly the same.
The meat reminded us a lot of what goes in lettuce wrap appetizers.
Based on the “sampler” mentioned in the description, Lisa was expecting several different kinds of noodles. Instead, two bowls of identical, flavorless noodles arrived.
While I’ve consumed my fair share of noodle stir fry, I’m not sure I’ve been served a Chinese noodle dish with raw lettuce and other vegetables. It may be more common than I think, but the “interactive” portion seemed to be simply pouring the raw vegetable toppings on top of the noodles – something that could probably be done in the kitchen.
Edamame? Lima beans? Very fun?
Raw shredded carrots and cucumbers. Lisa enjoyed the meal for the most part, but the presentation/idea was a bit odd. I’m not sure the texture/flavors of raw vegetables go well with the noodles and meat, but they’ve served this dish mostly the same for years.
I don’t know if I should be embarrassed, but the Strawberry-Red Bean Ice Cream was among the best I’ve encountered, including the new ice cream parlor in France. It had a sweet, airy lightness to it without any kind of artificial strawberry flavor. And it was a sizable portion with two or three hefty scoops served alongside two spoons. The French hook you up with a couple dainty scoops.
The meal had more hits and misses than most. Service was a bit odd with the reshuffling of tables, dirty plate, and camera commentary. The menu does little to describe what it is you’re ordering. Our noodle plate was not fun, interactive, or particularly sample-y. It was literally two bowls of noodles with a few raw vegetables and some cold lettuce wrap filling. My chicken was quite good I thought, though probably 7,319.31 calories. Portions were larger than most restaurants these days. The soup and ice cream were very good.
I’m not sure where my recommendation on this one comes down. I think we’ll go back and give it another try. Overall, it was better than my low expectations. Had I been expecting a lot, I would have been disappointed. For the money, it was not a bad value compared to your other options, particularly if you share one of the perfectly shareable entrees. It was also an extremely quick meal. We moved through three courses and had signed the check in less than 45 minutes. That’s either extremely rushed service or extremely efficient service.
The speed of the meal did afford us more time in the Park before it was time to head over to Soarin’ closer to 9pm.
With no FASTPASS users returning, it only took eight minutes to move through the full queue.
I got a better video of the full ride and the new water effect in particular, this time without MiceChat taking flash photos every three seconds.
It was a prettier evening than this picture insinuates.
Gran Fiesta Tour is another pleasant quickie at this time of night.
Four people marching toward the dock in the middle of July.
A few posts ago we briefly looked at San Angel Inn. This is the view of the restaurant from the boat.
Some attraction merch:
Just kidding. These posts never end:
Remember when Disney tried to trademark “Dia de los Muertos” haha
Meandering back to The Land Pavilion, it’s 8:51pm and the posted wait is 30 minutes. Remember that you can get in line for any operating attraction right up until it’s scheduled to close. That means you can get in line for Soarin’ or Test Track at 8:59pm or Journey into Imagination or Sum of All Thrills at 6:59pm (as those close at 7pm).
Soarin’ is an attraction with a line that’s easy to gauge. And it’s wide enough that if the line is somehow 8,000 people long, you can turn around and exit.
As expected, the line is short.
We entered the queue at 8:51pm and were back out front at 9:15pm for a total wait/ride time of 24 minutes. That’s about four minutes longer than it would take with FASTPASS at any point during the day.
Next up we’ll take a look at a refurbished Port Orleans or head out to Saratoga Springs or something else. There is still no February 2014 operating schedule.