We return to Epcot to check up on things that are coming or have already arrived.
As noted in the latest Magic Kingdom update, the MyMagic+ Service Center inside Innoventions East at Epcot is no more. Guests are instead instructed to visit one of the three operating FastPass+ kiosk locations.
Cast members and iPads used to populate the area across from Storm Struck. Now it’s just another empty space.
Not exactly the strongest lineup at the moment.
As previously reported and because none of you bought Bosch, Vision House closed all the way back in April.
The facade still stands across from Habit Heroes and what is expected to be the location of “Colortopia Presented by Glidden,” which should debut sometime in “late fall.” The full press release is available here, though it doesn’t offer much insight into what will arrive.
If the “My Colortopia” website is any indication, the exhibit should have something to do with virtual painting. Because nothing says “the future” like a lead based paint conglomerate headquartered in Cleveland.
After being set aside in favor of movie previews for the last few months, Captain EO is back at the Imagination Pavilion.
The attraction continues to offer FastPass+ that will do you no good.
I’m not sure it’s worth continuing the debate about whether EO “belongs” in a Disney World theme park. As it stands, it might be worth visiting if you have 30 minutes to kill and would like to get off your feet for about 17 of them in the relatively comfortable, air-conditioned theater. The theater otherwise never fills up under ordinary conditions, so you can visit at your leisure, keeping in mind it usually closes at 7pm.
Disney Parks Blog announced two days ago that Garden Grill will begin serving breakfast and lunch beginning November 8th.
All three meals are expected to includes the same characters as the restaurant currently offers at dinner – Farmer Mickey, Pluto, Chip, and Dale. The lunch menu is expected to be mostly or completely the same as dinner at $34.99/adult and $19.99 for kids ages 3-9. Breakfast is expected to be $29.99 for adults and $17.99 for kids. I have a recent dinner review here.
Garden Grill is otherwise one of my favorite character meals. The circular shape of the restaurant leads to a bit more privacy than the open layouts of most seating areas, which also lends itself to more intimate interaction wit the characters free of someone else’s kid running up unexpectedly or some weird blogger walking up and taking pictures of your kid. I made breakfast reservations for shortly after the restaurant starts breakfast service in November.
As far as theme park touring is concerned, one interesting aspect of the 8am breakfasts is the advantage it offers to those able and willing to eat quickly and be on their way prior to the rest of the Park opening. Garden Grill is situated inside the Land Pavilion just up the stairs from Soarin’ and it would make sense that somebody finished with their meal would be among the first to ride Soarin’ first thing. I’m not sure how much of an advantage that will end up being. With an 8:15am rope drop arrival and a reasonable pace to the Land Pavilion, you’re usually looking at a wait under ten minutes once you arrive at Soarin’ or Test Track. And Soarin’ takes so long that by the time you exit, Test Track standby is already going to be 30 to 60+ minutes depending on crowds, so even being among the first to ride Soarin’ probably isn’t going to make riding Test Track after Soarin’ in standby viable. And there isn’t necessarily that big of a rush to other Future World West attractions. You’re not going to be racing to Living with the Land or The Seas with Nemo. Or at least you don’t have to, unlike Hollywood Studios where it’s a big hurry to get to Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster after Toy Story Mania.
But adding breakfast and lunch makes it easier to secure reservations for those that want to dine here. It was surprisingly difficult to secure reservations when the restaurant was dinner-only, seating only from 4pm-8pm. My usual recommendation on breakfast is otherwise to schedule it as late as possible. It looks like Garden Grill will only be seating breakfast fro 8am-10:30am with lunch taking over from 11:30am-3pm. If breakfast is a “must do,” I’d look at a reservation as close to 10:30am as possible. That will give you some time to take advantage of lower waits first thing in the morning.
It will be interesting to see if Disney opens the new Frozen ride at 9am and what advantage a meal at Akershus will provide once that happens.
Construction on the new Soarin’ theater is visible behind the Imagination Pavilion pyramids.
The crane otherwise stands dormant on the horizon most of the day. Construction is supposed to take well over another year.
It’s like the monorail is a magnet for cameras.
There’s otherwise little to report from Future World. Water prices have gotten pretty nutty with “smartwater” all the way up to $4.25. These prices are standard property-wide.
Taste Track, the small kiosk that used to serve pizza outside Test Track, has been open daily from 11am-6pm over the busy summer. I have not had an opportunity to visit, though they recently added the four beers on the bottom. While the sandwiches sound like they might have potential, it’s hard to imagine too many families stopping here for their principal meal with just a few standing-room-only tables set up nearby and all of the other options in World Showcase and at Sunshine Seasons.
I can’t be the only one waiting for the cranberry bog.
Three separate evenings are part of this post. This picture was taken at 7:30pm on July 27th, which turned out to be a surprisingly pleasant July evening with a temperature of “just” 82 degrees with a little bit of a breeze coming off the water.
La Cantina de San Angel rebooted its menu for the third or fourth time in less than a year:
The chicken and fish tacos are new additions and you have the new option of adding chicken or beef to the salad.
You may remember I gave the Pollo Cascabel, pictured here in the dark, relatively high marks on flavor, uniqueness, quality, and portion size.
I was less enthusiastic about the Tacos de Barbacoa during the previous review.
The Ensalada Mexicana with Tossed Romaine lettuce, Arugula, red and white cabbage, black beans, corn, olive oil, and lime juice comes pre-packaged in a carton with a lid and a side of salad dressing in a small cup. Virtually everything in the salad that isn’t lettuce is visible here.
Mixed up, it’s a lot of lettuce and not much else. The salad dressing tasted mostly of lime and cilantro and like most pre-packaged dressing cups, I didn’t think there was enough of it. There’s some potential here, but I think La Cantina has gone a little too cheap with its salad components. It could use a lot more beans and corn to liven it up, perhaps with the addition of a pico de gallo or something. You can add chicken or beef to add some protein and bring the cost up to about $13.
Lisa ordered the Tacos de Pescado – Seasoned fried fish, homemade corn tortillas, Mexican refried beans, slaw, and habanero aioli. The vibrant colors here are fantastic and make for a dish that I think most people would be proud to set down on the table. The fish had a nice bite to it that was complemented well by the crunch from the corn, tomatoes, beans, cabbage, and carrots, though the aioli was bland for something that’s advertised as habanero – some spicy salsa would probably go a long way to livening up the flavors even more. I’m still not personally a fan of the corn tortillas – I’m not sure if it’s the soft, spongy texture or the fact that they don’t do much to the flavor profile other than add a generic corn blandness.
The beans are the best part, flavorful and topped with a creamy cheese.
Overall, I’m not a big proponent of Mexico’s quick service. There’s more interesting food further on and just about everyone should have a better Mexican restaurant back in their own town that ups the quality and offers more variety for less money. The menu is an improvement though – particularly the Cascabel. And while nothing is particularly wow-worthy, it’s unlikely to be particularly disappointing either.
Walls continue to line the area in between the Mexico Margarita stand and Norway. A walk in that direction:
There isn’t a whole lot to see above the walls.
Maelstrom remains walled up.
Lotus Blossom Cafe is China’s quick service, located in between Nine Dragons Restaurant and the House of Good Fortune store.
The outlet recently received new menu boards; the Kids Potsticker & Spring Rolls entree is new.
The entrees are the same as before, only numbers one through four are a dollar more expensive and the Sesame Chicken Salad is up 45 cents.
For whatever reason, Lotus Blossom hadn’t raised its fountain beverage or beer prices in years.
As recently as about a month ago, you could order a fountain beverage for about a dollar less than anywhere else on property.
It was also one of the least expensive spots for a draft beer. Unfortunately, the new menu boards also brought the higher standard beverage pricing.
Lisa ordered the $7.95 Sesame Chicken Salad, which is a full dollar less expensive than the vegetarian salad from Mexico and includes five pieces of lightly battered, fried chicken on top.
The salad dressing was a nice blend of ginger, soy, and peanut flavors with the sweetness from the duck sauce on top of the chicken adding another layer of flavor, in addition to some subtle nuttiness from the sesame seeds on top of the fresh, crunchy lettuce. She liked it a lot and it’s a good value for the money. You could easily spend 25%-60% more on a quick service entree elsewhere.
I ordered the $9.99 Beef Noodle Soup Bowl, which arrives with a lot more tender, flavorful beef than you might expect on a bed of noodles and spinach with a few onions mixed in for good measure.
I’m not sure I can overemphasize how big the portion was – it was a ton of food and surprisingly flavorful with the beef helping to flavor the salty broth underneath. I was surprised about how much I enjoyed it, after never really having a particularly positive experience here in the past.
$5.25 buys you three potstickers and a small cup of a thin, soy-based sauce. They don’t present a lot of value in my estimation. If they gave you five the value prospect might be there, but these are otherwise your standard frozen potstickers nicely pan-fried. I’d put the money towards a bag of Ling Ling Potstickers from Costco. With that said, these things are extremely popular during the Food and Wine Festival at two for $4. So there’s that.
I added a cup of Iced Peach Oolong Tea, which had a nice sweet peach flavor to it. While refreshing, the tea was a lot warmer than you’d expect from an iced tea, like it hadn’t been adequately chilled since being brewed. You might have more luck or more patience waiting for it to cool down.
Overall, we enjoyed Lotus Blossom a lot more than I had expected to. Service is always pleasant and there’s plenty of relatively comfortable seating, although it’s awfully hot here in the summer. But it’s hard to recommend Chinese food in World Showcase given how common it is outside the World.
And I think Sunshine Seasons’ in The Land Pavilion does Asian-inspired food better. It would be tough to decide between the Mongolian Beef and Beef Noodle Bowl. The Spicy Thai Shrimp destroy Lotus Blossom’s Shrimp Fried Rice and the Sweet and Sour Chicken at Sunshine is more flavorful and potentially a bit healthier.
The Tamarind Vegan Beef is surprisingly good too.
Ace Pineapple Hard Cider is a relatively permanent fixture in World Showcase now, appearing here at the Africa Cool Post.
You may remember it from this year’s Flower and Garden Festival. In my opinion, it’s too sweet and artificial tasting.
Planters line the train set next to Germany for what everyone hopes is just routine maintenance.
Fife & Drum Tavern in front of the United States Pavilion added a new Apple Pie a la mode for a snack credit at $6.50.
While similar items like the cheaper Spumone Gelato Cup in Italy still don’t qualify.
The Sounds Like Summer concert series tends to be unpopular as the seating area remains about 75% empty just a few minutes before showtime.
Block & Hans’ “Seasonal Craft Beer” was a Leinenkugel =[ At least the sign is decorated with that slick sticker.
Kabuki Cafe outside Japan added two new frozen alcoholic drinks. I would guess for the Food and Wine Festival they will cross out the “Not.”
The “Hako Sushi” is new to me at least and it seems like it would be a good use of a snack credit.
The previously available Temari Sushi was three pieces.
It might have been the time of day, but the juice bar that doesn’t serve juice in Morocco also wasn’t serving ice cream. Baklava replaced it in the case.
Spice Road Table spiced up (see what I did there)…well…just what the menu looks like. It remains unpopular after joining the Dining Plan.
Spaceship Earth is one of the more photographed icons on property, not only because of its size, but also due to how different it looks throughout the day and night. Here as the sun sets at 8:07pm, you get a little yellow on the side facing the sun.
And 20 minutes after that, purples and the moon.
The daytime shot.
Across the lagoon.
Or through the trees.
There are a lot of options.
The ride was basically a straight shot at 8:05pm on the evening of Tuesday July 21st, so we got in line and Lisa took a few shots:
Always a pleasant way to end the day.
These panoramas are kind of fun. There are a lot of programs (and your iPhone as the case may be) that can merge multiple images into a single panorama, but I’ve been using Lightroom 6’s built-in mode. It’s pretty easy to do. These are the four original images:
Basically you take the first shot and then pan the camera left or right for subsequent shots, overlapping sections of each scene.
Then you select each of the photos you want to turn into a panorama in Lightroom.
Then go up to Photo -> Photo Merge -> Panorama
It’ll show a preview of your image next. You can check the “auto select projection” button and Lightroom will select whether it thinks the Spherical, Cylindrical, or Perspective view is best. You can click into each for a preview. You’ll notice that there are some white spaces around the image where there’s holes in what Lightroom can use to fill in the area. You can select “Auto Crop” and Lightroom will automatically crop that space out. Or you can uncheck it and crop it yourself. Click “Merge” when you’re ready.
And then you have your panorama to mess around with.
You could certainly be more clinical than me waiving my camera around at Spaceship Earth, but this is an easy way to create a perspective that’s a little bit different than usual. Adobe has an 8-minute video on the process here.
This is what the picture would have looked like otherwise.
Sometimes I feel like I’m a little bit of a Lightroom salesman, but the software can make a huge impact on the perceived quality of your images. The learning curve is pretty steep at the start, but it quickly levels off and Adobe has several hours of tutorial videos for whatever you would want to do, in addition to a full-featured 30-day trial. For those without any experience editing pictures, my suggestion is to take 15 or 20 minutes taking photos outside and around your house with whatever camera or phone you plan to use on your trip – more if you want to get a feel for the various settings that need to be changed in different lighting environments – about two weeks before your trip. Download the Lightroom 6 trial and spend a couple hours watching tutorials and messing around with your photos. You may want to do this over a couple of days. Then when you get back from your trip, fire up your Lightroom trial and go to work on the pictures. I think you’ll see some significant improvements and you can decide for yourself whether it’s worth investing in Lightroom.
You’ll be happy to learn that research for this year’s Food and Wine Festival has begun in earnest:
It’s a tough job. But somebody has to do it.