Florida – September 2008

Day 10 – Orlando – EPCOT

Wednesday 1st October

The weather forecast for today was for thirty to seventy percent chance of showers and thunderstorms so we were in two minds as to what we should do for the day. It would have to be something where there was plenty of inside things to do just in case the heavens opened up. Sandy wanted to do Sea World but I thought that EPCOT might be a better choice. We left the house having rounded up the kids and the packed lunches and snacks and headed off towards Orlando. Our favourite breakfast haunt beckoned so we stopped off to have our fill. As we got back into the car, I convinced Sandy that EPCOT would be a better choice and so we doubled back in that direction.

Judging by the mere trickle of cars entering into the largely empty car parks, it was not going to be a very packed park today so this was already a bonus for us. As is always the case, the huge Spaceship Earth stood before us immediately upon walking through the turnstiles so we parked the buggies and walked in. The queue was barely five minutes long and we were soon sitting in the permanently moving carrousel snaking our way throughout the huge ball. Somewhat pleasingly, it seems that EPCOT has been modernised a bit since we last visited. The journey through the history of human civilisation and communications was a lot better and did none other than Dame Judy Dench herself narrate this time.

There were plenty of hands-on things to do at the exit hall for the attraction but little of any real draw for the kids so we set off into the park. It was overcast but not raining (at least not yet) so we decided to chance our luck at wandering around the World Showcase whilst the rain was holding off. There’d be plenty of inside activities in the other main section of the park for later on if necessary.

The World Showcase is a very nice place to visit but there’s not terribly much for the kids to do on the whole. We went into Mexico, where there was a nice and gentle boat ride, which was fun, and the Maelstrom Viking boat ride in Norway was a nice diversion too. Joey took a nap right on queue at this point but Jennifer stubbornly refused to nod off so we had some photos taken with her and a princess and also with the Monkey from the Lion King at a couple of different points around the lagoon.

By the time we’d circumnavigated the World Showcase, Joey was stirring so we started on the other main section of the park. The predicted bad weather had still held off at this point and it was looking like it was going to be a really nice day.

Imagination has always been Sandy’s favourite attraction at EPCOT so she was adamant that the kids should be taken here first. There’s a people-mover type attraction there where all the five main senses are put through their paces. A chain of carriage compartments move continuously around on a loop just like it does in Spaceship Earth. After this, we did the Honey I Shrunk the Audience ride. It’s funny but between the two kids, it seems to be Joey that has the most difficulty with the shocks and horrors in the 3D attractions. Jennifer has a hard enough time keeping her glasses on so this might account for it.

Outside of this attraction are the famous jumping water fountains, which inevitably caught the kids attention.

We were never going to get everything in today so we walked across to the other side of the park to the Energy attraction so that the kids could enjoy the dinosaurs on the Ellen DeGeneres ride. This is an oddity if ever there was one. Jennifer absolutely loved the dinosaurs but Joey was a little scared at times.

Not long after entering the park, we’d made character dinner reservations at guest services for the Garden Grill revolving restaurant in the Land attraction. We made our way there and had a really lovely meal watching the wonderment on the kids faces each time one of the characters came to the table to interact with them. Joey in particular absolutely loved it and was grinning from ear to ear from start to finish. The restaurant seating area is circular and actually revolves at a slow pace. During the course of the meal, we must have went around two or three times altogether.

After the meal, we went onto the boat ride through the botanical gardens before heading off next door to The Living Seas attraction. The kids were in there element here and had a whale of a time (no pun intended) playing in the sharks play area and watching all the fish, dolphins, turtles and the like through the huge glass windows onto the enormous salt-water tank aquarium – apparently the largest in the world.

A really cleaver attraction here is the Talking with Crush room, where there’s a huge, wall-sized video-screen which features an underwater scene into which Crush, the turtle from Finding Nemo, swim and starts interacting with the audience. Clearly, there’s an actor with a microphone hidden somewhere but the way in which he seems to be integrated into the movements of the turtle on the screen is just something else – very clever indeed. The Finding Nemo clamshell ride was also nice and is another one of those moving carousel-type rides.

We spent another half an hour letting the kids run off some energy running up and down looking at all the fish in the huge aquarium before setting off towards the park exist. It was by now dark and well past eight o’clock – the latest we’ve stayed in a theme park since we arrived. There’s still a lot we haven’t done at EPCOT this trip so I foresee a return to this park as being very much on the cards.

Once outside the park, we collected a family photo we’d had taken earlier and made our way to the car. We’d been able to park close enough for this to be a short stroll. I have to say I’m really pleased with the fact that most of the parks appear largely empty but at the same time don’t seem completely devoid of activity so it still feels pleasant.

Tomorrow will be the Magic Kingdom with another planned character meal so we’re looking forward to that. It will also be the fifth day in a row of visiting a major theme park and I just know our legs are going to have to yield before too long.