Today we went to the Epcot Center. The entire group went – the Wedding Couple + Adam, KK & PK, and us. We were amazingly at the park gate one hour before it opened. We were about the 3rd group in line at our turnstile (there are probably 15 to 20 turnstiles). This was a very neat experience that we didn’t get to experience yesterday at the Animal Kingdom.
About 15 minutes before the park opened, the staff announced that some young girl (probably about 7) would ceremoniously open the park for us. She was standing on a platform in front of the turnstiles, where everybody could see her. She was holding magic wand in her hand. The crowd who was in line counted down from from 10, and at 1, the young girl waved her wand, and Epcot was open for business.
They actually allowed us through the turnstiles early, but this is really just a method to get more people into the park in a more efficient manner. We all walked quickly back to the middle of the park, where were met with ropes crossing the paths. We lined up at the ropes until 9:00, when the all of the ropes were dropped. We were going to a ride called Soarin’ to pick up FASTPASSes. We followed the Soarin’ staff as they led our procession through the park. (You’re not allowed to pass the staff!) When we got close, you actually walk through a building that contains several restaurants, and there were about a dozen restaurant staff cheering us on, shaking tambourines, smiling and generally being very happy that we were there. I thought that was very cool. The mob of people attacked the 7 FASTPASS stations. Adam said he saw one man get very upset when he couldn’t get his FASTPASS machine to work right away, but he was quickly taken care of.
After we finished there, we walked across the park to the ride, Test Track. We stood in line maybe 15 or 20 minutes to ride this, but it didn’t work out so well for us. The premise of this ride is that you are riding in an experimental car that is undergoing the various rigors of testing (braking, suspension, acceleration, etc.) We were placed in our car, and only got partially through the ride, when all of the ride vehicles stopped. We sat there for probably at least 10 minutes before they announced the ride was shutting down. (From what I have read, this happens A LOT.) They had a very organized procedure for getting all of the ride passengers out of their car, and they walked us through the backstage area, where we were given passes to come back and ride it again later. (Miles and I did ride it later, and we would rate this as an average ride. We liked the outdoor portion of the ride, but didn’t care much for the indoor part.)
A couple of other highlights from our time in the park would be Soarin’ (this one would be hard to explain, but it is essentially like you are floating through air, seeing some famous landmarks). Everybody liked this ride a lot. We also took the kids to see “Honey, I shrunk the Audience”. This one was a big hit, especially when the big shaggy dog slobbered on us at the end.
We left the park about 3:30, with the idea we would head east to the coast to watch the Space Shuttle take off. However, that plan never really came together, so we ended up watching all of the pre-flight events take place on a local news channel, and then we stepped out in the front yard and watched it from there. Even though we were about 60 miles away, it was very, very impressive.
Scott & Erin went to the County Courthouse this afternoon, to pick up their marriage license. That entire experience took them about 90 minutes to fill out one sheet of paper.
We got some good pool time in today. Before the shuttle launch, all of us were in the pool splashing around. Miles likes to play volleyball with a beach ball. After another great dinner by the pool, the kids splashed around again.
Around 8:30 p.m., we decided we would take the kids to Downtown Disney, and get most of our souvenir shopping complete. There is a store located there that has just about anything you would want to buy with the words “Walt Disney World” stamped on it. We did not get to the store until 9:30, and would you believe we didn’t leave the store until after 11:00 (you do crazy things when you’re on vacation). The place was PACKED. But everybody got something that they enjoyed, and afterward we treated the kids to some ice cream at McDonalds. Even that sugar high could not keep any of them awake on the drive back to the house.
Tomorrow, we will attend Day 2 at Epcot Center, and we’re not scheduled to arrive until 1:00 or so. Finally, a chance to sleep in!
A note about Animal Kingdom – Yesterday while at the Animal Kingdom, Scott, Erin & Adam were sitting on a bench waiting to ride the train. It was hot, and they weren’t real excited about anything yet. A Disney “cast member” came by and asked them how they were, and she was not very impressed with their unenthusiastic response. They got to talking, and found out that there was going to be a wedding next week. It turns out this lady was from the “Dream Squad”. I guess it is their job to make sure everybody at the park is having a good time? If somebody knows more about the Dream Squad, please let us know! Anyway, she gave them 5 passes to the Kilimanjaro Safari and also 10 buttons that indicate it is our 1st trip to Disney World. We all thought that was very neat!