Monday, July 21, 2014

Trip Report: [Day 2] Celebrating (the US of A) MERICA at Epcot

Rachel had been giving me a lot of grief for booking a reservation at a Moroccan restaurant on the 4th of July.  So to make up for it, I planned the rest of the day to be distinctly patriotic.

Grand Floridian

Yesterday when we were shopping in Magic Kingdom, Rachel snuck away to Guest Relations to pick up a bunch of celebration buttons for Dad because we realized that he would be turning 60 this month.




Dad, however, was less than enthused about the buttons. He refused to wear it on his shirt because he didn't want to put a hole in it, so he wore it rather low-key around one of his belt loops. However, it turns out that the cast members are masters at spotting these things.

Celebration Button

Epcot Center

I planned for us to spend the day in Epcot because it's a very patriotic park. That and I knew that the Magic Kingdom would be reaching peak crowd levels. Epcot is also a great park to visit on a holiday because it's very large and disperses crowds well.

Spaceship Earth

We arrived a little early for our Soarin' FastPass+ (us... early?  I know!), so we headed over to The Seas with Nemo, forgetting that this was our third Epcot FastPass+ for the day.  Epcot FastPass+ really stinks because there aren't many "E-ticket" attractions at Epcot, so everyone is forced to choose between Soarin' and Test Track and every other attraction worth FastPassing.

For the first time in several visits, the manatee section was open. There are two male manatees currently living at The Seas. The smaller, Lou, was injured by a propeller and is missing the majority of its tail, and the other, Lil Joe, was listed as an "orphan". I wondered how a manatee could be a known orphan, and later in the day, I had the unique opportunity to talk to a former cast member at The Seas. She said that they continue to release the Lil Joe back into his natural habitat, but once released, he stops eating and becomes really malnourished, so they take him back and nurse him back to health. They have attempted release three or so times, now, but he continues to come back to The Seas.

Here is the orphan, Lil Joe -

Manatee, The Seas

And the injured manatee, Lou -

Manatee, The Seas

We headed to The Land for our Soarin' FastPass+. I realized that the introduction says no flash photography, not no photography, so I snapped a photo on the ride (I've done it before when I thought it wasn't allowed, too). I can never get the front row!!! I don't know why they didn't design this attraction so that the feet of the people above didn't show.

Soarin' Over California

Hunger was calling us to eat lunch, so we headed towards World Showcase. Since I ruined our American patriotism by scheduling a Moroccan dinner, I assured the family that we could make up for it by eating an all-American lunch at the American Pavilion.

Leaving Future World, I stopped at what used to be labeled a "Kodak Picture Spot" (poor Kodak) for this photo, and I looked at the monorail tracks and thought that it would be a really nice shot if the monorail would come. Of course, I couldn't wait because my family was already 100 or so feet ahead of me.

Imagination Pavilion

And a minute or so later, I saw the monorail approaching. My shot!!! I literally turned and ran backwards, but I couldn't quite make it to the picture-perfect location.

Imagination Pavilion

The walk to the American Pavilion was the hottest, most terrible walk of the entire trip.

UK Pavilion

What made it worse is that my family was speed-walking for the United States Pavilion because they couldn't wait for some air conditioning. So I would stop, snap a quick photo, and then hop-skip to catch up to them. Repeat.

France Pavilion

Morocco Pavilion

Morocco Pavilion

Japan Pavilion

Celebrating USA's Birthday in Distinctly Patriotic Fashion

AMERICA!!! I felt like I had just arrived at Ellis Island. Give me your tired, your hungry, your poor, and your overheated theme park-goers... or something like that.

American Pavilion

American Pavilion

But really just give me a hot dog. Though World Showcase opens at 11AM, the restaurants don't open until 11:30, so we had to wait TEN MINUTES for them to start taking our food orders. I felt like I was line for US customs, it was moving so slow.

Liberty Inn

Really... could I be any more patriotic?

Liberty Inn Hot Dog

Dad, however, ordered a Southwest Salad. A SOUTHWEST SALAD!?!?! On the Fourth of July!?!?! We're celebrating our country's Independence, not the westward expansion. What do you think Francis Scott Key was eating as he wrote the Star Spangled Banner.... a southwest salad or a hot dog?

Southwest Salad

He attempted to make up for it with Liberty Ale.

Liberty Ale

An All-American Selfie -

All-American Selfie

And apple pie!

Apple Pie

Happy Birthday, America!

Apple Pie

Land of the free, home of the brave.

Celebrate America

American flag shorts and star spangled ears!

Celebrate America

High-waisted booty shorts and wall twerking? It's a Party in the USA!

Celebrate America

We decided for the first time in forever to watch The American Adventure, mostly because it was starting soon (if the previous show has just started, expect to wait half an hour until the next). As my dad was entering the pavilion, the cast member at the door said, "Happy birthday, Boyd! I have a call for you! Well, first you have to throw away your drink." He directed my dad to the telephone where he received birthday wishes from Mickey and friends.

Birthday Call

The American Adventure is a audio-animatronic and film show narrated by Mark Twain and Ben Franklin which presents 29 minutes of American history, focusing mainly on our triumphs. Honestly, I didn't find the censoring of American history of this show to be much different than that in our children's textbooks. WE WON THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR! We imported slaves and intentionally gave smallpox to the Native Americans. THE CIVIL WAR ENDED SLAVERY! So we enforced racial segregation through Jim Crow laws. Still, I definitely wouldn't describe it as a feel-good show.

And in Disney's defense, a theme park isn't really the ideal location for the United States' uncensored history. Of all of the other countries' features that I have watched in World Showcase, The American Adventure is perhaps the most self-critical. Will Rogers in the Great Depression scene says, "Seems to me we was a mighty cocky nation" in regards to technology during the time. And narrators Mark Twain and Ben Franklin even reflect on how we've come a long way, but we have a long way to go. For all other World Showcase countries, the features serve mainly to promote tourism or share their strongly-rooted culture... which is why I would guess that the American Adventure production is far from entertaining to non-Americans.

So sure, they do a pretty good job cramming two (plus if you count the video montage at the end) centuries into a half-hour show. Also, the audio-animatronic technology is well-crafted (though I could have done without some of the photo montages and weird song interludes). And I know that US history was very important to Walt Disney. But aren't we making ourselves look a little boring here?

American Adventure

At the end of the show, Rachel was unsuccessful in starting the U-S-A chant.

I then creeped on Patriotic Mickey and gang because as much as I wanted a picture with that cutie, I didn't want to wait in line.

Patriotic Mickey

After using our Maelstrom FastPass+, we headed back to the resort.

Rachel and Mom jumped off the resort monorail at the Polynesian, so Dad and I followed them.  They were looking for Dole Whip.... but it turns out that due to the current construction at the Polynesian (the lobby is completely closed off by construction walls and scrim), there was no Dole Whip to be found.

Mickey Mouse ice cream bars would have to do.  We picked some out of the freezer at Gasparilla's Grill back at the Grand Floridian, and were disappointed to find that they were all cracked. I actually complained about how our ice cream bars were cracked in my post-Disney survey when reviewing Gasparilla's Grill.

Mickey Mouse Ice Cream Bar

Grand Floridian Marina

Grand Floridian

Courtyard Pool

Grand Floridian

Restaurant Marrakesh

We returned to Epcot for dinner at Restaurant Marrakesh.  This was a dining first for us, as this restaurant had never even been on my radar until I read an awesome review by Tom Bricker on the Disney Tourist Blog.

Restaurant Marrakesh

Restaurant Marrakesh has a well-themed and entertaining atmosphere.  A live band played while a belly dancer performed. Not all tables had a great view of the dance floor, and the pubescent boys from a large table stuck back in the corner would come and stand right beside us, even holding the back of my chair, so that they could get a good view.

Restaurant Marrakesh

Restaurant Marrakesh

Rachel and I both ordered the shish kebab, but we had two different opinions. I liked the meat and thought it was flavorful, though I did wish that it was a little spicier. Rachel thought that her meat was dry and wished that she had more sauce.

Shish Kebab

Mom ordered the chicken bastilla which was listed as an appetizer on the menu. The presentation with her dish wasn't nearly as nice. Mom also thought that the flavoring was a bit bland and was hoping for something a bit spicier.

Chicken Bastilla

And Dad had the couscous which he didn't really enjoy. Again, he thought it was lacking flavor and a bit on the dry side.

Couscous

Perhaps we all just had the wrong idea of Moroccan food, but we expected lots of great spices and flavorful dishes, and Restaurant Marrakesh didn't quite deliver.  I'm not sad that we tried it, but it isn't on my radar for a future visit.

After dinner, I had the great opportunity to meet up with a friend who studied abroad in Italy with me and was at Disney World for her first time ever.  We spent a while catching up in front of the American Adventure (so patriotic).  My family then found seats in the America Gardens Theater for the Don't Look Back - Boston Tribute Band performance at this year's Sounds Like Summer Concert Series.  This is when I started getting a bit antsy as I watched people claim Illuminations spots around the World Showcase Lagoon. However, Don't Look Back had a great performance, and the audience really loved it.

VIC_9213

Fourth of July Illuminations

After the concert, much of the circumference of the World Showcase Lagoon was already occupied. This forced me to be resourceful. I noticed a spot in the France Pavilion that had a high wall which I realized my tripod could just meet. I left Dad and Rachel at this spot while I did a little more searching but decided that at this point, it was my best bet.

World Showcase Lagoon

It wasn't the most ideal view of Illuminations because the islands blocked the globe and much of the water features. There was a kid behind me who was really angry that he couldn't see the globe. I mean, this is the kid whose family stepped up fifteen minutes before showtime, and he was upset that he didn't have a better view. I've been staking this spot out for an hour. Cry me a river.

I really enjoy watching the fireworks in Epcot on the Fourth of July because the regular Illuminations is showed, followed by a special Fourth of July tag.  So you get two fireworks shows without having to move locations.

Illuminations

Illuminations

Illuminations

Illuminations

Illuminations

Illuminations

Illuminations

Illuminations

Illuminations

Illuminations

And, as always, end with a bang.  Then there was a surprise finale.  The lights had been turned up and people had started moving when suddenly, there was a surprise repeat of the finale.  It was almost as if someone said, "Wait!  We have more fireworks!"

Illuminations

Epcot also had Extra Magic Hours for resort guests that evening, so we were able to ride Test Track.

Test Track

And even nap on the way home!

Monorail Nap

NEXT: Day 3 - Conquering Hollywood Studios Overrun by Tourists and our First (Mini) Kitchen Sink!