In February 2020, I took a trip to Walt Disney World to experience the parks in depth for the first time since 2013 and celebrate my senior year of high school with this as my senior trip. Luckily I did it now because with the recent COVID-19 pandemic, every Disney park around the world is closed indefinatley. I more than likely wouldn’t be able to go for a spring break trip so I was fortunate enough to go when I did. In these posts I’ll go in depth with each day of the trip by telling stories, giving thoughts on the attractions, and giving thoughts on my overall experience.
With that being said, we’ll start with Day 1. The day consisted of traveling, checking into Pop Century, and an afternoon/evening at Epcot with my first time seeing Epcot Forever.
We landed in Orlando from Detroit around 2 PM, we got immediately off the plane and got our bags from the baggage claim. It took a while for the bags to get to the claim but we eventually got to the Magical Express check-in area. We were checked-in no problem and got in a short line for the bus to Pop Century. After waiting around 20-30 minutes we boarded our bus to Pop. After around a 25 minute bus ride we made our way on property! We stopped at Art of Animation first before going across the parking lot to Pop Century.
While on the bus we were given our room number, which ended up being in the 90’s section of the resort For those who don’t know Pop, the 90’s is the furthest section away from the Classic Hall, and the bus and Skyliner stations. So the first thing we did when we got to Pop was to try to change the room to get something closer. It didn’t seem likely with the high volume of guests the resort was inhabiting, but after speaking with a cast member we found a room in the 70’s section. This was a section much closer to the bus and Skyliner stations, so we were ecstatic.
We stayed on the fourth floor of building #6, I couldn’t remember the exact room number, but we were closer to the staircase that was closest to Classic Hall. Although the stairs to the Skyliner station weren’t too far away and provided a direct walkway to and from the station.
This was my first time staying at Pop Century since they renovated the rooms in 2018 and I have to say, these rooms are far better than they were before. I was a bit skeptical because I was a big fan of the design of the old rooms but the renovated rooms definitely look more modern and have a ton more storage space. I was really impressed with how much I ended up liking these rooms. After unpacking and resting from all the traveling, I high tailed it on over to Epcot.
Taking the Skyliner from Pop to Epcot was a real breeze. It only took about 12 minutes from the time I left Pop/AoA to the time I got to Epcot. I entered the park around 5:15-ish and headed straight for Soarin’ Around the World since I had a Fastpass+ slot from 4:30-5:30. I got to Soarin’ around 5 minutes before the window “expired” (more on that later), and tapped in. The first thing I noticed is that the Fastpass line was longer in length than the stand-by line. The Fastpass line was backed up all the way behind the screens, while the stand-by line started right where the interactive screens were. Despite this, I only ended up waiting around 15 minutes with my FP.
When I got up to the loading area, I asked one of the cast members if I could have section B1 and she granted it if I waited an extra flight, which I didn’t mind doing. I will say, I had ridden Soarin’ three times up to that point and sitting in section B1 was by far the best experience! When you sit in section B1, you are dead center so the CGI looks way less distorted and you don’t see anyone’s legs above you. It is not my favorite ride at Epcot, but sitting in B1 makes it a better ride experience.
After getting off Soarin’, I made my way over to Spaceship Earth to use my second FP+. I tapped in and was the only one in the FP queue up to the merge point where I walked up the ramp and got on the attraction for a total wait of about 2 minutes. Spaceship Earth is one of my personal favorite rides at Epcot and one of my favorite dark rides in the world. The show scenes are so well designed and amazing, and the animatronics look great. I really am looking forward to see what they do with the update!
After disembarking Spaceship Earth, I headed towards Mission Space for my third Fastpass+ reservation. On the way there, I stopped to look at the Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind and Play Pavilion construction. There didn’t seem to be any activity going on, but it was still very cool to see two pivotal pieces of the Epcot overhaul. Then I used my Fastpass 5 minutes before my scheduled time, which is allowed. There is a grace period with the Fastpass+ system where if you arrive up to 5 minutes before or 15 minutes after your hour time slot, you will be allowed in. So I took advantage of the 5 minute time period at Mission Space! As soon as I got in line I hopped on the My Disney Experience app and was able to get a Fastpass for Epcot Forever. I know I didn’t need a Fastpass, but I wanted to have it just so I can have a space reserved ahead of time for the show.
This ride on Mission Space was fairly significant for me, because this was my first ride on the Orange mission. I had gone on the Green mission on my previous two rides in the past years, but have never done Orange. Knowing the controversy that surrounded the attraction and the Orange mission and me being more of a thrill seeker than I was in the past, I just had to try it.
This was also my first ride since the major renovation in 2017. While I think the theming in the queue has improved, the ride and build-up to it hasn’t changed at all. The Green mission was very underwhelming (I’ll go more in-depth with that in another blog), and I missed Gary Sinise as the capcom, as he was replaced with the far less interesting Gina Torres.
For my first ride on the Orange (More Intense or Mars mission) side and I was chosen to be the navigator. My job didn’t matter as I thought this was the most intense ride I’ve ever ridden at a Disney park. The forcefulness of the launch is more force than most coasters I’ve ridden to the point where my body felt numb to me. It is just so well executed to the point where I actually felt like I was actually experiencing space travel. It’s not for the faint of heart (that’s why they have the Green side), but if your down for a thrill than absolutely check it out!
After my ride on Mission Space, I headed over to the Epcot Experience to check that out since I hadn’t seen it. It was really cool to see all the concept art for what’s coming in the future and was a really cool place to chill in relax. I was starting to get hungry around this time so I went to the stand outside of the display, which had just started serving there 2-3 days prior. The menu consisted of your typical flatbreads and nuggets, but me being the adventurous eater this trip decided to try the sliced turkey and mozzarella sandwich. I really didn’t know what to expect when I ordered this, I was a bit skeptical when it came prepackaged in a container, but to my surprise it was actually a really good sandwich! It tasted way more fresh than I thought it ever would and the taste overall was just good. It was also nice to eat among a crap ton of posters from Epcot attractions.
After eating I really didn’t have a plan for what to do but when I checked my app, I noticed that Journey Into Imagination with Figment was a walk-on so I decided to head over there. I hadn’t been on the attraction since 2011 when the blast of air near the end of the attraction scared the living daylights out of me. I wanted to go on it since I now knew the history behind Figment and what a major presence he had at the park. I walked right through the queue and ended up getting an entire vehicle to myself. The ride is….. pretty bad, especially when I considered the past history of how whimsical the original attraction was. This version is just Eric Idle getting pissed off at Figment and Figment acting like a nuisance. It’s not great and wish it can go soon.
After I left the Imagination Pavilion I went to take an evening stroll around the World Showcase before my Fastpass+ for Epcot Forever, which I got after using my last FP+ at Mission Space. I know I didn’t need a FP for Epcot Forever, but I wanted to have it so I can stand in a less crowded area for my first time.
I started my walk around the world by actually getting the Almond Frangipane cake at the Pop Eats booth right outside the Mexico Pavilion while the Festival of the Arts was going on. If you don’t know what it is, it’s a very colorful and picturesque piece of cake that consists of a vanilla cake with sweet raspberry jam and chocolate ganache icing. I heard mixed reviews about the dessert but I ended up really liking it as I thought the chocolate and raspberry flavors went really well with the vanilla cake. I then continued my stroll around the world, where I came across the Jewled Dragon Acrobats in China, saw the Magic Kingdom fireworks in the distance across the World Showcase lagoon in Germany, and just took a bunch of pictures as well as the sights and sounds of each pavilion.
At around 8:30, the torches were lit across the World Showcase Lagoon and the 30 minute announcement played over the speakers. At this point I headed over towards the FP+ viewing area at the entrance to the World Showcase near the Canada side, I then scanned in and waited for the show to start. One thing I noticed about this viewing area is that it was right in front of the stage they do some of the festival and some of the rigging from the stage was in the way of the view of the lagoon with the park fully lit. Luckily when the areas around the stage went dark for the show it didn’t obstruct anything. I also noticed a lot of people were sitting around the central area of the viewing spot, but I decided to stand off to the left side near where the Frozen Ever After dessert party was taking place.
The show started at exactly 9 PM and I just want to say that I personally love this show. Being a retro theme park nerd and hearing all the Epcot themes of past and present was so cool. The pyrotechnics and effects were also extremely well done! My personal favorite part of the show was the 2-3 minute Millennium Celebration section of the show with Tapestry of Nations and “Celebrate the Future Hand and Hand”. I nearly broke down in tears when the torches lit around the lagoon and the Tapestry of Nations soundtrack started playing. Follow that up with the kites flying around the lagoon set to “Golden Dreams” and “Celebrate the Future Hand and Hand” while they had sparklers shooting out the back of them, I was in retro Epcot heaven. The most controversial part of the show was the choice of having “A Whole New World” from Aladdin being the song for the finale of the show. I will agree with this, as up to when “A Whole New World” started playing, I was sucked into all the past and present Epcot themes so having that play at the end threw everything off and just threw the show into an inconsistent end. Despite this, the first nine minutes of the show were complete heaven for a retro theme park nerd like me.
Right when the show ended, I darted towards the International Gateway to meet the rest of my family at Beach Club. I thought I’d be in a much heavier crowd, but the bottleneck seemed to be headed towards the main entrance and not the International Gateway. So I ended up having a nice walk out of the park where I met up with my family at Beach Club. We were going to get Beaches & Cream, but the to-go line was fairly long and the Skyliner was going to close at 10 PM, which was about 35-40 minutes, so we passed.
We ended up getting on the Skyliner and back to Pop Century no problem as that ended Day 1 of this Disney trip. We needed to get to sleep because we had a battle for a Rise of the Resistance boarding group the next day.
In Day 2, we will be at Disney’s Hollywood Studios as I continue my February 2020 Disney World adventure!