Friday, June 23, 2017

Epcot, April, 2017

The fourth day of our April trip was spent at Epcot. I was super excited for this day, as it was the first time I've visited during the Flower and Garden Festival.  In all honesty, I think I had caught it once before, but that was a super rushed half-day trip when I was young and unappreciative.  I was also interested in the egg hunt that Epcot does each year for Easter.  I had read this was fun, but I still wasn't sure what to expect.

As always, we left the hotel early enough that we could be at the park before it even opened.  When they opened the gaates, we were let in for a rope drop up by Spaceship Earth.  While here, we were entertained by the Master Gardeners who performed some musical numbers for us.  Littlecjc decided she needed a better look and Grandma eagerly obliged.


Patrick and I opted to stay back and finalize our rope drop action plan.


The park was open from 9-9 and we had fastpasses for The Seas with Nemo and Friends (9:50-10:50,) Frozen Ever After (11:35-12:35,) and Mission: Space (1:30-2:30.)  Because of the tier system in place at Epcot, you can only get a fastpass for Frozen Ever After or Soarin' since they are both tier 1 attractions.  Since Frozen is a newer attraction and Soarin' now has three three bays, we chose to get a fast pass for Frozen.  When we made decision, we thought we would then head straight to Soarin when the park opened.  As we started our day though, we decided to change our plan just a little.  If you read about our trip to Epcot last June, you know that we waited a very long time to meet Joy and Sadness.  (If you missed it, you can read about it here.)  With this in mind, we changed our game plan as we waited for the park to open, and decided that since Soarin can accommodate many people at once, we wouldn't be out much time and would probably help in the long run to start our day meeting a few characters.

9:00
So , when the park opened, our first stop was to see Joy and Sadness, characters 1 and 2.


We were the second people in line and we were so excited that we were able to get our picture with them as well this time.


When we finished with these Inside Out characters, we noticed that Baymax (who meets just across the hall) still had no line.  So we met character #3, Baymax.  


Within 10 minutes of park opening, we had met 3 characters and still had hardly no line for Soarin' attraction #1.  Since Littlecjc was unfortunately still too short, Mom and I rode first (getting a rider swap pass) while Patrick and Littlecjc rode Living with the Land, attraction #2.


They obviously had no wait and ended up in a boat all by themselves.  When we all met back up, we switched it up.  Littlecjc showed Grandma the Living with the Land attraction #3  while Patrick and I decided to hold on to our baby swap pass and stand in line for Soarin, attraction #4 since the line was still short.  By the time we finished in The Land, we were able to go next door and use our first fastpass at The Seas with Nemo and Friends, attraction #5.  No, we didn't really need fastpasses for this attraction, but with the tier system, your choices are a little limited.

10:00
After the ride, we spent a little time exploring the aquariums and then decided to watch Turtle Talk with Crush, attraction #6.  We didn't think there was a line when we made this decision, but we must have just missed a show, because we still waited a quite a while before being let in to the theater.    This show is cute and definitely worth your time if you've never seen it.  Since this is an interactive show based on the questions asked by kids in the audience, every show is a little different.  We hadn't seen it in a while so we were able to appreciate it again, but Littlecjc was still not eager to ask questions or even sit up front with the other kids.  She was entertained enough to sit still, but she wasn't super impressed either.  After spending almost an hour "under water," we emerged and took a few pictures.



11:00
With our morning rush done, we thought about stopping in at Spaceship Earth, but the line was very long, so we settled for some pictures at the front of the park instead.  Unfortunately, the front of the park was still busy with people entering the park.  This always amazes me that people would choose to sleep in and enter the park 2 hours after opening, when within that time, we were already able to get in 6 attractions, 3 characters, and aquarium exploration.  Anyway, we wanted pictures at the front of the park, and we had an hour before our next fastpass.  Littlecjc was not having it and with the crowds, it was hard to get a good picture anyway.  This was the best we got. 


This is also your first glimpse of the amazing topiaries on display during this event.  I regret that I didn't get a better picture of this one, but it was called Welcome Spring Fun, Food and Flowers, topiary #1.  I've decided to keep track of these as well, since they were just as fun to see and an attraction in their own way.  Just on the other side of Spaceship Earth, we found another sculpture that was new this year, Figment, topiary #2.


We then stopped at the Pin Central - Future World shop for our Flower and Garden Festival pins, our garden passport, and our egg map.  If you're ever at Epcot around Easter, I highly suggest that you take part in this activity.  I think that it ran all during the festival this year, while supplies lasted.  This is an extra cost activity, but I'm so glad we gave this a try.  We paid $5.99 for our map, 12 stickers (to place on the map as we found each egg) and our "prize" upon completion.  This seemed like a fair price to us.  I guess you don't actually have to pay for the activity, as anyone can find the eggs, but for $6 Littlecjc loved putting her sticker down each time she found an egg and got to take home both the completed map and her prize.  Some eggs were really easy to spot, but others were pretty hard to find.  We didn't want to take all day finding eggs, and we didn't want Littlecjc to lose interest, so I found some hints online at guide2wdw.com.  This page provided hints first with no pictures and then solutions with exact details and pictures if needed, so as long as I didn't scroll down too far I could still participate.  I was so happy to find these general hints with no pictures so that I could lead Littlecjc to the right area without always knowing the exact location myself.  

As we started to enter the world showcase, Patrick made a stop at the La Isla Fresca outdoor kitchen for a snack.  You would think with our previous experience with the Food and Wine Festival, that I would have kept better track of our outdoor food purchases this time around, but unfortunately, I didn't get any pictures.  I'm pretty sure we all shared the Jamaican-braised Beef at this point.  While Patrick was shopping for food, I took in a few more sights of the festival.  There was a large Farmer's Market Stand, topiary #3, that was also new this year.  I have a better picture of the other side of this one that you will see later, but here's Donald, Huey, Dewey, and Louie.  


I also found The Three Caballeros, topiary #4 at the start of the Mexican pavilian.



We also found Anna & Elsa, topiary #5 conveniently located in Norway just in front of our next stop, the bathroom!


12:00
By now, we were able to continue on to Frozen Ever After, attraction #7 and use our fastpass to avoid the line.

There's always so much discussion on this attraction and Frozen in general, but I don't care how you feel about that, I think you can still appreciate this ride.  I also know that it is those impressive animatronics that have caused this ride to close on multiple occasions, but wow!  
Before leaving Norway, we took the time to meet Anna and Elsa, characters #4 and 5.




I'm always a sucker for these sweet hug pictures!

After leaving Arrendale, we backed up to Mexico, to start our egg hunt from the beginning.  At this point, I hadn't pulled up our hints, but when I started to think about it I remembered seeing where this one was hidden when I was doing my research on the Easter egg hunt and deciding whether it was something we wanted to do.  So, with my inside knowledge, we headed inside the building to look around.  Littlecjc found the Donald egg hiding up on a balcony pretty quickly.


While here, we took a ride on the Grand Fiesta Boat Ride, attraction #8.  This is one of those rides that never has a wait and is a great way to take a break off your feet and in the AC for a bit.  Not to mention, that the tune is catchy as well.


Although we had already spent a lot of time in Norway, we still hadn't seen the egg, so we stopped there again.  We looked around a little while, and then I thought to look up the hints.  Here's what I found: you might find yourself wandering to locate this egg.  If you're familiar with your shops here, you will remember that there is one called the Wandering Reindeer.  We decided this was where we were suppose to go and made our way inside.  I found this one quickly hiding up above, just inside the door and let Patrick in on it.  Grandma, however walked around the store with Littlecjc until she noticed we weren't looking around anymore so she led little one back that way.  I think after the direction change, though, Littlecjc found this Daisy egg all by herself.


Look what else we found hiding out in Norway, a Troll, topiary #6.  


On our way to China, we also found Pandas, topiary #7.  




China also had one of the easiest eggs to spot, and Littlecjc definitely had this one right away, without any prompts.  This Pluto egg was right near the waterfront.


Right behind the egg was this beautiful Bromeliad Dragon, topiary #8.


We then tried getting Littlecjc to meet Mulan since her set was about to start and we've never visited with her here, but Littlecjc was not interested.  She wanted to move on and find her next egg.

1:00
So, we moved on and found this Chip egg overlooking the Outpost.


Just past the Outpost, we found Simba and Friends, topiary #9.  On one side was Pumba and Timone.



The other side of the walkway had Rafikki and the lions.


As we entered Germany, I looked up our hint that stated: they were definitely toying with us for this location.  With this info, we headed straight for Der Teddybar, the toy toy store, where we quickly found Dale hiding up above this Snow White display.


We found Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, topiary #10 just past the shops of Germany.




When we made it to Italy, I read the following hint, without telling anyone: look up, no look higher.  So I encouraged everyone to walk into the pavilion and when we reached the back we turned around.  As Grandma was getting anxious and starting to ask what the clue said, Littlecjc got all excited and pointed out the Goofy egg way up atop of the tower.


We could tell that Littlecjc was getting sleepy, and it was time for our final fastpass back in Future World, so we put her in her stroller and started walking that way.  I'm pretty sure she was asleep before we even made it back to the Outpost.  Patrick decided on a quick drink stop in Norway, and there just happened to a photopass photographer there.  We can't ever pass those up, especially if they don't have a line.


This worked out well for us, since she was too short to ride anyway.  En route, we noticed that the single rider line at Test Track was super short, so Mom and I jumped in since Patrick was eager to stay with Littlecjc while she was asleep. So, I got a rider swap to come back later with Patrick and mom and I rode Test Track, attraction #9.  

2:00
We made it to Mission: Space, attraction #10 where we used our final fastpass.


Patrick and I rode this one together, while my mom opted to sit out.  While over here in Future World East end, we found the Fab Five, topiary #11.




Crossing back in front of Mission: Space, we appropriately found Buzz Lightyear, topiary #12.


We even found a photopass photographer here.  I was sad that Littlecjc was asleep, because she loves Buzz Lightyear.


By this time, we needed to make our way back to Norway where we had a late lunch dining reservation at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall at 2:50.  I quickly darted over to snap these two pictures of Lightning McQueen and Cruz, topiary #13.



Apparently, the Cruz topiary was new this year celebrating the new Cars 3 movie.

3:00
We entered Akershus just before 3, where we instantly met Belle, character #6 who greets you before you are even seated.


We enjoy this restaurant a lot.  They have an appetizers buffet bar where you can help yourself.  You then have several options for your main course before a plate of desserts are delivered to the table family-style so that you can sample them all.  While here, we got to see Aurora, Cinderella, Snow White, and Ariel, characters #7, 8, 9, and 10.





4:00
After finishing our lunch, we thought we would circle back through the front of the park and start the World Showcase from the other side.  Before we made it out of the showcase though, we decided to stop and get our picture with Donald Duck, character #11 in his costume from the Three Caballeros.




When we made it back to Future World, Patrick and I got in line for Test Track, attraction #11, while Grandma and Littlecjc checked out Road to the Florida 500 play garden.  This was a special playground area set up during the Flower and Garden Festival.

5:00
Unfortunately, Test Track experienced a brief shutdown before we actually boarded.  We stayed in line, and thankfully it wasn't super long.  Eventually, we boarded and enjoyed our ride.


When we finally got out of Test Track, we quickly met back up with Grandma and Littlecjc and headed to Spaceship Earth.  On the way, we found Stitch, topiary #14.


Remember how we passed this ride in the morning with a really long line?  Well, we walked right on at this time of the day, making Spaceship Earth, attraction #12


I have no idea why Littlecjc loves this ride, but she really does.  

6:00
However, she decided this time that her favorite ride/character here at Epcot was Figment.  Attraction #13 was Journey into Imagination with Figment.


I know this wasn't her first time riding this, but we also didn't get it in during our last trip, so maybe she didn't remember it.  She loved this though and kept talking about Figment once we got off.  We made our way next door to where the Visa Cardholder special meet and greet was located.  Since you never know exactly who you'll meet here, Littlecjc kept saying that she hoped it was Figment.  We of course figured it was some grouping of the Fab 5, and in fact, it ended up being Mickey and Goofy, characters #12 and 13.



She was slightly sad when we left that it wasn't Figment, but as you can see in the pictures, she was pretty excited to see Mickey and Goofy too.  Before starting our circle back around the World Showcase, we found the Fantasia topiary, #15.





We also explored the Butterflies on the Go tent, that was filled with butterflies.  We walked right past the Music Garden Melodies play garden that looked really fun, but we didn't want to stop and spend too much time there.  Since Littlecjc had already played on the other play garden, we were able to convince her to bypass this one so that we could continue our egg hunt.

As we entered Canada, we stopped at the new Northern Bloom outdoor kitchen, for some yummy seared scallops and a maple popcorn shake.  I thought the shake sounded yucky, but it was so good.



Canada was also home to Bambi and Friends, topiary #16.


There seemed to be a lot of people looking for the Easter egg here, so I looked up my hint pretty early where I was told: "warning: you may get wet finding this egg."  With this tip, we headed towards the waterfall where Littlecjc eagerly found this Thumper egg.


Here's a picture of her putting her sticker on the map.


On our way out of Canada, Littlecjc found this photo opportunity which cracked us all up since she was determined she wanted the top hole.


As we entered the UK pavilion, we were overwhelmed by the topiary.  first, we found Winnie the Pooh and Friends, topiary #17.





We also found Peter Pan and Tinker Bell, topiary #18.



Tinkerbell's garden was also filled with fairy houses that were so cute.


By this point, we were pretty much looking up our egg hints as soon as we entered each pavilion.  So, our hint here read: what kind of solider is not dangerous?  We made our way to The Toy Solider shop and started walking around.  It didn't take long for Littlecjc to spot this White Rabbit egg.


7:00
We finally made our way to France where Patrick and I were eager to get our picture taken with Beauty and the Beast, topiary #19 since we were dressed in that theme.




With pictures done, we looked up our hint to find the egg which read: Look for some tasty words, and you might find an egg nearby.  We walked through the pavilion looking all around at all the tasty locations here.  We eventually made our way to Les Halles Boulangerie & Patisserie at the back of the pavilion and found this Minnie egg hiding up high in the back of the dining area.


With another egg found, Littlecjc was eager to move on to the next pavilion to find the next egg, so we moved on to Morocco.  Our hint here stated: Keep your chin up if you're heading from Japan.  This made it pretty obvious to me where it might be, so I let Littlecjc look around for a little while before I encouraged her to walk past the pavilion and turn around.  She then instantly spotted this Perry egg, even though she didn't have a clue who it was.


We definitely spent the longest time searching for any egg in Japan, our next pavilion.  The hint here read: between two bonsais.  First, we found these amazing miniature Japanese gardens, but there definitely wasn't any eggs here.


We seriously looked all over this pavilion, inside and out.  I think I eventually gave in and looked at the solution online and then felt ridiculous.  If we had come from the other direction, there would have been no way to miss this egg, but we were so eager to get inside the pavilion, that we completely missed this egg sitting opposite of the pavilion on the main walkway.  Littlecjc was so excited that this egg was Figment.


With only one egg left, we made our way to the American Adventure to look for the Mickey egg.  After struggling in Japan, I looked up our hint right away and all that was listed was HMG.  As soon as we entered the pavilion, we saw that the gift shop here is called Heritage Manor Gifts.  Before heading inside, Patrick decided to stop at The Smokehouse kitchen while Littlecjc got her picture with Woody, topiary #20.


Once we walked in the door we all spotted our last egg.


I loved how we broke up our egg hunt and our journey around the world, but Littlecjc was now eager to get her prize for finishing the egg hunt and the only location to do this was now on the opposite side of where we were.  We decided to keep walking the direction we were already going, which worked out well since we apparently missed the Italy Lady and Tramp, topiary #21.


We also caught a photographer taking pictures at the Snow White topiary so we of course stopped.


Eventually, we made our way around the world and Littlecjc redeemed her prize.  She was eager to show the castmember her completed map and then chose the Lady egg as her prize.



8:00
We were feeling pretty accomplished with our day, so we decided to scope out a place to watch Illuminations.  En route, we found Butterflies, topiary #22.


After a trip to the bathroom, we found a spot to watch the show and us girls stayed put while Patrick went in search of food.  He kept going to different outdoor kitchens and coming back with more food for us all to sample.  He also did some festival shopping where he came back with the PUSH festival themed salt and pepper shakers.

9:00
Right at 9:00, Illuminations started and we enjoyed the show.




When it ended, we moved with the masses toward the exit, but we stopped to take a few pictures.



We also saw the final topiary, Phineas and Ferb, but I apparently didn't get a picture of them, probably due to the crowd trying to leave the park.  Overall, we had a great day. We visited with 13 characters and rode 13 attractions. We sampled many offerings from the outdoor kitchens and saw all 23 of the topiaries.  For our first flower and garden festival, I was very happy.  



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