5 fun things to do at Epcot

5 fun things to do at epcot

Epcot is perhaps the more ‘grown-up’ of the Walt Disney World Resort theme parks in Orlando, so I am writing this as an adult*, for adults because Disney World is for everyone, not just kids!

*Please note I don’t really consider myself to be a proper adult.

1. Buy a passport and travel the world

As I said before, I’m not a proper adult because no proper adult would buy themselves one of these souvenir Epcot passports and then visit all the Kidcot stops (basically children’s craft stations) dotted around the countries in the World Showcase to get their passport stamped.

Epcot World Showcase souvenir passport and badge
I also got this cool Mickey badge with my passport

I visited Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, Italy, United States, Japan, Morocco, France, Canada and the United Kingdom, each time receiving a cute message from the Cast Member there – which by the way, all Cast Members are from the country they are representing at Epcot. How cool is that!

The passport page for Mexico at Epcot World Showcase
The passport page for Mexico

2. Meet characters in their countries

One of my friends really wanted to meet Beauty and the Beast and we found out that they would be appearing in France in the World Showcase so we wandered off there when it was time. Our other friends decided they were too cool to meet the characters but they totally missed out!

Meet Beauty and the Beast in France at Epcot in Orlando
< insert all your Beast jokes here >

The Beast linked arms with me and Belle asked if me and my friend were sisters and then told us how she often travels with enchanted objects.

There are many other characters you can meet around the park, I spotted Mary Poppins in the UK and Aladdin and Jasmine in Morocco too.

Papped! Jasmine and Aladdin holding hands in Morocco
Papped! Jasmine and Aladdin holding hands in Morocco

3. Ride Spaceship Earth

Spaceship Earth is Epcot’s signature attraction. You know that big globe thing that looks like a giant golf ball? Well, there’s a ride in there!

Spaceship Earth at Epcot featuring Toy Story topiary for the Flower and Garden Festival
Spaceship Earth with Toy Story topiary

You sit down in a little train and get taken on a journey through time, exploring the history of communication, which was alot better than I am making it sound!

When you exit the ride you are taken to an interactive area called Project Tomorrow, where you can do silly things like make yourself appear floating about on the screens among other things. I can’t really remember but it was amusing at the time!

Project Tomorrow at Epcot
We’re the floating space-women!

4. Eat the global cuisine at the World Showcase

Give the usual theme park food a miss and head for the World Showcase for your meals. We had some yummy baguettes in France for our lunch and then for dinner we paid a visit to Restaurant Marrakesh for some delicious Moroccan food. Dinner reservations are recommended.

The Patisserie and Boulangerie in France - World Showcase, Epcot
The Patisserie and Boulangerie in France
Try some of the world cuisine on offer at Epcot. This is Restaurant Marrakesh - the Moroccan restaurant.
Restaurant Marrakesh

5. Attend a festival

Epcot hosts its own festivals each year. If you visit during Spring then you will be there for the International Flower & Garden festival and if you visit during the Autumn/Fall then you’ll be in time for the International Food & Wine Festival.

Cars 2 topiary at the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival
Lightning McQueen and Tow Mater from Cars

Our Orlando vacation was in May, so Epcot was adorned with some amazing Disney themed topiary in celebration of the Flower & Garden festival, although the Food & Wine festival sounds pretty tasty!

Tigger and Pooh topiary at Epcot during the Flower & Garden festival
Tigger and Pooh

Of course, Epcot has alot more to offer than what I have mentioned above and if you can, you must stay for the fireworks!

Have you ever been to Epcot? What did you enjoy the most?

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New Years Eve at Disneyland Paris
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New Years Day at Disneyland Paris

Continuing on from New Years Eve at Disneyland, of course we spent most of New Years Day there as well. Quite a memorable start to the new year – no hangovers and a day of fun and magic ahead!

minnie-mickey-donald-float

We could have taken advantage of Extra Magic Hours, and we fully intended to, but when the time came we were just so exhausted that we didn’t bother. We had a 9.45am breakfast reservation at Au Chalet de la Marionette, a cute Pinocchio themed eatery within the Disneyland Park so made that our first port of call for the day.

After filling up on croissants, pain au chocolat and other French goodies, we decided to make the most of the relative calm of the park and get a few rides under our belts. Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast and Space Mountain – both are must-dos in my opinion although I recommend doing the Buzz Lightyear ride first if you have a full stomach!

On the Buzz Lightyear ride you get to sit in a car and shoot lasers at targets, all in the name of defeating the evil emperor Zurg! This is a great ride, perfect for the whole family. Space Mountain is slightly more hardcore and is a supercharged, superfast rollercoaster ride in the dark.

buzz-lightyear-ride-disneyland

After that, we made a beeline across the park for Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril – one of the few outdoor rollercoasters at Disneyland Paris. This is a great fun rickety rail style coaster but I must admit, going on it on such a cold day did make my face hurt!

As we were rushing to our next ride we saw a great photo opportunity with one of the characters – Jack Skellington from The Nightmare Before Christmas, so of course I wanted to tick ‘meet a character’ off of my list. Despite that scary appearance he was very sweet!

jack-skellington

Next stop – Pirates of the Caribbean! I did keep my eyes peeled for Johnny Depp but sadly I didn’t see him.

After all the swashbuckling and adventure, we had worked up an appetite and massive craving for pizza. We stopped at Colonel Hathi’s Pizza Outpost not too far from the Indiana Jones/Pirates of the Caribbean rides. That four cheese pizza was delicious!

By the time we had left the pizza place, we were right on schedule for the next parades – the Frozen parade followed shortly by the Christmas parade. To be honest, the Frozen parade was a little bit disappointing, I was expecting something a little more spectacular than just Anna and Elsa briefly riding past in a horse-drawn carriage, but that’s just me, all the little kids seemed to love it.

frozen-parade-at-disneyland-paris

The Christmas Parade was a big hit with me though and probably the highlight of my New Years Day! It was the usual Disney affair but with a festive theme and a cute medley of Christmas songs. This one was definitely worth the wait.

disneyland-paris-christmas-parade

disneyland-paris-festive-parade

disney-gingerbread-house

christmas-minnie-mouse

santa-claus-at-disneyland

After the parade, we headed straight for the World of Disney shop situated in Disney Village. All four of us bought something there, it was difficult to resist as there were so many cool and cute things for sale. You can see what I bought in my Disney Haul post.

After our mini shopping spree, we headed over to the studios park for another last-ditch attempt at getting on Crush’s Coaster (it’s a good job the parks are so close with the amount of to-ing and fro-ing we did!). Sadly, the queue was yet again too long and there is no fast pass option for this ride, so it just wasn’t meant to be. On the bright side, I did get to go on Crush’s Coaster when I went to DLP in October so I don’t feel completely cheated, its just a shame we didn’t get to ride that wave again.

Still, we had a little time to spare before departing for the train station, so our final entertainment for the day was Animagique and Cinemagique, both of which are indoor shows, so it was really enjoyable for us to sit down in the warm after a tiring two days walking around in the cold!

Animagique is definitely the one for the younger crowd and features some of the best loved animal characters singing and dancing on stage to classics from films such as The Jungle Book and The Little Mermaid.

Cinemagique is more suitable for an older audience and is a clever tribute to cinema history. I won’t give too much away but it’s well worth watching.

And after all that magic and excitement, it was time to head home. Our minds were well and truly Disneyfied. On the train home my husband said to his sister “your car’s gonna be frozen when we get back”. She admitted that it took her a minute to understand what he was saying as all she could think about was Cars and Frozen!

New Years Eve at Disneyland Paris

So this post is long overdue but nevermind, it could provide some inspiration for future New Year celebrations… Enjoy!

disneyland-paris-at-new-year

We arrived at Disneyland around lunchtime on New Years Eve, having left home at around 6am that morning and travelled on the Eurostar via Lille to get to Marne-La-Vallee. Our hotel for the night was the Santa Fe which was a cheap and cheerful Cars themed hotel.

sante-fe-disney-hotel-paris

Fairly basic but it had 2 double beds and included a free shuttle bus to and from the parks, as well as extra magic hours (a perk of staying at a Disney hotel is being able to enter the parks an hour or two before they open to the general public). After checking in and taking the 5 minute bus ride, we made a beeline for the Walt Disney Studios Park.

walt-disney-studios-paris

walt-disney-studios-disneyland-paris

The queue for the park’s newest attraction – Ratatouille – was long but we decided to grin and bear it as we really wanted to see what all the fuss was about. I won’t give too much away, but you get to sport some rather sexy 3D glasses while sitting aboard a rat-shaped car. The ride itself is basically a 4D experience from the point of view of Remy the rat. It’s very cleverly done and definitely not one to be missed!

The plan was to follow this up with Crush’s Coaster but we couldn’t face another 1hr+ queue  so opted for the Studio Tram Tour which had a queue time of just 15 minutes. This is a little tour taking you through some of the studio sets, with some great special effects at the end. I’d say if the queues are short its worth a go but if you’re pressed for time then give it a miss.

After the gentle pace of the tram tour we chose Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith as our next ride. Much to our disappointment, the ride broke down while we were queuing for this one, the silver lining here being that at least we were in the indoor portion of the queue for our wait and not out in the cold. All I can remember from this ride was neon lights, super speeds, twist and turns… oh and the Aerosmith soundtrack!

By this point we decided to go get ourselves an early dinner, so keeping in with the rock n roll theme we walked over to Disney Village to get our fill of burgers and fries at Annette’s Diner, a 1950s American themed diner where the waiters and waitresses glide about on rollerskates.

annettes-diner-disneyland

annettes-diner-at-disneyland-paris

Turns out there were only about 2 waiters actually wearing rollerskates but oh well, the food was pretty good and there was plenty of it!

To let our food settle down, we took a slow amble over to the main park (Disneyland Park) and took some pretty pictures of all the festive décor that was lacking at the studios park. Gotta hand it to them, the folks at Disney sure know how to create an atmosphere!

merry-christmas-disneyland

christmas-tree-at-disneyland

new-years-eve-at-disneyland-paris

minnie-mickey-snow-sculptures

We had a little look around the shops and then decided to go on the It’s a small world ride, which I swear had a slightly more festive and less annoying tune to it than usual (well from my experience of the one in Orlando anyway!). The queue was pretty fast moving for this one so we still had time to kill before the firework display. After a bit of running around checking out ride times, we decided that all we really fancied was a sit-down in the warm with a nice cup of tea so we made our way to Café Hyperion over by Space Mountain.

I think we queued longer for that cup of tea than we would have done had we chosen to go on a ride instead! Ridiculous!

We weren’t really sure which park to be in when the clock struck 12 and after much asking around we decided to stay in the Disneyland Park to watch the night time spectacular show against the backdrop of Sleeping Beauty castle – this was the highlight of the day! The theme was Frozen but there was a good mix of other characters in there too.

new-years-eve-light-display-disneyland-paris

new-year-firework-display-disneyland-paris

Once the fireworks were over, there was a mass crawl to the exit. The park was closing at 1am that day but we were beat and slowly retreated back to the warmth and comfort of our hotel room before another day of theme park fun!

A muggle's guide to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter - how to make the most of your time at Universal's Islands of Adventure

A muggle’s guide to… The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

You may be forgiven for thinking that The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is a theme park in its own right but in actual fact, it is just one part of Universal’s Islands of Adventure theme park. Since The Wizarding World opened in June 2010, it has been Islands of Adventure’s biggest crowd-puller, with people even queuing for up to 8 hours to get into the park on the opening day! But fear not Potter fans, here is my run-down on my time in Hogsmeade which will hopefully help and inspire you on your own wizarding adventure.

Top Tip: Get to the park before it opens and grab a map. As soon as the gates open, head straight to The Wizarding World. The rest of the crowd are sure to be heading in this direction too but the amount of people will be far less than later on in the day.

Rides

First up, make a beeline for Hogwarts Castle as this is where the main ride, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, can be found. Enter the castle (don’t forget to stash your belongings in one of the free lockers!) and follow the corridors of Hogwarts school, where you will find yourself in the familiar surrounds of the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom, Dumbledore’s office and other recognizable locations from the movies and books. You’ll be enchanted by the moving, talking portraits as depicted in the movies and even holograms of some of the main characters, so much so that the attention to detail here makes the queuing process a bit of an experience in itself.

Eventually when you reach the ride, you take your seat upon a 4-person “bench” and are then strapped in and whisked away for an adventure through the land of Harry Potter where you will follow Harry twisting and turning on his broomstick, over the Quidditch pitch and through the Forbidden Forest. You’ll see a fire-breathing dragon, giant spiders and evil dementors among other things – all in a clever mix of real animatronic models and high-tech computer graphics. The ride lasts for around 4 minutes and you’ll definitely want to ride it again just to take it all in! We were incredibly lucky and the longest we had to queue for this ride was around 20 minutes but queues for this have been known to exceed 4 hours!!

The next biggest ride is The Dragon Challenge, which is a nod to the Triwizard Tournament in The Goblet of Fire. Consisting of 2 large and looping rollercoasters, guests will all join one queue and then must choose whether they want to ride the Chinese Fireball or the Hungarian Horntail (red or blue, in muggles terms). Both coasters travel at the same time and there are even a few moments when it appears as though both rollercoasters, or dragons, may collide. Perfect for thrill seekers, wizards and non-Potter fans alike.

A slightly tamer, yet still fun, rollercoaster ride is The Flight of the Hippogriff, which is a lot less stomach churning than The Dragon Challenge and aimed more at a younger crowd. Just don’t forget to bow to the Hippogriff before you ride!

honeydukes-at-wizarding-world-orlando

Shopping and Dining

If you’ve always wanted to get your hands on a Pygmy Puff or a Golden Snitch, then all the best Potter merchandise can be found at the shops in Hogsmeade. These include favourites from the books such as Dervish and Banges, Filch’s Emporium of Confiscated Goods and, my favourite, Honeydukes sweetshop. I defy anyone to walk out of Honeydukes without purchasing some Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans (rotten egg flavour jellybean anyone?)

Top Tip: Inside the bottom of the Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans box there is a little piece of paper revealing which colour beans relate to which flavour. I must admit part of the fun is the Russian Roulette element but if you don’t like surprises or want to trick your friends into eating all the nasty ones then this might come in handy!

You can also visit the Owl Post in Hogsmeade where you can send a postcard home with a special Harry Potter stamp and a Hogsmeade post mark. The stamps are pretty pricey as you have to buy a whole pack (they won’t sell you just one) but you can always purchase a postcard and get a Hogsmeade post mark on the back (you just won’t be able to post it).

While the queues were kind to us for the rides, unfortunately they were a problem at Ollivander’s wand shop and so this was one part of Harry Potter World we failed to experience. Because the shop is small and is an interactive environment, limited numbers of visitors are allowed in at any one time. So true Potter fans should definitely aim to get here early if they want to see and do everything.

If you’re peckish while in this part of the park, then The Three Broomsticks serves up traditional British dishes such as shepherd’s pie and fish & chips, but even if you’ve already eaten, make sure you take a seat in the Hog’s Head pub and sample some famous Butterbeer or Hog’s Head Brew.

Top Tip: Butterbeer is non-alcoholic and comes in regular or frozen (slushie). No one should leave Hogsmeade without trying Butterbeer as the taste is indescribable!

hogs-head-at-harry-potter-world

Other entertainment

There are plenty of things to look at in Hogsmeade, besides rides and shops. The village scenery is very beautiful and detailed, and true to the films. If you are there at the right time you may witness the Triwizard Spirit Rally, with ribbon twirling from the Beauxbaton witches and mock-fighting from the Durmstrang wizards.

Of course, I should add that my visit to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter was before they opened Diagon Alley at Universal Studios last year – which now even includes the Hogwarts Express to connect the two Universal parks!

Have you had the chance to visit the new Diagon Alley section? What did you think?

please-dont-feed-the-birds

My Disney Haul!

So as you know, I was lucky enough to visit Disneyland Paris twice this year so I thought I would share with you my Disney haul. I also bought some of these goodies when I visited Orlando a couple of years ago but I’m pretty sure most of this stuff is available at any Disney park.

Collectables

alice-in-wonderland-snowglobe

Disney have so many adorable snow globes! In all honesty I liked them all, but I owed it to my younger self to purchase the Alice in Wonderland one simply because this was one of my all-time favourite films as a child (still is!). I’m not really someone who tends to collect a lot of ornaments but I can imagine there are a few people out there with an impressive collection of Disney snow globes, they’re all so beautiful.

grape-soda-pin-from-disney-up

Disney Pins are also quite collectable, the parks even have Cast Members who offer pin trading although I don’t know a lot about it since this is the first pin I’ve bought. I really wanted something Up related because I adore that movie. Unfortunately there is a severe lack of Up merchandise available. I really wanted something with the house and balloons on but all I could find was this grape soda pin, like the one Ellie gave to Carl in the film.

Pocket money purchases

disney-keyrings

Not everything at Disney has to cost an arm and a leg, there are plenty of smaller purchases to be had, for example these keyrings. The one on the left was bought at World of Disney in Downtown Disney, Orlando and celebrates the 40th anniversary of Walt Disney World. The one on the right was bought at Disneyland Paris because I really wanted something with the castle on it. Which leads me to…

disney-magnets

I think I have an obsession with the Disney castle because as well as the keyring, I also bought a castle fridge magnet. And although I’m not someone who collects “collectable stuff” as such, I do tend to buy a fridge magnet of some sort whenever I go on holiday, so the one on the right was bought at Walt Disney World Florida (founded 1971).

The Mickey merch

steamboat-willie-mickey-mouse-souvenirs

No one can leave “The Happiest Place On Earth” without some kind of Mickey merchandise, so here are a couple of beauties we picked up at the World of Disney store in Orlando – black and white vintage style Mickeys! The bobble-head sculpture is based on the cartoon that Mickey made his debut, Steamboat Willie. And the other is just a rather cute cuddly toy. Which leads me to…

Another cuddly toy!

lotso-bear-from-toy-story-3

This is Lotso from Toy Story 3, he was bought in the Buzz Lightyear gift shop at Disneyland Paris. He wasn’t a favourite character or anything (I totally love Ken in TS3!) but he’s ever so cuddly and he smells of strawberries!!

The meaningful souvenir

minnie-mickey-proposal

Ok so it might sound cheesy or it might sound incredibly cute but we bought this ornament in Downtown Disney Orlando (I think it was The Art of Disney Store) because my (now) husband proposed to me in Florida. He didn’t do it at the theme parks or anything but it seemed an appropriate memento to have.

The must-have

minnie-mouse-ears

Last but not least, no Disney park shopping trip is complete without Minnie Mouse ears! They’ve had several wears already and I look forward to the next!