Halloween and Thanksgiving are done and gone and Christmas and New Year are still on their way, but Hanukkah is here right now! In honor of the Festival of Lights, I’m wishing a hearty Chag Sameach to my fellow members of the tribe with this Best Week Ever exploration of 2015’s Epcot Hanukkah celebration.
My visit to Epcot coincided with the third day of Hanukkah, and commenced with a spin of the cosmic dreidel that determines parking spots. I must have landed on Nun because I ended up just about as far as possible from the front…
It’s always great to see Epcot’s entry planter once again decked out for the holidays.
Be sure to grab a 2015 Epcot Holidays Around the World Passport, which lists all the seasonal shops and snacks to be found around World Showcase. Think of the event as a second cousin to the International Food and Wine Festival, with a whole lot less liquor and more sugar. You don’t have to make a purchase to get your passport stamped at each listed location.
I started my visit with a shortcut through Innoventions West, a.k.a. the saddest place in Walt Disney World.
Other than some aging video games and the Disney Visa character meet and greet, which was mobbed as I passed through, there’s nothing to see in this entire pavilion but bland construction walls.
This quiet corner of Innoventions West would be a perfect place to relax and recharge your smartphone after a draining day of using My Disney Experience.
Unfortunately, the only working power outlets are nowhere near the benches.
Ok, before I start sounding like a Grinch, let’s use the FastPass+ I booked the night before and soar off to California!
Soarin’ had an 85 minute posted standby wait when I arrived, but with FastPass+ I was ready to board in 12 minutes. I chose to wait an additional 10 minutes in order to request bench B1; the front & center view with minimal distortion on the curved screen is well worth the brief extra wait.
What does Soarin’ have to do with Hanukkah? Absolutely nothing! But the ride’s memorable music was composed by the late Jerry Goldsmith, who was Jewish. That tenuous connection is enough for me to include it here, if only to mention that I can’t wait until the attraction’s scratch-ridden films are replaced by pristine digital projection.
Next door to The Land, Captain EO has moonwalked out of the Imagination pavilion’s Magic Eye Theater, and the Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival should be taking over any day now. I’ve heard that it will reopen on December 16, but that is unofficial and unverified for now.
Beginning my counter-clockwise lap around World Showcase, I encountered Canadian Holiday Voyageurs on the Mill Stage, which was recently vacated by the little-lamented Lumberjack show. This band started out as an offshoot of the beloved Off Kilter, and still includes some of their former members.
Here’s a video of the Canadian Holiday Voyageurs performing a song from the provence of Quebec, as a holiday shout-out to my Israeli-Canadian relatives in Montreal:
Here’s another hidden holiday treat: If you are ever around the World Showplace (the events hall between Canada and UK originally built for the Millennium celebration) during the busy season, you might bump into an unadvertised character meet and greet.
If you happen to stumble upon it, these are some of the shortest lines you’ll find to meet Mickey and his close friends, especially compared to the Future World character spot.
Let’s pass through the UK and France…
…and pause in Morocco, where The Spice of Life is celebrated with a charming storytelling show.
Here’s a video I shot of last year’s Morocco holiday show, which is mostly identical to the current version:
The American Adventure pavilion is home to Epcot’s Hanukkah celebration, but to get to the show you’ll have to schlep past Santa’s Village. Good luck not spending any money or consuming any calories while you walk by!
If the holidays really have you down, the American Adventure gift shop stocks jars 100 proof moonshine. The price is pretty reasonable considering the cost of liquor elsewhere in the resort,…until you factor in the expense of an emergency room visit.
It’s almost menorah time! But first, Epcot’s Hanukkah show is paired with The Story of Kwanzaa, which always precedes it by 15 minutes.
Shortly after the Kwanzaa presentation ends, an actress arrives to share the Story of Hanukkah.
Stick around at the end of the show for a photo with the storyteller. If you ask nice you might even get a coin of chocolate Hanukkah gelt!
Here’s a full video of this year’s Epcot Hanukkah show:
Before we leave the American Adventure, there’s more Hanukkah to be had inside the attraction. The Voices of Liberty are currently performing their holiday program, which includes a cappella renditions of several Hebraic hymns.
As we continue around the lagoon, try not to loose faith at the sight of the Candlelight Processional standby line several hours before the first performance featuring Saturday Night Live alumna Ana Gasteyer.
If you want to pay your way into a guaranteed seat for the show, here’s the pricing info on Candlelight Processional dining packages, which can be booked at the kiosk between American Adventure and Japan:
If all else fails, the American Gardens Theater’s exterior speakers should be active, allowing those standing outside the venue to hear the show even without a seat.
Looking for a unique ornament to add to your..um…Hanukkah bush? Germany has set up a temporary glass blowing studio with live demonstrations.
It’s a old joke that Jews love going out for Chinese during Christmas. I’m all for that, especially if we’re talking about about the Chinese Lion Dancers who are entertaining at Epcot this holiday.
As we walk past Norway, here’s something for those who like peeking at their holiday presents early: a look at the ongoing construction of next year’s Frozen meet & greet expansion and Maelstrom overlay.
I can’t think of Hanukkah connection with this one, but Mexico has added animatronic figures of the Three Caballeros to the finale of Gran Fiesta Tour. It’s great to see these AAs, which date back to 1971’s Mickey Mouse Revue, back in action after years of gathering dust.
Here’s a video of the feathered trio in action:
One of the holidays perks at Walt Disney World is the opportunity to try seldom-open seasonal restaurants, like the Taste Track grilled cheese truck near Test Track.
My snack there turned out to not be kosher on several levels: the bread was burnt, the bacon was underdone, and the cheese was weeping with enough oil to fill my menorah for 8 nights.
All was not lost, however. While attempting to eat my sandwich, I discovered the best bandwidth I’ve ever seen from Disney’s free WiFi network. The Taste Track tables are some sort of magical Internet zone where I was consistently able to upload at up to 50 Mbps, much higher than I’m able to achieve even at home. If you need to post a huge YouTube video, this is the spot!
Right next door, Test Track is all dressed up in blue for Hanukkah!
Wait, you say that’s what it always looks like? Never mind…
Speaking of color, there’s plenty of it inside Innoventions East at Glidden’s new Colortopia
Of course, the circle of life says that as one Innoventions attraction opens, another must exit. The green Vision House is now an ex-exhibit.
You know there’s only one way to end this Epcot Hanukkah extravaganza — with the only permanent park attraction to explicitly mention Jews!
Just remember: if it weren’t for Jewish and Islamic scholars, today’s Classics students would have no books to study. Let’s hear it for the world’s first backup system!
Whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas, Winter Solstice, or Festivus, I wish you a very happy holiday. Shalom!