Welcome to the first Best Week Ever of 2016! I hope that you all had a wonderful New Year’s Eve celebration, and didn’t suffer too badly for it the next day. As it turns out, Walt Disney World itself requires a little “hair of the dog” to recover from the previous week’s capacity crowds. Peak season may have passed, but the Epcot holiday hangover lingers on…
My first Epcot visit of 2016 occurred 4 days into the new year, but the aftermath of holiday crowds — and the flood of cars that had to be parked on every available surface, including the lawn — was still in evidence as I approached the park.
If you need to nurse a headache before heading into Epcot, the Monorail station coffee cart is still selling seasonal drinks. I like their peppermint mocha even better than Starbucks’ version, which is usually too sweet.
Happily, the holiday decorations in Epcot’s entry planter were still installed, making the perfect backdrop for next year’s Christmas card photo.
Last time I was in Epcot, the standby wait for Spaceship Earth was nearly an hour. This evening, it was back to being a walk-on. Thank the Phoenicians!
Here’s a post-holiday miracle: the queue for the Chase Disney Visa private meet and greet was as empty as the rest of Innoventions West as we passed through. There’s a line from open to close for Chase encounter with Darth Vader at DHS, but for the first time ever I was able to waltz into Epcot’s without a wait.
FYI, the vouchers for a single free printed photo that had to be redeemed at the park’s camera center has been replaced with complimentary downloads of all your private meet & greet pictures via PhotoPass, which are automatically added to your account if you scan your MagicBand.
This day happened to be the first of Soarin’s lengthy closure. When it reopens in Summer 2016, it will boast a third theater for additional capacity, new digital projectors, and (eventually) the new ride film that’s debuting at Shanghai Disneyland.
Until then, The Land pavilion is pretty much a ghost town.
A large section of Sunshine Seasons‘ seating area was being serviced.
Living with the Land is a Tier 1 FastPass+ selection, but at the moment you can almost have a boat to yourself.
Some festive holiday decor remains inside the Living with the Land greenhouses.
This was also the first time I’ve seen these new high-tech “vertical farming” contraptions near the end of the ride:
Over at the entrance to Soarin’, it’s silent night for the foreseeable future.
The only area in The Land that isn’t deserted is the Garden Grill restaurant, whose waiting area was overflowing.
The temperature outside is dropping, so let’s fuel up with some pumpkin squash soup (my new favorite snack at Sunshine Seasons)…
…and head into the world of Imagination.
Disney has announced that the second floor of the Imagination pavilion, which formerly housed the fan-favorite ImageWorks playground, will be converted into a DVC Member private lounge. Until then, the dark ride downstairs continues to underwhelm guests with its 5 minute wait.
Your FastPass+ pick would be equally wasted at the new Disney Pixar Short Film Festival, which recently replaced Captain EO. The three 3D flicks are screened about every 20 minutes, enhanced by the same 4D effects and moving seats as the venue’s previous shows.
We continue our Epcot holiday hangover walking tour with a lap around World Showcase. The last time I was here, you couldn’t see a speck of pavement for all the people. Look what an amazing difference a few points on the Crowd Calendar can make!
Holiday decor was still hanging on all around World Showcase, though the larger stages for the holiday storytellers have been struck.
The British Revolution was rocking their fans into the new year in the U.K. Pavilion.
I say there’s no better place for a light meal than Les Halles in France. Seems like a lot of other people had the same idea, since this was the longest line I saw in Epcot all night.
The quiche and tartine (a sort of French pizza) were both well worth the wait, and are some of the best value snacks in the park.
My New Year’s resolution is to try not to be insanely jealous of the folks in private Illumination dessert parties like these:
Back at the front of World Showcase, the gift shops have been overtaken by Star Wars merchandise.
We’ll wrap up this edition of Best Week Ever with an unusual treat. I’ve never before experienced IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth from the ideal central viewing area directly across from the American Adventure, but on this evening FastPass+ spots were still somehow available!
While I don’t recommend using Illuminations for your only Tier 1 reservation if you’re in the arriving in the morning, but it can be a good choice for evening-only touring or a 4th FastPass+, especially if you aren’t interested in riding Test Track or Mission: Space.
I shot spectacular 4K video of Illuminations, in 2160p resolution so ultra-hi-def I can’t even watch it on my own TV. While I struggle with YouTube to upload the file, here are some still shots of the show, which sadly no longer includes the wonderful holiday encore.
Thanks for coming back for another exciting year of Best Weeks Ever. Share your theme park holiday hangover cures in the comments below.