The Voices of Liberty at EPCOT, Walt Disney World.
Happy President’s Day!
In December I visited Walt Disney World for the first time since Disney switched to the new Fast Pass Plus system and thought that in really changed the fast pass experience. But it left me with a question – do you need to schedule your fast passes before arriving at the parks? The answer is, it depends.
Let me explain:
Before arriving at Disney you can schedule your fast pass pluses, 60 days ahead for resort guests and 30 days ahead for other guests. When you schedule the system forces you to schedule 3 for your day in the park, all good! After you use your 3 fast passes, you can book additional fast passes in the park for later in the day, even better.
If you’re visiting and want to ride an attraction that is popular (Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, Ana and Elsa, Toy Story, Soarin) yes, you will absolutely want to book your fast passes as soon as humanly possible.
If you’re planning to visit lesser attractions or attractions with a lot of fast passes (some rides seem to have half the ride dedicated to fast pass i.e. Space Mountain – these rides have an abundance of fast passes) then planning in advance may not make as much sense.
I visited with my 40something year old sister, our attraction demands were not that high. Yes, we wanted to do many of the headliners (Seven Dwarfs, Soarin, Toy Story), but as adults we’re also able to make decisions about what ride is worth a line and are ok with riding some of the less loved attractions. We also don’t need to ride roller coasters multiple times. When setting up fast passes I found I was often making at least one for an attraction that we didn’t care if we rode or not – since you have to make 3 fast passes reservations for the day.
Before the trip, I strategically planned the fast passes for 3 of our days in the parks – making the reservations as early as possible so that we could later capitalize on the extra fast passes. For our 4th day, I made the reservations the night before – except for the super high demand ride of Seven Dwarfs, I was able to get fast passes early in the morning for anything we would want to ride. This actually left us waiting for our fast pass times to come up, of course doing other attractions in the meantime. But still, I had all these fast passes but had to work around them, when incidentally I could have practically walked on most of the rides.
I wonder if I had not made those fast passes and just walked into the park and scheduled as we went along. Maybe we wouldn’t have gotten all 3 fast passes. But, maybe we would have gotten 4 since we wouldn’t have had to wait for all 3 to expire before getting a 4th. It’s an interesting gamble for two people who didn’t feel like we NEEDED to do anything to complete our trip, during a slower park period. While we did plenty in our 4th day and didn’t need any additional fast passes, I like the idea of testing to see if we needed those fast passes. I suspect we would have done about the same without them, or by scheduling them throughout the morning and we wouldn’t have been locked into the 3 time slots.
Fast Pass Plus Tips
1. If there are any must do attractions book ASAP! Particularly for high demand rides.
2. If you have a bigger group, don’t be afraid to break the group up into smaller groups and try and get overlapping reservations. There may not be 4 fast passes for Seven Dwarfs at one time, but you might be able to get 2 sets of 2 at an overlapping time. Even if the times are not overlapping, it seems to be easier to get a different time for an attraction you have a reservation for, than for one you don’t. Book the fast passes and keep looking around to find times that overlap.
3. Book fast passes for earlier in the day to allow for additional fast pass reservations later in the day.
4. Use the new fast pass system to allow yourself some later mornings. With this new system I did not feel the need to rush out and get to park opening every morning. While park opening still offers a great advantage, fast pass plus makes is possible to plan more later mornings without having to wait in lines all day.
5. Don’t be afraid to go into the park without fast passes booked. You can still book once you’re in the park and the selection may not be as bad as you think.
In 2011 I had my first Disney World Christmas experience, and one of the treats of the season are the Storytellers Around the World. In 2011 I saw about half of them and when I returned this past December I saw a few more. This is a review of the news ones I experienced. I will give one disclaimer though. I had gotten sick at the end of this trip and was at my best when I saw some of these.
I did revisit the Los Tres Reyes Magos (Three Kings) in Mexico and La Befana in Italy. Los Tres Magos seemed to be the same as the year before, still not my favorite, but still very good. La Befana also seemed good, but not quite as good as I remembered from the year before, but I was feeling pretty sick at that time and I had just seen another really good one that day too.
Germany – Helga
With a name like Helga I expected an older woman, but I was wrong, Helga is a pretty young woman and this was a nice story. Here we learned about the tradition of Christmas Trees and the first Nutcracker. Even with German heritage I didn’t think this was the best one, but it’s a bit more contemporary then many of the others. I think it did have the best setting though, at least in terms of atmosphere.
The American Adventure – Hanukkah
This show has the best setting, it’s inside. No dealing with hot or cold or sun in your eyes. As for the show, it was just ok. The woman was nice and the story had an intimate feel to it. But, I grew up with a lot of Jews around me and I felt like I knew more about Hanaukkah then I learned here. I suspect if you’ve had little contact with Jews this would be more interesting. I did think it was a nice touch that the story teller played with dreidel with the kids after.
France – Pere Noel
Pere Noel tells the story of Christmas in France through a letter from a girl. It’s a sweet story about believing in Pere Noel and santa figures. But Pere Noel is too skinny!
Canada – Nowell
Nowell is a lumberjack, what? How can you make all those gifts if your cutting down trees. Or maybe you need the wood for all those toys? I don’t know. But this was another good story, reminds me a lot of how Christmas in the US, as much as it’s the same for many, it can also be quite different depending on your heritage.
Norway – Sigrid and Christmas Gnome, Julenissen
This was my absolute favorite and you can tell the word is out, this story had the largest crowd of all the ones I have seen. Sigrid tells the story of Julenissen, which she doesn’t believe. Julenissen is a gnome who plays tricks on boys and girls. And so Julenissen plays tricks on Sigrid, but since she doesn’t believe in him she doesn’t understand what is going on. It’s quite entertaining.
Even though Christmas is 6 months away, it is time to start planning your trips there!
Sum of All Thrills design your own ride, a fighter jet, bobsled or roller coaster. You get to pick the types of twists and turns in your ride, making it as intense or tame as you choose. I did the bobsled the first time and it was a bit tame, the second time I did the roller coaster and that was more fun. This is a fun ride and being hidden in Innoventions it doesn’t get as crowded as it could potentially be.
Impressions de France the prettiest boring film I ever did see! Seriously, France looked beautiful in this film, but it had no personality. This film could be great if they added a bit of narration to make it more interesting. Or, I could see a Soarin type of attraction here instead using similar video.
Reflections of China a circle-vision film with the highlights of China. It has a nice vibe, historical and proud and most importantly, it made me want to visit China. I think that makes the case that it was good.
Dinosaur This may be the worst ride in all of Disney World. It’s dark, jerky and annoying. The ride vehicle for this is the same as the one for the Indiana Jones ride in Disneyland, and that is a good ride. But this ride, it was very dark, the ride jerked around, I guess to scare you, though I’m not sure because it was so dark you couldn’t see a reason for it to jerk around. Then dinosaurs popped up and made noises. Ok, that made sense. The whole ride was actually irritating and the faces of the riders in the photos when you get off the ride tells the story, no one looks scared, but annoyed.
Voices of Liberty A pre-show of sorts for the American Adventure. It’s a group of 9 men and woman singing patriotic songs. The performance lasts 10-15 minutes and is a nice chance to relax for a few minutes. If you can’t get a seat on a bench, sit on the floor around the circle in the middle (the signers will face the entrance to the theatre on the right).
Vision House at Innoventions in Epcot. A 20 minute walk through of an energy efficient house. This was interesting if you’re into energy efficiency and home design. I had two issues with it though. First, it was extremely cold in there, the thermostat was set for 65 degrees, not very efficient. Second, they rambled off the names of the stuff in the house, but then didn’t even offer a place to get information about them if you were interested. But it did help get me to think of ways to conserve.
Main Street Electrical Parade An old school parade that was brought back to replace Spectromagic. I found the music a bit repetitive, and the look and feel a bit old. But, it was a fun, whimsical parade. I went to the second showing of the parade and it was much less crowded then the earlier one.
Stitches Great Escape I remember this ride from when I was a child, when it was Alien Encounter, and it’s not a fond memory. Seriously, it’s a scary ride and not in a good way. It’s a ride themed after a childrens character that does bad things. I think silly bad things are fun, like the farting (Not my thing as an adult, but for little boys…), but escaping and attacking us. Yea, scary and not in a fun way. I’ve added this to my list of rides to never ride again.
Astro Orbiter This is one of those simple spinney rides, what could go wrong? Well, first, the elevator smelled, then the ride vehicle was uncomfortable. Ugh, not cool. And I thought we would at least get cool views of the park, but not really. Most of the view was of a roof. Another ride to skip in the future.
Liberty Square Riverboat If the boat had more seating this would be a nice ride around Tom Sawyer Island, but it doesn’t. I did sit on my ride and I was a bit bored, which would be fine if it was a 17 minute break from a long hot day in the parks. But if you’re not guaranteed a seat on one of those days, I would rather just sit through Hall of Presidents.
October 1 was EPCOT’s 30th Anniversary, it was just luck that I was here for that since I planned this trip before I knew. The two days before I had kinda worn myself out a bit so I decided to sleep in this morning. Aside from the exhaustion I really wanted to be there for Illuminations.
When I got into the park I got my Fast Pass for Soarin and then went on line for limited edition merchandise, it was a 3 hour line. Thankfully, most of it was in the shade. At the end of the line were pins, t-shirts and that was pretty much it by the time I got there. The only thing I would have bought that I missed were the Vinylmations, thought it would have been a nice addition to my nephew’s collection, but he probably wouldn’t have appreciated since he’s 13.
In the afternoon I attended a 30th Anniversary talk with Marty Sklar it was a very interesting talk for even just a casual fan of Disney, he had a lot of great history on the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow and Disney in general. I’ll share two intersting facts. Some of the pavillions that didn’t happen were – Africa and Iran. Iran, that would have been akward, though the images looked really cool. The park entrance was almost in the middle of Future World and World Showcase, which actually kinda makes more sense. But ultimately it came down to the agreements they had made with the CEO’s of the future world pavilions that forced them to stick with the entrance where it is.
Illuminations had a a special 30th Anniversary tag at the end. It wasn’t like the Christmas tag where there is talking guiding it, it was just a FABULOUS fireworks display. Rumor before was that it was supposed to be better then the 4th of July tag, which I’ve never seen. I have to say, it had some neat features with fireworks going across the water, but the finale was possibly the best fireworks finale I’ve seen and I’ve seen the Macy’s 4th of July fireworks from right in front of the barge which was impressive.