Spending New Year’s Eve at Epcot may not seem the most obvious way to spend New Year’s Eve but it is a serious contender for one of the best ways to kick your new year off with a bang.
New Year’s Eve 2017/18 was set to be a good one. I had miraculously managed to get five days off and so I was ready to jump on a plane and celebrate away from London.
Originally we were meant to be going to visit a friend in Carcassonne, France but her plans changed and so we were in need of a new idea.
We very quickly settled on a trip to Florida with a couple of friends. They had family in Orlando and so we could celebrate there and meet them. We looked at all the NYE offerings in town and the theme parks and decided that Disney World would be the destination. They really know how to put on a great fireworks display!
Why Choose New Year’s Eve at Epcot?
When you think of Disney World, I bet the first image that springs to mind is the castle. It’s the same for me, but I know there is much more to see. We had been warned that Magic Kingdom, the park that houses said castle, would reach capacity early and so to guarantee entry we would need to get there early, and stay there. Mr Fluskey and I have been to Disneyland Paris and Disney in Tokyo, and so we wanted to do something a little different. Epcot was throwing its own NYE party with fireworks, DJs and even grown up drinks! Plus, it had the added bonus of being the only park of its kind. You won’t find another Epcot elsewhere as it is a little bit special. So it was decided; New Year’s Eve at Epcot it was!
A Little Epcot History
Let’s start with the name; Epcot. This stands for Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow.
Walt Disney, not just a creator of cartoons and theme parks, had a plan to create a city. In fact, he only built a Disneyland in Florida to secure funding for his greatest venture. EPCOT was due to be home to 20,000 residents. It would be an experimental and futurist city, always testing and implementing the newest technologies. It was designed in a radial design with public buildings in the centre, and residential properties on the outside. Pedestrians could walk freely as roads were to be built underground and monorails for public transport would be above ground level.
When Disney passed away in 1966 Epcot was still just a blueprint. The company didn’t want to proceed with it as a city without his creative guidance and so work began to create a theme park instead.
Epcot is a park of two halves, which reflects the battle between the imagineer’s ideas; Future World and World Showcase. Future World is all about technology and its advancement, whilst the World Showcase houses 11 themed areas reflecting 11 countries. You will find themed food, drinks and shops.
After an incredibly long day on which we flew from London to Miami, and then drove up to Orlando, we were exhausted. Our day started rather late and so we arrived at the park about two hours after we meant to. Queues weren’t too bad and we got our tickets in just two minutes.
Approaching Epcot is very exciting, as the first thing you’ll see is the park’s icon; the Spaceship Earth geosphere.
No doubt you’ll stop for a picture on the way in and then I would advise you to go straight through to the FastPass areas to the right and left of the main plaza. Here you can pick your FastPass times for a couple of rides. This allows you to join a shorter queue at the assigned time. Arriving late, there was nothing left. Whoops!
We looked at the waiting time for Test Track, but it was about 2.5 hours, so we decided to do it later in the day….this turned out to be a mistake as the queue only got longer from then on and we never made it on. Ah well, there’s always next time.
Instead, our first ride was Mission: Space. The Disney app listed the waiting time at 140 minutes but happily it was only about 80.
This is a simulator ride that lets you experience some crazy G-force. I really enjoyed it but all the safety announcements (seemingly a common theme in American theme parks) freaked my friend out a bit. She started to worry that it would break her in half. We reassured her, and boarded.
I loved the feeling that the ride invoked. The capsules are spun and the video screens in front of you make you feel like you are going through a rocket launch. It leaves your legs a little wobbly, and Mr Fluskey felt a bit sick…but he is RUBBISH at spinning rides.
We decided to stroll through the World Showcase to find some food. First things first. We found a place selling cocktails that had no line. This was located in China, and the cocktails were delicious! We then went on the hunt for gluten-free food in Epcot.
Our original plan was to eat in China. We thought there would be plenty of gluten-free options, but the person at the front of the restaurant told us, unfortunately, that was not the case. Time to find a plan B. We sat and searched the internet for some sort of blog post, finally finding a great list of options.
Whilst we were in China, we decided to pop into the building we sat outside of. We were lucky enough to just catch the final five minutes of an acrobatics show. What a fabulous piece of luck.
After some aimless wandering, we found a German stand with food that everyone could eat. We ordered some sausages and sauerkraut, and stood around a small table to eat.
Here in the German area, we found a nice shop selling wine, Christmas ornaments (including this mysterious pickle tree) and other “German” things.
A Midday Party
As we were almost half way around the lake, we decided to keep going. It was startling addictive to hop from place to place, popping into shops and the odd bar.
In “Venice”, we found a bar selling Italian wine, Prosecco and Limoncello, and we found a sweet, sparkling rose. We got a flute each and slipped it slowly in the sunshine.
Now, feeling a little jolly, we came across a larger stage that was throwing a little party. The DJ had everyone up and dancing with a fun dance game, and full of bubbles, we joined in too.
We probably spent a little too long larking about in the world showcase considering we were only going to grab lunch. It took us another two hours to seek out the delights of Japan, Morocco, France, Canada and the rest. Oh how happily we laughed at the UK’s showing; the bastard child of Mary Poppins, Robin Hood and Mohammed Al Fayed.
Back to Future World for another ride. We picked the Spaceship Earth, the ride inside the giant geodesic sphere (the golf ball).
The best thing about these tamer rides, as opposed to the huge rides in Universal for example, is that you can keep your bag with you. This meant we could use our phones. I know what you’re thinking, and no, we weren’t all on Facebook. In the our first long queue we played a cool space themed game that had us screaming nonsensical instructions at each other. In this queue we played “Heads Up”. We howled with laughter and the time flew!
The ride itself was very cute. At the beginning, they snap a picture of you, and thinking it was just going to be on a photo sales screen at the end, we pulled stupid faces. We should have done our research.
You then travel in your carriage through a series of animatronic tableaus while Dame Judy Dench narrates. The ride then emerges into a huge dome (oh, that’s why they need the giant ball), epic music swells to a glorious crescendo and you can sit back and enjoy the Disney movie-style magic.
As you descend “back down to earth”, you are asked a series of questions. Again, cynical me thought it was just market research, but we clicked through it anyway. After competing these questions, you are shown a cool little video dictated by your answers and starring YOU. So fun!
Back to the Chinese cocktail spot for another drink. The soft base of the drinks and the alcohol are added to the cups separately. “Stir before you drink”. “Stir, stir, stir”, we were instructed several times by the cheerful server. One of our party didn’t pay attention and ended up with a straw suck full of pure spirit, eurgh!
With our drinks in hand, we began the wandering anew. The World Showcase was definitely busier than it had been as more people entered Epcot from the other Disney parks. We were just wasting time really, waiting for the sun to go down.
New Year’s Eve at Epcot has not one, but two fireworks displays. The first one takes place at 18:00 and is the usual display. IllumiNations; Reflections of Earth is a multimedia show and is put on every night. The floating globe and fireworks take place on the lagoon so a spot anywhere along the edge of the lake gives you a great view.
As soon as the fireworks finished, we noticed that a huge swath of families with young children started to make their way out of the park.
We had five and a half hours until the next fireworks show, so we broke away from our pitch on the lagoon fence in search of more entertainment.
We settled on The Seas with Nemo & Friends ride. Luckily, just outside was a bar with no queue and cheap bubbles. The glass of sparkling wine really cheered up the queuing. To be fair, the queue was just 45 minutes and the evening chill was starting to nip at our fingers so an indoor attraction seemed like a good plan. The ride was definitely for young children and so it was a little dull.
The ride may have been dull, but we loved the aquarium on the other side of it. Highlights included the little clown fish (Nemo himself) and some amazing colour-changing cuttlefish.
(Now I am no videogapher, and this was meant to just be for me, but I wanted to share this with you.)
A Quick Drink (AN EPCOT TOP TIP)
Flavours of Cool Club is tucked away in Future World. It is our top pro tip. Save yourself the price of expensive soft drinks when you are in the area, and quench your thirst with the tasting area. You will find interesting flavours and drinks that you may not have tried before. We overindulged on sugary pick-me-ups here before heading back towards the World Showcase.
The crowds had started to really build up by this point in the evening and the one way system on the floor was being strictly enforced. Walking back around the lake took longer than before and we started to get a bit food angry. Nobody could make a decision about what to eat.
We reached Morocco and asked the restaurant how long wait would be. 45 minutes apparently. With heavy hearts we put our names down and planned to look elsewhere while we waited, but as we debated which way to head a voice miraculous shouted “Rosie”. There was a table already. What a win!
Serious fatigue set in as we waited for our dinner. We all hoped that some food would perk us up, and not send us into a post-dinner stupor. When it arrived, we definielty felt some pep.
Mr Fluskey and I shared fish bitess, stuffed vine leaves, baked Camembert and a mezze platter of olives and dips. It was all very nice, but inevitably overpriced.
La Dolce Disco
Around the lagoon, various parties were really beginning to kick off. We heard the Italian party long before we saw it. Turning the corner into “Piazzo San Marco” we were metaphorically blown away by the club style dance party that was jumping, and literally blown away by the HUGE sound system. Italy was going OFF!
Oh how I wish we had been lucky enough to have more time. I’d have stayed there for much longer. We were having a really good time dancing but there was a real niggle because we still had so much to see.
As if Disney isn’t cute enough…
In the Japanese pavilion there was a temporary exhibition all about Kawaii. We spent a happy 20 minutes learning about where these cute little characters came from, and why they are so deeply ingrained in Japanese culture. My favourite piece was called Melty-Go-Round (harajuku Girl) by artist Sebastian Masuda. I’m not really sure how I missed taking a photo, but here is a quick YouTube video of it by MapleKitten.
Finally the time came, and we all huddled together in anticipation of the second fireworks show. It started much like the first, with the normal IllumiNations section. After that, however, came a special addition just for New Year’s Eve at Epcot.
Each country’s pavilion had it’s moment to shine. The area of the park was lit up, appropriate music played, and they sent up their own fireworks. It was really fun to discover that people around us were from all over the globe and the people next to us were British too. We joked that our showing would be two guys waving some sparklers but whooped and hurrahed when it came to the UK and found out that our fireworks were really, pretty good.
Once everyone had, enjoyed their turn, we all turned back to the lagoon for the grand finale. By gum, it was QUITE the finale!
I don’t think I have ever seen so many fireworks in the sky at once. We saw a few big rockets, and then more, and more, and more, and more! The whole sky was filled with exploding white light as about fifty rockets all went of in ten seconds.
Now I know this video doesn’t do it justice, I cut off the end because I was so taken aback. So watch this one and then go and find a better one YouTube hehe.
The display finished and was met with a few seconds of utterly stunned silence before we all realised it was over. A huge cheer went up and New Year’s mirth erupted. The music from the Italian raver burst back into life, and everyone started to scatter back into their favourite areas.
We were suffering with terrible jet lag, and so started to walk back to the car park, passing more parties on the way.
- Spending New Year’s Eve at Epcot is by no means a cheap way to celebrate. Drinks are not as badly priced as I would have expected, but it is certainly not happy hour!
- Arrive early to get your FastPass slots.
- Plan your day better than we did. I would do rides in the morning and then World Showcase after lunch.
- Don’t worry if you are all grown ups. New Year’s Eve at Epcot is clearly aimed squarely at adults as well as the kids.
- When we went, the sun was out but it was chilly (Orlando was about to be hit by VERY unusual and cold weather). Bring layers, sun cream and sun glasses.
- It takes an age to get out of the car park, so make sure you have had some caffeine.
- Have an amazing day!
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