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Joshua's Orlando Trip Report: Epcot and Downtown Disney

Walt Disney World: Join Gary Sinise, Patrick Warburton and Josh through his favorite theme park.

From Joshua Counsil
Posted September 18, 2009 at 3:01 PM
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My Favorite Park

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From Orlando 2009

Before continuing, I'd like to mention that Epcot is probably my favorite theme park. To paraphrase Vincent Vega from Pulp Fiction, it's like a museum with a pulse. The technological innovation. The spirit of discovery. The ethnic stereotypes. I love it all, but don't expect that to interfere with my job as an amateur journalist. I can assure you that this report will be completely fair and unbiased.

To begin, Epcot is perfect in every way. Every other theme park pales in comparison. And now, for something completely different...

Disney Dining Mishap

The day before our Epcot trip, Disney politely informed us of a minor problem. We had used Disney's new online dining reservation service to make advanced seating arrangements at Teppan Edo in Epcot for that evening. Unfortunately, even after Teppan Edo had been completely booked up, the system continued to allow reservations at various timeslots, thus overbooking the restaurant. To compensate for this dilemma, Disney offered to help us book another Epcot restaurant for that evening. I recall the conversation going something like this...

"We're sorry about that, sir. Would you like me to help you book another reservation?"
"Oh, please do, gentle service rep. We are ever so hungry."
"Alrighty then. Let me just check out Epcot restaurants for tonight... Mm-hmm... Mm-hmm... Alrighty then, everything is booked up for tonight. Can I help you with anything else today, sir?"
"But... Where will we go? What will we do? How can you treat us like this?"
"Well, we're an evil, fascist corporation, sir. You have a magical day, now."

They did not offer us any compensation for the screw-up. The dining reservation was part of the itinerary, with our reservations coinciding with the completion of Illuminations. We opted to eat at Raglan Road in Downtown Disney and decided to see Illuminations another night.

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Itinerary

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I like to plan my Orlando trips with the somewhat educational parks, like Epcot and SeaWorld, toward the beginning of the trip and the A.D.D. ride-heavy parks, like Islands of Adventure and The Magic Kingdom, toward the end. This helps to prevent coaster fanboy dribble, such as, "OMG spaceship eartj sux it goes like 0 miles per hour they shoud replace it with a hypercoaster it wud be so much better!!1!!11! cedar point rulez disney sux LOLZ!1!!1!! FINGERS IN THE AIR LOLZ1!!!11!"

On Disney names...

I can take some of Disney's odd name designations for everyday things. I can deal with employees being "Cast Members", or dining reservations being "priority seating", or rides being "adventures". But I cannot ignore them relabeling buses as "motor coaches", or airport shuttle service as "Disney's Magical Express". It's a bus. They are buses. They produce exhaust. They have an underpaid driver. They smell like feet. Does that sound like a Magical Express to you? It's a bus. Call it a damn bus. Rant over.

Despite Disney's somewhat plodding motor coach bus transportation, we had a pretty productive morning. We grabbed Fastpasses for Soarin', rode Mission: Space, experienced Ellen's Energy Adventure, explored Innoventions West, grabbed Fastpasses for Test Track, rode Soarin', explored The Seas, rode Spaceship Earth, cooled off with free Coca-Cola at Club Cool and rode Test Track before calling it a day. Soarin', Mission: Space and Spaceship Earth all got big ups from the group, while Test Track, as always, underwhelmed.

The I-95 vs. Test Track

Five reasons why the I-95 drive is more rewarding than a ride on Test Track:

1. You won't have to wait an hour or more to board your car.
2. You will drive faster on a more interesting track.
3. Tacky, overpriced souvenir stores make for better scenery than automotive proving grounds.
4. In many instances, you won't be driving a General Motors vehicle.
5. The traffic enforcement camera picture you receive in the mail for highway speeding will be a better and cheaper alternative to the on-ride photo.

I really, really hope a superior automotive company buys this attraction and turns it around.

As for the other attractions, Epcot does a pretty good job. The Universe of Energy and Imagination pavilions could use some heavy updating. Innoventions could also use some reimagining. It's not that it's a bad attraction, it's just that it's... sort of confusing.

From Orlando 2009

You jump on the mat, the overhead door slams and you get points. Makes sense to me.

We returned to our rooms for naps, swims, showers and whatever else people needed for rejuvenation. After some cocktails, we made our way to Downtown Disney.

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Downtown Disney

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The Old Key West Resort provides a convenient boat to Downtown Disney, complete with free alligator spotting and pirate makeover. Yes, we all got the pirate makeovers. And yes, we all saluted the West Side.

From Orlando 2009

Before eating, we took a brisk walk, enjoying the usual sights and sounds that Downtown Disney provides. The LEGO Store, as always, impressed.

From Orlando 2009

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Raglan Road

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"The problem with some people is that when they aren't drunk, they're sober."
-- William Butler Yeats

This tasty quote was displayed happily on the Raglan Road website, and it is a philosophy upheld by the establishment. This place is pure Disney fun, but for adults, and is the best place to drink in Downtown Disney since the closing of Pleasure Island's clubs.

In its truest sense, Raglan Road is not an authentic Irish pub. For one thing, it's far too huge. For another, the food is good. But the essence of an Irish pub, the drinks and laughs and music and dancing, remains.

I started out with a pint of my favorite Irish ale, Smithwick's. Great stuff. Dry yet refreshing. I also split an appetizer of Dalkey Duo, beer-battered cocktail sausages served with mustard.

From Orlando 2009

The Duo comes highly recommended from this gourmand. Then again, after a few pints I'd recommend pretty much anything battered and fried. My main course - It's not Bleedin' Chowder! - was just as heavy, but nonetheless delicious. Potatoes, mussels, prawns, scallops and other seafood served in a white wine and cream sauce. It was some of the best seafood I've had in Orlando. The best dish, however, was the Celtic dancer.

From Orlando 2009

Maybe it was the dark lighting, maybe it was the beer goggles, but she had to be the most beautiful Irish (yes, she was legitimately Irish) lass I've ever seen. Until the chefs in Epcot can cook up something hotter than her, I'll gladly eat at Downtown Disney.

Beyond Walt and Mickey, there are other interesting statues to be found in Walt Disney World, like this one of a man who sat outside an Irish pub every day, crying and writing poetry about a 14-year-old girl he so desired.

From Orlando 2009

Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but aren't statues typically reserved for people who, y'know, positively contribute to society? Not for, say, a drooling, crying pedophile?

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STS-128

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Upon our return from DD, the bus driver informed us to watch out for Kennedy Space Center's STS-128 launch. Despite being after midnight, many people at the Old Key West Resort were outside when we arrived. After several minutes, we could see the rocket burning through the sky, yeah, 200 degrees - that's why they call me Mr. Fahrenheit!

Sorry.

This was a nice, inexpensive way to finish off the night, like a free fireworks show. Thanks, Kennedy Space Center. Someday, you, like just about everybody else in Orlando, will earn my money.

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It's Friday night, and all I've done for the last hour is type about drinking. Gotta run!

Previously on Josh's Orlando Trip Report:

Introduction
Pre-Planning and Suggestions
Departure and Arrival
SeaWorld Orlando


Comments in chronological order. Most recent at the bottom. Scroll down to respond.

From James Rao
Posted September 18, 2009 at 4:29 PM
Josh, I will take Raglan Road over any restaurant at Epcot. In fact, I prefer it to any theme park restaurant except for maybe Mythos. Maybe. You made a wise choice.

James Rao's Advice For Dining Success at Raglan Road (in three parts):
1) Scallop Forest - appetizer
2) Fish 'n' Chips - main course
3) Bread & Butter Pudding - dessert.

We actually have a Raglan Road within walking distance of where I work in Kansas City. And dare I say it, the one in KC is even better than the one at Downtown Disney. I love Raglan Road!

Anyway, another great report, Josh, although I disagree totally about Test Track. Then again, the closest thing to Test Track at my home park, Worlds of Fun, is an upcharge Grand Prix raceway attraction. So what do I know?

Keep 'em coming!

From Joshua Counsil
Posted September 21, 2009 at 6:17 AM
I can neglect for thrills as long as the ride is heavily themed, but such is not the case for Test Track. An automotive proving ground? Most of the building seems to be scrap auto parts, painted over to seem somewhat attractive.

Here is a scene-by-scene analysis of my reasoning behind my personal vendetta:

The lift hill acceleration is next to nothing, making it seem like a clunky roller coaster lift.

The rough road section is OK, but could definitely use a speed boost to emphasize the vibrations caused by the blocks.

The ABS section is terrible. The building floor is bright enough to see the track, which completely ruins the effect of the car squealing out of control. Not to mention that the car barely goes fast enough to make the braking section interesting.

Equally lame are the environmental chambers. The hot chamber was roughly equal to the temperature of Orlando that day. The cold chamber is only 10 degrees Fahrenheit; cold, yes, but the effect only lasts a second or two. And, of course, the inevitable "this never happens" corrosion chamber. Lame.

And then John Michael Higgins says to pick things up. 'Bout time. The handling is tested on some sharp turns and minor inclines, but, once again, the velocity and acceleration of the car are so low that the thrills are nonexistent. Then, for inexplicable reasons, you almost hit a semi-truck. Why is there a semi-truck driving through a proving ground?

Next we have the barrier test. This could be potentially thrilling, but the car does not accelerate nearly quick enough to provide the illusion of a collision.

Finally, the car is gently accelerated to 64.8 mph, a speed that most people exceed on the I-4 on the way to the park. Now, many roller coasters do not exceed 60 mph, but roller coasters consist of steep drops, sharp turns and inversions, not straightaways and banked curves. If the ride's maximum speed was cranked to, say, 100 mph, then I would consider it a worthwhile thrill.

From Anthony Murphy
Posted September 21, 2009 at 7:50 AM
As usual, great stuff! You sound like you would be fun to take a trip with!

Anyway, that is weird that Disney would not help you out more with their Japan Mishap. However, EPCOT dining has gotten more exclusive every day! Did they check EVERY place at EPCOT? Germany is huge and the food is good. Thats usually our safety net.

As for the "door game", you are "testing" the door for durability (or slammability). The number is the amount of times others jumped on the mat. Check out the House of Innoventions, much more intersting.

Not sure what you Canadians call your vechicles :), but its called a Motor Coach in the USA. The difference is nicer seats and bathrooms (usually). Busses are what we take from home to work. The thing that took you from OKW to EPCOT is a bus, the Magical Express is considered a motor coach (note: "coach" has nothing to do with the pumpkin, just a coicendice.

I love those sausage thinginys at Raligan Road. I like the Irish lady dancing on the table more!

From James Rao
Posted September 21, 2009 at 4:51 PM
I just gotta say: you are spoiled Josh! You don't know how good you have it since you get to travel to WDW every freaking year, while the rest of us languish in Cedar Fair Hell most of the time! ;)

Looking at Worlds of Fun, my local Hell, there are 40+ rides in the place. Of that 40+ there are only three of them that I would not immediately consider replacing with Test Track (Prowler, Mamba, and Patriot), and even then I would have to think long and hard before I said: "No."

If you are comparing Test Track to other great Disney attractions, then you are right, it is not quite up to par with the rest of the best. However, if you compare it to the dearth of quality narrative attractions outside of the greater Orlando area, then I totally disagree with you.

And by the way, the Radiator Springs attraction at DCA's Cars Land, which probably would not have been possible without the pioneering technology used in Test Track, sounds like it will be absolutely amazing. Check out the details (if you have not already done so) here.

From steve lee
Posted September 21, 2009 at 9:14 PM
I wonder if the prices at that KC Raglan Road are more reasonable than the ones in Downtown Disney. I wasn't satisfied with the prices vs. quality (and surprisingly I ordered the exact same thing Joshua did. The chowder was good, but it wasn't 20-something dollar good).

And I want to know the picture posting secret. I might actually do a few trip reports every now and then instead of clumsily throwing out a link to my website.

Sorry, had to.

From James Rao
Posted September 22, 2009 at 3:18 AM
The prices at the KC Raglan Road are a bit cheaper, and the food is also a bit different, though the menu items are the same. For example, the batter on the fish 'n' chips in KC is champagne-based (light and fluffy so you can really taste the fish) rather than the traditional beer battered fish in Orlando (heavier, saltier, but still good). I believe the champagne based batter is used in place of beer batter in all the fried recipes in KC, although I seldom venture out of my comfort zone: scallops, fish 'n chips, bread pudding.

Comparing lunch prices, everything at the KC Raglan Road is about $10... at the Orlando version things are $2 - $4 more expensive. Not sure about the drinks as I only go to RR during lunch and my many bosses would frown upon me stumbling back to work reeking of malt liquor instead of malt vinegar. ;)

And I have no idea how to post pictures without Mr. Niles' help. When I have something "good" to post, I usually send it to the man himself and he posts it for me with pictures re-sized and intact. I have not been able to get them posted by my lonesome.

From Joshua Counsil
Posted September 22, 2009 at 11:45 AM
I am spoiled, James, but I am not comparing Test Track to other attractions. I am rating it based on its R&D costs (in the hundreds of millions) and its popularity (very long wait times, even in the mornings). How can something that expensive, fast and long be so crappy?

As for the posting of pictures, I upload mine to Picasa, which provides an embedding link on the side of each picture.

From James Rao
Posted September 22, 2009 at 5:59 PM
Whether it cost 10 mil or 100 mil to build Test Track is irrelevant, as your ticket price is the same. Besides, pioneering a new tech is never cheap. Still, I just don't see how the cost to build a ride has any impact on whether or not you enjoy it. As far as I know, you're not the one paying for it. Maybe it doesn't live up to your expectations, but compared to most everything outside of Disney/Universal Test Track is a very solid, narrative attraction.

I just don't get the hate. But, to each his own.

Now stop wasting time and post another trip report!

From Rob P
Posted September 23, 2009 at 9:55 AM
I'm with James on this one.
I always enjoy Test Track and in the UK we often exceed 100mph on the motorway.
It's not about the speed.It's the pleasure you derive from riding it.
In case some of us are missing the point : the theme park attractions are all about illusion not reality.
What's gonna happen when some of the blowhards find out that a certain mouse isn't real ?

From Joshua Counsil
Posted September 24, 2009 at 12:30 PM
I know it's not about the speed. Thrill rides, in general, do little for me anymore unless they are themed.

Test Track's theming and "storyline" (for lack of a better term), however, are mediocre. Especially that ABS section. It's blatantly obvious that you're on a track - you can see it veering through the pylons ahead, completely eliminating the effect.

Hey James -

Vekoma Boomerangs > Test Track.

From steve lee
Posted September 24, 2009 at 1:56 PM
BAN

From James Rao
Posted September 24, 2009 at 8:04 PM
^^Completely agree.

Josh, your TPI Badge, please. And your camera. You're finished.

From Rob P
Posted September 25, 2009 at 2:30 AM
Joshua.....I will concede that, for some, a little more camouflage to conceal the track on TT might be better.
But hey.....if we all liked the same things life would be boring. So let's move on and I look forward to reading the next chapter of your report.

From Joshua Counsil
Posted September 25, 2009 at 11:16 AM
Haha - fair enough.

This discussion has been archived, and is not accepting additional responses.

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