Tuesday, October 06, 2009

6 OCT 09: Minnie-mized Mouse

In this day and age, it's no surprise that amusement parks such as Walt Disney World require checks of your bags before you go inside. We carried nothing into Epcot Center in August which was considered objectionable. If the bag had said Universal Studios on the outside, that might have been different.

Remember, we had free birthday admission to Epcot Center - and our goal was to enjoy the day for as little money as possible. So we took advantage of the "Refreshment Port" to drink free samples of Coca-Cola products from around the world. The drink for Mexico seemed awfully watered down - which may explain why I haven't seen it at Brito's Market.

The front section of Epcot Center is "Future World," including a high-tech building called "Innoventions." It was a rare opportunity for us to try a video game - you know, something a bit beyond Spider Solitaire.

A college football video game allowed us to match Tennessee against Florida - and the game went well until Florida scored a touchdown. Then we couldn't figure out what you press to kick the extra point. We racked up enough delay-of-game penalties to make the Oakland Raiders proud.

When the extra point reached a stalemate, we walked away from Tennessee-Florida and left the outcome to someone else. We stopped next at a section of Innoventions which celebrated velcro -- and discovered some military vehicles have velcro attachments on the outside. Imagine how many rushing Iraqi troublemakers have been surprised by the Third Brigade with that.

We elected NOT to visit a couple of buildings in the Future World section. One was the "Epcot Character Spot," where you can pose for a picture with Disney cartoon stars. Get me too close to Goofy, and the crowd might not be sure which one deserves the title more.

Behind Future World is the Epcot Center "World Showcase," with a variety of cultures surrounding a lake. After touring that section for several hours, the Columbus International Festival simply seemed minor-league - even if they DID set up four stages at Peachtree Mall.

Going counter-clockwise around the lake, our first stop was Canada. An area arranged to look like a British Columbia garden showed me how much attention Walt Disney World pays to landscaping. And the shop selling Edmonton and Calgary hockey jerseys reminded me how much attention is paid to authentic sales items.

The United Kingdom area had an open-air beer stand -- which surprised me for a "family" theme park. But it also had one of the best food values in the park, as a little shop sold little chocolate squares for 47 cents each. Then again, critics might say it's like spending almost a dollar for two Hershey's kisses.

Across a bridge from the United Kingdom area is France - where an outdoor stand sold escargot. I decided to keep escargo-ing....

One shop in the French area sold bottles of champagne called "Pop." Before you scoff at this, remember something - Miller High Life used to call itself the champagne of bottled beer.

The Japanese area has a store with quite a wide range of items - from $1,500 Mikasa jewelry to five-dollar bags of nuts. That store also sells "Crunky" chocolate. Someone has missed a golden opportunity to sell this at stores on Cusseta Road.

We mentioned in August that the "American Adventure" part of Epcot Center has a Fife & Drum restaurant, matching the National Infantry Museum. It also has a store filled with Barack Obama merchandise. Pictures of former Presidents Bush and Reagan are there as well, but they're apparently not lobbying as hard.

(That store also offers clothing of U.S. sports teams. Atlanta's baseball team was missing, while the Cubs and Red Sox abounded. And in a sign of the soccer times, David Beckham outfits were on sale for half-price.)

The only food item I bought all day at Epcot Center was in the Norway section - a giant chocolate chip cookie for $1.59. Even the viking logo in the middle was edible. If you see something like this on sale at Pacelli High School in the next few weeks, alert the Disney attorneys.

By comparison, the Epcot Center map indicated a couple of restaurants in the World Showcase area have dishes starting at $36 per person. Isn't this why Disney built the vacation resorts - to collect all the money outside the park, not in it?

The World Showcase also had these interesting sights....

+ A shop in Morocco which actually sold Moroccan rugs. But there were NO elephants, to make it feel like a Shrine circus.

+ An indoor boat ride in a Mexican temple, where Donald Duck is seen openly ogling cartoon señoritas. In parts of Phenix City, he'd get arrested for that.

+ An entertainer in Italy who could juggle, but could only "talk" by blowing a whistle. A few radio talk show hosts ought to try this for a week.

We wrapped up the Epcot Center day by checking other parts of Future World. The most thrilling ride for us was the relatively new General Motors "Test Track." We won't give away any secrets here - but let's say I'm glad my hat landed inside the car when it fell off, and not on the ground far below.

While you wait in line for the Test Track ride, you pass an area marked "dummy assembly." We will avoid the obvious punch line involving students cheating on exams....

"The Seas with Nemo and Friends" was a ride which was enlightening for an unexpected reason. The "clamobiles" you sit in run non-stop, making a continuous loop of the area. If Epcot Center was charging one dollar a ride, I could understand the economic motive behind this -- but it wasn't.

We succumbed near the exit of Epcot Center, and bought a Disney baseball for a souvenir of the day for $7.49. We also purchased a bottle Diet Coke for $2.55 -- then bought a Dairy Queen hot dog dinner an hour later on the way home for the low price of $3.19.

By eating breakfast before arriving at Epcot Center and eating dinner after we left, the "free birthday" at Walt Disney World ended with Disney collecting less than 24 of our dollars -- and half of that was for parking. The final total of the trip (including two motel nights along Interstate 75) was less than 140 dollars. I fear the British visitors I met outside the gate spent that much simply on airline fees.

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: Our vacation travel blogging resumes Thursday, as we remember a "Riviera.")

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BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: Suspended for vacation

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