Winter 2024 Trip Report Day 4 Part 1- EPCOT Rope Drop

This was going to be another long day starting with rope drop at EPCOT and ending with Extended Evening Hours at Magic Kingdom from 11-1AM! The day began early, but I was extremely thankful to be staying at the Boardwalk. Instead of getting up at 6am, we could get up a bit before 7am and still get out the International Gateway by 8am. How cool is that?

The general plan for today was to rope drop EPCOT but start stacking fast passes for Magic Kingdom later in the day. With any luck we should be able to take advatange of the lower early morning crowds to ride the heavy hitters at EPCOT with minimal waits. Since we would be leaving EPCOT around mid day for a break I opted for a Guardian’s Individual Lightning Lane instead of the virual queue since the latter is unpredictable. I purchased that right at 7 and also grabbed a LL return time for Peter Pan in the early evening.

That’s exactly how the morning played out and we were through the gates and in the rope drop queue on the bridge between the UK and France by 8AM. There was a decent sized crowd already, so if you want to be at the front you should plan to arrive by 7:30 or so.

EPCOT Rope Drop Crowd
EPCOT Rope Drop Crowd

The official park open was 9AM with early access starting 30 minutes earlier at 8:30. My game plan was to get a ride in at Remy and then hoof it over to Frozen and be in queue there right around official park open. It’s a haul from France to Norway but this is doable if everything goes according to plan.

A little befre 8:30 they let the crowd loose to shuffle deeper into France to queue up once again. This was actually a fairly well behaved rope drop crowd and everyone moved together in a fairly polite and controlled manner.

EPCOT Rope Drop France Queue
EPCOT Rope Drop France Queue

As 8:30 came and went I started to get the feeling that something was amiss. At first I told myself that it was just because of my string of bad luck with rope drop. Or maybe the park was just a few ticks late getting going. I checked My Disney Experience and to my dismay say that other rides were operating. I was getting antsy. Then it happened. They announced that Remy’s would experience a delayed opening and they had no indication when it would open, but we were free to wait in queue. If you’re keeping track at home I am now 3 for my 3 last three rope drops with ride issues impacting my plans. I admit, I was extremely frustrated. Rope drop is supposed to give you a leg up on the day It’s what everyone says to do, and that’s true when everything works. Ultimately, you are entirely dependent on things out of your control for rope drop to have the expected value it’s purported to. My perspective on rope drop has shifted, but more on that in another post.

We were faced with a choice, wait for an indeterminate amount of time for Remy or bail and walk briskly to Frozen to queue up before official park open. We opted for the latter. It is objectively quicker to go past the UK and Canada to get to Norway. However, to do that we would have had to walk past the entire queue of people waiting for Remy, many of which probably did not yet realize that it wasn’t opening on time. I didn’t want to trigger a stampede so we head the longer way around World Showcase. We were among the first to make the decision to leave the line, so the walk was extremely peaceful. It helped to ease my frustration and put me back in the right mindset. I’m at Disney World, and I reminded myself to roll with the punches and be thankful!

Feels Crowded
Feels Crowded

We got to frozen about 8:50 to a posted 25 minute wait, which seemed fairly accurate based on the queue. The queue moved efficiently with no ride breakdowns and we were indeed on the ride 25 minutes later, where I was reminded to let it go!

Let it go!
Let it go!

By the time we got exited the ride it was well into normal operating hours. We had lost the initiative of rope drop due to the issue with Remy. Knowing we had another EPCOT day planned for the following day we could roll with the punches today. Since we were right next to Kringala anyway it was time for a healthy breakfast of school bread and Eplekake (apple cake). Both were delicious and disappeared within minutes. Now reenergized, we headed out of World Showcase towards future world with the idea of experiencing other attractions in the area previously known as Future World.

As we approached the Mexico pavillion I couldn’t resist the urge to hope on the Three Caballeros. As one might imagine, there was absolutely no line at 9:43AM and we walked right onto a boat.

After a great trip to Mexico with Donald, Jose, and Panchito we headed towards Soarin’. Our ILL for Guardian’s opened in just about an hour, so we definitely had time for Soarin’ and maybe another attraction in the area. We ended up waiting about 25 mintues to board Soarin’, which really isn’t too bad at all. I didn’t note the posted wait time (at this point we were just doing what we wanted irrespective of whether it was efficient touring or not), but I believe the actual wait time was lower than what was posted.

When we exited Soarin’ the queue for Living with the Land was quite robust. I checked MDE and the even the wait for the Seas was 20 minutes! The reason was that Remy’s was still not operating. With Guardian’s still doing a virtual queue for ILL only, there just isn’t that much to absorb excess crowds if one of the headliners are down. With about a half hour to kill before our Guardian’s return time we opted for some shopping at Creations Shop instead of another attraction. Before long it was time for save the universe!

Guardians of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind scene
He looks mad…

As somsone that gets mild motion sickness this ride pushes my limits but it is so worth it. In my mind this is still the best ride on property. Thankfully the ride didn’t get me too bad this time, but my wife who normally doesn’t get motion sickness did get hit this time. Your mileage may vary, but this ride is a doozy for motion sickness.

Thankfully, the after effects were mild enough that it didn’t impact our appetite. It was lunch time and I was itching to try some Festival of the Arts offerings. We wanted a significant afternoon break today because Extended Evening hours didn’t start until 11PM; it was going to be a late night. With that in mind we going to graze our way out of the park in the direction of Canada and the UK. First stop was the Deconstructed Dish booth, conveniently located for us near Test Track this year.

First up was the Deconstructed Pork Belly, now a mainstay offering at this festival. This year’s rendition was phenomenal. The pork belly was perfectly cooked with a nice crispy crust on the top and the fat layer well rendered to give that perfect melt in your mouth feel. The onion bread pudding was flavorful and brought a new texture to the dish that balanced well with the textures of the pork belly. The tomato jam and watercress epuma added some nice acidity and layers of flavor to every bite. If this wasn’t eager to try other dishes I would have ordered a second.

Deconstructed Dish Pork Belly
Deconstructed Dish Pork Belly

We also ordered the deconstructed key lime pie shown below. This was another winner flavor wise and the perfect follow up to the rich pork belly dish. That said, I’m not sure this was better than a slice of key lime pie that was executed with same proficiency. I’d still order this again though.

Deconstructed Dish Key Lime PIe
Deconstructed Dish Key Lime PIe

Next we headed towards Canada as I had my eye on the Mushroom Risotto dish. Along the way though we passed the Refreshment Port, located right before the border with Canada, and they had a special offering for the Fesitval of the Arts – Gnocchi Poutine! Gnocchi with red wine braised beef, cheese curds, basil, and burrata. Here’s the deal – I love gnocchi, I love poutine because I love cheese and gravy – this dish couldn’t have been more on the nose for my tastes if I dreamt it up myself. I was so excited to dig in that I forgot to take a picture.

I had come across some negative reviews of this dish so maybe my expectations were tempered, but I loved this. A common complaint I saw was that the gnocchi was dry, and I could definitely see that perspective. This gnocchi wasn’t exactly pillowy and fluffy. I think that actually worked in this dish though. Between the braised beef and burrata, there was enough moisture in the dish that I think softer gnocchi would have gotten soggy. This gnocchi held up from first bite to last. The beef was tender but not fatty or mushy. This was a substantial dish as well. I paused momentarily after fininshing it to consider if I really had room for another round. The problem was that we were eating at a table directly across the walkway from the Gourmet Landscapes booth. The mushroom risotto was calling my name and I couldn’t resist.

The line for Gourmet Landscapes was very long and directly in the sun. Thankfully, it was a beautiful day and the line move quickly. In hotter weather though I’m not sure I would have waited for as long as I had to. The wait was really only 5-10 minutes, but I have little tolerance for direct sunlight, my Irish complexion quickly wilts in the onslaught of the sun. Today though it was tolerable and I would be glad I waited. I ordered the Mushroom Risotto and Verjus-Roasted Beets, which we ready promptly after placing my order. This booth was very efficient.

FoA Mushroom Risotto
Gourmet Landscapes Mushroom Risotto

First up was the Risotto, described as Wild Mushroom Risotto with truffle shavings and zinfandel reduction. I am a big fan of truffle and mushrooms in general and this dish did not disappoint. The risotto was well executed and the flavors were on point for what you’d expect. The only downside of the dish is the cost, coming in at just under $10. If you’re looking to fill up from a dish at a low cost, skip this, it’s not that. I thought the price was fair though. Truffles are very expensive, and risotto does take a little bit of culinary know how to execute well. You’re paying for more than just the amount of food here and I think the value is there. I would definitely get this again.

Gourmet Landscapes Beets
Gourmet Landscapes Beet Salad

The last dish of this grazing session was the Verjus-roasted Beets with goat cheese, petite lettuce, blackberry gastrique, and spiced pecans. My wife is a huge fan of beets and I’ve come around on them. This dish was awesome if you like beets or even just don’t hate them. The goat cheese and other accompaniments bring out the best flavors in the beets and help to get past the initial dirt, I mean earthiness flavor that beets have up front. The spiced pecans actually were a little spicy, which for me really brought this dish up a notch.

After these two dishes we were stuffed. We’ve found the serving sizes of almost every dish at the Festival of the Arts booths to be substantial and perfect for sharing between 2 people. 5 dishes filled us up nicely for around the same cost as 2 quick service burgers, and these dishes were much higher quality than that.

EPCOT FoA Dining Companion
EPCOT FoA Dining Companion

We said goodbye to our dining companion and headed back to our room. It was now about 12:30 or 4 1/2 hours after we arrived. I don’t think our rope drop experience could be deemed a success. We definitely saved some time but it didn’t feel worth the effort of getting up early and waiting in the crowds before park open. We had a great morning, but it was largely because of some good food and a relaxed approach to touring once our plans fell apart. I didn’t catch the exact time when Remy opened, but it was down for most of the morning. The impact of that was felt at every other attraction in the park.

My last two trips have really made me pivot away from the idea of rope dropping with idea of hitting particular premier attractions, at least until Disney solves the very obvious ride reliability problem for these more complicated ride systems. If this was your families best chance to ride Remy without a 2 hour wait and you committed to waiting it out you would have lost the entire morning without experiencing a single attraction. Furthermore, every other attraction was experiencing above average wait times at this point. Basically, the disaster scenario for efficient touring. You’d either end up waiting in the longest lines of the day or have to find something else to do until much later. I really hope Disney starts to reinvest more ensuring rides are operational when they say they will be.

Back at the resort we spent the afternoon relaxing, napping, and recharging for our evening in the Magic Kingdom. I continued to stack lightning lanes for MK attractions, booking the next as soon as my window opened and “walking” return times back to the best times for our touring plan. This takes some dedication and planning, but compared to our experience rope dropping EPCOT our evening at the MK would be as smooth as could be because of this. I’ll cover that in more detail in the next post.

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