Guide to Doing Disney in the Pandemic: V. 2021, Part II

February 20, 2021

Looking for Part I? Check out the first part of the post, here!

Picking up right where I last left off: our first park day! The whole reason I had planned our trip for February was to finally check out the Epcot International Festival of the Arts (or - more affectionately known in certain Disney community circles - as iFARTS). Pro tip: If you can plan your trip for January/February when this festival is running, do it. The weather this time of year is pretty great (though ours was a mixed bag: one day it was pretty chilly & the next it was upper 70s and kind of humid), the crowds are low (though that might be more due to covid...), and the Festival of the Arts is in full swing.

I'm a seasoned Epcot festival veteran. I've done Food&Wine more times than I can count, Flower & Garden twice, and the Festival of the Holidays just once. But iFARTS has eluded me since its inaugural year. The timing of this festival just never worked out for me, until now. And I am oh so glad I finally got the chance to go!

The aesthetic is beautiful, colorful & so much fun! Who doesn't love giant rainbows & pretty art everywhere? I took the opportunity to come as my most rainbowey self, in a pastel rainbow skirt, yellow top, rainbow earrings, art fest ears, and finally got to break in my giant Pooh crossbody bag.

My experience at the festival was a bit more rushed than I would have liked (thanks to a tiny three year old in tow), so I didn't get to browse & appreciate the art nearly as much as I would have had I been sans-babé. There were so many artist demostrations, and I was lucky enough to catch one of them at least. There are artists booths set up in many parts of world showplace & in future world, and while many of the pieces are pricey, you can often get postcard prints of the same renderings for around $5-6.

And then of course, there is the food - the staple of any good Epcot festival!

Epcot is not my husband's favorite, so we didn't get to try as much as I'd have liked in terms of the food (he's more of a "let's just sit down at a restaurant and have a real meal" type of guy). But we definitely did check off some items I had been wanting to try! Here's the short list of what we tried:

  • France: black truffle croissant
  • Japan: violet sake (they have this year round. GET IT!!)
  • America: red velvet funnel cake
  • Festival Favorites booth: Remy's ratatouille (*chef's kiss*)

 Pro tip: Enter the back way through Epcot when the park first opens and it will be way less crowded than the main entrance. Then you can get some great (empty!!) shots of the countries and be basically first in line at some of the food booths!

After we had trekked all over world showplace back & forth 8 times (seriously, I'd like to see a "map my run" version of the path we took that day - and we barely touched Future World), it was just past 2pm which meant that we could park hop! Up next: Magic Kingdom!

The crowds were really manageable and pretty low, compared to past trips. However, I will say, the lines looked scary, but that's only due to social distancing (for example, the line for Winnie the Pooh snaked back to Cheshire Cafe but was really only a 20 minute wait). Most rides were walk-ons, and the the posted wait times were really just the time it took us to walk the queue & maintain social distance (& Dumbo was a "sprint-on" - literally. My daughter took off full force for the entrance once she saw it).

We spent the rest of our afternoon there at Magic Kingdom and felt like we were able to see & do a lot of stuff, given we only had a few hours (I think they closed at 7pm that night). We grabbed dinner at Skipper Canteen, a restaurant I hadn't tried before (it was actually really chilly inside & I need a jacket!). Pro tip: If you're looking for a unique dining experience with food besides typical park fare (I love you, chicken nuggets, but I need adult food sometimes), definitely try Skipper Canteen. The Crew Stew is where it's at! Also: definitely big enough to share. Then after dinner, we were able to catch the characters waving goodbye from atop Main Street station, and called it a night!

The next day was Hollywood Studios day! We managed to score Rise of the Resistance boarding passes and my husband was super pumped to explore Galaxy's Edge. It was the one park he was most excited to see. I'm not a big Star Wars person (unless you count my obsession with baby yoda), but I was definitely ready to ride Rise.

The Mickey & Minnie's Railway ride was my favorite though. I suggest riding it first thing, since you have to pass it to go anywhere else in the park anyway. It's such a cute ride with some really cool technology!

We were lucky enough to snag a last minute reservation at Oga's Cantina. The time slot I found available was 9:10am so...looks like we were gonna be drinkin' cocktails in the early morning! (Hey, it was vacation after all!) If you can get in to Oga's, definitely do it. Like I said, I'm not a Star Wars person, but you don't have to be a big Star Wars fan to really appreciate the land or all that it has to offer. 

Pro tip: just because you can't find a time for a dining location on the app, don't give up hope! When I first booked our trip, pretty much everything was already gone. I really wanted Barry to get to experience Oga's so I kept checking back, at random times, and often. People cancel plans constantly, so keep checking the app & use the specified times to search, rather than the "breakfast" "lunch" or "dinner" options. I've had much more luck when I click through each time one by one (8:30...9:00...9:30... etc. etc.)

The drinks at Oga's were really unique, and we just let our bartender pick for us. He asked us a couple questions of what we tended to drink/what we liked and came back with these guys:

Mine was some kind of peach concoction, and it wasn't until I started sipping on the foam on top that I realized which one it was (that I had heard about on a couple podcasts): the one that "makes your mouth numb." That was a surprise! When I think of "numb" I think of novacaine that you get at the dentist when you have a cavity, and it makes your whole mouth feel like it's huge & you can't feel a thing. This wasn't like that, so don't be scared of this delicious drink! It's really only the stuff on top that has the effect anyway, but it's more just like a big tingling sensation on your tongue. 

We milled around Galaxy's Edge, grabbed a Ronto Roaster (definitely 100% recommend), and then rode Rise when it was our boarding group. Pro tip: use rider swap if you've got little ones in tow. It's super easy to use - just talk to the cast member at the front of the attraction. And if possible, try to get the front row of the ride vehicle. It's way more immersive that way because all other rows have the annoying (but necessary, I know, I know) clear plastic dividers up. It does kind of skew the experience a little bit though.

Initially I had planned to go back to the resort to change into our fancy clothes for dinner, but we ended up staying at Hollywood Studios much longer than I thought, so there was no time. We hopped on the Skyliner to go over to the Riviera resort for our dinner reservation at Topolino's Terrace. I highly, highly, highly recommend this place. It's an awesome spot for a romantic dinner, has great views, amazing food, and really attentive servers (at least, ours was. Or maybe she just took pity on us because we were definitely underdressed and had a very overly-exhausted and fussy toddler with us). 

Our dinner ended up being a little stressful just because Lilly was running on fumes, but the wine helped. And our amazing server kept the tantrums & tears at bay with lots of bread and a fancy Frozen kids cup. I would have snapped way more photos for the blog of the food, but I was tired, hungry, and spent at this point. 

So pro (mama) tip: maybe leave the kids with grandma for this place (if you can), or otherwise, just don't book a dinner reservation when you know your toddler will be on the edge of tantrum-town. Then you can fully enjoy your dinner & hop on the Skyliner right after to head back to Epcot to hit up a few rides just before park-close!

Our last morning was a Magic Kingdom morning (is there really anything more magical than walking down Main Street in the early morning hours, with a Starbucks in hand?). I decided to play princess-for-a-day with my daughter and donned my finest princess gear, complete with a tiara (because it's Disney. Why not!?).We were able to ride a bunch of stuff early on and the lines for most everything were pretty short. And those character cavalcades? They're always coming through, so we were able to catch a lot of them.

Pro tip: If you want those empty castle photos, a random time in the afternoon is a great time. People tend to flood the castle first thing in the morning as they're coming down Main Street, but by mid afternoon, they're mostly busy riding rides or stuffing their faces with Mickey pretzels and ice cream bars. We got some great shots in front of the castle and a cute video of my daughter spinning her way around the castle forecourt. 

Before I knew it, it was time for our last park of the trip: Animal Kingdom (of which I managed to only get like, 3 photos. I think at this point by husband was over the picture-taking for the blog). We used rider swap again for Flight of Passage & the wait was not bad at all (compared to its normal wait time). Then we did a lot of walking around the park, eating, drinking, the usual. I knew I had to at least get a photo in front of my 2 favorite spots here: the backside of the Tree of Life (way less busy & just as beautiful!) and the Lion King wall (where I was able to briefly meet up with some friends!).

You'll never hear me say that my Disney trip was long enough though; I always want "just one more day" (or 4...) and I feel like Disney trips go by so quickly! But this trip was definitely still magical, despite the pandemic & mask requirements. Lilly did great with her mask & any time she got fussy over not wanting to wear it, we would take a snack break. One thing that really worked for us with the mask issue was telling her weeks beforehand that "Mickey says" we have to wear masks to play in his park. Then once we got there and she saw all the other kids having to wear one too, it just kind of clicked.

I hope the mask rule goes away sooner rather than later, but don't let that be a deterrent for booking a trip. You can still have magical moments & have a great trip!

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