As my husband and I half strolled, half limped through Epcot, one thought came to mind:
Jeff looks like Flavor Flav.
We had just run our second Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend – another half for me and the Goofy Challenge for him – and as he clanged his way through the big golf ball’s steely gates for guests with no bags, another thought came to mind, this one fueled by nothing but schoolgirl giddy and mentholated muscle cream:
We had left them behind – along with all their stroller/backpacks/snacks/souvenirs trappings – in the arctic tundra that is Chicago this time of year, and would be doing whatever we wanted to do. For the first time ever.
Had you been there, you would have heard the ethereal choirs singing too.
Epcot is not high up on the list when it comes to the parks our kids heart most, making the total amount of time we’ve spent there in the past seven years about 23.5 minutes. Give or take the few seconds it takes them to ride The Seas with Nemo & Friends approximately eleventy times in succession.
And sure, we faced some initial guilt, feeling like terrible parents for having left them behind with their Gaga – the magical grandmother who scratch cooks nutritious meals the children gobble up like they’re made of cake and Goldfish crackers, and crafts princess puppets and trains from cardboard tubes and bendy straws.
Then we realized we were actually doing the kids a favor, trading their stressed, workaholic parents for a refreshed version, made less frowny and more smiley by a mini retreat sans whine, except for that other kind.
This hilarious, customized video from Spaceship Earth that shows me at my wedding weight helped too…
As did these 5 must dos that helped us recapture our inner bounce that nothing to do with the handfuls of ibuprofen we popped like candy:
The Coral Reef Restaurant 1 of 5Who wouldn't want to eat among 4,000 different kinds of sea life?
While children are certainly allowed in this more upscale eatery, there is something to be said for watching sharks, sea turtles and sting rays float right past you as stare at them, uninterrupted by whoever can't see and needs to be hoisted over your head.
Between you and me, the food is definitely just ok. Garden Grill Restaurant is still our personal fave when it comes to obscenely delicious eats at Epcot. The menu features sustainable dishes so good, you have to be wheeled out of there by the time dessert rolls around.
Soarin’ 2 of 5Feel like you're flying - kick off your shoes while you're at it - as you soar over rolling waves, powdery ski slopes, majestic redwood forests, fragrant orange groves (yep, they pipe in free smells) and familiar landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge and Disneyland.
Imagineers use an 180-degree IMAX projection dome and aerially captured footage to reproduce the flight path of a hang glider as you're lifted 40 feet in the air.
And maybe it's just me, but I'd love to see this remastered in digital. The dust spots were distracting. Mainly because they looked like squished geese.
Journey into Imagination with Figment 3 of 5Two words: Eric Idle.
This ride is pretty tame for all ages, and gently transports you through a sensory adventure covering sound, sight, smell, touch and taste.
That being said, I can't envision my son with Asperger's being able to ride it. All special needs kiddos are different of course, so vet this one out first if you're not sure.
Spaceship Earth 4 of 5This ride is boss.
As you spiral through the 18-story interior of Epcot's landmark golf ball, you'll see animatronic scenes depicting mankind's advancements in communications.
The hilarious, customized video you can make at the end is definitely a highlight. Email it to yourself after disembarking for free and let the mirth unfold.
Watch mine! It's right above the slide show.
Mission Space 5 of 5This motion simulator thrill ride gives you an idea what an astronaut might experience aboard a spacecraft on a mission to Mars, minus the astro diapers and aliens.
Gary Sinise narrates as you choose to go on an "intense" or "less intense" mission. Either way, no worries. There are air sickness bags inside each craft.
Photo credit (slideshow only): Disney Parks
Video credit: Epcot