Thursday, July 12, 2012

Keep on Pushing

I have a hard time imagining that Disney has any problems getting people to come to their parks. At this point, I doubt there are many people who aren’t totally familiar with what Disney Parks have to offer, and that’s a testament to both their enduring presence over the past (almost) 60 years, and the well… awesomeness.

One of the things I most admire about Disney, though, is that they rarely rest on reputation alone. As the years have gone by, and as the economy has struggled, Disney has focused harder and harder on creating not just the “Destination” vacation, but the “Destination EVENT Vacation”. Because of that, Disney parks are consistently the most well attended theme parks in the world. Year in and year out.

There was a time when the Disney calendar was fairly sparse. You’d have the odd Marathon weekend, or Gay Days, or Star Wars weekend, but for the most part, Disney World was Disney World. Sure, the customer service was totally outstanding, and the parks were so clean you could eat off the trash cans, and the rides were the most technologically advanced and creative out there. For the most part, these are all still totally true.

Nowadays, though, there are competitors for the mighty family vacation dollar. Universal has Harry Potter, who is a damned force to be reckoned with, and Legoland keeps expanding, and never forget the Grand Canyon!!! (Ohhh…hahahaha… I almost made it all the way through…)

If you look at the Disney World calendar these days, and you’ll notice something… Over the next six months, Disney will celebrate:

Night of Joy (no idea what this is)
Mickey’s Not-so-scary Halloween Party
Twilight Zone Towner of Terror 10-Miler Weekend
Epcot International Food and Wine Festival
MouseAdventure World Explorers
Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic
Festival of the Masters
Wine and Dine Half Marathon
Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party
Old Spice Classic
Vacation Club Annual Meeting
Disney’s Princess Half Marathon
Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend
Expedition Everest Challenge

Disney isn’t just waiting for folks to come. In spite of their insane popularity and ticket-sale dominance, Disney is packing their calendar full of events to draw folks to the parks in droves. I didn’t even mention the huge draws like the ESPN Weekend, and the Star Wars event every May and the Flower and Garden Festival in May also. There really are dozens of events. Many of them geared toward folks who wouldn’t automatically go to the parks.

I think this is awesome, and today, I’d like to briefly recommend one of those events. In fact, my favorite of the events. Favorite enough that I go out of my way to visit during this time of year.

The Epcot International Food and Wine Festival.

First off… The time of year. It takes place in October every year, during what is generally one of the slower periods in the parks because it’s October so everyone is in school, and it’s too hot for skiing and too cold for swimming, so people just don’t think “Vacation” during this time. That’s a plus, because even though Florida doesn’t have seasons, really, it’s often just a very lovely, mild temperature to deal with. Even a little cool at times.

Epcot is my favorite park, because they can at times try some different stuff. They’re not bound to the “Character” structure that Magic Kingdom is, or the Hollywood theme that Disney Studios has, or even the lack of space that Animal Kingdom deals with. Epcot is large, spacious, and can do whatever they want. The theme is loose.

The International Food and Wine Festival is basically a huge excuse to take advantage of the World Showcase structure (as well as the physical World Showcase) to bring the food and spirits of dozens of countries NOT represented at The World Showcase to the masses. It’s a perfect venue for extra entertainment. It’s got an ever-changing lineup of countries represented, so it never gets old. Each country serves several dishes from their native land, and there’s a nice mix between tried-and-true (France, for example, has a chocolate type thing) and perhaps more foreign (France also has escargot).

Another great thing about it is that if you’re on the Disney Dining Plan, you can use your “Snack” credits for the different dishes. The last time the Tofu Muchacha and I were there on the Dining Plan, we made a conscious effort to save up our snack credits and we used them all in one afternoon. We ended up having a very good, very eclectic meal. The only thing not covered on the Dining Plan is the wine and spirits, of which there are plenty, and of which we sampled a few.

I’m not a wine drinker by any stretch of the word, but I’m told the selection is very interesting and pretty good.

I also like that the event brings a little bit of a livelier crowd to the parks than does the normal day to day. I’m not saying I love rowdy people. In fact, I hate crowds, but I can say that when you’ve spent most of the day or week wading through a sea of strollers and children and whatnot, the slightly more adult crowd is a welcome change. The lesser of evils, if you will.

Anyway, if you get a chance, I highly recommend checking out The Epcot International Food and Wine Festival or really any of the showcase festivals or evens they hold throughout the year. The Star Wars and ESPN Weekends are both hugely popular. The various organized running events grow in popularity each year. The Flower and Garden Festival is one of the most visually striking (especially if you like topiary).
It’s just so nice to see a company like Disney, a company that has it all, aiming even higher on a daily basis. It is, more than anything else, what gives me hope that Disney Parks will endure for another six decades.

No comments:

Post a Comment