On our trip with my family at the end of September last year, we enjoyed a pre-park opening breakfast at Garden Grill. If you're looking for a way to ride both Soarin' and Test Track or Frozen with little wait (all three are tier 1 attractions at Epcot, and so only one can be booked), snagging an 8 AM breakfast at Garden Grill when Epcot opens at 9 AM is the best way to do it. Besides giving you access to Soarin' before the rest of the crowds make it in to The Land Pavilion, you'll also enjoy one of our favorite breakfasts on property, and one of the few dining experiences we think is worth the cost for the characters, food, and ease of ride access you're paying for. Let's look at what you can expect with an early breakfast reservation at Epcot on a 9 AM opening day:
We arrived to the bag check at Epcot at 7:36 AM for our reservation. When I made the reservations 180 days out, there wasn't any availability for 10 people whatsoever, so I split us up (this is a great trick for finding large party reservations!). We had Garden Grill reservations for 6 people at 8:05 and 4 people at 8:10.
As you can see, there were very few people in line at bag check when we arrived. They did not begin checking bags until 7:42, and we were through bag check by 7:45.
We were then ushered over to a line to enter the park with all those who had early dining reservations. This very obvious sign marks where to go, unlike what we have experienced in the past at Magic Kingdom...
That line didn't start moving until about 7:53, but it took us less than a minute to get through the tapstiles and into the park. Despite my urging, my family wanted to stop for quick pictures with the Food and Wine Festival signs, so it wasn't until about 7:56 when we started making our way towards The Land.
It was kind of a dreary morning, but an empty park can really brighten things up.
We made it to the host stand of Garden Grill at almost exactly 8:05. They told us we could be seated together despite our separate reservations, which is usually the case, and in less than 5 minutes we were at our table and already saying hi to farmer Mickey.
Garden Grill is a family style restaurant, so there is no ordering involved beyond beverages. One of the main benefits of this type of dining is that food comes quickly. Mixed fruit is served first with large pans of cinnamon rolls.
Because I have food allergies (gluten) and my sister-in-law does as well (dairy), we did not get to enjoy the cinnamon rolls, but my mom declared that they were the best part of the breakfast. I did get some gluten free blueberry muffins, though!
The main course includes Mickey waffles with warm chocolate hazelnut sauce, scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon and tater tots. We received a separate allergy pan with gluten and dairy free waffles and all the other side items, which are already gluten and dairy free.
This meal is incredibly filling and delicious and would get most people through to dinner with only a pretzel or turkey leg in between.
We were able eat, pay, and meet Chip, Dale, Goofy, and Mickey (twice!) by 8:56. Because Soarin' is right next door to the restaurant, we were at the entrance to the ride by 8:58. This was the pavilion then:
Empty. Beautifully empty.
Everyone decided to run to the bathroom before we got on the ride, and 2 minutes later, there was a SWARM of people that had arrived. Luckily, it was still only enough people to fill each of the theaters, and we didn't wait any longer than the time it took to walk the ramps, listen to Patrick Warburton give us our flight directions, and get seated.
We were off the ride by 9:10 and could have easily taken another ride with a very short wait after exiting, but we headed off to ride Living with the Land instead.
Overall, this is a very valuable dining reservation to have, especially during a time when the parks are particularly crowded. The food is delicious, the characters are classic, and getting on Soarin' after your meal is quick and easy. This means you can use your Tier 1 fastpass on Test Track or Frozen, depending on which is more your group's speed.
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