Space 220 Restaurant has launched at Epcot! We dined at Walt Disney World’s newest themed dining experience on opening day, and wanted to offer impressions on the outer space atmosphere. This post features photos, video, and commentary on Space 220.
In case you’re unfamiliar with it, Space 220 restaurant is located between Test Track and Mission: Space, with its entrance being located off to the side of the latter. The show building is tucked away backstage, and not intended to be seen by guests aside from the brief walk from the check-in podium to the departure terminal.
Just last week, Walt Disney World announced that Space 220 would only be available for walk-ins from September 20 to September 26, 2021. Advance Dining Reservations would become available today, but only for seatings beginning September 27, 2021…
We suspected this would be the case, with Space 220 Restaurant going the route of Takumi-Tei and doing a walk-up only “soft opening” period. Unlike that unheralded gem in the Japan pavilion, we expected opening day for Space 220 Restaurant to be absolutely bonkers, so we got up bright and early and rope dropped Epcot this morning.
Even knowing Space 220 would draw a huge opening day crowd, I was not fully prepared for the huge mass of humanity. [Insert “I’m too old for this s—,” which some of you probably only recognize as a meme rather than from its original source, reaffirming that I am getting too old for this…]
I probably shouldn’t have been surprised, as hype has been building for a while now. Walt Disney World announced that Space 220 would open by the holiday season two years ago. Once it became obvious that construction was far behind schedule, Disney quietly reworded the opening timeframe to “this winter.”
Then, that opening season was removed as there were rumors that one of the screens had broken during installation, setting the project back a few more months. Then the closure happened.
We had already waited almost two years beyond the original opening date for Space 220 Restaurant at Epcot. Over 4 years in total if you run the clock from the original announcement at the 2017 D23 Expo.
Suffice to say, I think we could endure a few more hours in the Florida heat and humidity for the media event occurring inside the restaurant to finish up. We had already waited this long!
After waiting in line by Mission: Space for a while, it was our turn to head inside the departures terminal, where we waited briefly to board one of two “Space Elevators.”
These transport you what seems like 220 miles above Earth to Centauri Space Station.
As the ascent begins, you can see Mission: Space and Test Track in the viewport at your feet.
So far, it’s a Google Earth-esque recreation of Future World.
As you get a few more miles up, a broader view of Epcot is visible.
I had to chuckle at the strategically placed cloud blocking the Epcot Dirt Pit.™️ Maybe Leslie Knope will hold a black tie gala at Space 220 and we can get the Epcot Dirt Pit turned into the Pawnee Commons by 2028?
Continuing higher there’s a view of Florida as a whole.
Overhead, the Centauri Space Station came into view on a different screen. I missed it (well, my camera did–my eyes saw it).
Above is video that Sarah shot capturing the ascent experience.
While some look forward to a day when humans inhabit space, I’m just hopeful we reach a point when the Future World reimagining is finished. At this point, colonizing Mars is likely to happen sooner.
All in all, we thought the ascent experience was cool and fairly convincing.
It reminded us of the Hydrolators used at Seabase Alpha or the Terravators in Journey to the Center of the Earth, except heading the opposite direction.
With anything like this, suspension of disbelief will vary from person to person.
I have no qualms with utilizing screens when appropriate, but I can’t think of any scenario where I’ve forgotten I’m looking at a screen. Same thing applies here. Nevertheless, felt the Space Elevator was an effective and well-executed use of screens.
Upon exiting the elevator, you walk through an entrance hallway with some space horticulture.
This is pretty cool.
The circular chamber rotates and has a mirrored illusion that it’s quite lengthy.
Definite Living with the Land meets Horizons meets the Martian vibes here.
From here, you head deeper into the Centauri Space Station, towards the themed dining area.
The arrival makes a strong first impression and thus far, Centauri Space Station feels pretty authentic–based on my extensive experiences with real space stations, naturally.
For whatever reason, we got from the pragmatic space gardening to a circular room with a bunch of holes for hundreds of wine bottles.
Now that billionaires are dominating the ‘space race,’ it only makes sense that we’d move from boring stuff like innovative agriculture to ostentatious oenophilia!
Jokes aside, the dining area stopped us dead in our tracks.
Photos don’t do justice to first seeing this panoramic view of Earth in the distance outside the windows of Centauri Space Station. This first glimpse got me as close to suspension of disbelief as screen-based anything ever has–it’s a breathtaking reveal.
The view from the top of the stairs leading down to the tables closest to the windows is the best in the house.
We’d actually advise against requesting a table close to the glass, which is the exact opposite of what we recommend at Coral Reef. More on that in a bit, though.
Since only a handful of screens have views of Earth, the void is filled (literally and figuratively), with other objects.
You’ll see other spacecraft, the moon, and a variety of work and leisure activities taking place beyond the windows of Centauri Space Station.
Some of these “leisure activities” include nods to Disney’s big space-centric intellectual property.
There are a ton of Easter eggs and I don’t want to spoil them all for you. (In part, I can’t because many were gone before I could even snap a photo.)
However, since I’m not a monster, I’ll share the most important one that you might otherwise miss: SPACE DOGS.
On the far left and far right screens, space dogs appear at random.
There are (supposedly) three different space dogs that residents of the community above Centauri Space Station take for a space walk from time to time. One is such a good boy that he can go off-leash.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t quick enough on the draw to capture (photographically) any of the space dogs. Both times I saw them I was (no joke) so excited that I fumbled for my camera and messed up the shots.
These are among the many things I saw but didn’t manage to successfully shoot. If the trading cards that came with our meal are any indication, there’s a lot more that we didn’t see at all.
Opinions on these space work and leisure activities is probably going to be mixed, with some Walt Disney World fans deriding the Star Wars ones as contrived or crassly commercial and others as cheesy. (If you come for the space dogs, just keep in mind that you’ll lose all credibility!)
I strongly disagree.
The view of Earth is incredibly serene and understated, which is part of its appeal.
That has not been cartoonified, exaggerated, or whatever to make it more exciting. It’s breathtaking at first because it looks so natural, and while I don’t think that gets old, it does get a bit static.
The life in space is what keeps things interesting and engaging, and allows Disney to get a bit goofy with the visuals while still maintaining authenticity.
Plus, humans just put a car in space and there’s no telling what’s next–I don’t think a few lightsabers and space pups stretch credulity.
With that said, Space 220 is not flawless.
You might notice blue lines and other ‘artifacts’ in many of the photos with a view out into space. These are reflections of lighting inside the restaurant.
None of this is a deal-breaker that ruins the illusion or anything of the sort. To the contrary, if you were in a space station with the lights on, you’d see those reflected in the windows.
I don’t purport to be an expert on outer space, but that’s how lighting and reflections work.
Still, it feels like this could’ve been avoided.
If you’ve been on Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, think about the first pre-show room. That effect is accomplished via a screen within a mirror. The reason it works is because Imagineering went to great lengths to make sure no lights in the room would ruin the effect–even the exit sign is lower than where it’d normally be to help sell the illusion.
Similar thoughtful design changes would’ve produced a similar result with Space 220.
All of the blue rim lighting could’ve been recessed so it didn’t get picked up by the windows. Other lights could’ve been handled the same way, or used more sparingly. Perhaps this comes across as nitpicky, but I loved the view at Space 220 and think attention to these lighting details could’ve made the view out into space even more majestic and awe-inspiring.
Outer space aside, the atmosphere in Space 220 is pitch perfect.
The cool colors are relaxing, the music is both mellow and uplifting, the lighting is appropriately moody (I’d be fine with it being a bit darker, but others might disagree), and seating area has a sense of sophistication to it. We were surprised at how adult Space 220 feels (this is not to say kids aren’t welcome or it’s inappropriate for them–quite the contrary).
Backtracking to the point about where to sit, the booths next to the windows are ostensibly the most appealing, and there’s definitely something to be said for being so close to outer space.
However, your view will be of your one window–you’ll be too close to see anything else, and miss 90% of the space activities as a result. We were in the second row back and I still found that to be too close.
In spending a lot of time wandering the restaurant, I think the second tier is the way to go.
The front row here is ideal: you get an elevated view, can see all of the windows from your table, and won’t have anyone standing (directly) in front of your table for photos or space selfies. This should also be an easier request to have fulfilled since most people will probably want to be as close as possible.
Here’s another video from Sarah offering a tour of Space 220’s seating area.
The restaurant is quite large, with a large area dedicated exclusively to the walk-up lounge that serves drinks and a la carte cuisine (that should help address a lot of the complaints about Space 220 being prix fixe).
Past posts have referred to Space 220 as Coral Reef: Outer Space Edition, and that was definitely an apt way to describe it. The start-to-finish “storytelling” is definitely better at Space 220, as is the overall ambiance. Coral Reef mostly wins on animals, although the space pups make a compelling case for Space 220. With that said, there’s one area where Coral Reef absolutely gets trounced: the food. But we’re already at 2,000+ words–so we’ll cover that in full detail in tomorrow’s lunch review!
Ultimately, we love the themed experience at Space 220. The execution isn’t flawless, but it’s better and more convincing than anticipated. Space 220 checks all of the right boxes for us in terms of atmosphere, with the visuals perfectly toeing the line between realistic and fun. Others might disagree, finding it to be too boring or too cartoonish–it’s impossible to please everyone, but the balance is perfect for our tastes. As far as long-delayed, highly-hyped screen-based things in Epcot go, this is far and away our favorite of this year’s new additions. We had high hopes for Space 220, and it surpassed those expectations.
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Are you excited for the Space 220 restaurant at Epcot? Does the concept of Coral Reef…but in outer space…appeal to you? Think the visuals come across as cheesy, boring, or perfectly balanced? Thoughts on the lighting reflections in space? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!