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Disney Parks 101: EPCOT
First things first, what exactly does EPCOT stand for anyway? Experimental Prototype City of Tomorrow. (Although some people say community, but Walt Disney himself used city so that is what I will go by) Though if you ask any cast member (what Disney employees are called) they will tell you it means Every Person Comes Out Tired. This is a true statement. This park is very unique, it is a combination of theme park and a worlds fair. Toss in some science and technology of the future and you have EPCOT.
I bet that you never thought you would be learning about hydroponic plants and how cars pass safety inspections on your vacation. And I bet you never thought you would have fun doing it. I'm sure its even more far fetched that you would be learning about the cultures of 11 different countries.
So, with all there is to do at EPCOT how do you make sure you do everything you want to do. What do you need to bring with you? Is there anything that you need to make sure you do? What about food, small children, and rainy days?
What to Bring
Just like with any of the other Disney parks you want to make sure you have some basic supplies for the day. Florida may be known as the Sunshine State, but in some months you can almost count of rain every day. So, what do you need to have with you during the day? Well, that is going to tend depend on the group your traveling with.
Small children and Walt Disney World go together like peaches and cream. However, smaller children tend to need a bit more baggage. For parents with stroller age children deciding on wether or not to bring the stroller is a big deal. Strollers can be large and cumbersome, and not to mention most non-stroller people get annoyed when they see a family coming with giant strollers. Its true, more often than not these are the people that hold up the bus because they can't get everything ready in time to board. But, if you are traveling with children that are not able to spend hours upon hours walking in the Florida sun there really is no option but to use a stroller. If you are unable to bring your personal stroller from home there are several companies in Orlando, and not to mention Disney itself, that allow you to rent a stroller for your trip. You will want that stroller for several reasons. The first of which being the amount of items you are going to need. Chances are pretty good you have a diaper bag that is well stocked, thankfully this bag can ride nicely on the stroller. Second your young child will have a safe place to get from point A to point B, and it also can be a good place to take a nap between character meet n greets. The stroller will also be able to carry all of your personal items. After all with that hard work of keeping track of young children at Walt Disney World do you really need the added stress of carrying a bag full of stuff. One essential item that you need to have, aside from everyday essentials, is a rain poncho. Even if it calls for sunshine all day it is better to be prepared just in case.
If you have children that are old enough to spend the day walking chances are pretty good that they will want to carry their own items. I, personally, feel that this is a great idea. It allows the child to gain a sense of responsibility. Just make sure that their bags are light, because we all know who is going to be carrying that bag by the end of the day. What exactly should their bags have in them? I will forever believe that rain ponchos are a must, water is also a very good idea to have on hand. Aside from that they really don't need to carry anything else.
Old kids, teens and tweens, are most definitely able to carry their own bags. The ever so popular rain poncho, bottled water, a camera, and their spending money are a few of the basics. It is a good idea to make sure that they have their cell phone if you plan on separating at any point in the day. It can be a nightmare trying to regroup without them.
Now, what should you carry? Aside from the basics: rain poncho, water, camera, and money there are a few extra items you should consider. It is a good idea to have a small first aide kit of sorts on hand. You don't need instant ice packs and giant band aides, but a few advil and peptobismol might be a good idea. Thankfully EPCOT does not have any rides that you risk getting wet on so there is no need to bring bathing suites or plastic bags.
Try not to pack too much. Disney does offer lockers for rent, but the vast majority are in the front of the park. Do you really want to have to run to the front of the park every time it rains and you need your ponchos? The whole point of bringing them in the fist places is that they will be convenient. If you have to run back and forth all day you might as well just buy new ones each time it rains, it would be faster.
In addition to what you bring to the park make sure you wear comfortable clothing. Also make sure you have comfortable supportive shoes. There is almost nothing worse than having to walk around at Disney World with blisters on your feet.
The Seas with Nemo and Friends
- Turtle Talk with Crush
- The Finding Nemo ride
The Universe of Energy (featuring Bill Nye the Science Guy and Ellen)
The boat rides in Mexico and Norway (Maelstrom in Norway is very popular)
Spaceship Earth (the giant golf ball at the front of the park)
Innovations (a giant playground of sorts for people of all ages)
There are a lot of rides that I would consider to be 'must do's'. But, each person has their own list. For the sake of being brief I will only discuss a few of the most popular attractions. Test Track, Mission Space, Soarin', and Finding Nemo are some of the biggest attractions.
Test Track is the fastest ride at Walt Disney World. It is supposed to replicate the testing process that cars go through before they are allowed to be sold to the public. It is a great family ride. The best way to assure youngsters that seem wary is to tell them that it is no faster than what they were doing on the highway to get to Disney World. The fastest point in the ride is a little over 60mph. The main difference between the ride and the highway is that the ride is a convertible and there is a slight banking to the road. The line for the ride is known for being excessively long so it is best to get a fastpass if you can.
Mission Space is essentially a simulation ride on steroids. Four people at a time are loaded into a capsule, this is their space shuttle, and they are 'launched' into space where they proceed to Mars. This ride is so popular because it is supposed to be as close to being launched into space you can get without joining NASA. Riders even feel the weightlessness that astronauts experience in space. How is this achieved? By spinning that capsule very very quickly. This ride is not for the feint of heart or those that are prone to motion sickness. Some people do have some adverse side effects after the ride so Disney came up with the less intense version of the ride. Everything is the same as the intense version, you just don't spin. As someone who has ridden both I can honestly say they are both pretty intense. The story Disney immerses you in before you get on the ride can be a bit much for younger riders. But the only difference I could feel between the two is that the non-spinning option does not give you that feeling of zero-gravity. I can honestly say that I prefer the non-spinning (and not just for its shorter line) because I did get a rather annoying headache and sense of nausea from the spinning version. I would much rather forgo the feeling of being weightless if t means I don't have to go around the park with a headache the rest of the day. However, my father and younger brother rode the spinning version and had no problems whatsoever, so it does depend on the person. I do caution that you take the ride's warning seriously, they are there for a reason.
Soarin' Over California is perhaps one of the coolest rides at Walt Disney World. Think about watching an IMAX movie while moving and you have a pretty good idea. The ride originated in California Adventure and was brought over the Orlando property as a part of a year long celebration, the same time Disney Studios got their stunt show from the park in France. Riders are seated in long rows, there are three of these rows in each unit. If given the option you want to be in the first row. This is because the ride does not take place on the ground. Once everyone is secured in their seat the lights are turned off and each 'hang glider' is raised. The first row becomes the top row, this means you will not have peoples feet dangling above you. Though, I assure you the ride is so spectacular that you will not be looking at the people above you. Each time the picture on the screen in front of you moves your hang glider moves with it, side to side and even up and down. There is a little bit of a rush when the gliders are raised into the air but after that the ride is a piece of cake. This is probably the second most popular ride at EPCOT so if you don't want to wait in a line for two hours I would strongly suggest getting a past pass. The ride itself is located in the Land pavilion, which is home to a fabulous cafe and restaurant, a movie theatre, and another ride. They are all worth checking out while you are there for Soarin'.
What is your favorite part of world showcase?
The topic of the World Showcase at EPCOT could be an entire article of its own so I will only give you the highlights. This part of the park sits along World Showcase Lagoon, a giant man made lake where the night show takes place. There are eleven pavilions around the lake, each one is sponsored by a different country: Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, Italy, USA, Japan, Morocco, France, the UK, and Canada.
Each country has several different options for food. Typically there are stands along the street, a quick service restaurant, and at least one table service restaurant. Eating in Italy at EPCOT will not be like going to the Olive Garden down the street, this is real Italian food. Everyone that works in the pavilion is from the country in which they work. EPCOT is unique in that it also showcases alcoholic beverages from each country. In addition to food there are shops, shows, and in some cases rides and movies. Everything in each country has been designed to teach guests about the culture of these countries.
There are a few different games geared towards going around the world. The Disney version deals with Kim Possible and secret missions. The guest created versions are split into two: the kid friendly and the not-so kid friendly. Desserts around the world, or just chocolate around the world, is a fun group game, and is great for kids. You get to eat eleven different desserts in order to learn about culture! What's not to like? The adult version of this game is drinking around the world. While it can be fun trying different drink from different cultures I strongly recommend trying this one over the course of several days. I've seen one group kicked out for playing this game. Disney does not allow drunkenness in public and they will step in if need be. It is after all a family park. Can you imagine having to explain to your seven year old daughter, or granddaughter, one day that you can't take her to Walt Disney World because you got drunk and tried to swim in the fountain at the France pavilion? Have fun in moderation and stay safe.
EPCOT is home to one of the most spectacular night shows at Disney. Illuminations Reflections of Earth takes place every night, twice on some nights during the busy seasons. It combines fireworks, lasers, fire, music, movies, and water works into a fabulous show. The best place to view the show is along the World Showcase Lagoon, the area near the UK is one of my favorite places to watch it. However, if you are doing this park for more than one day on your trip and have already seen the show now if the time to ride those rides you didn't want to wait in line fore earlier.
Samples of the Food at EPCOTClick thumbnail to view full-size
So, its just after one in the afternoon and you are suddenly starving. Where are you going to be able to find a bite to eat at EPCOT? You are in luck, no other park has the culinary offerings that EPCOT does. You want Chinese, no problem it's a short walk way. If Sushi is more of your thing, how about fresh sushi overlooking real bonsai trees. If a burger and fries is more of your speed don't worry Disney has you covered. No matter what you are hungry for chances are pretty good that you will find it somewhere at EPCOT. Snacks, quick service, and table service. Its all there, and all of it is amazing.
If you chose to take part in the popular drinking game drinking around the world make sure that you are drinking responsibly. The World Showcase is a great way to sample food and drinks from all over the world.
Illuminations Reflections of Earth
Festivals at EPCOT
There are three times each year where EPCOT has something extra special going on. The holiday season at EPCOT is truly magical. Each of the countries showcases their holiday traditions during this time. Of course not all of the the countries celebrate Christmas so they typically showcase other parts of their culture. The World Showcase is home to the Candlelight Processional, a large choir that sings traditional Christmas carols.
The Flower and Garden festival is a beautiful time to visit EPCOT. Each spring EPCOT is filled with millions of flowers and larger than life topiaries shaped like your favorite Disney characters. Disney also brings in experts in horticulture to provide tips for making your own gardens successful. You can even buy your own Mickey shaped topiary.
The Food and Wine Festival is held every fall. Countries from all around the world, not just the ones that are showcased year round at the park, set up stations all over the park where they serve food that represents their country. Of course you can't forget the wine and beer. Each year there seems to be more and more alcohols to sample from all over the world. If you consider yourself to be a foodie this should be on your bucket list.