Top 10 Things to do at Walt Disney World: EPCOT
A Little History
First off, I have to say that EPCOT is my favorite park at Walt Disney World. That's right, I like it better than the Magic Kingdom. If I had to choose just one park to go to for the rest of my life it would be EPCOT. Why? There is so much to do!
EPCOT, of the Experimental Prototype City of Tomorrow, first opened its doors to guests on October 1, 1982. The park is more than twice the size of the Magic Kingdom. The park has two distinct themes; technological innovation and international culture. These themes can clearly be seen in the two sections of the park. The first section of the park is dedicated to advances in various technologies, the back half of the park is a permeant worlds fair of sorts.
It is no secret that I absolutely love Test Track. The ride is exhilarating, intense, and absolutely worth the wait. Test Track is a high speed ride that shows guests what it is like to test cars before they can hit the road. The ride is sponsored by Chevrolet, so all of the cars are themed like the cars sold by Chevrolet.
What is really cool about this ride is that it just had a make-over. Test Track re-opened at the end of 2012 after having been closed for nearly a year. Now guests have the ability to customize the car they ride in. Aside from the interior getting an upgrade nothing too much about the ride has changed. The highlight of the ride is when the doors open and the cars takes a high speed pass around the entire building. If you hear screams while waiting in line this is where they are coming from.
This ride is great fun for the entire family. It is an absolute must do for anyone looking for a thrill. It is especially popular with little boys.
The Sea With Nemo and Friends
I will admit the ride at this pavilion is not my favorite. I think it was done quickly and could have had a little more thought. But, I just love the idea. This ride incorporates real fish in the giant tank with the Finding Nemo characters. That's really cool, even if the song gets stuck in your head for the rest of the day.
There are many different marine exhibits at the pavilion. There is literally something for everyone: sharks, dolphins, sea turtles, manatees, fish, and jellyfish. Not only is this a real functioning aquarium but there is a play area as well. One of my favorite things is Turtle Talk with Crush. It is an interactive show where guests can really talk with Crush from Finding Nemo.
On our 2021 trip we actually spent a lot of time at the aquarium. There was hardly any people so we could sit for as long as we wanted and get to see all the animals up close. It was very relaxing.
The Land Pavilion
Normally people will list a specific ride at this location, namely Soarin'. Yes, Soarin' is a great ride, and yes I do love it. But, there is so much more to this location. It is home to two different restaurants. The first of which is a quick service area where you can sample food from all over the world. The second is a character dining experience. What is really cool about this particular restaurant is that it spins. It showcases the different seasons as they are seen from one of the rides.
Not only does this pavilion have food it has two rides and a movie. The cast of the Lion King talk about the importance of conservation in the Circle of Life: an Environmental Fable. The Living with the Land ride shows guests how food and animals are cultivated in sustainable ways. And of course Soarin' takes guests over the entire state of California in a hang glider.
I particularly like hanging out in this pavilion when it rains. It has everything you need for a few hours of entertainment: food, restrooms, rides, and a movie. What more could you ask for?
In 2021 we noticed that the gift shop was gone. It wasn't very large to begin with but it did have little test tube plants that had been grown in the Land Pavilion. I had been looking forward to getting a little palm tree or an orange tree. I'm hoping they'll bring it back after COVID is over.
Maelstrom now Frozen
This ride is amazing! It is located in the Norway pavilion in the World Showcase. Guests board a viking ship and go on a tour of Norway. The ship leads guests on an adventure of finding the spirit of Norway. The best part of the ride is when the ship approaches a window with a waterfall. There is a major element of suspense when the boat turns backwards and it feels like you are going to go down the waterfall backwards. Of course, since there are no seat belts this is not going to happen. But, there is a nice drop that ends the ride in a quiet little town.
Update 8/26/17: Maelstrom has been renovated and is now themed after Frozen. Yes, that movie that has all little girls singing. It is the exact same ride, just now with Frozen characters instead of Norse history and mythology. The queue line is a bit more entertaining now since there is more to look at and it really feels like you have stepped in to the movie. But, I still liked the original ride better. Though, I am sure the Norway pavilion has enjoyed a lot more income with all the extra guests trying to take advantage of all things Frozen so I guess it is a win for them in the end.
I feel like it is important to note that there is a chance that you will get wet on this ride. A couple people in our group were rather wet when we got off the ride. It's not like Splash Mountain wet, but definitely more than Pirates of the Caribbean.
What is your favorite part of EPCOT?
This is my favorite part of EPCOT. I love learning about different cultures. And what's even better is there is food to try from each of the different countries. I just love that you can get a glimpse into the different cultures around the world.
The China, Morocco, Japan, and Mexico pavilions in particular are my favorites. The China and Japan pavilions seem to wander along endlessly and the grounds are just exquisite. The Mexico and Moroccan pavilions are set up to look like traditional market place. It really feels like you are in some back alley shop in Morocco buying a carpet, that may or may not fly.
As an added bonus in the fall months Disney has the Food and Wine Festival. Imagine world showcase but with a whole bunch of extra pop up stands with food and drinks from different countries around the world. Much like the Flower and Garden Festival in the spring they add to Food and Wine each year. It is a must do for any foodie.
If you are a fan of Martin Short this is the attraction for you. This movie basically educated guests that Canada is not covered in snow year round, since there is a stereotype that Canada is always ice covered.
The movie is in 360, this means the theater is shaped in a circle and images are displayed all around guests. It is like nothing you have ever seen before. The pictures are breathtaking and inviting. Though, I will admit I'm not 100% convinced that Canada isn't covered in snow. (Just a joke my Canadian friends)
There are two different Innovations: East and West. Both are just as cool. Basically these attractions are giant playgrounds. You can test out technologies that might one day be as common as microwaves and televisions. My absolute favorite part is the futuristic house. I can't believe how much closer we are today to achieving this at an affordable price.
Innovations is great for sudden rainstorms. And even better, it's a great way for kids to let off some extra energy.
Currently, Innovations is under renovation. Which is good because it wasn't really very innovative anymore since technology had caught up with the attraction. I can't wait to see what it is like when it reopens.
You know that giant golfball at the front of the park? Well, its a ride. It is a very slow moving ride that takes guests on a journey though human technological evolution. It even gives guests a glimpse into what may be coming in the future.
This ride nearly always has a long line. But, don't let that scare you away because the ride is a continuous ride. This means that the train doesn't have a stop or start. It is very much like the Haunted Mansion or the the People Mover at the Magic Kingdom.
If all else fails this ride is a great way to get out of the elements. Its inside and air-conditioned, and sometimes that is all you can ask for in the Florida summers.
Flower and Garden
Universe of Energy
This is a long ride. It is part moving ride and part show. It educates about the different types of energy and how we can move from fossil fuels to sustainable energy sources. Even better, it stars Bill Nye the Science Guy and Ellen! And who is better to teach you about science than Bill Nye, and who is funnier than Ellen? That's right, no one.
Fun Fact: This is one of two attractions at EPCOT that features Ellen. The other is over at the Seas with Nemo and Friends.
This attraction is no more! It is being replaced with a Guardians of the Galaxy themed roller coaster. There is a lot of construction in this part of the park, but it looks like a lot of progress has been made. It will be interesting to see what changes are on the way to this area.
Illuminations is the night show at EPCOT. I would say it is right up there with Wishes over at the Magic Kingdom. If you are lucky enough to get a seat up front along World Showcase Lagoon you have the best seat in the house. The show combines lasers, fireworks, lights, fire, music, water, and movies. It is spectacular. And I am not at all ashamed to say that the music has been in my head since the first time I saw it fourteen years ago.
The best to view Illuminations is along World Showcase Lagoon. My favorite place is between France and the UK pavilions. Don't be tempted to sit on the benches, people ail stand along the railing in front of you. It isn't uncommon for people to start staking out their places over an hour before the show. I recommend grabbing a snack and enjoying some time off your feet. It's also a good time for the little ones to get a nap in before the show.
Sadly, Illunimations has retired. EPCOT will be debuting a new night show for the 50th anniversary celebration. Hopefully it will measure up.
Club Cool! This attraction is located Innovations West building. It is a place where you can get free, yes I said the word free in a Disney article, Coke. There are self-service fountains that have samples of Coca-Cola products from around the world. If you are brave enough to try them, that is.
This attraction, like so many others, is currently under renovation. It should open back up with the rest of the attractions.