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Epcot, Walt Disney Resort, Orlando, Florida
Epcot, General Information
Epcot, formerly 'Epcot Center' is a theme park on the Walt Disney Resort , in Orlando, Florida. EPCOT is an acronym for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, although one of the ladies who worked there said the employees have a couple of other meanings for Epcot, 'Every person comes out tired' or 'Every paycheck comes on Thursday'.
Epcot is one of the larger parks in the resort and we found that a single day wasn't enough time to see everything Epcot had to offer. However that wasn't a problem as we had ample time and we ended up visiting this theme park on three occasions.
Map of Epcot
Epcot is made up of 2 separate areas, Future World and World Showcase. Future World focuses on the past and future technological achievements of mankind.
While World Showcase highlights the different cultures and architecture of selected countries, including Mexico, Germany, Japan, France, China & Canada.
Of all the different parks this one was probably our favourite. We were a bit apprehensive initially, as we thought out 4 year old daughter might not take to it, and would get bored easily, as it is probably the most adult orientated of the parks.
However we were worrying over nothing, as she absolutely loved it, especially Spaceship Earth and Nemo & Friends.
Like all the Disney theme parks there is a quick bag inspection prior to entering the park, however this doesn't take long as the parks are well staffed.
Future World is the area in which you enter Epcot, and is probably the most popular section with youngsters. Before you wander off into the park, be sure to grab yourself a free park guide and map, they are available in several languages and are very helpful for planning your day.
Future World is basically a showpiece of the advancements and technological breakthroughs made by mankind. The attractions in this part of the park include:
- Honey, I shrunk the Audience
- The Land
- Nemo and Friends
- Mission Space
- Spaceship Earth
- Test Track
- University of Energy
Future World is split into two sections east and west. Apart from Spaceship Earth we skipped the rides on the east section as most were fast moving and warned of motion sickness. For those reasons and the fact we had a young child, we stuck to the rides on the west section.
Once inside the park the stand out feature is the large sphere (Spaceship Earth), which from a distance looks like a giant golf ball. In fact Spaceship Earth was our first ride in Epcot, as we decided to take advantage of the relatively short queue for this ride.
Spaceship Earth depicts the evolution of human communication from the Ice age to the present day. The ride lasts for about 15 minutes and shows us how communication has shaped our future.
As the ride nears the end of the journey you get to see how the planet earth looks from space. On the journey back you can create your own future by answering some simple questions on the touch screen monitor in the front of your seat.
When you exit the ride you will enter an area called 'Project Tomorrow'. In this section you can play interactive video games and puzzles. You can also send the pictures that you created of your future during the ride, to an email address.
This was one of our favourite rides, not only in Epcot, but in the whole of the Resort and we lost count of the times we went on it. Most of the times the queue was relatively short, however it was a bit busier in the week prior to Christmas.
Epcot Character Spot
On of the most popular activities in the Disney theme parks is spotting the characters, getting their autographs and having your photo taken with them. In future world we had the chance to have our photo's taken with 5 Disney characters in a single room.
There was Mickey & Minnie Mouse, Pluto, Goofy and Donald Duck. Although we had to queue for about 30 minutes, it was worth it to see all 5 characters at once.
Autograph and photo books can be purchased from various places in the parks. Buy one of these autograph books as soon as you arrive at your first theme park, as you never know when you may see some one 'famous'.
Practically all of the character spot areas have their own photographers. They will give you a photopass card, which has a barcode and a unique code number.
This card can be used for all of the photos taken by the official photographers. When you arrive home from your holiday simply enter the card details to their website and you can download the photos.
However it is probably better to use your own camera (as we did) as it can get quite pricey if you want to download the official snaps from the website.
Soarin is one of the most popular rides at Epcot. The length of time people were prepared to queue were testament to this. Having skipped this ride on the initial visit here becuase of the waiting time, we decided we would give it a go despite a 2 1/2 hour wait.
To ease the boredom of the queue, there are large video screens fixed to the walls, where you can play interactive group games. To beat the queues, arrive early, preferably when the park opens and make your way to the ride.
Once you reach the ride, you take your seat in front of a large screen. As the ride begins the seats rise upwards and you are treated to an exhilarating ride through the air. You pass over Golden Gate Bridge, soar over mountain tops, skim the ocean and fly over a whole host of landscapes and terrains.
Soarin is definitely one of the highlights of Epcot and is not to be missed, just get there early to save queuing or use fast pass.
Living with the Land
This ride is aimed at adults than children, however our 4 year old daughter enjoyed it too. The ride takes place in a boat and last about 15 minutes. You travel trough different environments such as rain forests and deserts, eventually ending up in a large greenhouse.
The ride begins by focussing on agriculture and how different climates create their own problems and how these problems are overcome with technology. Finally you enter the laboratary and see the different methods used to grow a variety of crops and plants.
An educational ride and more laid back than most that is suitable for everyone.
Lets go in search of Nemo
Moving on from Soarin and The Land our next stop was Nemo and Friends. Our daughter noticed this ride earlier and was excited about going on it. Again it's another ride where the wait time can be a little excessive, however we struck lucky and got through quite quickly.
It begins as you climb into a large clamshell, which is your vehicle as you go off in search of Nemo the clown fish. On this animated journey you'll see Marlin, Dory and Bruce the great white shark. the journey ends with them all being reunited.
This was another ride we went on a couple of times. A great ride for younger children.
On exiting Nemo, be sure to visit 'Turtle Talk with Crush' where the audience interact with Crush and check out 'Bruces Shark World' where you can learn lots of interesting facts about these fascinating animals.
This pavilion also houses a large aquarium, where you will see all types of marine life including dolphins.
Innoventions has two pavilions, east and west and is located near Spaceship Earth. It showcases the scientific and technological innovations of mankind.
It is one of those places where you can grab a few minutes rests from the hustle and bustle outside, as the kids amuse themselves with the interactive games and puzzles etc.
There are such sections as:
- Habit Heroes
- Test the Limits Lab
- Sum of all Thrills
- Storm Struck
- Where's the Fire
- Smarted Planet
- Video Game Playground
A great place for the kids to have some fun, again dispelling the myth that Epcot is only for adults.
As you exit Future World you will enter the section called World Showcase, which depicts the different arcitectures and cultures of selected countries. The setting for this section is on the perimeter of a large lake.
This section is geared more towards adults than children, however there is enough happening to keep the younger ones entertained.This section is great for picking up some unique souvenirs which are available at other section of this and other theme parks.
If you haven't eaten this is a great place to enjoy some international cuisine. Starting our journey at Mexico we mad our way around the lake, as we travelled from country to country.
First Stop! Mexico
If you take the clockwise route, your first visit will be Mexico. The pavilion is a Mesoamerican pyramid. Once inside it is a quite dusky and the backdrop features a smouldering volcano.
There are a variety of stalls selling all types of Mexican craft such as jewellery, pottery, sombreros and dolls.
There is also a restaurant inside the pyramid, where you can enjoy some Mexican cuisine in this wonderful atmosphere.
We also managed to get our photo with Donald Duck, who was dressed in traditional Mexican clothing.
The Norway pavilion has been designed to resemble a Norwegian village. The feature attraction of Norway is the 'Maelstrom' which is a Viking boat ride. On the journey you will encounter the myth and legends of Norway.
You will travel through a large forest, trolls will cast a spell on the boat. Suddenly the boat backs up, before reaching a waterfall, where it changes course again.
On leaving the boat you can watch a short film on Norwegian life and culture. Finally, like many attractions in the Disney parks you exit via a store, where merchandise and souvenirs can be purchased.
You enter the Chinese pavilion through the tall, triple arched Chinese gates. If you are feeling hungry and Chinese food is your thing, there is the Nine Dragons Chinese Restaurant or the Lotus Blossom Cafe.
On entering the pavilion there are some small ponds and footbridges, it was quite a tranquil and relaxing place making it the perfect antidote to the hustle & bustle of the crowds, if only for a short while.
Other attractions here at China are a short film called 'Reflections of China' and a replica of the Terracotta Army. There is quite a large gift and souvenir shop at the Chinese Pavillion.
On leaving China we were treated to some amazing juggling with the jugglers using a diabolo, where a spool is juggled and tossed on a string tied between two sticks. The Chinese jugglers also juggled with some large pots and vases.
The design and arcitecture of the German Pavilion was quite beautiful. It represents a small German town. There is also a statue of St. George and the Dragon.
On entering this section it is worth checking out the Glass Blower, who at the time we visited, was making Christmas decoration. This was quite a popular attraction with many people, including my daughter who didn't want to leave. I'm not sure that this is a permanent attraction though.
If you are lucky you may be able to catch Snow White here, for a photo and an autograph signing. Traditional German food and beer is available at this pavilion.
Be sure to check out the miniature railway as you make you way out of Germany on your way to the next country.
The next stop in the 'World Showcase' section at Epcot is Italy. The set up of the Italian pavilion is quite simple with just a single restaurant, a couple of shops and attractions which include clowns, musicians and actors.
The pavilion is modelled after St Marks Square in Venice. We didn't spend much time in this section as we moved on to the next pavilion.
The American Adventure
The USA pavilion is known as the 'American Adventure' and is exactly half way in the 'World Showcase'. As you look back over the lagoon you can see the large sphere of 'Spaceship Earth' directly opposite to this pavilion.
Here you can learn about all the events that shaped American history, tradition and culture.
Dining is taken care of with the Liberty Inn Restaurant where BBQ, Cheeseburgers and Cakes are the order of the day.
There is a variety of entertainment and attractions with musical and theatrical shows, exhibitions and performances taking place throughout the day.
Japan is one of two Asian countries featured at Epcot, the other being China. The architecture is typical of Japan as a Torii gate can be seen in the water opposite the entrance of the pavilion.
A Japanese Pagodo is the stand out fester as you enter this area. The Pagoda is surrounded by undulating terrain that features beautiful gardens and fish ponds.
If your feeling a bit peckish, then there are various places to eat here with sushi, grilled meats and stir fry included in the menu.
There are a couple of attractions and stores here too.
The more you visit each pavilion the more you come to appreciate the craftsmanship and attention to detail that has gone into creating this remarkable theme park.
Morocco is certainly no exception to this and we were informed that more native craftsmen were employed on the construction of this pavilion than any of the others at Epcot.
On entering this pavilion you certainly get that North African feeling and atmosphere. This was one of our favourite pavilions. As you wander through the narrow, twisty alleyways you almost think you are actually in Morocco and not America.
Be sure to check out the music and belly dancing show when you visit this pavilion.
There is a shop where you can pick up traditional goods and a restaurant if you are feeling hungry. Although we didn't eat here, we were told it was one of the best places to dine.
The next stop was France and it was here we witnessed one of the best performances of the day. An acrobat built a tower made from chairs, the tower got higher and higher as he added chairs while balancing on top of the tower (see picture above).
The cobblestone lined streets include a Restaurant, Patisserie and shop. The main feature is at the rear of the pavilion and is of course the 'Eiffel Tower', we were informed it was 1/10th the size of the original tower.
The character signing at France was 'Marie' from the AristoCats movie. This was one photo and signing we weren't allowed to miss as it was one of our daughters favourite character.
There is also a short movie called 'The Impressions de France' that is shown regularly throughout the day.
After a short walk over the bridge we arrive in the United Kingdom. The UK Pavilion includes a Fish and Chip shop and a traditional English Pub, where you can dine to your hearts content.
While there are no attractions in this section there is a rock band who play a variety of songs from famous UK bands. These include The Beatles, The Kinks, Led Zeppelin, The Who and The Stones.
Pooh and Piglet were on hand for a spot of photography and autograph signing, which is not only popular with the youngsters but also the older generation.
If you walked the World Showcase in a clockwise direction then Canada will be your final destination at Epcot. The Canadian pavilion is definitely one of the most picturesque of all.
With the Rockies as a backdrop, there are some beautiful gardens and plants, totem poles and the centre piece being the 'Hotel du Canada'
Entertainment is provided with a band and a 360 degree circle vision film show that lasts about 20 minutes. There is a shop where souvenirs can be purchased and if you're feeling hungry at the end of the day, there are a couple of places to eat.