Last Friday we ventured down to the Walt Disney Resort complex to visit Epcot Center with friends and tour guides, Karen and Al. Epcot stands for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, and has two themed areas: Future World and World Showcase. Future World has many educational exhibits focusing on our history and new technologies. The World Showcase has eleven different countries displaying their cultures, architecture, food and entertainment. We did our best to cover as much as possible (Karen commented that we were on our “Amazon walking pace”!), but there is so much to do, we will need another visit or two!
Al and Karen acted as our tour guides, and not once did we need to consult a map during our visit. When the crowds were going right, they veered left, and we discovered oftentimes there is more than one way into an attraction! I think they need to consider hiring themselves out as tour guides!
Spaceship Earth is right at the entrance to the park, and many people immediately jumped into the long line waiting for the ride inside. Al said the ride is less crowded at night, so we kept on following our tour guides and went over to the Universe of Energy, for Ellen’s Energy Adventure, where we had no wait for this attraction. Ellen DeGeneres and Bill Nye – the Science Guy, explain the history of energy, from the beginning of time, through current technologies. You start out with a short video, then sit in a tram that slowly moves around dinosaurs and into a video display. This ride/attraction is suitable for all ages, and lasts about 40 minutes. I felt smarter than a 5th grader when we were done!
Next up was Mission: Space, which simulates a space launch, and journey into space.
The ride has two choices to experience: green or orange. In both, four people enter into a space capsule, and you experience the sensation of a lift-off into space. If you are claustrophobic, you may want to skip this ride. The orange is a more intense version of the ride. There is a sign that explains the difference in the two versions. Al and Karen have previously been on the ‘orange’ version. Al loved it, Karen not so much!
I like to have fun on rides, without feeling sick or getting bounced around, so I voted for green. We all enjoyed the ride, but Dan said next time he wants to try out the orange, as the green was too tame for him. After exiting that ride, we discovered the Disney tradition of making you walk through a gift shop before you can exit out of the building!
The next major ride is the Test Track, where you design your own concept car, and take it out for a test ride. Unfortunately, this was the most popular ride in the park, and the waiting times were over an hour all day. So we headed over to World Showcase, were we began our trip around the world. Each of the countries has some type of attraction to stop and see that explains a bit about their country and cultures.
First stop was Mexico, which has a Mariachi band playing at certain times of the day, lots of food choices, and a boat ride, featuring Donald Duck.
After Mexico, you go past Norway, which also has a boat ride and short film highlighting their country. We didn’t spend too much time in Norway, as China was right next door, and we were hungry for lunch! The restaurants in the countries feature both inside seating (which usually require reservations) and more of a fast-food style restaurant. There are many, many choices for food. We had an excellent meal in China, followed by a short 360 degree video highlighting China and it’s cultures. It was a definite must see item. China also has acrobats that put on a performance, but due to the drizzly weather, they were not performing at the time we were there.
China has a special exhibit, the Tomb Warriors, from the Qin Dynasty (221 – 210 B.C.). Back in 1974, a group of Chinese peasants were digging a well and discovered the burial-site of the first Chinese Emperor Qin Shihuangdi. The Tomb Warriors are clay structures buried in his site to protect him in the afterlife. The display at Epcot represents a reproduction of the soldiers and horses that were found in his burial site.
China is also the first place I discovered Disney characters that you can stand in a line for a meet and greet. Karen was amused that I had no idea who any of these characters were, or why they were associated with certain countries. Again, I have not seen many Disney movies…
Princess Mulan, I guess! I was impressed by how much time each character spent talking with the kids (and adults).
After China, we passed through Germany, which has the traditional Oktoberfest Biergarten. I was also staring at another character, until Karen explained mentioned “Sleeping Beauty”. Not sure what she has to do with Germany though.
We also ran into Snow White, but why doesn’t she have white hair?
We cruised past Italy, (which has a mime and jugglers), to make it just in time to see The American Adventure, a 30 minute animatronic feature talking about the past, present and future of the United States. They also have a fife and drum corps and an a-capella group performing throughout the day.
We walked past Japan, which has a Torii, a traditional Japanese gate.
And onto France, where there was a waiter and chef performing a juggling act that we stopped to watch.
The chef continued handing chairs to the waiter. We needed to see just how high up he was going to go…
The crowd continued encouraging him to go up and up and up…
He ended up balancing on 6 chairs…very impressive! Of course, all that nervous watching caused us to work up an appetite, so we stopped at Les Halles Boulangerie and Patisserie for excellent deserts. A highly recommended stop!!
After France, we headed to the United Kingdom, where I had to stop and watch another character (and I believe I heard more laughter coming from Al, Dan and Karen!) There was a major cheerleading competition going on at ESPN’s Wild World of Sports complex, so there were a lot of cheerleaders touring Epcot the day we were there. They seemed very excited to meet this character, which I think is Alice in Wonderland?
The United Kingdom also has a lot of telephone booths, which seemed to fascinate the teenagers. If you look at the photo below, one girl is trying to figure out how to use this “antique” telephone, while one friend watches and another takes a photo with her cell phone. It was just as entertaining as some of the rides!
Our last stop of our ‘around the world’ tour was Canada, where we watched a 360 degree film talking about the culture, history and cities of our great country to the North of us. Canada also had a display of some of the totem poles that you would find in Vancouver
When you exit out of the World Showcase, you enter into the other half of Future World, where we went through a ride with the characters from Finding Nemo, that are in an aquarium with fish, dolphins and a few small sharks. We then went on an excellent ride, Soarin’, which takes you on a hang gliding flight above the Golden Gate Bridge, Yosemite, Los Angeles and Malibu. It was another “must do” attraction. And it wasn’t too scary, except for the first 30 seconds when the ride starts to lift off the ground!
We went to the Living with the Land display, which is a short tram ride through the greenhouses where Disney is testing out new ways to grow food (which is all served at their restaurants) with minimal impact on the environment. After that, we watched The Circle of Life movie featuring characters from The Lion King, talking about the importance of land conservation.
After that, Al suggested we head back to Spaceship Earth, as it was late in the day, when the wait for the ride is usually shorter. And he was correct, as the wait time was only 3 minutes! This is another tram ride that takes you up, and then backwards down, while discussing the history of communications from the days of cave men, to the start of computers, to what the future holds.
Below are some more photos of the various countries, taken around the lake that is at the center of the countries.
Since we had a hour’s drive home, we decided to skip the nightly fireworks display to beat the traffic home. We had an excellent time, and Al and Karen were wonderful guides. Dan and I were talking on the way home that it would have been very challenging trying to navigate our way around Epcot. We certainly would not have been able to see and do as much without Al and Karen’s guidance.
Would we go again? Absolutely!! We are hooked into the Disney magic! And it is super easy to walk past all the gift shops when you live in an RV, because there is no room for any more “stuff”. Not to mention that the “trinkets” are not RV friendly (now if Disney would make acrylic stuff…..)
Karen recommended that I start watching some Disney movies before my next visit, so I will know “who’s who”! I will keep that in mind. Thank you again Karen and Al for a wonderful day!! And to Walt Disney for making all this “magic” happen!
Quote for the day: “When you’re curious, you find lots of interesting things to do.” – Walt Disney