Epcot

Epcot was originally EPCOT Centre – standing for Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow. Walt Disney originally conceived that it would be a futuristic and idealistic city (where people were safe and innovation was a priority) but this idea evolved into a theme park, devoted to technology, innovation and culture. It is often seen as a more ‘grown-up’ park than Magic Kingdom, and it certainly has more learning experiences but there is plenty for kids as well. It’s iconic image is the giant geodesic sphere that is the focal point of Epcot – that’s the giant golf ball in the picture!

Epcot is divided into two sections; Future World and the World Showcase.

Future World at Epcot

If you’re coming into Epcot by the main entrance, you enter Future World, marked by Spaceship Earth – the huge sphere that can be seen from just about everywhere in Epcot – seen in the photo above. I wont go into every attraction but here’s the big hitters:

  • Spaceship Earth is also the name of the ride within the sphere, telling you about evolving forms of human communication. It was renovated in 2007 to keep it up to date (although my geek of a husband will tell you that it can’t stay on top of how quickly communication is currently evolving). My tip for this ride is not to hit it first – go through and do something else – its always busiest at the start of the day.
  • Soarin’ – located in the The Land Pavilion – located to the very right of Epcot as you enter. This is one of my favourite Disney rides. You sit on seats which lift you into the air and tilt slightly as you watch a film, so it feels like you’re flying through the air. I wont give you too many details as the first time is the best, but this is definitely not one to miss. It is very popular and the queues get LONG, so it might be one to fast-pass. This is the ride we usually run to first – but we’re not the only ones!
  • TestTrack. An up to 60mph car ride that takes you through a test track – i.e. different things the car is tested against, for safety. It is quite fun and extremely popular. To be honest. it is not one of my favourites – they make a big thing of going 60mph – I don’t know if the Americans drive slower than us or something but I drive to work on a motorway – I drive faster than that every day, and because you’re in a car it sort of feels a bit ‘meh’ to me and a little bit predictable. However this is one where I am definitely in the minority – its extremely popular and many people’s favourite Epcot ride, so you definitely want to go try it for yourself.
  • The Seas with Nemo and Friends – located in the Seas pavilion. This is a really cute ride in a clamobile, taking you through the seas.
  • Mission Space – be one of 4 roles as you take off in a spaceship on your mission into space. Disney have split it into different intensities so you can have a much easier ride if you have any health problems or just prefer a lower impact ride, or take a more intensive version. You make your decision right at the start and split up so you head to the right ride. Disney stress this hugely – so much so that the first time I went on the more intensive version I was petrified, I nearly chickened out. I wouldn’t want to undermine the message Disney gives out, but I will say that I ( a generally healthy 20-something) was 100% fine on the more intensive ride, but everyone different so do what you know is best for you.
  • Captain EO – a recently revived 3D sc-fi movie featuring Michael Jackson. It was one of the first movies of its kind and was big budget, directed bvy George Lucas and orginally ran from 1986 to 1994. After the stars death it was decided to bring back the 17 minute show and it returned in July 2010, for a limited time, although Disney have not announced how long it will remain.
  • Character Spot – this is the only non-dining spot where you can meet up with Mickey, Minnie and 3 more of their friends, in one go, to get photos and autographs. It can be a long wait, but you get 5 at once, which is pretty good! The times we’ve been its always been Mickey, Minnie, Stitch, Pluto and Goofy – but the characters can change.

World Showcase at Epcot

The World Showcase is set out around World Showcase Lagoon. It is made up of 10 countries – each one having (slightly stereotypical) dining options, rides, shopping, films etc based on that country. This means that Epcot has some really great restaurants! The countries represented are:

  • Mexico
  • Norway
  • China
  • Germany
  • Italy
  • United States of America (expect extremely strong patriotism – like we’re not quite used to in the UK).
  • Japan (seen in the picture)
  • Morocco
  • France
  • United Kingdom (think fish and chips, a pub, the Beatles, red telephone boxes etc and you’ll be on the right track). Oh and like any UK area in a foreign country, you’re also bound to find a whole collection of us Brits hanging out!
  • Canada

There’s also an Outpost, which has an African theme.

Between France and the UK is the International Gateway -  a second entrance/exit to Epcot. This will bring you out onto at the top of the BoardWalk. From here you can access all the BoardWalk Hotels and the BoardWalk itself which offers yet more dining options. You can also catch a friendship boat over to Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

World Showcase is deceptively large! World Showcase Lagoon is pretty big and you can catch one of two boats across it, rather than walking around it to the opposite side. It is not uncommon for people to play games ‘around the World’, e.g. having a snack at each country, buying a pressed penny for each, or ‘Drinking around the World’ which is what it says – a different drink in every country – and it doesn’t have to be alcoholic.

IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth

IllumiNations is an extremely powerful and amazing laser, water and fireworks show, shown every night over the Showcase Lagoon. It was originally produced in 1999, as part of the Millennium celebrations, but proved to be so popular it has remained ever since. Occasionally there are small adaptations made, for instance around Christmas or for the 4th July. It features a lit up globe with images projected and the story is essentially about how we are different nations but one world. It has won a number of awards and can either be very moving, or a really good show, depending on how you see these things! It is usually very busy though, with people staking out the good spots from more than an hour before. It’s up to you whether you do the same or crane your neck closer to the time! Unlike Wishes in the Magic Kingdom, it does matter where you’re viewing it from as you want to be able to see the lagoon itself, not just the fireworks in the sky.