Walt Disney World - Epcot, Orlando
Epcot (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow) is one of the 4 major themepark of Disneyworld. The Huge Golf Ball defines the trademark of the park.
The whole area is divided into 2 parts. First, is the World Showcase while the second one is the Future of the World. The World Showcase is a representation of different countries in the world which includes their local product, crafts and food. It is like travelling around the globe in one day by seeing these countries and its famous landmarks ~ China , Japan, Norway, France, Morocco, U.S.A, Mexico, South Africa, Germany, Italy and Canada. The other part of the park which is the Future of the World has something to do with the earth, the planets and other things that make up our universe. This includes the 3D show "Honey I Shrunk the Audience" which is really fun! The Space ship earth, innovations, imaginations etc are all very informative. Souvenir shops, kiosks and restaurants can be found within the park.
Epcot is huge; over twice the size of the Magic Kingdom so be prepared for some walking.
Epcot was designed to be an educational and entertaining park. Epcot is divided into the World Showcase and Future World.
The World Showcase contains various Pavillions: Mexico, Norway, China, Italy, Morrocco, France, Canada, Japan, United States, Germany and United Kingdom. Each of the pavillions have restaurants, shops, educational information and people from the various countries represented. Each pavillion employs staff that are on a one year work visa from that particular country. We had fun hopping from pavillion to pavillion enjoying the shops, attractions and food.
Future World is comprised of: Innoventions, Journey into Immagination, Living with the Land, Mission Space, Test Track, The Seas, Universe of Energy and Spaceship Earth. The attractions in Future World are fun and educational. I particularly enjoyed the Seas with Nemo, Soarin, Test Track and Mission Space.
You need at least two days to see everything properly especially if you are travelling with kids. The World Shocase itself can take you over half a day if you want to see and experience everything from the food, attractions and shops. I think Epcot is lost on very young children and is better suited for older kids and adults.
If asked, I think most children would say the Magic Kingdom is one of their favorite parks in Disney World. The Magic Kingdom remains the hands down favorite of my children who are now 11 and 14 yrs old. In case you haven't been there before, the Magic Kingdom park is one of the 4 major parks in Disney World, the others being Epcot, MGM Studios, and the Animal Kingdom.
The Magic Kingdom park is itself made up of many unique areas, including Main Street, Frontierland, Tomorrowland, Adventureland, etc., surrounding the centerpiece of Cinderella's castle. Each area features its own unique architectural theme, landscape, music, costumes, shops, restaurants and of course, rides. If you return to Disney World enough times, I am sure you will certainly find at least one area that captures your heart and becomes your favorite!!
In the following tips I hope to show you some special places in the Magic Kingdom.
Take a relaxing ride on the paddlewheeler seen in the accompanying picture and you will see the world as it might have been during the time of Mark Twain.
The world of the future!! Great rides, interactive displays and great learning opportunities...all in the name of fun. This is my favorite part of Disney World--all sorts of cutting edge technology here!!
The Epcot countries are wonderful--they showcase each country--some offering dining opportunities and most providing souvenirs or handicrafts to take home with you. There are fireworks displays at certain times here near closing time. Be sure to stay to watch them because they are spectacular, but remember other people will be staying to watch, too. There will be a crowd, but Disney is supreme in people moving.
We loved visiting the country of France. Unfortunately, my pictures were terrible so I can't show this exhibit. The French display featured lovely shops and delicious bakery--the buildings and gardens were the essence of what it's really like.
We also liked England--we bought rock candy at one of the gift shops. Be sure to see "O Canada!" when you visit that country.
Food, glorius food! With over 25 countries and their foods represented, Disney's Epcot Center is a 2 month long week end destination for serious and not-so-serious epicurians to indulge in various foods from Canadian Cheddar Cheese soup to the Meatballs from Scandinavia.
It is a veritable "feast" of different foods and the culture from which they come from. It is an around the world tour in one spot. Some of the countries represented were Canada, Spain, Argentina, Greece, Turkey as well as Germany and France. You can taste foods and pair them with the wine that best complements the food served. There is a champagne booth as well as a beer tasting booth (the latter being a very busy booth.)
Admission to Epcot is $67.00 a day for adults and kids over the age of 10 and $56 for 9 and under and then the food and wine are available at additional cost running between $2.50 to $7.00 for each food item. Beer and wine run $2.50 to $10.00 a glass.
The festival runs on the week ends only during the months of September, October and November, so make sure you check the event planner at the Disney Resort web site.
At Epcot a representative welcomed the children with a small paper "charm" from each country we visited. This made it fun for the kids--and we could explore the more cultural aspects of each country because they wanted to add another charm to their collection.
Patty tells me that EPCOT (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow) is #3 in attendance of the 4 parks that comprise Disney World (Animal Kingdom comes in last) and I can see why. There are very few rides and even less that would appeal to teens and the whole focus of the place seems to be *gasp* educational.
We only went on three of the attractions, all located in Future World, while we were there, two of which were good-Soarin' and Mission Space-and Spaceship Earth which I'm pretty sure was designed to allow people to rest their feet and take a nap. Patty tells me several people have died on the Mission Space ride so heed those heart problem warnings!
Beyond the Future World section is the World Showcase with 11 different countries with food booths, attractions and replica buildings from those countries. The international focus of EPCOT means there is much better food here than the Magic Kingdom especially during the annual Food & Wine Festival (late Sept-mid November).
We didn't stay for the Illuminations fireworks but I'm told they are a highlight. And Patty tells me that the Liberty Singers at the American Adventure are excellent but we just missed their show.
I didn't do my homework before I left, a quick look at a map of the Orlando area would have shown me that Downtown Disney was not connected to the theme parks like it is at Disneyland in California nor was it connected by monorail. Kat and I had planned on going to Downtown Disney to see an art show and grab some lunch on Friday instead of eating at the Magic Kingdom but we realized that after our late start that we wouldn't be able to.
But we did stop by on Saturday with Patty after EPCOT to see the Festival of the Masters and check out what Downtown Disney has to offer.
For entertainment, Downtown Disney West Side is where you will find DisneyQuest, an indoor interactive theme park, Cirque du Soleil currently showing La Nouba (you'll probably want to get tickets in advance for this), and the House of Blues which has musical performances (general admission but you'd want tickets in advance for popular shows) and movie theaters.
Most of the dining was large chain restaurants, when I asked where to go, everyone said to avoid Bongo's, Gloria Estefan's restaurant, and most steered me towards Wolfgang Puck's or House of Blues or Earl of Sandwich for a quick meal. Fulton's for seafood is also supposed to be good but pricey. There's also a Planet Hollywood and Rain Forest Cafe (Downtown Disney Marketplace) if you're traveling with children.
In Downtown Disney's Pleasure Island you will find more grownup entertainment, several nightclubs and the Comedy Warehouse. We didn't go to this section, my guidebook says it's free to get into Pleasure Island during the day but there's a charge at night, included on Hopper Pases. No charge to get into the major restaurants.
Downtown Disney's Marketplace is where you'll find the shopping, we didn't go to this section either.
I was looking forward to Epcot, alas was disappointed mainly because Epcot is more for the big kids than the little kids. To really enjoy Epcot you need to be able to stop and watch the street performers, look through the displays and interact with the area you are in. Some of the things we did in Epcot include visiting Mexico and going on the boat ride in the pyramid, riding test track, going on a Viking voyage, went on an undersea voyage in a clam-mobile and ate lots of good food. Richie and I have decided that we will go back to Epcot to do some shopping and tour around without the little ones.
EPCOT stands for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. Walt Disney's original idea was to have about 20,000 people live at EPCOT in an effort to create an ideal community. The plan was soon abandoned, but the park still opened in 1982 as a tribute to Walt Disney's philosophy and ideals. The main themes of the Future World section, which is easy to recognize thanks to its iconic giant ball, are technology and innovation.
Our favourite attractions at Future World were without a doubt "Soarin'", an over-the-top IMAX-like experience that allows you to fly over the different landscapes and cities of California, and "Test Track", in which you get on board a vehicle as it is being submitted to a series of road tests (suspension, brakes, handling, acceleration...). After the ride is over, you end up in a GM show room where you can sit and take pictures in fancy cars. Again, I'd recommend getting a fastpass for one and go wait in line for the other as soon as you enter the park as these are EPCOT's most popular attractions.
To our surprise we also very much enjoyed "Spaceship Earth", especially because we could pick the language of the narration and the kids were happy to get a break from English. "Turtle talk with Crush" was hilarious, and I'm still not quite sure how they managed to get Crush to interact with the crowd the way he did. Right next to it was the Caribbean Coral Reef, a huge aquarium where I was delighted to see all the little fishies I had met in Belize the previous winter, including some daulphins and two manatees :o)
The other attractions in that section weren't as exciting, but they weren't boring either. I have to say though that none of us was brave enough to try Mission: Space - the fact that the ride comes equipped with motion sickness bags was enough to scare us away from it!
EPCOT hosts an International Food & Wine Festival every year and we happened to be visiting during the last weekend of the 2006 festival (September 29-November 12, 2006). Even though there are only 11 countries represented at EPCOT's permanent exhibits, there were 26 different booths from over 20 countries plus beer, wine and champagne booths.
Make sure you pace yourself or share with your friends, by the time we got about 3/4 of the way around we were stuffed and I had to pass up the tasty offerings at the Argentina and Florida Shrimp booths. But we did stop in Canada, France, Poland, Morocco and Scandanavia before calling it quits for the day.
You can check the menus online before you go or pick up one of the brochures when you arrive to help plot out the culinary offerings you want to indulge in. The portions are taster portions and there wasn't anything that I thought was a real "value" but most of what we tried was very good.
There's also a lot more to the Festival-concerts, cooking demonstrations, wine seminars and special five course dining experiences.
Spaceship Earth is the famous symbol of the EPCOT Center, and can be seen for miles around.
The ride inside Spaceship Earth is equally as impressive as Spaceship Earth itself.
The show is a history of human communication through the ages, beginning with cavemen and ending in the future. Complete with authentic smells, the animatronic ride is fascinating.
The Living Seas is about our relationship with the ocean. There are many beautiful fish to see, as well as sharks, dolphins and the Florida Manitee.
Guests have to take a drip down to the depths of the ocean in an elevator like "hydralator".
The Land explores all aspects of our land - crops, animals etc.
The highlight of this is the film The Circle of Life. The characters from my favourite Disney film - The Lion King talk about saving the environment and our wildlife. It is brilliant and very emotive.
Food Rocks is a fun show where you are entertained by singing food.