Since it’s opening in 1982, Disney’s Epcot theme park has stood as a marvel that has sought to educate it’s attendees about technological innovation, the human spirit, the quest for knowledge, different cultures, and the common good in everyone. It was this past weekend that I decided to make my first trip to the theme park since the summer of 2007. I had also previously visited the park a couple different times during the 1990’s. I had gotten a one day Magic Your Way Up Disney park pass. I only had 2 days in Orlando and the other one I’d already decided to devote to exploring Universal Studio’s Islands of Adventure.
Upon arriving at Epcot, parking and entering the park did not take long at all. As soon as my girl friend and I entered we embarked upon Spaceship Earth, a dark ride that takes it’s visitors through the progression of human history with all the technological advances included. A couple years earlier the ride had undergone a revamp so in 2007 I hadn’t been able to ride it. One of the new features takes a picture of you and your companion at the beginning of the ride. It also has you select where you’re from and you’re language so the ride can provide information that is specific to your background. The user is able to select these choices by using a touch-screen provided on each ride cart. Towards the ride’s end the touchscreen will then ask you a few questions based on your future plans. There’s then a pretty neat feature that shows you some images of what your future life may look like. Pretty nifty addition I must say. Spaceship Earth is definitely the best that it’s ever been.
The next thing we did was get a fast pass for Test Track. Fast passes are provided free to any visitor to the park and provides a later time for visitors to return to the ride where the wait will be much shorter. The only thing is that you have to wait a certain amount of time before you’re able to get another fast pass for another ride. After that it was off to Universe of Energy, an attraction that is partly a ride and also partly a theatre experience that features Ellen DeGeneres, Bill Nye, and some scenes from Jeopardy. Overall it’s a decent attraction but definitely not one of the park’s best. However, the dinosaurs towards the end are pretty cool.
After leaving Universe of Energy we made our way to the other side of the park in search of the popular attraction Soarin. Apparently we had gone to the wrong building and stumbled upon Captain EO, a 3D film starring Michael Jackson that had recently reopened due to popular demand in the wake of the pop star’s death. There wasn’t much of a wait although the theatre was pretty much full. We got our 3D glasses and sat down. The film begins with a stunning 3D visual of an asteroid floating in space. It’s so stunning it feels like you could reach out and feel it’s texture. Although parts of the film seem a bit cheesy, especially how 80’s it is, EO is a must see and provides visitors with an exceptional experience by combining both 3D effects, special effects, dance, and music into one amazing film. The theatre seats also seem to shake at certain points during the film and visitors will feel air blown from under their seats. Who knows how long EO will be at Epcot so it’s a good idea to go see it while it’s there.
Another unique experience that Epcot offers is free tasting of Coca Cola products from all around the world. These products are featured at Club Cool. My favorite was Smart Watermelon from China which kind of reminded me of how a watermelon jolly rancher might taste if it had been turned into liquid. The worst of them all was probably Beverly, a very bitter drink from Italy. Before this I wasn’t even aware that these Coca Cola products existed. Overall this was a really cool experience!
We then made our way to the next ride, Journey Into Imagination with Figment. It’s a short ride that’s a little better suited for children, although it’s still a fun experience. After realizing it was too soon to get another fast pass at the Land pavilion for Soarin we went on the ride Living with the Land, a boat ride that is both a dark ride but also shows visitors Epcot’s greenhouse, a spectacular display of Disney’s gardening innovation. After getting off the ride it started raining outside and the Land pavilion began to quickly fill up with people looking for shelter. Fortunately for us, we had packed ponchos and then made our way towards Mission Space, which was only a 30 minute wait. Mission Space is a flight simulator that takes visitors on a trip to Mars. Before the ride starts visitors are able to either select green or orange teams. Green is an easier, less simulating experience while orange is more simulating. We chose the harder experience, thus picking orange. While Mission Space was indeed a fun ride, for us it was also a bit of a nauseating experience. Next time, perhaps i’ll have to go with green team.
After Mission Space we decided to go ahead and use our fast passes for Test Track. The ride was closed down for a couple moments while waiting in line due to harsh rain. It’s the only ride in the park that closes down because of weather. We did eventually get on the ride and it was a fun experience although we were stopped in the middle of the ride because of another delay due to rainfall. Test track takes it visitors through an experience of different harsh conditions that cars must go through in order to pass safety regulations. It’s part coaster and part dark ride experience. Overall it’s a very innovative and unique ride.
By the time we got done with Test Track we made our way back to The Land Pavilion to pick up our fast passes for Soarin. We picked them up and then proceeded to The Seas with Nemo and Friends. I absolutely loved this dark ride even though it’s kind of kiddy. The coolest thing about it is that by the ride’s end it appears the characters from the movie are swimming in a real tank alongside real fish. Pretty cool!
Exploring the World
After we got done with Nemo we started out tour around the world. Epcot offers 11 unique pavilions that are set up to represent the cultures of individual countries. We started with the Mexico pavilion which resembles a large Mayan temple. On the inside visitors are treated to a bedazzling view of what appears to be an authentic Mexican marketplace with another Mayan temple in the background. Unique mexican products are sold inside the Mexico Pavilion. The pavilion itself features a nice, although pricey mexican restaurant with a relaxing atmosphere. There’s also a dark boat ride within the Mexican Pavilion that features Los Banditos, a fictional disney band fronted by Donald Duck. It’s a very fun ride. The Mexican Pavilion is simply the best. The Norway Pavilion is the second best Disney offers and it features the famed Maelstrom ride where visitors ride viking ships and learn about the history and culture of Norway. We also ate dinner in Norway and got some of the best sandwiches ever for a pretty good price.
The China and Japan Pavilions offer some of the best shopping experiences in the entirety of Disney World. Here you’ll find some of the most unique looking merchandise. Japan also features a pretty interesting exhibit on art that covers ancient art up until the modern art era of anime. China also had a pretty cool exhibit featuring model displays of some of the artifacts found within the Emperor’s tomb. Italy, Germany, and France are all really neat pavilions as well and they all feature uniquely beautiful architecture. We didn’t have quite enough time to make it to the American Adventure show at the American Pavilion but i’d seen it in years past and it’s definitely a Disney classic.
We had made our way through most of the pavilions when we noticed it was time to head back towards Soarin with our fast passes. Soarin is a ride that makes you feel like you’re on a glider flying across California. You’ll feel wind blow against you and even smell the sites you see projected on the very large screen in front of you. The ride ends in a unique way as the visitor glides over Disneyland and sees all the fireworks erupt in the night sky. Once we were done with Soarin we headed back to the Pavilion area where we checked out the short film at Canada’s pavilion. It’s a really well done film. As soon as we got done with that it was almost time for the fireworks at the end of the night. The firework show, although short was quite spectacular. It was a great way to close out a perfect day at Epcot.