Orlando Stories and Tips

EPCOT - Grown-Up Fun!

What a big ball! Photo, Orlando, Florida

EPCOT, which stands for Experimental Prootoype Community of Tomorrow, is my absolute favourite of the Walt Disney World Theme Parks, as it is by far the most interesting for adults, as it offers a great mix of Disney-style entertainment (without as many Disney characters) and education.

What is EPCOT?

EPCOT is split into two areas - Future World and World Showcase.

As you walk into EPCOT, you enter Future World, which is a fantastic mix of rides and attractions that look at technological advances in the world, such as automotive and space technologies.

World Showcase offers 12 countries for you to explore (see below for more information).

Tips for EPCOT:

EPCOT is a MASSIVE park where you will do a lot of walking, so make sure that you wear very comfy shoes and take lots of breaks during the days. The park is also very exposed to the sun, so make sure you wear hats and use plenty of sunscreen. There are plenty of places to rest in this park, however, and the World Showcase pavilions offer lots of place to sit and cool off. The land also has a massive café area that is cool and airy on a hot summer’s day. If you walk to the UK pavilion, you can walk or take a short boat ride directly to the Boardwalk/Swan/Dolphin and Each and Bach resorts for a break from the theme park.

World Showcase:

World Showcase is a 1.2-mile walk of food, dining, culture, and shopping from the United Kingdom, the USA, Norway, Mexico, China, Japan, Germany, Norway, France, and Canada. Each country, or pavilion, as they are known, offers a select sample of the "best" bit if each culture. It is slightly sanitized, but where else can you visit 11 countries in one day!

One nice touch is that each pavilion is staffed with young people from the country they work in. It is really interesting to talk to the staff (they all speak excellent English) and find out more about the countries they are from, and they are always willing to speak to visitors and share their culture.

5 best rides at EPCOT:

Test Track
Test Track is sponsored by General Motors and a fantastic ride that is quite unlike normal high-speed rides. The pre-show area is fantastic, where you get to see the sort of tests that motor vehicles go through in order to make them safe for us to drive. Our mission as a test-track pilot is to test a future model car as it travels from 0 to 70 mph and goes through all sorts of tests, such as rough terrain, hills, and turns, as well as hot, cold, and corrosive tests (it's all quite safe!!). There are six of you in the vehicle as you share this unique speed experience. After the ride, there are hands-on exhibitions you can try. This ride is always great fun, and the sense of speed because you are so low to the ground is amazing. I would definitely recommend this ride for kids of all ages! Make sure you ride this early in the day or use FASTPASS, as the queues are VERY LONG and the ride does breakdown quite a lot, which can make things even worse!

The Universe of Energy: Ellen's Energy Adventure:
If you like dinosaurs, this is the ride for you!! This is an unusual ride, as you sit in very large moving vehicles that only move about 5 miles per hour as Ellen DeGeneres and Bill Nye take you on a fascinating journey back to the beginning of time and the history of the dinosaurs. It features a wide range of animatronic dinosaurs, audio and video films, and sets that are brilliantly done. There are very rarely queues for this, as it takes 580 people per showing, so it's a good ride to do anytime, and it lasts for almost 30 minutes, so you get to cool off and sit down!

Maelstrom:
In the Norwegian pavilion, Maelstrom is an indoor boat adventure that will appeal to people of all ages. It is quite a dark and eerie ride as you ride on your Viking ship through the fjords. This is a very popular ride, but the lines move fast. You conclude your ride in a Norwegian fishing village and are then offered a 5-minute film about Norway, which most people skip. Don't!! This film is really interesting, and you get a fantastic view of the country and people of Norway.

Spaceship Earth:
This is the first ride that you will see when you enter EPCOT and is the big golf ball-shaped thing. This ride takes you through the history of mankind's communications, from cave painting to printing and television, as you travel right to the very top of Spaceship Earth. The ride is visually brilliant, and they even include smells in some of the scenes - look out for the sleeping monk!! It is not a fast-moving roller coaster-type ride, but very interesting and a good history lesson for children (and adults!) This ride is always very busy in the mornings, as everyone tries to go on it first. Come back later in the day (after lunch is always quiet), and you will more or less walk on it without having to queue!

Mission: Space:
I haven't been to EPCOT since this ride opened, but it is supposed to the one of the best new rides ever, as you get to be a crew member on a mission to space. It sounds very realistic, as you experience G forces and everything. I can't wait to try it!!

Shopping and eating:
Because of the fantastic mix of cultures that are represented at EPCOT, it is possible to have some really great dining and shopping experiences.

In each of the countries, there are shops that sell souvenirs and cafés and restaurants with samples of the great food from all the nations.

Where would I recommend?

All of France is a wonderful experience, from the bakery and restaurant to the shops. The bakery sells the most amazing French bread and cakes and is always popular (the Napoleon is my particular favourite!)

A bratwurst in Germany with a glass of beer is a nice change from hamburger and fries! There is also a beer garden here offering a German sandwich, which is great fun if there is a group of you (children are allowed), as the atmosphere is great!

If you are feeling hot, try a kaki gori (shaved) ice from the Japanese pavilion. Alternatively, you can have a pint form the Rose and Crown pub in the UK! (Don't forget your ID, as alcohol is not served to people under 21, and Disney checks everyone who looks under 30!)

The food and drink is not cheap at EPCOT, but it is worthwhile trying some of the food from the different cultures and provides a nice change form the usual Disney food.

Again, all the shops are great, but there is a nice market in Mexico that features lots of craft goods. The Japanese department store is great fun, and you can "pick a pearl" for approximately $15, which is very popular and a nice souvenir. Perfume (albeit expensive ones!) is featured in the French pavilion, where they have a good range. The Christmas Tree Shop in the German pavilion has some lovely Christmas decorations, and they also sell lots of native toys that children will love (lot of education-type toys, too, which is a change from Mickey Mouse!!)

In the UK, you will find a Pringle shop and lots of tea and Walkers biscuits, as well as Anne Hathaway's Cottage and a Harry Ramsden's Fish and Chip Shop!!

A lot of the shops do have sale items, and these are the only bargains you are likely to find!

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