August 8, 2012

Epcot-Future World

Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow

EPCOT has changed repeatedly over the last 30 years but one thing has remained the same: Disney World's second theme park, connected to the Magic Kingdom via Monorail, both educates and entertains.

Epcot is laid out in an hour-glass form with two very different but equally enjoyable sections...Future World and World Showcase. Today, we're going to focus on Future World. Tomorrow, we'll cover World Showcase.

Future World is the section you'll walk into immediately after you enter the main gates. The iconic 18 story Geodesic Sphere (aka the giant golf ball) serves as both the main focal point of Epcot and houses one of the park's most popular attractions, Spaceship Earth which takes you on a journey through time from prehistoric man to the dawn of the 21st century and even allows you to create your own virtual future. It's a great attraction if you have small kids, if it's raining or if you just love history.

Other attractions within the Future World include:

Innoventions (sometimes called Innoventions East and West) consists of two separate buildings on either side of the main walkway just past Spaceship Earth. Essentially a science museum, Innoventions is full of virtual reality experiences, robots, interactive games (some that even teach life-saving lessons like how to get out of a burning building) and fun for all ages. If nothing else, it's a great place to avoid unfortunate weather.

Universe of Energy is a 45 minute show starring Ellen DeGeneres with our favorite Science Guy Bill Nye (sing it with us now...B-b-b-b-ill Nye the Science Guy). The show is all about energy and conservation but to be honest, it's not something we do usually. Although we love science, we find the show to be a bit long and more preachy about conservation than we would prefer on vacation (but that's just us).

Mission: SPACE simulates what an astronaut would feel blasting off and traveling to Mars. There are four people to a ship and each one has a job to do on the mission. If you're not good with spinning rides, you may want to skip it but if you're unsure, Disney has two options orange mission for those of us who like to go all out and a green option for a slightly tamer experience. Even the tame experience can be too much for some so it's probably best not to do this one just after eating. If you're not confident you can do the ride at all (or you have little ones) still be sure to check out the post-show area (through the gift shop by the exit...ask a cast member if you need help locating it) where there are four different sections including an area where you can send an e-postcard from space to friends and family at home (or yourself as a keepsake).
*tip: Mission: Space has the highest height restriction of any attraction in Epcot at 44 inches so be sure to measure your kiddos before you go so you'll know ahead of time what they can and cannot do...also check out our Height Restrictions breakdown which has all the height restrictions for all four Disney World Parks

Test Track...currently undergoing a massive refurbishment...stay tuned...the new version of this popular attraction is set to reopen this fall...some speculate it will open on Epcot's official 30th anniversary October 1st. Before it was shut down, Test Track was one of, if not the most popular Epcot attraction. It turned guests into living crash-test-dummies to demonstrate the rigorous testing process for all new prototype vehicles.

The Seas With Nemo & Friends really changed the way many people view Epcot. The pavilion's new (2004) Nemo theme has made the park a favorite among small children that normally might have preferred Magic Kingdom. You enter the home to one of the world's largest saltwater aquariums in a "Clamobile" as you watch stars from Nemo magically appear alongside the live marine life in the 5.7 million gallon water tank. In addition to all the marine life, there's some great play/photo opportunities within the pavilion but easily the most popular attraction is Turtle Talk with Crush where through the magic of technology, children (and their parents) get to talk WITH Crush from Nemo. Crush is both informative and funny interacting with the children who sit in the front of the show while parents are sadly relegated to benches behind them. This is a must do if you have a child of any age who does or ever has enjoyed the movie be honest, it's a must-do for anyone. Even on kid-free trips, we stop to talk with Crush.

The Land Pavilion is a huge (covering six acres) pavilion which houses three attractions, a sit down character meal (Garden Grill-make your reservations EARLY for this one) and a large, food-court-style counter service restaurant (Sunshine Seasons). Whether or not you're on Disney's Dining Plan, it's a good place to take a break and have some food. Soarin' is the most popular Epcot attraction so be sure to go early and get your fast passes for later! It's a one-of-a-kind experience that simulates hang-gliding over California. You smell the oranges as you fly over a grove, you feel the mist of the ocean water as you glide over the coast. It's a breath-taking must-do. The second attraction we always do in the Land Pavilion is the Living With The Land attraction which takes passengers through unique Disney green houses and even an aquaculture facility on a 14-minute boat ride. The automated narration is informative and the lines are usually pretty short. The third attraction in The Land is The Circle of Life widescreen movie about conservation and hosted by characters from The Lion King. 

Imagination! Pavilion is the final pavilion in Epcot's Future World. It houses the classic Journey into Imagination with Figment which is a whimsical, if a bit outdated, journey to understand the human body senses. At the end of the Journey into Imagination ride, you come out at the What If Labs which allow guests to create and play with various sound and light effects. It can be a really fun place for preschoolers to learn about sight and sound but beyond that, it's generally not as popular as some of Epcot's other attractions. The last attraction inside the Imagination! Pavilion is a return of an old attraction that was gone for 16 year. Captain EO is a 17-minute 3D science fiction film starring a vintage Michael Jackson.

Epcot With Kids General Tips

*Check out Club's a great place to stop for some easy a/c and free soda...there are 8 different soda options from around the world. If you want to have a little fun, have the kids try the Beverly from Israel.

*Start walking before you even get to the parks. You'll average 10-15 miles a day at Disney World and Epcot tends to be on the long end of the scale.

*Pin trading is super popular in Epcot and kids love it!-just be sure to read our pin trading post so your little ones can trade without costing an arm and a leg

*Don't forget to catch the nightly laser/fireworks show IllumiNations

*Epcot is a particularly great park if it's raining...most of the attractions are indoors but check out our Disney In The Rain post for more rainy day ideas

*Go to the Epcot Character Spot as soon as the park opens! The lines will be short and you'll be able to get all the classic characters' signatures and pictures checked off your to-do list quickly