Monday, November 29, 2010


Epcot, Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, was the 2nd park built in Disney World, first opening its doors to the public in October 1981.  In 2009, Epcot hosted ~11 million guests, making it the 6th most visited park in the world. It was envisioned by Walt Disney himself to be a "utopian city of the future" which would be home to 20,000 residents.  Walt died before the Magic Kingdom opened and the Disney company decided it did not want to be in the business of running a city.  The Epcot as we know it today is comprised of two distinct areas: Future World and the World Showcase.

Let me start with a review of Future World.  It is comprised of a variety of pavilions.  They've changed over the years, but currently there are eight: (1) Spaceship Earth, (2) Innoventions, (3) Universe of Energy, (4) Mission: SPACE, (5) Test Track, (6) The Seas with Nemo and Friends, (7) The Land and (8) Imagination!

Spaceship Earth is definitely an icon within Disney World.  The attraction within the 18-story geodesic sphere has been refreshed over the years, but still takes guests on a ride through time.  It highlights many advancements in technology that have shaped the world as we know it today.  In 2007, the ride was renovated and added an interactive feature that allows the guests to build a vision for their own future.
Group Shot, 2010
My cousins in Spaceship Earth, 2008
The Innoventions pavilion houses various exhibits that focus technological advances and their impact on every day life.  Innoventions East currently has six exhibits.  The one that sticks out the most for me is called StormStruck, which takes the audience through an extreme storm and what may happen to your home as a result. Innoventions West has seven exhibits.  In 2008 with my family, I waited in line for Segway Central and got to ride a Segway through a short course.
Pretty cool right? Lol.
Universe of Energy is a pavilion that Ellen's Energy Adventure calls home.  It stars Ellen DiGeneres and Bill Nye the Science Guy.  I've skipped it the last two times I've been to Epcot, but I remember that it's a movie that focuses on the history of energy, current energy production as well as the search for new energy.

Mission: SPACE simulates what it may feel like aboard a rocket to Mars.  The g-force it puts you under to simulate take-off is something else.  It also slingshots you around the moon for a "gravity-assisted boost", puts you into hypersleep and then actually lands on Mars (following a few landing hiccups).  This is a more intense ride, so people with motion sickness really should avoid this one.  Our group loved this ride, particularly the boys.  It is definitely a "must-do" for those that enjoy a good thrill.
Test Track takes you through the various testing procedures that General Motors uses to evaluate its vehicles.  The ending is the best part, as you are taken outdoors for a high-speed drive around the building.  It gets up to 65 mph on a banked curve, making it the fasted Disney ride ever.  A "must-do" for sure.

The Seas with Nemo and Friends has guests board their own "clamobile" and moves you along to help find Nemo.  Towards the end of the ride, they are able to make the animated fish appear to be swimming along with the real aquatic life.  As you exit, you are able to explore a series of exhibits, including dolphins, manatees and a huge tank featuring many species of fish as well as a few sharks.
The Land pavilion has a few different attractions.  Living with the Land is a slow-moving boat ride that takes its passengers through agriculture scenes and an actual greenhouse. Circle of Life: An Environmental Fable is a movie featuring Simba, Timon and Pumba that provides guidance on how we should treat the land. Living with the Land and Circle of Life are only okay, so I'd only advise making time for them if there are no lines. On the other hand, Soarin' is a "must-do" and has definitely taken on the title of flagship ride in this pavilion.  It first opened in 2005, so many of my companions on this trip had not had a chance to ride it before.  It is a essentially a "simulated hang glider tour" of California. Since your vehicle is moved to the center of a huge IMAX screen, it enables you to feel like you are actually in flight.  It is an extremely cool ride.  My tip to readers is to go and get your Fast Pass for this ride as soon as you arrive.  Many guests are thwarted by waiting too long and finding that the Fast Pass distribution is done for the day.
Living with the Land in 2008 (cousin Bill and my Aunt Carol and Uncle Norman)
Imagination! is a pavilion featuring Journey into Imagination with Figment, ImageWorks and Captain EO Tribute.  Journey into Imagination used to be one of my favorites as a kid but has since been redone and is currently yawn worthy  in my view. While on your way out of the ride, you walk through ImageWorks where you can play around with various sound exhibits.  Captain EO was brought back after the death of Michael Jackson, replacing Honey I Shrunk the Audience.  It is sort of laughable but it felt like the right thing to do in order to pay homage to MJ.  Don't expect any classic MJ songs, this is really just sort of a funny, Star Wars-like movie that features MJ "saving" a planet with his music.
Tuck having some fun in ImageWorks' Stepping Tones
Switching gears back to the other half of Epcot, the World Showcase.  I looooove this part of the park.  It was only enhanced after I turned 21 and figured out the joys of being able to eat and drink myself "around the world".  The "world" at Epcot is comprised of 11 pavilions, each representing a country: (1) Mexico, (2) Norway, (3) China, (4) Germany, (5) Italy, (6) American Adventure, (7) Japan, (8) Morocco, (9) France, (10) United Kingdom and (11) Canada.  These pavilions are arranged around a fairly good sized lake, which provides a multitude of great photo ops.  You also have a nice view of Spaceship Earth in the background.
Me back in 2008
It just so happens that we were visiting Epcot during the 15th Annual International Food & Wine Festival.  Daisy was thrilled and, as she put it, she died and went "to theme park-foodie-wino heaven". Please be sure to visit Indulge Inspire Imbibe to get her take.  She always does the best job in describing just how delectable food and drink can be :)
During the Food & Wine Fest, the number of countries represented is increased to 25.  The additions include Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Greece, Ireland, New Zealand, Poland, Puerto Rico, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea and Spain.  It truly is fantastic to walk around at whatever pace you enjoy while taking in the architecture and aromas from each country.  Also and importantly, the prices are very reasonable, ranging from $3-$7 for each plate/glass. Let me give you a little flavor from the countries I frequented over my current trip as well as the one with my family in 2008:

Mexico was our first stop in the World Showcase.  Daisy and I checked out the menu, which was prominently displayed outside all food & beverage kiosks, and decided on the Taco de Chilorio ($3.75) and a 12oz Dos Equis ($4.50).
We ate on the steps of the Mexican "pyramid".  I looked across the way and noticed the Cantina de San Angel, which reminded me of the last time I was there enjoying a tasty margarita in 2008.

Cantina de San Angel, 2008
Inside the pyramid, visitors can dine at San Angel Inn which overlooks an indoor lagoon.  There is also slow-moving boat ride through Mexico, called El Rio del Tiempo (River of Time).

After Mexico, Daisy and I wandered over to Argentina where we ordered a Grilled Beef Skewer with Chimichurri Sauce and Boniato Puree ($4.75), and I continued to sip on my Dos Equis beer.
While some of the crew enjoyed food from New Zealand (Seared Scallops - $3.75) and Chile (Shrimp Chevice - $4.75), I headed over to Ireland with Dave and Mike who had their sights set on Guinness.  Dave has always loved Guinness, so he was thrilled that we got to enjoy a complimentary Guinness at their brewery in Dublin in 2007. I'll have to detail that trip for you all in the future.  He was all smiles with his Guinness stache' in this picture so it must have been a pretty good draft.
Next up was France, a favorite of mine in the World Showcase.  Here I enjoyed a glass of Sparkling Pomegranate Kir ($6.50) and Creme Brulee au Chocolate au Lait ($3.75).  Here in France you can also take in a short film that features the French countryside called Impressions de France. The shopping is good here too, but would you expect anything different from France?
Mmm :)
Street performers on the sidewalks of France
In France with Karen and my Aunt Carol, 2008
From Belgium, Dave ordered Steamed Mussels with Roasted Garlic Cream.  Although I didn’t capture a picture, Dave said they were really good.  Daisy and Adam ordered some beverages from Morocco.  Specifically, they ordered a Tangerine Mimosa Royale ($6.00) and a glass of Sangria ($4.00).  The rest of wandered around and took in the Moroccan scenery.
My next order was from Japan.  They were out of the Spicy Tuna Roll, so I settled for the California Roll ($3.50) and a cold Kirin draft ($7.00). 
Uncle Norman and Aunt Carol in Japan, 2008
Later on in the evening (after bouncing around Future World), I had a cup of Asopao de Pollo ($2.50) from Puerto Rico.  Very tasty and the warmth was welcomed at this point since it was much chillier once the sun went down.

Others ordered kielbasa from Poland, while I scooted over to South Korea (new this year) for Barbeque Short Rib with Steamed Rice and Cucumber Kimchi ($4.25).  I was so cold at this point that I barely took out my camera, so apologies for not having pictures.

Maura and Daisy ordered Seared Beef Tenderloin with Sweet Potato Puree ($4.75) from South Africa. Maura had had her eye on this dish all day long.  It looked very good but I was holding out for Italy.

Once we arrived to Italy, I quickly made my choices: a glass of Chianti ($4.50) and Baked Cheese Ravioli with Creamy Bolognese Sauce and Melted Mozzarella ($4.50).
Although I skipped Norway this year, it is one of my favorites to visit.  They have a delightful bakery that my family and I tend to stop at each year.  This country also has the Maelstrom, an indoor boat ride featuring knomes, trolls and other Norwegian folklore.
Kringla Bakeri og Kafe, 2008

Aboard the Maelstrom, 2008
Germany is also one of my favorites.  I typically get a nice,cold draft beer and their signature pretzel.
Me and Bill amidst Germany's Biergarten, 2008
After being sufficiently stuffed from our world tour, we called the eating and drinking portion of the night quits.  We stuck around for the IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth end-of-the-night-show at the World Showcase.  It premiered in 1999 and continues to be a guest favorite.  Displayed over the center lake, the show includes fireworks, pyrotechnics, laser lights and fountains. If it wasn't so d*mn cold at this point, I would have enjoyed it more this year.  Regardless, it is a "must-do" in my opinion.

Next up is a review Hollywood Studios, which will wrap up our Disney World experience this year.


  1. You are so good with the theme park facts. The 2008 throwback pictures are fun too! Thanks for the nice compliment and shout-out!

  2. Now that I saw that pink (?) bubbly and sushi I desperately crave both :D

  3. Finally! Something on the web that says that EPCOT open to the public in 1981! I know. I was there. But most official publications say OCT. 1082. I was begining to think I had slipped into a parallel universe.
    I remember being told that some exhibits weren't open yet,, but the dates I find on Wikipedia just don't fit my experience.