14 August 2012

Where in Walt Disney World: EPCOT

I am a HUGE Disney buff, and my specialist subject would be Walt Disney World. I've been lucky enough to visit Disneyland in California and the one in Paris, but WDW is by far my favourite and in my opinion the ultimate.

After many years of travelling to the Sunshine state of Florida, and visiting Disney World i thought i'd impart some wisdom, tips and tricks, the best things to do and maybe what not to, just in case any of you are ever thinking of taking the trip or maybe i can intrigue you to do so. So, get ready for a the ultimate guide to Walt Disney World and the surrounding area while i'm away at the same destination.
Walt Disney World covers 30,080 acres and holds four theme parks, two water parks, 23 on-site Disney themed resorts and 8 resorts that aren't Disney owned. You can even find a campground, two spas and physical fitness centres, five golf courses and a plethora of other recreational activities and entertainment. Walt Disney developed the resort in the early 1960's but sadly died in 1966 before his original plans were fully recognised and before it's completion in 1971. Disney World opened on October 1st 1971 with only the Magic Kingdom but EPCOT was added in 1982, Hollywood Studios - formerly MGM Studios - in 1989 and Animal Kingdom in 1998.

It's a place where dreams are made. Come with me and explore the ins and outs of the happiest place on earth.
EPCOT - initials standing for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow - stretches 300 acres, twice the size of the Magic Kingdom, and is split into Future World and the World Showcase. The polyhedral Epcot icon, more fondly known as the ball, greets you as you enter the turnstiles of the park and houses Spaceship Earth; a slow moving, 16 minute ride through time and space. The attraction depicts the story of human connection from the dawn of time to the 21st century cyber age.

As you enter the gates Future World awaits you, including the Imagination! Pavilion, the Land Pavilion, Mission SPACE Pavilion, The Seas with Nemo & Friends Pavilion and the Universe of Energy. This is the place to learn about technological advancements and innovation, both on Earth and beyond. Also just inside the EPCOT gates are the memory stones erected just as you enter the park. Here you can have the opportunity to have your picture taken with one other family member or friend and forever leave your image in EPCOT. They're amazing, and i'm lucky enough to have one with each parent - something that i'll always have in common with Walt Disney World. Beyond Future World is the World Showcase which invites you on a world wide adventure, around the World Showcase Lagoon. Within the pavilions you'll find shops, restaurants, rides and attractions that represent these 11 countries (from clockwise): Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, Italy, United States, Japan, Morocco, France, United Kingdom and Canada. Throughout the World Showcase you'll find attractions for all ages including outdoor performances, meet and greets with your favourite Disney characters and Kidcot Stations where the littleuns can make one of a kind souvenirs.

Despite EPCOT's main focus being on innovations and the world around us, it still has a few rides that aren't to be missed. Soarin' is a multi-sensory ride in which you're lifted in 40 feet into the hair on a multi-passenger glider. You'll be lifted and swooped through the clouds over spectacular California panoramas, projected in IMAX onto a dome wrapped 180 degrees around you - engulfing you in California's beautiful scenery. Cameras on special aeroplanes and helicopters captured many of the scenes. Your glider moves along with the picture so it makes you really feel like you're flying over inspiring landmarks such as: San Francisco, Golden Gate Bridge, Redwood Creek, Napa Valley, Monterey, Lake Tahoe, Yosemite National Park, Camarillo, Anaza-Borrego Desert State Park, San Diego, Malibu and Los Angeles. Get a birds-eye view of a skiing and snowboarding exhibition, a fellow glider exploring a billowing waterfall and cowboys on horseback racing through the wilderness. You'll even feel the wind in your hair and don't forget to take in the delicious smell of oranges as you soar over the Californian orange groves, the evergreens in the forest and the salty sea over over the ocean. Your feet dangle free from the glider and you dip so close to the ocean you think your feet will get wet, you'll find yourself lifting them out of the way! To end the spectacular journey you'll be taken through California's Disneyland Magic Kingdom and into the air to watch fireworks pop and whirl in front of your eyes. Make sure to check out this amazing ride with amazing features!

Join comedienne Ellen DeGeneres in Ellen's Energy Adventure at the Universe of Energy. You're probably already put off by the name, learning about energy while you're on holiday?! However, i promise you you won't be disappointed. Join Ellen on this multimedia attraction where you'll take a trip through time to examine the the forces that fuel our lives and universe - and give us energy. You begin watching an introduction from Ellen in which she tells you a story of how she falls asleep in front of watching her favourite show Jeopardy! During her dream her wish to become a Jeopardy! contestant comes true but it becomes distressing when she realises she's pitted against her college rival "Smart Judy", more fondly known by Ellen as "Stupid Judy", and all the categories are about energy - something Ellen knows nothing about. Luckily Bill Nye the Science Guy, her neighbour, is there to help her out and they travel through time so he can tutor her on the subject. Join them on the journey of the creation of the universe; see and hear the explosive Big Bang, travel through the dinosaurs, narrowly escape streams of molten lava, discover how fossil fuels are formed, float through the atoms and, finally, explore a future filled with fusion power. To explore the dinosaurs, and beyond, come aboard the buggies ready to show you Ellen's adventure from here on out, full of laughs and watch the underdog win the prize!

As much as there are some great rides at EPCOT, including Living with the Land in which you travel, by boat, through EPCOT's greenhouses and hear about how Disney work to be economical and sustainable, Spaceship Earth inside the park's iconic ball and Test Track, and fast moving ride that's explained in it's title - cars being tested through all sorts of environments, throwing you left right and centre! However, i feel that what lets EPCOT excel is the World Showcase. With 11 different countries on show, there's plenty of cultural opportunities to see, take part in, eat at and ride. Every country has something special to it, whether it be a ride, a show and sometimes even choirs, mime artists or bands.

Directly across the World Showcase Lagoon from Future World lies the United States, roughly half way around the Lagoon. Inside this pavilion is the American Adventure; an awe-inspiring 30 minute theatrical show using 35 life like audio-anamatronic figures and filmed sequences in dramatic recreations of people and events, in American history. You'll witness some of America's most important stories, from the Boston Tea Party to World War II, the writing of the Declaration of Independence to the civil rights movement. To keep you occupied while you're waiting to enter the theatre, you'll often be serenaded by The Voices of Liberty; an 8 piece acapella group that harmonises under the acoustically 'pure' dome in the American Adventure Pavilion. Enjoy classics such as "Ol' Man River", "Yankee Doodle" and "Amazing Grace".

A few countries clockwise, over a bridge, you'll find the United Kingdom. You'll feel right at home with a real British tea shoppe, the rose and crown pub, Harry Ramsdens fish & chips and a toy shop selling everything a child could ever dream of - plus a meet and greet with Alice in Wonderland, and friends. Behind the shops in a beautiful garden area stands a bandstand, usually taken over by the British Airwaves - a four piece band that plays classic British music from the Beatles to The Who. Previously playing was a popular band called the British Invasion, loved by many but sadly left EPCOT on April 30th 2011. So settle down with a classic pint and some fish & chips, and watch some classic British rock.

Right in the middle of the previous two countries sits Japan. It's without a stand out attraction, like America, but that really lets you soak up the culture of the country. One thing i really love about Japan is it's souvenir shop - it sells everything you'd want from a Japanese store; from food to gifts, clothes and trinkets. You'll find seaweed flavoured all sorts and pocket size lucky cats, all in different colours standing for different things. I have a purple one to bring me luck in creativity and the arts. You'll also find all your favourites; Hello Kitty, Miffy and Cinnamoroll. Located in the middle of the store is a large water tank full with oysters, the name of the game is for you to pick one hoping to find a pearl inside. You get it sized and can keep it to take home, maybe to put onto or into some jewellery to commemorate the trip. If you find one the geishas bang a gong and excitedly shout for everyone to hear! It's very surreal but an exciting experience, none the less. If you're done with your shopping, you can check out the exhibit in the Bijutsu-kan Gallery: "Visions of Beauty: World Heritage Sites of Japan", including images by celebrated photographer Kazuyoshi Miyoshi.

There's plenty to see here, with a restaurant in pretty much every country so take your pick on what cuisine you'd like to try! Eating in the World Showcase is pricier than in Future World, as some of the restaurants are world renowned like Le Cellier in Canada, a steakhouse with an infamous cheddar cheese soup. However if you're looking for your classic on the go meals, you'll find opportunities in Future World. If there's somewhere you know you want to eat in the Showcase, i recommend trying to book a table in advance of arriving in the US as people book way in advance just to get where they want to eat.

I'd suggest, when looking around World Showcase, to get there early to see as much as possible without the crowds and to go around anticlockwise. Everyone automatically goes clockwise making everything busy, however if you go anticlockwise you're more likely to cut out some of the crowds.

Here's your taster of the cultural, but exciting EPCOT. Have i tempted you?

All Images Sourced from Google Images

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