Do you love Living With The Land at Epcot? I don’t know what it is about this quiet, little boat ride that holds my attention. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s one of the few attractions that still feels like the Epcot from my childhood. The Behind The Seeds Tour at Epcot offers guests the chance to walk through the greenhouses seen on the boat ride and take a closer look. While just taking a stroll through this location is worth the price of admission, the tour offers some great “edutainment” about the future of gardening.
To sign up you simply need to purchase tickets at the desk in the Soarin’ boarding area. We’ve done the first tour of the day in the past for fear they would sell out. However, this time we showed up just 30 minutes before the last tour of the day and were able to join with no issue. Then we just had to meet back by the desk five minutes before our tour time. The below information contains lots of spoilers about the tour. If you’d like to be surprised, you might want to scroll down to the bottom past the numbered sections.
The tour begins when your guide whisks you to a backstage location to explain the tour rules. First, guests are encouraged to ask as many questions as they can. Your tour guide is normally an intern here on the college program with a shocking amount of botany knowledge. I was very impressed with our guide and the frequent questions she was able to answer! Rule number two is that photography is not only allowed, it’s encouraged! I was excited about that one because I often get lectures on tours because they see my big camera coming. It was nice to be welcomed despite the fact that we were in backstage areas. The final rule is the most important: do not touch any plants. This one seemed obvious to me, but what I hadn’t thought of the reason they make this request. In the greenhouse they have exotic plants from all over the world that many people have never been exposed to, and likely will never be exposed to again. The Behind The Seeds Tour at Epcot is not a great time to find out you’re wildly allergic to some rare plant! So that no touching request is just as much to protect you as it is the plants.
1) After the rules are out of the way you’re off to your first stop: Pests. In this room we learned about the pests that frequent the area and the different methods to dispose of them. Of course, at Epcot they’re using natural ways to defend the plants. In this case, that means releasing various bugs into the greenhouse that are beneficial to the plants but deadly to the pests. We learned about the program to breed beneficial insects at Epcot and were able to see lots of the bugs up close. (Some were even passed around.) If anyone in your party is very afraid of bugs, this might be a tough part of the tour. But they are very small, and you’re only in there for a few minutes.
2) Next we headed to the biotechnology lab. In this area there was a very interesting lecture on plant cloning. Looking into the lab, there were hundreds of little tubes full of plants. The area is very sterile, and guests are only allowed to view it through glass. Apologies for the photo: the glare on the glass was terrible. I learned that this is where they make those little plants that sprout in clear gel that are for sale in the various gift shops all over property!
3) After that was my favorite part of the tour, the hydroponics house. When you’re riding the Living With The Land ride, this is one of the last areas you enter where the plants are hanging from the ceiling with exposed roots. While we were in this area our guide explained the benefits of hydroponics in detail and described ways you could use the technique at home. I might consider it, too, because the cucumber we sampled in this area tasted amazing! If you’ve ever wondered why Disney vegetables just taste better, it’s because lots of them are grown in this greenhouse. I have the take-home informational sheet on building your own hydroponic garden; if anyone is interested in seeing it, please leave me a comment below. This is normally the part of the tour where lady bugs are released, but that didn’t happen on my most recent tour. I asked why and was told that’s just something they do when kids are on the tour. Now, I do have the attention span of a 5 year old (squirrel!), but I really felt the tour lost something without this addition.
4) Then we moved along to the string house. I’m not sure if that’s the technical name, but that’s what I have in my notes. This house shows various techniques for maximizing space by vertical growing. Remember the huge tomato tree from the Living With The Land boat ride? In the string house they explain how that was possible and show lots of other plants achieving amazing results with this technique. Have you ever wondered what they do with those freakishly large veggies they grow? There isn’t much use in the restaurants for a twenty pound turnip!, so those are packed up and shipped off to Animal Kingdom. It turns out that the animals think they are delicious!
5) The next part of the tour is all about aquaculture and takes you through those red houses with all the fish. I have to say this part of the tour was the most disappointing because we didn’t have any children in our party. In the past we’ve fed the fish, and I was ready to get video of the frenzy for you guys. Unfortunately, this is another “kids only” part of the tour. With only a group of adults we had a quick lecture about fish breeding and methods they have used to assure that their fish can’t breed with wild populations if one ever found its way to the wild. (All drains lead to the ocean, you know.)
6) Last was the temperate house, which mimics desert like conditions. This is the most beautiful and exotic of all the houses. Here we learned about amazing plants from all over the world. For example, the miracle berry is so sweet that it makes everything taste great for hours after you eat it. Our tour guide used the example that it made menthol cough drops taste like jolly ranchers! This amazing plant is being used to help chemotherapy patients eat more food after their treatments. That is just one of the plants we learned about but it gives you an idea of the amazing breadth of knowledge we hand in our tour guide!
After that, the tour is over, and you’ll wonder how an hour went by so quickly! Though, I’ve had this tour take up to 1.5 hours, depending on the guide. Not bad for just $20 per adult and $16 per child. Your typical Disney discounts are honored for DVC, passholders, and the like. Unlike some other tours I’ve been on, this one seems to only have groups of about ten people on the tour at once. I’m not sure if that’s by plan or just because it isn’t as popular as other tours. At the time of writing tours depart daily at 10:30am, 11:15am, 12:45pm, 1:30pm, 2:15pm, 3:00pm, 3:45pm, and 4:30pm. Of course, these things to change often, and it is always best to check before you arrive.
In conclusion, this is a fun tour, especially if you’ve been to Disney World several times and you’re very familiar with Living With The Land. Not that it won’t be fun for first timers – I just think you appreciate it more when you’ve looked into the greenhouse “from the outside” for a while. I will admit I enjoyed it much more with kids in the party. The adults only theme was a little dry for me, but still worth doing. Of course, your mileage may vary since I’m just a big kid anyway!
What do you think? Have you tried this tour? Do you agree with my review? Was your experience different? What tours would you like to see next? Please let us know in the comment below. As always, thanks so much for reading!