If you are planning your very first visit to Walt Disney World, and you’re like me, you’ve probably done your Disney homework on the parks and resorts. I’m sure you have lists of what attractions you want to see, what characters you want to meet, and I bet you even made those dining reservations the day you booked your trip, right? Still, despite all your planning and newly accumulated park knowledge, it’s still easy to make those Disney World Rookie mistakes. My goal today is to let you in on some tips and info that I wish I had known before my park visits to help your first time trip to Walt Disney World run a little more smoothly. I’ve already covered What I Wish I Knew Before My Trip to the Magic Kingdom; and so for today, I’m tackling What I Wish I Knew Before My Trip to Epcot!
The length of World Showcase is what I wish I knew before my trip to Epcot!
Two Parks in One
Epcot is one park, but it has two very different sections: Future World and the World Showcase. Future World was originally intended to educate visitors about the world and to be a showplace for new technology. However, Future World has suffered some criticism in recent years as many of its buildings sit empty and seems to be more representative of the past than the future. Still, Future World is home to some of the park’s most popular attractions such as Soarin’, Test Track, and the iconic Spaceship Earth. Epcot’s other section, World Showcase, sits towards the rear of the park and encircles the World Showcase Lagoon. This part of Epcot features eleven pavilions themed after different countries from around the world, as well as one for the United States.
What’s really awesome about World Showcase is that Imagineers went to great lengths to make each pavilion and its design both historically and culturally accurate, so you feel as if you’re in another country and also getting a sense of its history at the same time. Also, I absolutely love eating at the different World Showcase restaurants and shopping for souvenirs from around the world.
Are you a Disney Park critic? I know, it’s hard to be critical of anything Disney (at least I think so), but even I have to admit that I’ve experienced a few things that some parks don’t do as well as others. Of course, there’s also a number of things that each park does very well! Today, I’m breaking down Disney Park Strengths and Weaknesses beginning with one of my personal favorite parks: Epcot.
Epcot has a very interesting history. What few guests know is that Epcot was one of Walt’s main focuses when it came to his Florida Project and that the park we know today wasn’t exactly what he had in mind. Epcot, formerly known as EPCOT Center, stands for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow and was intended to be a real, working community with an innovative design to serve as a model for future cities. When Walt passed away, the vision for Epcot gradually turned into a park that celebrated both the future and the world. That is why Epcot is composed of two different sections: Future World and World Showcase.
*Twiddles thumbs. Checks Twitter. Reads a blog post.*
Done? Okay, let’s ‘soar’ right in!
Pick your mode of transportation! Soarin’ is a popular ride that allows you to hang-glide over California, feeling the wind in your face whilst smelling the fragrance of zesty orange trees. (Fun Fact: The first model for Soarin’ was made out of an erector set!) Once you land on solid ground, hop in a Chevy at Test Track. Strap yourself in and brace yourself for the ride of your life! Put on your space suit, join the NASA team and shoot for the stars as you travel to Mars in your rocket via Mission: Space. To ease back into Earth’s gravity, swim underwater to the ‘clamobile’ where The Seas with Nemo & Friends take you “under the sea.” Finally, use those feet and travel indoors to Innoventions where you’ll find interactive and educational games the whole family will enjoy.
Staying on property during your next Walt Disney World vacation? Then you should absolutely be taking advantage of Disney’s Extra Magic Hours, which offer resort guests the opportunity to get to a park early or stay late. Simply show that you’re staying in a Walt Disney World resort and you can have fun in the parks beyond the normal operating hours. And if you’re using our Personalized Touring Plans, you can also extend your plan hours for both morning and evening Extra Magic Hours. As stated, Extra Magic Hours are offered both in the morning and the evening but for now we’re going to concentrate on some of my favorite Evening Extra Magic Hours attractions. While not every attraction is operating for Extra Magic Hours, some of the best and most popular attractions across Magic Kingdom, Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios are open to resort guests. Unfortunately, as of this writing, Disney’s Animal Kingdom does not offer evening extra magic hours. Perhaps that could change with the eventual opening of the park’s new Avatar Land but for now, park guests will have to get their Extra Magic Hours fill at the first three Walt Disney World theme parks. So without further ado, here are my top Evening Extra Magic Hours attractions for each park.
Hi, everyone! Glad you’re able to stop by for a look at the beautiful, sunny weather at Epcot on April 5, 2014! I have a lot to show you, including the new Muppets Scavenger Hunt that just started today. As always, I have lots of photos and video to share. If you were hoping for a look at the Flower & Garden Festival you can look here, this week is more about random fun in the park. Of course, this time of year you almost can’t take a photo without capturing some lovely flowers. So why don’t we start there?
Pretty, aren’t they? But just so you don’t miss the full experience, I grabbed a few seconds of the tram ride in. Doesn’t it feel like you’re really there?
All eyes in the theme park industry turn this week to the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, where the grand re-opening of Disney California Adventure is being celebrated in the high style befitting the finish line of a billion-dollar makeover marathon. Before this massive expansion officially opens to the public on June 15, invited media and paying sneak-preview participants will have already had an opportunity to experience the new attractions of Cars Land and Buena Vista Street, and naturally the TouringPlans.com team is there on the scene. Touring Plans’ official photographer Tom Bricker, Unofficial Guide to Disneyland co-author Seth Kubersky, and new Touring Plans researcher Guy Selga, Jr. will all be on-property this week, documenting every detail to your touring advantage. Over the next few days, please check back on the blog for our hot-off-the-press first reviews direct from DCA, edited versions of which will appear in the 2013 edition of the Unofficial Guide.
Radiator Springs Racers (FASTPASS)
Our Rating: 5 stars
Tom Bricker says:
“Aside from ‘sacred classics,’ Radiator Springs Racers is the best Disney attraction ever, in my opinion. I was in absolute awe!”
What it is: Automotive dark ride with high-speed thrills.
Scope and scale: Superheadliner.
When to go: The first 30 minutes the park is open or use FASTPASS.
Special comments: Must be 40″ tall to ride; switching-off option provided; Not to be missed.
Duration of ride: About 4 minutes
Average wait time per 100 people ahead of you: 3 1/2 minutes
The Dreamchasers virtual-reality simulation at the exit of Test Track in Epcot quietly closed down recently and has been replaced with a new interactive area exploring the wonders of alternative fuels.
The main focus is a full scale repliace of the undercarriage of a vehicle along the rear wall which lights up and explains new vehicles systems in a multimedia presentation.
There are also interactive kiosks to explore. Though fairly basic, these seem to harken back to an old-fashioned Epcot feel of interactivity rather then computer screens and keyboards which are commonplace at home and the office.
One often overlooked element is the large projection on the floor.
The image cycles through corn (shown above), lightning, and bouncing words in water. It’s actually a large interactive projection. When you walk through the corn kernels pop into popcorn, the lightning zaps around following you, and bouncing words bounce away and ripple when you step on them.
Test Track at Epcot has become the first ride to feature Disney’s Photopass service.
In place of the old video screens which displayed your image and claim number, screens display an image but direct you to a card reader for a Photopass card (to add the photo to the card) and display the number of seconds left to claim/swipe your Photopass before your image expires and a new guest photo appears.
You still have the option of turning around and directly purchasing the photo from the counter across from the video screens. You simply have to claim/swipe, then present your Photopass for purchase at the counter.
This technology is expected to be expanded to several other attractions over time.
Back when life was simple, Epcot only had one ride that had a reason for Fastpass – Test Track.
In the more complex modern day, a tour of Epcot requires comfortable walking shoes, stamina, and a good plan. The early morning zig-zag from Soarin’ to Test Track often leaves folks with less than desirable Fastpass return times in the mid-afternoon. This is peak time for summer storms though, and those storms will close Test Track temporarily.
The image above shows the mess of a queue that occurs when the ride reopens after one these closures.
Knowledge is half the battle though, and we’re here to help. First, when the rain subsides, try to stay within the general area of the attraction. You can hear if Test Track is running from a good distance. If you have a Fastpass, your ticket will be honored any time after your window when the ride is operating, you do not need to run to the crush of delayed Fastpassers. The crowd will be moved through and the lines will dissipate, often long before the evening crush for Illuminations.