June 29, 2009

Epcot Primer: 2009 Edition

A recent letter to some friends made me do some serious thinking about how to visit the 2009 version of Epcot when you've never been and know little about Walt Disney World. Here's my letter, Read it and let me know if you agree or not.

"Hi Bob and Lisa,

Hope you're well! Lisa told me that you were taking the family to Epcot. It is my favorite theme park, and I know it very well. We have been there both with and without the kids since it opened in 1982. In many ways, I know it like my backyard.

If I may, I'd like to give you some ideas to help you spend less time waiting in line and more time enjoying the park. I've learned the hard way- and visiting a park at peak season (from early March through September on) can be a zoo. Even if you go in the middle of the week. If you've looked it up on Google earth, you know the park is divided into two sections shaped liked circles on top of each other- Future World and World Showcase. Epcot is like a world's fair in concept. technological exhibits on one end, country showcases on the other. Most of the "rides" are in the futuristic part. 

Most of the films, shops, and restaurants are in the country area.
To give you an idea of how big it is, just the lagoon between the two areas is over 100 acres, and it takes half an hour to walk from the top center of the bottom half (Future World) to the top center of World Showcase at the top. Ready for my suggestions? I think if you try them out, you'll save alot of time... Again, the important part is to have fun and not be "theme park nazi" , so my family tells me... ;)

You'll come into the park into Future World. There are two blockbuster, must-see type attractions here and several others worth your time. The first one is called "Soarin'" in the Land pavillion. It is a fun and thrilling but not scary simulated hang glider ride that your whole family can ride- including your parents. It is THE most popular ride in the park (and well worth it!), and the one with lines of up to two hours. The other ride is called "Test Track", and it is on the opposite side of Future World. It is an awesome ride with fast parts but everyone, regardless of age, loves it. (Don't miss it.)
It also can have a two hour wait. Unless you use a tool called Fastpass. It's like a rerservation for a ride, and both these rides use it as they are so popular. 

Here's what you do: Walk into the park, go past the big geosphere (Spaceship Earth) and turn right and go straight to the Land pavillion. As you go inside, go down the escalator to the queue for Soarin'. You'll see machines called Fastpass. Take all of your theme park tickets (one per person) and put them one at a time into the machine. It will spit out a Fastpass for each of you and return your park ticket. The ticket will tell you what time to come back and ride. When its time, walk to the "Fastpass Return" line, show your ticket to the person in charge and walk in. The wait will be 10 minutes or less most days. Note: At the bottom of your Fastpass ticket, in very small print, it will tell you when you can get another Fastpass. It is usually 1 minute after your Return Time of Two Hours, whichever is later.

So, if you want to ride both Soarin and Test Track, I'd go to Soarin' first and get a Fastpass for each person, go on other rides and such in the area, then get Fastpasses for Test Track after your time us allowable. Make sense?

OK- Here's what to do in Future World once you have your Fastpasses for those two rides: Turtle Talk with Crush- In the Seas with Nemo and Friends pavillion. This is one of our favorites. The animated turtle from the Nemo movie talks real time with kids in the audience. He is real time animation. This is one you have to see to believe. It is an incredible piece of "magic". We cannot say enough about this show. Crush is not a person in a costume- he is animated on the screen yet "sees" and talks with kids in the audience. Very cool. You'll walk out thinking "How did they ever do that!?!"

Spaceship Earth- A ride through the big ball. About the history of communication. Sounds boring but isn't. Very cool personalized ending I won't spoil. An Epcot classic. Usually short lines due to how fast the ride moves. If you wait to ride this right before you leave, it could be a walk on.

Club Cool- Try free Coca Cola sodas from all over the world. Free! And its really fun.

Illuminations- An evening fireworks show you won't believe, Also uses the buildings of World Showcase. Well worth staying up late for. Pick a spot by the lagoon- Mexico area is the best- about an hour before it starts. Sit down and guard your spot.
Living with the Land- Also inside the Land pavillion. A boat ride about agriculture. Fun and fascinating.

Mission:Space - a simulated ride to Mars with gravity effects etc. I've done both the mild and intense side. Choose the mild side or risk getting very sick. Done in cooperation with NASA. Very intense. The boys will probably love it. Your parents shouldn't ride it...

Innoventions- a series of smaller exhibits like a futuristic trade show.

Honey, I Shrunk the Audience- A fun 3D movie with surprising in house effects.This will cover the basics of Future World.

Now, World Showcase... Basically, 11 countries, including a couple of rides, one great robotic show, a lot of films.

China- beautiful film in 360 degree theater.

America- awesome show on American history. a robotic Ben Franklin walks up stairs. Really worth seeing!

France- gorgeous film with beautiful music. The scenery is stunning.

Norway- a short but fun boat ride. Usually a long wait. It's OK, not great.

Canada- Funny film in 360 degrees hosted by Martin Short.

Mexico- a boat ride that takes place inside the pyramid. Cute with the three caballeros, but not extra special.

The other countries have bands, music, etc, but are mainly areas for shopping and eating. Talk to the employees in the countries. They are nationals. Walk through the gardens of Japan and the streets of Morocco. The restaurants are expensive for dinner, less for lunch. The tea garden take out cafe in Japan is good. Fish and chips in UK good as well. The bakery in France is a great stop for a treat.
I hope all this helps. Let me know if you have any questions."

What do YOU think? What would you say to these friends? Let me know. I'm really curious. Have I missed the boat or am I right on the money?

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