August 3, 2015

Top Ten Things I Miss From Epcot

Whenever I'm asked about the Disney parks in Florida, it is pretty clear from the start that I just love Epcot. There's a grandeur and elegance about the place that is unmatched by the other three theme parks on the property. Granted, its much more character filled, and therefore a less refined cultural experience than it was in its early years, but the place still packs a punch even seasoned guests do not expect. It is always our only guaranteed two-day park. 

Epcot's just so different than anything that's been done before or after- and it will probably never be built again in any form. Not even Westcot, once planned for California or another version of the park proposed in the early stages for EuroDisneyland. (I've got that piece of concept art somewhere on the blog, but I just can't find it!)

So, in contemporary manner, as I did with Disneyland Paris a few years ago, here are the Top Ten Things I Miss From Epcot. I'll start with Number Ten and work my way to Number One.

Always a wow!

Number Ten-   We always try to enter the park by taking the monorail instead of driving to the parking lot. Taking the monorail from the Transportation and Ticket Center to the park entrance, a ride on this really shows how incredibly large Walt Disney World is- and the journey is even more spectacular because the monorail offers a sneak preview of the park. Especially enticing is seeing World Showcase and the glistening lagoon. Proving once again that a terrific and much loved theme park doesn't have to have a castle- or be stuffed with characters.

A Mickey Bar puts a smile on our face- and so would a re-Imagined Journey Into Imagination!

Number Nine-  Mickey Bars! It's a tradition to take a break and feast on the Disney World equivalent of a Dove Ice Cream Bar. We stroll the park and take in the sights while we take a break. It is worth the extra minutes to not rush around from one attraction to the next and just enjoy what we see. (True, there are fewer fresh or compelling attractions for the whole family than there used to be.) This is something we have learned over the years. Even though we do not go to Walt Disney World often anymore- due to the lack of continual investment in the new and terrific for the last decade or so- interestingly, this quiet approach to touring has never led us to not experience any attraction on our must-do list. And our Florida vacation is much more enjoyable.

Lines are never this short in the morning for Spaceship Earth.

Number Eight-  Dusk to night. Obviously, this is when World Showcase really displays its charms. The pace slows, the crowds stop for dinner, and the entire park takes on a very romantic feel. But Future World even has its charms in the evening... specifically shorter waits in line and a chance to see the park as it used to be in its heyday. It's much easier to mentally block out the character overlays in the dark when the stirring original music is not blocked out by the noise of the crowd.

A man and his cars. An originally American love affair.

Number Seven- Discovering the unexpected delights you forgot were at the park. Whether its checking out the cars after riding Test Track, the shopping in China, learning about food production in the Land, or the museum quality presentations found all through World Showcase, there's always something fun to rediscover. Proving once again, you can have a great Disney park experience in an adult environment without the day being full of character meals and other such diversions from animated films.

"Just make believe... ". Sing it with me. You now you want to!

Number Six-   Listening to the Land. One of our earliest and favorite Epcot experiences and memories was in 1983 eating at the wonderful Good Turn Restaurant. Of course, like the restaurant itself, The Land has changed many times, for better and for worse. Perhaps it is the last place in the park that still has a bit of that old school feel and focus of the optimism built into the park at opening. Slightly out of place, but Soarin' is a new favorite. I was not the biggest fan of Kitchen Kabaret, but the rest of the attraction filled greenhouse was a delight. Back then, it seemed every Future World pavilion was worth at least a two hour visit, sometimes more. 

One day I will see the Great Wall!

Number Five-   Something about the wonders of China that draws me in. I love the food, the gardens, the entertainment, the shopping, and the people I've met who staff the pavilion. The film is still wonderful, and the museum has hosted some incredible pieces. Serene and exciting at the same time. And no sign of Mulan... yet. Thankfully.

The world in a day.

Number Four- Always loved the "permanent World's Fair" aspect of Epcot. To be able to "travel" from one end of the globe to another is something that gives this park its unique appeal. Unlike Animal Kingdom and its focus on the wildlife, World Showcase emphasizes the human element, the culture's art, heritage, and accomplishments. One of the greatest misunderstandings of the drawing power of this park is reflected in the Disney Company Suits continual neglect of adding additional countries in World Showcase. They really do not understand that unlike those on their board with relatively unlimited resources, international travel is still not all that available to many guests. Just the headcount for the Food and Wine Festival ought to give them a clue.

Where do I board El Rio del Tiempo?

Number Three-   Nighttime in Mexico at noon. This used to be my favorite country in all of Epcot. Before the character invasion. Eating waterside. Hearing the sounds of the mariachi band, right before cruising off into the unknown and the mysterious land of Ancient Mexico. The whole place just hit the right notes, treating the host country with respect and cultural reverence. Why oh why, must the countries of World Showcase become a character showcase and lose its initial charm and elegance? Catering to the kids and the parents who cannot say "No" to them? Oh well. That was then, this is now.

Ooh, la la indeed!

Number Two-   Impressions of France. The whole pavilion actually. Having been blessed to travel to various regions of the country over the years, it is always a pleasure to come to this area whenever I am continentally challenged to going there. The film, while it does badly need an update, still stirs me with its lovely soundtrack and stunning sights... almost all of which we have seen in the flesh. Absolutely my favorite pavilion in all of Epcot day, night, and anytime in between.

From the alleys of Morocco to the gardens of Japan...

Number One-  It's not an attraction. Not a shop or restaurant. It's not a show and not a fireworks spectacular. One of our favorite things to do takes place after Illuminations, long after the crowds are gone. We wander the back alleyways and hidden nooks of World Showcase, taking in the quiet of the evening. Hand in hand, we laugh, we kiss, and often we thank the Lord for our life, our marriage, and the very satisfying day we just had at our favorite theme park.

(Photos copyright Mark Taft.)

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