|Disney theme park|
Spaceship Earth is the icon of Epcot
|Resort||Walt Disney World Resort|
|Opened||October 1, 1982|
|Theme||Technology, innovation and internationality|
|Operator||The Walt Disney Company|
|Walt Disney World Resort|
|Walt Disney World resorts|
Epcot is a theme park at the Walt Disney World Resort. The park is dedicated to international culture and technological innovation. The second park built at the resort, it opened on October 1, 1982 and was named EPCOT Center until 1994.
In 2008, Epcot hosted approximately 10.93 million guests, ranking it the third most visited theme park in the United States, and sixth most visited in the world.
The name Epcot derives from the acronym EPCOT (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow), a utopian city of the future planned by Walt Disney (he sometimes used the word "City" instead of "Community" when expanding the acronym). In Walt Disney's words: "EPCOT... will take its cue from the new ideas and new technologies that are now emerging from the creative centers of American industry. It will be a community of tomorrow that will never be completed, but will always be introducing and testing and demonstrating new materials and systems. And EPCOT will always be a showcase to the world for the ingenuity and imagination of American free enterprise."
Walt Disney's original vision of EPCOT was for a model community, home to twenty thousand residents, which would be a test bed for city planning and organization. The community was to have been built in the shape of a circle, with businesses and commercial areas at its center, community buildings and schools and recreational complexes around it, and residential neighborhoods along the perimeter. Transportation would have been provided by monorails and PeopleMovers (like the one in the Magic Kingdom's Tomorrowland). Automobile traffic would be kept underground, leaving pedestrians safe above-ground. Walt Disney said, "It will be a planned, controlled community, a showcase for American industry and research, schools, cultural and educational opportunities. In EPCOT, there will be no slum areas because we won't let them develop. There will be no landowners and therefore no voting control. People will rent houses instead of buying them, and at modest rentals. There will be no retirees; everyone must be employed." The original model of this original vision of EPCOT can still be seen by passengers riding the Tomorrowland Transit Authority attraction in the Magic Kingdom park; when the PeopleMover enters the showhouse for Stitch's Great Escape, the model is visible on the left (when facing forward) behind glass. This vision was not realized. Walt Disney was not able to obtain funding and permission to start work on his Florida property until he agreed to build the Magic Kingdom first. Disney died before the Magic Kingdom opened.
After Disney's death, The Walt Disney Company decided that it did not want to be in the business of running a city. The model community of Celebration, Florida has been mentioned as a realization of Disney's original vision, but Celebration is based on concepts of new urbanism which is radically different from Disney's modernist and futurist visions. However, the idea of EPCOT was instrumental in prompting the state of Florida to create the Reedy Creek Improvement District (RCID) and the Cities of Bay Lake and Reedy Creek (soon renamed Lake Buena Vista), a legislative mechanism which allows the Walt Disney Company to exercise governmental powers over Walt Disney World. Control over the RCID is vested in the landowners of the district, and the promise of an actual city in the district would have meant that the powers of the RCID would have been distributed among the landowners in EPCOT. Because the idea of EPCOT was never implemented, the Disney Corporation remained almost the sole landowner in the district allowing it to maintain control of the RCID and the cities of Bay Lake and Lake Buena Vista; Disney further cemented this control by deannexing Celebration from the RCID.
The theme park originally was known as EPCOT Center to reflect the fact that the park was built to embody the ideals and values of EPCOT the city. In 1994, the name was changed to Epcot '94 and subsequently Epcot '95 a year later. By 1996, the park was known simply as Epcot, a non-acronym, mixed-case word.
The original plans for the park showed indecision over what the park's purpose was to be: some Imagineers wanted it to represent the cutting edge of technology, while others wanted it to showcase international cultures and customs. At one point a model of the futuristic park was pushed together against a model of the international park, and EPCOT Center was born—a theme park with the flavor of a World's Fair.
To all who come to this place of Joy, Hope and Friendship—Welcome.
EPCOT is inspired by Walt Disney's creative vision. Here, human achievements are celebrated through imagination, wonders of enterprise and concepts of a future that promises new and exciting benefits for all.
May EPCOT Center entertain, inform and inspire and above all, may it instill a new sense of belief and pride in man's ability to shape a world that offers hope to people everywhere in the world.—E. Cardon Walker, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Walt Disney Productions, October 24, 1982
As part of the opening-day ceremony, dancers and band members performed We've Just Begun to Dream. The Sherman Brothers wrote a song especially for the occasion entitled, "The World Showcase March." During the finale, doves and many sets of balloons were released.
Performing groups representing countries from all over the world performed in World Showcase. Water gathered from major rivers across the globe was emptied into the park's fountain of nations ceremonial containers to mark the opening.
Located at the front of the park is a plaque bearing Walker's opening-day dedication, as seen above.
The park consists of two sections—Future World and World Showcase—laid out in an hourglass shape. Both sections are patterned after the types of exhibits found at world expositions. In its early years, Epcot was often called a "permanent World's Fair."
Future World consists of a variety of pavilions that explore innovative aspects and applications of technology. Originally, each pavilion featured a unique circular logo which was featured on park signage and the attractions themselves. The logos, including that of Epcot itself, have been phased out over recent years, but some remnants still remain scattered throughout the park.
Each Future World pavilion was initially sponsored by a corporation who helped fund its construction and maintenance in return for the corporation's logos appearing prominently throughout the pavilion. For example, Universe of Energy was sponsored by Exxon, and The Land was sponsored by Kraft, then Nestlé. Each pavilion contains a posh "VIP area" for its sponsor with offices, lounges, and reception areas hidden away from regular park guests. In the years since the park's opening, however, some sponsors have decided that the branding wasn't worth the cost of sponsorship and have pulled out, leaving some of the pavilions without sponsors. Disney prefers to have sponsors helping to pay the bills, so pavilions without sponsors have an uncertain future. After General Electric left Horizons in 1993, it closed for a couple of years, then re-opened temporarily while neighboring attractions were renovated. Horizons closed permanently in January 1999 and was demolished in the summer of 2000 to make room for the opening of Mission: SPACE in 2003. MetLife abandoned Wonders of Life in 2001 and that area is closed. Test Track is sponsored by General Motors, Imagination! is sponsored by Eastman Kodak, and Mission: SPACE is sponsored by Hewlett-Packard. Spaceship Earth was sponsored by Bell System from 1982 to 1984, then AT&T (Bell System's parent company, following the Bell System Divestiture) from 1984 until 2003. It was not sponsored between 2003 and 2005. It is now sponsored by Siemens.
World Showcase contains pavilions representing eleven countries—click on the links below for more information about each. In clockwise order, the pavilions are:
Of the eleven pavilions, Norway and Morocco were not present at the park's opening, and were added later. Each of these contains representative shops and restaurants and is staffed by citizens of these countries, as part of the Cultural Representative Program. Some also contain rides and shows. The only pavilion that is sponsored by the country it represents is Morocco. The remaining country pavilions are all sponsored by private companies.
Pavilions for Australia, Russia, Spain, Venezuela, United Arab Emirates, and Israel never made it past the planning phase. An Equatorial Africa pavilion was planned but was never built. It would have featured a large African presentation film hosted by Alex Haley. A small African themed refreshment stop is now in its place, known as the Outpost. After Disney's Animal Kingdom—an African-themed animal preserve and park—opened, any plans for an African Pavilion were dropped.
The World Showcase usually opens two hours after park opening and remains open later than the Future World section of the park, however most major attractions in Future World including Test Track, Soarin', Mission Space, The Seas with Nemo and Friends, and Spaceship Earth remain open until park close.
Unlike the Magic Kingdom, which does not serve alcohol, many stores and restaurants in the World Showcase do serve or sell alcoholic beverages from their respective countries, and beer is sold at refreshment stands throughout the park.
There is an entrance to the park between the France and United Kingdom Pavilions known as the International Gateway. Guests staying in a number of the Epcot Resorts and guests coming from Disney's Hollywood Studios can access this gate by walkway or boat.
Based on the Disney Channel animated series Kim Possible, the World Showcase Adventure is an interactive attraction taking place in several of the World Showcase pavilions. The attraction is an electronic scavenger hunt that has guests using special "Kimmunicators" (in actuality, stripped-down cell phones) to help teenage crime-fighters Kim Possible and Ron Stoppable solve a "crime" or disrupt an evil-doer's "plans for global domination." The "Kimmunicator" is able to trigger specific events within the pavilion grounds that provide clues to completing the adventure. Launched in January 2009 and presented by Verizon Wireless, the Adventure is included in park admission.
World Showcase Lagoon is a man-made lake located in the World Showcase pavilion. It has a perimeter of 1.2 miles. Given the low elevation of the site and the relatively high level of the water table, the lagoon was not excavated but rather created by trucking in fill dirt to form the banks.
This award winning night time show takes place in the World Showcase Lagoon every night at the park's closing time (usually 9:00 PM). The show features Fireworks, lasers, fire and water fountains timed to a musical score over the World Showcase Lagoon. A large rotating globe with curved LED screens is the centerpiece of the show and is used to display images of people and places. The current version premiered as part of the park's Millennium Celebration in 1999. The show tells the story of Earth and is divided into three movements titled "Chaos," "Order," and "Meaning." The music has an African tribal sound to it, to emphasize the idea of humanity as a single unified tribe on this planet; the lagoon is surrounded by nineteen large torches signifying the first 19 centuries of the common era, and the show culminates in the globe opening like a lotus blossom to reveal a twentieth torch, representing the now-completed 20th century.
Epcot hosts a number of special events during the year that have proven very popular with guests.
At Epcot , you can visit Mexico, France, and China, all in the same afternoon; survive crash tests in an experimental car; soar over California with the wind in your hair; and learn all about human achievement and international cooperation.
Comprising World Showcase and Future World, this expansive theme park is located in the heart of the Walt Disney World Resort, close to several luxurious hotels as well as the dining and entertainment district called Disney's BoardWalk.
Walt Disney World's second theme park opened October 1, 1982, as EPCOT Center, joining the Magic Kingdom. Often likened to a "permanent world's fair", Epcot is divided into two distinct areas, Future World and World Showcase.
World Showcase features eleven different countries, focusing on authentic food and merchandise, each one hosted by citizens of that country. Don't miss the impossibly cheesy but fun Mexico ride, or the extravagant Maelstrom ride in the Norway pavilion.
Future World comprises a variety of attractions, each one highlighting one aspect of human progress. The "future" in this case is not the fantasy of the Magic Kingdom's Tomorrowland, but the promise of a future in which communication, imagination, and conservation have become mankind's foremost values. Test Track and Mission: Space are the most thrilling of the attractions. The latest addition is Soarin', a simulated hang-gliding adventure through Californian landscapes.
Epcot is sometimes derided as an "educational park", and though it is perhaps the most cerebral of the four theme parks, it's all presented in the usual entertaining Disney style. It's true that Epcot may appeal more to adults and older children, but young ones aren't exactly left out; they'll enjoy the character greetings and the Kidcot Fun Stops.
Just outside Epcot's International Gateway is Disney's BoardWalk, a nightlife and shopping area themed as a mid-Atlantic beach community.
The original EPCOT
Learn more about Walt Disney's original EPCOT concept at the-original-epcot.com , or ride the Tomorrowland Transit Authority in the Magic Kingdom, where you can see a scale model of the planned city.
The name EPCOT was originally an acronym for Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow, Walt Disney's last and most ambitious project. His grand vision for EPCOT was as the real centerpiece of Disney World—a living, working city of the future, with 20,000 residents using the most modern innovations in urban planning, transportation, and technology. The rest of Disney World, even the Magic Kingdom, would exist only to draw people in to see EPCOT and the promise it held for the future.
Walt died in 1966, and though the renamed Walt Disney World and its Magic Kingdom opened in 1971, EPCOT was off the table. The vision was just too grand, too ambitious, for anyone but Walt himself to see through to completion. With Walt Disney World an unmitigated success, though, the company soon began developing concepts for a second theme park, and naturally turned to Walt's original vision for inspiration. When two competing proposals—one for a set of pavilions highlighting the history and future of human progress, and the other for an international plaza that showcased cultures and cooperation—became the leading candidates, someone pushed the two scale models together to create a combined park. EPCOT Center was born.
The name, with which the park opened in 1982, was intended to show that the new park exhibited the ideals that were to be at the core, or center, of Walt's EPCOT. The park was renamed in 1994 to Epcot '94, then to Epcot '95 a year later. The yearly numbering scheme reflected the "world's fair" theme, but it inhibited consistent branding, so in 1996 the park became just "Epcot".
While the original EPCOT concept might now seem a bit far-fetched, today's Epcot is dedicated to creating the brighter tomorrow that Walt Disney envisioned.
Epcot's two areas are open at staggered times. Future World usually opens at 9AM, and World Showcase at 11AM. If you're heading to Akershus in Norway for the Princess Breakfast, you can get through the barriers earlier, of course. Despite being in World Showcase, the International Gateway opens at the same time as the main entrance; if you come in that way, you'll be able to walk past the United Kingdom and Canada on your way to Future World, although the shops won't be open.
Most of the attractions in Future World close down two hours earlier than World Showcase, although the area as a whole remains open to accommodate IllumiNations viewers, as do the restaurants and some of the shops. Some popular Future World attractions may remain open later. During peak seasons, Future World is usually open until 9PM and World Showcase until 11PM, but the closing times are usually two hours earlier in the off-season.
Epcot's Extra Magic Hours work a little differently than the other parks. For morning Extra Magic Hours, Disney resort guests can get into Future World an hour early; for evening hours, World Showcase closes to non-resort guests an hour earlier than normal, then remains open for resort guests for three hours.
Epcot is in the middle of the Walt Disney World property, exactly where Walt planned EPCOT to be. Take World Drive or I-4 to Epcot Center Drive and follow the signs for the parking lot. Parking is $14.00 per car, although Disney resort guests can park for free—just show your "Key to the World" card at the toll gate.
If you're going to Disney's BoardWalk, you can park for free at the BoardWalk Inn or BoardWalk Villas.
Disney's Hollywood Studios, the BoardWalk, the Yacht and Beach Clubs, the Swan and Dolphin, and Epcot are all connected via the Friendship ferries. There is also a nice wide walking path that follows a similar route. In either case, you will enter Epcot through its back entrance: the International Gateway, located between the United Kingdom and France pavilions in World Showcase.
From the Magic Kingdom, the Contemporary, the Polynesian, or the Grand Floridian, take the monorail to the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC). (From the Polynesian, though, you may find it quicker to walk.) Transfer to the Epcot monorail, which runs between the TTC and the Epcot gates. When entering Epcot this way, the monorail makes a nice loop in the park before arriving at the station, giving a great aerial view of Future World and World Showcase.
From the Wilderness Lodge and Shades of Green, neither of which is connected to the monorail, it is possible to walk to the TTC. Both walks take about 10 minutes, and the walk from Shades of Green goes via the Polynesian Resort. However, the alternative and more convenient option is to take the direct Epcot bus.
To get to the BoardWalk, make your way to the Magic Kingdom and take the direct bus, or go to Hollywood Studios and walk or take the ferry. Taking the monorail to Epcot in this case is a bad idea, because you'll have to enter Epcot at the front and exit through the International Gateway at the back.
From resorts not near Epcot or the Magic Kingdom, simply go to your resort's bus stop and wait for the Epcot bus to arrive. You will be dropped off in front of the Epcot gates.
To get to the BoardWalk, you'll need to make your way to a park and then to the BoardWalk. Disney's Hollywood Studios is the most convenient for this purpose, but late at night, you'll want to use Downtown Disney.
From Animal Kingdom, take the direct bus to Epcot or the one to the BoardWalk.
Downtown Disney does not have direct buses to the parks; you will need to make your way to a resort, then go from that resort to Epcot. The best option here might be to take the bus to the Beach Club, which is the closest hotel to the Epcot, then take the Friendship or the walking path to the International Gateway. Another option is to walk or take the boat to the Saratoga Springs resort, then the bus to Epcot.
If you're going to the BoardWalk, just take the direct bus.
Epcot might be the easiest of the parks to get around, because it's very open and spacious. The spaciousness has a drawback, though; because the pavilions are spread out, it can be a long walk from one side of the park to the other. Spaceship Earth is visible from anywhere in the park and provides a convenient orientation landmark.
Future World is the northern half of Epcot and where the main entrance is found. From the main entrance, Spaceship Earth is directly in front of you, with Innoventions hiding behind it. Future World East—Universe of Energy, Mission: SPACE, and Test Track—is on the left side of Future World. Future World West is on the right and comprises The Seas with Nemo and Friends, The Land, and Imagination!
Go past Spaceship Earth and through Innoventions Plaza and you'll see the World Showcase Lagoon front of you, with the eleven nations of World Showcase arrayed around the far shore. From left to right (east to west), the pavilions are Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, Italy, The American Adventure, Japan, Morocco, France, the United Kingdom, and Canada. The International Gateway, Epcot's "back entrance", is between France and the United Kingdom; exit here to get to the BoardWalk and the other Epcot-area resorts, or to Disney's Hollywood Studios.
The World Showcase Lagoon has a circumference of roughly a mile. To make a long trip short, there are two more Friendship ferries (yes, just like the ones you took to get here from Hollywood Studios or the resorts) that traverse the lagoon.
The icon of Epcot is Spaceship Earth, a 180 foot geodesic sphere. Both the name and the building were influenced by the work of R. Buckminster Fuller, though he was not credited for it. The name comes from Fuller's book Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth. The building has a similar texture to the Fuller-designed Montreal Biosphere (the former United States pavilion from Expo 67) in Canada, but in fact the two are not structurally similar. Spaceship Earth is a complete sphere supported on legs, while the Montreal Biosphere is three-quarters of a sphere.
When it opened, Epcot had no thrill rides at all. Although that's been changing, you'll find that the majority of attractions are still fairly sedate dark rides or straightforward films. That's not to say they're not worth doing, but you're in the wrong park if you just want to get your adrenaline pumping. Epcot does have two high-octane thrill rides, Test Track and Mission: SPACE, while the Maelstrom and Soarin' offer excitement in smaller doses.
Fastpass queues are available for Honey I Shrunk the Audience, Living with the Land, The Maelstrom, Mission: SPACE, Soarin', and Test Track. Soarin' is very popular, possibly the most popular ride in the park; Fastpasses are highly recommended. Test Track and Mission: SPACE are adjacent to each other, so your best bet there (if they're crowded) is to get a Fastpass for one of them and wait in line at the other; by the time you're done with that ride, hopefully your Fastpass time has arrived for the first one.
For parade and stage show performance times, which change daily, please see the Guide Map and the Times Guide you'll receive when you enter the park. You can also check the Wait Times Board in Innoventions Plaza, which lists current wait times for rides and show times for shows, as well as the current Fastpass return times.
The denotes rides with safety restrictions. See Stay safe in the main Walt Disney World article for more information.
Future World is an almost park-like setting, with broad expanses of grass and/or water separating the impressively large pavilions. Each pavilion is a monument to one area of human innovation, from communication and imagination to energy and transportation. Inside the pavilions you'll find some combination of a showcase ride, a theater presentation, and/or an activity area with a number of smaller hands-on exhibits. Each pavilion can be done in 30–90 minutes, depending on crowds.
Check the Times Guide to see when and where the JAMMitors will be playing—they're a percussion ensemble disguised as janitors, using their trash cans as drums.
The name says it all; the possibilities of imagination are on display here. The pavilion represents the importance of new ideas and innovative thought to the progress of humanity. Be sure to check out the jumping fountains and the backwards waterfall outside.
Divided into two buildings, Innoventions East and Innoventions West, this pavilion sits in the middle of Future World, with the fabulous Fountain of Nations in its central plaza. The buildings contain a constantly-changing series of hands-on exhibits featuring the latest in cutting-edge technology and how it's finding its way into every aspect of our lives. The exact items you'll see depend on which companies are exhibiting at the time; as such, quality varies widely. Worth a walk-through, at least, since you never know what might pique your curiosity.
Perhaps the pavilion that most closely resembles Walt's original EPCOT concept, The Land is more than just a set of theme park attractions. The rear of the pavilion is actually a large working greenhouse, and it grows much of the food served at the pavilion's restaurants (and some items for other restaurants throughout Walt Disney World). The greenhouses are also involved in agricultural research, exploring new ways to grow food more efficiently.
The site now occupied by Mission: SPACE was formerly occupied by Horizons, a ride sponsored by General Electric that gave riders a glimpse of living in the 21st century (well, at least from a 1980's perspective). Horizons opened to the public in 1983 and closed in 1999; the building was razed afterwards to make way for a new space-themed pavilion—the one that stands here today. Learn more about the ride at Horizons at Epcot Center 
The aquarium within this pavilion was once the largest saltwater aquarium in the world; it's still impressively huge. Like the greenhouses at The Land, this is more than just a theme park attraction—the aquarium staff is engaged in research that is helping to maintain marine environments and protect ecosystems around the world. Two rescued West Indian manatees, members of one of Florida's most critically endangered species, can be found here.
Yes, the ride really does go all the way up to the top inside that giant "golf ball", the geodesic sphere that is the icon of Epcot. This pavilion is centrally located because its focus is on human communication, without which all of the other innovations in Future World would be meaningless.
World of Motion
The circular building, meant to symbolize a wheel, that now houses Test Track previously hosted World of Motion, a ride through the history of transportation. Revisit it at the World of Motion Memorial Website 
The very construction of this pavilion exemplifies its message regarding the importance of energy. Look up at the sloped roof of this building before you go in; those are solar panels, and they partially power the attraction inside.
I can show you the world
Some of your favorite Disney characters can be met at their respective home countries represented in World Showcase:
World Showcase is the back area of the park, with pavilions representing eleven countries from around the world, all themed with architecture, food, drink and culture to match. Most of the pavilions have a ride or a film (or both) designed to highlight the nation's attractions, but the real attractions are sampling the authentic food, conversing with the cast members who come from each nation, and browsing the imported goods.
World Showcase is where you'll find the International Gateway, Epcot's back entrance, located between the United Kingdom and France pavilions. If you're coming in from Disney's Hollywood Studios, the Swan/Dolphin, Yacht/Beach Clubs, or BoardWalk, you can walk or take the ferry to Epcot and enter here.
Each of the pavilions will have some sort of entertainment occurring periodically throughout the day, from jugglers and "living statues" to musical groups and dancers. Some of the highlights are noted below, but check your Times Guide for the details of what's happening on any particular day.
The Mexican pavilion is dominated by a pyramid, loosely modeled after the pre-Columbian pyramid in Teotihuacan known as the Temple of the Feathered Serpent, dating back to 150-200 CE. Its use is still a mystery, but more than 200 sacrificial burials have been found around the original temple. The head of the mythical serpent creature Quetzalcoatl has been included in this replica along the entrance stairs. Inside the pyramid is a nighttime square with stars twinkling above, some Spanish-era colonial buildings, a restaurant, and a market selling various Mexican items.
This area is built as a square representing a few Norwegian towns. The fortress-like restaurant building is modeled and named after the Akershus fortress in Oslo, guarding the sea approach to the city. The huge wooden church is a replica of the traditional Stave Church in Gol in Western Norway, dating back to 1212; the original is one of very few surviving ancient wooden churches left in the world. A mock-up of a Viking longboat sits outside and serves as a playground for kids.
Walk through the large Paifang gate. These gates were used in ancient China to mark entry into a new division (called Fang in Chinese), and this one is a replica of one in Beijing's summer palace. The courtyard is dominated by a large recreation of the Temple of Heaven in Beijing; it was used by the emperors to pray for a good harvest. The 12 columns supporting the roof represent the 12 months of the Chinese year, and the four columns in the center represent the four seasons. Many of the smaller buildings are recreations of the Forbidden City, also in Beijing. If all the Asian culture gets you in a meditative mood, the rough Chinese gardens are one of the most peaceful spots in Epcot.
Germany is a federation of 16 states, each with a separate and distinct culture and identity. The architecture of the German pavilion reflects styles from various regions of the country; for example, the Biergarten restaurant is Bavarian, but the statue of St. George slaying the dragon represents the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. On an interesting side note, Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, commissioned in 1869 by King Ludwig II, was the inspiration for Disneyland's Sleeping Beauty Castle.
There are no rides here, and the only show is the band inside the Biergarten, but there's plenty of shopping to be had.
The Italian pavilion is a scaled-down replica of St. Mark's Square in Venice, right down to the bell tower (one-fifth scale) and the gondolas floating in World Showcase Lagoon. The original Doge's Palace makes heavy use of marble; Disney recreated the effect with fiberglass. In addition to the Venetian architecture, a stucco building with tile roof represents Tuscany.
The pavilion has no rides or theater shows; the main attractions are the shops and the restaurant. You might also catch the World Showcase Players performing their audience-participation comedy skit Kiss Me Shrew.
The United States of America pavilion is housed in a building inspired by the colonial period of the 18th century. Inside, keep an ear out for the Voices of Liberty chorus, who perform throughout the day.
Mitsukoshi, a Japanese retailer founded in 1673, is the sponsor of the Japan pavilion. All the touristy classics of Japan recreated, in a way that has little to do with reality. Start your visit by walking through the Torii gate. In Japan you walk through these gates before entering a Shinto shrine, to mark the passing into the spiritual world. The five-story Goju-no-to Pagoda was inspired by the Horyuji Temple in Nara, Japan's ancient capital. Rather oddly, it is named after the five Chinese elements, but built in five stories to represent the 5 Japanese elements: Earth, Water, Fire, Wind and Void. Surrounding it all is a large Japanese inspired garden, complete with koi fish swimming around in the ponds.
Morocco's is the only pavilion sponsored by a government. King Hassan II was heavily involved in the construction, and he dispatched native craftsmen to build the pavilion. The minaret (or tower) towering over the area is a recreation of the unique Koutoubia Minaret in Marrakech, which has inspired thousands of church towers across Europe. In Muslim countries priests call for prayers (fard) from these towers five times a day. The pavilion also holds a small recreation of parts of the Chellah necropolis, a burial place located in Rabat that is actually an ancient Roman structure. There is also a replica of the Nejjarine fountain in Fez, a very intricate mosaic fountain. Also from Fez, the evenly-tiled Bab Boujouloud gate marks the border between the old town (Medina) and the new town. Inside the Medina, there is a bustling market place, or bazaar. Because many of the structures, even as replicas, holds great religious significance to Muslims, the buildings are not lighted during the IllumiNations show.
The French pavilion re-creates a Parisian street scene, complete with a miniature Eiffel Tower that uses forced perspective to appear as if it's off in the distance. Designed to represent Paris during La Belle Epoque, the pavilion features many of the typical Parisian sights—a sidewalk cafe, beautiful fountains, and distinctive architecture. There's a park, next to the International Gateway canal, based on Seurat's A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. Le Petit Rue, The Little Street in the back of the pavilion, represents rural France.
The World Showcase Players stop by France now and then, performing their comedic audience-participation skit, Cyranose de Bergerac.
This pavilion's street contains one building for each century of British history. The largest structure, a recreation of the royal Hampton Court Palace in southwest London, is massive patchwork of different periods' architecture, since it was successively expanded to compete with the French palace of Versailles. Elsewhere the adorable little thatched roof house is a model of Anne Hathaway’s cottage in Stratford-upon-Avon. Anne was the wife of William Shakespeare. There is also a traditional hedge maze, modelled after the the Somerleyton Hall Maze in Lowestoft, which dates back to 1846. Don't forget to get a photo of yourself in front of the iconic red British phone booths.
Keep an eye out for the World Showcase Players, who perform either King Arthur & The Holy Grail or My Unfair Lady, which are audience-participation comedy sketches.
The United Kingdom stage is where you'll find the British Invasion, a Beatles tribute band (now playing hits from other British pop groups as well). Check the Times Guide for the schedule.
The mountains, Indian wood carvings, and the (fake) hotel all represent various regions of Canada. Victoria Gardens was inspired by Butchart Gardens in Victoria in British Columbia, while the Hotel du Canada features a 19th-century chateau-style design. Around the base of the hotel is a village-like atmosphere evoking the Maritime Provinces. The totem pole was carved in 1998 by David Boxley, working "on-stage" in front of guests at the Canada pavilion.
Between the United Kingdom and Canada pavilions is the stage for Off Kilter , a hard-driving Celtic rock band with kilts and a bagpiper. Well worth a listen; check your Times Guide for the schedule.
Epcot is home to two annual festivals and an annual holiday presentation. Both of the festivals have things to see and do throughout the park, while the Candlelight Processional is a nightly event at one location. All three are quite popular; some people make it a point to attend one or more of these each year, sometimes without even visiting the rest of Walt Disney World.
Disney's BoardWalk is just a short walk or ferry ride beyond Epcot's International Gateway. It's a resort, yes, but the side facing Crescent Lake is themed as a 1920s Eastern Seaboard boardwalk, with shops, amusements, dining, and nighttime entertainment. Rent a pedaled "surrey bike" and circle the lake, purchase a caricature of yourself, watch an impromptu magic show, buy some cotton candy, or just sit on a bench and watch the people go by. Be sure to check out the Buy, Eat, and Drink sections for all the details.
World Showcase is a paradise of international shopping. Every pavilion is chock-full of authentic merchandise imported from the host countries. Genuine German cuckoo clocks, British toys, Canadian maple syrup, Japanese kimonos, Chinese furniture, Mexican leathers, Italian wines—and that doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of what's available. The variety of items available is nearly endless. The racks are full of products normally available only overseas, including many handcrafted by native artisans. Dedicated shoppers could spend hours at World Showcase; it's safe to say there's no other place in the world that you could find goods from so many countries in such close proximity, and you can buy it all with just your U.S. credit card.
Note that in the pavilions, what appears to be multiple separate shops from the outside are usually interconnected inside and can be treated as departments of a single store. Germany, Morocco, France, and the UK have the most extensive shopping complexes.
Some World Showcase stores, including Mitsukoshi, sell real knives and swords. For safety, these stores are required to ship such purchases to your home (free to U.S. addresses).
While World Showcase is like a huge international shopping plaza, Future World is considerably less interesting to the intrepid shopper. It has only two stores of note:
The Mission: SPACE, Test Track, Imagination!, and The Seas with Nemo & Friends pavilions have smaller themed gift shops.
Resort shops are generally open from mid-morning until late at night, though this can vary seasonally.
There are a number of small shops and boutiques scattered along the BoardWalk. A couple of the more notable:
Each of the resorts has a small sundries shop with essentials you might need during your stay and resort-branded merchandise. The Walt Disney World Dolphin, though, has a number of other shops with upscale merchandise.
As with their shopping options, the international flavors of the World Showcase pavilions really come to the fore when it comes to dining. Each of the World Showcase pavilions (except the United States) has a table service restaurant, featuring authentic dishes prepared by native chefs. In addition, some of the restaurants even have live entertainment, such as belly dancing in the Morocco pavilion or teppanyaki cooking in the Japan pavilion. World Showcase restaurants are almost universally among the most popular at Walt Disney World, due to their authentic cuisines; Advance Dining Reservations are highly recommended, at least for evening dining.
Future World pales in comparison, dining-wise, but there are still a few good options.
See Eat in the main Walt Disney World article for information on the Disney restaurant pricing system, character dining, dietary restrictions, and advance dining reservations. The telephone numbers below are for extraordinary circumstances only; for reservations and most health or diet issues, call the main Disney Dining number at +1 407 WDW-DINE (939-3463).
Please note that exact opening and closing times may vary with the park hours—and that World Showcase's operating hours are generally two hours later than Future World's. Check your Times Guide for official restaurant hours. Breakfast is usually served until 10:30AM, and dinner usually starts between 3:30PM and 4:30PM.
Note: if two prices are separated by a slash, the second price is for children ages 3-9.
Here you can find plenty of traditional boardwalk fare: corn dogs, cotton candy, funnel cakes, popcorn, ice cream, and so on. If you're in the mood for something more substantial, though, you have a wide range of restaurant options, too.
Note that these restaurants do not participate in the Disney Dining Plan. The Swan and Dolphin restaurants share a web site , reservations phone number (+1 407 934-1609), and e-mail address (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Some Epcot visitors enjoy an unofficial adventure known as "Drinking Around the World": sampling a local libation in each of the eleven pavilions. From Mexican margaritas to German beer to French wines, there's no shortage of variety here.
All of the table service restaurants in the World Showcase pavilions serve native alcoholic beverages. Some World Showcase gift shops (such as Weinkeller in the Germany pavilion) sell alcohol in bottles; your selection will be sealed in a gift box that must not be opened if you want to remove it from the park. You can arrange for shipping to your hotel room or back home if you don't want to lug it around.
For a sober version of "drinking around the world" visit Club Cool in Innoventions, which gives away free samples of products marketed internationally by Coca-Cola.
Five upscale resorts are clustered between Epcot and Hollywood Studios, all of them connected by wide, scenic walkways and by the Friendship ferries that ply the waterways. The BoardWalk and the Yacht and Beach Clubs sit on opposite sides of Crescent Lake, while the Swan and Dolphin sit a little closer to the Studios, facing each other. Staying at any of these resorts means you have easy access to both Epcot and Hollywood Studios, as well as to the many attractions on the BoardWalk and the small marina on Crescent Lake.
You'll pay for the privilege of location, though, and rooms do fill up fast. This is especially true at the Yacht and Beach Clubs, which share Stormalong Bay, the best hotel pool at Walt Disney World. Featuring sandy, zero-entry beaches, twisting and turning water channels, gentle waterfalls, and a water slide fashioned out of a shipwreck, Disney has had to carefully restrict access to this pool; don't even think about getting in if you're not staying at one of the Clubs.
All of the resorts provide the highest level of service and amenities available at Walt Disney World. You'll find dedicated concierge services, mini-bars and refrigerators, turn-down service, upscale restaurants and shopping, and everything else you'd expect from luxury hotels. Each hotel also has some high-end suites available, all the way up to "Presidential"-level.
These two buildings face each other across a narrow waterway, each whimsically designed by architect Michael Graves to compliment each other without looking like twins. These hotels are great choices for visitors who want a more traditional (that is, less "themed") hotel experience but retain most of the benefits of staying on-property at Walt Disney World.
The Swan and the Dolphin are not owned or operated by Disney; they are owned by Starwood Hotels. As such, you will miss out on many of the normal amenities granted by staying at a Disney resort: the Disney Dining Plan and Disney's Magical Express are unavailable, and you can't charge purchases at Disney shops and restaurants to your room. On the other hand, you still get many of the other advantages of staying on-property, including free transportation, guaranteed park admission, Extra Magic Hours, and package delivery. The hotels also offer character meals at their restaurants, just like the other Disney resorts.
In short, you won't forget you're staying at Walt Disney World—but you won't be reminded of it constantly, either.
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Epcot (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow) is part of Disneyworld in Orlando, Florida. There are many trees and lakes there. There are different parts of Epcot that represent different countries.