The Land at Epcot: A Photo Tourby Donald and Bonnie Fink, contributing writer
The Land is a 2.5 million-square-foot pavilion located on the west side of Future World at Epcot. To get there, walk under Spaceship Earth at Epcot's entrance, keeping to the right. When you get past Innoventions, turn right, and you'll see the massive building just beyond the Monorail.
As you enter The Land, you begin to get the sense of its purpose; to show you all about the land and our relationship to it. There are tiled mosaics depicting lava flows and multiple gardens showing the vast diversity in plant life on our planet. Photo by Bonnie Fink.
The murals at the entrance to The Land are mirror images, not exact duplicates. The distinction is that if you stand in the middle of the entrance and face one, then turn around and face another, you'll see the same image, but flowing in the opposite direction. Another way to describe it is if you stood in the middle and faced one, then held a mirror up and observed the other, the image in the mirror would match the mural you are facing.
Murals on both sides of the entrance to The Land are nearly identical. Actually, not identical but mirror images. It's reported that there is only one tile different in each image. Photo by Bonnie Fink.
There is one minor difference in the murals. It's said that one tile is different, but there are conflicting stories as to exactly why. One account holds that the artist claims to never do the same piece twice and therefore placed one tile differently in each mural. Another account says that the different tile represents the birthstone of the two artists that worked on the project. Still a third account says that the different tile was placed there by a Disney imagineer.
We were able to find the tiles that differ with the help of a nearby cast member but we were unable to confirm any of the stories related to the reasons the tiles are different.
The Sunshine Seasons Food Court in the Land is regarded by many as having a pretty decent selection of cuisine. They offer quick service-style meals that seem to be a cut above most other offerings at Disney parks.
There are four stations to select from, and include the Asian Wok Shop with stir fry and noodle bowls, the Sandwich Shop and Bakery with made-to-order sandwiches, the Soup and Salad Shop, and the Wood Fired Grill Shop, which has rotisserie chicken, fish, and pork chops. We haven't sampled all the food here, but what we have tried has been quite good. They are open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
The Garden Grill Restaurant features a family-style meal, an all-you-care-to-eat style that usually offers beef, fish, turkey, ham, and all the fixins, including dessert. It's currently open for dinner only and includes the appearance of several characters; you'll see Mickey, Goofy, Chip 'n' Dale, and others. It will begin serving breakfast and lunch on November 8.
One interesting feature about the Garden Grill Restaurant is that it rotates through different scenes. As you enjoy your meal, you'll see scenes from the inside of The Land Pavilion as well as through the ride, Living With The Land. It takes about an hour to complete a rotation, which is about the time of an average meal.
The Circle of Life: An Environmental Fable opened in the harvest Theater in January 1995. This short film uses members from The Lion King to tell a tale of our environment and some of the problems our planet faces. Here, in the fable, Timon and Pumbaa dam up a river to create a new resort, The Hakuna Matada Lakeside Village. In so doing, Simba points out that they have taken all the water away from the animals downstream. The film uses examples from human development to underscore its point.
Retail space is surprisingly in short supply at The Land. The two main retail concessions are located on the lower floor, near Soarin'. There's the usual T-shirt, cotton candy, and so on, but there are a couple of interesting books available that are relevant to gardening; something you may be interested in after you visit the ride, Living With the Land.
In the queue for Living with the land, guests are shown quotes about the earth and our environment from people around the world. Some are distinguished leaders, and some are seventh graders, all describing their views of our earth. Photo by Bonnie Fink.
Living with the Land is a slow moving boat ride tour of the the green house at The Land. The original ride was called Listen to the Land and was very similar to the one in place now. This ride continues to be one of our favorites. The boat ride takes you through the greenhouse and features hydroponics gardens with innovative ideas about land use, gardening, and food production. Whether the ideas shown here represent actual science is, to us, irrelevant. The message is an inspiration that the land can be used to sustain us and the planet in new and creative ways.
Hydroponics is the main theme inside the greenhouse at Epcot, The Land. Various methods of hydroponic growing techniques are showcased. Here, eggplants are suspended to increase the plants' area and improve production. Photo by Bonnie Fink.
Something worth mentioning about the rides and tours at The Land is the Behind the Seeds Tour. If you're the least bit interested in what you saw during the Living With the Land boat ride, you should take a little extra time to do the Behind the Seeds Tour. Here is a walking tour of the greenhouse where you can get a little closer look at the displays. There is a nominal fee for this tour, but we thought it was well worth the expense.
Soarin' is hands down the most popular attraction at The Land, and probably Epcot, too. Opening in May of 2005, this attraction is slightly different than Soarin' Over California, its predecessor at Disney California Adventure park at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim.
The idea of this attraction is that you're taking a flight over some of the more spectacular highlights of California. Scenes include the Sierra Nevada mountains, Yosemite National Park, Monterey Bay, the U.S. Navy fleet in San Diego Bay, golfing in Palm Springs, and much more. In one scene, as you fly over an orange grove, you can smell the citrus. The presentation is on a large IMAX-type screen as you're suspended in front of it. The view is nearly 180 degrees around the screen.
Cast members at Soarin' are costumed as flight attendants, as opposed to airport field crew members in California. The idea is that you're taking a flight to California from Florida compared to already being in California from the West Coast. The flight number you're on is Flight 5505, which comes from the opening date in Florida of May 5, 2005.
We find the queue at Soarin' to be somewhat lacking in interest, but the ride is still worth the time. This image above is from the Fastpass line. The stand-by queue is a little more interesting. It has some interactive activities where guests can make hand gestures to affect images projected on a wall. The activities don't seem to have anything to do with Soarin', and don't really work, but we'll give them credit for the effort.
The row in front of you on the ground suddenly becomes the row above you as the seats are lifted into position in front of the screen. The sensation is that you're flying through the most picturesque areas of California. Surprisingly, the feet dangling above you are not a distraction. Photo by Bonnie Fink.