My Disney Top 5 - Things to see in Epcot's Future World Centralby Chris Barry, contributing writer
One of the things that I've said many times over the many years and many articles that I've written here on MousePlanet is that Epcot is truly something special. That may be oversimplifying it really. Epcot is more than special. It's in a class all it's own. Here's my simple rationale for that statement. There's quite simply nothing else like it anywhere.
While I absolutely adore Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom, it is essentially a larger, grander version of Disneyland. That model now exists around the globe in Paris and Asia. Disney's Hollywood Studios can be compared to the Universal Studios parks; Harry Potter blows away anything currently in Hollywood Studios, but that will probably change once the Star Wars Experience is completed. Still the premises are very similar. Even Animal Kingdom has something in common with places like Busch Gardens Africa and the fine zoos across the country like San Diego and the Bronx. And then there's Epcot. Try to find a comparison. There's really nothing else that comes close, especially now that the grand World's Fairs of yesteryear have ceased. Epcot is special in many ways, but the most special thing about it is perhaps its singularity.
Back in March of this year, I began a series exploring the things I loved most about each of the Magic Kingdom's 6 lands. Last time we were off in outer space in Tomorrowland. Now we land back on Earth and head over to the second Walt Disney World theme park, Epcot, the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. My whole family loves Epcot and we have ever since we first set foot in the place, even when the kids were little. Contrary to some beliefs, there's plenty for people of all ages to do on a visit to Epcot. This became quickly apparent to me, but was solidified when my sons and I took a boys-only trip to Disney when they were 10 and the first park they wanted to storm upon landing in Orlando was Epcot. No discussion was needed. That's where they wanted to go first, hands-down and I can't blame them. So, let's head off to Epcot.
The first "land" you come to once you enter Epcot is Future World, so that's where we'll begin. To fully cover Future World, I'm going to split it into three parts: East, West, and what I'll categorize as Central. For the sake of this series, Future World Central will include each of the Innoventions buildings, Innoventions Plaza, Spaceship Earth, etc. Future World East and West will include the attractions that you find once you pass through the Innoventions buildings which flank Spaceship Earth.
Today we'll start off in the center and then head off to the west and east sides in future articles. Let's start our tour of this one-of-a-kind Disney Park with what former Disney CEO Card Walker had to say in October 1982 when EPCOT was officially dedicated.
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.
Sounds great to me. Let's take a look at my Top 5 things to see in Epcot's Future World Central.
5 – Project Tomorrow
I will fully admit that I bypassed this Spaceship Earth post show interactive exhibition area for years.
My wife and son up on the giant screens in Project Tomorrow. Photo by Chris Barry.
When I was on the aforementioned boys-only trip, my sons really wanted to explore what Project Tomorrow had to offer. So, for the first time, we took a look; we had a total blast and ended up staying for about an hour. It's always fun to see your faces up on the big screens affixed awkwardly to a strange body. My sons especially liked and still like Power City and Super Driver. This is one of those things that the average guest just passes through on their way out of this attraction. My suggestion is to linger and check it out the next time you step off of your Spaceship Earth OmniMover.
4 – Meet Baymax
When EPCOT Center, as it was known in the beginning, first opened, it wasn't supposed to be a place filled with a famous mouse and his character friends. Things have changed over the years and the Disney characters have certainly infiltrated Epcot. Many Disney purists have a problem with this. I'm actually all right with this, if it's handled well. In the Innoventions West building, you get to meet Baymax from what I consider to be one of Disney's best recent animated films, Big Hero 6.
Baymax seen here at his old haunt in Disney's Hollywood Studios can now be met in Future World. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.
I can't think of a cooler character to meet and one that fits in better with the innovative theme of Future World than Baymax.
3 – MouseGear
If you've just become a reader of mine here on MousePlanet, you may have missed the eight years of articles that I wrote about all of that Disney Stuff that we as Disney fans collect and accumulate. One of the places that I have loved to shop most for all of that Disney Stuff is Future World's MouseGear, located just off to the left once you pass Spaceship Earth.
MouseGear, in my opinion, is the best Disney store on property at Walt Disney World. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
This is the best Disney shop on property. It's a must stop for me on each trip and it's always the place where I find that special piece of stuff that I'm searching for when I'm down there. I'll take MouseGear over the always-packed World of Disney over in Disney Springs any day.
2 – Fountain of Nations
I always feel like this is something that the average Epcot visitor takes for granted. Thousands of people a day walk by these amazing fountains. While I'm sure most of them do look at them as they pass, not many people actually take the time to sit and appreciate just how beautiful they are.
The "Fountain of Nations" in Epcot's Future World is brilliantly lit during one of its many nighttime performances. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka.
At night when the lights are on and the dancing fountains do their thing set to music, there's nothing better than to grab a snack, find a bench, and watch the truly amazing spectacle of the Fountain of Nations begin to unfold. Even better is to be in Future World past closing time. We tend to shop at MouseGear during that 45 minutes to an hour after the park officially "closes." Then we sit outside on a bench and watch the fountains for a while before it's actually time to leave and we're almost always all alone. It's a great way to end a day at Epcot.
1 – Spaceship Earth
This is a Walt Disney World favorite, not just a Future World favorite. Epcot's iconic geosphere is known the world over and instantly defines the park. I love it on the outside as much as I love the attraction on the inside. It's a stunning piece of architecture. Take the time to walk around it and gaze up at the structure itself. It's pretty incredible.
The lighting of Spaceship Earth contrasts with the early evening sky while walking to Epcot's turnstiles. Photo by Alan S. Dalinka
I've taken that ride up into the ball many times, and I never get tired of it. We'll experience it several times on a trip. The animatronics are amazing. The sights and even the smells are a sensory treat. It's Disney magic at its best. One of my favorite moments in any Disney attraction is when you reach the pinnacle and enter that star-filled room at the top. It still chokes me up every time.
As usual, I've left out some things from this area of the park, as is necessary when you're narrowing a list down. There are other great things in Future World Central. I'm a big fan of The Art of Disney shop. I think Pin Central is frequently the best place to buy or trade Disney pins. I've never been such a huge fan of the attractions inside either of the Innoventions buildings and I gave up drinking soda years ago, so Club Cool doesn't do much for me these days.
It has to be mentioned that lately Future World has been taking a beating amongst the Disney faithful. I won't pretend to deny that there's good reason. It is in a bit of a state of flux. There are definitely areas that could use some updating. It does, at times, seem like a land in search of an identity.
There have been some hints out there that Future World has a more interesting future on the horizon. Only time will tell. But that doesn't mean that I don't find it inspiring and magical the way it is right now. Sitting by the fountains and feeling the mist on a hot summer's day. Seeing the monorail gliding by overhead. Walking out of the plaza, turning around and looking back in awe of Spaceship Earth in the distance. These are all quintessential parts of the Walt Disney World experience for me and my family.
When I enter Future World, I do feel something palpable. My wife once described it as, "feeling like anything's possible." She hit the nail on the head with that one. Epcot is a unique, amazing place and Future World is your entrance into that amazing world where anything is possible. I still feel it each and every time we arrive, especially on the monorail from the Magic Kingdom area. That's the best way to approach and enter Epcot. You see the views, you get that feeling and you know you've arrived someplace special.
So, we've entered Epcot. Those are my favorite things about the central area of Future World. Next time we'll hang a right after Spaceship Earth and see what wonders await us in Future World West. As always, I'd like to hear your thoughts. Click on the link and let me hear what you have to say about the center of Future World and I'll see you next time for another Disney Top 5.
Epcot really IS different than anything else. It's the one place that makes me miss WDW during this DL time of life. My favorite is definitely the Fountain of Nations. Unfortunately, it wasn't working the last two trips I went, which was a big bummer. I love to just stop and take in "the show". And I LOVE MouseGear. Definitely my favorite WDW merch shop.
Well, you've hit on my favorite "land" at all of WDW here. Even though much of my love for Future World is for the Future World that no longer exists, it's still my favorite place to simply hang out. The music, the sights, the shops. Just a great place to spend a day... or a week.
My top five for the current Future World Central:
5. The Art of Disney - We love this little shop tucked away next to Spaceship Earth. So much cool stuff to look at.
4. The Fountain - I've been told that, officially speaking, this fountain has no name. It's commonly called the Fountain of Nations, but a tour guide told us years ago that the fountain was never given an official name. It's great fun to watch, especially when you're standing on the giant Epcot symbol to its south.
3. Club Cool - Our family never tires of going in and trying all the different Coke products from around the world. Who doesn't like free soda, anyway? Being a big Coca Cola fan, I've found many cool souvenirs in here over the years. I do miss the ice cave that used to be the entrance, though.
2. Spaceship Earth - The iconic attraction at Epcot, and a classic dark ride that tells a great story, too. This is our family's traditional end-of-the-night ride (when we're not staying for IllumiNations).
1. Mouse Gear - My favorite store in all of Walt Disney World. Mainly because I collect Epcot-themed items, and this is the home of all things Epcot, but also because it's just a fun store with so much of everything.
It was surprisingly hard to narrow the list down to five things. We love the Fountainview Starbucks location (with its tiny "hidden" CommuniCore symbol), we love Pin Central, and we even really enjoy the Electric Umbrella. It's sad that there's almost nothing left to Innoventions, even though it paled by comparison to the old CommuniCore, but the House of the Future was always a favorite of ours.
Hey Gator. Can't be too bad having Disneyland at your disposal though?
The Art of Disney really is a great place. Seriously makes me wish I had a ton of money to spend in there!!