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   Epcot:

EPCoT

EPCoT stands for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, and it is the second most popular of the Disney Theme Parks. There are two distinct areas, Future World & World Showcase, and apart from the fact that you can walk from one to the other, they aren't really related. It will take a very full day to see everything, and if you want to do anything more than a whistle stop tour of the World Showcase section you'll probably need a second day here.

Epcot shows the genius and vision of Walt Disney, but today much of his vision of the future looks a little weird to us. Rather like watching Raymond Baxter on Tomorrows's World from the 1960's, they had a very distorted view of how we would be living at the turn of the millennium.

To avoid the worst of the queues, take advantage of the free Disney Fast Pass system which allows you to get a ticket which is printed with a time for you to return to the ride to join the express line which saves queueing for too long. You can only have one Fast Pass running at a time, but once the time has expired, you can get another one, so if you're careful with your planning you can avoid queueing all day.

Future World is the part which shows how Disney envisaged the world of the future, and showcases some of the products and technology we could be using in our every day life. It is quite educational, but many of the exhibits have now either been brought to market (like finger print recognition door locks) or have been shown to be impractical and long disregarded.

For the thrill seekers, GM Test Track is worth a ride, as is Epcot's newest ride, Mission Space. Otherwise most of the park is more educational than excitement!

Space Ship Earth is a leisurely ride housed inside the giant globe that has long been Epcot's trademark. Then there is a ride sponsored by Exxon (Ellen's Energy Adventure) which is another leisurely ride looking at how important energy is to our everyday lives. At times, some of these rides cross the line between education and propaganda. A message of conservation and recycling isn't that easy to swallow when it's being served up by Disney in the consumer capital of the World.

The Living Seas - another leisurely ride, plus there are some hands-on exhibits, which takes you down into the Ocean to explore the sharks, sea turtles, manatees, manta rays and dolphins which live there.

Living with the Land - A very enjoyable ride looking at hydroponics and other leading edge technological solutions which could be used to increase food yields and eradicate hunger.

Body Wars - A flight simulator ride that takes you through the human body. Not a thrill ride, but definitely more lively than the other leisurely rides in this section of the park. There are also many interesting interactive exhibits where you can get a hands-on feel for how your body works and what it can do.

Honey I shrunk the audience - A 3D movie, based on the famous film Honey I shrunk the Kids. Watch out for that Dog though!

The second area is called World Showcase, and usually opens an hour or two after Future World.

Centred around a huge lake are a showcases featuring examples of culture, food, music and dance from each of: Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, Britain, France, Japan, Italy, Morocco, Canada and the United States.

The staff in each section are native to the country they represent, and you do get a sense of the very diverse cultures which exist on the third rock from the sun!

I'm not sure how representative of real life it is-Disney seem to think the UK is all about fish & chips, red telephone boxes and morris dancing!

One tip here for children is to collect a free cardboard mask on a stick from one of the stalls. Then as you visit each different country they will stamp it for you and give you a cardboard shape which represents their country to tie on to the mask. It makes a great souvenir although it does mean the kids will want to walk right round the lake and visit each country.

The like is also the focus for IllumiNations, the evening firework and laser show. You'll get a good view from just about anywhere around the lake so it isn't difficult to find a good spot.

For details of opening times and special events, visit the theme park web site by clicking on the logo at the top of the page.


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