Overlooked Attractions 2018 - Epcot

by Debra Martin Koma
AllEars® Editor

Feature Article

This article appeared in the June 19, 2018 Issue #978 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)


Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.


Epcot Fountain of Nations

As regular readers of AllEars® know, we occasionally like to take a look at what we call the "Overlooked Attractions" around the parks and resorts. Those little things that make you detour from your beeline to the thrill rides, the additional touches that demonstrate Disney's well-known attention to detail and make Walt Disney World the fascinating place that it is.

So much has changed at Walt Disney World over the last few years, that I felt it was time to update a few of our overlooked attractions lists.

When I updated the Overlooked Attractions for the Magic Kingdom a few weeks ago, I noticed that it had been nearly eight years since we'd last updated Epcot! Now, I know that there's a lot on the horizon for this, my favorite of the four Walt Disney World theme parks -- there's the Guardians of the Galaxy attraction and the space-themed restaurant coming to Future World, the Ratatouille attraction and a new table-service restaurant coming to World Showcase, not to mention the new Skyliner and whatever other little surprises that are yet to be announced. But still, the Epcot Overlooked Attractions list deserves an upgrade now. I'll just have to revisit it again (and again... and again) when it comes time to incorporate whatever new "little things" have been added. Until then, here are some of my current favorites:

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FUTURE WORLD FUN

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Epcot's famous Dancing Fountain remains one of my favorite things. When I see people hustling by hurriedly on their way to Frozen Ever After or Test Track I want to shout, "Just stop for a minute!" The "Fountain of Nations Water Ballet," located directly across from the Fountainview Cafe (on the plaza behind Spaceship Earth), performs regularly throughout the day to a rousing score that features selections from The Rocketeer and more. At night, special lighting changes the shows dramatically, so make sure to check this out after dark, too!

Continuing with the water theme, did you ever stop to notice the beautiful fountain outside the Imagination pavilion? If you have, maybe you've observed that it's slightly out of the ordinary -- it's actually a *reverse* waterfall, with the water flowing up! Just watch it! Nearby, outside the 3D theater that's currently showing a trio of Pixar short films, you'll find a whimsical "leap fountain," where the water jumps from "pad" to "pad." It's not a play fountain that you can jump into, but children (and sometimes adults) can be seen trying to catch the water as it squirts around.

Imagination Pavilion at Epcot

As you're crossing the walkway from Future World to World Showcase, you'll spy special lights and spouts built into the concrete on your right. If no one else is there, you may not give this area a second thought, but upon closer inspection you'll discover a spontaneous water fountain that sends water 20 feet straight up into the air. On hot days especially it's the perfect spot for kids (and adults) to cool down. There's another Magic Water Fountain on the east side of Future World, in between Innoventions East and Mission: Space. (Note that these fountains may not be operational during times of water shortages.)

On the path leading from Test Track toward Future World you'll find another way to beat the heat -- the Cool Wash misting station, designed to resemble a car wash, will spray you with welcome relief on those hot, humid days.

While you're in the vicinity, head down toward Mission: Space. If you think the folks back home might be missing you, you can let them know how you're doing by emailing them a FREE video postcard of yourself. As you exit the attraction's shop on your left you'll see a curtained-off area -- pop in there to film your short, silly message (only video, no audio from you) and send it off to whoever you'd like to make jealous. You can even send an email to yourself, so you can reflect on your happy times once you're back home! (You can send a similar video greeting from Spaceship Earth -- as you exit the ride, you'll see several stands that will allow you to transmit the images captured while you were in your ride vehicle.)

Speaking of free photo ops, here's one that's just for Disney Visa cardholders (but that's a lot of us Disney fans, isn't it?). At the Imagination pavilion, to the left of the entrance to the Pixar Film Festival, you'll find a special meet-and-greet opportunity. Just show your card at the door between 1 and 7 p.m. and you'll have the chance for a private meeting with a character or two -- maybe Mickey or Minnie, or Pluto and Goofy.

Epcot's World Showcase is well-known for its multi-cultural live performances, but Future World also has a group you don't want to miss -- The Jammitors, rhythmic musicians dressed like janitors playing trash cans. Check your Epcot times guide for show times or let your ears guide you to the clammering custodians.

If you happen to be in Innoventions Plaza at night, be sure to look DOWN! The walkway is laced with fiberoptics that light up and slowly fade away, enchanting children and adults. To this day, watching my mystified then-toddler chase after the elusive lights is one of my sweetest Disney World memories.

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WORLD SHOWCASE WONDERS

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Pearls in Epcot's Japan Pavilion

Spotting Hidden Mickeys around the parks is always a worthwhile activity and Epcot is one of the best places to hone your skills, there are so many. For example, there's a Hidden Mickey that materializes at times in the smoke that rises from the volcano inside the Mexico pavilion. And in the Morocco pavilion, there's a Hidden Mickey made of brass plates on the door of the shop along the World Showcase promenade.

Kids may initially think World Showcase is going to be a big snooze for them, but you can encourage their active participation in learning about the various countries by getting them a World Showcase Passport. The passports are sold for about $10 at most stores and carts throughout Epcot, and include a set of country stamps and a big "I'm a World Showcase Traveler" button. As you visit the World Showcase pavilions, your child can have cast members at the KIDCOT stations (see description below) stamp the passport and write something in his/her native language.

Did you ever see those brightly colored KIDCOT signs and wonder what they were for? Well, each pavilion in World Showcase features a KIDCOT station specially for the youngsters in your group. At these stations, which usually operate only in the afternoons, there is a small table staffed by cast members from the various countries. They will talk with children about their native land, engage them in a craft, stamp their World Showcase Passports if they have one, and sign a personal message in the language of the country.

Did you know that the Stave Church that sits in the front of the Norway pavilion is a real building that you can actually go into? Inside there's a small gallery – the current exhibit is on the "Gods of Vikings," featuring a Thor who looks nothing like Chris Hemsworth, and a Loki who would make Tom Hiddleston cry.

Speaking of the Stave Church, there are a number of similar museums or galleries scattered around World Showcase. China, Morocco, Japan, and the American Adventure all host rotating exhibits that provide an interesting and enriching look at some aspect of the country's culture.

Inside the Japan pavilion is a sentimental favorite of mine, even though it's not a freebie, as most of these overlooked things are. The Mitsukoshi store recently underwent a number of updates, but I was happy to discover that the "pick your own pearl" station is still there. Yes, for about $20 you choose an oyster, which the cast member will open right in front of you. Each oyster has a pearl, which they will measure and polish up for you. If you want, you can even have the pearl put in the setting of your choice for a beautiful jewelry souvenir.

Pearls in Epcot's Japan Pavilion

Don't forget to examine the architecture and sights around all the country pavilions, especially those that don't have attractions to draw you away. For example, in the rear of the United Kingdom pavilion, back by the gazebo where the British Revolution performs, is a small parklet with a hedgerow maze. In the Italy pavilion on the lagoon side, be sure to cross over the little bridge to get a closer look at the authentic Venetian gondolas moored there. In Japan, don't miss the quiet calm of the koi pond on the way up to the Katsura Grill restaurant. (The koi were missing the last time we were there, but there was a duck family, with a half-dozen adorable ducklings paddling in the pool.)

It would be hard to choose which live performers in World Showcase are the best, but it's safe to say that everyone has their favorites. Try to see as many of them as you can, which probably means you'll need to make multiple visits to Epcot! Whatever you do, DON'T rush by these performers -- you'll be missing something truly special!

Mariachi Cobre in the Mexico pavilion has been entertaining guests since the park opened, while the fairly recent addition of Matboukha Groove in the Morocco pavilion brings an exotic energy. The vocal group Voices of Liberty in the American Adventure pavilion takes a cappella to the next level.

In the Germany pavilion, where it's eternally Oktoberfest, try to be near the clock tower as it strikes the hour. Watch the Hummel figurines that come out and dance around the clock, and listen to the tune of the glockenspiel -- it was specially written for the Epcot pavilion.

Another favorite way to pass the time in Germany, is a visit to Karamell-Kuche, which is the only working kitchen for Werther's yummy caramel treats in the world. It costs nothing to peek inside and watch the candy-makers at work, but I dare you to resist buying some of the fresh caramel popcorn, candy-coated apples or some other mouth-watering item.

Children especially enjoy the miniature train and village set up next to the Germany pavilion. Originally put up during a Flower and Garden Festival years ago, the village proved so popular it was made a permanent fixture. Be sure to look at it carefully -- the details are changed according to the season!

Finally, one of my absolute favorite "overlooked" things to do in Epcot is to just BE there -- I think a lot of people give Epcot short-shrift because it's not known for its thrill rides. But just being there, especially after IllumiNations, when the park has closed and the crowds start to stream to the exits is just the best. Find a bench where you can sit and do a little people-watching, and just generally soak up the atmosphere. To my mind, Epcot at night, dimly lit with music playing in the background, is truly magical.

Whew! See what you've missed if you haven't been taking the time to stop and look around? There are *so* many other spots located around Epcot that offer the opportunity to make a magical memory. They're there waiting for you -- all you have to do is look for them!

AUTHOR'S NOTE: Do you have a favorite "overlooked attraction" in Epcot that *I* overlooked? Let us know!

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RELATED LINKS
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Overlooked Attractions 2018 - Magic Kingdom

Overlooked Attractions 2017 - Disney's Animal Kingdom

Overlooked Attractions - Deluxe Resorts

Overlooked Attractions - Moderate Resorts

Overlooked Attractions - Value Resorts

Searching for Hidden Mickeys with Steve Barrett

VIDEO: JAMMitors at Work

VIDEO: Las Posadas in Epcot's Mexico Pavilion

VIDEO: Voices of Liberty Perform The Star-Spangled Banner


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Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.