Spotting “Overlooked Attractions” at Epcot
by Debra Martin Koma
ALL EARS® Senior Editor
This article appeared in the
August 14, 2001, Issue #99 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)
(Edited to update 8/2008)
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.
(Additional overlooked attractions, sent in by ALL EARS® Readers, follow the article.)
If you're a regular reader of ALL EARS™, you know we like to talk about the "little things" — those little-known spots, or lesser-known features that are often overlooked in our rush to get to the "main events" of Splash Mountain, Test Track, or the Rock n' Roller Coaster.
This is the second of an occasional series designed to point out just some of the little things you might have missed — some of those "stop-and-smell-the-roses" details that help enhance the magic of a Disney trip. This week we're featuring what we like to call the "Overlooked Attractions" of Epcot.
GETTING ALL WET IN FUTURE WORLD… AND MORE!
You've probably ridden "Living with the Land" in the Land pavilion at least a few times. But did you know there's a one-hour walking tour called "Behind the Seeds" that will take you into the Greenhouse area you only get to pass by on the boat ride? A Disney horticulturist — most likely a graduate student doing some research project — will explain the various growing methods used there, as well as hydroponics, pest management, farm fishing and more. They'll also answer questions and show you the plants and fish "up close and personal." Epcot admission is required, of course, and an additional fee. Reservations can be made up to one year in advance. Same day tour sign-up downstairs at The Land pavilion, near the entrance to Soarin'. NOTE: You can make phone reservations for the 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. tours *only* via 1-407-WDW-TOUR. Otherwise, sign up in person on the day of the tour — the earlier in the day, the better.
"Whimsical ways with water" almost seems to be a theme throughout Future World, and that theme begins with Epcot's famous Dancing Fountain. The "Fountain of Nations Water Ballet" is located directly across from the Fountainview Café (on the plaza behind Spaceship Earth ). In addition to the regular show, there is a holiday version, during which the music and water are also in sync with the Lights of Winter Arch that leads into World Showcase. A viewing location? From the middle of the Epcot logo that's embedded in the cement to the south of the fountain (toward World Showcase). 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 Honey, I Shrunk the Audience attraction, you'll find a whimsical "leap fountain," where the water jumps from "pad" to "pad." It's not a play fountain, but children (and sometimes adults) can be seen trying to catch the water as it leaps around.
Some brooks babble, but at Epcot the babbling is done by some of the enchanted drinking fountains! You can find at least three fountains that will talk back to you: 1) Face the "Fountain of Nations" with Spaceship Earth behind you. The talking water fountain is outside Mouse Gear, on your left. 2) There's another to the right of the magic/play fountain between World Showcase and Future World. 3) The third is behind Innoventions West, near the restroom.
It's bad enough that the water fountains talk, but you can also find a sassy talking trashcan in Future World, near the Electric Umbrella restaurant, next to Innoventions.
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. You may not give this area a second thought, but upon closer inspection you'll discover a spontaneous water fountain that sends water 20' 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 attraction. (Note that these fountains may not be operational during times of water shortages.)
The path leading to Test Track has a beautiful Butterfly Garden that features plantings designed to entice the winged beauties. It's a quiet spot not too far from Cool Wash misting station on the way toward World Showcase.
Feeling homesick? Or do you think the folks back home are missing *you*? You can let them know how you're doing by emailing them a picture cyber-postcard of yourself from the IBM exhibit in Innoventions West — there are three email kiosks set up there. There's usually a line, but it's still worth the time it takes — you can even send an email to yourself, so you can reflect on your happy times once you're back home!
Even better than a still photo is the video clip (complete with audio!) you can send from the Internet Zone presented by Disney.com over at Innoventions East. Best of all, both the IBM email and the video clip are free!
Epcot's World Showcase is well-known for its multi-cultural live performances, but there are also several performers scheduled in Future World that you don't want to miss! The Jammitors, rhythmic musicians dressed like janitors playing trash cans, can also be found in the Plaza periodically. Check your Epcot guide map for show times.
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.
BROADENING HORIZONS IN WORLD SHOWCASE
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 around $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 WS pavilions, your child can have Cast Members at the KIDCOT stations (see description following) 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 (and a few in Future World) 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 manned 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.
As we mentioned a few weeks ago in ALL EARS®, the Morocco pavilion features a unique tour explaining the country's culture and history. While the other pavilions don't hold special tours, it's worth the extra time it takes to explore the far reaches of each pavilion. Did you know, for example, that you can actually go INTO the Stave Church in the Norway pavilion? Inside there's an exhibit on Norwegian culture and the history of the stave churches that once were all over Norway (there are only 28 left).
Or did you know that the UK pavilion has a "Secret Garden?" (Follow the path along the side of the Rose & Crown Pub and you'll find the nice little sitting area there by the lagoon. This area will sometimes be reserved in the evenings for private parties.)
In the rear of the United Kingdom pavilion, back by the gazebo where the Beatles-inspired group British Invasion performs, is a small parklet with a hedgerow maze. You'll sometimes find the Pooh characters here, and, if you keep your eyes peeled, you'll also spy the Mary Poppins topiary.
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!
The improvisational World Showcase Players perform at both the UK and France pavilions and every show is different! The British Invasion in the UK pavilion will make you forget that the Beatles broke up 30 years ago, and the Celtic rock band Off Kilter, in the Canada pavilion, can make a bagpipe lover out of anyone. The vocal group Voices of Liberty in the America pavilion are superb. And if you crave something more exotic, don't miss the belly dancer over in the Morocco pavilion.
In the Germany pavilion, where it's eternally Oktoberfest, you can buy a glass of sweet wine and they'll let you keep the glass. Also, if you happen to be near the clock tower as it strikes the hour, watch the Hummel figurines and listen to the tune of the glockenspiel — it was specially written for the Epcot pavilion.
Children especially enjoy the Miniature Train and Village set up next to the German 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!
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!
My friends and I had a wonderful time going around the world in EPCOT. We can prove it by showing the pictures we took of ourselves in each country wearing one of the hats they sell that represents the country. (Carrie Mennerich)
Watch IllumiNations after a rain. For some reason, everybody seems to leave the parks if a little rain appears, especially late in the day. If you just stick it out, you can secure a great spot to watch Illuminations with no waiting required. And, after Illuminations ends, even it's not been raining, as everyone scurries to the exits, wait for the crowds to die down, and then take a leisurely stroll around the lagoon. Enjoy the music and the lights, you'll have a nice quiet time with minimal people, and a chance to look at the skies above. The Disney buses or your car will be there whenever you get out. (Bill)