Epcot! Yes, the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, or, as I like to call it, everyone’s favorite “Shut your pie hole, kid, Daddy has to get his drink on” theme park.
Epcot occupies a strange place among the theme parks; unlike, arguably, Animal Planet and Hollywood Studios, it isn’t an afterthought; it was built second right after the Magic Kingdom, and it is the only park, other than the Magic Kingdom, that is linked by the monorail system. But the idea of a park that showcases “future technology” is one that, as people quickly learned, is stupid. So very, very stupid. The things that seem “Oh, gee gosh, futuristic” in 1982 when the park opened would seem dated by 1990s, and downright laughable by today. So, what is Disney to do?
The answer, surprisingly, is to turn Epcot into the “adult” theme park. If a child says that Epcot is their favorite theme park, well, then, you have a budding nerd (or child that hates rides) on your hands. If an adult does? Then you’ll have someone whose favorite phrase may very well be, “Make that a double.”
In essence, Epcot is two theme parks. The first part, centered around the giant space golf ball that is synonymous with Epcot, is the old idea of Epcot- “Future World.” It has the rides, and vaguely-future-y things. The larger part of Epcot is around the lake, and is called the World Showcase. More on that later.
Future world is ... fine. It looks pretty cool. A monorail goes through the park (“Look kids, Big Ben, Parliament, the Monorail.”). It has some rides, and a nifty aquarium. It’s kind of lame, in an adorable way.
But the World Showcase. It is lame, and it is SPECTACULAR! If I had to explain ‘Murika to someone, I would probably use the World Showcase. Instead of sending our citizens out into the scary world filled with furriners, we bring the countries to Orlando. 10 Countries, plus America (which has the biggest and central-est pavilion of all, in case you forget you were in America) and, um, Africa, the continent, which doesn’t get a pavilion but gets an “outpost” for all your colonial refreshments (I .... just don’t even) have awesome pavilions arranged around the lake, with tons of food, and tons of booze, and tons of things to buy. That’s right- you can get a bratwurst and beer in Germany, and then some escargot and wine in France, and some sushi and sake in Japan. The most crowded restaurants and food service places are, of course, in Mexico because Americans are thrilled to find out that exotic food, such as Mexican tacos and guacamole, are served in Orlando.
None. Didn’t you read what I wrote? You don’t come to Epcot for the rides. But. okay, here’s the stuff you want to do-
Soarin’. Definitely the most popular ride. It’s fun, and all. PATRICK WARBURTON-Y!
Test Track. Just like a roller coast, except not. Closest you will get to thrills at Epcot. It’s like driving with an average teenager .... THRILLING!
Living with the Land. Take a boat ride and see Disney growing mutant zucchini that look just ... like ... Mickey Mouse. SCARY!
Club Cool. Presented by Coca-Cola, they have free samples of Coca-Cola products from around the world. You can drink as much as your sense of embarrassment will allow you. Go with a group of friends- one of the samples is very bitter, and a lot of fun to give to someone if they aren’t expecting it.
Aquarium. The aquarium associated with the Finding Nemo ride is quite awesome. They also have a lot of science-y things, like manatee and shark discussions, on a regular scheduled basis.
Festivals. Epcot is always hosting festivals, such as garden shows and food & wine festivals. There will be a number of “pop up” pavilions (usually serving food and booze) as well as some amazing landscaping, if you’re into that.
World Showcase. As much as I like to dismiss the American-ized versions of the world, they do some pretty cool things. The Morocco pavilion was decorated by actual Moroccans sent over by their King- check it out, and see what they have in their tiny museum; other pavilions have cool features, and regular “shows” that range from banal (bands covering 60s British music) to pretty cool (Japanese drums).
Norway. So, I hate what they did to poor Norway, which used to be awesome. They completely re-themed it to Frozen. If you like that sort of thing, then check it out.
Food (and food’s inebriated cousin, BOOZE) is where Epcot truly shines. In addition to the restaurants in the Future world (don’t go there), all the World Pavilions have food. None of is amazing, but some of it is pretty darn good, and most of it is far beyond normal theme park food. What you choose will depend on your tastes, but I have not been disappointed by the food in either the Moroccan or Japanese pavilions. I would avoid China, but only because it is completely bog-standard Americanized Chinese food.
As for the booze- well, remember that you are in public and drink responsibly. If you do decide to play “Drinks around the world,” please keep in mind that there are 11 pavilions. Cast members at Epcot do not take kindly to a visitor vomiting in Germany’s model train, or, um, so I’ve heard.
Epcot is one of my favorite parks (make that a double), and may be getting some more fun in the future; the boring Showcase of Energy is being replaced by some sort of “Guardians of the Galaxy” ride. But this isn’t a park you go to for the rides; this is a park you go to for food, booze, and riding around in a tiny boat so you mock Disney’s sustainable hydroponics. If that sounds like fun to you, well, make sure you go to Epcot!