Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Katie's Guide to Epcot: Future World, part 1

Good morning! I'm back with another installment of KGE.
Most visitors to Disney World will come to Epcot by bus or monorail, which ensures that the majority of entrance traffic goes through the front gates. Going through the front gates means that the first thing you will see will be Future World, and in particular, Spaceship Earth.

Hello! I'll be your tour guide. I only charge astronomical fees in the form of free food and drinks.

But before you get into the park, I must discuss various ticket practices for a moment.
I don't want to be sued by Disney, but I will just say that ticket fraud - using someone's ticket as your own - is possible. Not advisable. Using someone else's ticket usually means you will hold up the ticket line, at the very least, while they scan your fingerprint repeatedly with their blue biometric light. You will feel stressed, and people will get pissed off at you. I'm sure that won't deter many people, considering that ticket prices are rather astronomical - what is it now, $70 per park, per day?
For the sake of disclosure, during some times of the day (usually morning), they don't scan your fingerprint. And there is some debate among people I know as to whether or not Disney's blue biometric lights actually work. Is it legal for a private company to store an extensive fingerprint database? I don't know. But I do know I've been stopped many times, with my own ticket.

But, back to the main event: Future World.

1. Take a moment to look around in wonder. Okay, you're done.
When you first walk through the gates, you will naturally want to wander around the first courtyard in awe. Sure, do it for a minute, but move on. The only things there are oddly shaped obelisks with laser-engraved photos of people on them. These people have paid oddly large amounts of money just to have a thumbnail-sized photo of themselves stuck on a stone object no one ever looks at, but hey, to each his own. It's kind of like those engraved bricks along the entrance to the Magic Kingdom, only even more nonsensical, because you can't include a date or a message, and it's a TINY picture. At least at the MK you get an entire paving brick.

2. Fastpass Collection.
What you're going to want to do is run directly to The Land pavilion (turn to your right after you pass Spaceship Earth) and get your Fastpasses for Soarin'. I know, Spaceship Earth has no line and looks enticing, but I'm telling you, don't wait in the Soarin' line without a Fastpass. It is a nice little ride, exciting and yet relaxing, but it is NOT worth an hour long wait. And don't trust the wait time sign - I went in expecting a 15 minute wait and was in there an hour before I ever got on the ride.
If you are there on a busy day, you are going to want to run across Future World from The Land to the Mission Space ride and Test Track to get your Fastpasses for those rides.

3. Bathroom locations
Important to know: there are good bathrooms on your right side next to Spaceship Earth, inside the sliding doors in the building in front of The Land, on the outside of that same building, along the exit path in Mission Space, on the side of the 70s-looking building called Odyssey on the way to Mexico, near the Fastpass line for Soarin', and inside every pavilion (The Land, Imagination, Universe of Energy, Life, The Living Seas - have I missed any?). I'll run down a list of bathrooms in the World Showcase once we start on that.

4. The Main Rides
If you're not there on too busy a day, or you decide just to risk it, either Test Track or Mission Space are good places to start. Usually, I start with Mission Space, since it is newer and also, my favorite.

Mission Space

My dad calls it the Spin and Barf. It's true - for him. The "orange" level - which is the original ride, as it was intended - includes high speed spinning to produce convincing space flight G-forces on your body. However, you are in a tiny little compartment and a video screen takes up your whole field of vision, so I never even knew we WERE spinning until my dad staggered outside and told me so. He then proceeded to turn white, then green, then very pink, then back to white. He stayed on a bench for at least an hour.
To be fair, the ride warns you about spinning (actually, Lieutenant Dan/Gary Sinise warns you about spinning, because he is the one that does the ride's intro video). And yes, people have died. That's why they created the "yellow" version. Or, as I call it, the kiddie version. It doesn't spin, it just tilts you around a bunch. Not nearly as cool or exciting.
Anyway, the purpose of the ride is that you are in flight training for the first manned mission to Mars. Who wants to miss out on that?
If you have a legitimate aversion to spinning that causes you to throw up, by all means go for the yellow version. They do include complimentary sick bags in case you are so inclined. But if you're just being a chicken, do the orange ride. It isn't scary. It's spacey and sciencey. Just try it once.

Test Track
After you're done telling each other how completely friggin' AWESOME that ride just was, wander on over to Test Track. It's right next to Mission Space - to the right, when you're looking at the rides, and to the left when you come out of Mission Space's exit/gift shop.
Test Track was Epcot's first big ride. It was very exciting the first 50 times I rode it. Now, it would almost be relaxing, aside from the rough road tests and sharp curves.
The premise of the ride is that you are volunteer test subjects at a GM crash test site. I could write out the entire dialog of the opening video, but I'll spare you. Hint: you actually don't crash into anything. But the high speed loops are fun.
But, if you are a grownup and the regular lines for that ride are over the 20 minute mark, you might want to consider the miraculous invention that is the single rider line. The single rider line was introduced not long after the ride opened, and it's wonderful.
You see, there are 6 seats per car, and most of the time people don't take up the exact amount of seats. There may be 2 or even 3 seats available in each car. That's where you come in, as a single rider. You get on the ride faster by filling in the empty spaces. More often than not, if you came with someone else, you will get to be in the same car as that person, if not sit right next to them.
Yes, they take your picture. If you're curious, they take your picture right when the doors open and you go down the slight slope to the outdoor loops. No, you should not buy the picture, unless it is truly spectacular.

5. Killing Time in Future World
If you got to Epcot at 9, when it opened, when you're done with Test Track it should be about 10 a.m. That means you've got about half an hour to kill before you can head on over to the World Showcase and start consuming as much food and booze as you possibly can. You could ride Mission Space or Test Track again, as long as the lines are no longer than 20 minutes.
You could go explore the rest of Future World. There are some interesting things there.
Or, you could just go and be the first in line for a margarita, but sometimes the food places don't open right at 10:30.

Free Carbonated Beverages
If you want some free drinks (not alcoholic), you should stop by Coca Cola's own taste test bar. It is on the right side of the main plaza as you head toward the lake; in other words, it is at 5:00 in relation to the main fountain when you're facing the lake. It's says "Cool Spot" or something on the sign. This is a good option, because it doesn't take you too far off the path to Future World.
I hear my uncle Danny was a huge fan of this place.
It used to have a refrigerated cave in which you could see a fake frozen cave man and some stuffed polar bears, but now it's just a shop.
When you walk in the doors, just ignore all the random Coke memorabilia scattered around. There is no need to buy anything. Instead, head over to the soda machines, take a small paper cup, and start trying different commercialized beverages from around the world.
Just as a warning, the one from Italy tastes like carbonated and diluted bleach. The one from Israel is like Sprite, only someone forgot to put any sweetener in it. The one from Japan is not carbonated, and may as well be kool-aid. The one from China is waaaaaay too syrupy, but interesting at least. I highly recommend the one from Mexico - that would be Manzana Lift. It's like Sprite, but has a pleasant and not overpowering apple flavor.
Oddly enough, you can try all these exotic flavors for free (in small amounts, but free refills) but you have to actually buy American coke.

The other rides
The smaller, less intense rides in Future World may sound boring to you, but you will be grateful for a chance to sit and enjoy a relaxing boat ride through a weird garden or something. The dilemma is, you may want to save these rides for later in the day, so that once you're done with your first lap around the World Showcase, you can have a chance to rest and sober up a little.
I will tell you, though, you're going to want to save Spaceship Earth for later. You'll find that the line is constantly moving, and is the perfect length to finish your beer from Canada or the Rose and Crown.

Just wander
You might find something that appeals to you and not to anyone else. For instance, Epcot sells gigantic, plastic-wrapped pickles at certain food carts in Future World. My dad loves the pickles. I can't imagine why anyone would want a pre-packaged pickle, but okay.
Dad, off to get a pickle. I swear, he really is.

You could just go and watch the seagulls and fake surf in front of The Living Seas for awhile. Honestly, the seagulls (you know, the ones from Finding Nemo) are the only worthwhile part of The Living Seas anymore. Mine! Miiiiiiii-ne! Miiiii-ne!
You could try on funny hats and Crocs with mickey-shaped holes in them at one of the hat booths on the main path.
Yes, this is in the Magic Kingdom. But it does qualify as a goofy hat, does it not?

Or, as I said, just go wander around the World Showcase until something opens.

Back soon with the first installment on the World Showcase - Mexico!

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