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Robert Niles

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Published: February 15, 2014

Epcot was the second theme park at the Walt Disney World Resort, opening October 1, 1982. If you are wondering, the word "Epcot" originally was an acronym for "Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow." Walt Disney never envisioned his EPCOT as a theme park. He intended it to be a real city — with residences, offices, a hotel, schools, parks, shopping, restaurants, and a few Disney-style themed attractions thrown into the mix.

EPCOT was supposed to be built on the site where the theme park now stands. The monorail was to connect the city with the Magic Kingdom theme park, as well as with a transportation hub on the southern edge of Disney World property, where the community of Celebration now stands. This transportation hub was to include a massive parking lot for visitors to the resort, as well as a high-speed train station, and maybe even an airport.

After Walt Disney's death in December 1966, the company decided against building and managing a city, especially without Walt's guidance. However, Walt's original vision for Epcot as a fully-functioning municipality did push the Walt Disney company to convince the Florida legislature to create the Reedy Creek Improvement District and Lake Buena Vista, new government entities effectively controlled by the Walt Disney Company, which continue to allow the company great latitude in developing the Walt Disney World Resort.

Yet the ideal of Epcot continued to intrigue people inside and outside the company in the late 1960s and 1970s. When Imagineers considered developing Epcot as a theme park, some wanted the park to focus on new technology, while others wanted to showcase international culture. Eventually, they pushed the two plans together and created the hourglass-shaped combination of Future World and World Showcase that we know as Epcot today. It was Disney's first theme park not to be a Disneyland-like "Magic Kingdom."

The park's iconic geosphere, Spaceship Earth, dominates Future World. Behind it lie the twin Innoventions buildings, which house an often-changing variety of corporate-sponsored exhibits and Disney character meet-and-greets. Behind Innoventions, you'll find half a dozen major pavilion buildings housing attractions devoted to energy, space, transportation, imagination, agriculture, and the sea.

Beyond Future World lies World Showcase, a tribute to several nations around the world. These national pavilions surround the World Showcase Lagoon, which is the site of the popular IllumiNations laser and fireworks show that plays each evening in the park at closing time. Food is the main attraction in the national pavilions, most of which offer highly popular table-service restaurants serving their national cuisine. (Curiously, the American pavilion is the only one without a table service restaurant, just a couple of counter-service eateries.) Canada, France, and China offer travelogue movies about their countries, and the Mexico and Norway pavilions offer short indoor rides. You'll find an impressive Audio-Animatronic history pageant in the American pavilion, and the Germany and Morocco pavilions offer live entertainment inside their signature restaurants.

Epcot relied heavily on corporate and international sponsorship in developing its many pavilions, and the massive capital investment Disney made in the park not only jump-started the company's theme park division, which had languished creatively following the completion of projects underway at the time of Walt's death, it helped launch the careers of many influential theme park design professionals. However, progress eventually stalled and Disney's not added a new Future World pavilion since building Mission: Space in 2003 and hasn't added a World Showcase pavilion since Norway in 1988. Still, Epcot draws more than 11 million visitors a year, making it the nation's third most-popular theme park, behind the Magic Kingdom and California's Disneyland.

Epcot hosts the popular International Food & Wine Festival in September through November and a Flower & Garden Festival in the spring. Both events feature special exhibits and cuisine offered at booths set up around World Showcase, and both events are included in your park admission as they happen during regular operating hours.

Most days, World Showcase attractions and restaurants open two hours after the Future World pavilions. But that's no big deal for visitors trying to beat the crowds with an early-morning start, since none of the World Showcase attractions typically draw much of a wait, even on busy days, and advance reservations (up to 90 days before your visit) are a must for the popular restaurants anyway.

Future World - Imagination
Journey Into the Imagination With Figment5
Future World - Innoventions
Future World - Mission: Space
Mission: Space844
Future World - Spaceship Earth
Spaceship Earth8
Future World - Test Track
Test Track740
Future World - The Land
Living with the Land8
The Circle of Life5
Future World - The Seas with Nemo and Friends
Turtle Talk With Crush8
The Seas with Nemo and Friends6
Future World - Universe of Energy
Ellen's Energy Adventure7
World Showcase
IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth9
World Showcase - American Adventure
The American Adventure7
World Showcase - Canada
O Canada!7
World Showcase - China
Reflections of China7
World Showcase - France
Impressions de France9
World Showcase - Mexico
Gran Fiesta Tour6
World Showcase - Norway
Frozen Ever After

[Add a missing attraction]

Future World - Innoventions East
Electric Umbrella Restaurant7
Future World - Innoventions West
Fountain View9
Future World - Test Track
Taste Track10
Future World - The Land
Garden Grill8
Sunshine Seasons7
Future World - The Seas with Nemo and Friends
Coral Reef Restaurant7
The American Adventure
Fife and Drum Tavern5
World Showcase - American Adventure
Liberty Inn6
World Showcase - Canada
Le Cellier Steakhouse9
World Showcase - China
Lotus Blossom Cafe8
Nine Dragons Restaurant7
World Showcase - France
Monsieur Paul10
Les Halles Boulangerie and Patisserie9
Chefs de France8
World Showcase - Germany
World Showcase - Italy
Via Napoli8
Tutto Italia7
World Showcase - Japan
Teppan Edo9
Katsura Grill9
Tokyo Dining8
World Showcase - Mexico
La Hacienda de San Angel9
San Angel Inn Restaurant8
La Cantina de San Angel7
World Showcase - Morocco
Tangierine Cafe9
Spice Road Table8
Restaurant Marrakesh8
World Showcase - Norway
Kringla Bakeri Og Kafe9
Akershus Royal Banquet Hall7
World Showcase - United Kingdom
Yorkshire County Fish Shop8
Rose and Crown Dining Room8

[Add a missing restaurant]

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