Naturally, any “Top” list is subjective. I know people who love certain attractions and others who dislike the very same attraction. We are a sum of our experiences, and likes and dislikes are often shaped by those experiences. Your Top Six list could easily be different! Here we go, in no special order.
Although we will soon see a Guardians of the Galaxy coaster open at Epcot, right now, Test Track is the only true “thrill” ride in the park. Located in the Future World section of the park, guests start out by designing their own virtual custom concept simulated (also called “sim”) vehicle, using a computer screen. Design choices include these categories: Capability (handling), Responsiveness (maneuverability), Efficiency (fuel-saving and environmentally friendly), Power (speed).
Once you’ve designed the way your simulated car will operate, you can add some finishing touches to customize the exterior of the vehicle. You can choose from many colors and designs; your imagination is the limit. However, there IS a time constraint—you will see it counting down on the screen in front of you. If you want to get the best performance out of your car, it’s best to design the vehicle to make it go as fast as possible, THEN make it look fancy if you have time. As you virtually build your sim car, the screen shows you how the changes you make affect the car’s performance. If you don’t really care about car performance, then ignore the counter and just have fun. The ride in your actual Test Track vehicle will be in no way affected by the virtual car you create; all guests go the same speed.
After the design process is over, guests proceed to the Test Drive in a Test Track car. As the vehicle moves around the track, guests can see how their sim vehicle performs by looking at the visual charts that light up along the way. The actual Test Track car guests ride in goes through obstacles and different types of road conditions. The finale is a very exciting experience, as you go outside the building and tear along the almost mile-long test track at speeds up to 65 MPH. There are NO drops on this attraction; it’s all about the speed. TIP: There is a camera located on the right almost immediately after your car heads outdoors.
You can see your picture on a wall at the end of the ride, and if you have Photopass, it will appear in your account. If you want to smile for the camera or strike a fun pose, now you know where to look for it!
Once disembarked from the test track ride vehicle, guests can experience a number of automobile-related exhibits. Originally sponsored by GM, currently, by Chevy, guests can also view some of the latest model cars as they head out. There is a small gift shop at the exit.
Unless you get there first thing in the morning when the park has just opened, or right after it reopens from a breakdown, there is almost always a considerable wait for Test Track. At certain times the wait times exceed 60 minutes. TIP: If you are solo, you can usually save a lot of time by using the “single rider” option offered at this location.
Soarin’ Around the World
This is a virtual reality ride in which you really feel like you’re flying around the world as the wind blows through your hair, and you smell various aromas that go with the scenes you’re viewing. Guests see awesome scenes from Switzerland, Greenland, Australia, Germany, Tanzania, China, Egypt, India, USA, Fiji, Argentina, and France, ending with a flight over Epcot at Walt Disney World. TIP: In the last scene at Epcot, look for fireworks over Spaceship Earth that form a Hidden Mickey.
Soarin’ Around the World uses a 180-degree IMAX projection dome to create some amazing effects. Those with vertigo or fear of heights might want to pass on this one. Although the reality is you’re not very high up at all, the movie is so good you feel like you’re hundreds of feet in the air. This is a very popular attraction.
Try going first thing when the park opens, or later when it’s about to close to minimize wait times. Fun Fact: Food Rocks, a Rock and Roll show about nutrition, used to occupy this space.
An opening day attraction at Epcot, Spaceship Earth is a geodesic dome that explores the history of communications, from the Stone Age to the present.
It is a very well-known icon, and most people immediately associate Spaceship Earth with Epcot. The vehicle you ride is known as a “time machine,” and it takes guests back to the start of recorded history. The time machine fits four guests, two in the front and two in the back.
As the vehicle moves along, guests see paintings on cave walls, Egyptians inventing papyrus (the first form of paper), and the Phoenicians developing the alphabet (“Remember how easy it was to learn your ABCs? Thank the Phoenicians”). As the ride vehicles move along guests, see Gutenberg’s printing press, the Greeks first using math, artworks from the Renaissance, and more. Eventually, we reach the modern age and see, among other things, the first newspapers being printed and sold, telephones, computers, and a family watching the moon landing on television. TIP: In the moon landing scene I just mentioned, look behind the couch the parents are sitting on. You will see the game MOUSEtrap. I don’t think that choice was an accident. 😊
Spaceship Earth contains many Audio-Animatronics figures and is narrated at present by Dame Judith Dench. The narrator has changed over the years. Walter Cronkite and Jeremy Irons are among the past narrators. The attraction itself has undergone some changes as well; the most major was in 2007. Some scenes were updated, some were removed. Additionally, a screen was added inside each of the time machine vehicles. At the start of the attraction, guests can choose the language they want to hear while riding, as well as being prompted to choose the area where they live. A photo will be taken soon afterward, which will be used later on.
Towards the end of the attraction, the screen will ask questions so guests can design the kind of future they want to live in (options for your future are health, home, work, or leisure). Once you’ve responded to the questions, the screen will play a short movie of your future—including pictures of the guests who are in your time machine (that is why they take the pic at the start of the ride).
After your ride, you can check out games and displays showcasing the latest in high-tech medicine, transportation, and energy efficiency in an interactive play area. You can also send a video postcard home to yourself that will include the movie that was taken on the ride—for free! *This feature is currently unavailable; hopefully, it will return in the future. Although the line for the attraction can build up, especially first thing in the morning, because it’s the first attraction guest see upon entering Epcot, but it moves quickly. I suggest going later in the day. Generally, the wait is considerably shorter midafternoon and later.
Living with the Land
This is a very enjoyable boat ride through the greenhouses of the Land Pavilion.
It is fun and also educational, as guests learn where food comes from and are shown how Disney Imagineers are always finding creative and new ways to grow things. The ride demonstrates ways of using high-yield crops to enable us to feed the growing global population. The idea is for guests to understand how efficient the use of the land can feed more people at a smaller cost.
The boats ride through displays of diverse ecosystems, from rain forest to farmland. Guests see audio-animatronic buffaloes, butterflies, prairie dogs, monkeys (and more), as well as a number of greenhouses where you can see food grown in unique ways. Many of the foods grown here are served at the Sunshine Seasons food court and at the Garden Grill restaurant, both found in the same building as the attraction. TIP: If you look up during the farm scene with the dog, you will see folks eating at the Garden Grill—and they can see you as well.
At one time, there was a Cast Member on each boat who would describe the scenes; now, it’s pre-recorded.
The recording is well done, and as the boat floats along each area you pass, and the various types of growing methods used are thoroughly discussed. The wait for this attraction can build up during busy times, but generally, it’s not long, and the line moves quickly.
Previously seen at Future World near the East Breezeway, at the time of this writing, the JAMMitors do a number of shows daily at Garden Stage at the American Pavilion in World Showcase (times vary).
Three Cast Members dressed as Janitors become a wacky drum playing group called The JAMMitors. They use trash can lids, pots, pans, and other unusual things to do a great drum show. Not only are they fantastic drummers, but they are also very funny, make guests laugh, and love to get the crowd involved in their antics. These guys have been there at Epcot since 1996, and there is at least one original member who still performs with the group.
The American Adventure
Located at the American Pavilion, this story of the USA, starting with the arrival of the pilgrims and ending with the present day, is an amazing combination of audio-animatronics, music, slides, and photos.
The show’s narrators are audio-animatronic versions of Mark Twain and Benjamin Franklin. There are a number of songs in the show, which most guests find very inspiring and touching. There are a number of different scenes, each telling a story of that particular time in history. Topics covered include the American Revolution, the Civil War, WWI, WWII, American inventors and discoveries, the Suffrage Movement, Lindbergh’s transatlantic flight, World’s Fair in 1876, the Great Depression, and much more. The end has a fabulous movie with a montage of famous Americans, including (naturally) Walt Disney, as well as Jim Henson, Walter Cronkite, Lucille Ball, Elvis, and quite a number of other well-known figures who are from the USA.
The theater is HUGE, so it’s never full. This might not be of interest to the smaller Mouseketeers; in fact, I remember it being a great place for my kids to nap when they were small, as it’s dark in the theater, and the show is 35 minutes long. But adults and most older kids, especially those interested in history, will enjoy it. There are quite a number of impressive audio-animatronic figures, and it’s amazing to watch the various sets rise into place and then disappear as the next scene pops up. There is never a wait due to the size of the theater; however, if you just missed the show, you’ll have to wait about an hour for the next performance. Once the show starts, guests are not allowed to enter the theater.
A lot of work is currently being done in Future World at Epcot, including the Roller Coaster mentioned earlier, Guardians of the Galaxy, slated to open in 2021.
More plans are in the works, including a new nighttime spectacular. I look forward to seeing what the future brings for Epcot!