Walt Disney World
(October 1, 1982 - present)
History and photos of the EPCOT Center theme park at Walt Disney World.
On October 1, 1982, EPCOT Center became the second theme park to open at Walt Disney World.
The concept for EPCOT Center began as Walt Disney's dream of an ideal futuristic city. When Walt was planning Disney World (later renamed Walt Disney World after his death in 1966) back in the 1960s, he was also developing plans for an advanced community to also be built on the vast amount Florida property. This was to be called the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, also known as EPCOT.
Walt even went as far as having a model of EPCOT constructed, a model city known as Progress City. In the model Walt showed us how there would be a smooth blending of structures and transportation when approaching and moving through the city. This would also be developed around the landscape to create a blending of lush green spaces along side of futuristic structures. Progress City provided opportunities for everything a person would need from housing to corporate businesses to a wide variety of forms of recreation and entertainment.
As we know, Progress City never materialized. However, some of the concepts presented in that vision would become part of the EPCOT Center theme park. Over in the Magic Kingdom, guests riding on the Tomorrowland Transit Authority PeopleMover ride can see part of the model of Progress City during an early segment of the ride.
After Walt Disney's death in December of 1966, planning and construction of the Magic Kingdom continued, and that theme park opened on October 1, 1971. The Florida theme park was a hit with the tourists, and plans were set in motion for a second park, a theme park based on Walt Disney's visions and concepts.
It was well known that Walt Disney was a devout futurist, somebody who was always looking towards tomorrow and the experience that it would bring. He was also a storyteller and enjoyed looking back at history and where we came from. Walt was also thrilled with the concept of the World's Fairs and he had great success at the 1964-65 New York World's Fair. What if all of that was combined into a high-tech yet educational theme park?
That's how the EPCOT Center theme park was born.
Officially opening on October 1, 1982, EPCOT Center became the second theme park to open at Walt Disney World. Instead of a Magic Kingdom-style of park wrapped around a fairytale castle, EPCOT Center was an open and spread out theme park composed of two distinct areas: FUTURE WORLD and WORLD SHOWCASE. Standing proudly at the park's main entrance is Spaceship Earth, a 180-foot tall geosphere containing one of the theme park's signature rides. The park's entrance area is also where you'll find the parking lot, bus station, and the Epcot monorail station.
Future World is composed of a series of large and futuristic pavilions, each one with its own separate themes and attractions. World Showcase contains eleven pavilions, each one focusing on a different country around the world. While all of the international pavilions feature shops, restaurants and live entertainment, a few of them also offer attractions in the forms of rides and shows.
One of Walt Disney's visions was education through entertainment. That's part of what made the Carousel of Progress and The Hall of Presidents such successful shows in the Magic Kingdom. That same concept is evident throughout nearly all of Epcot's attractions and pavilions. For example, instead of simply taking a slow-moving ride through Spaceship Earth, guests are learning about the history of human communication. In Norway, the attraction Maelstrom involves Norway's history and mythology involving trolls, and the boat ride features a small thrilling segment riding down a short waterfall.
For the first few years, EPCOT Center experienced constant growth in both Future World and World Showcase. 1983 saw the openings of Horizons and Journey Into Imagination, The Living Seas was added in 1986, and Wonders of Life opened its doors in 1989. In World Showcase, the country of Morocco was added in 1984 while Norway opened a few years later in 1988. The International Gateway was added to World Showcase in 1989, giving park guests a second gate to enter and exit the theme park.
In the early 1990s, EPCOT Center was starting to fall behind in the race to stay futuristic and ahead of the curve. The attractions and concepts that wowed park guests in the early and mid 1980s were starting to look dated. It was time to give Future World a major update.
1994 was the transition point for the conversion from the classic EPCOT Center to today's version of Epcot. Spaceship Earth received an update along with new landscaping in front and behind the attraction. CommuniCore was replaced with Innoventions, and that whole area was given a futuristic upgrade as well. The rest of the Future World pavilions were set in motion to either be upgraded or given a total replacement (or just a closing in the case of Wonders of Life). Finally, the park's name changed from EPCOT Center to Epcot '94 to Epcot '95 (as part of a failed campaign to keep renaming the park each year in a countdown to the year 2000) to just plain ol' Epcot, the park's current name.
Today's version of Epcot proves to be a popular theme park that can entertain and somewhat educate (though that's less of a concern these days) both the teenagers and the adults. It's a very large theme park with some wide open spaces that allow you to view the open skies, whether it's cloud watching and observing the summertime pop-up thunderstorms, or, like in the old days, being able to watch a Space Shuttle launch from Florida's Cape Canaveral. This is also a park friendly to Florida's wildlife, a place where it's common to see all sorts of birds along with families of ducks, rabbits, and some pretty brave squirrels.
Accessing Epcot is very easy as there are many options.
DRIVING - Parking your car at Epcot is as simple as following the signs directing you there from all around Walt Disney World. Proceed through the Epcot toll plaza and then follow the instructions from the attendants to the parking spaces. It's all very well organized, just follow the pattern. If you're there early in the day you'll be able to park close enough to the entrance to simply walk into the theme park. Otherwise, a courtesy tram will quickly carry you to the entrance of Epcot.
MONORAIL - The Epcot monorail station connects directly with the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC) over by the Magic Kingdom. From the TTC, the resort monorail services Disney's Polynesian Resort, Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, and Disney's Contemporary Resort. The TTC also has a bus service that takes guests to Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground.
BOAT - Outside of the International Gateway in Epcot's World Showcase is a boat dock with multiple destinations. The boats make stops at Disney's Yacht and Beach Club Resorts, Disney's Boardwalk Resort, the Swan and Dolphin, and also Disney's Hollywood Studios.
BUS - All of the Walt Disney World resort hotels have bus service to Epcot. If your resort has an alternate method of reaching Epcot (such as the monorail or the boat or even walking), it's generally better to use that alternate method rather than taking the bus. The Disney buses share bus stops with other resorts, and they can be extremely crowded at the park's opening and closing.
WALKING - Guests staying at Disney's Yacht and Beach Club Resorts, or Disney's Boardwalk Resort, may discover that it's faster to walk to Epcot's International Gateway rather than taking the boat or waiting for the bus. More energetic people staying at the Swan and Dolphin can also walk to Epcot. Fortunately for guests, the paths are nice and wide, and Crescent Lake is extremely scenic, both at day and night.
Additional photo pages for Epcot include:
IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth (coming soon!)
WORLD SHOWCASE (coming soon!)
Note - Each picture may be opened for a larger view. If you choose to download and share these photos, please provide a link back here to Florida-Project.com!