On October 1, Disney celebrated the 35th anniversary of the opening of its Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow (more commonly known as Epcot). The special occasion included a commemorative guide map, a performance by the Mariachi Cobre and Voices of Liberty, exclusive “I Was There” merchandise, and of course, a nighttime firework spectacular. (Above is flashback photo from 2007 when Epcot celebrated its 25th birthday.)
I vaguely remember the opening of Epcot when I was 11 years old. My grandma took a trip with her senior group maybe a year or two after the park’s opening. She didn’t call it Epcot, though. She told me she was going to the World’s Fair. She brought me back a t-shirt, which I really, really wish I had kept.
Epcot has gone through a number of changes in its 35 years, and there will be many changes to come as more of the park’s educational attractions will be swapped out for more thrill rides and experiences. Change is always bittersweet. But as any good fan knows, it was Walt who said his parks “will never be completed…as long as there is imagination left in the world.”
In honor of Epcot’s birthday, I’ve compiled a list of three things I love most about this park.
#1 Les Halles Boulangerie-Patisserie
It’s not the World Showcase, or the rides, or the big golf ball that drive me to visit Epcot as much as I can. It is the amazing French bakery, Les Halles Boulangerie-Patisserie. My favorite pastry is the Napoleon—known in France as a mille-feuille—and I will wait any amount of time to get one. The Napoleon is a puff pastry layered with cream and topped with a white and chocolate combed glaze. Mille-feuille means “a thousand leaves”, and once you bite into one of these decadent desserts, you will understand how it got its name. Three crisp layers of puff pastry and two layers of silky pastry cream make this my favorite of all Disney treats. On top is a delicious glaze that adds just a hint of chocolate to the mix. Yes, the Napoleon can be found in other locations, but for some reason, eating one from this bakery is the best!
Soarin’ is a simulated hang-gliding adventure that takes riders around the world. It is located in The Land pavilion in Future World West. During the attraction, guests “fly” over six continents and see numerous world wonders, such as the Great Pyramids, the Eiffel Tower and The Great Wall of China. Not only does the audience experience flight and amazing views, Disney also pumps in the scents of wild grass, roses and an ocean breeze to bring all the senses in. The popularity of this ride lies in its uniqueness. It is like nothing else that can be experienced at Epcot, Magic Kingdom or Hollywood Studios. (I didn’t mention Disney’s Animal Kingdom, because Avatar Flight of Passage sounds like it is becoming a solid contender for the “most innovative ride experience”.)
#3 Fountain of Nations
The Fountain of Nations isn’t even listed on Epcot’s map. I’ve always called it the musical fountain, and I had to use Google to find out its official name. Anyway, many moons ago, my mom and I were enjoying a morning coffee on the patio of the Fountain View Bakery, when we noticed that the fountain next to us was “performing.” Water was leaping, swaying, and shooting to great heights in perfect time to a full symphony orchestra recording. It was amazing! Ever since, we have been hooked on catching the act. It sounds crazy, but this it’s one of the most entertaining shows in Epcot. While searching for the attraction’s name, I also learned that the Fountain of Nations turns 35 this year as well. On Epcot’s opening day, a special “International Ceremony of Waters” took place at the fountain, where representatives from 29 different nations brought a container of water from their homeland and added it to the Florida water already in the basin.
Obviously, there is lots more to love about Epcot. If I was offering a top 10 list, it would probably include the: International Food and Wine Festival, Test Track, Mouse Gear for souvenires, Living with the Land greenhouses, pizza from Via Napoli, shaved ice at Kabuki café, and World Showcase shopping (the United Kingdom, Germany, and Japan pavilions are my favorites).
So, cheers to you Epcot, and Happy Birthday. I can’t wait to see what the next 35 years brings.
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