Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow – the Disney theme park that we know as EPCOT. An original Park that Walt Disney himself planned on being part of Walt Disney World, but in the form of a community offering residential areas and an urban city center. Instead, it took the form of a theme park showcasing modern innovation, whilst celebrating world nations.
You could say that EPCOT is two contrasting theme parks in one: World Showcase; and what was previously known as Future World.
Currently an area of construction, Future World will soon become World Celebration. This area will offer beautiful green spaces, winding paths, and a re-imagined fountain. Accessed to the left from World Celebration, World Nature will encompass The Land and The Seas with Nemo & Friends pavilions. To the right of World Celebration, World Discovery will allow science, technological and intergalactic adventures to come to life.
World Showcase is the second part of EPCOT, the part that celebrates cultures and countries from around the world. Featuring 11 Pavilions inspired by 11 different countries, World Showcase is the place to enjoy international cuisine, admire stunning architecture, and peruse unique merchandise. Guests will walk at least 1.2 miles when exploring World Showcase, whilst overlooking the picturesque World Showcase Lagoon.
Exploring World Showcase
As a beloved part of the Walt Disney World, no vacation is complete without walking at least one loop of World Showcase. The distance covered by World Showcase also makes it the perfect addition to any runDisney race that takes place at Walt Disney World. But there is one other way in which Guests could explore World Showcase – by Segway!
Segway was a mode of transportation that was unfortunately only offered around World Showcase for a relatively short period of time. Offered from September 17, 2012 to February 2013, Guests could take part in a paid experience known as the ‘Keep Moving Forward: See The World, Share The Dream Segway Tour’.
Keep Moving Forward: See The World, Share The Dream Segway Tour
At a price of $99, plus tax, per person, the tour was open to Guests aged 16 years or older. At 3 hours long, the tour included an instructional session where Guests learned how to use a Segway; breakfast; and a tour of World Showcase. Guests also received an exclusive Disney pin, featuring the tour name on a moving wheel. Having been lucky enough to experience this tour, we can definitely say that it was worth the price tag paid to participate.
Early Morning Start
The tour was offered at several times each day that it ran, from 7:45 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. Guests met at Guest Relations, to the left of Spaceship Earth, where they were greeted by their tour guide. Each tour included around 8 Guests. Entering EPCOT at this time was an exclusive experience; it’s pretty special to be one of the only Guests in a Disney Park. At check-in, each Guest received an exclusive Disney Pin to remember their experience.
Segway training at Innoventions
Following check-in, and once all Guests in the tour had arrived, the first stop was Innoventions for Segway training. Trainers assisted the tour guide to demonstrate the safe use of a Segway and introduce the main features of the Segways to Guests.
Guests were then invited to begin using the Segway, initially by stepping onto the Segway and gaining balance whilst staying around the same spot. The training then allowed Guests to build confidence moving forwards and backwards, turning, and moving up and down ramps. The final stage of training involved navigating around and between cones, and more difficult manoeuvres such as weaving in and out of a line of cones.
The training was a great way for Guests to get to know their new mode of transport, with lots of space. They had the opportunity to ask questions and take a break whenever they needed.
Breakfast at Sunshine Seasons
Once all Guests had ‘passed’ their Segway training, breakfast was served up in Sunshine Seasons. Complimentary to the tour, the breakfast was very much earned after 45 minutes of training!
Breakfast included an egg and cheese muffin, a small pot of fruit, and a yoghurt. Guests could help themselves to orange juice and coffee to enjoy with their breakfast. Breakfast was concluded with each Guest being given a headset that allowed them to listen to their Guide whilst exploring World Showcase.
Segway Around World Showcase
After breakfast came the part that all Guests had signed up for – Segway-ing around World Showcase. During this time, World Showcase didn’t open to Guests visiting the Disney Park until 11 a.m. This allowed Guests on the Segway Tour to experience World Showcase like never before – being the only Guests around except for Cast Members who were preparing for a day of magic ahead.
Guests collected their Segways from Innoventions and headed to World Showcase, passing the Fountain of Nations on the way. The Segway tour began at the Mexico Pavilion and traveled clockwise around World Showcase Lagoon to the Canada Pavilion.
Guests had the opportunity to Segway around the external areas of each Pavilion, whilst their Guide shared neat facts and secrets about the countries of World Showcase. Different Pavilions presented different experiences and challenges on the Segway.
The China Pavilion offered a narrowing pathway and inclines that tested your navigation skills. Segway-ing along the walkway of the miniature railway in the Germany Pavilion provided a little extra challenge, encouraging you to travel at a slower speed. Morocco was a neat Pavilion to explore via Segway, following the streets inspired by a Fez and allowing you time to practice weaving around the Bazaar.
Uninvited Wedding Guests
Exploring World Showcase at such an early time proved to be the perfect time to see a Disney Wedding in action. We were lucky enough to see a Disney bride and groom having their photos taken, following their wedding ceremony in the Italy Pavilion. The columns at the entrance of the Pavilion framed the petal-covered aisle perfectly.
Although this meant that we couldn’t Segway further into the Italy Pavilion, it didn’t matter. It’s not every day you get to attend a Disney Wedding, is it? Instead we were able to stop close to World Showcase Lagoon and watch the wedding activities from a distance, and also stop to get photos on our Segways.
The Secrets of EPCOT World Showcase
Whilst exploring World Showcase on our Segways, the Guide shared secrets and facts about each EPCOT Pavilion that we passed by. Here are some of our favorite facts that we learnt whilst taking part in the ‘Keep Moving Forward: See The World, Share the Dream Segway Tour’.
- The pyramid that provides the location for most of the attractions in the Mexico Pavilion is designed to represent three different Mexican cultures: Mayan; Aztec; and Toltec. In total there are 365 steps on the pyramid, representing each day of the year.
- Did you know that grass is grown on the roof of the Norway Pavilion? It has hidden sprinklers, and the Horticultural Cast Members trim the grass so that it is kept in perfect shape.
- The temple in the China Pavilion has several pillars that support its roof. There are 12 external pillars, each one representing a month within the year. The 4 internal pillars each represent a season within the year. As mentioned before, the path that guides Guests deeper into the China Pavilion, narrows, creating the feeling of it being crowded when World Showcase is open for Guests to explore and enjoy.
- The Germany Pavilion was originally built for a ride, similar to Gran Fiesta Tour in the Mexico Pavilion. Instead, the entrance to the ride is now the Biergarten dining hall, whilst the backstage area that would have housed the ride, is now used to store Disney parade floats. Additionally, it is also used as a rehearsal space for Disney Cast Members.
- Another secret of the Germany Pavilion relates to the miniature railway. Originally, it was created to be a feature in one of the earlier International Flower & Garden Festivals in EPCOT theme park. However, it was such a hit with Guests that the Walt Disney Company decided to leave it as a permanent feature within World Showcase.
- Next time you’re exploring the Italy Pavilion, stop and look to the top of the bell tower. You’ll see an angel that is covered in 14-carat gold leaf. Whilst looking, notice the other ‘statues’ around the Italy Pavilion. We say ‘statues’ as they aren’t real, but are actually hollow with steel rods inside.
- Walt Disney World is known to use forced perspective to create the illusion that landmarks within Lake Buena Vista appear much larger than they actually are. The American Adventure is a building where this is used; creating the illusion of the building only being 2 or 3 stories high, when in fact, it is 5 stories high. The use of forced perspective creates the illusion that it is a traditional colonial building.
- The Japan Pavilion features the Mitsukoshi Department Store, which is also a department store in Japan. A little known fact about the Cast Members at Mitsukoshi are new employees of department store in Japan. They complete their first year with the Company in Walt Disney World. This is a reflection of the outstanding Guest service that Disney Cast Members are known for, and the service that Mitsukoshi aims for their employees to provide to the citizens of Japan.
- Just like in Moroccan cities, the central gate located at the entrance to the Morocco Pavilion is closed to Guests of an evening. Instead, Guests can enter the Pavilion through the smaller arches either side of the closed gate. It is believed that doing so, protects Moroccan cities from attack during the night.
- Next time you are passing through the France Pavilion, look down. See if you notice the color change to the walkway. This is known to represent the Strait of Gibraltar, despite it not being located geographically correct.
- When walking from the France Pavilion to the United Kingdom Pavilion, Guests cross over the water that links World Showcase Lagoon to Crescent Lake. This is known as International Gateway. It is said to represent the English Channel that is crossed when travelling between Great Britain and France.
- Is The Rose & Crown a favorite EPCOT dining spot for you? Located in the United Kingdom Pavilion, this Disney dining location gets its name from the 12th most popular pub name in the U.K.
- Next time you’re admiring the totem poles in the Canada Pavilion, see if you can spot the difference between the three totem poles. Here’s a hint: there is only one real totem pole that is carved from wood. The other two poles are in fact made of fibreglass. Prior to the totem pole being displayed in the Canada Pavilion, Guests could see it being carved in the Disney Park, by David A. Boxley in 1998.
Current Segway Opportunities in Walt Disney World
Guests can still take part in a Segway tour at Walt Disney World. The Wilderness Back Trail Adventure takes place at The Campsites at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort. If this is anything like the EPCOT tour, we’re sure that you are in for a treat.
At $90, plus tax, per person, Guests take part in a 2 hour tour around Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort. This includes a 30-minute training session. This tour will offer a contrasting experience to the EPCOT Segway tour. Guests will navigate a variety of surfaces, including paved paths and woodland trails. This will make for the perfect experience for any nature lovers in your party. What a way to familiarise yourself with the stunning landscapes that this Disney Resort has to offer!
We were sad to hear that the ‘Keep Moving Forward: See The World, Share The Dream Segway Tour’ had ended in EPCOT. It was a wonderful experience to have taken part in, not forgetting how informative it was too.
For now, we’ll wait to hear if the Walt Disney Company will bring back this incredible opportunity, whilst reminiscing on an awesome time that was had!