The way Walt Disney had envisioned it, EPCOT (the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow) was to be the heart and soul of Walt Disney World. A living, working city, it would have been a proving ground for new technologies, populated by leading scientific minds.
To some extent, Walt's vision died with him in 1966. In the end, EPCOT Center did not open until 1982, and by then the concept had evolved into a combination of a theme park and a permanent World's Fair. Still it remains one of the most popular theme parks in the world, and boasts a selection of high-tech attractions alongside tributes to different cultures from around the globe.
Since we launched our theme park guides last year, we've been collecting our readers' ratings and reviews of Epcot's rides (as well as those of 90+ other parks). We're focusing on Epcot as our "Park of the Month" in April, so we thought now would be a great time to look at the top 5 rides and attractions at the park - as rated by Theme Park Tourist readers.
5. Mission: Space
When Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon back in 1969, space enthusiasts were optimistic that even more ambitious journeys were on the cards. Many are disappointed to find that decades later man is yet to attempt to land on Mars, our intriguing neighbouring planet. Guests at Epcot, at least, can experience what it might be like once humankind does eventually take that step.
The ride itself is a futuristic simulator, which challenges guests to take on one of four roles in a mission to the Red Planet. After receiving some brief training instructions, they board small pods that represent the spacecraft. Those selecting the most intense version of the attraction will experience the thrill of being pressed back into their seats by extreme centrifugal forces - something that few, if any, other rides in the world emulate. Those who suffer from motion sickness, however, can select a tamer version of the ride.
A uniquely Epcot-style attraction, Innoventions brings the best of innovation and invention together to showcase the latest and greatest technologies available from Disney's sponsors. Many Epcot guests will skip it in favour of the larger rides on offer elsewhere in Future World, but it is well worth exploring for a while.
Perhaps the headline "innovention" on offer is The Sum of All Thrills, sponsored by Raytheon. It allows guests to design their own roller coaster, jet plane or bobsled ride and then "ride" it on one of four Kuka RoboSim 4-D Simulators. The experience is designed to show that basic skills picked up at school can be applied to stunning engineering feats such as roller coasters.
3. Spaceship Earth
The iconic image of Epcot is the huge geodesic sphere that sits close its entrance. Far from being just eye-candy, the sphere houses Spaceship Earth, one of Epcot's original attractions.
The ride makes use of Disney's Omnimover system to take guests on a journey through the history and future of communications from prehistory to the modern age. Remodelled in 2008, it still feels a little out-of-date - but the clever scenes incorporating imagery of riders are still likely to trigger a lot of laughter.
While it's clearly highly-rated by Epcot visitors, Soarin' feels a little out of place at the Florida park. That's because it's a clone of the original Soarin' Over California attraction at Disney California Adventure, and dropping "Over California" from the title does little hide to its origins.
Located in a high-tech aviation center, the attraction places guests on a hang-gliding adventure over the incredible and varied terrain of the country, travelling across mountains, seas, orange groves, and finally, Disneyland Park, all with 4-D scent effects. The technology is hugely impressive, but here's hoping Disney eventually produces footage that is more appropriate to Epcot.
1. Test Track - Presented by Chevrolet
First opened in 1999, Test Track takes guests through a simulated set of tests on a new car. It sees guests seated in mock cars as they traverse a set of low-speed indoor tests before racing at speeds of up to 65 miles per hour around an outdoor section. Previously sponsored by Chevrolet's parent company General Motors, it underwent a lengthy refurbishment in 2012 as a result of a new commercial deal between Disney and GM.
Some Disney fans have criticised the makeover, claiming that it was largely a rebranding exercise rather than a genuine enhancement of the Test Track ride experience. Others feel that the ability for guests to design their own cars while in the queue has genuinely added value. Whatever the case, Theme Park Tourist readers still rate it as Epcot's very best attraction.
What are your favourites?
What are your favourite attractions at Epcot? Do you agree with the rankings above? Let us know by adding your own ratings and reviews.