Mike and I went to Walt Disney World’s EPCOT the Thursday before Christmas. We needed a break from house emptying/moving activities and with Orlando so close and Mike having never been there, it seemed like a good place to spend a day (and $89 apiece to get in plus $14 to park…).
     We did a lot of walking and quite a bit of “riding” as well.  Rides ranged from a slow boat ride through a garden that uses a lot of futuristic growing strategies to Soarin’ with the very real sensation of hang gliding over parts of California.   That was our first “flying” ride of the day, but would not be our last.  In all, four of the rides we experienced involved a sense of flying – Soarin’, The American Adventure,  Mission: SPACE, and Ellen’s (DeGeneres) Energy Adventure.  There were other rides that also had the you-are-actually-doing-this feel, but we only had a day there so were selective.
     I hadn’t been to EPCOT – “Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow” –  since the 1990s, but it was as I recalled:  a lot to do and see in a relatively small area so walking it was not obnoxious.  The park has two sections – Future World and World Showcase.  Future World is strictly Disney-esque with lots of creative interactive exhibits in six pavilions (build your own rollercoaster, direct music,  play games, etc.) and non-traditional, fun rides.  There’s even a huge aquarium with manatees – you don’t see that every day, even in Florida!
     World Showcase meets Disney “standards” regarding being clean with friendly staff, but is focused on presenting various “lands.” Canada, United Kingdom, France, Morocco, the U.S., Italy, China, Germany, Norway and Mexico are all represented.  Each features native architecture – France has a short Eiffel Tower, Mexico a Mayan pyramid, Germany a picturesque market square and so on.  Each also has at least one restaurant with food from the country.  We didn’t try it, but we heard from many people that the French patisserie (bakery) had numerous hip-expanding delights!
     We ate brats on buns with sauerkraut in Germany for lunch and it was fish and chips in the United Kingdom for dinner.  That meal had the extra bonus of having “Mary Poppins” available across the walkway for those that wanted pictures taken with her.  It appears that there is no age or gender that does not enjoy that activity! It was a hoot to watch the adult guys be persuaded to pose and then really get into it, hugging “Mary” and mugging for the camera.
     We ate dinner late so it was dark and the lights were on all over.  We sat on a park bench overlooking the central lake – the different lands are arrayed around the lake – enjoying the lights and talking with another couple as we ate our dinner and fed the insistent ducks (they gobbled french fries like pros).  The food was well prepared but, as is to be expected, pretty pricey once you add in the drinks.
     I enjoyed all of the rides we experienced, but Soarin’ and Mission: SPACE  were the best in my opinion.  With Soarin’, you sit in a block of seats that lift off as the movie starts.  The seats turn and move in sync with what you see onscreen.  There is a gentle wind blowing in your face and as you “sail” over an orange grove, you can smell the oranges.  As with all good rides, it was over too soon. 
      There were two levels of rides available for Mission: SPACE.  One was for those who wanted to really experience the ride and involved spinning in a centrifuge (yikes!).  Mike and I opted for the gentler one, but it had its moments, too.  Four people get into each “capsule” and each is expected to push buttons on cue to “assist” the mission.  That’s no biggie but when the seats are reclined and you can see the launch tower (you’re at the bottom) and the rockets “ignite” (and the seats move) and the capsule is “launched,” I couldn’t resist a “woohoo”!  I would go on that ride again in a heartbeat. 
      My son and his family are going to Disney World in March and my daughter’s family went last year.  I’m glad Mike and I got to do at least one Florida park together before heading north.  We’re planning a trip to California later this winter – I hear they still have the original Mission: SPACE at Disneyland!
      In case you hadn’t heard, most of the Squadron team attended the ICAS (International Council of Air Shows) annual convention in Las Vegas in December.  Air show managers are booking the RISE ABOVE Traveling Exhibit and the P-51C Mustang for their events, even into 2014 already.  Our first event is set for February – hard to believe that’s just next month already.  Time flies when you’re having fun!
 The CAF Red Tail Squadron is a volunteer-driven 501c3 non-profit organization that operates under the auspices of the Commemorative Air Force. For more information, please visit redtail.org.

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