One of Karl’s favorite Disney films is “Tomorrowland”. Before the movie takes the viewer on a journey into the future, it takes us back in time. To the 1964 New York World’s Fair, USA, to be precise. Back then, Walt Disney World in Orlando was still a fantasy of Walt Disney himself. The New York World’s Fair was the place where Disney tested out ideas for the new park on the west coast. After the Magic Kingdom in 1971 and before Disney’s Hollywood Studios in 1989 and Disney’s Animal Kingdom in 1998 – Disney’s 2nd Orlando theme park EPCOT opened its doors in 1982. One of its main features, a permanent World’s Fair. Let this Couple of Men take you on a tour around the park and show you the EPCOT Pride Mural and the LGBTQ+ friendly side of Disney. Here are our gay couple highlights of Disney’s EPCOT in Orlando.
Welcomed by a giant silver globe
From the EPCOT parking lot, we already had the giant silver globe firmly in our sights. This Alucobond structure is the park’s symbol and home to a great old-school dark ride attraction. It took over two years to complete. The entrance area sparkled brand new. It underwent a complete overhaul that other areas of the park are currently undergoing. But how is Epcot actually structured, and what are our favorite areas and attractions that someone as part of the LGBTQ+ community should not miss?
EPCOT: something new and something old
To answer these questions, we must look at how this park at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando was designed and built. Walt Disney originally imagined EPCOT (short for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow) as the perfect example of a self-sufficient, self-sustaining city of the future. But after his death in 1966, these ideas got reimagined into the concept of an “educational” theme park dedicated to the human achievements of our society. It always included the “World’s Fair” area of the park, which has celebrated international culture and cuisine since its opening in 1982. Today, the EPCOT theme park is structured into four neighborhoods: World Celebration, World Discovery, World Nature, and World Showcase.
World Celebration: EPCOT’s central hub
The first major area, designated as one of the four neighborhoods, is called World Celebration. It serves as the hub of EPCOT, which is currently undergoing major construction. On our first visit in 2016, this area felt a little lost. For instance, it was primarily huge buildings that were half empty and with few things to do. Therefore, with the completion of the park’s World Celebration center, this area will have more green spaces and will function as the home for all the well-attended seasonal festivals. These queer-friendly events include our two favorites: the International Food and Wine Festival and the International Festival of the Arts.
EPCOT’s Pride Mural
Okay, finding this Pride Mural was an expedition! We knew it had to be somewhere in the World Celebration neighborhood. However, after searching for it on our own, we asked several cast members if they knew where it was. We got a lot of different responses on this LGBTQ+ friendly Disney request! One cast member sent us completely in the wrong direction, while another said they did hear about it but had no clue if there was an actual Pride Mural at EPCOT! Finally we found two cast members who were part of our LGBTQ+ community and who gave us the right direction. This EPCOT Pride Mural was located in front of the toilet group on the backside of the Imagination Pavilion. We strongly suggest that Disney will find a better suitable spot for this cool Pride Mural in the years to come.
EPCOT’s icon: Spaceship Earth
After Cinderella Castle, it is probably the second most recognized architectural structure at Disney World: Spaceship Earth. The geodesic sphere that welcomes you when you enter the park has served as its icon since EPCOT opened in 1982. Inside, the sphere houses a 15-minute dark ride. Here, it demonstrates how advancements in human communication have helped to create the future one step at a time. It is one of the few classic EPCOT rides that are still existing since the park opened. But it is definitely one of our favorites! There is something very soothing about being transported in a two-person Omnimover-type vehicle, circling up the sphere through gorgeous scenes filled with animatronics.
In 2020, the Disney Parks Blog announced that the attraction would get a big update. It would put an emphasis on the human experience and the art of storytelling. For now, the update is postponed. But we are very happy that the present Disney parks are keen on keeping their classics while ensuring they can sustain another 50 years.
World Discovery: Going fast & forward (or backward)
The neighborhood on the left of World Celebration is called World Discovery. This part of the theme park is where stories about space, science, technology, and intergalactic adventures come to life. Therefore, it houses the park’s more exciting rides, including the latest addition, the Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind roller coaster. We couldn’t wait to get on this adrenalin-filled adventure which features the first-ever reverse launch on a Disney coaster!
Other attractions in this “neighborhood” are Mission: Space. This centrifugal simulator is not for the faint of heart. In addition, Test Track is a pretty cool combination of a Tron-style dark ride and a real test race track.
World Nature: Looking at our planet
Whereas World Discovery is on the left side, as seen from the entrance, World Nature is on the right side (or to the west). This neighborhood is home to two large pavilions. The Land, which houses the people’s favorite Soarin’ Around the World and The Seas with Nemo & Friends. Therefore, here you can find the interactive Turtle Talk with Crush and a cute dark ride that explores the ocean with, you guessed it, Nemo and his friends.
With Journey of Water, Inspired by Moana, this part of Epcot will get a new attraction in late 2023. This outdoor walkthrough will be a new green interactive trail where young and old Disney fans can observe and interact with “living water.” EPCOT might not be the only Walt Disney World park that will give us the opportunity to step into the world of Moana. Disney hinted in the past that there might be a place for Moana in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. We just will have to wait and see…
World Showcase: A trip around the World
World Showcase is the park’s largest “Neighborhood”. In other words, it features eleven World Fair-inspired pavilions dedicated to the culture, cuisine, architecture, and traditions of the nations they represent. We made our way clockwise around the centrally located lagoon to visit Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, Italy, the American Adventure, Japan, Morocco, France, the United Kingdom, and Canada. Who knew it was possible to visit all these “countries” in a single day?!
Every country has shops and restaurants where above all, you can taste national dishes and delicacies. Something we did not expect was to find actual imported products from these countries. You normally wouldn’t find most of these items in the USA or elsewhere outside the country itself. And because of a cultural student exchange program, you can even interact with people from Germany, Japan, or any of the other participating countries.
Frozen Ever After: Let it go with a few tears
One of the attractions at World Showcase is the “Frozen Ever After” log flume dark ride in the Norway Pavilion. For this queer community favorite, the EPCOT classic Maelstrom was completely transformed in 2016. After that, it became the world’s first Disney park attraction themed after the immensely successful movie Frozen. Due to the ongoing popularity of the films, we are now waiting for three new (and probably even bigger) Frozen rides to be opened at various Disney parks around the world! To be honest, we both had tears in our eyes as we floated through Elsa’s Ice Palace at Epcot while she sang her hit song “Let it Go”. A definite must-do for any LGBTQ+ friendly Disney fan!
Fun fact: one of the original designers of the attraction is Michel den Dulk. He started his Imagineering career at the Dutch theme park the Efteling. Dreams really can come true!
Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure: Shrink to the size of a rat
On our journey around the world, ahem lagoon, we reached France. One of the newest additions to this park area is the French Quarter, which opened up behind the existing France Pavilion. Here you find La Crêperie de Paris, a restaurant and quick service window serving sweet and savory crêpes, and the long-awaited 4D dark ride: Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure. Since the French version opened in Disneyland Paris in 2014, we have been very curious about this cute trackless ride. Here you shrink to the size of a rat and therefore go on a culinary journey through the kitchen of Gusteau’s famous restaurant.
Tip: not very fond of fast-paced 4D rides? Right around the corner of Remy’s Ratatouille, you will find the Beauty and the Beast Sing-Along. This 15-minute film told from the experience of Maurice is a fun, quirky, and pretty gay interpretation of the well-beloved classic. And what can go wrong when the narration is done by queer icon Angela Lansbury!
EPCOT and the Rainbow Connection
In celebration of Walt Disney World Resort’s 50th anniversary, Spaceship Earth received a beautiful update. In other words, the outside of the sphere has gotten a new LED lighting package called Beacons of Magic. During the Festival of Arts, the sphere lit up in all the colors of the rainbow for its evening show while playing the heartwarming song Rainbow Connection by The Muppets. For us as members of the LGBTQ+ community, it means a lot to see that rainbow upon this Disney icon. Let’s embrace it as another step in the right direction from an LGBTQ+ friendly Disney.
Disney’s Beach Club Resort
To stay right in the middle of all the magic, we advise booking a room at one of the official Walt Disney World Orlando Resort hotels. One of our favorite Disney hotels, above all, is Disney’s Beach Club Resort. The big bonus of staying at this hotel is that the side entrance to EPCOT is literally a five minutes walk away! Here you also take the Disney Skyliner to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. To be honest, it is the most fun and probably even the quickest way of transportation that is free.
Another great perk of staying at Disney’s Beach Club Resort is that they have a big pool and water play area. After a long hot day walking around in the Floridian sun, we loved floating around in the lazy river. Stormalong Bay even has a shipwreck with a pretty cool water slide.
Interesting Posts for your Gay Travels:
- Read all about our gay pride trips around the world >
- All about our gay travels around the world as openly gay couple >
- Reviews of our favorite Theme Parks around the world >
- Reviews of Hotels around the world: Gay-friendly tested hotels >
- Tips & Tricks: Our gay travel guide United States of America >
Now it’s your turn to plan your Disney EPCOT gaycation!
Visiting EPCOT is an important part of our Disney schedule. So far, we have been able to experience the International Flower & Garden Festival and the International Food & Wine Festival. Especially the latter involves sampling many more delicious things at all the EPCOT country pavilions. We particularly enjoyed the Indian snacks just around the corner from the Chinese Pavilion.
Another tip is the Disney Skyliner. Above all, it allows all park visitors to conveniently fly in an Aerial Gondola from EPCOT to the entrance of Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Now you don’t have to use a car or bus. Let us know if you have any other LGBTQ+ Disney-related questions. Otherwise, there is just one thing left to say. Have fun with Mickey & Co at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida!
Karl & Daan.
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