This week, I'm returning to Epcot for another tip. All too often guests visiting Epcot enter the park in the morning, glance up at Spaceship Earth as they hustle underneath, and perhaps take slight notice of either Innoventions East or West as they rush to either Soarin' or Test Track. Throughout the day, Innoventions serves as a cut-thru or a place to seek shelter during those famous Florida storms (which, I agree is a good place to go in the rain).
So here's the tip -- don't skip Innoventions -- you might be surprised at what you can find, and keep there.
But Innoventions (East and West) are separate attractions, dare I say, pavilions in their own rights. Each side has several exhibits featuring some very interesting (and sometimes competitive) topics.
For instance, did you know that, at one time, you could build your own virtual robot and then race it against other guests at the Fantastic Plastics Works exhibit in Innoventions East? This race was very physical (I was huffing and puffing after running it with my son - we ended up winning, but it was quite a challenge). Afterward, you got to build your own plastic robot that you could take with you -- free. Sadly, this exhibit was replaced in 2008.
What came in it's place, however, was every bit as amazing, though possibly a little scarier for small children. Storm Struck simulates what's it's like to be inside a house during a hurricane in Florida. For those of you in the Midwest - you could equate this to being inside a house during a tornado. Kids get to build their own storm safety kit. This is a thrilling attraction and it's not to be missed.
While you're in Innoventions East, be sure to visit the "Don't Waste It" exhibit. I know, I know, it's all about recycling and trash, and that's doesn't seem like it's very interesting, but give this a try, you'll be pleasantly surprised. With the heavy emphasis on "green living" these days, it's very interesting to find out just how much recycling is taking place, even if you don't recycle.
Over in Innoventions West is another very neat exhibit, again demonstrating technology that pre-dated the Wii. The "Where's the Fire" exhibit allows parents and children to go into a virtual house to help identify potential fire hazards and put them out. This is a team-based exhibit with two teams competing against each other. The neat thing here is the interactive nature of the exhibit, similar to Toy Story Mania. As the guest interacts with these huge screens, the images and action change in real time. The lesson is an important one as well.
You Segway fans (or wannabe fans) can take a short spin at Segway Central. Here you'll learn more about the Segway and have the chance for a short (1-2 minutes) ride. This is one exhibit that gets popular, so you might see some lines (but nothing like the standby line over at Soarin'). Also check out the SlapStick Studios. Here (like over in Innoventions East) you can solve problems and take home your own Velcro frog.
Coming late this year to Innoventions West is a new exhibit by Raytheon that is similar to Cyberspace Mountain at DisneyQuest. See more on this from an Orlando Attractions Magazine blog post.
Here's one more tip for you. You can see a preview of all the exhibits in Innoventions, East and West, by visiting the Innoventions special Web site at http://innoventions.disney.com. There you can see a few videos, see some photos from exhibits and download maps of Innoventions East and West.
The next time you're racing to get that FastPass and then wondering what to do next - head over to Innoventions. It's what Epcot was originally all about -- learning and exploration.