30 great ways to celebrate 30 years of Epcot magic

“The most exciting, by far the most important part of our Florida project – in fact, the heart of everything we’ll be doing in Disney World — will be our experimental prototype city of tomorrow. We call it EPCOT.” – Walt Disney, Oct. 27, 1966

Hurricane Hayward discovers a familiar symbol at Innoventions in Epcot.
Hurricane Hayward discovers a familiar symbol at Innoventions in Epcot. (Atomic Grog photo, May 2011)

The second-oldest of Disney World’s four theme parks opened to the public on Oct. 1, 1982. The massive project, originally called EPCOT Center, took three years and $1.2 billion to build. And while it didn’t fulfill Walt Disney’s grand vision of a utopian city, Epcot was something nobody had ever seen before, and it remains one of the world’s most distinctive tourist destinations. Its mixture of attractions and shows with culture and dining – all with a heavy emphasis on education — is unique and most likely something Walt would be proud of.

With more than 10 million visitors a year, Epcot is the third most popular theme park in the United States, trailing only Disney World’s Magic Kingdom and Disneyland in California. In honor of Epcot’s 30th anniversary, here are 30 of The Atomic Grog’s favorite ways to enjoy this eclectic combination of futuristic playground and food and beverage smorgasbord.

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Major changes in store for Disney’s Polynesian Resort?

UPDATES: Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto coming to Disney’s Polynesian Village (May 2014)
Refurb schedule announced, but no word on Trader Sam’s (February 2014)
Trader Sam’s could be key part of Polynesian refurbishment (August 2013)
Trader Sam’s one of many changes likely at Polynesian Resort (July 2013)

Rumors have swirled for years about the future of Disney’s Polynesian Resort, the 40-year-old iconic hotel and one of the Magic Kingdom’s two original resorts.

The entrance to the Great Ceremonial House at Disney's Polynesian Resort
The entrance to the Great Ceremonial House at Disney's Polynesian Resort. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, May 2011)

Affectionately known as “The Poly,” this sprawling 39-acre homage to the South Seas was one of the original two hotels built on the monorail line before the Magic Kingdom’s opening on Oct. 1, 1971. It was actually the first to open, beating the flagship Contemporary Resort by hours and hosting the press on opening day.

Like the Magic Kingdom, the Polynesian has remained true to Walt’s original vision (he was a fan of mid-century Tiki culture and explored the Pacific on vacations). Unlike the Contemporary, it has remained essentially the same stylistically, but with many upgrades to infrastructure and amenities over the years to keep it modern and comfortable.

But times are changing. Two major factors may be pushing massive renovations onto the Polynesian, though Disney officially remains tight-lipped on any speculation.

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Modern Retro Disney World: Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room

MODERN RETRO DISNEY WORLD

This is the first in a series that will spotlight The Atomic Grog’s picks of the top “modern retro” features at the world’s top tourist mecca. Disney World is a vast ocean of fun and frolic for all ages, but it’s easy to overlook the classic, timeless elements that make the massive resort special. It can be enjoyed on many levels – from the totally immersive, escapist experience in the theme parks to the many unique restaurants, bars and hotels. But what makes the fantasy complete is the incredible innovation, artistry and attention to detail that spans more than 40 years. The Atomic Grog is dedicated to celebrating and preserving cool mid-century kitsch, and there’s much of this to admire and embrace in “the happiest place on earth.” Is Disney World hip? Hardly. But it can still be enjoyed by geeky hipsters (and hipster geeks) with not a shred of irony. We hope you enjoy the ride with us.
Related: Disney World is still cool at 40 thanks to retro artists Shag, Kevin & Jody
July 2013 update: Tiki Room celebrates 50 years of enchantment

WALT DISNEY’S ENCHANTED TIKI ROOM
Photos: Jump to the gallery

José, Fritz, Michael and Pierre perform on an elaborate bird-mobile that descends from the ceiling (November 2011).
José, Fritz, Michael and Pierre perform on an elaborate bird-mobile that descends from the ceiling (November 2011).

Location: Adventureland in the Magic Kingdom theme park.

What is it? An indoor attraction themed to a Polynesian paradise featuring a colorful menagerie of flowers, Tikis and 200 performing Audio-Animatronic birds.

Origins: An opening-day attraction On Oct. 1, 1971, the Enchanted Tiki Room was originally known as Tropical Serenade. It was re-imagined and re-opened in 2011 under its current name with a show that pays tribute to the original Enchanted Tiki Room in Disneyland.

Claim to fame: The Disneyland attraction was the first to feature the Disney invention of Audio-Animatronics and was reportedly Walt Disney’s favorite.

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Artists shine amid copious crowds at Walt Disney World’s 40th birthday party

Photos: Jump to the gallery
Previous coverage: Disney World celebrates 40 years of mid-century magic
Related: Cocktails come of age at Epcot Food and Wine Festival | More on Disney World

Masses of mouse-minded fans flocked to the Magic Kingdom on Saturday, Oct. 1, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Walt Disney World. And while initial crowd forecasts were low, interest in the birthday bash quickly grew among the Disney faithful and resulted in a sometimes overwhelming throng even though actual celebratory festivities were modest.

The Magic Kingdom entrance and train station, as seen in December 1972 and Oct. 1, 2011. (Photos by Hurricane Hayward)
The Magic Kingdom entrance and train station, as seen in December 1972 and Oct. 1, 2011. (Photos by Hurricane Hayward)

The Oct. 1 opening date was selected in 1971 because it was considered the slow season, and it typically remains so today. But Disneyphiles came out of the woodwork for the anniversary party last week and took advantage of the late park hours at the Magic Kingdom (it was open from 9 a.m. until midnight).

My wife and I combined this event with a visit to the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival on Sunday, and it’s a good thing we did. The overflowing crowd on Saturday made for a hectic day and not much time to relax and enjoy the Disney experience. That’s not to say it wasn’t memorable. Here are the highlights (and some lowlights):

We stayed at the Caribbean Beach, one of Disney’s moderate resort hotels, and were pleasantly surprised. We had previously enjoyed Port Orleans Riverside, and this was on par with that experience.

The rooms were spacious and clean (with the great details that Disney is known for), the grounds (200 acres, including the 45-acre Barefoot Bay) were huge and full of amenities (be sure to take a walk around the lake) and the theming was spot-on. It was closed when we wandered by early Sunday, but I’ve heard the pool bar makes a great Piña Colada.

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Disney World celebrates 40 years of mid-century magic

Update/review: Artists shine amid copious crowds at Disney World’s 40th
Related: Disney World’s updated Enchanted Tiki Room has retro feel
Disney World is still cool at 40 thanks to retro artists Shag, Kevin & Jody

Walt Disney World has come a long way since Oct. 1, 1971. The resort celebrates its 40th anniversary Saturday with a 15-hour celebration at the iconic Magic Kingdom park, where it all started.

December 1972: The author in his pre-hurricane days (Tropical Storm Hayward?) is nearly lost in the crowd at the Magic Kingdom in front of Cinderella Castle.
December 1972: The author in his pre-hurricane days (Tropical Storm Hayward?) is nearly lost in the crowd at the Magic Kingdom in front of Cinderella Castle.

In 1971, there was just the Magic Kingdom, Fort Wilderness campground and two hotels (the Contemporary and Polynesian) connected by the Monorail. Now, there are four theme parks, two water parks, 30 themed resort hotels and much more. Whether or not the sprawling, 30,000-acre complex southwest of Orlando is the true realization of Walt Disney’s vision (see video below) is debatable, but it’s impressive nonetheless.

My first visit was in late 1972, and I still remember the joy and wonder of that day. I’m looking forward to the surprises Disney says are in store for guests on its birthday, although I’ve grown to appreciate Disney World for many different reasons.

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Back to the future: Disney World’s updated Enchanted Tiki Room has retro feel

July 2013 update: Tiki Room celebrates 50 years of enchantment
Modern Retro Disney World: Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room

With much fanfare, Walt Disney World’s Enchanted Tiki Room was back in business this week after being closed since January due to a mysterious fire that precipitated a full overhaul of the legendary attraction.

Jose and his friends have come home to roost at Walt Disney World's Enchanted Tiki Room (Photo from the Disney Parks Blog)
Jose and his friends have come home to roost at Walt Disney World's Enchanted Tiki Room (Photo from the Disney Parks Blog)

And, much to the glee of Disney fans and Tikiphiles, the Tiki Room officially reopened in the Magic Kingdom’s Adventureland with a new animatronic show that gives more than a nod to the original attraction, which has been a mainstay at California’s Disneyland since 1963.

We won’t be able to take a gander until October, but we’re happy to share some of the reviews, photos and video that have emerged this week. For a full recap of the Enchanted Tiki Room’s history and the story behind the renovations, check out our previous post.

Continue reading “Back to the future: Disney World’s updated Enchanted Tiki Room has retro feel”

Disney World is still cool at 40 thanks to retro artists Shag, Kevin & Jody

Update/review: Artists shine amid copious crowds at Disney World’s 40th
Related: Disney World celebrates 40 years of mid-century magic
Disney World’s updated Enchanted Tiki Room has retro feel
See below: Shag’s Disney World 40th anniversary collection | Video
Kevin Kidney & Jody Daily’s Disney World 40th anniversary collection

The author with a friend at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, December 1972.
The author with a friend at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, December 1972.

It’s late 1972. I’m visiting my grandparents in South Florida but I’m more excited about our day trip to the East Coast’s answer to Disneyland: Walt Disney World. The park had opened just a year earlier and promised to be – in the eyes of an 11-year-old in the early ’70s – the coolest place on Earth.

I’ll never forget my first ride on the futuristic Monorail, the spooky and fun Haunted Mansion, the cartoonish architecture of Tomorrowland, plus the iconic castle and all the classic characters. The day flew by too fast but I cherished my souvenirs, including a Haunted Mansion record that I played to death over the years.

Fast-forward some 30 years and I’m a childless grown-up in South Florida. I’ve made the rounds of most of the state’s attractions as a teenager and young adult but never made it back to the Magic Kingdom. My only Disney World experiences were a day at Disney-MGM Studios (now Disney’s Hollywood Studios) and a trip to Downtown Disney for a concert at the House of Blues. Like many others, I thought I was too cool for Disney World.

Continue reading “Disney World is still cool at 40 thanks to retro artists Shag, Kevin & Jody”