Why EPCOT and Animal Kingdom Are Such Important Disney Theme Parks

When I think of Disney World, I admittedly picture Cinderella Castle, the iconic landmark at the heard of Magic Kingdom. Disney World, however, is so much more than the castle and fantasy that Magic Kingdom provides. EPCOT and Animal Kingdom are two of the most important Disney theme parks, arguably across the world. Why you ask? Let me explain.

If you have never visited Disney World, it’s important to explain what makes these two parks unique. EPCOT houses the World Showcase, a section of the park filled with 11 different Country “pavilions.” These countries include Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, Italy, American Adventure, Japan, Morocco, France, UK, and Canada. Each of these countries is modeled to resemble the country itself, houses unique dining and experiences in line with the country, and introduces cast members who are native to the countries to interact with the guests. Having 11 different countries to explore in a day is an important interaction that shouldn’t be dismissed. Allowing guests to fully immerse in the different cultures of these countries provide a well rounded, education experience that would lack in that area with another theme park.

Travel west of EPCOT and you will hit Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the newest of the four Disney World theme parks. Similar to EPCOT’s World Showcase, Animal Kingdom is split up into individual lands to immerse the guests in a unique experience. Here, guests can visit the Africa area and the Asia area. Like EPCOT, these two sections of the park truly involve the guests in the culture of these continents and are home to cast members from these locations. The music, entertainment, food, and overall style of these two sections of the park truly make guests feel as if they are a part of the culture.

The importance of these two parks really can’t go unnoticed or underappreciated. While this experience is important for kids and adults alike, families are especially lucky for this experience within the parks. A family with kids is unlikely to have the financial ability to visit the various countries represented, and I imagine overseas trips with kids to a brand new country comes with a handful of difficulties. But in Disney World, any child can get the chance to experience new cultures and then meet Minnie Mouse and Mickey Mouse in the same day. Sprinkling in the chance to learn about other countries and experience them within Disney World is a great way to keep kids attention and promote learning in a fun, friendly, exciting environment.

I know that there is no comparison to traveling the world. The France Pavilion in EPCOT cannot compare to taking a trip to France and visiting the landmarks, speaking with the people, and learning about the history. But, for those of us who simply cannot afford to visit a different country each year, the importance of the Disney World parks including a world traveling type of experience is one that truly makes EPCOT and Animal Kingdom two of the most important and special Disney parks.

Goodbye River Country

Times are changing, and Disney World is finally expanding onto parts of their property that have sat vacant for over a decade. Located on Bay Lake, near the current property for Fort Wilderness, once sat Disney’s first ever water park on property.

Disney’s River Country was the first water park that Disney World ventured into creating. At the beginning of it’s time, River Country was very popular. In the heat of Florida, you can imagine that an already popular Disney World was thriving from opening a water park. The park would be packed and even hit capacity. Oddly enough, the booming popularity of River Country would end up being it’s own demise.

My guess is that, due to the high demand in River Country, Disney World decided to expand and build another water park to capture more guests. In the late 80’s, Typhoon Lagoon opened, and in the mid 90’s, Blizzard Beach opened. With two, much newer, water parks that were much larger in size and included some more exciting attractions, River Country began to fall off.

Once River Country finally closed, the property was left vacant and abandoned for years and years. The craziest part? The property was located right off Bay Lake and some Fort Wilderness trails even led up to it. You could basically, without breaking any rules, walk right up to the surrounding fencing and possibly peek through. The only other abandoned Disney World location is Discovery Island, and it’s pretty clear that visiting over there is VERY off limits. So it’s pretty crazy to me that River Country was left without that many limitations to visiting it’s grounds.

All that being said, it was recently announced that the property where River Country was once located will soon be home to a brand new hotel. It seems as if construction on site has already begun. My dreams of visiting Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campgrounds and exploring what was once River Country have shattered. A little piece of Disney World history has disappeared. The bright side? If I am every lucky enough to stay at the fancy new resort on the former River Country property, I will ensure that I take the time out to glance over Bay Lake at the only other abandoned Disney World park; Discovery Island.