Most guests know that The Land pavilion in the Future World area of Epcot is home to one of the park’s premiere attractions, Soarin’. Many may not be aware, however, that there’s also a hidden gem located within that same pavilion. The hidden gem that I am referring to is Living with the Land. Living with the Land also holds several world records but I’ll get to that later in the article.
Living with the Land is a gentle boat ride through Disney’s greenhouse and aquaculture facilities. Disney Imagineers have taken what some might would have considered a plain and a bit boring attraction and created something impressive and interesting.
Coming from a family of farmers and being gardeners ourselves, Living with the Land is a not-to-be-missed attraction for my family. Don’t have a green thumb? Certainly don’t let this stop you from enjoying the attraction as there are many elements to Living with the Land that you will find yourselves oohing and aahing over. I assure you that it’s just as the Walt Disney World site says you’ll “Gain a newfound appreciation for where your food comes from on this cruise through the living laboratories of Epcot.”
DIStracted Tip: The boats used in the Living with the Land attraction have bench type seats which will seat three or four to a row. Many are wheelchair accessible and guests using a motorized scooter or ECV will need to transfer to an available wheelchair in order to experience the attraction. Fastpass+ is available for Living with the Land.
Your “living laboratory” tour includes a pre-recorded narration which will explain in detail each of the environments, greenhouses and facilities that you will see during the tour.
“Multimedia displays of diverse eco systems, from rain forest to farmstead, bring our agricultural history to life. As you cruise by, hear about mankind’s past successes, failures, lessons learned and hopeful future when it comes to living off the land.” (Excerpt from the Walt Disney World site)
Disney Imagineers put their creative skills to good use when they created the thunderstorm, wind, sound effects and animatronic animals in the forest, desert and farmstead areas of the attraction. While those sections are interesting and informative, it’s really the greenhouse and aquaculture facilities that are the “wow factor” of Living with the Land.
Your cruise smoothly transitions from the first three areas into the “Living Laboratory” section where you’re afforded the opportunity to take a look at Disney’s experimental greenhouses. This part of the ride gives visitors insight into cutting-edge techniques being used by Disney and the techniques that may very well become the future of farming.
The plants in the various greenhouses are grown with the use of hydroponics and aeroponics which are methods that feed plants using mineral-enriched water and mists rather than soil. One neat thing that you will learn during your tour is that the plants being grown are not only used to educate guests to the park but they are also used to provide produce and fish to many of the restaurants at Epcot. So, if your waiter or waitress brings out a green salad with Mickey shaped cucumbers, it’s safe to bet that the cucumbers and, quite possibly, the lettuce was grown in the Living with the Land greenhouses.
The tropics greenhouse grows a variety of fruits and other produce items that are found in the world’s tropical zones. You’ll surely recognize the pineapples, coconuts and papayas as they are some of the more common tropical fruits.
Also grown in the tropics greenhouse are some more unusual plants like this peanut butter tree. Peanut butter tree? Yes, there is such a thing as a peanut butter tree and I have a picture to prove it.
From the tropics greenhouse, your boat will take you through Living with the Land‘s aquaculture facilities also known as the aquacell. You’ll immediately notice the change in lighting as the lighting in the aquacell is a deep red. The aquacell features low and high density tanks holding a variety of fish, crustaceans and even reptiles. During our visits, we have seen several different aquatic animals such as sturgeon, tilapia, shrimp, eels and alligators.
DIStracted tip: Be sure to keep an eye out for Hidden Mickeys as we’ve seen at least two in just this section of the tour.
Next up on the Living with the Land tour is the temperate greenhouse. Temperate climates or zones are natural places for farming and gardening. In this particular greenhouse, you may see beautiful sunflowers, giant pumpkins and melons.
The production and creative greenhouse, the next greenhouse in the tour, uses innovative irrigation and growing techniques to grow produce like cucumbers, eggplants, peppers and yet another record breaker. As was reported by bestoforlando.com and multiple other sites, Walt Disney World has made it into the Guinness Book of World Records multiple times including for the most tomatoes harvested from one plant in one year – Epcot got its first Guinness Book record in April 2006 when a single tomato plant in one year harvested 32,194 tomatoes! The plant weighed 1151.84 pounds!
The last greenhouse on the tour is the herb greenhouse where you’ll see edible flowers, various herbs and even cactus.
Last, but certainly not least, is the biotechnology lab. The biotechnology lab is a sterile research environment in which scientist are working to produce higher yielding and better quality plants. Many of the “Mickey’s Mini Gardens” are grown right there in the Biotechnology Lab and are available for purchase in several locations in Epcot.
If you find yourself wanting a more up-close and personal look at Living with the Land, I’d highly recommend the Behind the Seeds tour. The cost as shown on the Walt Disney World website is $20 for adults and $16 for children. As with all tours, prices are subject to change. You can make tour reservations in advance by calling 407-939-8687. If you do not make advance reservations, don’t count the tour out as the tours take place several times per day and Disney can usually accommodate your party during one of the time slots. Simply inquire at the desk located on the lower floor of The Land near the entrance to Soarin’.
We’ve taken the tour three times and wouldn’t hesitate to take it again! The ages of the people in our party ranged from pre-teens, teenagers, young adults, adults and a senior and we all enjoyed the tour. Each time we have taken the Behind the Seeds tour, there have been young children in the group and the tour guide made sure that they kept them involved and interested. It really is a tour for everyone and is a budget-friendly option when it comes to backstage tours.
I hope that my article has planted the seed in your mind that your Epcot itinerary needs to include a tour on Living with the Land and possibly the Behind the Seeds tour! The pictures that I posted are just a small sampling of all the unique plants and the uncommon ways they can be grown. We often find ourselves riding Living with the Land twice and switching places on the boat in order to see things that we missed the first time around.