Living With the Land is a slow moving boat ride that is part Spaceship Earth, part greenhouse. It shares a home in the Land Pavilion with the extremely popular Soarin’ ride. Having opened along with EPCOT back in 1982, the ride is an “oldie but a goodie.” Come along with me today as we research how this ride yields a crop of educational fun for the whole family.
I remember a time, before Soarin’, when Living With the Land was the primary attraction in the Land Pavilion. The line would wind around the brightly colored mural of the queue at great length during peak hours of the day. After my first ride as a kid, I found this a little puzzling. The ride did not seem to merit the long line usually associated with high thrills. Had the people in line just never been on the ride before? Had someone lied and told them it was a high thrill adventure? Didn’t they know it was basically a slow moving classroom on water? I mean, the most exciting thing on Living With the Land is getting to see a 40 pound lemon. What was up with the long line? More importantly, why did my parents keep dragging me into this long wait for something I was clearly not that excited about?
Well, flash forward a couple of decades and I have to admit I am now a fan of Living With the Land. It is hard to put into words, but there is something about this ride that I just enjoy. The floating boat is a kindred cousin of It’s a Small World, except here the singing animatronic dolls have been replaced with genetically enhanced fruits and vegetables. Doesn’t that sound like fun? Well, it isn’t a ride that I go running to as soon as I arrive in EPCOT, but it is a ride that I enjoy whenever I’m there.
Living With the Land has two distinct segments comprising the 14 minute narrated journey. The first half of the ride is very much like Spaceship Earth as you are taken through several different scenes depicting different environments of the land. Water is a repeat element throughout the ride. The first example of life-giving water comes as you watch a rain storm in the distance. From here the sound of raindrops and howling wind slowly give way to the sound of a splashing water. Soon you see a gorgeous waterfall as you enter the Amazon Rainforest. Next, we learn half of the Earth’s plant & animal species reside in this dense area of land. The scope and detail of the rainforest is very impressive.
The next environment is very different from the lush rain forest, as you enter the warm arid climate of the dessert. You learn here that the land may look devoid of water entirely, but actually there is just enough for certain species of plants to survive. Unlocking the key to life surviving with such little water will come back into play later in the ride. For now, it is onto the American prairie.
I love the scene of the classic American farm as it reminds me of my Kansas roots on my mom’s side of the family. As you float by, pay attention to the address number on the mailbox and see if you can find a correlation to the ride’s history. While the dog barks at you from the porch, you continue to move past the scarecrow protecting the fields of crops.
Next, a sequence of photos and videos help tell the story of how our past with the land helped us understand its limits. With a growing nation to feed and a limited amount of land to farm, it soon became clear that Living With the Land would be a challenge. New farming techniques and strategies would need to be developed to ensure this symbiotic relationship. Of course, this principle is true around the world, as we see how different parts of the globe are contributing new ideas for the benefit of all.
Once the global slide show ends, the ride is flooded with sunlight as your boat enters the Production & Research Center. This is the greenhouse portion of the automated tour, which is actually my favorite part. The onboard recorded narration informs you about a wide variety of plants, fruits, vegetables, and more! If you rode the ride before 2006 when it was still called Listen to the Land, you may miss the live boat tour guide. With all the information given out during this portion of the ride, it would be pretty tough for a live host to keep up. Using the same RIFD technology now found on that Magic Band around your wrist, the boat’s position triggers the next piece of narration at the exact right time.
During this part of the ride, it almost seems like a challenge to listen to the narrator and then swivel your head to the correct side of the boat to find the plant being discussed. All of the sudden looking at a plant buried in the sand feels exciting. “I don’t want to miss seeing the bananas! Where are the bananas? Oh, they’re on both sides of the boat, good. That was close!” You don’t get to see a banana everyday you know. Well, actually most of us do. In fact, as you learn on the ride we eat 28 million tons of bananas a year, making it the most popular fruit in the world.
We eat more than just bananas though, and so the ride next takes us into the world of Aqua Culture. It may seem strange to think about farming fish, but innovative techniques are at work here just like they are with produce. Finding better ways to farm your favorite fish as efficiently as possible is serious business.
When you are done swimming with the fishies, things get turned upside down. Really. The plants in the next section are producing vegetables from the ceiling down, rather than the ground up. Here you will learn about these new techniques that dramatically reduce the need for water and still yield bountiful crops. I always enjoy this part of the ride because it seems so futuristic. Even though this technique is not brand new, just seeing the plants growing this way against the clean white backdrop of the greenhouse makes it exciting.
Before the ride concludes, you can catch a glimpse of the laboratories where EPCOT scientists are working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to utilize and develop the techniques displayed on the ride. If there are any green thumbs among your Disney crew, chances are they will find this entire ride fascinating. If the 14 minute boat ride went by too fast, there is good news. You can actually sign up for an hour-long walking tour called Behind the Seeds. This takes you behind the scenes of Living With the Land. The cost is currently $20 per adult and $16 for children. The tours run from 10:30 to 4:30.
If that still isn’t enough Living With the Land for you there is more! You can head upstairs after the ride and dine at The Garden Grill. This restaurant features a character meal with family style dining. Not only will Chip ’n’ Dale pay you a visit while you eat, but your table will slowly rotate offering unique views of Living With the Land down below.
As I said before, this is no Soarin’ or Test Track, but Living With the Land has a unique charm. I would definitely recommend this ride to first-time visitors. The blend of entertainment and education is a hallmark of EPCOT. Also, I love the Land Pavilion that houses Living With the Land. This two story pavilion is very open and airy. Even though it can get pretty crowded around meal times, this is a great spot to take a break from the weather and walking. Our family likes to plan the rides in the Land pavilion around meals. The Sunshine Seasons is a quick service restaurant that has enough options the whole family will be able to find something tasty.
For me a visit to Living With the Land would look something like this: Have a Fastpass + reservation for Soarin’ just before lunch or dinner time. Best to ride this on an empty stomach just to be on the safe side. After Soarin’ I would hop on Living With the Land and really work up a healthy appetite while learning about the best ways to produce the best food. From there it is only a few short steps to Sunshine Seasons. Here I would have to decide between Sweet-and-Sour Chicken, Oak-Grilled Rotisserie Chicken, or Spicy Fish Tacos. After a delicious meal under the brightly colored decorative hot air balloons, I would head upstairs and take in the Circle of Life. This comfortable theater is a great way to relax after a good meal while being reminded about the importance of conservation.
That sounds like a great way to spend a couple of hours doesn’t it? Good rides, good food, and a good relaxing atmosphere. Well, that will conclude our look at another Walt Disney World ride. Thank you so much for joining me this week. Until next time, make each day a ride worth taking!