Walt Disney World : Epcot : Future World : The Living Seas
Opened in 1986, The Living Seas is an educational pavilion in the Epcot Future World area dedicated to the study of the Earth's oceans and our relationship with them. The exterior of the building features a rocky coastline with crashing waves, and a mural of the sun setting over the ocean. Once inside, the queue winds past a number of underwater exploration artifacts, including Sir Edmund Halley's first diving bell.
Sea Base Alpha
The main part of the Living Seas attraction is Sea Base Alpha. As is the case with many Disney attractions, there is a 7-minute pre-show movie to prepare you for the experience, but the powers that be have decided to make this one optional. If you've seen it before, or have no interest in the movie, you can skip it and go directly to the Hydrolators. The Hydrolators are elevators with effects to make it seem like you're descending to the depths of the ocean floor... in reality, you descend a couple of inches.*
At this point, you used to get into the Seacabs, small passenger vehicles that took you on a 3-minute tour of the "ocean floor". The Seacabs, however, are closed until further notice, and you now disembark the Hydrolators directly into Sea Base Alpha.
Sea Base Alpha itself is a two-floor research facility/exhibit area/aquarium viewing area. The highlight of the pavilion is the 5.7 million gallon salt water aquarium, which is the largest salt water aquarium tank in the world. Inside are over 100 varieties of fish and other sea creatures - the big crowd pleasers are the sharks and rays, as well as a sea turtle and a 500-pound grouper.
Besides the aquarium, there are a number of exhibits and special presentations/tours going on in the Sea Base Alpha area, including exhibits on underwater robotics and technology. There are also 3 special tours:Dolphins in Depth, which takes guests behind-the-scenes for possible dolphin interaction ("possible" because it all depends on how social the dolphins are feeling); no swimming required
Epcot Aqua Seas, which gives guests a 30-minute swim in the aquarium; swimming required, SCUBA certification not required
DiveQuest, a 30-minute dive experience; SCUBA certification required
*True story: The hydrolators have windows, and during your "descent", there is a rock face outside the windows that scrolls up or down to give you the illusion of traveling a great distance. The last time I was there, one of the rock scrolls outside the hydrolator window was broken. There were about 10 of us in the hydrolator just watching the dead rock window. Funny stuff, believe me.
Coral Reef Restaurant
It's only fitting that The Living Seas should feature a seafood restaurant. This particular restaurant features floor-to-ceiling viewing windows into the aquarium, so you can watch the sea life swim by. The tables are on tiered floor levels (think stadium seating), so that even if you're not next to the windows, you'll still have an amazing view. Some examples of what you'll find on the dinner menu:A Trio of Young Lettuce, with a choice of Blue Cheese or Key Lime Herb Vinaigrette dressing ($6.00)
Blackened Catfish with pepper jack cheese grits, smoked tomato compote, and balsamic glaze ($20.00)
Grilled Chicken Breast with citrus couscous, orange slices, and orange beurre blanc ($21.00)
As with most other WDW restaurants, there is also a children's menu. It's on the pricey side, but it's also a unique dining experience. Even if you're not a seafood fan, this is a must-try. (I speak from experience as a non-seafood person.)