By Matthew Kitchen
CROSSING THE THRESHOLD into Walt Disney World's nearly 40 square miles of parks and rides, resorts, restaurants and golf courses, all connected by a hurtling Monorail, it's easy to see the roots of the "Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow" -- or Epcot for short. Indeed, it might seem as if you landed in a futuristic utopia, albeit one with man-sized rodents doling out hugs. Opened in 1982, Epcot was the second of the now four conjoined theme parks the Walt Disney Company built in Orlando. The first, the Magic Kingdom, soon overshadowed its predecessor, Disneyland, in California. With far more land and expansive ambitions, Walt's "Florida Project" grew into a seemingly inexhaustible way for families to ditch reality (and occasionally each other). As Disney gobbles up competitors, it continues to expand and reboot its parks. This year, Epcot is being reimagined to celebrate whatever "tomorrow" brings next. Never want to leave? Homes are now available on the compound, starting around $2 million. Here, four Disney die-hards share their don't-miss attractions.
THE SUPERFAN: Brook Lopez
Center for NBA's Milwaukee Bucks, 2013 All-Star, Disney World homeowner
BIG SQUEEZE / Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge: The Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run is a phenomenal ride. Whenever I see Chewbacca, we catch each other's eye because we're the same height. We walk up to each other and embrace. Hollywood Studios
SOAK IT UP / Splash Mountain: "I'm a big fan of water rides. On this one, I love the music and the detailing inside and the drop is always a thrill. Magic Kingdom Park
BEAR TESTIMONY / The Country Bear Jamboree: It's a classic. The show is really funny and entertaining. If you're lucky enough to get a good crowd that's really into it, it makes the experience that much better. Magic Kingdom Park
NEW NIBBLES / Restaurant Marrakesh: When I first went here, I had no experience with Moroccan food so they brought out everything -- appetizers, entrees, desserts. Oh my goodness! Epcot
THE IMAGINEER: Tony Baxter
Lead designer of Disney's Splash Mountain and Indiana Jones Adventure rides
FRIGHT STUFF / The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror: The one in Orlando has a ride mechanism that's far more amazing than the ones in California or Paris: The doors open and you start rolling through the top floor of this haunted hotel. Hollywood Studios
MONUMENTAL MEAL / Cinderella's Royal Table: It has stained glass, this exquisite European interior and an incredible menu. Nothing in the park compares to the elegance of that room. Magic Kingdom Park
THE MILD WILD / The Cabins at Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort: It's like having your own cabin in the mountains. It's such a nice, relaxing contrast to the high density of people at the resorts. From about $360 a night.
EASY TIGER / Maharajah Jungle Trek: You're on foot and you go through this Indian temple that has live tigers moving in this beautiful habitat. It reminds me of the Temple of Doom. Animal Kingdom Theme Park
THE PODCASTER: Jason Sheridan
Host of 'Podcast: The Ride'
CARPOOL / Disney Skyliner: It's kind of a ride -- you pick up a lot of speed going into and out of the stations. And it's probably the most efficient way to go from park to park or to move between a handful of hotels.
BACK TO THE FUTURE / Tomorrowland: The "phone booth of the future" didn't mean a lot to children anymore, so Disney is redoing Tomorrowland with a kind of "Buck Rogers and the Future That Never Was" theme. Magic Kingdom Park
OTHERWORLDLY HOOCH / Oga's Cantina at Galaxy's Edge: . It's the closest thing to feeling like you're on a living planet in the Star Wars universe. Plus, there's blue wine. Hollywood Studios
RETRO RESORT / Disney's BoardWalk Inn: It's like a 1920s seaside resort. It has a cool magic-themed bar called AbracadaBar and it's also centrally located between Hollywood Studios and Epcot. From about $480 a night.
THE PRINCESS: Amanda Lund
Actress, writer, podcaster former Disneyland Cinderella
GREAT NECK / Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge: You can get a room that overlooks the Safari. Last time I stayed there, I was having coffee out on the balcony and giraffes walked right up to me. From about $380 a night.
MORNING DO / Les Halles Boulangerie-Patisserie: I usually get breakfast at this patisserie in the French pavilion, which has really authentic pastries. I'm always impressed by Epcot. It's fun and a feels a little nostalgic and throwbacky. Epcot
MOUSE HUNT / Disney World App: It tells you up-to-the-minute information on where the characters are so you can get autographs and pictures.
PUB HUB / Rose & Crown Pub: I really love Epcot's little U.K. area and the Rose & Crown Pub. One of the great things about Epcot is that it's more adult-feeling. They're adapting to the grown-ups who spent so much time in the parks as kids. Epcot
Plus, Don't Miss...
FastPass+: The app lets you lock in times for up to three attractions 30 days before your trip, and add more once you tick the top priorities off your list. Free via the My Disney Experience app
Disney's Palm Golf Course: A championship track with greens, tees and bunkers wholly redesigned by Arnold Palmer Design Company in 2013, it's one of four courses in the Disney World compound. golfwdw.com
Senses Spa at the Grand Floridian Resort: After a few days hiking across the Magic Kingdom, you'll appreciate the Leg & Foot Intensive Massage. disneyworld.disney.go.com/spas/senses
Seven Seas Lagoon: Rather than sparring for space on Main Street ahead of the nightly "Happily Ever After" fireworks finale, book a private cruise across Seven Seas Lagoon: a prime spot for kids to catch the show. From $299 for eight guests