Walt Disney World's EPCOT conceals several Corporate Lounges, or so goes the rumor. I'm not an expert on how many, but I've read there are upwards of 6---- in the Test Track (GM), Spaceship Earth (Siemens), Mission Space (HP), American Adventures (AmEx), The Land Pavillion and the Living Seas.
"Tucked away off stage, mostly out of view from the casual guest, are a host of special VIP areas scattered throughout the pavilions of Epcot. They are not widely advertised, and they have subtle access points. You've probably passed by an entrance to one, completely unaware of what was beyond the door....
Each of the major pavilions in Epcot once had a private lounge. In the heyday of corporate sponsorship, these lounges served as VIP areas for hosting employees, entertaining guests, and holding special events. Some are active for current sponsors, while other lounges are no longer in regular use....
These special areas are the stuff of legend for many, probably because they are off limits to all but those with corporate connections or personal invitations. Most of the throngs who would clamor for new experiences never get access to these areas of respite in the park. That doesn't stop people from embellishing the lore, though, or even from videotaping attempts at unauthorized access (not that we condone that sort of thing here at Plus the Magic... but we did uncover some footage while doing research). The attraction to these exclusive areas is understandable, especially to people who have experienced all that Epcot has to offer to the general public. Who wouldn't want to get a chance to see something off the beaten path?"
Please forgive me if I've missed one of the lounges or don't have the latest info--- I can't speak to all the lounges but I CAN speak to the one above the Test Track because I was fortunate to spend some time there on our last vacation.
The Test Track was sponsored by GM from 1999 (when it opened) to 2012 (when it was refurbished). After the refurbishment the ride sponsorship switched to Chevrolet. Despite that change, the corporate lounge is available to all current or retired General Motors employees.
Even though I knew about the existence of the lounge, I had a ton of trouble finding it. I had to ask directions more than once and it took three tries to find the 'secret door' --- which isn't so much secret, as utterly nondescript. You access the lounge through this inconspicuous side door, and follow a long hallway to an elevator.
The hallway, by the way, is full of lovely large art panels which remind me of the panels in the GM World Headquarters (Renaissance Center in Detroit) -- not sure whether that was intentional or not.
The long hallway....
In the elevator you must ring the receptionist and present your GM badge to the security camera in the elevator, only then may you proceed to the lounge.
The lounge itself is lovely and spacious, with end-grain flooring, modern furniture, and a projected slideshow of GM vehicles. In the receptionist foyer is an internal-facing window overlooking the ride. My understanding is that in earlier versions of the ride you could watch the vehicles zooming below, but it is now dark --- either the window is tinted or there's nothing down there or it's a dark section of the ride. (Disclaimer: I was driven around the real test track at the Milford Proving Grounds in Michigan once and that was enough for me for a lifetime, so I've never actually ridden the Test Track ride at EPCOT as I assume it's too fast and too scary for me! So if it's not dark, again, I hope you will forgive my mistake--- regardless, I'm not entirely sure what this window is supposed to overlook, but can definitively say that you can't see anything exciting through it.)
You can see the cars whizz by below the external facing window, though, every few seconds as shown in the video below.
Prior to our 2013 trip I had received a job offer for another company, which I anticipated accepting, which meant this would likely be my only opportunity to visit the GM Lounge, so I took lots of pictures.
My mom who was with us was not overly impressed, she said it looked like every other corporate office in existence and there was nothing special and that the whole excursion was a waste of time... But I LOVED visiting the lounge. There's a great view of EPCOT out the window and it provided a nice, air conditioned opportunity to rest and recharge for a minute. For me, an introvert who struggles with the crowds sometimes, it was a great respite --- and there was a soda machine. Free drinks, air conditioning, great view--- what's not to love?
The receptionist gave us Fastpasses for the ride (the other employee perk) and my family rode while I took my younger daughter to the DisneyVisa exclusive Meet&Greet at the Innoventions pavilion for a little one-on-one time with Minnie and Pluto. Like I said above, I've ridden the real test track and don't really have a desire to relive that experience in a ride. (Too fast!! Too scary!!!) Every family needs the one person who is cool with sitting on the curb saving a place for the parade while the others ride the roller coasters, and that's me, alright?
After normal business hours, when the lounge is closed, GM employees can visit the desk inside the vehicle showroom section to get complimentary Test Track Fastpasses for their group. You can only get one batch of Fastpasses at a time but there is no limit (that I know of) of the number of Fastpasses you can get per day. Before the Fastpass system, I'm told that the GM employees were able to walk onto the ride through a door accessed through the lounge, but that was before my time so not sure if that's true or not.
Even though I didn't ride the Test Track myself, I had an amazing opportunity to take some new friends on instead. It was late at night in the middle of our trip and I was reaching that point where I was starting to get tired and fed up with my own family. I was standing outside of one of the gift shops, impatiently waiting for them to finish shopping, when I heard a family arguing behind me---- also apparently tired and frustrated with each other. The parents wanted to go back to the hotel and pack because they had an early flight in the morning, but the kids (tweens and teens) were begging to ride the Test Track one last time before they left. Apparently the wait was over and hour --- it was pretty late at that point and the parents were just done with the park. The argument began to escalate and I felt a great deal of sympathy for the situation as it's one I've been in myself plenty of times. I've also seen this sort of argument play out numerous times on my trips to the parks, and it's like watching a train wreck where I'm standing there helpless, sympathetic, slightly uncomfortable. But in this instance I could actually do something to help! So I interrupted the family and asked them if I could get them onto the Test Track right then if they'd like to go. The energy of the situation changed immediately and I walked with the family over to the Test Track, picked up the Fastpasses at the desk, and accompanied them in line. The Fastpass line was maybe about 10 minutes and I got to know my new friends a little bit--- really, isn't that one of the best things about Disney, the people you meet and the instant friendships that you can create out of this shared experience. And it's not just limited to the people you meet in the parks, of course, I've had so many conversations with strangers in line at a store or restaurant who notice my Mickey purse and strike up a conversation with me, or visa versa! It drives my husband bonkers, but talking about Disney trips is one of my favorite things!
Anyway, that experience was really special for me and remains one of my fondest memories from that trip. I got a little taste of what it must be like to be a Disney employee charged with making people happy--- how awesome must that be? (Yes, yes, I'm sure I'm over-romanticizing it and I'm sure being a Cast Member can be a really grueling gig but--- my goodness, being able to take a family who are snapping at each other and turn the situation around where they're laughing and joking and smiling, what an awesome feeling!
I think that the GM corporate lounge is a great employee perk. For a Disney enthusiast like me it was The Best employee perk! I wish more companies would set up something similar--- if it's true that most of the lounges aren't being used right now, that's a shame. You can bet that on our upcoming trip I'll be looking up longingly at the window wishing I still had my Employee badge!
Oh, and just in case you are thinking that you could forge a GM Employee badge to score extra Fastpasses or free soda: the receptionists' job is to check your badge against GM's employee directory, so you really have to be a current employee. I keep teasing my old boss that I'd like to come back and work for him as a consultant --- but only for two weeks --- and I'll need those two weeks off for a trip to Walt Disney World!