Home » The 10 Things You NEED to Know Before Visiting Epcot at Walt Disney World

The 10 Things You NEED to Know Before Visiting Epcot at Walt Disney World

Epcot is Walt Disney World’s most delightful oddball of a park.

People have had trouble categorizing Epcot since its opening—it has never followed traditional theme park rules. Instead of emphasizing rides and characters the way Magic Kingdom does, Epcot is best described as a celebration of the world as it could be. It is likely the only theme park in the world that started out as a premise for a prototype utopia.

Epcot was Walt Disney’s greatest dream—the vast majority of the passion and focus for his “Florida Project” surrounded his Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow (E.P.C.O.T.). His goal was to create an actual prototype city where people lived and worked in the midst of cutting edge technology and where the nations of the world were represented in harmony. Walt was so determined to bring Epcot to life, he only agreed to build the Magic Kingdom as a means to fund it.

Alas, Walt passed away before Walt Disney World was completed, and his successors made the (wise) choice to adapt the Epcot concept into a theme park like no other: a celebration of the human experience where wonder abounds and learning is fun.

The Epcot of yesteryear is currently in a process of transformation—along with the addition of new attractions like Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure (opening in 2021) and Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind (opening in 2022), the park is undergoing a significant reimagining to make way for new guest experiences. Still, the spirit of Epcot has remained the same: a singular destination celebrating discovery, diversity, innovation, and nature.

Maybe you’re planning your first Walt Disney World vacation, or it’s been a while since your last visit. Alternatively, maybe you’re a longtime fan who has friends and family wanting to go, and you wish there were some way you could quickly sum-up the key “need-to-knows” for an amazing Disney vacation.

This guide is fourth in a series here at Theme Park Tourist to fulfill that need—sharing the basics you need to know to make the most of a Walt Disney World vacation. Our goal is to prepare you for what to expect, as well as help you avoid the snags that spoil too many potentially great vacations.

In our first installment, we focused on what you need to know about Walt Disney World overall—give that piece a read if you haven’t yet, as it covers the “big picture” facts about visiting The Most Magical Place on Earth. Since then, we’ve taken a look at both Disney’s Magic Kingdom as well as Disney’s Hollywood Studios (home of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge).

Today, we’ll be zeroing in on the top 10 things you NEED to know before visiting Disney’s Epcot.

AN IMPORTANT NOTE: Take some time to research Disney’s latest pandemic policies. These are frequently changing, and many policies are still in place at the time of this writing, including that you cannot enter a Disney park without a Disney Parks Pass reservation. You can find information on the latest developments here at Theme Park Tourist and at Walt Disney World’s website.

1. It is completely unique among theme parks

We touched on this in our introduction, but Epcot is a tricky park for some Disney guests to wrap their heads around because it’s just so different.

No other park has ever done what Epcot did—instead of a collection of rides and amusements, it’s a celebration of the human experience. While Epcot is starting to see a few more attractions arrive with focus on popular intellectual properties like Frozen or Ratatouille, the park has long focused on broader subjects: things like the history of communication, the spirit of discovery, diversity of cultures, or the sparks of imagination. Even the park’s layout plays by different rules, split into two distinct parts: Future World and World Showcase.

Epcot is such a singular place that it has, on occasion, been written off as Disney’s “boring” park. Families with children sometimes consider skipping it for fear it will be too adult-centric for little ones to enjoy. In truth, Epcot has always held appeal for all ages, and that holds even more true today with the addition of new attractions and experiences with elements just for kids. Some of the top highlights for kids include The Seas With Nemo and Friends, Frozen Ever After, and Journey Into Imagination.

2. The experience is about more than just rides

This is a common theme across much of Walt Disney World—a trip to Epcot is about much more than rides.

Similar to Disney’s Animal Kingdom or Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, Epcot is a multi-layered experience. The park has some great rides (Soarin’, Test Track, and Frozen Ever After tend to be the most popular), but you may find yourself drifting into a slower pace as you take it all in and realize the park itself is an expansive attraction.

Epcot is a place that encourages free-exploration. You can drift at your own pace through the pavilions of World Showcase, lingering to enjoy art, lavish gardens, restaurants, shops, or character encounters. You can tour the park’s seasonal festivals, trying unique culinary delights from around the world and taking part in activities encouraging guest expression. You can enjoy thrills on Mission: SPACE Orange Team one minute, then take a relaxing tour through the history of communication inside Spaceship Earth the next. With the exception of Test Track, Mission: SPACE Orange Team, and the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy coaster, most of Epcot’s rides tend to air on the more serene side.

The best part of Epcot, perhaps, is that it’s a place with lots of options to make the experience fully your own—the park offers a delightful variety for guests of every age and temperament.

3. Future World is where you’ll find most of the rides

As mentioned, Epcot is divided into two distinct parts: Future World and Epcot.

Future World is where you’ll find most of the rides in the park with few exceptions. Some of its most popular attractions include:

  • Spaceship Earth (the big ball with the cool history ride inside)
  • Test Track (a high speed experience where guests design cars then “test” their creations in an immersive digital world)
  • Mission: SPACE (a space training simulation with two versions. The Orange Team version is infamous for the use of centrifugal force—high speed spinning–to simulate zero gravity. This version can be a little rough on some people’s digestive systems, so there is an alterative Green Team version that takes guests on a most relaxed space mission).
  • The Seas with Nemo and Friends (A relaxing dive under the sea combining a Finding Nemo dark ride with an exploration zone surrounding the second largest saltwater aquarium tank in the US. This is also the home of Turtle Talk with Crush, a huge hit with kids visiting the park.)
  • Soarin’ (a stunning hang-glider simulation attraction that sends guests soaring across the world)
  • Journey Into Imagination (a kid-centric update of one of the park’s older attractions, surrounding a whimsical dive into the world of imagination)
  • Living with the Land (a peaceful boat ride through Epcot’s agriculture experimentation gardens)

These are just a sampling of the experiences at Future World. Epcot’s reimagining is largely centered on Future World, and along with smaller experiences at each of the land’s pavilions, new attractions are coming over the next few years including Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, Moana: A Journey of Water, The Disney PLAY Pavilion, and a new restaurant called Space 220.

4. You’ll want to take your time in World Showcase

The other half of Epcot is World Showcase—a collection of 11 pavilions representing Canada, The United Kingdom, France, Morocco, Japan, The US, Italy, Germany, China, Norway, and Mexico. Similar to a world’s fair, each pavilion highlights elements of the beauty, culture, and cuisine of each country.

While World Showcase does have a few rides (such as Frozen Ever After, the Gran Fiesta Tour, and soon, Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure), it’s largely an exploration experience. Guests are encouraged to tour at whatever pace you choose, taking in shops, films, entertainment, gardens, character greets, and immersive exhibits as you go.

World Showcase is definitely one of the most adult-friendly areas in Walt Disney World. While there are activities specifically for kids like Kidcot stops, characters, and areas like the Frozen parts of Norway, much of World Showcase is designed to appeal to older visitors. You’ll find dolls and children’s toys for sale alongside fine crystal, perfumes, teas, and apparel from the various nations. All of the pavilions have unique charms, and everyone has a different favorite. I particularly enjoy the Morocco and Japan pavilions for their beauty and immersive nature (as well as the Mitsukoshi store).

World Showcase is also home to some of the best food at Walt Disney World. If you love variety, Epcot can quickly become a culinary happy place with a broad range of restaurants both for table and counter service, as well as bakeries and other quick stops. Our favorite for sweet treats remains Kringla Bakery in Norway, as well as Les Halles Boulangerie Patisserie in France.

Another element that makes World Showcase unique is its cultural representatives—normally, the World Showcase pavilions are staffed by cast members from each respective country. While the cultural representatives program was temporarily suspended due effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, we hope to see it return soon as the cultural representatives added a truly wonderful element to a tour through World Showcase, allowing guests to meet people from each country.

5. Annual festivals play a big part now

Epcot currently offers four annual festivals which play a significant part in contributing to the atmosphere of the park. All four also offer unique guest experiences as well as a wide range of culinary small plates for visitors to enjoy.

The first festival is the Epcot International Festival of the Arts, currently offered from January to February. This festival fills Epcot with expressions of art and creativity, including booths offering art for sale, as well as interactive activities for guests to participate in like Photopass stops, color-by-number murals, art demonstrations, and visually stunning culinary fare.

The second festival is the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival, offered from March to May. One of Epcot’s two large festivals, it’s a celebration of all things that grow. Disney horticulturists fill the park with colorful gardens, elaborate topiaries, and individual exhibits about where the food we eat comes from. The Butterfly Pavilion is a particular highlight of this festival, along with the food highlighting natural ingredients in creative ways.

The third and largest is the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival, currently offered from mid-July all the way to November (it used to only be a month long!). It’s not hard to guess what this festival highlights—food, food, food, and drinks at their finest. Along with the widest variety of booths offering international cuisine throughout the park, the Food and Wine Festival also brings in celebrity chefs for demonstrations and classes throughout the course of its run, as well as well-known musical guests performing free concerts inside the park.

Last is the Epcot International Festival of the Holidays, running from November to December every year. This smaller festival is part of Disney’s annual Christmas festivities, filling Epcot with dazzling lights and holiday displays from each of the World Showcase countries. Along with holiday themed-culinary treats, guests can also expect to find Christmas cookies galore throughout the park.

6. How should I tour Epcot to spend less time in line?

As with all Disney parks, arriving an hour before opening is a good idea if you want to make the most out of your day at Epcot—while there are other strategies for visiting the park (particularly for Passholders who can afford to wing it on visits), for most guests, this will be the best way to go. With pandemic policies lightening and park capacity increasing, crowds are beginning to return to Walt Disney World in higher numbers, meaning longer lines.

While there are a number of good strategies for visiting the park (many guests swear by TouringPlans.com for guidance), if you get to Epcot well before rope drop, you may want to head to Test Track first. This attraction tends to build up the longest lines of any ride, and while you may be able to catch it during a lull in traffic later in the day, you’ll be rolling the dice. If you arrive at rope drop and still find yourself heading into a line longer than 60 minutes for the ride, then it may be best to move on to another attraction and try again later.

Another attraction you can try to hit early is Frozen Ever After, though this is hit or miss. The ride was built on the bones of Epcot’s old Maelstrom attraction which had notoriously low capacity, meaning lines can get long fast. The good thing is that Frozen Ever After does tend to have pockets of time where lines dip below 40 minutes. If this happens, take advantage and get in line, particularly if the line is under 30 minutes.

Most people tend to tour Epcot from the front of the park to the back, so deviating from this strategy can help some reduce time spent in lines. For this reason, some guests prefer to hit World Showcase early in the day when crowds are lighter. Particularly on weekends during festivals, World Showcase can get crowded and a little rowdy in the evening with adult guests Drinking-Around-the-World, so an early tour can be appealing for visitors who prefer a quieter experience.

Wait times for most attractions lately seem to peak between 1 and 3:30 PM. Spaceship Earth, Soarin’, and Mission: SPACE Orange Team, in particular, seem to rack up high wait times early in the day then taper off to lower waits as the afternoon wears on. The wonderful thing about Epcot is that once peak times pass, there are usually attractions with consistently low waits like Living with the Land and The Seas With Nemo and Friends. Spaceship Earth, also tends to have pleasantly low wait times later in the day.

7. The park is currently undergoing A LOT of construction

Epcot does have one big problem right now—there is a lot of construction going on.

It’s one thing when Disney boards off a single land or ride, but Epcot’s Future World is currently made up largely of a maze of construction walls diverting guests to the left or right of the park’s central corridor. The reason is because Future World’s reimagining will completely transform the map of the park, dividing the current Future World into new lands called World Discovery, World Celebration, and World Nature. This reconfiguring of the park’s structure has involved demolishing significant structures from the center of the park (including the old Innoventions Plaza), leaving guests to have to navigate construction barriers that effectively split the park in two.

While the reimagining of Epcot looks incredible, delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and park closures have meant construction barriers at Epcot are here to stay a little longer. In good news, Disney has made some progress on the project, with Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure and the Space 220 restaurant slated to open in 2021 and Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind (the park’s first coaster) opening in 2022.

Is Epcot still worth visiting while construction is going on? That depends on your goals for a Walt Disney World vacation. We have found there is enough to enjoy at Epcot if you are visiting the park as part of The Most Magical Place on Earth as a whole. However, if you have a special place in your heart for Epcot and are considering delaying your trip, it may be worth waiting until at least a few of the in-progress attractions are open, as well as the launch of the park’s new nighttime spectacular, Harmonious (coming in the fall).

8. Food is a big part of the experience

More than any of Disney’s other parks, food plays a major role in visiting Epcot. It’s actually one of the park’s biggest attractions!

The biggest complaint about theme park food is that… well, it’s terrible. We expect hot dogs and churros for days. While Epcot does offer these staples in a few locations, variety is king in this park, and much of the cuisine offered is of impressive quality and creativity.

While Future World has a few noteworthy food stops (such as Sunshine Seasons in the land and The Coral Reef restaurant), World Showcase is the real star of the show for dining. Each of the World Showcase pavilions offer both table and counter service options, alongside seasonal booths with dishes from around the world for Epcot’s festivals. There’s a lot to choose from, but a few of our favorites include Tutto Italia in Italy, Katsura Grill in Japan, Regal Eagle Smokehouse in the American Adventure, Kringla Bakery in Norway, The Rose and Crown Pub in the UK, Spice Road Table in Morocco (and Tangerine Café when it reopens), and The Biergarten in Germany (when the buffet reopens).

These are just a few of the options available. In short, plan to enjoy some food when visiting Epcot, and definitely don’t limit yourself to corn dogs and chicken tenders!

9. It has some of the most convenient (and classy) resorts at Walt Disney World

For the perfect combination of classiness, fun, and convenience, you can’t go wrong with the Epcot resorts: The Boardwalk Inn, The Yacht and Beach Club Resorts, and The Swan & Dolphin. I would go so far as to argue they are some of the best resorts at Walt Disney World.

The Epcot resorts have several things going for them. First off, they are incredibly classy—all five are beautifully decorated following individual themes of seaside charm with spacious, comfortable rooms. The Disney Vacation Club villas at The Boardwalk Inn and Yacht & Beach Club are particularly lovely, offering the convenience of kitchens and large bathrooms in most rooms (these can be rented via DVC point rental services).

The Epcot resorts are also easily the most convenient resorts for visiting parks at Walt Disney World. Unless you plan to spend your whole trip at either Magic Kingdom or Disney’s Animal Kingdom, you’ll save a good amount of time and energy visiting the parks from the Epcot resorts. The reason why is that the Epcot resorts offer more transportation options than any other resorts. Guests can reach Epcot or Disney’s Hollywood Studios by either friendship boats or walkways (via Epcot’s “International Gateway” back entrance) and the other two parks by bus. Epcot resort guests also can utilize the Disney Skyliner to travel between Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios by accessing it from either park. While not technically part of the immediate Epcot resorts, Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, Disney’s Riviera, Pop Century, and the Art of Animation Resorts all also offer access to Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios via Skyliner.

One note about the Swan and Dolphin: these two gorgeous resorts aren’t technically Disney resorts since they’re owned by Marriott, and while Swan and Dolphin guests don’t get access to all of the same benefits as Disney resorts, they do get many of the same perks and convenience of the other Epcot resorts. They also offer deluxe level rooms at moderate prices, and impressive amenities across both hotels (the Java Bar at the Swan is also the best place in Walt Disney World to get a decent cup of coffee). Also, because they are Marriot hotels, you could technically build up enough points on a travel credit card to get free nights there!

10. It’s a really appealing destination for park hopping

Of all of Disney parks, Epcot is the arguably the most ideal for park hopping. For those unfamiliar, park hopping is an option you can add onto almost any Walt Disney World ticket that allows you to visit more than one park in a day. While the Disney Parks Pass reservation system remains in effect, the option is currently available to guests after 2 PM, though we hope to see the system expanded as things return to normal in Disney parks.

Park hopping to Epcot is appealing for a number of reasons. For one thing, it’s extremely convenient if you’re coming from Disney’s Hollywood Studios—the parks are only about 15-20 minutes apart via friendship boat, walkway, or Skyliner. From Magic Kingdom or Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Epcot is fairly easy to reach by bus (eventually, the Epcot monorail will reopen and provide another option as well).

Epcot is a great park to spend the second half of a day at thanks to its wide range of experiences. You can enjoy a fun morning at another park then have a tasty meal and a more leisurely time exploring Epcot’s attractions for the second half of your day. Epcot is also appealing as a dinner destination thanks to its range of restaurants and its late park hours. The park also sees shorter lines on some attractions later in the day, which is a great bonus!

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