Inspired by Walt Disney’s vision of an Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, Epcot Center was built to celebrate the joy, hope, and friendship of the entire world. There’s a beautiful, clean, futuristic feel here. You’re greeted at the entrance by an iconic geosphere known as Spaceship Earth – a powerful symbol of the futuristic and yet incredibly earthly place that you’re about to experience.
The park is composed of two very different areas: Future World and World Showcase. One shows you a world that could be and the other celebrates the best of the one that is.
How to avoid the crowds: If you want to really avoid the crowds at Epcot Center – any day of the year – arrive early! Aim for being at the park entrance 45 minutes to an hour before opening, and take advantage of Extra Magic Hours when possible. The best dates to visit are mid-November through mid-December (except the week of Thanksgiving), the third week of January through mid-February, the first three weeks of May (except Memorial Day weekend) and the first 2 weeks of September.
Getting Around Epcot
1. Future World – Future World is a tribute to technological advancements of the past and future. The massive Spaceship Earth contains a 16-minute gentle ride that takes you through the history of communications. Future World is also home to Living with the Land, which is a wonderful boat ride that allows you to view unique indoor plant growing areas. Use a fastpass to enjoy Soarin’ so you can gently soar over California with the smell of orange groves and the feeling of wind in your hair.
2. World Showcase – Epcot’s World Showcase is made up of 11 gorgeous pavilions representing countries around the world. There’s Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, Italy, United States, Japan, Morocco, France, United Kingdom, and Canada. The walk around the lake takes you seamlessly from one country to the next, in a way where you never feel in two places at once. The architecture, food, and even the people who work there (all from the actual country) help to transport to you to each place.
Must-See Epcot Rides & Attractions
1. Test Track: Future World – In Test Track you design your own virtual vehicle and then compare it to the actual “simulation car” that you ride in. You’ll travel over rough terrain, various obstacles, and finish with a 65 mph ride on the outdoor track. It’s a futuristic, thrill ride that’s fun over and over again!
2. Mission Space: Future World – This simulated space adventure takes you from liftoff to the sensation of weightlessness. Four people fit into each vehicle and will be assigned a mission to accomplish during your flight to Mars. I’d recommend skipping this attraction if you’re prone to motion sickness or claustrophobia.
3. Spaceship Earth: Future World – The 18-story Epcot landmark takes you past animatronic scenes that depict mankind’s developments in communications, beginning with cavemen painting on cave walls, all the way to television and the internet. Guests flock here in the morning, so you’ll want to do this one in the afternoon for the shortest wait time.
4. Living with the Land: Future World – You begin in an impressively detailed tropical rainforest, and cruise on a boat to dry deserts and American prairies, and end in actual greenhouses known as the Living Laboratory. This is the perfect after lunch attraction. It’s 14 minutes long, very relaxing, and gives you sometime to settle your stomach before you continue your day.
5. Meet Disney Pals at the Epcot Character Spot: Future World – Epcot is a great place for kids and kids at heart! Case in point – most everyone enjoys the delightfully air conditioned Epcot Character Spot. Here you can meet Mickey, Minnie, and Pluto. Chip ‘n’ Dale are often just outside. This should be your very first stop if you have small children in your party.
6. Ellen’s Energy Adventure: Future World – Ellen DeGeneres and Bill Nye “The Science Guy” team up to teach kids about solar, atomic, and other types of energy. Animatronic dinosaurs roar and the smell sulfur from an erupting volcano wafts as you tour the history of energy. It’s a whopping 45-minute long attraction and normally has a very short wait time.
7. Club Cool: Future World – Club Cool is more of a showcase for Coca-Cola, but it’s still a great attraction in its own right. Here you can get free samples of soft drinks from around the world that you can’t find at home. Make sure you have the camera ready for the first time that your friends and family taste the soda called Beverly!
8. Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros: World Showcase – This fantastic little boat ride within the Mexico Pavilion rarely has a long wait time. Follow Panchito and Jose Carioca as they chase after Donald Duck before a grand musical concert. The ride mixes animation, superimposed over live-action clips shot in Acapulco, Chichen Itza, Mexico City, and Manzanillo.
9. The American Adventure: World Showcase – Using animatronics, film, and moving sets, this 30-minute show profiles the biggest personalities in American History. You’ll get to see Mark Twain smoke a cigar, and Ben Franklin too.
10. The Seas with Nemo and Friends: Future World – Journey through a coral reef, see beautiful jellyfish, and float past Bruce the great white shark. In the finale there’s the cool effect of watching animated Pixar characters swim in an actual aquarium with real fish.
Epcot Parades & Festivals
1. Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival – Every spring, the world’s master gardeners create more than 100 topiary replicas of Disney Characters. There’s also a number of outdoor food and beverage stands selling farm-to-table specialties, and a butterfly house with hundreds of species. The Garden Rocks Concert Series features pop acts at 5:30, 6:45 and 8pm on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays during the festival.
2. Sounds Like Summer Concert Series – Every night at the America Gardens Theater, Epcot hosts some of the world’s greatest tribute bands. The Sounds Like Summer Concert Series is included in regular admission to Epcot Center, and there are typically three shows per night.
3. Epcot International Food & Wine Festival – This festival takes place during the fall each year and features more than 25 international food stands. There are seminars and special dining experiences with celebrity chefs for an additional charge. Please note that you’ll want to book these special experiences in advance because they do sell out. Disney begins taking reservations as early as the month of August. You can also find the Eat to the Beat! Concert Series during the Food & Wine Festival.
4. Holidays Around the World and Candlelight Processional – Storytellers from the countries of World Showcase recount holiday customs from their respective countries. Meet Mr. and Mrs. Claus and have your picture taken with them. The Candlelight Processional happens three times nightly. A celebrity narrator reads the story of Christmas, as a 50-piece orchestra and choir play in the background.
Where to Eat in Epcot
Photo: Tacos at Cantina de San Angel | Zannaland via Flickr
1. Quick Service – These easy, cafeteria-style dining halls are the fastest and cheapest way to get a quick lunch. Quick-Service restaurants offer soups, sandwiches, salads, pastas, etc. Many of these places serve very similar food and aren’t always the healthiest. Check out our recommendations to find extra-special, healthier counter service throughout the parks.
Great Choices: Sunshine Seasons , Tangierine Cafe , Yorkshire County Fish Shop , Boulangerie Pâtisserie , Kringla Bakeri Og Kafe
2. Table Service – It’s Disney’s version of sit down dining. The menu is usually better and the ambience a little classier. Plus Disney service is pretty much always excellent! Reservations are not required but are strongly recommended. You’ll want to make arrangements as far as 180 days in advance for best availability.
Great Choices: Via Napoli , Coral Reef , Biergarten , Teppan Edo
3. Snacks & Treats – Walking around Epcot Center and traveling the world can really work up your appetite! When you don’t want to stop for a whole meal, there are several delicious snack shacks and stands to help boost your energy – especially during the yearly festivals! Food in World Showcase is often very authentic and you’re bound to find something here that you just can’t get at home. You can sample shaved ice in Japan, Norwegian school bread, Churritos in Mexico, and baklava in Morocco.
Great Choices: Tutto Gusto , Karamell-Kuche Bakery , Joy of Tea
4. Character Dining – There are two character dining options in Epcot. During Character meals, the characters make their way around the dining room and stop at each table. This style of dining is so popular, you can eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner with the characters. Make sure you reserve far in advance. It’s an incredibly magical experience that you’ll want to experience at least once.
Great Choices: Akershus Royal Banquet Hall , Garden Grill
1. Get Disney Gift Cards for the Festivals – During the Flower and Garden Festival and the International Food & Wine Festival you can pick up gift cards that attach to your wrist. These are super convenient as you travel from one outdoor kitchen to the next.
2. Dining Packages for Candlelight Processional – You can reserve dining packages as early as July and August. These give you access to a reserved seating section for the processional and great meal.
3. The Back Door to Epcot – You don’t have to enter Epcot from the front. Head over to the International Gateway between France and United Kingdom. From there you can also find beautiful walkways that lead to the Beach Club, Boardwalk, and even Hollywood Studios.
4. Pick a Pearl in Japan – Inside the Japan Pavilion, you can select an oyster, have it opened for you, and keep the pearl inside for right around $20. Pearls will range in color and size, but the rumor is that the uglier the oyster – the larger and prettier the pearl. You can get them set in a necklace or earrings for a very special souvenir.
5. United Kingdom Hedge Maze – Quietly nestled outside the United Kingdom Pavilion, you’ll find a real hedge maze. It’s fun for kids and adults alike to walk through the maze and take pictures.
6. Big Blue World – The Seas with Nemo & Friends is one of the largest saltwater aquariums in the world. It holds enough water to fill Spaceship Earth and then some! You can book a scuba dive in the tank for an additional fee.
7. Kidcot Fun Stops – You can keep the kids entertained as you enjoy each international pavilion or just rest while they color and draw. Find a Kidcot Fun Stop and ask the Cast Member for a FREE cardboard Duffy the Disney Bear or Perry the Platypus to decorate. The Cast Member will stamp it for you and even write the child’s name in their native language.
8. Twinkling Sidewalks – As you exit the Park, take the path on the right side of Spaceship Earth. Here you’ll find some magical, twinkling sidewalks and “fireflies” in the trees!
9. Italy’s Fountain – Located in the central plaza of the Italy pavilion, known as the "Plaza del Teatro," you can find the “Fontana de Nettuno.” This fountain contains the image of Neptune, the God of the Sea, and was inspired by Gian Lorenzo Bernini's Fountain of Trevi, located in Rome, Italy. The original famous fountain is often recognized as having been seen in Federico Fellini's classic film, “La Dolce Vita.”
10. China – The temple in China is acoustically perfect. When you stand in the center of the room, your voice will echo back to you. Go ahead and try it!