Walt Disney World Epcot

Disney World’s Epcot theme park

Are you looking for a complete guide to Disney World’s Epcot theme park? Epcot is huge – it isn’t really possible to see it in a single day. So that makes it all the more important that you have some idea of what to expect before you arrive.

Walt Disney’s dream of a utopian society became one of the most innovative and exciting theme parks in the world. Whilst many guests feel that this is the most grown-up of all the Disney parks but Epcot has plenty to entertain all the family.

Learn about all the major attractions. Decide which are the unmissable rides and which attractions can be left for another day. Find out how to spend less time in line, eat at the best restaurants and learn how to get the most out of your visit to Disney World’s Epcot.

Epcot Center – Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow

What is Disney’s Epcot Really Like?

Why Epcot? It stands for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. Walt Disney’s idea was that Epcot would be a visionary place to live and work. But it never quite turned out that way of course. Instead, it became one of Disney’s most innovative theme parks.

Epcot is divided into 2 distinct areas. Future World and World Showcase. It is more than twice the size of Magic Kingdom – there is a lot of ground to cover. The saying is that Epcot really stands for Every Person Comes Out Tired. It really isn’t possible to see everything at Epcot in one day so if your schedule allows try and allocate 2 days to explore.

Epcot is divided into 2 distinct sections: Future World and World Showcase.

Future World is closest to Walt’s original idea – it has attractions that represent the technology of today and innovations of the future. Here are some of the best and most popular rides in the whole of Disney World: Test Track and Soarin Over California.

World Showcase is located around the lagoon – a 1.2-mile trail around 11 countries of the World.

Future World is open from 9 am to 7 pm each day. Some attractions such as Test Track stay open until 9 pm.

World Showcase opens at 11 am and closes at 9 pm.

There are some seasonal variations so be sure that you check the exact opening times of Epcot before you arrive.

Arriving at Epcot

What Should You Do When You Arrive At Disney’s Epcot?

The first thing you will notice when you approach Epcot is the famous ball-shaped structure. You can see it for miles around. This is the Spaceship Earth ride which dominates the park. I will never forget the first time that I arrived at Epcot and I have to admit that I still have the same sense of excitement each time I visit.

You will also notice how large the parking lot is! Always remember to note down somewhere exactly where you are parked. Believe me you can easily forget after a day in the park and you really don’t want to be searching for your car after 12 hours walking around Epcot.

You can take the parking lot tram or walk to the entrance plaza. Many guests also arrive on the monorail from Disney resorts.

The first ride you will see is Spaceship Earth. If the lines are above 15 minutes then walk on by and come back later. Do not follow the crowd! Most guests try and ride on this attraction first so the lines form quickly. Move on instead to ride on Test Track or Soarin Over California or to pick up a Fast Pass for later in the day – these are the big headline rides where lines may belong all day.

What is Spaceship Earth? You will board a time travel vehicle and be taken on a journey from the start of time to the present day. Travel past scenes with audio-animatronic scenes that tell man’s journey through time explaining human advancement through communication. More fun than that description sounds! This is a ride suitable for all of the family.

Epcot Mission Space

Do you Want To Ride Epcot’s Mission Space?

Mission Space is one of Disney World’s most innovative attractions. This motion flight simulator ride will blast you off for a mission into space. You are seated in a 4 person capsule for your mission and each of you has a role to play in the mission. There are 2 versions of the ride. You will experience G Force on the original version of the ride. In 2006 Disney introduced a nonspinning version of the ride.

When Mission Space was introduced in 2003 Disney had high hopes for this attraction. But it has not proved as popular as they would have liked. Tragically two guests died after riding Mission Space – and whilst neither death was directly linked to experiencing the ride it has certainly been that this is a major factor why the lines at this attraction never seem very long. Another big factor is that Mission Space can cause motion sickness. There are many warnings posted in the ride that guests with any kind of health problem should not ride and that it may induce motion sickness. Many guests just feel that it isn’t worth the risk of feeling unwell.

My feeling is that many guests still do not realize that there is a nonspinning version of the ride which is a good alternative for those who don’t want to experience the G Force. I first rode Mission Space when it was introduced and experienced no problems at all. But I admit that these days I do not ride the original version and do not allow any of my children to either. Guests report that their reactions are unpredictable – those that are fine on other G Force attractions sometimes react to this one. The non-spinning version is fine but has none of the excitement of the original for me – so Mission Space is a ride which I, like many others, walk on by these days.

Epcot Test Track

Experience Disney’s Test Track Ride

Test Track has to be my favorite Disney World ride. One of the most technologically advanced rides that the Disney Imagineers have ever built this attraction whose back story it that it is for testing vehicles is just a lot of fun!

After the (slightly boring) pre-show you board a 6 passenger vehicle and travel around the test facility. Along the way ou experience various tests including the handling test and braking test.

This is all well and good but of course, what you are really waiting for is The High-Speed Test. Narrowly missing a collision your vehicle pauses for a second and then the door to the outside opens. Suddenly you are accelerating fast around a banked track outside and reaching speeds of 65 mph before braking pretty sharply. Then you will want to go straight back around and ride again.

As you may imagine this is a popular ride. Lines form early in the morning. So if you want to get ahead then get to the park early. Aim to arrive at least 30 minutes ahead of opening time and then as soon as you get into the park run! Head for Spaceship Earth and turn left at the fountain. I can assure you that you won’t be the only person doing this!

Another tactic is as soon as you arrive in the park head to Test Track and if the line is just too long then get a Fast Pass with a time to return to the ride later in the day. Or go on as a Single Rider. The lines here are usually pretty short but you definitely will not be seated with other members of your party.

There is a height requirement of 40″ so check how tall the kids are before they go so that you can head off their disappointment when they can’t ride.

Epcot Universe Of Energy

Ellen’s Energy Adventure at Epcot

The Universe of Energy Pavilion houses the very popular Ellen’s Energy Adventure starring Ellen Degeneres and Jamie Lee Curtis. The show starts in a huge theater with a Jeopardy-style quiz with Ellen trying to compete against Dr. Judy Peterson and Albert Einstein. She isn’t doing too well so all the guests file into a separate auditorium and take their seats in a huge moving vehicle.

You are then taken back in time to when dinosaurs roamed the Earth for Ellen to see where energy comes from and to learn how precious it is. The journey through the audio-animatronics dinosaurs is impressive. It does get pretty dark and can be scary for young children.

Epcot Soarin Over California

Soarin Arrives at Disney’s Epcot

Located in the Land Pavilion this is a difficult one to describe – I thought this picture does it pretty well though! The Soarin attraction was such a hit at Disneyland they brought it to Epcot in 2005.

Essentially Epcot’s Soarin’ is a movie tour of California with a twist. You actually feel as though you are flying. When you enter the theater you are seated in one of 3 rows on a huge metal structure. The lights dim and you are lifted up to 40 feet in the air in front of a huge projection screen. The seat gently moves and created the sensation of flying over the California landscape from the north to the south.

The best view is on the front row as this only row where you do not have other guests feet in your line of vision – but all the rows give a great view. I am not a big fan of flying but I love this ride. Personally I don’t think that you get too much of a sense of how high you are as you are so mesmerized by the scenery. A truly unique and unmissable ride.

There is a height requirement on Epcot’s Soarin’ of 40 inches. It is, of course, a very popular ride so get a Fast Pass when you can. I have seen 120-minute lines even when the rest of the park didn’t seem that busy.

Epcot Imagination Pavillion

Journey Into Imagination With Figment

What will you find in The Imagination Pavillion? This part of Future World which is right at the side of World Showcase houses Honey I Shrunk the Audience and Journey Into Imagination With Figment.

For some reason, my 7-year-old son’s absolute favorite Disney ride is Journey into Imagination With Figment. This 6-minute ride takes the imagination theme and translates it to the world through the eyes of the character Figment. With Eric Idle as the host, you board a slow-moving vehicle and travel through different rooms each with something to stimulate each of your senses. Often there is little wait time for this attraction – it is tucked into a corner and a lot of guests miss it. Not one of my favorites, if you have limited time then you can probably walk on by without missing too much.

As you exit the ride you go into the What If Labs. This attraction is a little disappointing for me. You can conduct an orchestra, send an email, and use the green screen technology to put yourself into a Disney picture. Nothing particularly exciting here for grown-ups but young children usually want to spend a huge amount of time here!

The 17 minute 3D movie Honey I Shrunk The Audience is a lot of fun. Put on your 3D glasses and enjoy the multitude of special effects, water sprays, moving seats. This can get pretty intense and some young children are overwhelmed by it. Try and avoid the first couple of rows so that you get the proper 3D effect. There is a Fast Pass available if the lines become too long.

Epcot Innoventions

The Future of Epcot

There are two parts to the Innoventions pavilion. Innoventions East and Innoventions West. Both are just along from Spaceship Earth and house huge displays of technology and interactive exhibits. Popular attractions are the house of the future virtual reality games and computer games. It can get pretty busy at times and frustratingly, of course, the things that you want to try to tend to be the ones with the long wait line.

Innoventions has improved a lot in recent years and is worth a visit. But I would suggest that if you have limited touring time you can give these a miss on your first visit.

Epcot The Living Seas

Join Nemo and Friends at Epcot

Once just The Living Seas but now renamed and redesigned as The Seas With Nemo and Friends this pavilion has become a much-loved attraction once more.

The Seas with Nemo and Friends ride invites you to board a calmobile and take a swim through the underwater world of Disney Pixar’s Nemo. This slow-moving ride is suitable for everyone and has some truly amazing effects. The ride passes next to the 5.7 million gallon seawater tank while Nemo and his friends magically appear in front of you. When the ride is over then step into the viewing area and enjoy the amazing aquarium.

Turtle Talk With Crush is another Nemo themed attraction. This interactive show lets the audience talk with Crush. Entertaining and well worth a look. The show is around 10 minutes long.

Epcot The Land Pavillion

The Land Pavilion houses Epcot’s Soarin Over California, Living With The Land, and The Circle of Life.

Living With The Land is one of my favorite attractions. A gentle 12-minute boat ride telling the story of how agriculture has progressed through technology. Whilst I don’t agree with it’s commentary very much these days it is a pleasant journey through animatronic scenes and you get to ride through the Epcot greenhouses.

The entrance to Living With The Land is right next to a huge food court. This is actually one of the better counter service places to eat in Future World and it gets very busy. Guests tend to eat and then join the line for Living With The Land so try and avoid major meal times and you will have a shorter wait.

Circle of Life is a Lion King-themed conservation movie. An important message buys for me is not one of my favorite attractions. It just misses the mark somehow. But many others enjoy this 12-minute show. Usually, there is not much of a wait and shows run continuously.

Best Time To Visit Disney’s Epcot

Traffic patterns at Disney World theme parks are more of an art than a science. It can be difficult to predict which day is best to visit a particular park but there are some general trends which have developed over the years.

Epcot is a very large park so it is rare that when walking around it actually feels crowded. There are exceptional days of course – I remember one New Year’s Eve when I thought I would be stuck in World Showcase forevermore!

But the lines to get pretty long to the headline attractions such as Test Track and Soarin. Waits of 120 minutes for these rides are not unknown.

So which is the best day to visit Epcot? Of course, there is a lot of difference of opinion about this one! But Disney’s own site says that Tuesday and Friday are the most popular days at Epcot. Other sites will tell you differently to that but I guess that as Disney is the only one which has all of the figures I would rather go with their opinion.

What are the opening hours of Disney’s Epcot? Generally, the Future World opens at 9 am and World Showcase at 11 am. What you will find is that guests generally head for World Showcase at around lunchtime – crowds tend to be low at opening times.

Future World usually closes at 7 pm although some attractions such as Test Track and Soarin do remain open until 9 pm. World Showcase usually closes at 9pm. There are seasonal variations to these times and you should check exact opening times before you visit by either checking the Disney World official website or calling 407 824 4321.

Extra Magic Hours also make a difference in attendance levels at Epcot. On certain days guests of the Disney World resort hotels have exclusive extra hours access to the parks. You can check the Disney website for when these extra hours are going to be during your visit. For Disney World resort guests they will be given information about this when they check-in. If you are a Disney resort guest then it really is worth it to make use of these extra hours which are either before of after official opening times. For Epcot, the park will usually open one hour early on one day of the week, and on a different day or two of the week, it will stay open for up to 3 hours later. If you are not a Disney resort guest then it can be wise to avoid a park in the morning of an Extra Magic Hour when the park opens early as you will find higher attendance. If the Extra Magic Hour is for late opening then resort guests will usually start arriving late in the day.

Whenever you plan to visit Epcot make sure that you use the Fast Pass System or Single Rider lines at attractions where they are available – it will most certainly save you a lot of time standing in line. You can also plan to arrive at the parks around an hour earlier than official opening time and you will find that the gates do often open early. If you are an early riser there is definitely an advantage to arriving early at the theme parks to hit the major rides before the crowds start to build.

Epcot World Showcase

The idea of the World Showcase is to create a taste of the experience of different countries around the world There are 11 Pavilions located around the 40 acre World Showcase Lagoon. Here you will find miniature versions of famous landmarks, beautiful gardens, restaurants, shopping and entertainment of each country.

The countries represented are:

  • Canada,
  • The United Kingdom
  • France
  • Morocco
  • Japan
  • The United States of America
  • Italy
  • Germany
  • China
  • Norway
  • Mexico

Which way should you tour around Epcot World Showcase? I always tend to go in an anti-clockwise direction and start in Canada. For no other reason than it is just a habit – I don’t think there is any advantage to one way or the other. Do be aware though that the path around the lagoon is 1.2 miles long and you will have to walk back to the parking lot, the monorail, or your hotel after your visit. So save some energy by taking some rest stops and also trying not to double back too much – you will walk miles! This picture is taken from the Japan Pavilion which is a little less than half the way around the World Showcase lagoon – you can see how far away Spaceship Earth is.

Now I will take you on a journey around one of my favorite parts of Disney World country by country in Epcot’s World Showcase.

Epcot The American Adventure

Look across the lagoon from the Future World side of Epcot and you will notice one pavilion which is direct across from you at the most southerly point of the park – this huge structure built in Colonial style is The American Adventure Pavilion.

At the front of the pavilion at the edge of the lagoon is The America Gardens Theater. This stages outdoor concert and events such as The Candlelight Processional which is a very popular event at Christmas time.

The huge American Adventure building is impressive in its attention to historical detail. It houses the 30 minute American Adventure show which is an audio-animatronics marvel detailing the history of the United States. Your hosts Benjamin Franklin and Mark Twain take you on a journey through time. All of the US Presidents appear on stage and the attraction is currently closed awaiting the arrival of President Obama – it will be interesting to hear his speech.

Whilst the American Adventure is impressive I have to say that the store and the dining are not that great in this pavilion. The store is very small and has few items – mainly books and clothing. There is no full-service restaurant. The Liberty Inn is counter service and has favorites such as hamburgers, hot dogs, and chicken strips. Popular but not exactly exciting!

Epcot Illuminations

Every night at 9 pm Illuminations Reflections of Earth is staged around the World Showcase Lagoon. A combination of fireworks, pyrotechnics, and laser technology creates this spectacular show. At busy times you do have to pick your spot early to get the best place. The Cantina de San Angel outside the Mexican Pavilion is a good place to view, also the Japan pavilion on the second floor near the restaurant, The Rose and Crown outside dining area alongside the lagoon and the bridge between the United Kingdom and France.

Illuminations Reflections of Earth is a wonderful way to end your day at Epcot. You have to leave the park when it ends and so one thing that you should consider when picking a viewing spot is how you will exit the park. It can be a long walk back to the parking lot. If you are staying in an Epcot resort hotel then you have the perfect location as you can leave through the World Showcase exit. The majority though will walk through Future World to the monorail and the parking lot. Sometimes at busy times, it is just easier until the crowd lessens, or dash out when the last firework crosses the sky!

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