Epcot is a very unique theme park among the US Disney parks. Walt Disney initially intended EPCOT to be the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, showcasing futuristic living and technology. Now, it is one of the most educational parks with the main attractions (*cough cough* the alcoholic beverages) better-suited for adults. It is composed of Future World which preserves some of Walt’s original intentions and the World Showcase. While some of the attractions are very similar to California versions, there is a lot to offer. I’ve divided this post into the main things to see in Future World as well as a more detailed description of what I consider to be the highlights in each country in the World Showcase.
- Living with the Land
This is one of the most unique and educational experiences in Epcot. Definitely go during the day so you can see the scientists hard at work while you learn about agricultural practices and the food that supplies the rest of the resort.
- Spaceship Earth
Yes, there is a ride inside of the giant golf ball. The line can get pretty long so try to avoid it when the park opens; use a Fastpass+ or go during typical mealtimes instead.
This is almost exactly the same as the new Soarin’ at California Adventure; if you’ve only seen the Soarin’ over California version, definitely watch this one. There’s also an interactive mobile game in the queue if you do not use a FastPass+
- Test Track
This is the same track as Radiator Springs Racers at California Adventure with very different theming. Biggest tip if you are a party smaller than 4 is to use the Single Rider Entrance; you’ll likely be split up but the line is much faster if you do not care about getting a photo. If you really care about designing a test car, you can do so upon exiting the ride.
- Mission: SPACE
If you don’t get motion-sick (I do and have avoided it ever since my first trip), this is likely the closest you’ll get to feeling like an astronaut. The orange version takes you to Mars and the green less-intense version gives you a view of the Earth from space.
- Garden Grill
This character dining includes meeting Chip, Dale, Mickey and Pluto while dining in a rotating restaurant with views into Living with the Land. It is a lot of food for a party of two but has good options for breakfast and dinner.
- Festival Offerings
Booths for all the festivals are in both Future World and the World Showcase. The Festival of the Arts (my personal favorite) occurs in January and February and has several visual and performing arts events including Broadway concerts and seminars on photography and the like. The Flower and Garden Festival lasts from the end of February through Memorial Day and features topiaries, information on gardening and sustainability, and the Garden Rocks concert series. The Food and Wine Festival brings in extra country-specific booths, several more drunk adults on weekends, and the Eat to the Beat concert series from August through November. The Festival of the Holidays in November and December has special performers sharing each country’s holiday traditions as well as spiked coffee or hot chocolate so you can still drink around the world when it’s colder out.
- Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival
If you’re a Disney or Pixar fan, you’ve likely seen all of these shorts already so this is just a nice spot to rest your feet in some air-conditioning.
- Journey into Imagination with Figment
This is a quirky dark ride with one room for each of the five senses. If you want to try to understand the preponderance of purple dragon merchandise available in the parks, ride it. Otherwise, avoid smelling skunk by skipping this.
- The Seas with Nemo and Friends
This is very similar to Disneyland’s Finding Nemo ride. The giant aquarium at the end is pretty cool (the turtles are hard to find) but you can see aquariums when you’re not on a Disney trip.
- Most other dining in Future World
Except for Garden Grill, the options in Future World are not particularly remarkable or memorable and include more standard American fare that pales in comparison to everything else in the World Showcase.
To Do Time-Permitting
- Meet Baymax
He can’t talk but he gives great hugs. He is usually available to meet from park open to park close and his queue is indoors.
- Meet Joy and Sadness
These two are entertaining, Sadness especially, and are not available in Disneyland. Like Baymax, they do not talk and the queue is indoors.
- Epcot Character Spot
Meet Mickey, Minnie and Goofy (usually) in their traditional outfits while only waiting in one line.
World Showcase Overview
The real draw of Epcot is the World Showcase which is made up of 11 different permanent pavilions highlighting the cultures of each nation through food, performances, architecture and shopping.
It is over one mile walking around the entire showcase so it is usually recommended to pick one direction and go all the way around to save your feet. I prefer to start with Mexico and finish with Canada, and I recommend this direction for starting to Drink Around the World as well. If you need breakfast, start in the Canada direction first or head straight to France.
Regarding dining reservations, I do not usually plan to sit down at any of the Epcot restaurants because of the preponderance of festival booths and small meal options. The one exception may be to get some prime viewing for the nighttime show, Epcot Forever.
There are a few options for margaritas in this pavilion. I prefer the frozen Fiesta Margarita (lime, strawberry and mango flavors together) at the outdoor Choza de Margarita stand but there is also La Cava del Tequila inside of the pavilion that has quite a selection of margaritas and fresh tortilla chips in a small space. Both options also serve small plates if you need more to eat.
- Gran Fiesta Tour
This has a similar magic to it at night as Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland because the ceiling is painted to make it feel like you’re really outside of Mayan ruins. The ride itself is much more quaint but may be getting a Coco re-theming in the near future. If it has a short wait, definitely try it.
- Coco exhibit in the Mexico Folk Art Gallery
Learn more about Día de Muertos than you did in your Spanish classes by checking out the information on the history and artistry of this traditional celebration.
- Mariachi Cobre
This is one of the biggest mariachi bands I’ve ever seen and they’ve been performing at Epcot for decades. Definitely stop to listen for awhile, perhaps while enjoying a frozen margarita.
- La Hacienda de San Angel or La Cantina de San Angel patio viewing of Epcot Forever
Mexico has one table-service and one quick-service restaurant that each have views of Epcot Forever. Get a reservation for La Hacienda or show up to La Cantina 30 minutes beforehand to get a spot.
- Frozen Ever After
This is one of if not THE best boat ride in WDW and the queue is indoors and well-themed. As a Disneyland veteran, this may be the best use of a Tier 1 FastPass+ because it is the most unique option. The animatronics can be a little creepy, so I only go if the wait is less than 45 minutes, during Extra Magic Hours or right before the park closes.
- Anna and Elsa meet-and-greet
Because of their popularity, these two usually are available to meet from park open to park close. And the wait is mostly indoors! You can skip this if you’ve already met them in Disneyland.
- Stave Church Gallery
When I first visited, this had cultural artifacts and inspiration for the Frozen film which was quite educational. More recently, it has become home to an exhibit on Norse gods like Loki and Thor.
- Troll photo opportunity inside the shops
There is a giant troll statue in one of the shops that makes for some pretty hilarious photo ops. Any cast member would be glad to take a photo of your whole group.
- Akershus Royal Banquet Hall
Because Ariel’s Grotto is no longer an option at California Adventure and because Cinderella’s Royal Table reservations in Magic Kingdom are very difficult to obtain, this is a good option to efficiently meet princesses. Beware that there may be some more traditional Norwegian food like lots of fish.
- Shanghai Disney exhibit in the House of the Whispering Willows
I’m not sure how long this will be here but these photos and dioramas may inspire you to plan another Disney vacation, but in China.
- Reflections of China 360˚ film
The Great Wall only takes up a small portion of this film. The film has recently been updated and is quite beautiful. You will have to stand while watching the film, so if you’re too tired, at least check out the ceiling of the temple.
- Jeweled Dragon Acrobats
Check the Entertainment schedule so as to make sure not to miss these talented performers. The flexibility and choreography is impressive and the crowd gets really into it.
- Mulan meet-and-greet
Mulan meets in an elegant version of her matchmaker outfit from 11 AM to 5 PM usually. She is much rarer at Disneyland so take advantage of this regular schedule and meeting location (she will usually be inside on gloomy or cold days).
- Snow White meet-and-greet
Make a wish with the original princess in the afternoon and early evening. Her lines can be quite long so plan around the times if this is one of your priorities since Snow White is not a regular meet-and-greet in Magic Kingdom or Disneyland.
I’ve never been here but I hear that this buffet is beautiful, authentic and a good value. I don’t think there are many health-conscious options though among the sausages and carbohydrate sides.
- Venetian Mask shop
The plethora of masks are different every trip and make for a good souvenir because they come in several sizes. The shop clerk may even be able to provide a lesson on the symbols and traditions of mask-making.
- Best pizza on property at Via Napoli
The pizzas can be quite massive and are not very saucy. This is great for large groups because it is difficult to carry leftovers around all day.
- Italy patio areas
Because it is almost directly across from the entrance to Epcot, you can usually get the geodesic sphere as a background in your photos here. There are usually Disney PhotoPass photographers lurking on the patio space jutting out over the lake across the bridges. If there isn’t a dessert party going on, this is a good spot to watch the nighttime fireworks as well.
- Voices of Liberty
This acapella group is an absolute must-see. They are so talented and the arrangements give me goosebumps. Go early to get the best seats.
- The American Adventure
This has some of the most impressive animatronics as well as a soaring soundtrack. Sit in some air-conditioning while getting a brief history refresher.
- Festival Concerts
During the festivals, there are 2 or 3 concert sets per day. Check the festival pages for the line-up. Hanson and American Idol contestants like David Cooke are consistently part of the line-up but other genres are equally popular.
This is a massive store that is an experience on its own. You can try on kimonos, open up an oyster to find a pearl or purchase all the Pokemon merchandise your heart desires.
These taiko drummers are very entertaining and provide an energizing soundtrack while exploring the pavilion.
In addition to the stalls right near the water, there are several shops hidden in the alleyways of the pavilion that are quite fun to explore. Try on traditional garb and jewelry or just seek refuge from the rainstorms that frequently occur in Florida.
- Gallery of Arts and History
Learn much more about Moroccan culture and get away from the crowds in this small gallery.
- Spice Road Table patio for viewing fireworks
Of the patio options, this one will have the worst view because it is near the back of World Showcase. Nevertheless, you can get a spot to sit while enjoying some Mediterranean appetizers, entrees or cocktails which are more unique than in Mexico or the UK.
- Amazing food and drinks!
There’s usually a delicious alcoholic beverage here (La Vie in Rose is particularly popular) during the festivals. Macaron ice cream sandwiches and other treats in Les Halles bakery are one of the best and few breakfast options in Epcot.
- Impressions de France
This is a great place to sit and rest your feet (or take a sugar-induced nap) while enjoying some beautiful music and scenery from France. Not my favorite country film so you can skip it if you’d like. It alternates with a Beauty and the Beast sing-a-long and food is not allowed in the theater.
- Belle and Aurora meet-and-greets
If you’d like to meet Belle in her blue dress (or her red holiday dress in December), be prepared to wait in a long line in the sun. Aurora will meet in her pink dress and is somewhat easier to find here than in Disneyland.
- Alice in Wonderland and Mary Poppins meet-and-greets
The gardens make for a wonderful backdrop for photos for these characters that are much harder to find in Disneyland or Magic Kingdom.
- Phone booth photo opportunities
Have you always wanted to take a classic British phone booth photo? Well you can do so here and fool your friends into thinking that you traveled across the pond instead of just across the country.
- Yorkshire County Fish Shop
These fish and chips are delicious and there’s some seating nearby with decent views of the fireworks.
- Streetmosphere performers
There is a small troupe of Irish performers that is not often on the official schedule but is quite excellent; they can be found in front of the shops. There is a stage in the back that sometimes has a band performing as well.
- Rose & Crown Dining Room patio for fireworks viewing
This is one of the best spots to sit while watching the nighttime fireworks show. Try to make a reservation around the time of fireworks or show up 15-20 minutes before to see if there are any patio tables available.
- O Canada! 360˚ Film
Before this was revised to star Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara, this was the best film in Epcot in my opinion. The footage still showcases Canada’s stunning beauty and you’ll learn about different regions of our neighbor to the north. The song is catchy too.
- Le Cellier Steak
One of the signature meals from the expensive restaurant in this pavilion is usually offered as a smaller option at the festival booth. Quality does not usually suffer so it is a good deal.
- Cheddar Cheese Soup (on Poutine)
Another one of the signature items from Le Cellier’s menu is this soup and it has recently become available at the Refreshment Port on top of poutine. It may also be available as a side on its own.
- “Natural” photo opportunities
The waterfalls can provide mist that is refreshing on a hot day and are photogenic if they don’t get your camera wet. The gardens here are also a nice backdrop for photos.
Out the International Gateway
One of my favorite areas in WDW is the Boardwalk area just a short walk outside of the park entrance between France and the United Kingdom.
- Ample Hills Creamery
This ice cream parlor has the best ice cream I’ve ever had and this is the only location outside of New York. The Ooey Gooey Butter Cake flavor and ice cream flight are not-to-miss.
Enjoy your ice cream with your toes in the sand and a view of Epcot or Hollywood Studios fireworks. This is an especially quiet and empty area, considering it is open to the public.
- ESPN Zone
If you need to get your sports fix, duck in here for a game, some beer and pub food.
- Wyland Gallery
This is a fine art gallery that I greatly enjoy browsing through. There is plenty of Disney and Star Wars and oceanic art from numerous artists. During the Festival of the Arts, Disney artists will do signings and meet-and-greets here.