Updated for Summer 2018 our Guide to Epcot For Beginners is an essential guide for first-time visitors & experienced travellers. Our Epcot Guide is full of hints & tips. Find out all you need to know about Epcot so you can plan a great Disney World Vacation.
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Epcot opened on October 1st, 1982. It covers 300 acres and is more than twice the size of Magic Kingdom. It was the 2nd Theme Park to open in Walt Disney World.
Epcot is dedicated to the celebration of human achievement and is split into 2 sections: Future World & World Showcase. Future World features pavilions celebrating technical and scientific achievements whilst the World Showcase is a permanent world fair containing 11 pavilions each representing a country.
Epcot was known as EPCOT Center until 1994 but is now commonly known as just Epcot.
The park is represented by Spaceship Earth, a giant sphere that also serves as an attraction of the same name.
Why is it called Epcot?
Epcot is an acronym for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. It was intended to be a utopian city of the future planned by Walt Disney to be built in Florida.
Following Walt’s death, his vision for Epcot was not developed but it became the name of the 2nd theme park. A model of Walt’s vision can be seen by riding the Tomorrowland Transit Authority attraction in the Magic Kingdom.
Like all the Disney Theme Parks Epcot has many interesting facts & statistics. We have created a selection of our favourite Epcot Facts which you might find interesting to read.
Epcot The Future
Disney World is in the middle of a major transformation of Hollywood Studios. Recently the Animal Kingdom expanded with Pandora: World of Avatar. Prior to that was the major expansion of Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom. It has long been rumoured that Epcot would be next for a major update. These plans were confirmed at D23. We have created a guide to what is Coming Soon in Epcot which we will keep up to date with the latest news.
Planning Your Visit
To experience Epcot you should spend time planning your experience. Whilst there has been some attraction closures in Epcot in recent times it remains a massive park. The majority of guests will need 2 or even 3 days to experience the full park. As a minimum, you should plan a day for each of Future World & World Showcase. If you have less time you should consider carefully what are your must-do attractions. Not having a plan could mean you miss your top attractions.
It is important you understand Fastpass+ before you visit and the key booking windows. In addition, Epcot attractions are tiered when booking Fastpass. You can book 1 attraction from Group A ride & 2 Group B. In Epcot Soarin, Test Track, IllumiNations & Frozen Ever After are all in group A. All these attractions are very popular but you don’t need a Fastpass for IllumiNations.
Once you have used your first selections you can always try for another Fastpass. However, don’t expect one to be available. Alternatively, the options are the standby line or returning on another day. For Test Track you have the extra option of the Single Rider line if you don’t mind riding on your own. We have created a Guide to Fastpass at the Epcot including an Epcot Fastpass Strategy. Our guide has information on how to get those Key Group A Fastpasses and what to do if you miss out.
Are you big enough to ride?
Don’t create a strategy that includes all family members riding to realise too late not all of you can. Many of the Walt Disney World attractions do carry restrictions. At Epcot these are:
- Mission Space Orange at least 44 inches tall to ride
- Mission Space Green at least 40 inches to ride
- Test Track at least 40 inches tall to ride
- Soarin at least 40 inches tall to ride
However, if the kids are too small to ride it does not mean adults and older siblings can’t. Rider Switch, also sometimes known as child swap, allows guests with small children to take turns riding while another adult stays with the child.
Disabilities at Epcot
Epcot provides extensive facilities for all forms of disabilities including visual, auditory, mobility & cognitive disabilities. You are able to contact Walt Disney World at (407) 560-2547 or [email protected] prior to your visit to discuss your requirements. Walt Disney World has created a Disability FAQ which you also might find useful to check before your visit.
Guests of Walt Disney World Resort Hotels & select non-Disney owned resorts can enjoy extra time in Epcot several days each week. Extra Magic Hours occur either before parks open or after they close to regular guests. Sounds too good to be true?
Remember there are 30000 hotel rooms in WDW so that is a lot of people who can attend. Extra Magic Hours are often the busiest park days and we usually recommend you consider avoiding. We have created a Guide to Extra Magic Hours so you can learn more.
Epcot is one of the best parks at Walt Disney World for meeting characters. Character meals are available in the Land(Chip & Dale, Mickey) and Norway(Princesses) but there are plenty of characters throughout the park.
It is also used as a training ground for new actors and you will occasionally spot some of the rare characters at Epoct making unscheduled visits. Characters that can only be met at Epcot include Mulan, Anna & Elsa.
Tips, Mistakes & Must-Do Attractions at Epcot
Anybody who has ever visited Epcot will have a list of Tips, Mistakes to avoid & Must-Do attractions for a future visit. Here is a selection of ours which we have learnt from previous visits. Learning from other guest experiences is a great way to create your Ultimate Epcot Plan.
We have created a selection of Top Epcot Tips to get the most out of your day. We all make mistakes on vacation. Very occasionally these mistakes can ruin a vacation. Here is our list of Epcot Mistakes to Avoid. Epcot is a massive park including several attractions which usually have lengthy waits. Most guests will struggle to do all the attractions in 1 day. If time is limited you might want to consider skipping these attractions.
Future World consists currently of 7 pavilions celebrating technical and scientific achievements. Don’t think that just 7 pavilions mean you will complete in half a day. Many of the pavilions are lengthy and Future World does take a full day to explore fully although there have been several recent closures. Attractions such as Innoventions have been cut significantly and Universe of Energy has recently closed.
The current pavilions in Future World are:
Spaceship Earth is one of the most recognisable structures in any theme park. Inside is a 15-minute ride that shows the advancement of human communication. It is a dark ride and is built on an omnimover system. There is a post-ride exhibit called Project Tomorrow: Inventing the Wonders of the Future.
Guests get to design their own car and then test it on a simulated test track. This is the fastest ride in Walt Disney World reaching speeds of almost 65 miles per hour. The ride is great fun and one of the most popular in the park. The ride is one of the few in Disney World that has a Single Rider Line which you should consider using to save time. After the ride, there is an interactive area for guests to enjoy including making an advertisement for your new vehicle.
The Seas with Nemo & Friends
Riding Clamobiles guests take an underwater trip in The Seas with Nemo & Friends. The ride includes views of a massive aquarium which you can explore further after the ride.
Turtle Talk with Crush is an interactive animated show where guests can ask questions to Crush from Finding Nemo. I find the animation of Turtle Talk very impressive and the entire family seem to enjoy the show.
There are now just 2 main attractions in this pavilion. Soarin’ Around the World is a hand gliding motion simulator that takes guests over various regions of the world. The video for Soarin was recently updated and an extra cinema was added due to the historical lengthy waits. I think I am isolated on this but I prefer the old video.
Living with the Land is a narrated boat ride in which you will visit various greenhouses and learn about future agriculture innovations. Unfortunately many of the future innovations of agriculture it has now been highlighting for 20 years. Presumably, the future should be here by now or it just isn’t happening. Perhaps many of these innovations are the agriculture equivalent of the Sinclair C5? Living with the Land will not appeal to many children and is rumoured for a long overdue update.
Circle of Life: An Environmental Fable starring the cast of the Lion King recently closed.
This used to consist of a huge collection of hands-on walk-through exhibits. However; the majority of attractions are now closed with no announcement yet of future plans. The Character SPOT still remains and you can meet Mickey, Minnie and Goofy. Fastpass is available for this and can save you a lengthy wait.
Guests can also meet starts from Inside Out & Baymax from Big Hero 6. Characters do change so check the latest news on the My Disney Experience App.
This is a simulator ride that is meant to replicate what an astronaut might feel in space. The ride has just been updated. I don’t get Mission Space…It just feels a bit odd and not very enjoyable. A ride I am happy to give a miss if time is tight. I didn’t even bother riding the updated version on my last visit. A new Space Themed restaurant is getting built adjacent to the attraction. Hopefully, it will be better than the ride!
Figment the mischievous cartoon dragon stars in Journey into Imagination with Figment. This is a fun dark ride experience. However; my children have both found Figment to be a little scary in the past. ImageWorks: The What-If Labs is an interactive area you can explore after the ride. The labs are an area most adults will happily skip but kids do enjoy.
The Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival is held in the former Captain EO & Honey I Shrunk the Audience Theatre. Whilst these 3D films are pretty good they can be seen elsewhere. Is this really a good use of your Walt Disney World ticket money? However, the theatre is cool if you want to escape the summer sun.
World Showcase is a permanent world fair containing 11 pavilions each representing a country. The pavilions contain architecture, attractions, shops and restaurants you would typically find in that country. Staff usually are citizens of their respective countries. The pavilions surround the World Showcase Lagoon where the nightly IllumiNations take place. There are 11 pavilions and theoretically, space for a further 9.There are rumours that new pavilions might be added as part of the Epcot Renovations. The most heavily rumoured new pavilion is Brazil.
Epcot’s International Gateway, between the United Kingdom & France, provides a less hectic additional entrance and exit for the park. It can be reached from the Epcot Resorts and by boat from Hollywood Studios.
World Showcase could be considered the centre for Disney World Boutique Shopping and International Dining. Each pavilion has many specialist restaurants & shops.
The Mexico pavilion includes the Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros which is a “Small World type ride” featuring Donald Duck. There are rumours that this attraction will be updated soon with a new Coco theme.
The majority of the pavilion is located inside the impressive pyramid. The central indoor area of the pyramid is themed as an outdoor twilight-lit Mexican village and marketplace
The Norway Pavilion is the most recent nation to be added to World Showcase in 1988. The outside of the pavilion is a reproduction of Oslo’s Akershus Fortress.
Norway includes the new Frozen Ever After dark ride. This ride is exceptionally popular make sure you order a Fastpass prior to arrival or expect long waits.
You enter this pavilion through a large triple-arched gate. An impressive replication of the Temple of Heaven is the dominant feature. China includes “Reflections of China” a Circle-Vision 360° movie exploring China’s history. A new film is planned for the pavilion.
Germany is designed to look like a German town but with architecture from various regions. When the pavilion was initially designed Unification of Germany seemed a remote possibility. There are many small shops selling traditional goods.
There is an impressive Model Village on the exit of the pavilion towards Italy.
Italy features a plaza surrounded by a collection of buildings inspired by hallmarks of Italian architecture. The centrepiece is the superb reproduction of St Mark’s Campanile which is the bell tower of St Mark’s Basilica in Venice.
The pavilion includes several shops which include some very expensive gifts including Armani products, fine crystal, wines & porcelain.
The American Adventure
The United States pavilion is actually called The American Adventure. The highlight is an audio-animatronic show detailing American history. Overall there is little to see in this pavilion but the show is rather good although rather patriotic!
Japan is made up of buildings surrounding a courtyard. The entrance to the courtyard features a 5-storey Japanese Pagoda. There are several Japanese gardens and pools decorating the pavilion. In many of the pools, you will find colourful Koi Fish. It is home to a Mitsukoshi Department Store & the only 1 remaining in the United States.
You can’t haggle in Morocco or at least I don’t think you can. Otherwise, this pavilion is laid to look like a traditional Moroccan market. There are 6 shops in the pavilion which you access through the various alleyways selling gifts including leather, carpet & pottery.
Many of the building replicas have religious significance. For that reason, Morocco does not light up during IllumiNations. To keep balance neither does Norway.
France is themed to look like a Parisienne neighbourhood pre World War 1. A replica of the Eiffel Tower is the highlight of the pavilion. The Eiffel Tower was reconstructed at 1/10 scale of the original and stretches 103 feet into the air. Imagineers used forced perspective to make it look bigger than it actually is.
A panoramic film titled Impressions de France can be viewed in the pavilion. There are plenty of shopping and dining opportunities in this pavilion.
The United Kingdom designed to look like a traditional English village which never really ever existed.
There are some interesting gardens and several shops. Some excellent bands & character meets entertain the guests. However, there is little to actually do in this pavilion. A rumoured Mary Poppins Ride will breathe new life into the pavilion.
The pavilion is designed to remind guests of the Canadian outdoors. The landscaping is outstanding and includes a canyon, a waterfall, gardens and totem poles
O’Canada a 360-degree film can be viewed featuring Canadian landmarks.
IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth
Illuminations: Reflections of Earth takes place every night prior to park closure. It features fireworks, lasers and fountains over the World Showcase Lagoon. The highlight is a 28ft Video Globe of Earth that opens to spectacular pyrotechnics. This is a popular attraction and when the park is full you may need to reserve a spot early.
Dining & Drinking at Epcot
If you are a foodie then Epcot is probably the park for you!
There are multiple Quick Service Locations & Food Carts throughout Epcot. Those located in World Showcase serve traditional food from the country you are at. During the various Epcot Festivals, there are additional counters serving various speciality treats.
Unlike the Magic Kingdom where alcohol is still limited, Epcot has many locations serving speciality drinks. Drinking around the World is a popular way many adults seem to enjoy World Showcase.
The following are the current table service restaurants in Epcot:
- Akershus Royal Banquet Hall Norway Dining with various Princesses read our review
- Biergarten Restaurant German buffet and dinner show.
- Chefs de France French cuisine
- Coral Reef Restaurant At the Seas in Future World you can dine whilst watching a large aquarium.
- La Hacienda de San Angel Mexican
- Le Cellier Steakhouse Canadian Signature Steakhouse.
- Monsieur Paul Upmarket French Dining
- Nine Dragons Restaurant Chinese
- Restaurant Marrakesh Moroccan
- Rose & Crown Dining Room British with a very odd sounding menu. Yorkshire Pudding & Fish? Really! It is delicious read our review.
- San Angel Inn Restaurante Mexican
- Spice Road Table Mediterranean
- Teppan Edo Japanese Hibachi watch chefs perform tricks as they prepare your food.
- The Garden Grill All you can eat with Chip & Dale in the Land pavilion. Read our Guide to Walt Disney World Character Meals.
- Tokyo Dining Sushi
- Tutto Italia Ristorante Italian
- Via Napoli Ristorante e Pizzeria Italian Pizza
Disney’s Advanced Dining Reservations are restaurant reservations made in advance at the majority of Disney Table Service Restaurants. Epcot’s restaurants do fill up and standby lines, if they exist, can be long. Make sure you plan well in advance especially if you have booked the Disney Dining Plan. Our Guide to Advanced Dining Reservations has further information. In addition, we have created a Guide to Dining at Walt Disney World which you might find useful.
In recent years Epcot has developed several festivals which have become key parts of the annual celebrations.
Food & Wine Festival
Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival is a celebration of food and drinks from around the world. Held annually from mid-September through mid-November. It draws increasingly big crowds, especially at the weekend.
Located throughout the World Showcase there are Specialty Booths serving Drink and Food. Guests with the Disney Dining Plan can taste many of the dishes by using snack credits.
Eat to the Beat is a series of concerts held nightly throughout the Food & Wine Festival.
Epcot’s International Flower & Garden Festival
Held annually between March & May is the International Flower & Garden Festival. Highlights for 2018 included:
- 15 Outdoor kitchens encircling World Showcase offering exciting food choices plus accompanying drinks.
- The popular Garden Rocks Concert Series will be featuring acts of the 1960s, ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s on the America Gardens Theatre stage. Highlights for 2018 include Survivor, Starship & the Village People.
- Themed gardens and wildlife habitats including a butterfly house, an English Tea Garden & a brand-new Future World interactive play garden.
- Disney themed topiaries including Belle in France along with Beast, Snow White in Germany with the Seven Dwarfs, and Anna and Elsa in Norway. Plus there is a brand-new Epcot front-entrance topiary garden featuring Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse and Goofy. Throughout the festival, there are nearly 100 topiaries.
- Spike’s Pollen Nation Exploration scavenger hunt around the World Showcase.
You can read more about Epcot’s International Flower & Garden Festival in our 2018 review.
Epcot International Festival of the Arts
Now in its 2nd year, this festival starts the Epcot year celebrating food, art & entertainment.
Epcot International Festival of the Holidays
The final celebration of the Epcot year features the holiday traditions of the 11 World Showcase nations. Live musical productions plus seasonal food & drink make this a not to miss event. Each night, a celebrity narrator tells the biblical tale of Christmas in the Candlelight Processional. The narrator is accompanied by a 50-piece orchestra and massed choir.
Epcot has not been excluded as part of Walt Disney World’s “Incredible Summer” celebrations. The Guardians of the Galaxy Take the Stage at Epcot with a fun party featuring hits from the films. Featuring Star-Lord and Gamora & an alien band the party will include hits from Awesome Mixtapes 1 and 2. The celebrations are all intended to build anticipation for the new Guardians of the Galaxy Coaster.
Our Guide to Walt Disney World for Beginners is a great starting place to start planning your vacation. We have created a fantastic selection of Walt Disney World Planning Tips which you might find useful.