Epcot was Walt Disney’s grand project, not so much a theme park concept as a living, working technology city. Sadly, he died before he could create a working model of his vision, and it took 11 years after the Magic Kingdom opened for the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow (as it was initially known) to take shape. Happily, the combination of a Future World and a World Showcase was a winning one for Epcot, and it quickly gained a reputation for a more grown-up style while still providing plenty of interest for children. Today, it features both memorable rides, fabulous architecture and cultural story-telling from around the world.
What not to Miss
The clever mix of attractions provides plenty for all tastes, with whizzy rides like Mission: Space and Test Track, the epic (and ultra family-friendly) Soarin’ Around the World and Spaceship Earth and junior-sized fun like The Seas with Nemo And Friends and The Three Caballeros. Most of the rides are in Future World but World Showcase boasts great dining and 3 impressive circle-vision films in the pavilions for China, France and Canada.
Character Meet And Greets:
There is plenty of character interaction in Epcot, despite its lack of overt ‘Disney-ness.’ The Epcot Character Spot in the Innoventions plaza provides the chance to meet the likes of Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Chip 'n Dale and Goofy. Around World Showcase are special areas to meet characters like Mary Poppins, Alice in Wonderland and Winnie the Pooh and Friends (the UK pavilion), Aladdin and Jasmine (Morocco), Belle and Princess Aurora (France), Snow White (Germany), Mulan (China) and Donald Duck (Mexico). Frozen sisters Anna and Elsa have recently been added to the line-up, and can be found at the Royal Sommerhus in the Norway pavilion.
In many ways, Epcot is about great live entertainment, especially in World Showcase. We love the Jammitors percussion group in Future World; the Japanese drummers of Matsuriza; rock band Off Kilter in Canada; France’s daredevil Serveur Amusant; and talented Mariachi Cobre band of Mexico. But you definitely shouldn’t miss the Voices of Liberty a capella group inside the American Adventure pavilion up to 6 times a day.
Reflections of Earth: The nightly finale on the central lagoon is simply one of the best pieces of Disney entertainment, anywhere, any time. The spectacular staging, immense fireworks, lasers, fountains, fire effects and other special touches all build into a 15-minute symphony of light and sound that absolutely takes your breath away. Don’t miss this at any cost.
Be aware many people start to stake out a spot around the Lagoon for IllumiNations more than an hour before the show (which is usually at 9pm). Some of the best spots are in Norway, Mexico, Italy and the bridge between the UK and France. But, as long as you can see the Lagoon, there are no really bad spots.
The Norway pavilion has recently welcomed Frozen Ever After, a magical adventure that is of course inspired by the blockbuster Disney movie Frozen. Guests board an ancient Norwegian vessel and glide through Arendelle meeting Anna, Elsa and the adorable Olaf along the way, whilst joining in the sing-along to classic hit Let It Go. One of Epcot’s most popular rides has undergone a transformation turning aerial adventure Soarin’ into Soarin’ Around the World. Journey across the globe and fly high above some of the most famous landmarks in the world. Turtle Talk with Crush is another attraction to receive a makeover, featuring new characters from the Finding Nemo sequel- Finding Dory.
The International Flower and Garden Festival
Bursts into full bloom all around Epcot in the spring, to great effect. Whimsical topiaries featuring Disney characters fill the park, along with spectacular floral set-pieces, a walk-through butterfly house, special children’s play areas, and dozens of Master Gardeners ready to answer guests’ questions. Want to delve even deeper? Lectures, presentations and seminars (some free, some paid-for) round out the offerings. Extra entertainment includes the Flower Power concert series at the America Gardens Theatre, with special musical guests performing three times a day. For anyone with green fingers, this is a major treat, and it’s all free with park admission.
- Dates: Early March to mid-May.
- Tickets: Free with regular park entry, although some seminars and tastings have an extra fee.
- Alcohol: On offer with all the kiosks around World Showcase.
Is a big date celebrated by all the Disney parks, but especially Epcot, with an additional Heartbeat of Freedom fireworks tribute at the end of the nightly IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth show. There are also patriotic mini-concerts by the Voices of Liberty a capella group, a musical salute by the Fife and Drum Corps, and characters appearing in Americana-inspired costumes.
- Date: July 4.
- Tickets: Free with regular park entry.
Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival
Massively popular event each autumn as 25 ‘global marketplaces’ line the walkway around World Showcase, featuring a selection of ‘small-bite’ food and beverage selections based on each host country’s traditional cuisine. Celebrity chefs give cooking demonstrations, special dining events are on offer, food and wine lectures and seminars are well worth attending, and hands-on training courses are geared toward beginners as well as serious foodies. As with Epcot’s Flower and Garden Festival, various well-known bands add an extra high-energy touch with Eat to the Beat concerts, held three times daily at the America Gardens Theatre. The festival and concerts are free with park admission, but food and beverage samples, dining events, and some lectures and seminars cost extra.
- Dates: Mid-September to mid-November.
- Tickets: Free with regular park entry; additional fee for food and drink samples and special meal events.
- Alcohol: On offer with all the kiosks around World Showcase.
Christmas at Epcot is highlighted by the hugely popular free-with-admission Candlelight Processional show, featuring seasonal music sung by a massive choir and with a celebrity guest narrator. There is also holiday-themed storytelling from around the world in World Showcase.
- Dates: Late November to January 1.
- Tickets: Free with regular park entry. You can book reserved seats for the Candlelight Processional show with a special dinner package.
- Alcohol: Seasonal beverages on offer around World Showcase.
This 7-hour, 4-park tour starts in Epcot and includes a look behind the scenes at all four, including the clever animatronics of the American Adventure pavilion, as well as a visit to the backstage craft shops, Disney’s nursery and tree farm and lunch at Wilderness Lodge. Guests must be at least 16 and with valid photo ID.
Behind The Seeds
Get up close and personal with the Living With The Land attraction in The Land pavilion with a 1-hour chance to go backstage, inspect the alligator and fish tanks and see how Disney’s horticultural experts work their magic. Open to all ages.
Disney’s Dolphins In Depth
A 3-hour tour at the dolphin complex backstage at The Seas With Nemo and Friends, including a 30-minute interactive experience in the water and the chance to see a research and training session. Guests must be at least 13 and under 18s must be accompanied by a fare-paying adult.
This 3-hour experience includes a 40-minute scuba-dive into the huge Caribbean Coral Reef within The Seas with Nemo and Friends, with a great look at the massive behind-the-scenes infrastructure. Must be SCUBA-certified and at least 10 years old to participate; children 10-12 must be accompanied by a paying adult.
Epcot Seas Aqua Tour
Snorkel in the Caribbean Coral Reef with a Disney guide. The 2½-hour experience includes 40 minutes snorkelling and a backstage tour, as well as a complimentary photo. It is open to guests 8 and older (8-11s must be accompanied by an adult).
The UnDISCOVERed Future World
Take this 4-hour walking tour to discover Walt’s dream of building the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, learn the story of each pavilion and go backstage to see the secrets of the wardrobe department and the preparations for the nightly IllumiNations show. Guests must be at least 16 with valid photo ID.
Estimated Visit Time
Epcot: 2 days.
Alcohol is widely available and features some great chances to sample different drinks from around the world, notably in Morocco, Japan, Mexico and Germany.
Princess Dining Advice
While Cinderella’s Royal Table is the most popular meal to book in advance at Magic Kingdom, Princess Storybook Dining at Restaurant Akershus (breakfast, lunch and dinner) in the Norway pavilion is the biggie for Epcot. You may need to book as close to 180 days in advance as possible.