By Melissa Fegely
Epcot can be a daunting park to a lot of guests, and one reason for this is the vast layout. Epcot is approximately twice the size of the Magic Kingdom, and you optimally need more than one day to properly experience this park. Epcot, or the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, is also split in two separate sections. Future World is dedicated to big ideas and innovations in technology, transportation, communications, and the natural sciences. This area is open from 9 am to 7 pm, with select attractions remaining open until 9:00 pm. The second half, World Showcase, highlights the culture, cuisine, and architecture of 11 distinct countries situated around the World Showcase Lagoon. Each of these halves of Epcot has exciting restaurants to dine at, characters to find, shops to discover, and attractions to check out. So with all these adventures out there, what’s the best plan of attack to get the most out of your time at Epcot and enjoy everything it has to offer?
10. A good time to ride Spaceship Earth.
Spaceship Earth is the attraction inside the rather large geodesic sphere visible even before you step inside Epcot. This ride is an interactive telling of the history of communications, from Stone Age beginnings to modern day technology. Most guests decide to ride it first since it’s the first attraction as you enter the park, and the line quickly gets very long. Save your FastPass+ and ride it in the late afternoon when most guests are in the World Showcase area or are heading back to their resort.
9. Meeting Characters.
As you’re walking around Future World or the World Showcase, it’s fairly easy to spot character meet-and-greets with the Fab Five, other characters, and the princesses. If you don’t want to stand in line and wait, consider a few other alternatives. The Character Spot in Future World is an air-conditioned location that features favorite Disney friends like Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, and Pluto. FastPass+ is also available for this experience, making it even easier to get a great picture with your favorite Disney character. If you’re looking for a good princess interaction, consider dining at the Akershus Royal Banquet Hall. Located in Norway, this table service restaurant lets you meet several of the popular princesses like Cinderella, Belle, Aurora, Ariel, or Jasmine. The princesses do change on any given day, but it’s a much more relaxed way to get a picture and avoid standing out in the sun.
8. Fun with Fish.
The Seas with Nemo and Friends includes a 5.7 million gallon saltwater aquarium, which is one of the largest in the world. Besides the cute clamshell ride from “Finding Nemo”, Turtle Talk with Crush, and a handful of other exhibits, the main attraction is the wide variety of sea life that lives in the aquarium and in several smaller tanks located around the pavilion. Get the most out of your visit and arrange to hear a cast member give an informational talk about the sharks, turtles, or rays, or stop by when the divers are feeding the animals. Don’t forget about the manatee area, as there are usually cast members there to answer questions about the marine mammals. This is a great way to elevate your experience and really enjoy it in a completely different way.
7. So many restaurant choices.
There are so many delicious dining options in Epcot, both in Future World and in the World Showcase, that it’s hard to choose just one. Don’t overlook Sunshine Seasons, an eatery located on the bottom level of the Land pavilion. This is a counter service restaurant with a wide range of options for everyone, including dessert, and the menu includes more than the usual burgers and fries. There is a large seating area, although it gets fairly busy during lunch hours. Another fun option is the Electric Umbrella, located in Future World East. The menu offers sandwiches and salads, and there is plenty of seating inside as well as shady tables outside. A quieter spot to find a table is upstairs, where guests have a unique view looking down at the hustle and bustle of Future World.
6. Know your limitations.
Epcot is a very large park, and attempting to walk it all in one day is not always the best idea. The best way to experience this park is to split it up into at least two days. If that’s not possible, save your feet and use the Friendship boat shuttles. One boat transports guests from Canada to Morocco and back again, and the other takes guests from Germany to Mexico and back again. These air-conditioned boats begin running at 11:00 am and the last boat leaves at 7:30 pm.
5. Downtime for younger guests.
There’s a lot of excitement in Epcot for a young child, and sometimes all of the activities and walking are overwhelming. Epcot has a way to alleviate this with Kidcot stations located around the World Showcase. The station is typically tucked away in a shady spot in each of the countries or located inside one of the shops. Duffy Bears and Perry the Platypus coloring sticks are available for children to sit down and color, and the Cast Members staffing the area can use a unique country stamp for the area you are in, or sometimes they will write something in their respective language. It’s a win-win situation, as everyone gets the chance to rest, cool off, and enjoy the pavilion, and children have fun with the coloring activities.
4. World Showcase Cuisine.
The World Showcase has several popular table service restaurants that reflect the cuisine of the specific country represented. It’s recommended, if not almost a necessity, to have an Advance Dining Reservation (ADR) if you want to have a meal. If you can’t get an ADR for you one these, or don’t want to be tied down to having a meal at a specific time, consider the counter service options available. Each country represented has a counter service eatery that offers a menu comparable to what is served in the table service restaurant. It’s a great way to enjoy the cuisine at a smaller cost and without the time commitment.
3. Test Track at Night.
Test Track is an exhilarating attraction no matter what time of the day you choose to go on it, but this vehicle design and road testing ride is more intense at night. Once your car is designed and goes through the indoor paces of the road test, it quickly accelerates and speeds out the doors to the open track. Zipping around the track in the dark at over 60 miles per hour with a glowing Spaceship Earth in the background is a must-do on every one of my Epcot adventures.
2. Illuminations-Reflections of Earth.
Watching the fireworks spectacular in the World Showcase area is a very popular way to end the evening at Epcot. Set in the World Showcase lagoon, the show begins at 9:00 pm and includes an amazing display of laser lights, music, and outstanding pyrotechnics. It’s recommended to find a spot to sit or stand in an hour before the show. A FastPass+ is usually available every night for one of the best spots to view the show, which is in between the two shops at the front of World Showcase. If you don’t want to give up a FastPass+ for this, or if you don’t want to stake out a spot so far ahead of time, there are plenty of good locations available. One of the most coveted spots is a table at the Rose and Crown restaurant, but you have to be eating a meal here, and this is sometimes a hard reservation to get. As long as you can see the lagoon, you should be able to see the fireworks. Other good spots are on the bridge between France and the United Kingdom, the railings in front of Canada, and back in Mexico.
1. Twinkling Sidewalks.
As you’re leaving Epcot at the end of the night, take the time to find the twinkling sidewalks between Spaceship Earth and Innoventions. During the day the pavement looks completely normal, but at night, fiber optic lights dance and sparkle, giving guests a little more magic before they leave the park for the night.