EPCOT is one of Walt Disney World’s most versatile theme parks. It is a visionary celebration of life and culture throughout all nations and a timeless transcendence of the past, present, and future all in one. It contains a diverse collaboration of innovative rides and alternative attractions and is—for all intents and purposes—the embodiment of several Parks combined.
With all of its features and attributes, it may seem nearly impossible to succeed at ever being counted as an EPCOT expert. But it can be done. First, you need to know the ins and outs of doing EPCOT like a pro. So, here are a couple of tips to help you out.
Learn the Lay of the Land
You can’t truly do any Disney Park like a pro without first knowing the lay of the land for the location(s) you plan to visit. EPCOT is a very expansive Park, and if you think you can wing it as a first-timer, you’re sorely mistaken. You must study beforehand, referring to guidebooks and maps (or online maps) in order to familiarize yourself and to help you get a feel for where everything is located. Then you will be able to formulate a well-cultivated plan about what you want to see and do along the way. Even if this is not your first visit to EPCOT, note all the changes and developments that may have occurred since your last visit, including Disney’s revamping of the former Future World location into newly established neighborhoods—World Celebration, World Nature, and World Discovery.
This is really sound advice to keep in mind for any Disney Park you visit. The earlier, the better. And because there is just so much to explore here, you’ll want to arrive as early as possible. I personally recommend getting there as soon as they open.
Don’t Limit Yourself to One Day
As I mentioned previously, EPCOT boasts so many endeavors to explore, and it may be challenging to tackle everything you want in the timeframe of a single day. Therefore, you’d do well in not limiting your time at EPCOT to just one visit. Of course, just how much time you can set aside for said EPCOT endeavors depends mainly on the duration of your entire Walt Disney World vacation. But even if you can’t devote at least two full days to EPCOT alone, you can still find clever ways to stretch your time and balance out your priorities by utilizing Park Hopper. Just save the must-dos for your full EPCOT day and opt for less time-dependent ones on the half-day.
Use the International Gateway Entrance
While most folks conveniently enter into EPCOT via the front entrance, there is another less-crowded option for you to consider. I am referring to the alternate International Gateway entry point. Taking you into the Park by way of the World Showcase, this is the main entry used by Guests staying in accommodations comprising the EPCOT Resort Area, like the BoardWalk, Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club Resorts, and the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin. It’s also the more convenient option for folks traveling via Disney’s Skyliner from such locations as Disney’s Riviera Resort, Disney’s Caribbean Beach, Disney’s Art of Animation Resort, or Disney’s Pop Century Resort.
It may be a less viable entry point for you to take if you aren’t staying at one of these Resorts, but there are definitely workarounds if you know how to play your cards right. For example, you may arrange to take the shuttle over to Hollywood Studios and then make your way to these Disney Resort locations via boat or the connecting walking path. Or you may opt for a Minnie Van to take you for an early breakfast engagement on location at one of the aforementioned and then follow it up with a day spent at EPCOT.
Plan Your Lightning Lane Options Accordingly
Things have changed considerably since Disney scrapped FastPass+ in favor of Disney Genie Services. While the process of preselecting ride times is not as ideal as it once was, you can still navigate the ropes by making wise choices in prioritizing your Lightning Lane selections accordingly. For instance, you should strive for more popular pursuits earlier in the day. Remember, the earlier, the better. Then keep working up to your next available priority selections in a tentative order of sorts. Less popular attractions may not require preselection, even later on in the day.
Do keep in mind that this method isn’t altogether foolproof. But it is a little more structured, just the same.
Don’t Forego Non-Ride Experiences
Don’t get so caught up in the hype of EPCOT rides and attractions that you overlook all those other exciting pursuits. There’s so much to take in, from unique shopping and dining opportunities to alternate forms of entertainment found at various times and places throughout the day. Traveling around the World Showcase is a one-of-a-kind experience in and of itself—a grand world tour covering 11 different nations in the span of a 1.2 mile-radius. And don’t forget about the impressive Seas with Nemo & Friends Pavilion, which not only houses a namesake dark ride and the fun Turtle Talk with Crush attraction but is also home to an elaborate aquarium setup, complete with a living coral reef that’s teeming with versatile marine life.
Plan to See the Characters
Why EPCOT doesn’t get the same acclaim and recognition as Magic Kingdom Park for being an optimal Character Meet and Greet go-to is a real mystery. There is no shortage of face or fur characters here, including all your favorite Disney classics, like Mickey and the gang. Within the World Showcase, you will also get to experience many Disney Princesses at home within their respective national pavilions. And then there are also all those Disney pals you may not have been expecting, and then some. Do make time to meet and mingle accordingly while keeping your autographs up-to-date and your photo collection current.
Get Your Freebies
Disney World can be rather pricey when you tally up all the extras, like food and even those special ticketed events. But EPCOT pros know where to find all the freebies at any time. Need a drink to wet your whistle while you go about your merry way? You may have heard that just about any quick-service location will offer you complimentary iced water upon request, but for something sweeter—an unlimited soda flight of samplings from all around the world, let’s say—you have to stop in at Club Cool.
You will also find that during special EPCOT events, like their International Food & Wine Festival, snack compliments such as apple sauce or cranberry-raisin packets are often handed out to visitors.
For those who love music and entertainment, take note. EPCOT is a haven for featuring free impromptu entertainment acts all around. There are also various locations specifically that present free concerts as well. The United Kingdom Pavilion is a particularly popular place to catch a concert, but there’s also the America Gardens Theatre on location at the American Adventure Pavilion.
Know Where You Want to Eat in Advance
There are so many fabulous places to eat throughout the Park. Many feel that you haven’t really done EPCOT unless you’ve dined within one of the many stellar restaurants making up the impressive World Showcase. While this is certainly a rite of passage, not to mention the best opportunity to take in an authentic cultural experience without leaving the country, I have to admit that I am personally partial to the Character Dining experience presented at Garden Grill Restaurant in the Land Pavilion.
Wherever you decide to dine in EPCOT, do make arrangements beforehand. Remember, this is a popular Park, despite the multitude of options that exist. To score the options you long for most, you’d do best with careful planning and advance dining reservations.
Plan to Attend a Special Event
Anytime is the perfect time to visit EPCOT. Still, given the fact that there are so many ongoing festivals and events taking place here throughout the year, you should consider coordinating your visit so that it lines up with one. Celebrating a special event at EPCOT will let you make the most out of your experience, especially if you are a first-timer. And as stated earlier, there are often freebies provided during some events. But even the paid-for extras at such times are all worth it, like the popup kitchen presentations, providing so many enticing extra offerings not otherwise featured.
Stay For Nighttime Spectaculars
Walt Disney World is renowned for presenting nighttime spectaculars every evening. And it isn’t just Magic Kingdom Park that dazzles onlookers with elaborate projection effects and fireworks displays. EPCOT has its own wondrous nighttime spectacular worth viewing every evening onsite at the World Showcase Lagoon. While spectaculars are known to change from time to time, you wouldn’t be doing EPCOT like a true pro by foregoing viewing the current nighttime spectacular.
All of the tips provided represent just a handful of helpful hints to keep in mind when making your rounds within EPCOT. Yet, you will come to find that they really do make all the difference. Sometimes the true marking of a pro is making the most out of the simple things and wisely working it all to your advantage.