Disney Park Strengths and Weaknesses: Epcot
Are you a Disney Park critic? I know, it’s hard to be critical of anything Disney (at least I think so), but even I have to admit that I’ve experienced a few things that some parks don’t do as well as others. Of course, there’s also a number of things that each park does very well! Today, I’m breaking down Disney Park Strengths and Weaknesses beginning with one of my personal favorite parks: Epcot.
Epcot has a very interesting history. What few guests know is that Epcot was one of Walt’s main focuses when it came to his Florida Project and that the park we know today wasn’t exactly what he had in mind. Epcot, formerly known as EPCOT Center, stands for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow and was intended to be a real, working community with an innovative design to serve as a model for future cities. When Walt passed away, the vision for Epcot gradually turned into a park that celebrated both the future and the world. That is why Epcot is composed of two different sections: Future World and World Showcase.
So let’s start with Epcot’s strengths, shall we…
Delicious Dining Variety – Epcot is hands-down my favorite park to go for a delicious meal, primarily because of World Showcase. This section of the park offers a vast variety of yummy restaurants with menus from all over the world with each destination offering a magical, cultural experience. It’s pretty much impossible to leave World Showcase hungry and dissatisfied. The dining variety only grows when food booths pop up around the park in the spring for Epcot’s Flower and Garden Festival and then in the fall for Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival.
It Handles the Masses – Epcot is a very spacious-feeling park compared to the Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. The walkways in Future World and along World Showcase are much bigger and spread out and can handle thick crowds much better than other Disney World Parks. What’s also great is that the World Showcase pavilions don’t have queues and can be seen and explored even when it’s crowded.
Convenient Location – Of all the Disney World Parks, Epcot has the most centralized location. Several Deluxe Resorts are situated right next door and guests can go back and forth via the World Showcase backdoor: the International Gateway. Also, Hollywood Studios is only a short boat ride away. Guests can board a Friendship Boat at the International Gateway and then sail on over to Hollywood Studios. They can also walk from Epcot, past the Boardwalk Inn, Yacht and Beach Club, and the Swan and Dolphin Resort to reach Hollywood Studios; but for some, the walk may be a little too lengthy. My family and I love to begin the day at Hollywood Studios, walk over to the Beach Club for a meal at Beaches and Cream Soda Shop, hang out at the Boardwalk, and then head over to Epcot for the evening.
Unique Shopping – One of my favorite Epcot activities is shopping. A visit to Mouse Gear in Future World is always a must-do because there is so much merch in one place and the air conditioning here in the summer is fantastic. I also love shopping at the World Showcase. In addition to being able to sample different cuisine, World Showcase also offers the ability to browse and shop items from different pavilion’s countries. It’s the most unique shopping experience ever! Where else can get you Japanese candy, teddy bears from Germany, or perfume from Norway in one shopping venture. My favorite place to shop? The United Kingdom Pavilion. I love the assortment of tea and sweets and all of the merchandise from Downton Abbey and Sherlock and other awesome elements of British pop culture!
Festivals & Events – A number of special events and festivals take place at Epcot throughout the year. In the spring, there’s Epcot’s International Flower and Garden Festival where guests can enjoy character-themed topiaries, Outdoor Kitchens, musical entertainment, gardening presentations, and merch. Then, in the fall, there’s Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival where you can eat your way around the world with numerous booths themed after different countries featuring dishes inspired by their respective cuisine. The festival also offers demonstrations, a chance to see celebrity chefs, special merch, musical entertainment, and more. Lastly, for the holidays, guests can take in the Candlelight Processional where the Christmas story is told by a celebrity narrator along with a choir and orchestra, or get a sampling of holiday legends and traditions from around the world at each World Showcase pavilion in Holidays Around the World. The best part is that all of these events and festivals are included with price of admission into Epcot!
Indoor Attractions – Rain in the forecast? Epcot has you covered. Literally! The Land at Epcot’s Future World offers several Disney World must-sees under one roof, such as Living with the Land boat ride, Soarin’, Sunshine Seasons, and The Garden Grill. The Seas with Nemo and Friends transports guests under the sea by way of a Finding Nemo themed dark ride. After the dark ride, guests are free to discover and explore a 5.7 million-gallon aquarium! I can easily spend an hour or two here, just watching the dolphins or looking for sea turtles or checking out the ocean life that inspired the characters in Finding Nemo. The Seas with Nemo and Friends also has the Coral Reef Restaurant, where guests dine by an aquarium!
Monorail Access – I love the Monorail. It’s my top transportation choice at Walt Disney World, not just because it’s an icon but also because it’s so quick and more fun than a bus! Epcot is the only other park besides the Magic Kingdom that’s Monorail accessible, which only makes it better in my book. I also love how the Monorail actually goes into the park and circles around Spaceship Earth. It’s a prime opportunity to snap some postcard-worthy photos.
Less Attractions – Epcot is, unfortunately, a little light on big ticket attractions. Test Track, Spaceship Earth, and Soarin’ are the only attractions on my must-do list these days. World Showcase makes up for the lack of attractions, but it does cause those that are popular to have lengthy wait times. If you want to ride Test Track or Soarin’, you will want to arrive in the park early or be sure to grab a FastPass+ for your favorite.
There’s Future World – Sadly, Future World isn’t really that futuristic. It’s been a source of criticism from park goers, including myself, for many years now due to Innoventions, out-of-use pavilions, and just a lot of concrete. It’s also a far cry than what Walt imagined when he was planning Epcot. It seems that Future World’s only draw is the few attractions it boasts, along with Club Cool and Mouse Gear. I also have to drop in Fountain View for a Starbucks to start the day off right; but still, Future World is in desperate need of a Disney facelift and some re-imagining.
Lots of Walking – Epcot is a large park and I’ve already mentioned that it’s very spacious. How spacious? Well, walking around World Showcase alone is 1.2 miles! While I love the fact that there is so much of the park, my feet don’t always feel the same at the end of the day and I do sometimes feel, especially in the space between World Showcase and Future World, that I spend more time walking from place to place than anything else.
Not a Hit with Kids – While this weakness may not be true of every family, it is worth acknowledging that Epcot’s attractions are more educational and aimed towards older kids and adults than what you may find at the magic Kingdom. Therefore, some have said that Epcot isn’t a park for kids. Personally, I wouldn’t go that far. Spaceship, Soarin’, The Seas with Nemo and Friends, and some elements of World Showcase is absolutely kid-friendly; although, as I’ve said, a lot of walking is required at this park and little ones will probably favor the Magic Kingdom if forced to pick between the two.
The good news is that I believe Epcot has more strengths than weaknesses, and despite it’s faults it’s still one of my favorite places to be in all of Walt Disney World. But what I want to know is your opinion of my list of Epcot strengths and weaknesses? Do you agree or disagree? Do you have a strength or weakness to add to the list?
29 thoughts on “Disney Park Strengths and Weaknesses: Epcot”
You forgot to mention Mission: Space and Sum of all Thrills as must see attractions at Epcot.
One thing I miss about Epcot is the Pavillion of Life. I loved the Making of Me movie and Body Wars and Cranium Command! (Kitchen Kabaret wasn’t my thing). Those were all great attractions and it’s a shame Disney hasn’t revamped them. I’m not sure why they closed this pavilion, as it was never replaced by anything.
For me, the live entertainment is another strength that deserves mention. While I lament some recent subtractions, Epcot still has the best variety of performances in WDW, and it only gets better during the Holidays, F&W, or F&G. Plus, while I know this is a point of contention around here, I’ll take IllumiNations over the WDW version of Fantasmic! any day of the week.
I just think Epcot is a truly amazing place, half science museum, half world’s fair, and while it doesn’t always completely deliver on either, I don’t know of any other park in the world quite like it. Admittedly, there are fewer rides, but if you take the time for everything – browse the aquarium, see the shows, stroll through the shops in each pavilion, enjoy a full dining experience each day, complete all the Agent P adventures (which to me also deserve their own mention in this post as a park strength!), try everything in Innoventions – Epcot easily becomes a 3-day park, even outside Festival or Holiday seasons.
… And there’s the booze. BY FAR the best selection of adult beverages in WDW.
For the most part, I agree with your strengths and weaknesses. It does need more attractions, and spots at Future World like Energy and Imagination need help. That said, my kids actually had a great time at EPCOT. I also really like Living with the Land, and the aquarium portion of the Living Seas is still amazing. It wouldn’t take that much to make Future World great again. Sadly, I don’t think much will happen until at least 2019 or so.
The World Showcase is truly unique… Especially in the evenings, it’s a great place to just casually stroll. I dare say that DTD, oops, I mean Disney Springs, and World Showcase, may be the 2 best places to just hang out in the evening.
The restaurants in the World Showcase are way overrated. It’s mostly pretty generic fare. Within 1 block in my hometown, I can get sushi from 3 different restaurants, all better than the sushi in World Showcase. The Mexican, the Chinese… it’s chain restaurant quality, nothing that really exemplifies the cuisines of those countries. The positive is the variety of the restaurants, but I wish most of them were a couple steps better. An exploration of modern Northern Italian cooking for example, instead of a bunch of pasta with red sauce and pizza.
It’s also time to revisit the countries featured in World Showcase. It’s all Europe, North America, and a sprinkle of Asia. It more reflects the dominant nations of when Epcot was built, than 2015.
Morocco is the only Middle Eastern country. I know there are security concerns about having an Israel pavilion, but I think it would add a lot of flavor.
Time to expand Asia beyond the generic China and Japan. How about Thailand or Vietnam? A Banh Mi sandwich shop would be fantastic. What about India?
Does Canada really need a pavilion? If it wasn’t for the popularity of Frozen, would we really need Norway?
Off the top of my head, Europe has the UK, France, Norway, Germany and Italy — 5 countries. All 3 North American countries…. and basically, Europe/North American takes up 75% of the World showcase. Only 1 country from Africa, only 2 from Asia, and none from South America.
Is Canadian culture really more entertaining and interesting than India, Vietnam, Russia?
Time to bring the World Showcase up to date:
If you need space, ditch Canada, ditch Norway, maybe even ditch the UK..
Add: Israel, India, Brazil, Russia, Vietnam.
And now getting to the front of the park…… I’m guessing that….. Disney did the Fantasy land expansion at MK, they are currently finishing up Pandora at AK, DHS is about to start major renovations…. so I’m guessing that Epcot will get new attractions and a major facelift after DHS is done… maybe 2020 or so.
Heaven forbid a Sub-Sarahan African nation (S. Africa? Nigeria? Kenya?) be added.
Although Harambe (at Animal Kingdom) is fictional, it does represent Kenya and similar countries.
Also Asia at Animal Kingdom covers Nepal and India to some extent.
I think they could flesh out the Animal Kingdom, particularly Asia better, but adding these to World Showcase would be duplication, unless India wanted to pay to have a pavilion.
I’m right there with you on Epcot food- the selection of restaurants may have been exotic in the 80s when Mexican and Chinese were considered ‘ethnic food.’ In most of urban areas of the US you can get a wider selection and better quality ethnic food than you can at Epcot. A lot more people travel internationally these days as well (especially those in the income bracket Disney caters to), and the UK is no longer someplace ‘new.’
If I were adding pavilions, I think India, a Middle Eastern one (Turkey is probably the most non-controversial pick), one from the former Eastern Block (Czech Republic, Poland, Hungaria- Russia would be awesome, but probably not likely due to current world tensions), Brazil or Argentina (all you can eat steak place with cuts served on spears, interactive soccer attraction). I also think somewhere in sub-Saharan Africa needs a pavilion- I think only having Animal Kingdom doesn’t explore the rest of the culture outside of the animals. I’d be ok knocking down:UK, Canada, and the oasis or whatever the random non-country is called. I think there are also 2 empty plots in Epcot currently unused.
Agree with the sentiment. Let’s also remember that WDW gets far more international visitors now than they got in the 80’s. So a cliche watered down view of Japan isn’t going to wow guests from Japan.
If there are 2 empty slots…
Let’s perhaps ditch 2 current countries…
And there is certainly room to add at least one more slot..
So ditch Canada and Norway (if Frozen is enough of a reason to keep Norway, then ditch either Germany or UK. Europe is just too over-represented).
That gives room to add 5:
At least 1 from the Middle East — Israel is the most significant to an American audience. But Turkey, Egypt, could all be interested.
Add India — It’s such a fast growing country in terms of world importance.
Add at least 1 Sub Saharan African nation
Add 1 South American nation — Brazil and Argentina are both strong choices.
And add 1 more growing Asian country — I’d say Vietnam which has such an amazingly rich history, culture and cuisine.
Yes to expansion! How about filling in the large gaps between many countries? Adding some of these: Egypt, India, Russia, Turkey, Peru, Uganda or Kenya, Thailand, Australia, & Slovenia.
Egypt. May be the closest I’ll ever get to the historic sites given the current unrest. Some sort of tomb ride exploring Ramses or another pharaoh’s tomb would be awesome. Egypt just seems to me to have the most attraction/ride potential.
Unfortunately, Turkey would be controversial. I would love any of them, but I don’t have personal ties to the region.
I don’t think it’s appropriate to compare the food at Epcot to food options in cities across the nation. The goal isn’t serving the BEST Italian, Mexican, Chinese, etc. food, nor are they trying to have the MOST diverse and authentic ethnic experience anywhere. It’s still a theme park and thus they still need to appeal to the masses and deliver large batches of food for reasonable costs. What makes the food at Epcot great is that you have so many good options AT A THEME PARK. There are so many parks in the nation where you can’t find anything outside of the very generic pizza, burgers, sandwiches, chicken fingers, tacos, maybe a pre-made sushi roll or sweet & sour chicken. While these options can still be found at Epcot, the vast majority of restaurants go well beyond this, and that’s why the food at Epcot is a strength.
You really think the theme park masses want more diverse “ethnic” options? Restaurant Marrakesh is a pretty good counterexample. I really like it because the food is good and different (again, FOR A THEME PARK – I can and do get excellent Mediterranean/Middle-Eastern style food at home), there’s a live show along with dinner, and RESERVATIONS ARE VERY EASY TO GET. If the masses wanted more diverse options, this place, among everything in World Showcase, would be filled to the brim. Sadly, it’s not.
Also, there actually are some VERY good restaurants in Epcot. Le Cellier and Monsier Paul in particular are often listed among the top restaurants in any American theme park. But you can’t expect to have an upscale, full-service restaurant in every country. Again, the strength comes from the wide range of experiences that Epcot offers.
If you want to truly experience everything Earth has to offer, sorry folks, but at some point you’ll need to leave Central Florida. If you want to enjoy a much less expensive, easily accessible, family-friendly vacation that goes beyond the typical fantasy amusement park, there are few places that will match up to Epcot in these respects.
(If they’re going to add a country though, given the African and South Asian cultures already represented at Animal Kingdom, Brazil seems to be a clear winner for inclusion at Epcot.)
Shows you how subjective it is…. I personally think Le Cellier is awful. I believe it’s popular just because it is steak, which is indeed popular with the masses.
While I think you are correct about the need to cater to the masses, I disagree that you can’t do more than that. Chefs De France does an ok job of having both dishes that cater to the masses, along with some other attributes that are more authentically French.
There is enough room to do both…. to offer dishes palatable to people whose only experience with Italian is the Olive Garden, but to also offer some dishes that are truly authentic.
American palates have actually grown more sophisticated than when Epcot was built in the 80’s. “Foodie” has taken on a new meaning that didn’t exist back then. There were no gastro-pubs… there was no Food Network or Top Chef, and few Americans had experience with any Asian cuisine that didn’t end with fortune cookies. I never stepped foot in a sushi restaurant until the 90’s.
I guess I’m saying that the food scene at Epcot is horribly dated.
If it’s not better or unique, why am I going to pay Disney prices to go? I’ll eat quick service, and save my money for home. The Japanese steakhouse at Disney is no better- service, food, or theme- than the Japanese steakhouse a few blocks from me in Chicago. It is, however, 20% more expensive.
I guess if you are dead-set on eating table service meals every day, then Epcot fills that need. It has more variety than any other theme park probably in the world. But there is nothing special or magical about many of them- so I’m not going to pay extra for them.
Perhaps, the masses really do cry out for overpriced dried spaghetti with red sauce in the Italy pavilion. I am just not one of them.
“I think there are also 2 empty plots in Epcot currently unused.”
Actually there are 6 empty plots, plus 2 that are currently used by WorldShowplace:
“World Showcase also offers the ability to browse and shop items from different pavilion’s countries. It’s the most unique shopping experience ever! Where else can get you Japanese candy, teddy bears from Germany, or perfume from Norway in one shopping venture.”
On the internet. Where you can get everything sold at Epcot, plus way more, all at prices that are much cheaper than you would pay in the World Showcase. Nowdays if I see something I like in the World Showcase, I just make a note of it and find it later online.
6 empty slots…. That’s a lot of room to really add some value to World Showcase and bring it into the 21st Century.
Maybe after they finish Pandora and DHS.
Saying it is not a kids’ park is very much a generalization. It is, and has always been, my daughter’s favorite park. She is 8. I think kids that sit in front of a screen all day and have no appreciation of history or culture may not like the park, but well-rounded, intelligent kids find a lot of amazing things to experience and learn at Epcot.
This is a great article but I think Epcot has more to offer kids, even young kids, than many people realize. There are 2 character meals and lots of character meet-and-greet opportunities at Epcot, Journey into Imagination with Figment delighted my daughter when she was six, she also liked the boat ride in the Mexico pavilion. The acrobats in the China pavilion, Serveur Amusant balancing act in the France pavilion, and some of the other live entertainment is very kid friendly. The Agent P World Showcase Adventure is a fun activity for elementary age kids. It can make sense to make Epcot your first park since it is so different from the Magic Kingdom.
And just wait until they are finished renovating the Norway Pavilion. That place will be mobbed with children!
Moreso than other parks. EPCOT is very dependent on corporate sponsors for attractions. And this also extended to contributions from Countries sponsoring world showcase items.
As corporations review and renew their partnerships in a ‘cost/benefit” ideal.
I expect to see more abandoned areas at EPCOT.
As money gets tighter…it’s politically embarrassing for, say Mexico, to give money to one of the wealthiest corporations in the world in exchange for a restaurant and a tourist ride.
Actually, Morocco is the only pavilion with extensive national sponsorship.
Which supports the larger point that Disney has no desire to put any money into EPCOT. Unless a major corporation or a country will step up and underwrite construction and ongoing operations, there will be no new country pavilions.
I feel like Disney could convince Putin to do a Russian pavilion. He is always looking to promote how great Russia is. I definitely see a vodka bar with an ice inlaid bar for that.
As far as any other Middle Eastern country, it would be extremely tough in today’s climate. So many groups would lost their minds over this. Disney would have no interest in the blowback.
Another one of my very favorite things about Epcot is all the wonderful background music…the entrance loop, Spaceship Earth, Innoventions, The Seas Pavilion, the Fountain of Nations, the Land pavilion, Soarin’ (both the queue and the ride), and not to be left out…IllumiNation! I could just walk around listening to the music, not riding one ride, and be perfectly content! And then there’s the retired music which was also great…Wonders of Life, Horizons, Tomorrow’s Child, the original entrance loop, the old Seas Pavilion music, so beautiful.
If you’re looking to entertain children in the world showcase, Agent P is not to be missed. My kids (age 7 & 9) had an absolute ball with the game, the whole family got in on the fun. We spent hours in the world showcase over 2 days because they insisted on completing every mission. It’s one of our best memories from that trip.
Totally agree. Agent P is great for kids. Very interactive. And a great way for you too see spots of world showcase you might not normally pay attention to.
I’d add that Agent P isn’t necessarily just for kids, but rather for the ‘kid at heart’ too – my husband and I (30 and 29 years old) thought this was great fun too!
I mostly agree with your strengths and weaknesses, and yes, Agent P is a plus, and yes, we need a Uganda, a Brazil, and maybe a New Zealand.
As far as Epcot’s food: I’m truly happy for the many many visitors who live in big cities and can say that they have 12 better sit down restaurants within a one mile radius of their home. But for those of us who live in smaller or more remote places (or towns where accomplished chefs are never going to set up), we really only have Olive Gardens and China Kitchens and El Chicos… We are not being ridiculous to say that Epcot has “good food”. It is certainly better than what I can get, for the most part, within an hour’s drive of my house. I can either uproot to a different place, or I can enjoy while at WDW, but I don’t want to feel ashamed or unsophisticated that I like it.
I have to also disagree that it is not a kids’ park. It has been one of my son’s favorites since he was four (he is eight now). Lots of interactive stuff for them to do, and we did the ‘passport’ last trip and got it stamped in every country. We had a single day to visit a park before a cruise when he was five and he chose Epcot because it was during food and wine and he likes trying all of the different foods offered.