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What Makes Epcot So Special?

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This week you’ll probably see a lot of blog posts around the Disney community about Epcot as we gear up for the 30th anniversary of this amazing park. Today I’d like to take a look at Epcot since it is my favorite park, but it may not be the angle you’re expecting. I’m a relative newcomer to Disney World fandom. I hadn’t been to Florida between the ages of 4 and 22 so I don’t remember a lot of the things some of the die hard Epcot miss. I know a fair amount about the history of Epcot, but I’m not an expert on the subject by any means. So, instead, I’ll be writing all about what makes this my favorite park today and I’ll throw in some tips for touring too. There is something majestic about this park for me. So what makes Epcot so special?

Atmosphere: Although Horizons is gone I still feel a sense of “if we can dream it, we can do it” around Epcot. I’m not sure if it’s the architecture or the music in Future World, but I always feel uplifted when I walk through the main gates. Over in World Showcase, I just adore the celebration of culture brought to life through the designs of the imagineers. As an added bonus the gardens in Epcot are some of my favorites anywhere.

Attractions: There are some really great headliners here, but I also really appreciate some of the less popular attractions too. Sure, I love to ride Soarin’, but I don’t always love getting there for park opening to get a Fastpass. I go to Disney World so often that I’m just as happy riding Living with the Land without having to wait in a huge queue. I also like to be reminded of how revolutionary this park was with a journey through time on Spaceship Earth. While, I’m not as in love with the current version, I still have a soft spot for the smell of Rome burning. And in World Showcase I’ll take in the American Adventure for a good cry. Epcot is so much more than Test Track, so take advantage of all it has to offer!

Entertainment: The live entertainment options seem to be endless at Epcot. Almost every where you turn you might stumble upon a band, an acting troupe, or an amazing a cappella group. I could make and afternoon of wandering around listening to the likes of Off Kilter in Canada, the Voices of Liberty at the American Adventure, and watching all of the other acts around the World Showcase Lagoon. Be sure to grab a Times Guide when you head into the park or consult Lines for performance times each day.

Food: Epcot is my favorite park to eat in Disney World. There is a ton of variety for every taste and budget. Want a really great table service meal? There are plenty of choices around World Showcase for your dining enjoyment. Want a quick bite before running off to the next attraction? You’re covered there too. Maybe you’d like to sample snacks from all over the world? This is the place to do it. Not only do I love to eat in Epcot, I like to relax with a nice glass of the drink of the day. I can lounge in Cava del Tequila or roam around with a German beer and pretzel and be really, really happy.

World Showcase: If I’m really being specific I’d have to say World Showcase is my favorite place to hang out in all of Disney World. It just feels like home to me. I’m usually taking things at a relaxed pace when I’m there and just enjoying my time with my friends and taking it all in. I rarely do the same things in two visits here, but I always have a great time. The range of activities available in this area is sure to please any traveler. Everything from shopping to dining, attractions to shows are available here to give a glimpse into life around the world. I just can’t seem to get enough of it.

IllumiNations: Oh, IllumiNations. This is by far my favorite night time spectacular in all the parks. The combination of beautiful music, fireworks and effects, and story move me every single time I see the show. It never gets old for me and I’ve been know to get a little teary while watching it on occasion (especially during the holiday tag). I could watch it every night of my vacation and be a very happy camper. I have a lot of great memories of watching Illuminations with great friends at the end of a great day that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

I think what I love most about Epcot is that that I can tour at with gusto or just relax and take it all in here. I have just as much fun getting there for park opening and take on a Touring Plan or getting there in the afternoon and wandering around with a beer in my hand without doing a single ride. It seems Epcot can be what you make of it depending on how you approach it. First time visitors will enjoy running around from attraction to attraction and veterans can stop and smell the roses and both enjoy their experience. I like being able to personalize my Disney experience and I think there’s a lot of value in that.

Now that I’ve gushed about Epcot,how do you feel about it? Is Epcot your favorite too? Or maybe you long for vintage Epcot? Let me hear your thoughts in the comments!

A special thanks goes to Don Sullivan for providing this week’s photos! 

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Kristen Helmstetter

Kristen Helmstetter is an Unofficial Guide researcher who will share her 20-something perspective of all things Walt Disney World with blog readers. Kristen’s email address is khelmstetter05@yahoo.com. You can also follow her on Twitter: @khelmstetter.

17 thoughts on “What Makes Epcot So Special?

  • Just came back from 1 week in WDW and we all lived Epcot which I had not seen since I was a teen in 1985. My 10 and 13 year old sons LOVED The world showcase and we hopped to Epcot twice. Food and wine festival was happening so that made it extra fun. We were there on 10/1 for the 30th, so the park was busier than touring plans anticipated, but they gave out cool souvenir history pamphlets and buttons. It was nice to see some things that were the same and some new additions. I didn’t really enjoy the Nemo-ization of the Seas, and the general increased character presence, but I understand what Disney is trying to change to increase popularity with small children. I missed my old “Imagination” ride. It’s just not the same. Disney magic is SO here in this park with the thousands of tiny details in the world showcase. I think older children can appreciate the magic of this park. My kids made us ride Spaceship earth over and over again.

  • Honestly, it’s probably #3 behind Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom. My parents never took me to WDW when I was a kid, so I never had the nostalgia factor of what Epoct used to be.

    Plus, there are two factors that I always consider – what I’m spending and how much I’m walking. IMO, to experience Epcot the right way (especially World Showcase) you have to do a lot of both.

  • Any article with a photo of the Voices almost has to be a good one! I adore Tiffany, and that’s John and Kevin in the background.

    I can spend a whole afternoon and evening just on World Showcase live entertainment acts, plus toss in a great meal or two. Don’t even need the attractions, just the entertainment.

  • This is my favorite park as well and usually the one we hit on our first day. For one it never seems to be too crowded. Two our daughters get to meet Mickey and the gang all in one stop. We usually hit the attractions in Future Land first, then make our way around the “world”, ending with seeing Oft Kilter and the band that plays in England. Hitting up drink and food stands along the way. When we were there 2 weeks ago a group had “Country Bar Crawl” t-shirts on. My wife and I said that the next time we come we have to do that.

  • I just returned from a visit to WDW with my family (hubby and 2 daughters ages 5 and 8) and we spent 10 hrs in Epcot! After doing the rides at park opening, we walked around the country pavalions in the afternoon. We did not go into any stores in the World Showcase, and only sat down to eat counter service lunch for 20 minutes. We simply following the live performances around the countries and did a few charater greetings in between. The total 10 hrs flew by and my young kids were anything but bored.

    • I’m glad to hear this. We are going on the 16th with my daughter, her husband and my two 5 year old grandchildren. I have very fond memories of Epcot from around 1990. My daughter was 12 year old at the time, and she was bored to death with it. I think her children are very curious and will love it. Hopefully, she will give it a chance.

  • The entertainers are wonderful! I highly recommend doing an Entertainment Crawl just to see how many you can catch in one day. “How do you like the show?” “Rubbish!!!!” LOL

  • I have to tell you Kristen: I made my first trip to the world in 2005 and the one attraction that really wowed me was Mission: Space. There is simply nothing else like it.

    Also, I have become a huge Figment fan, and that’s a great part of the park too.

    • I’ll second that! Mission Space is so under appreciated sometimes, all because people are mad it replaced Horizons. It is an unbelievable unique experience and it deserves love!

  • The World Showcase is my favorite place in all of Disney. I just love picking up the entertainment guide and leisurely visiting each country enjoying the architecture and scenery, an adult drink, some food, and the show (mostly the live entertainement). I have visited most of the countries, in real life, so I especially enjoy reliving those memories as I visit.

    I’m with the old school people who miss the earlier version of Futureworld; the original Imagination and Horizons and the closed Wonders of Life. The Futureworld experience has skewed to a thrill ride orientation (not a fan, but I do like the rides)rather than the Edutainment aspect. Alas, they shall never be back.

    This article exactly expresses why I love EPCOT. Thanks.

  • I wish I felt the same way about Epcot, but I just don’t get it.

    I guess I’m too much of a ride junkie. On my last trip about a year ago, we hit Future World one morning (back to the resort before lunchtime), and came back just for IllumiNations another night. We never even ventured into World Showcase because once you start down the path, you’re stuck making the entire loop or backtracking.

    • I tend to agree. Epcot is actually 3 rd on my list behind MK and DHS. Other than Le Cellier, I actually feel table service dining in World Showcase to be lacking. Chefs de France is decent, but none of the others do anything for me personally. I can get better Chinese or Japanese food at home for a fraction of the price. I realize I’m in the minority though. I understand why people like EP, I just don’t share a lot of those feelings.

      Especially now that TT was down for my last trip, it is a struggle to spend an entire day at this park in my opinion. I also feel it is time for a Soarin update. The repeatability of this attraction is low; no surprises, identical every time.

      Again, I know I’m in the minority. Just my $.02.

      • It might be based on youyr home town too Zach.

        My family always does Teppan Edo, and that’s mostly because we don’t have easy access to any Japanese food at home (or at least not with this presentation)

        I also still think that Mission Space is one of WDW’s best attractions (not just Epcot’s best)

      • We always do Teppan Edo as don’t have any Japanese restaurants locally. I also agree that Mission Space is an awesome attraction (I have to do the green one though, orange makes me hurl!)

        Soarin’ isn’t the best attraction in Epcot. I do love it, but if I could only do 3 rides in Epcot, they’d be MS, Spaceship Earth & The Seas!

  • Nobody I know gets why I love Disney World so much, why I go so often instead of choosing someplace new, and I think it can all be summed up in Epcot. The “Disney magic” is there, plenty of good food, I can travel the world in a day, fun rides & shows… did I mention the food? I think that is one of my favorite parts. The Food & Wine Festival is my favorite time to visit. Of course I would love to travel the REAL world, but Epcot (& Disney World in general) holds a special place in my heart.

  • I agree! My family of five loves Epcot for all the same reasons. Living in Ohio, we plan a Disney trip every three years. We’d go every year if our new oil well ever starts producing! Our kids are 10, 11 and 13 and we just went in May. They love exploring all the Worlds, and enjoy trying on hats in each country. Epcot seems take the pressure off of running to the next attraction. I would love to visit without the kids (don’t tell them!) so my husband and I could visit Epcot every day of our vacation instead of having to share our time with the other parks!

  • Fellow “Epcot is my favorite” person here, for all the reasons you listed. I’ll be there in 5 days (for the 3rd trip this year), cannot wait!


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