Education, inspiration, and corporate imagery are the focus at Epcot, the most adult of the Disney theme parks. What it gains in taking a futuristic, visionary, and technological look at the world, it loses just a bit in warmth, happiness, and charm. Some people find the attempts at education superficial, while others want more entertainment and less education. Most visitors, however, find plenty of both.
Epcot is more than twice as big as the Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios and, though smaller than Disney’s Animal Kingdom, has more territory to be covered on foot. Epcot rarely sees the congestion so common in the Magic Kingdom, but its popular rides have lines every bit as long as those at headliners such as Seven Dwarfs Mine Train and Space Mountain.
Epcot's size means you can't see it all in one day without skipping an attraction or two and giving others a cursory glance. A major difference between Epcot and the other parks, however, is that some Epcot attractions can be savored slowly or skimmed, depending on personal interests. For example, the first section of Chevrolet's Test Track is a thrill ride, the second a collection of walkthrough exhibits. Nearly all visitors take the ride, but many people, lacking time or interest, bypass the exhibits.
Visitors must come prepared to do considerable walking among attractions and a comparable amount of standing in line.
We rate several Epcot attractions as not to be missed. But part of the enjoyment of the park is that there’s something for everyone.
Epcot has two themed areas: Future World and World Showcase. Though schedules change throughout the year, Future World always opens before World Showcase. While most of Future World’s attractions stay open until the entire park closes, a few close around 7 p.m. most of the year. World Showcase generally opens 2 hours later than Future World; moreover, some attractions open late or close early. As we were going to press, Epcot’s new Frozen Ever After and Royal Sommerhus attractions had been open for about a month of the busy summer season. Disney was opening these at regular park opening for the time being, plus the Mexico Pavilion’s ride and restaurants. Disney hasn’t said whether they’ll keep this schedule after the initial hoopla dies down. Our guess is that all of Norway (and Mexico) will return to 11 a.m. openings most days.
Plan to arrive at the turnstiles 30-40 minutes prior to the official opening time. Give yourself an extra 10 minutes or so to park and make your way to the entrance.
If you are a guest at one of the Epcot resorts, it will take you about 20–30 minutes to walk the mile or so from your hotel to the International Gateway (back entrance of Epcot) and from there to Future World. Instead of walking, you can catch a boat from your Epcot resort hotel to the International Gateway and then walk about 8 minutes to Future World. To reach the front (Future World) entrance of Epcot from the Epcot resorts, either take a boat from your hotel to Disney's Hollywood Studios and transfer to an Epcot bus, take a bus to Disney Springs and transfer to an Epcot bus, or take a cab.
Arriving at the park by private automobile is easy and direct. Epcot has its own parking lot and, unlike at the Magic Kingdom, there's no need to take a monorail or ferry to reach the entrance. Trams serve the parking lot, or you can walk to the front gate. Monorail service connects Epcot with the Transportation and Ticket Center, the Magic Kingdom (transfer required), and Magic Kingdom resorts (transfer required).
For unknown reasons, getting through entrance security at Epcot is more cumbersome and time-consuming than at the other parks. In fact, it’s a royal pain, as this unidentified reader relates:
My biggest complaint was the amount of time it took to actually get into Epcot: 35 minutes at 10:30 a.m. to get bags checked (park had opened at 9) and another 10 minutes to get in. It took nowhere near as long at the other parks, even with the same crowd size.
Take these delays into consideration if you’re using one of the Epcot touring plans. A second, often overlooked, security checkpoint is on the other (east) side of the main checkpoint. If the main lines look too long, have one member of your group peek around to see if the east lines are shorter.
This reader from Sacramento, California, suggests using the International Gateway (World Showcase) entrance instead:
Thanks to MagicBands and FastPass+, the International Gateway entrance is convenient for getting into Epcot first thing in the morning. We entered there by boat from the Dolphin hotel and were met inside the gate by cast members who set up our FastPass+ reservations for the day.
Epcot's theme areas are distinctly different. Future World examines where mankind has come from and where it's going. World Showcase features landmarks, cuisine, and culture of almost a dozen nations and is meant to be a sort of permanent World's Fair.
Navigating Epcot is unlike getting around at the Magic Kingdom. The Magic Kingdom is designed so that nearly every location is part of a specific environment-Liberty Square or Main Street, U.S.A., for example. All environments are visually separated to preserve the integrity of the theme.
Epcot, by contrast, is visually open. And while it seems strange to see a Japanese pagoda and the Eiffel Tower on the same horizon, getting around is fairly simple. An exception is Future World, where the enormous Innoventions East and West buildings hide everything on their opposite sides.
At Epcot, the architectural symbol is Spaceship Earth. This shiny, 180-foot geosphere is visible from almost everywhere in the park. Like Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom, Spaceship Earth can help you keep track of where you are in Epcot. But it's in a high-traffic area and isn't centrally located, so it isn't a good meeting place.
Any of the distinctive national pavilions in World Showcase make a good meeting place, but be specific. "Hey, let's meet in Japan!" sounds fun, but each pavilion is a mini-town with buildings, monuments, gardens, and plazas. You could wander quite awhile "in Japan" without finding your group. Pick a specific place in Japan-the sidewalk side of the pagoda, for example.