Epcot as a park is in a bit of a strange place at the moment, not really knowing if it wants to completely reinvent itself or still cling on to those ideals that made EPCOT Center special in its early days. Luckily there is still a lot of fun to be had if you know what to do, and the almost consistent festivals throughout the year mean there is always going to be something new and exciting to greet you on your next visit to Epcot Center. Whilst it may not have the most thrilling attractions or the most themed atmosphere, it does have timeless magic that makes Epcot Dom’s favourite to visit at the Walt Disney World Resort.
Family Rides 7/10
Whilst Epcot doesn’t feature a huge selection of family attractions, most of what it does have is at least enjoyable and worth a visit. One of the most popular family rides still has to be “Frozen Ever After,” whilst Maelstrom will be missed by a lot of people, Frozen Ever After is an example of what a Disney quality attraction retrofit can be like. The ride truly has some magical moments and is likely to be a favourite of your children, even if the projected faces can be a little bit in the uncanny valley.
A lot of rides at Epcot feature something as a post-ride experience to add to the “pavillions” theme of the park such as the Aquarium in the Seas with Nemo and Friends, and Spaceship Earth’s futuristic city builder, these offer some great interactive fun and games to be experienced by your whole family.
Our don’t miss experiences have to be Living with the Land, a nice calm boat ride that shows you behind the scenes on how Epcot grows and maintains plants, fruits, fish and more as well as Spaceship Earth, which towers over the park as not just a great icon but also a ride definitely worth experiencing, especially if you get the chance before it undergoes it’s rumoured massive refurbishments that may change over 50% of the ride. Also, I’m sure everyone knows all about it but Soarin’ truly is a must-do for the family, especially now that the wait times have been down thanks to the opening of the third-theatre.
Two of our guilty pleasure rides have to be the Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros. Which isn’t groundbreaking by any means, but is a lot of fun, rarely has a massive wait and is a great way to escape the hot Floridian sun for a while. Our other guilty pleasure has to be Journey Into Imagination with Figment or as it should be called “Fever Dream the Ride”. It may be confusing… but it’s still worth a ride, even if only because it never sees long waits and to get a chance to see Figment whilst he is still alive! Just be warned that this… may haunt your dreams forever.
Overall, a lot of the family rides are rather dated and camp, but at least some of them still have a semblance of the original vision of Epcot centre. Also, the collection will be added to nicely when Ratatouille opens in the coming years, adding a fun trackless dark ride to the mix.
Thrill Rides 7/10
Whilst Epcot doesn’t have many thrill rides, the two it does contain are some of my favourite thrill rides at Walt Disney World. Whilst not for everyone, we do enjoy the intense thrills that Mission Space (Red Mission) provides. In an experience that is completely unique, you will see yourself take off and land on the red planet of Mars, feeling all of the G-Forces that go along with your intergalactic journey. The ride is looking even better lately after it’s recent update and refurb, though we will always miss Gary Sinise as the pre-show host!
Also my personal favourite ride at Epcot as well as the fastest ride at the entire Walt Disney World Resort, Test Track, is an enjoyable all-around experience, from the pre-show where you get to build the most ridiculous car you can, to the ride itself as you zoom around inside the test facility before you burst through the door and careen around the outside of Epcot, all the way to the end of the ride where you see just how well your crazy car design compares to all the guests.
Almost anytime of the year that you visit, Epcot will have some form of Festival to enjoy. On our most recent visit, we got our first chance to experience Festival of the Arts which is a great smaller festival, that is especially delightful for creative and performing art lovers like us. Walking around and seeing artists do their thing whilst being able to create some art of your own, makes the park feel alive. Over the years we have also had the chance to experience all of the other Festivals on offer at Epcot including Flower and Garden where we recommend not missing the butterfly garden, Festival of the Holidays which adds some great Entertainment telling the Holiday traditions around the world and previously featured an amazing Holiday ending to Illuminations which will be missed, and of course you can’t talk about Festivals without mentioning the Granddaddy of them all – Food and Wine. Come prepared with your stomach empty and your wallet full as there are so many amazing things to try. You can easily spend your entire day just walking around eating and drinking (Even if the Lamington at the Australian pavilion isn’t quite as magical as it is at home).
One entertaining experience available all year is Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure, which is mostly aimed towards children but we still had a lot of fun with it. It was great to explore World Showcase seeing how Perry the Platypus was implemented into each pavilion. Also, to make your first entrance into the park as magical as possible try to catch the monorail from the Transit and Ticketing Centre. There is almost no other experience quite like circling Spaceship Earth and getting a bird eyes view of the park before you enter.
Whilst Epcot may not have the best Entertainment offerings of the four Disney World parks, it uses its expansive space effectively spreading out different performances all throughout the park. Future World does feature a few things such as the Jammitors, but the real performance hotspot is World Showcase where just by walking around you can see World Class acrobats, singers, dancers, log rollers and so much more. These Streetmosphere type Entertainment options are rarely crowded and a great spot to view the show can often be grabbed just before it begins. Also whilst you are in World Showcase make sure you don’t miss the acapella beauty of the Voices of Liberty in the acoustically perfect American Adventure Rotunda.
The main “Theatre” for the park, the American Gardens Theatre features a wide variety of shows throughout the year, usually tied to the current Festival. Over my visits to the Gardens Theatre I’ve had the chance to see Candlelight Processional with Neil Patrick Harris, The American Music Machine and of course the one and only Smash Mouth. Entertainment as a whole is ramped up for the festivals as well, featuring things such as living statues for Festival of the Arts and more.
If you visit Epcot in the next few months make sure you stop by Illuminations to get your last chance to view this touching show. The show is easily in Dom’s top five theme park entertainment offerings of all time. It represents something ‘more’ than just a theme park and is a really wholesome end to your day. We just hope whatever replaces it gives us that same sense of humanity and awe.
Most places at Walt Disney World feature great Cast Members, just as you would expect from Disney, and Epcot may very well have the best Cast of anywhere on property. Most of the World Showcase Cast Members are cultural representatives of the country their pavilion represents. This creates a great group of CMs who aren’t just passionate about Epcot but also about their home Nation! Even outside of World Showcase, most staff are great and happy to answer any questions and if a CM ever goes above and beyond for you make sure to shout them out with the #castcompliment so they can get the praise they deserve.
Future World’s theming is, unfortunately, a bit of a mess currently. Whilst a lot of the pavilions look nice together, the mostly wasted Innoventions buildings create a bit of an eyesore right in the middle of the parks “hub-like” area. The original concept art we saw at D23 expo 2017 looked to completely revitalise this area. Whilst the current rumour doesn’t see the area being as heavily redeveloped as this, having something… to bring this aging area up to the 21st Century will be a great addition. Also, the new Massive Guardians of the Galaxy show building doesn’t help the thematic problems, ruining sightlines throughout even at the parks furthest borders.
Luckily World Showcase’s theming is a lot stronger, featuring some amazing details that really make you feel like you are exploring these eleven countries. This immersion is especially deep in Areas where you can’t see out to other Pavilions, such as the indoor section of Mexico and the areas out the back of pavillions like Canada, the UK and Japan. Because there aren’t many popular attractions around these areas, they are often rather secluded, which is perfect when you want to eat your lunch in peace or simply get away from the crowds. Where else but World Showcase can you eat, shop, and converse with people from all around the world without needing a passport?
Merchandise as a whole at the Walt Disney World Resort is strong, featuring a wide selection of items with some spectacular designs on them. This though causes the main problem of Merchandise at Disney World, most of the merchandise available within the park isn’t exclusive to Epcot. There is a floating rotation of maybe 70% of the stock of items available that is also purchasable at all parks, hotels and Disney Springs. It can get rather annoying when you see the same piece of merchandise over and over, especially when it’s not area appropriate, such as seeing Magic Kingdom merchandise for sale at Epcot.
Thankfully, they do have a few items of strong park specific merchandise as well as a wide variety of Festival Merch for each event throughout the year. Just be warned if you go during Festival of the Arts you are going to see a lot of artists with their expensive art pieces that may fit perfectly in your house, though your wallet may not be the biggest fan of them. Also don’t worry all you Figment fans, in recent years he has essentially become the mascot of Epcot meaning you can find him on a ton and we mean a ton of permanent as well as limited-time festival merchandise all throughout Epcot.
Disney World has done well advertising itself as the ultimate family vacation destination and they are definitely charging a premium price for being the “ultimate”. A one day ticket to Epcot (Or any other single Disney World park) will currently cost you between $109 and $122 depending on the day of the week and time of year. These prices are rumoured to rise again just before Galaxy’s Edge opens up this fall. Once you start adding things like Park Hopper and Magic Your Way onto the tickets they can prove to quickly add up in price. Though it is important to note that a 10-day park hopper ticket at Walt Disney World will currently only cost you around $100 more than a 5-day park hopper ticket at Disneyland.
Getting into the park isn’t your only expense though, unless you bring in your own food you will want something tasty to try. Luckily one of the main draws for all of the Festivals is the exclusive food offerings. Whilst a lot of these snack offerings aren’t terribly expensive, they are tiny portions, and are designed for ‘stacking’. So make sure you plan ahead money wise because it can easily get costly if you want to eat or drink around the world.
Epcot overall has possibly the greatest atmosphere of all of the Disney World, parks built both by the guests and the Myriad of International Cast Members. Epcot is just an exciting place to visit, around every corner is something new to see which elevates the feeling of exploring the World and can honestly evoke emotions similar to what you will find when travelling around the actual globe. Before I went to Japan a few years ago my only experience with the country was through the pavilion at Epcot and it honestly was a great microcosm of Japan and its people.
Festivals also help to bring the park to life with floral displays, artwork and more to be found throughout furthering the benefit of exploration. Whilst you may occasionally find some guests taking the idea of “drinking around the world” a little too far, thankfully they rarely impact upon your guest experience.
One thing to know about Epcot is that the place is huge, so make sure you wear your best walking shoes. Luckily though it isn’t too difficult to find your way around with Future World really just having two major sides and World Showcase being one big loop. In the coming years, this park will be the ultimate hub for Transport when the Skyliner from Hollywood Studios and surrounding hotels joins the Monorail from the Magic Kingdom and the Boats from Hollywood Studios, giving you some more exciting ways to get to the park and start or end your day with a ride.
One other thing we haven’t really talked about is the amazing food on offer at Epcot. Whilst Future World doesn’t really have any amazing dining opportunities, World Showcase more than makes up for that with every single pavillion having a number of dining options to choose from. Our favourites include Via Napoli in Italy for their spectacular pizza, Biergarten for their great food, drinks and entertainment as well as Teppan Edo for the delicious food and great service.
In a few years time Epcot may very well be a completely different park for better or for worse, until then though whilst Epcot may not have the Magic of some of the other Disney Parks around the World, it does things diff erently and that’s something to be applauded. ReviewTyme’s own Dom says it best about Epcot.
With the closing of illuminations, it’s the nearing of the end of an era at EPCOT. In recent years the park has struggled with its identity and futureworld has lagged behind the present day. But I feel like many people would agree that Epcot still represents something ‘more’ and I hope that with all the new additions and changes, that they still hold onto what made this theme park unique. It’s up to Disney as a company to decide whether the worlds that they create represent the dreams of their founder. Or, whether they simply just provide a canvas for them to insert whatever is popular at the time. Whilst the public may think different, I feel the ideology of a world coming together in Illuminations and spaceship earth will forever be more powerful than any attempt that Disney makes to shoehorn their intellectual property into EPCOT.
Whilst it may not be Walt’s vision of an Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow it’s still a great theme park to visit.
ReviewTyme’s final score is 80 out of 100.