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If You Can Only Spend One Day at Epcot

Epcot deserves at least 2 days, so this is a barnstorming highlight tour. Remember to make Advance Reservations if you want to eat in the park (call tel. 407/939-3463 before you arrive). I suggest the Coral Reef restaurant in the Seas with Nemo & Friends or the San Angel Inn in the World Showcase's Mexico exhibit for lunch, and Marrakesh in Morocco or, if you have children that want to meet princesses, Akershus in Norway.

While additions and refurbishments over the years have improved the kid-friendliness of this park, it remains the least desirable of the parks for tinier tots. Even some tweens and teens may not enjoy the heavy educational and technology themes, though there are more tot-friendly rides, attractions, and characters to entertain the younger set than ever before.

As you enter, go to any of your favorite rides that have Fastpass+ (they're noted in the handout guide map). If the lines are short, don't bother with the pass. If the fast track isn't in your itinerary, take the other strategic approach:

Future World, near the front of the park, is the first of Epcot's two areas to open, so start there. Skip Spaceship Earth for now (save it for the end of the day as you make your way out of the park, when lines are at their shortest—or if you're staying until park closing, make time to ride before IllumiNations). Go straight to Mission: Space, where you can train as the astronauts do. Follow up with next-door-neighbor Test Track. Then cut to the west to Imagination! to check off the weakest ride in Future World: Journey into Imagination with Figment. Next up is the Seas with Nemo & Friends, for a quick conversation with Crush and a "clamobile" ride under the sea, before heading on to The Land, where Soarin' Around the World takes riders on a high-flying adventure over world landmarks.

Unless your feet could use a rest, bypass Spaceship Earth and proceed to the World Showcase in midafternoon. For me, this is the best part of Epcot—the pavilions of 11 nations surround a big lagoon that you can cross by boat. But, again, kids (especially small ones) and teens may get the itch to leave.

Norway delivers the Disney-mandated "Let It Go" references with the easygoing Frozen Ever After boat ride, while China and Canada have fabulous 360-degree movies; France has a magnificent large-screen production, too. Don't leave without taking in the show and concerts at U.S.A.—The American Adventure is a complex show exclusively starring Audio-Animatronic robots. And don't miss the taiko drum show at Japan.

After dinner, be sure to watch IllumiNations (and before the show, catch a ride on Spaceship Earth, if you skipped it earlier in the day).

If You Can Spend Two Days at Epcot

Ignore the 1-day itinerary, but consider my earlier advice about Advance Reservations and choice of restaurants.

The basic plan of attack here is to hit Future World and all of its rides and exhibits on your first day, and then cruise the World Showcase the next day. (Because the showcase opens later, you can hit any missed areas or go back for seconds in Future World early on Day 2.) Remember to go straight to FASTPASS rides that appeal to you (check your guide map).

Day 1 If you want to eat in the park, book Advance Reservations for lunch and dinner if you haven't already. Skip Spaceship Earth because that's where a lot of the park's visitors go first (do that before you leave the park for the day). Instead, take a spin on Test Track, in the southeast corner of Future World; if it's crowded, use Fastpass+ and come back later. Blast off as the astronauts do on Mission: Space, and then double back to Ellen's Energy Adventure in the Universe of Energy before grabbing lunch.

Before you call it a day, enjoy the peaceful exhibits in the Seas with Nemo & Friends (including Turtle Talk with Crush, the Seas with Nemo & Friends, and Bruce's Shark World) and the Land (be sure to check out Soarin' Around the World, another strong candidate for Fastpass+), and then cut to Imagination! for Journey into Imagination with Figment, which won't take long. Younger kids will appreciate the dancing fountains (next to Imagination! and between Innoventions East and West); parents will appreciate the break from walking.

Day 2 If you arrive when the park opens, go to any Future World rides or shows that you missed or want to repeat. Or sleep a little later and arrive for the opening of World Showcase.

Norway features the Frozen Ever After ride, so if you have little ones who want to do this, get it done early (and use Fastpass+). Then start in Canada, to the far right of the entrance. The movie here is uplifting and entertaining. Then continue counterclockwise to the United Kingdom for street shows, people-watching, and a real pub. France has a captivating film and a wonderful pastry shop; Morocco has a colorful casbah with merchants, Moorish tile and art, and little passages that put you in Bogartville. (For some, this is better than the real Casablanca, which is actually dirty and run-down.)

Japan has a store packed with enticements and grand architecture, while U.S.A.—The American Adventure is a patriotic triumph of Audio-Animatronic characters. This is a large theater, so waits are rarely long. Next, head to Italy and St. Mark's Square, which comes complete with a 105-foot bell tower.

Germany's Biergarten has oompah bands, beer, and wursts. Don't miss the model railway and the Bavarian-looking shops. Then steer yourself to China, which offers food, bargain buys, gardens and ponds, and a 360-degree movie. Continuing counterclockwise past Norway, Mexico completes the World Showcase semicircle with a boat ride through the country that features Donald Duck and the Three Caballeros.

End your day with the IllumiNations fireworks display.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.