Epcot remains one of Walt Disney World’s finest achievements. More than any other park, Epcot changes its personality, decorations, and diversions by the season. This year, the front of the park takes on one new profile: construction site. The company is sinking more than $1 billion into drastically updating it to keep up with modern tastes, after having allowed it to wander from its intentions for nearly 40 years.
At Epcot’s birth, Future World (now in the past) was where the wonders of industry were extolled in corporate-sponsored “pavilions.” The companies had a hand in creating them, and they also maintained VIP areas in backstage areas for executives and special guests. At the back of the property, around a 1.3-mile lake footpath, World Showcase was (and still is) a circuit of countries, each representing in miniature its namesake’s essence. These, too, received funding from their host countries.
The expense of continually updating exhibits tempted Disney into gradually phasing out the educational aspects of the attractions. One by one, original pavilions have been replaced by sense-tingling rides based on movies, so that today only two of the original displays, Spaceship Earth and Living with the Land, still give a sense of their 1982 origins.
Although the 260-acre Epcot once claimed some pretense of education, guests usually don’t learn much more than they already know (so as not to bore them or to insult their intelligence). Still, even though there isn’t much take-away information, there’s lots to soak up if you explore. There’s plenty to do here without having to wait in lines, and unlike other parks, there are many places to sit. The wide variety of foods and alcoholic beverages is a principal draw. Epcot’s genial personality has earned it a spot as the seventh-most-visited theme park on Earth, racking up some 12.4 million entries in 2019.
GETTING IN—The parking lot is at the ticket gates, although you can also catch the monorail from the Magic Kingdom parking area. If you park near the track, don’t bother with the tram; you can walk to the gates faster. Bags will be quickly inspected. As you enter the park, lockers are at the right of Spaceship Earth; wheeled rentals are to the left. Also on the left is Guest Relations, where last-minute dining reservations can be made (though often you’ll just be deferred to the restaurant in question). A smaller entrance at the International Gateway (by France in World Showcase) is good for entry from the Disney Skyliner, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and the Epcot Resort area.
Warning: If you rent a wheelchair or ECV and want to duck out the International Gateway to ride the Skyliner gondola, you will have to give up your rental and hope to pick up another one when you re-enter; staff will not guarantee they can give you another one when you return to the park.
HOURS—Epcot usually opens at 9am or 10am and closes at 9pm or 10pm. Street entertainment (there’s more on weekends, when locals like to come, too) and character greetings dry up after about 5pm. The nightly lagoon show takes place at closing time; at its conclusion, Epcot shuts down and the hordes stampede for their cars en masse. From Epcot, you can take a ferry or gondola to Hollywood Studios, the monorail to the Magic Kingdom (until very late at night, when it’s a bus), or a bus to Animal Kingdom.
The Best of Epcot:
- Don’t miss if you’re 6: Frozen Ever After
- Don’t miss if you’re 16: Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, Test Track
- Requisite photo op: Spaceship Earth
- Food you can only get here: Rice cream, the bakery at Norway
- Where everyone stampedes first: Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, Soarin’
- Skippable: Journey into Imagination with Figment
- Quintessentially Disney: Spaceship Earth
- Biggest thrill: Mission: SPACE
- Best show: Voices of Liberty, The American Adventure, Harmonious
- Biggest stores: Creations, Future World East/World Discovery; Mitsukoshi, Japan
- Where to find peace: Future World East/World Discovery, the Odyssey Center catwalks, the gardens of Japan