Epcot was originally an acronym for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, and it was Walt Disney's dream for a planned city. Alas, after his death, it became a theme park -- Central Florida's second major one, which opened in 1982. Its aims are described in a dedication plaque: "May Epcot entertain, inform, and inspire. And, above all . . . instill a new sense of belief and pride in man's ability to shape a world that offers hope to people everywhere."
Ever growing and changing, Epcot occupies 300 vibrantly landscaped acres. If you can spare it, take a little time to stop and smell the roses on your way to and through the two major sections: Future World and World Showcase.
Epcot is so big that hiking the World Showcase end to end (1 1/3 miles from the Canada pavilion on one side to Mexico on the other) can be an exhausting experience. That's why some folks are certain Epcot stands for "Every Person Comes Out Tired." Depending on how long you intend to linger at each country in World Showcase, this part of the park can be experienced in 1 day (though you can easily spend 2). Most visitors simply make a leisurely loop, working clockwise or counterclockwise from one side of the Showcase to the other.
Unlike Magic Kingdom, much of Epcot's parking lot is close to the gate. Parking sections are named for themes (Amaze, Imagine, and so forth), and the aisles are numbered. While some guests are happy to walk to the gate from nearer areas, trams are available, but these days mainly to and from the outer areas. If you're a guest of the Epcot-area resorts including the BoardWalk, the Swan and Dolphin, or the Beach and Yacht Club resorts, you'll have an easier time of it. Simply hop aboard the water taxi (one services each resort) and you'll be transported directly to the International Gateway—Epcot's side entrance. If you're feeling really energetic, you can even walk.
Be sure to pick up a guide map and entertainment schedule as you enter the park. The guide uses a white K in a red square to note "Kidcot" stops. These play and learning stations are for the younger set and allow them to stop at various World Showcase countries, do crafts, get autographs, have their Kidcot passports stamped (these are available for purchase in most Epcot stores and make a great souvenir), and chat with cast members native to those countries. They generally open at 1pm daily.
If you plan to eat a sit-down lunch or dinner here and haven't already made Advance Reservations (407/939-3463), you can make them at the restaurants themselves or at Guest Relations (near Spaceship Earth). You can also use your My Disney Experience app.
Before you get underway, check the Times Guide for show schedules and incorporate any shows you want to see into your itinerary.
Hours -- Future World is usually open from 9am to 7pm, but sometimes closes as late as midnight during major holidays and in summer. World Showcase doesn't open until 11am, and it usually closes at 9pm on the nose.
Ticket Prices -- A 1-day park ticket is $114 (Peak season)/$102 (Regular season)/$97 (Value season), but those prices go down with multi-day ticket purchases that cover the other Disney parks.
Services & Facilities in Epcot
ATMs -- The machines here accept cards issued by banks using the Cirrus, Honor, and PLUS systems and are located at the front of the park, in Italy, and near the bridge between World Showcase and Future World.
Baby Care -- Epcot's Baby Care Center is by the First Aid station near the Odyssey Center in Future World. It's furnished with a nursing room with rocking chairs; disposable diapers, formula, baby food, and pacifiers are for sale. There are also changing tables in all women's restrooms as well as in some of the men's restrooms. Disposable diapers are also available at Guest Relations.
Cameras & Film -- Kodak disposable cameras are available throughout the park, including at the Kodak Camera Center at the Entrance Plaza; digital supplies are limited. Services, varying from location to location, include CD burning, film processing, and minor repairs.
First Aid -- The First Aid station, staffed by registered nurses, is located near the Odyssey Center in Future World.
Lockers -- Attended lockers are to the west of Spaceship Earth as you enter the park; unattended lockers are located at the International Gateway. The cost is $7 to $9 a day, plus a $5 deposit.
Lost Children -- Lost children in Epcot are usually taken to Earth Center or the Baby Care Center, where lost-children logbooks are kept. Children younger than 7 should wear name-tags inside their clothing.
Package Pickup -- Any package you purchase can be sent by the shop clerk to Guest Relations at the Entrance Plaza. Allow at least 3 hours for delivery. There's another package pickup location at the International Gateway entrance in the World Showcase. If you're staying overnight at a Disney resort, you can also have all packages purchased by 7pm sent to your hotel room (they will be delivered by noon the next day).
Parking -- It's $148 per day.
Pet Care -- Accommodations are offered at Disney's new luxury pet facility, the Best Friends Pet Care Center (tel. 877/493-9738). Proof of vaccination is required.
Strollers -- These can be rented from special stands on the east side of the Entrance Plaza and at World Showcase's International Gateway. The cost is $15 for a single and $31 for a double. Length-of-stay rentals are available at $13 per day for a single and $27 per day for a double. Full payment is required upfront for length-of-stay rentals.
Wheelchair Rental -- Rent wheelchairs inside the Entrance Plaza to your left, to the right of the ticket booths at the Gift Shop, and at World Showcase's International Gateway. The cost for regular chairs is $12. Electric wheelchairs cost $50 a day, plus a $20 refundable deposit.
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.