Updated: December 2017

Guide to EPCOT Center - Best Rides, tips, secrets

EPCOT Center (E-xperimental P-rototype C-ity O-f T-omorrow) is the original companion park to the Magic Kingdom in Disney World. The great silver geodesic dome is recognizable by all visitors as the EPCOT icon. EPCOT is really two parks in one. As you enter the park under the great globe you are in Future World -- this is where all the main EPCOT rides and attractions are located. Once you cross the bridge to Showcase Plaza and face the central lake, you are facing the World Showcase which lines the shores of the lake. Just to prove they are two separate parks, they even open at different times! EPCOT as a whole is a very BIG park, and it is a real struggle to see it all in a day. You can pick and choose your favorite attractions and get through it in 1 day - most people do not choose to spend 2 days at EPCOT on their Disneyworld vacations, and EPCOT really has only a handful of real "rides" to experience. Below we will check out some of the highlights and lowlights - find out how to avoid the long lines, what are the most popular rides, what you can afford to miss, and what you must not miss.

EPCOT - Future World - Test Track - Mission Space - Soarin

EPCOT is served by both the monorail and Disney World bus system, while the International Gateway portion is reachable via boat from the Boardwalk and Beach and Yacht Club Resorts. As you come through the turnstyles you will find yourself walking under the great silver globe that hovers over the entry courtyard. This globe actually houses a ride inside, called Spaceship Earth. This is a slow moving ride showing the history of communication as you glide past animatronic scenes of past civilizations and inventors and technology. The line for this ride is usually not too long - as long as it does not extend too far outside the door of the globe, you will likely board within 10 minutes. If you find a long line for this ride, consider skipping it. To be honest, it reminds us a bit of the old incredible shrinking snowflake ride-thing at Disneyland from the 70s - you really won't miss much if you don't see it, and for little children, it is boring and not worth the wait. The big attractions in Future World are Soarin, Test Track, and Mission: Space, the parks newest ride. When the gates open, this is where the crowds head to. Fortunately, all these rides have Fastpass options available, allowing you to grab tickets for future use and avoid long waiting lines. Our recommendation is to head to any of these rides first, get a Fastpass, then go ride one of the other 2 first thing in the morning. By the time you finish the second ride, you can probably get another Fastpass for the 3rd one, or just ride it if the standby line is less than 20 minutes. How do EPCOT Fastpasses work? Read our MGM Studios Guide for more detailed instructions.

Best Rides at EPCOT Center - EPCOT FastPass

EPCOT uses the same Fastpass system found at the other Disney parks in Orlando. The Fastpass EPCOT rides are:
  • Mission: Space
  • Test Track
  • Soarin'
  • Living with the Land
  • Honey I Shrunk the Audience

So what are these rides like? Mission: Space gained some unwanted notoriety when a few passengers died from heart problems after riding the ride. It is a simulated space flight which uses a centrifuge-like device to spin you (you are in an enclosed car and cannot tell you are spinning) and create g-force effects. There is a less intense non-spinning version as well - you get to choose which one you want in line. If you are subject to motion sickness, go with the non-spinning version. Both rides are fun and exhilarating. Test Track is a (at times) high speed car ride, which begins with a testing facility tour (in the car) before heading out for the banked turns of the track. From the outside of the bulding, you can watch the cars buzz by at high speed to get an idea of what you are in for. No hills, loops, or anything -- just good old speed. Fun ride for kids and adults. Soarin' is the other hit ride, where passengers are hoisted in front of a giant movie screen with their feet dangling below them. There are basically stacked racks of seats in a row - you load them flat on the ground then an arm lifts them up, layered, in front of the screen - from there you just watch the huge movie on the screen as your seat tilts a bit to match the movement on the movie. You will feel like you are flying over various parts of California, complete with pine fresh scents when in the mountains! Lines for this ride seem to move slowly - use a Fastpass when possible it the wait is over 30 minutes. However, it is a not-to-be-missed ride at EPCOT - very fun and memorable. Everything else in Future World are shows and exhibits - no more real rides. We thought the 3-D Honey I Shrunk the Audience was not worth it - the fountains out in front of the theater are more fun for kids on a hot day, with dancing and hopping water streams - 25 minutes spent there will be more rewarding than the show. The show requires you to where 3-D glasses, but it seemed there was more acting then action in the show.

The Living Seas area has two new attractions built around the Finding Nemo movie. The first just opened in Oct. of 2006 - The Seas with Nemo and Friends. This ride loads you into clamshell cars at the entrance to the Living Seas pavilion, taking you past aquariums where animated characters from the Nemo movie will appear to be swimming with the real fish. Kind of fun, but not worth a huge wait. You can skip this part and walk around to the left to enter the aquarium directly, where you will find.. The other attraction is Turtle Talk with Crush. This "faux" aquarium theater is small, with bench seating and room for kids on the floor in front. The screen is meant to be the window into an aquarium, where fish swim by and your host, Crush the Turtle from Nemo, entertains. Crush is really a real-time animated cartoon - the operators voice is dubbed in real-time to match up with his lips. He will take questions from the audience, and even gets a visit from Dori, Nemo's friend (and a large whale). Kids 6 and under seemed to have fun watching him talk and react with the audience, but we think adults and older kids will be bored by the simplicity of the show. This is another skippable attraction. Spend some time exploring the live fish in the aquarium - a good, cool indoor activity on a hot day in Florida. Over in the Land pavillion, near Soarin, you will also find the Circle of Life Lion King film and the Living with the Land boat voyage. We got a kick out of Pumbaa and Timon on Circle of Life. The Living with the Land rides is more scientific and explorational than thrilling, but it is worth doing if you have the time.

Getting Around World Showcase - What to See

That leaves us with World Showcase, the international portion of the park with miniature recreated worlds from foreign countries. You'll find architecture, food, and shopping themed to the various "countries" you are visiting as you make your way around the lake. Kind of like visiting the fancy hotels in Las Vegas and thinking you have been to Venice, Paris, or Egypt, these faux lands tend to be boring for kids as culture is not a big kid-magnet. There are only a few rides along the way - the Maelstrom ride in Norway is a pretend Viking shipride, complete with a minor waterfall, trolls, and polar bears. You do go down to hills, one forward and one backward, but it is generally a pretty mild ride and enjoyable. In Mexico there is El Rio de Tiempo, the River of Time - another water based ride fine for all ages. There are no other rides in the World Showcase, just a few films - American Adventure, Impressions de France, Reflections of China, and O Canada. If you can into some of these shows without too much line, go for it. They are all good, though none worth waiting more than 30-40 minutes. The countries around the lake, going clockwise are:
  • Mexico
  • Norway
  • China
  • Germany
  • Italy
  • America
  • Japan
  • Morocco
  • France
  • and the UK
Unlike in the Magic Kingdom, beer and wine flow freely in the World Showcase, making it more popular with couples and adults. Stop and savor snacks and drinks in the various lands, stroll through the shops, enjoy the street performers and artists, and relax. It's nice to spend 2-3 hours or so here without standing in a lot of lines, just soaking in the scenery. World Showcase usually opens at 11AM while the rest of EPCOT opens at 8 or 9. It also usually stays open later, with a late night finale shows called Illuminations hosted over the central lake. This is a great show with fireworks, lights, and music, and worth staking out a spot for. Some of the best viewing spots for Illuminations are in front of Mexico, Germany, Itlay (by the gondola landing), Japan (go up to the second floor deck by the restaurant, if you can), and the UK. The big problem is getting out of the park after the show. You can exit via the International Gateway to get back to Yacht Club, Boardwalk, and Swan and Dolphin, and catch buses there, or head out through the main gate with the other hordes - any way you do it, hang on to small children in the crush of the crowds and take your time. Consider starting to move 2 or 3 minutes before the show ends to get a jump on the crowds.

Map of EPCOT

Where can I see a map of EPCOT? This is a common question. Disney posts maps on their Disneyworld website that show you where the various attractions, restaurants, bathrooms, etc., are located throughout the park. Go here, then click on the MAP item at the bottom right of the animated picture greeting you. You can zoom in and out on the map and drag it around to see whatever you want to see. You can also see a large labeled map of EPCOT center here.

More Disney World Guides Here.