Whether you are visiting Walt Disney World Resort for the first time or the hundredth time, there is always something new to experience. There are so many different ways to have the perfect Disney vacation. When it’s time to hit the parks, you may not know where to start. If it’s your first time at Disney, you might be overwhelmed with the selection of restaurants, attractions, experiences and shops to explore.
Though Magic Kingdom can be overwhelming with the sheer volume of rides, EPCOT can be overwhelming in a completely different way, with its ever-changing festivals and dining options. But, don’t stress! The perfect Disney vacation is right at your fingertips. If you are a first-time visitor to EPCOT or if you want to learn more about this amazing Disney park, this guide is a great place to start. When it comes to EPCOT, one little spark is all you need to have an amazing EPCOT experience. Let our guide give you that spark to inspire you every time you visit Walt Disney’s Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow!
Note: With pandemic safety restrictions at Walt Disney World, some of these experiences may be temporarily unavailable. We do not have information at this time about returns of shuttered restaurants, traditional character experiences, or nighttime spectaculars.
Attractions at EPCOT Center
When it comes to attractions in EPCOT, there are options for every Disney fan! What are the most popular attractions at EPCOT Center? Well, it depends on your preference. Overall, the most popular attractions are probably Soarin’ Around the World and Test Track since these are rides that Guests of most ages can enjoy. However, families with small children often enjoy Frozen Ever After, Turtle Talk with Crush, Gran Fiesta Tour, and The Seas with Nemo and Friends. If you love classic EPCOT and its aesthetic, your favorites might be Living with the Land in the Land pavilion or Journey into Imagination with Figment in the Imagination Pavilion. You might even be daring enough to ride a new EPCOT classic, Mission: Space, but this one is for thrill seekers! Also, no EPCOT experience is complete without a ride on Spaceship Earth. Let’s journey through some of these EPCOT attractions so you have an idea of which attractions might be your family’s favorite.
“Like a grand and miraculous spaceship, our planet has sailed through the universe of time…” and you get to be one of its passengers! Spaceship Earth celebrates the innovations of man, and how communication has given us this progress. This ride takes place inside of the park icon, Spaceship Earth, in the heart of Future World. This ride is for any height and all ages. This traditional dark ride moves slowly through fantastic scenery and animatronics, highlighting communication and defining moments of humanity with phenomenal Disney story telling. You’ll learn about the evolution of communication, technology – and why you should thank the Phoenicians.
As EPCOT progresses into its new age, this fan-favorite Future World attraction receive a redesign a few years ago. Though some fans miss the old version of this ride, the new incarnation still thrills fans of many ages. This thrill ride ranks among EPCOT rides as a favorite for a reason; it appeals to kids, adults, teens, and tweens. Remember though, it has a height requirement of 40 inches, so be sure your little one is tall enough to ride. The ride simulates the tests a car goes through before it can go on the road. If you have a need for speed and a craving for racing, this is the ride for you!
Frozen Ever After
As EPCOT evolves, they have incorporated more intellectual properties (IPs) into the park. This attraction is unique because it’s part of the World Showcase in the Norway pavilion. The World Showcase typically centers on culture and the celebration of world nations, so it may seem odd to include Frozen characters in the World Showcase. As Disney changes EPCOT, it has incorporated more characters into its countries of the World Showcase. This evolution happened for many rides, character meet and greets, and dining experiences — soon, Ratatouille’s Remy will have his own ride (Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure) in the France pavilion!
Frozen Ever After, however, was one of the first incorporations of Disney characters into the World Showcase. It replaced the Maelstrom attraction. This ride will appeal to children and Disney Princess fans. You get to celebrate with Anna, Elsa, Olaf, and friends as you encounter them in this cute adventure boat ride. This ride is for all heights and ages, but does contain a couple small drops.
Soarin’ Around the World
Of all the EPCOT rides, this one just might be my favorite! Soarin’ takes Disney Guests on a journey around the world on a hang gliding tour. Don’t worry; your touring plans won’t include an actual hang glider. As you drift around the globe, you will experience the famous sights, sounds, and smells of world destinations, including the Eiffel Tower, the islands of Fiji, and an African savannah. If you are afraid of heights, this ride may frighten you at first, but the peaceful, slow tour of the world is safe and fun for kids and adults. You must be 40 inches or taller to ride this EPCOT attraction.
Upcoming EPCOT Attractions and Changes
As Walt Disney World nears its 50th Anniversary Celebration, many attractions will be coming soon to EPCOT Center. Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind roller coaster attraction and Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure will be debuting soon, likely during the 18-month long Walt Disney World Resort 50th anniversary celebration. In addition to new attractions, EPCOT will also receive a new layout. Instead of Future World and EPCOT’s World Showcase as the two main areas of the Disney theme park, soon EPCOT will be composed of four neighborhoods, including World Discovery, World Celebration, World Nature, and the classic World Showcase. For new EPCOT Guests, this means that what fans used to refer to as Future World will be divided in the three new neighborhoods, while World Showcase will keep its famous name.
Restaurants at EPCOT Center
What type of cuisine can you find at EPCOT Center? The food options are seemingly endless! Not only does the theme park host festivals with new menu items each year, but it also boasts some of the best restaurants on Disney property. You can snack at fun quick service locations, or dine decadently at fine table service restaurants. No matter where you choose to dine, your food is sure to be fantastic. Some festival booths and restaurants are stocked with food grown on the revolutionary, organic gardening systems in the Land pavilion. Since you can’t go wrong with where you eat in EPCOT, let’s look at a few favorite dining locations across the park.
If you’re looking for a sustainable table service location, look no further than the delicious food at the Land pavilion’s Garden Grill restaurant. The food served here is from the gardens of Living with the Land, and it tastes as fresh and delicious as it looks on the ride. As you dine, you can even see scenes from Living with the Land. Get this: the restaurant slowly revolves! You can sightsee in the Land pavilion without ever leaving your table. This restaurant serves family-style food with a character dining experience that adds to the fun! Note: This experience is altered during the COVID-19 pandemic safety standards. You can join a walk-up list for this location, dining reservations are recommended.
Akershus Royal Banquet Hall
This character dining experience in the Germany pavilion is second to none. Children can dine with their favorite Disney princesses, from Belle to Snow White! They showcase American and Norwegian cuisine, serving up an especially magical breakfast. This restaurant looks like a castle, fit for the royalty you are! This is a popular character dining location, so be sure to make a reservation. Note: This dining location is temporarily unavailable during the phased reopening of Walt Disney World.
Le Cellier Steakhouse
This exquisite steakhouse in the Canada pavilion is as delicious as you would imagine. Pamper your taste buds with high-end steaks and fantastic side dishes. The restaurant is cozy and romantic, perfect for celebrating an anniversary or wedding. This Canadian chateau features some amazing seafood as well as steak, so make sure you bring your appetite.
This underrated, but wonderful restaurant overlooks the Japan pavilion in EPCOT. They serve sushi, bento boxes, tempura, and other traditional Japanese dishes. This sleek dining experience will delight you as you taste the heart and soul of Japanese cuisine and experience a taste of the country’s culture. The prices are great, too! This table service dining experience can be done on a budget or as a splurge on your vacation. Note: This dining location is temporarily unavailable during the phased reopening of Walt Disney World.
As you snack your way through EPCOT, remember that half the fun is trying new cuisine. These restaurants are just a few examples of how you can dine at EPCOT. If you prefer quick service, there are so many options for you. Even if there is not a festival going on, you can snack around EPCOT’s World Showcase. Have some pot stickers at the Lotus Blossom Cafe in China, then walk to Germany’s Karamell-Kuche for some amazing caramel treats. You could eat some sushi in Japan’s Katsura Grill before sampling all the desserts you can eat at Les Halles Boulangerie-Patisserie in the France pavilion. The has some delicious as well! You can make a meal out of entrees, snacks, and desserts from various World Showcase pavilion quick service locations.
Characters to see at EPCOT Center
Note: Character Meet and Greets are not available in the traditional form during COVID-19 safety regulations. We do not know when these experiences will return in their traditional format.
EPCOT is normally a great place to experience your favorite character meet and greets. With the EPCOT reimagining, construction has taken away one of the most popular EPCOT character meet and greet locations: The Character Spot in the former Innoventions area. However, you can meet other characters throughout the World Showcase. You could meet Mulan in the China pavilion, greeting Guests in her matchmaker outfit from the 1998 animated film. Alice pops up in the United Kingdom pavilion, ready to point Guests toward a spot of tea. Snow White charms Guests in the Germany pavilion, right next to a wishing well. EPCOT also has some great character dining experiences. You can meet Mickey and his pals at the Garden Grill, or meet Disney princesses at Akershus.
Since these experiences are not available while Disney’s COVID-19 safety regulations are in place, you can experience a character cavalcade. These character cavalcades are currently in all Walt Disney World theme parks, with different experiences and different characters in each Disney Park. For EPCOT, you can see some classic characters — like Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy — as they wander (or, in some cases, ride in vehicles) through EPCOT. You can snap some amazing photos of these sweet characters. During the phased reopening of the parks, you can also see some characters at a distance. EPCOT is no exception. Anna and Elsa have both been found greeting Guests at a distance in Norway, and Winnie the Pooh occasionally skips through the grass of EPCOT’s beautiful landscape. Though character meets may look different for a while longer, EPCOT certainly still brings Disney character experiences to its Guests.
Entertainment at EPCOT
What has its own character outside of these Disney pals? The entertainers at EPCOT! You can find incredibly talented performers around the World Showcase all year round. Though some acts have been canceled, such as the mimes in France and the British Revolution in the United Kingdom pavilion, many acts will likely continue or return when Walt Disney World fully reopens.
My personal favorite act is the Jeweled Dragon Acrobats in the China pavilion. These talented acrobats bring heart to the pavilion, amazing their audience in each and every performance. Each performance is a bit different, featuring a different acrobat of the troupe at each time slot. You could see multiple performances in one day, and yet most of them would have a different specialty act. Be sure to get a good seat early, because this performance gets more popular as passersby witness the talent of the acrobats. You can watch this troupe again and again, yet always leave impressed. Take some time to greet the performers after the show. Not many Disney fans stop to tell them how great their performance was. The acrobats love to hear your appreciation for the show!
For nighttime entertainment, EPCOT is between nighttime spectaculars. For almost twenty years, EPCOT ran an ending show called Illuminations: Reflections of Earth. This nighttime spectacular centered around the power of global relationships and peaceful collaboration. With fireworks, lasers, and a screened spinning globe, this spectacular was a showstopper. Now, Disney will bring a new show, HarmonioUS to wrap up Guests’ day at EPCOT theme park. During the phased reopening of Walt Disney World, no nighttime spectacular is available, bringing an early end to the interim showcase called EPCOT Forever! When nighttime entertainment returns, Guests will likely see HarmonioUS as the new nighttime show for EPCOT.
Special events at EPCOT Center
Special events are the heart and soul of EPCOT. To celebrate nature, culture, food, art, and the holiday season, EPCOT brings four unique festivals to Guests each year. In the fall, the park hosts the EPCOT Food and Wine Festival, which celebrates the food and culture of the world. In the winter, EPCOT celebrates international holidays with the EPCOT Festival of the Holidays. At the end of winter, EPCOT’s Festival of the Arts celebrates the diverse art of the world, even making food into pieces of edible art. To kick off spring, the theme park hosts EPCOT’s International Flower and Garden Festival, showcasing the beauty of nature and its bounty. Let’s take a look into each of these special events as they bring even more excitement to Walt Disney World’s EPCOT.
Note: During the phased reopening of Walt Disney World Resort, these special events are referred to as “Taste of” festivals, as they cannot offer the full festival experience of past celebrations. However, these events are still special and worth experiencing during this “Taste of” phase.
EPCOT International Food and Wine Festival
As you can likely guess by the name of the festival, this special event focuses on food and drink. Outdoor Kitchens sprawl around the park, giving food options from countries in the World Showcase and beyond. Ever want to try some authentic cuisine from Spain? Disney’s got you! What about Australia or Brazil? You can taste some of those countries’ dishes as well. There is cuisine to satisfy the whole family, from those with an adventurous palette to picky eaters. This festival offers the Eat to the Beat concert series with music for every taste as well. You can hear pop, country, hip-hop, and rock legends play fantastic music as you snack on your favorite world dishes. Even if you visit this festival every day it is available, you would likely never taste every festival booth treat. If you are a local Annual Passholder and are inspired to try though, you could always pick up a free passport for the festival at the park entrance and keep track of your progress.
EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays
Ho-ho hold onto your hats, folks! This festival will blow you away with holiday cheer! During this festival, you can expect fantastic holiday decorations from around the globe as you experience the holidays in a whole new way. As with any EPCOT festival, you can try festival-exclusive foods at each Holiday Kitchen, including the famous Holiday Cookie Stroll. On your Festival Passport, you can find all the cookie stroll locations. At each one, you can purchase a cookie and then mark it off in your book with a sticker. How festive! You can hear holiday music from the Voices of Liberty and more. Be sure to experience a Candlelight Processional with a full choir and orchestra. This amazing performance will bring tears to your eyes, and joy to your heart.
EPCOT International Festival of the Arts
Art is everywhere, from music to paintings to food. EPCOT celebrates the diversity of art at this festival. Taste some culinary art at the outdoor kitchens. Your snacks and treats will almost be too beautiful to eat…. almost. There are artsy activities for the whole family, including a mural that you can put your mark on. Art galleries and an animation academy add to the experience, inspiring you to create your own art. Witness artists as they work, or purchase a piece of the artist’s work for them to sign for you. Remember to soak in the arts at this festival. Let it inspire your creativity even when you leave the theme park.
EPCOT International Flower and Garden Festival
EPCOT Flower and Garden might be the most incredible of all the festivals. It combines fantastic food like the Food and Wine festival with the beauty of nature. As you stroll through EPCOT, you can see amazing topiaries, each designed to look like a Disney character or nod to their corresponding World Showcase pavilion. For example, in the Norway pavilion, you can see Anna and Elsa topiaries, while in the China pavilion, you can see topiaries that represent each animal in the Chinese zodiac. When you get hungry after your long stroll through the park, you can stop at one of the many outdoor kitchens for some fresh food. Are you vegan? There are more vegan dishes during this festival than any other, as the dishes focus around health and freshness. You can also experience the Garden Graze food stroll, which highlights five delicious offerings at the festival. Normally, this festival includes the Garden Rocks concert series, which highlights incredible musicians as part of the fun. In 2021, the festival offers the “City Beautiful” concerts, showcasing local Orlando musicians. There is so much flower power at this festival, you won’t be able to experience all the fun in one visit.
If you love EPCOT as much as we do, you will want to return. You should definitely experience all the festivals at some point if you can. But, you could pick your favorite festival and visit during its run each year. Even if you visit a festival over and over, there are always new experiences to try. With festivals, research the EPCOT festival occurring on your visit before you leave for your Disney vacation. This research will allow you to pick yours and your family’s must-try foods and experiences before you hit the parks. Always make a touring plan ahead of your visit to EPCOT theme park, or any other Disney park. This plan will help your family relax on vacation. Instead of worrying if you can make it to everyone’s favorite ride, you’ll know where it is in the schedule. If you make a schedule, you can even eat one of your daily meals as a combo of your family’s wish list dishes from the festival booths.
At this time, EPCOT’s annual festivals have been modified as part of Walt Disney World’s phased reopening. Known as “Taste of EPCOT” events, these festivals still offer a variety of great experiences for Guests of all ages. Check out our guide to the 2021 Taste of EPCOT International Flower and Garden Festival for more information!
EPCOT for New Guests
If you are reading this guide as a new fan, you can probably see how much there is to do at EPCOT. A new Guest to EPCOT will want to soak in all the experiences they can. The experiences highlighted in this guide are a great place to start as a first time EPCOT visitor. These experiences should please most families who are new to this park on their Disney vacation. The attractions are fan favorites, and the restaurants are phenomenal. Any of the festivals will wow you and your family, giving you another reason to love this innovative park. If you have visited any other Disney Parks at Walt Disney World Resort, you may notice a change in pace at EPCOT. This park tends to be more laid back than other parks, giving Guests a relaxed feeling as they take their time through this theme park. Relish in a theme park day that feels purposeful, yet chill. There are fewer EPCOT rides than rides in Magic Kingdom or Disney’s Hollywood Studios. These attractions will fulfill your desire for fun and thrills, while leaving time to eat and explore around the World Showcase.
Your EPCOT experience can only be limited by your imagination. The possibilities for fun are endless. Because this park is flexible, you can personalize your experience easily for your vacation group, whether you are a couple, a large family, or a group of friends. EPCOT is waiting for you, calling out to the creative spirit inside each one of us. EPCOT brings together people from all backgrounds under one global purpose: unity.
Are you ready to plan your visit to EPCOT Center? Consider contacting a travel agent to plan your trip and reserve EPCOT tickets for you. Remove any stress from your plate, so you can prepare to fill it with EPCOT’s delicious foods. For a free quote on your vacation, contact our friends over at Academy Travel.
We hope you enjoyed this guide to EPCOT Center! Will you be visiting EPCOT soon? Let us know in the comments below!