8 Best Things To Do at EPCOT: What You Can and Can’t Miss

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Below the Magic Kingdom, the hierarchy of Disney theme parks is shifting. It’s hard to rank the Magic Kingdom anything other than first in the pecking order. For me, Hollywood Studios comes next with the combination of Disney & Pixar and Star Wars. That park scratches all of my itches. That said, heavy investment in EPCOT has pushed that park – which was once considered aging – up the list to where it legitimately competes with Hollywood Studios. 

Animal Kingdom is currently fourth for me – though I love the park which is primed for its round of heavy investment to make us reconsider the whole thing. Although, I always say that planning a trip that includes all four parks is best.

What should you not miss at EPCOT?

The list is long and full of personal preferences when you’re considering what you can’t miss at EPCOT – aka Walt Disney’s vision for a future world. We’ll talk further down about the Guardians of the Galaxy ride and the world pavilions and where you should eat and what you should do. 

The new night show is Luminous, The Symphony of Us, which celebrates inclusion. Watching the fireworks and fountains of water exploding over the lagoon with music is worth the price of admission. Certainly, it’s a must-see on any Disney vacation. 

The SeaBase Aquarium is a great place to see endangered manatees if you’re not going to make a trip to the coast. And usually, you get to hang out with dolphins. Also, make some time for The Seas with Nemo and Friends and Turtle Talk with Crush even if you didn’t bring the kids. The Turtle Talk with Crush show is hilarious just to see the kids interacting with the surfer dude turtle from “Finding Nemo”. There’s always a kid saying the darnedest things, and the action happening there is frequently hilarious.

On our last visit, my youngest was inexplicably shouting answers to the turtle’s questions revolving around a mossy football helmet that had fallen to the seafloor and become a home for a hermit crab. When Crush looked at her and said, “Why are you so angry?” it made her trip and gave us a catchphrase.

What is the number one ride at EPCOT?

Without question, it’s the Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind. A dark ride roller coaster with the right mix of thrills and fantastic theming, it quickly took a spot among the best theme park rides in Orlando – if not the country – when it opened. It’s freaking great. It’s the best of the Disney thrill rides. Be sure to download the My Disney Experience app as you’ll need it for Genie+ and to claim your place in the virtual queue. Other contenders are the classic Soarin’ and Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, which had mixed reviews, but we enjoyed it. 

The epcot ball at night
The EPCOT ball houses a dark ride that takes riders on a trip through time (photo by Morgan Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

What can I skip at EPCOT?

Spaceship Earth. It’s in the iconic golf ball of EPCOT. But beyond being kind of boring, it’s uncomfortable, unreliable and just underwhelming. I suppose if you have the time or inclination, it’s worth it to do it once. But unless the kids just want to drag me on it, I won’t do it again.

Also, I could skip the character dining at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall. If you’re going to shell the money out for this, the vibe at Cinderella’s Castle in the Magic Kingdom is just that much better. Part of it is architectural, I believe. There’s a din and a clamor that can’t be escaped. It’s hard to hear in there. Plus, it turns out I’m not huge on Norwegian dining. I don’t want to pay roughly $63 per head for meatballs and Norwegian chicken and dumplings. Of note, we’ve had character dining experiences in every park and several resorts. Akershus was our personal least favorite of these. Also, Anna and Elsa are inexplicably not the hosts of this deal. You can’t even get an Olaf sighting. Belle has journeyed from France to hold court in Norway. But there are plenty of places where you can meet the same princesses.

You can also skip the Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros in the pyramid-shaped Mexico Pavilion. It’s a slow boat ride to nowhere. Certainly, go inside the pyramid. It’s cool and there’s good food and shopping, but the ride is a snoozer. This is where we’re all praying for Disney to invest in a Coco upgrade. 

Now, let’s talk about Canada far away from the Mexico Pavilion. There’s not much to do. Le Cellier Steakhouse is good, but if you’re going to do expensive dining in the park there are better options, particularly in France. 

Asian Dumplings and Egg Rolls with Sauce EPCOT
Dumplings and eggrolls are just some of the great foods to try while in the China Pavilion (photo by Morgan Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

What is the best part of EPCOT?

The World Showcase is the best part, in my opinion, for the pavilions, the food, the shopping and also the entertainment. Honestly, the World Showcase could be its own park and still be worth it. I hope they ultimately add a couple more rides. I think they could do something in Canada related to the newish Pixar hit “Turning Red” such as a 4*Town show and something Coco-related in the Mexico Pavilion. But with Remy’s in France and Frozen Ever After in Norway, there are more things to do for the family in the World Showcase. 

How do you get the most out of EPCOT in one day?

Here are some helpful tips to get the most out of your visit to EPCOT, based on my personal experience:

The Disney Skyliner
You can enter EPCOT from the back via the Skyliner (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

1. Start at the back entrance

EPCOT has a pair of entrances. The one at the front is the best for picture taking because you get the big Spaceship Earth in the background. However, the one at the back is better to hit the ground running. The International Gateway is perfect for guests of the Boardwalk and beach club-themed resorts, but it is also available to all Disney guests with appropriate tickets and reservations. 

The best way to access it if you’re not staying at those resorts is to take the Skyliner – Disney’s gondola system that connects to EPCOT, Disney’s Hollywood Studios and a handful of resorts including Pop Century, Caribbean Beach, Art of Animation and Rivieria. 

By coming in the back entrance, you’ll enter the park right between the France Pavilion and the England Pavilion, perfect for exploring the World Showcase without having a long hike from the front entrance. You can pose with the Eiffel Tower instead of the giant golf ball. This is especially true if you’re there to experience the festival offerings and not so focused on attractions.

EPCOT Food and Wine Fest 2022
EPCOT has four seasonal festivals, including the annual Food and Wine Festival (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

2. Enjoy the festivals

EPCOT has a seasonal quartet of annual festivals. Each comes with its special things to do, see, eat and drink. Guests can also buy special merchandise. Make sure to take advantage of them. They currently include:

  • Flower and Garden Festival
  • Food and Wine Festival
  • Festival of the Arts
  • Festival of the Holidays 
Ride entrance for Soarin Around the World
Use Genie+ or Lightning Lanes to enter the most popular rides at EPCOT (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

3. Get Individual Lightning Lanes and Disney Genie+

You don’t need to do this for every park. However, you have to ride Guardians. It is a Walt Disney World Resort vacation imperative, and the best way to do that is to pay for the Individual Lightning Lane. You will also need the Disney Genie+ to skip the lines at Remy’s and Frozen Ever After if you’re traveling with kids. But if you don’t have kids, use your Genie+ selections on EPCOT rides like Soarin’ and Mission: SPACE or the Test Track which seem to be the most popular rides for adults. 

Whatever you do, plan accordingly. You don’t want to be bouncing back and forth from the World Showcase to World Discovery, World Nature or World Celebration, especially in the heat of the summer. That’s a good way to drain your stamina and get less out of the experience. 

reflections of china
Reflections of China is an educational short film shown on a 360-degree screen that offers guests a unique and immersive experience and it makes for a cool place to relax on hot days (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

4. Don’t spend too much time on the shows

Reflections of China is good if you need a break, some air conditioning and video coverage of the Great Wall of China. Voices of Liberty is fine – but I think since Disney has a great relationship with Lin-Manuel Miranda they ought to invest in a Hamilton-themed show here. American Adventure? Until Disney Partners with Hamilton, I’m willing to “Wait For it”. Generally speaking, unless you need a break, avoid any of the movies in the World Showcase Pavilion. You can watch travel documentaries on YouTube when you get home.

EPCOT's World Showcase Transportation
Start early or end the day with your World Showcase tour (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

5. Start or end your day with the World Showcase 

That walk around the World Showcase Lagoon can be a long one in the heat of the day. It’s better to tackle it when you’re fresh or when the sun has started to go down. 

Lasagna at Tutto EPCOT
We enjoyed the lasagna at Tutto Italia (photo by Morgan Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

6. Eat with a sense of adventure

Almost everyone has access to food from places like Italy, Mexico or China and while the restaurants in those pavilions are good, EPCOT offers a chance to expand horizons and try something new. We’ve had delicious meals in Morocco, Germany and France. Sample the festival flavors. Give your palate a chance to expand. 

The Germany Pavilion Garden Railway
The Germany Pavilion Garden Railway is fun for kids of all ages – especially train lovers (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

7. In Germany, make time for the trains

I don’t know what it is about a good model trainway, but the Germany Pavilion in EPCOT has got a great one. The kids love it and it’s a great place for adults to rest with a beer and maybe some schnitzel and watch the trains run on time. It’s incredibly soothing.

a soda fountain at club cool
Sample free Coke products from around the world at Club Cool (photo by Kirby Russell/HeyOrlando.com)

8. Try sodas from around the world in Club Cool

Every so often I get tired of drinking the same old thing and want something exotic. Club Cool offers exotic soda offerings from around the world. Sure, most of them are quite nasty but you never know when you might find the next Fresca.

What is your favorite thing to do at EPCOT? Let us know in the comments!

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John Gullion

John Gullion, Managing Editor at the Citizen Tribune, is a freelance contributor for TheSmokies.com LLC – the parent company of TheSmokies.com and HeyOrlando.com.

1 thought on “8 Best Things To Do at EPCOT: What You Can and Can’t Miss”

  1. I love this page and would appreciate a lot of help with just two specific parks to spend a couple of days on a weekend. This is because I have a big training all week. Thank you for dedicating your time to writing about your experience.
    Thank you, Liz, from Houston, TX.”


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