EPCOT vs Animal Kingdom: Which Disney World park is best?

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People often want to know which of the parks they should visit when planning a visit to Walt Disney World.

In truth, I don’t have a favorite park. I love each of the parks like I love my children, each for their own reasons and in their own ways. Unfortunately, we can’t always make it to all the parks in one trip. And navigating the decision of which parks to prioritize can be tricky.

Let’s take a closer look at two of the parks: Disney’s EPCOT and Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Is EPCOT bigger than Animal Kingdom?

No, in fact, Animal Kingdom is much bigger than EPCOT. Those who have visited all the parks may be surprised to learn that EPCOT (300 acres) is larger than Magic Kingdom (142 acres) and Hollywood Studios (135 acres) combined!

At 580 acres, Animal Kingdom is by far the largest of the Disney parks. Animal Kingdom is home to both the famous Tree of Life and some enormous animals. Elephants, giraffes, hippos, and rhinos, oh my! And the animals need a lot of space to roam. 

Tree of Life at Animal Kingdom
The Tree of Life at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Orlando, FL (photo by rustycanuck/shutterstock.com)

Which park is the least crowded?

EPCOT will probably feel less crowded than Animal Kingdom. Even though it covers a smaller area,

EPCOT has the largest guests capacity of the Walt Disney World Parks (110,000). Animal Kingdom can only accommodate 60,000 guests.

In 2019, Animal Kingdom saw an average of 38,000 guests per day, whereas EPCOT saw an average of 34,000 guests per day.

Animal Kingdom will probably feel more crowded than EPCOT on an average day with more visitors and a lower maximum capacity. Despite being a larger park in terms of area, keep in mind that a large proportion of those 580 acres are areas designated for animals. Much of the land is not directly accessible to the average guest.

Animal Kingdom also tends to close earlier in the evening than EPCOT. And the shorter operating hours can make the park feel busier. 

Read also: EPCOT vs Magic Kingdom: Which Disney park is best?

a boy puts his hand out to catch a butterfly at epcot
Kids will love chasing Butterflies at EPCOT during the International Flower and Garden Festival (photo by Kirby Russell/HeyOrlando.com)

Is there anything for kids to do at EPCOT?

EPCOT has a well-deserved reputation as the best park for adults.

It’s true that EPCOT has fewer headliner attractions for young children than the other parks. However, let me take this opportunity to dispel the myth that EPCOT has little to offer families.

Throughout the year, EPCOT hosts seasonal festivals which feature pop-up kiosks in the World Showcase.

The festivals offer small-plate style fare and a selection of specialty beverages (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic) from around the world.

Also featured are attractions throughout the park that offer unique experiences for all ages.

During spring’s International Flower & Garden Festival, there’s an immersive butterfly exhibit where you can get a close look at a variety of butterflies. And, you can capture Instagram-worthy photos and videos of beautiful butterflies fluttering by or even landing on your outstretched hand.

At the International Festival of the Holidays, guests are surrounded by the sounds and flavors celebrated by other cultures around the world. My kids could explore the festivals’ pop-up specially-themed playgrounds for hours while mom and dad savor cocktails from one of the nearby kiosks.

Also, scavenger hunts encourage families or friends to discover hidden spaces in the different pavilions within the World Showcase.

The weather in central Florida is almost always hot. And multiple interactive fountains and splash pads throughout EPCOT are available year-round.

My husband and I also love to grab a Schofferhofer Grapefruit Hefeweizen (for me) and a Dunkel (for him) in the Germany pavilion while our kids watch the trains chug through the tiny tunnels and miniature Bavarian towns in the Alpine model train garden. 

The younger kids may also enjoy the recently-reopened Turtle Talk with Crush – a talk show type attraction where the on-screen characters interact with the audience in real-time.

Plus there are plenty of character meet opportunities throughout the park featuring your favorite Disney characters like Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck.

Awesome. Does Animal Kingdom have any places like that?

Yes! In DinoLand U.S.A., you will find an attraction called The Boneyard.

The entrance/exit is monitored by cast members. Presumably, so that kids can’t escape without their parents. This massive dig-site themed playground has a silicone sandpit, rope ladders, huge slides, caves, and swinging bridges that can keep my kids busy for hours.

In addition, there are several nearby restaurants and kiosks where mom and dad can grab a snack or drink and relax in the shade at one of the picnic tables inside the Boneyard. 

And like EPCOT, there are usually plenty of opportunities for character meet and greets.

A baby elephant makes an appearance during the Kiliminjaro Safari experience (photo by Kirby Russell/HeyOrlando.com)

What are the best rides at Animal Kingdom?

Animal Kingdom has three rides you shouldn’t miss: Kilimanjaro Safaris, Avatar Flight of Passage, and Expedition Everest.

Expedition Everest, a thrill ride with a 44″ height requirement, is a roller coaster located in the Asia section of the park.

Next, Kilimanjaro Safaris takes you into the African Savannah to see giraffes, elephants, wildebeest and more. It is probably the closest simulation of a real safari that most of us will ever experience. And thanks to the animals, it’s different each time. I recommend going twice in one day if you can. 

Finally, you don’t have to be a fan of David Cameron’s Avatar to appreciate the otherworldly feel of stepping into the Pandora area in Animal Kingdom.

If you get the chance, try to plan your visit for after dark when Pandora’s Bioluminescence Forest Pathways is in full force. It’s the best time to visit this immersive section of the park.

There are two rides in Pandora as well as some excellent dining options.

The first is the Na’vi River Journey, a boat ride featuring scenes inspired by the exotic flora and fauna in the movie. It features some truly incredible animatronics.

Flight of Passage – a truly great ride – is a breath-taking simulation-style attraction in which you fly on the back of a Banshee just like Jake Sully. Just plan ahead for this one as long lines are par for the course.

And of course, for those of us who crave a taste of Broadway (or just a break from all the rides), the fan-favorite Celebration of Festival of the Lion King is worth an honorable mention. Festival of the Lion King is one of the best shows in the park. It features live music, puppetry and elaborate costumes. However, this stage show experience may be more entertaining for older kids as little kids may get bored.

Read Also: Butterbeer at Universal: What is Butterbeer made of?

Epcot at Disney World
Spaceship Earth at EPCOT in Orlando, FL is an educational dark ride for guests of all ages (photo by PixieMe/stock.adobe.com)

What are the best rides at EPCOT?

Most of EPCOT’s rides are in Future World, including Soarin’ Over the World, Test Track, and Mission Space.

For those seeking lower-thrill attractions, there’s a Finding Nemo ride that takes you through the second largest aquarium in the U.S. It is a must-see for kids and grown-ups alike.

Inside the gigantic golf ball, easily spotted from miles away, there’s a ride called Spaceship Earth. It’s a slow-paced and informative dark ride that takes you through the history of mankind and summarizes the high points in our technological advances and achievement. Like many of EPCOT’s rides and attractions, Spaceship Earth features an educational entertainment theme.

The World Showcase is best known for its food and beverage offerings. However, it’s not completely devoid of rides.

France is home to EPCOT’s newest attraction: Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure. And in Norway, you can cool off on Frozen Ever After. This boat ride features the beloved sisters, Anna and Elsa, along with their friends Olaf, Sven, and Kristoff. 

Is EPCOT or Animal Kingdom better?

It depends on what kind of experience you’re looking for. Animal Kingdom probably has cooler rides, and EPCOT certainly offers a wider variety of unique food and beverage options.

Make a plan for which rides or attractions are most important to you, but be sure to leave yourself time and space to relax and enjoy the moment. You’re bound to have a great time no matter which park you choose on your next Disney trip. 

Which of the Disney theme parks is your favorite? Let us know in the comments!