EPCOT vs Magic Kingdom, Which Disney Park Should You Choose?

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When you’re booking a trip to Disney World, there are a few questions that must be answered. At the forefront of these – especially now that simply having a ticket isn’t enough – is how many days, how many parks and which parks take precedence over the others. Do I need to go to Animal Kingdom? Should I do all my days at Hollywood Studios and ride the Star Wars rides in Galaxy’s Edge ’til I drop? What about the water parks? Who knew there would be so many decisions to make at the happiest place on earth?

And then, of course, we have two Disney World OGs: Magic Kingdom and EPCOT. In this article, we break down some of the internet’s most frequently asked questions about these two popular Disney theme parks.

Which park in Disney World is best?

I’d like to offer my thoughts on the Walt Disney World Resort hierarchy as a whole. I’m frequently asked what I think is the best Disney park. I like them all – not equally – but each has its place. I have a lifetime of memories tied up in the Magic Kingdom. So if I only had a single day, that’s likely the park I’d pick. I’d ride a few rides, like fan favorites such as Space Mountain, The Haunted Mansion the soon-to-be Tiana’s Bayou Adventure. I’d get in a few photo ops in front of Cinderella Castle.

I also love Star Wars and the Toy Story Land rides and Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, so Disney’s Hollywood Studios probably has the most rides I’d enjoy outside of nostalgia factors. Animal Kingdom is also cool. Especially with the semi-recent addition of the World of Avatar. I like Pandora and Africa and Asia and one of the best zoo environments I’ve ever seen. Still, if I only had one day to visit Disney, I probably wouldn’t pick Animal Kingdom.

That leaves us with EPCOT – which had been long neglected by Disney execs in my opinion. But could I see myself spending my one day at Disney in EPCOT? Yes. I could. And of course, there are plenty of opportunities for a character meet and greet in each park for young children (with your favorite Disney characters like Snow White and Mickey Mouse). So that’s basically a wash.

Ratatouille Cars EPCOT
Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure is one of the newer rides at EPCOT (media photo courtesy of Disney/Matt Stroshane)

How are the rides at EPCOT?

For a land built on the idea of a better tomorrow, maybe a disturbing utopian tomorrow, EPCOT was beginning to show its age. I’m thrilled they’ve added Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure to Paris – it’s good, not Mickey & Minnie Runaway Railway good, but good. Add the planned Coco upgrades to the Mexico Pavilion and Disney has invested in making EPCOT a better experience. 

Still, there’s more work to be done. Soarin’ the World remains a favorite, but the pre-flight videos could use a bit of a facelift. I’m also amazed that the Journey into the Imagination with Figment is still running. And I expect that once the current projects are done, it will be targeted next. I know Spaceship Earth is an iconic dark ride, but I found it more than a little disturbing. Maybe it’s the frequent stops – I think to help passengers on and off who need assistance. On the ascent, we were stuck in a reclined position surrounded by the animatronics for more time than I wanted. 

EPCOT’s major selling points are the more popular attractions: Mission Space, Ratatouille, Soarin’, Frozen Ever After and to some degree the Test Track. Of course, the new Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind ride has jumped to the top of the best rides in the park. Disney is on an amazing heater with all of the park’s new rides.

Cinderella's Castle during Disney World's 50th Anniversary celebration
Magic Kingdom is a staple for any visit to Disney World. Pictured: Cinderella’s Castle during Disney World’s 50th Anniversary celebration (photo by John Gullion/HeyOrlando.com)

How are the rides at Magic Kingdom?

Magic Kingdom has some good rides, but the park is built mainly on nostalgia and Disney classics. A lot of the rides are similar in concept to something like It’s a Small World, where you go around in a boat or on a track slowly while looking at various scenes. These include Under the Sea: Journey of the Little Mermaid, Pirates of the Caribbean and Haunted Mansion, to name a few. There are a lot of rides geared for kids, like Dumbo the Flying Elephant or The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Peter Pan’s Flight is great but typically has a very lengthy wait time.

Magic Kingdom does have a handful of more thrilling rides, which include Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. And of course, Tron is likely in the running for one of the most thrilling rides in the park, making the Magic Kingdom rides overall more competitive.

Fireworks Behind Cinderella's Castle
It’s hard to compete with Magic Kingdom’s fireworks display (photo by John Gullion/HeyOrlando.com)

Which park has a better fireworks show?

Both Magic Kingdom and EPCOT offer fireworks every evening. At the Magic Kingdom, the show has images from both vintage and modern animated Disney films projected on Cinderella’s Castle and more recently, down Main Street. The show is stunning and not to be missed.

EPCOT’s current show is Luminous The Symphony of Us which includes music, fountains, lights and fireworks. New music from the Disney songbook comes together to promote diversity and inclusiveness.

Both shows are fantastic for guests of all ages, but it’s hard to beat the magical display on the castle at the Magic Kingdom.

EPCOT Food and Wine Fest 2022
Adults will enjoy EPCOT’s food and wine festival (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

Which Disney World park is better for adults?

In my opinion, EPCOT remains the best park for adults. What makes EPCOT the best park, however, isn’t the rides. It’s the World Showcase, which features different countries from around the globe. I would argue that it also has better dining options.

Also, for this purpose, I recommend the International Gateway Park entrance located between the France pavilion and the United Kingdom pavilion. On our most recent trip, we toured EPCOT with another family and vowed to return to explore more of the restaurants – and adult beverage options. Our favorite restaurant in Morocco was undergoing repairs at the time, so we returned to the excellent Chefs de France. Our friends had sushi and we sampled beers in Germany and Norway. 

On so many of our Disney trips, we’re focused on trying to maximize the experience and get as much out of the day as possible. The international portion of EPCOT is a great place to cut loose the agenda, relax and enjoy simply getting away. It’s a good choice for those looking for great food with plenty of special events offered throughout the year.

EPCOT is particularly fun if you visit during a seasonal celebration. For example, the EPCOT Flower & Garden Festival usually begins in March. The EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival runs through the middle of November. Then, the EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays begins the week of Thanksgiving.

winnie the pooh topiary at epcot
EPCOT can be especially fun to visit during a festival (photo by James Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

Is Magic Kingdom bigger than EPCOT?

No, the Magic Kingdom is not bigger than EPCOT. At 300 acres, EPCOT is almost twice the size of the Magic Kingdom. Magic Kingdom is broken up into six areas, including Main Street, U.S.A., Tomorrowland, Fantasyland, Frontierland, Liberty Square and Adventureland. EPCOT has four themed areas known as neighborhoods: World Celebration, World Discovery, World Nature and World Showcase. Again, covering that much area can make for a long day for toddlers and little kids. The walk from The Seas with Nemo and Friends to Frozen Ever After with favorites Anna and Elsa is like a trek across the sun. 

Which Disney park needs the least time?

In my opinion, Animal Kingdom needs the least amount of time of all the Disney parks. But if it’s between EPCOT and Magic Kingdom, it’s hard to say. There’s a lot to do and see at the Magic Kingdom, but EPCOT is huge by comparison. Overall, it depends on your priorities and whether or not you have little ones in your family.

a mickey shaped pretzel
A Mickey-shaped pretzel from Magic Kingdom (photo by Morgan Overholt/HeyOrlando.com)

So which park is better, Magic Kingdom or EPCOT?

When you have small kids, the answer is fairly simple. Spend multiple days in the Magic Kingdom. Then head to Hollywood Studios and Animal Kingdom. And last, if you have enough time, do EPCOT. If the kids are older – or if you’re visiting the World without kids at all – then the equation changes. EPCOT, I think, offers the best time for adults or families with older children. If you’re in this category, I’d encourage you to find a place better than EPCOT even as it is going through a transformation.

Which Disney World theme park do you prefer? Are you planning an upcoming Disney trip? Which parks do you plan on prioritizing on your vacation? Let us know in the comments below!

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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.

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