Lake Buena Vista, Florida, USA
“Walt Disney World’s n°1 place to get drunk”
It’s not easy to describe EPCOT. Some people consider it as a Disneyfied world’s fair, others just come here to get drunk and fat. One thing is sure: EPCOT definitely isn’t an ordinary theme park. It opened as EPCOT Center in 1982 and it’s currently the 7th most visited theme park on the planet. EPCOT is directly linked to the Walt Disney World Monorail System, which makes it super easy (and lots of fun) to travel between EPCOT, Magic Kingdom and the Transportation and Ticket Center.
EPCOT hasn’t offered a roller coaster for almost 40 years. However, this changed due to the addition of Guardians of the Galaxy – Cosmic Rewind. This Vekoma ride was installed on the former location of Ellen’s Energy Adventure, which closed in 2017. Cosmic Rewind has a total length of 1.7 kilometres, which makes it the longest coaster in Florida. But that’s not the only feature that makes this ride impressive. The Imagineers created an elaborately themed queue, two great pre-shows and a first-rate coaster experience. Cosmic Rewind makes use of a backwards launch, spinning cars, catchy pop music and some of the most qualitative projections in the theme park business. Despite its thrilling nature, the ride isn’t overly intense. I’d define it as a family thrill, just like Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure at Universal Orlando Resort.
EPCOT is dominated by a 55-metre tall sphere. This is one of Walt Disney World’s most famous landmarks, but it’s more than just a recognizable structure. This sphere also houses Spaceship Earth, an enormous dark ride dedicated to the evolution of communication. Fortunately, this really isn’t as boring as it sounds. Spaceship Earth features beautiful animatronics, original scenes and a world-class soundtrack. And there’s even more good news: a ride on Spaceship Earth lasts surprisingly long and queues are usually very manageable.
Spaceship Earth is the biggest dark ride at EPCOT. The park’s other dark rides are considerably smaller. There’s a short Finding Nemo attraction, Living with the Land is an educational dark ride focused on agriculture, Figment hosts a dark ride about your imagination and the Mexican area offers a little boat tour starring The Three Caballeros. Nothing too special, but it’s all very cute. And then there’s Frozen Ever After at the Norwegian pavilion. This is a medium-sized dark ride as well, but it often generates the longest wait times in the entire park. Frozen has been a success story since its 2013 release and this dark ride is no exception. Still, Disney didn’t choose the easy way and Frozen Ever After turns out to be an impressive dark ride. The animatronics move unbelievably smoothly and the Let It Go scene encompasses all the glamour I expected.
EPCOT’s newest dark ride can be found at World Showcase’s French pavilion. It’s called Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure and it’s a carbon copy of the Ratatouille dark ride at Walt Disney Studios Park in Paris. I’m in love with the ride’s beautiful station and the music, but the overall experience remains underwhelming. Ratatouille actually feels like it’s a Universal ride that ended up at Disney World. It mostly relies on 3D screens and it lacks a real finale. Don’t get me wrong… this attraction is obviously a perfect fit for the French pavilion, but it’s very mediocre if you compare it to other modern Disney dark rides. I wouldn’t wait more than 30 minutes to ride it.
AROUND THE WORLD
Just like the other Walt Disney World parks, EPCOT is divided into several lands. The northern half of the park is home to World Celebration, World Nature and World Discovery. However, the largest area is known as World Showcase and it can be found at the shores of a huge lagoon. World Showcase features 11 pavilions dedicated to different countries. Despite the fact that many E-ticket rides are located at World Nature and World Discovery, World Showcase definitely wins when it comes to atmosphere. It’s a wonderful feeling to take a walk around the lagoon, while admiring the architecture and trying some local delicacies. By the way… World Showcase is at its best during the International Food & Wine Festival, which takes place on an annual basis. During the festival, there are even more ways to get tipsy at EPCOT. Yay!
Wine tastings are a great way to get a glimpse of foreign cultures, but there are more ways to see the world. How about a ride on one of EPCOT’s flagship attractions? Soarin’ Around the World is (nearly) identical to the versions in Anaheim and Shanghai. I’ve always loved Soarin’ over California and in my opinion, the new version has the same strengths. Unfortunately, it has the same weaknesses as well. Soarin’ can be a fabulous attraction if you’re assigned the best seats, but it can be an underwhelming experience if you’re directed to the wrong seats. In that case, you’ll have to settle with a curved Eiffel Tower and a malformed Taj Mahal. Fortunately, Soarin’s legendary soundtrack remains extraordinary, no matter what seat you’re in.
EPCOT is an unusual theme park and therefore, it deserves unusual attractions. One of those unusual attractions is Mission SPACE. The ride simulates a flight to Mars and that’s quite an extraordinary experience. As Team Orange, we’re treated to strong g-forces and turbulent manoeuvres. This mission to Mars counts as Walt Disney World’s most intense attraction and it’s definitely not suited for those who suffer from motion sickness. However, there’s some kind of light version (Team Green) that doesn’t feature Mission SPACE’s most nauseating movements.
Speed plays an important role in Mission SPACE, but it’s not the park’s fastest attraction. This honour is reserved for Test Track. I mostly remember this attraction in its original form, but I know that Chevrolet has treated it to a huge makeover in 2012. Test Track’s characterizing test dummies disappeared and they made way for a virtual world full of screens and neon. The modernized ride looks very appealing and the experience is still as awesome as it used to be. By the way… Test Track has a separate queue for single riders and this line is usually very short. If you don’t mind riding alone, this might be an ideal way to minimize your wait time.
My most recent visit to EPCOT took place in January 2022, when The World’s Most Magical Celebration was in full swing. Walt Disney World is celebrating its 50th birthday and the anniversary has brought some quite big novelties to the parks. EPCOT appears to be the park that benefits most from the celebrations. The park gets two new rides and two brand-new nighttime shows. The first one is part of Disney’s Beacons of Magic. The Spaceship Earth sphere was decorated with thousands of sparkling lights and this might be one of the most recognizable sights in modern-day Disney World. The largest novelty, however, can be found at World Showcase. Harmonious is the park’s new fireworks spectacular and I liked it a lot. The show is designed to feel like a journey around the world, including songs and visuals from many famous Disney films. Many fans have criticized the show for being too Disney’ish, but I really don’t see the problem. Harmonious managed to put a smile on my face and especially the Coco segment turned out to be very impressive.
WORTH A VISIT?
Love it or hate it. EPCOT shows a side of Disney that most of us didn’t know. I can imagine that some people don’t like the park because of its unusual concept. EPCOT may be a little short on actual rides, but the park makes up for that with its great dining options and the wonderful atmosphere. Large parts of the park don’t feel Disney-ish, but that’s actually EPCOT’s unique selling point. It’s a different, mature kind of theme park with lots of hidden secrets. I appreciate Disney’s Animal Kingdom and I thoroughly enjoy Magic Kingdom, but EPCOT undoubtedly remains my preferred theme park at Walt Disney World.
What’s your favourite pavilion at World Showcase? Are you a member of Team Green or do you prefer Team Orange? And are you happy that Frozen Ever After is being rebuilt at Disneyland Paris and Hong Kong Disneyland? Share your opinion in the comments section at the bottom of this page.