Why Epcot is now Disney World’s must-do park

May 10, 2022

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Epcot has changed drastically over the years. Hailed as the “city of tomorrow” when it was unveiled in 1982, it accidentally aged into a park that highlighted more of yesterday than today or tomorrow.

While some fun additions have debuted at Epcot in the relatively recent past, over the last few years the park has been a maze of construction walls and exciting promises for the future.

But now — the Epcot of tomorrow has (once again) arrived.

Related: Epcot was becoming the park of yesterday — here’s how Disney is making it the hot park of tomorrow

With the addition of Epcot’s first-ever roller coaster, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, combined with the 2021 opening of Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure and multiple new restaurants, it’s Epcot that has evolved into Disney‘s must-do park for thrills, food, fun and, of course, that “edutainment” element the park was founded on.

Here is why you should put Epcot at the top of your list next time you head to Walt Disney World.

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In This Post

More thrills and (finally) a roller coaster

(Photo by Kent Phillips/Disney)

For almost 20 years after Epcot opened, the fastest attraction at the park was the monorail that dropped you off at the front entrance.

And while you could potentially put Test Track, which hits 65 miles per hour, in the thrills category, Epcot never had a true roller coaster until now.

When Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind opens later this month, it will serve as a game changer for the historically less-than-thrilling park. With a mind-bending reverse launch, ride vehicles that rotate a full 360 degrees and a rocking playlist, Cosmic Rewind is unlike any coaster in any Disney park around the world.

I and fellow TPG staffer Madison Blancaflor recently had the opportunity to preview the coaster before it opens to the public. I thought I would come off the ride with the ability to compare it to another Disney ride to give you an idea of what it’s like, but I couldn’t because there’s nothing to compare it to.

The “how’d they do that” surprises began with the pre-show and didn’t stop until I stepped off the ride, mouth still agape, trying to process what had just happened. It’s not that it was too much to handle — I think my kids would love it. It’s that I truly felt as if I was floating through space and time when I know I was just on a coaster inside a giant building.

While thrilling, the coaster is being billed as family-friendly with a 42-inch minimum height requirement, taller than Seven Dwarfs Mine Train but shorter than Space Mountain.

With this addition, Epcot is now home to the two newest rides in all of Disney World.

Expanded family fun

The second-newest ride at Disney World, once Guardians officially opens, is Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, found in Epcot’s France pavilion, which was expanded in October 2021.

(Photo by Matt Stroshane/Walt Disney World)

Ratatouille’s addition was part of Epcot’s strategy over the last decade to work some of kids’ favorite characters into the World Showcase and beyond.

If your kids have a fascination with “Frozen,” “Finding Nemo” or “Ratatouille” (or all three), there is now more than enough to keep them busy at Epcot — while you grab a crepe or a frozen beverage as you stroll between the attractions.

The kids can go on an underwater adventure at The Seas with Nemo & Friends, visit Elsa’s ice castle on Frozen Ever After and join the “rat race” through Gusteau’s restaurant on Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure.

Throughout the park, there is an increasing number of indoor and outdoor play areas where kids can run around and expend some of that Mickey-pretzel-fueled energy. There are indoor play spaces at The Seas with Nemo & Friends, Journey Into Imagination with Figment and Mission: Space, and an outdoor playground near Test Track.

Exciting nighttime entertainment

After running the same nighttime spectacular for the last 20 years, Epcot debuted the new nighttime show “Harmonious” in late 2021.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

The show takes place nightly on the World Showcase Lagoon and utilizes pyrotechnics, lasers, moving water fountains and giant floating screens to depict scenes and music from favorite Disney films, while celebrating how our differences unite us. It doesn’t hurt that the soundtrack is impossible not to dance to.

The fun doesn’t end when the last firework explodes in the sky, though. As you make your way out of the park, the music (and dancing) continues until you arrive at Spaceship Earth in all its illuminated glory.

As part of Disney World’s 50th anniversary celebration, the icons of all four parks have been transformed into “beacons of magic.” Most are temporary and utilize projections, but Spaceship Earth’s new lighting is permanent and spectacular.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Imagineers installed 1,861 “points of light” on the giant sphere that can be animated in endless colors and patterns. At one moment, the lights may be twinkling like the night sky and the next they might morph into an undulating rainbow.

This combo of “Harmonious” and Spaceship Earth is a magical way to end a day at Disney, and it will be made even more fun when MagicBand+ debuts later this year.

Like the previous version, you will be able to use MagicBand+ to get into the parks, open your hotel room door, scan Lightning Lane passes and pay for food and merchandise in the parks, but it will also be designed to interact with elements throughout the park, including “Harmonious.”

Your MagicBand+ will light up and vibrate along with the show, which may not sound like much, but every step Disney takes to make its parks more engaging and immersive makes your visit that much more special.

Related: Best credit cards for Disney and Universal vacations

Flavorful food from all corners of the globe and beyond

Prior to 2020, if you wanted good food at Epcot, you pretty much had to trek back to World Showcase. The food in each country’s pavilion was definitely worth the walk (especially the hummus fries from Morocco), but food options at the front of the park were severely lacking.

(Photo courtesy of Walt Disney World)

It wasn’t until Space 220 opened in September 2021 that out-of-this-world dining spread to the rest of the park. Space 220 is more than a restaurant, it’s an experience. The concept is that an elevator takes you 220 miles away from Earth and into outer space to enjoy tableside views of Earth and the occasional astronaut floating by.

The food’s not bad either, but they could probably serve freeze-dried meatloaf and it would taste good just because you are eating it in space. If you are into the view more than the meal, then try to get a spot in the lounge so you can enjoy the ambiance without as hefty of a price tag.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

The Connections Cafe & Eatery opened in April near Spaceship Earth. It’s one part Starbucks and one part fast-casual restaurant, but it offers much more than your standard burger and fries.

Connections serves globally inspired dishes like a Banh Mi Burger and Curry Spice Pizza, and you can get your Starbucks fix while you are there.

The space is large with plenty of seating and it’s an eclectic spot to gather with your family while you refuel and recharge, literally. Many of the seating areas have USB ports to charge your device.

It’s even easier to get to

Walt Disney World is roughly the size of San Francisco and it takes a decent amount of travel time to get between your hotel and the four theme parks.

Epcot is something of an exception to that rule, with nine resort hotels that feature easy access to the park.

(Photo by Ed Pizzarello/The Points Guy)

Disney’s Riviera Resort, which opened in late 2019, along with the Art of Animation, Pop Century and Caribbean Beach Resort are all accessible via the Disney Skyliner system that also debuted in 2019.

Disney’s BoardWalk Inn, Disney’s Yacht Club and Beach Club resorts and the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin resorts (including the new Swan Reserve) are also within a boat ride or manageable walking distance from the World Showcase entrance of Epcot.

From Epcot, you can also easily hop to Hollywood Studios via the Skyliner or to the Magic Kingdom via the monorail.

There’s no other Disney park where it is so easy to bounce around to other parks or head back to your hotel before returning for the nighttime festivities.

Edutainment is still part of the park

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Epcot was built on the idea of edutainment: Each opening-day attraction merged elements of education and entertainment with the goal of honoring our achievements and inspiring the next generation.

While so many of Epcot’s opening-day attractions have long since been replaced, the spirit of educational fun still prevails. At The Seas with Nemo & Friends, families can learn about the undersea inhabitants in the attraction’s 5.7 million-gallon saltwater aquarium.

On Living with the Land, they can enter a real, working greenhouse and see Disney’s innovative methods for growing fruits and vegetables consumed in the parks.

In World Showcase, each pavilion has a Kidcot Fun Stop where kids can pick up a card with facts and fun activities that teach them about the history, customs and traditions of the respective culture.

A day at Disney World isn’t quite a day at school, but hey, if they come back knowing more about the world around them than when they left, we’ll call that a win.

The transformation is far from over

If that’s not enough to convince you that Epcot is a Disney must-do, the transformation is far from complete. Soon, guests will be able to visit the Journey of Water, Inspired by Moana, an outdoor exploration trail with magical, dancing waters.

(Image courtesy of Walt Disney World)

The center of the park, which is still currently a walled-off construction site, will soon be home to Epcot’s new CommuniCore Hall and Plaza, a sort of festival hub where guests can enjoy the food, drinks and music showcased at Epcot’s annual international festivals.

Make no mistake about it, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind will be the thrilling anchor that the park needed to compete in a modern era. Fresh off a media preview of that ride, I can say without hesitation that it’s worth a visit to Epcot all by itself, if you are into coasters.

Bottom line

The best part of Epcot’s transformation is there’s more to it than just rides. It’s a total revamp with additional places to eat, new play areas and indoor-outdoor spaces to soak up vacation memories with your family.

So whether you want to experience the latest thrills or taste the newest treats, or if you just want a park that embraces spreading out and relaxing, it’s time to prioritize Epcot as Disney’s must-do park.

Featured photo by Kent Phillips, Walt Disney World.

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