First Time to Epcot: Must-Do Guide
First things first, you are going to EPCOT! Congratulations Friend! Now, the BEST way to plan your first time to Epcot is exactly that – to plan your experience. Epcot is over 300 acres and the approximate length from the entrance to back is roughly one mile, considering that the Disney marathon takes you from the international gateway to the front entrance. This epic-sized park can be overwhelming to the first time visitor, but you’re in luck because this is the Disney Adulting First Time To Epcot: Must-Do Guide. Don’t forget to download your own Walt Disney World Planner, so you can jot down all these tips and tricks in one convenient place.
Why is it Called Epcot?
Epcot is an acronym for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. Walt Disney intended to be a utopian city of the future, but after Walt’s death, Epcot as a community was scrapped and it became the second theme park on the Florida property. A model of Walt’s vision can be seen by riding the Tomorrowland Transit Authority attraction in the Magic Kingdom.
Planning Your Visit
To truly get the most out of your first time visiting Epcot you should spend time planning your experience. There have been multiple attraction changes or closures in Epcot in the last few years, but despite those changes, it remains a massive park. The majority of first-time visitors will need 2 or even 3 days to experience the full park. As a minimum, you should plan a day for each of Future World & World Showcase. If you plan on “drinking around the world” (see below) you’ll definitely want one day to casually enjoy the world showcase with a full-on buzz.
Epcot Operating Hours
Epcot has two themed areas: Future World and World Showcase. Though schedules change throughout the year, Future World always opens before World Showcase. While most of Future World’s attractions stay open until the entire park closes, a few close around 7 p.m. most of the year. World Showcase generally opens 2 hours later than Future World; moreover, some attractions open late or close early. It’s important to plan your must-do attractions around these time windows and take full advantage of Magic Hours when they are available.
Getting Around Epcot
Epcot is literally the world at your very fingertips! There are two distinct areas within the part – you can view the present and future in Future World or travel the world in the World Showcase.
Future World consists of a variety of pavilions that explore technology, life, and science, with each pavilion featuring self-contained attractions. Future World also serves as the park’s main entrance and features the park’s iconic landmark, Spaceship Earth, or “that big silver ball-thing” that is the #1 photographed image of Epcot.
- Spaceship Earth
- Mission: Space
- Test Track
- The Seas with Nemo & Friends
- The Land
- Festival Center (Seasonal)
World Showcase was designed to be a permanent world’s fair containing 11 pavilions, each themed to represent a specific country. The pavilions surround the World Showcase Lagoon, a large manmade lake located in the center of World Showcase. In clockwise order, the 11 pavilions are:
- United States of America
- United Kingdom
Top 10 Attractions in Epcot
This list encompasses the not-to-be-missed thrills, extra magic, and fun. Each of these attractions will fill up from park opening and during peak season can have queues up to an hour even at 10 in the morning – use FastPass+ and FastPass whenever available.
- Soaring Around The World: Take flight on a breezy, airborne adventure as you hang glide above some of the most breathtaking wonders the world has to offer.
- Test Track: Design a virtual concept vehicle and then go for a high-octane spin at this attraction that’s thrilling and creative.
- Spaceship Earth: Travel in time and explore the history of communication on a ride that takes you from the Stone Age to the computer age.
- Mission: Space: Experience authentic NASA-style training on a thrilling ride to Mars—or orbit around Earth during an all-new, family-friendly mission.
- Living with The Land: Sail through the greenhouses of The Land Pavilion on a boat tour and behold 9-pound lemons, Mickey-shaped pumpkins and more!
- Frozen Ever After (Norway): Hoist the sails in Arendelle aboard an ancient Norwegian vessel as you set out into the wondrous wintery world of Frozen!
- Gran Fiesta Tour (Mexico): Take in the sights of Mexico and the antics of the 3 feathered amigos on this gentle boat ride through the Mexico Pavilion.
Drinking Around the World
Epcot is home to over 11 world pavilions that feature attractions, dining, shopping, and drinking – yes, drinking – all related to each country. It’s the ultimate world bar crawl! “Drinking around the World” is the process of making your way around to each pavilion while stopping for drinks and snacks in each country. We recommend that you take a full day for this activity and plan to explore around the globe leisurely. We even dedicated a post to helping beer aficionados find their favorite Epcot brews outside of the park. There are many guides and “tours” to do this activity, here’s one of our favorites from Huffington Post.
Tip & Tricks for your First Trip to Epcot
- Make Advance Dining Reservations (ADRs): Epcot’s World Showcase offers some of the best restaurants in Disney World, and they tend to fill up for lunch and dinner. Book a table in advance to ensure you get in.
- Take an Afternoon Rest: If you arrived early, you are going to feel the burn by lunch. Head back to your hotel for a few hours of downtime and even a nap.
- Stay for the Evening Spectacular: This is where that midday nap will come in handy. Epcot’s spectacular night-time IllumiNations fireworks display is a must-see. Arrive early for a good viewing spot.
- Don’t Overlook Minor Attractions: Epcot has a number of very clever, cool attractions that can be overshadowed by the thrill rides. Take the time to enjoy them, especially some of the films in the World Showcase.
- Dine at the World Showcase: Stroll through the showcase at a leisurely pace so you can enjoy watching the live entertainment and book dining reservations in a different country for each meal.
Epcot Festival & Events
These festivals are a plus and a minus in our book. Hands down, Epcot festivals are amazing and worth attending, however, that will mean that peak times and weekends are going to be more crowded than usual. Make sure to plan ahead for some extra hours in the park or off-days to enjoy these festivals. Here’s what Epcot has going on each season:
From March to mid-May, the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival brings dazzling character topiaries, flower displays, and free outdoor concerts.
In September, October and half of November, the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival offers an amazing array of cuisine, chefs, wine, and tasting events.
Epcot is also home to some of the most popular Christmas special events at Disney World, including Holidays Around the World and the Candlelight Processional.
What is your #1 thing to do when visiting Epcot?
Leave a comment below and let us know.