Big changes are happening at Walt Disney World’s second-oldest park, making EPCOT even more fun for families and multigenerational groups
EPCOT has been a favorite destination for generations of travelers. The Walt Disney World Resort theme park has always had an educational perspective, highlighting the wonders of science, technology and countries around the world. There’s an air of excitement about discoveries at EPCOT, and visiting families always learn something new.
Walt Disney once commented that EPCOT “would always be in a state of becoming,” and that’s true even more so today. A massive transformation is underway at EPCOT, ushering in a wealth of fantastic new experiences and attractions. EPCOT now comprises four neighborhoods: World Showcase, World Celebration, World Nature and World Discovery. Each offers a wealth of new additions filled with Disney magic.
These fantastic new features are a game-changer, broadening the park’s appeal for families and bringing new thrills to EPCOT. While the biggest transformation in EPCOT’s history ushers in a line-up of new entertainment and extraordinary attractions, beloved family favorites still remain.
Budgeting time on a Walt Disney World vacation is always a challenge since there’s so much to see and do. Here are 12 reasons why families and multigenerational groups will want to put EPCOT at the top of their list on their next trip:
Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind
EPCOT’s newest attraction is one of the largest enclosed rollercoasters in the world, and it’s a thriller. Marvel and Guardians of the Galaxy movie fans will really enjoy this immersive ride, as will everyone else. Located in the Galaxarium, the park’s first “other-world” pavilion, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind starts with an amazing pre-show experience focusing on the formation of Earth’s galaxy, our planet’s similarities to Xandar, appearances by “Guardians” characters and even a journey to a Nova Corps ship. Then it’s off to save the galaxy on an exhilarating ride, which features a strong storyline, the first reverse launch on a Disney coaster, cool Starjumper vehicles that rotate 360 degrees and an incredible soundtrack that changes with each ride. The coaster has a 42-inch minimum height requirement, making it accessible for many families. Seating choice and audio selection alter the feel of the entire experience, and after riding multiple times in various locations, my favorite location is the front seat. The ride feels like snowboarding through space and time, and the experience is mind-bending.
Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure
Set in EPCOT’s expanded France Pavilion, this fun ride takes families into the world of Pixar’s award-winning Ratatouille film. With massively oversized props and trackless rat-shaped cars that turn quickly, guests feel like they’ve been shrunk to rat size while joining Chef Remy on a whirlwind race through Gusteau’s restaurant. Guests are immersed in sights, sounds and special effects from Ratatouille, and characters speak in a blend of French and English. This culinary-themed dark indoor ride is a treat, and 3-D glasses help the scenes and projections come alive. After their adventure, families can stop in at the new La Crêperie de Paris located nearby for a delicious taste of authentic French cuisine.
Families will want to be at EPCOT in the evening to watch Harmonious, one of the biggest nighttime shows ever created for a Disney theme park. Taking place on and over EPCOT’s World Showcase Lagoon, Harmonious blends Disney music and visuals into an innovative show featuring fireworks, giant floating screens, lights, lasers, and a wide array of images and special effects. Introduced as part of Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary celebration, Harmonious celebrates how Disney’s music and stories can inspire people around the globe. Favorite Disney songs are performed by a culturally diverse group of hundreds of artists from around the world, and the show is spectacular.
Space 220 Restaurant
Opened last year in an expansion of EPCOT’s Mission: SPACE pavilion, Space 220 Restaurant is both an immersive attraction and a memorable dining experience. Guests board a “space elevator” for a simulated trip to the Centauri Space Station, where they can marvel at the views of our planet from 220 miles above Earth. The entire experience is mind-blowing. Families can enjoy meals and drinks while enjoying daytime or nighttime views of Earth, satellites, stars, planets, and maybe even an occasional astronaut. The popular space-themed eatery serves lunch and dinner, and advance dining reservations are required. Kids’ menus are available. There is also a stand-by waiting line for seats in the bar.
Families who love Disney’s Frozen animated feature films will have plenty to enjoy at EPCOT. One of the park’s most popular attractions is Frozen Ever After, a slow-moving dark boat voyage through Arendelle filled with songs and beloved characters from Disney’s Frozen movies. Frozen Ever After is located in EPCOT’s Norway Pavilion, and there is no height requirement for this ride. The boat does go backward at one point, and there are small waterfalls, so riders might get a little wet. Frozen fans can also meet Anna and Elsa at the Norway Pavilion’s Royal Sommerhus.
Beacons of Magic
EPCOT is a beautiful place to spend the evening. Spaceship Earth becomes one of Walt Disney World’s Beacons of Magic at night, with colorful new lights shining across the sphere’s reflective panels. These lights connect to one another like stars in the evening sky. During Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary celebration, Spaceship Earth will be joined by three iconic Beacons of Magic in other parks. These include Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom Park, the Tree of Life at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park and the Hollywood Tower Hotel at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Connections Cafe & Eatery
Conveniently located in EPCOT’s World Celebrations area, Connections Café and Eatery is a quick-service dining location with plenty of seating. The light and airy café is also home to Starbucks coffee, so it’s an excellent place to visit in the mornings and throughout the day. This new restaurant serves popular lunch and dinner items and features show kitchens and a stunning hand-painted mural depicting how food is cultivated around the world. Kids’ menus and allergy-friendly options are available as well. Connections Cafe’s tables are equipped with charging stations, and a variety of seating choices are offered, making this a good spot for families to recharge and relax together.
Much-Loved Family Favorites
While EPCOT’s mammoth transformation includes many new attractions adding new life to the park, beloved family favorites still remain. Thrill-seekers put Mission: SPACE and Test Track high on their EPCOT must-do lists. The full-throttle Orange Mission version of Mission: SPACE has long been one of my favorite rides, although there’s a gentler experience available as well. Test Track enables guests to design their own experimental car and then race it around the track, delivering a fast ride that’s truly a thrill. Guests on Soarin’ Around the World are equally exhilarated by the ride’s stunning visuals and simulated hang gliding experience. Educational entertainment has long been central to EPCOT’s mission, and families have fun learning at attractions like The Seas with Nemo & Friends, Living with the Land and Spaceship Earth.
World Showcase Attractions
World Showcase is one of my favorite parts of EPCOT. It’s a great way to learn about different cultures, and there’s so much to experience. The pavilions offer a wealth of rides and attractions, films and exhibits, stores and fabulous food. Some top eateries for families include the Biergarten Restaurant and the Karamell-Küche snack shop in the Germany Pavilion; Via Napoli Ristorante e Pizzeria and Tutto Italia Ristorante in the Italy Pavilion; La Hacienda de San Angel and San Angel Inn Restaurante in the Mexico Pavilion; Teppan Edo and Katsura Grill in the Japan Pavilion; La Crêperie de Paris and Chefs de France in the France Pavilion; and the new Regal Eagle Smokehouse in American Adventure Pavilion. World Showcase is also a prime spot for character meet and greets, and attractions like Beauty and the Beast Sing-Along, The American Adventure and Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros.
EPCOT is home to a series of fabulous themed events throughout the year, including the International Flower & Garden Festival, International Food & Wine Festival, International Festival of the Arts and International Festival of the Holidays. These are wonderful times for families to visit, particularly with multigenerational groups. Each festival offers a wide variety of entertainment, exhibits, merchandise, food booths and other unique features. Families will enjoy taking pictures in front of the magnificent Disney-themed topiaries during EPCOT’s International Flower & Garden Festival and attending the International Festival of the Holidays’ Candlelight Processional.
EPCOT is easy to get to from a number of Walt Disney World Resort hotels. Families can walk to EPCOT from Disney’s Beach Club Resort and Villas, Disney’s Boardwalk Inn and Villas, and Disney’s Yacht Club Resort. The Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin resorts are also located nearby. In addition, the Disney Skyliner makes access convenient for those who prefer to cruise to EPCOT by air. This state-of-the-art aerial gondola system connects EPCOT’s International Gateway with Disney’s Riviera Resort, Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, Disney’s Pop Century Resort and Disney’s Art of Animation Resort.
EPCOT’s Ongoing Transformation
All of the new additions to EPCOT are sensational – and more big changes are on the way. One of the most exciting is Journey of Water, Inspired by Moana – coming to EPCOT’s World Nature neighborhood. This is the first Disney Parks experience based on Moana, Disney’s hit movie. This lush walk-through attraction will encourage guests to meet and play with water and learn how to protect our world’s natural water cycle in a fun way. EPCOT’s World Celebrations neighborhood will also be the site of the CommuniCore Hall and Plaza, which will be perfect for the park’s popular international festivals and live entertainment. There’s much more to EPCOT’s historic transformation, so families and multigenerational groups will want to allocate plenty of time to explore this fabulous Walt Disney World park.
By Nancy Schretter, Contributing Editor
Header Photo Credit: Nancy Schretter