April 2012: Unlike the Magic Kingdom, many Epcot attractions are not single rides – they’re an attraction area that usually has at least one major attraction along with one or two secondary things to do. In the front of the park (Future World), nine areas focus on a scientific theme, such as exploring space, the importance of communication, or mankind’s need for food. (Perhaps the fluffiest theme that smacks of a commercial is Test Track, which focuses on building cars. The hardest to grasp is Imagination, which attempts to explore human creativity.) In World Showcase, each country has restaurants and shops, and a few also have some kind of attraction to highlight that nation’s history or beauty – generally a movie with a really big or really round screen.
That makes Epcot a top choice for a rainy day. If a downpour rolls in, run to a new attraction and wait it out.
The following tips should help you save a little time and make the trip more enjoyable:
• Read the general park-touring tips.
• Arrive early/stay late. The first hour is ideal for riding tons of stuff.
• Don’t follow the crowd. At Epcot, this means heading to World Showcase when it opens at 11 a.m. The general crowd arrives before World Showcase opens, and once touring Future World, tends to stay there until they’ve done everything. They tend to enter World Showcase around mid-afternoon, and that’s when you should return to Future World. Note, however: Many Future World rides shut down at 7 p.m., though major attractions – Test Track, Soarin’, the golf ball – remain open until that park closes. Plan accordingly.
• Skip the golf ball (Spaceship Earth) until later in the day. After 2 p.m., the golf ball’s line is usually short or non-existent except on the busiest days. But everyone passes it upon arrival; it represents Epcot; it’s big and shiny; the kids scream, “I wanna ride something.” It’s tempting to jump into line right away, but move on.
• Check ride wait times behind the golf ball. All rides post wait times in front for those without a Fast Pass. A single location behind the golf ball, however, lists all wait times in one spot – good info before deciding where to invest in a Fast Pass.
• Eat well. Dining is part of the Epcot experience, and if you plan only one nice meal during a week’s stay, pick Epcot. Each World Showcase restaurant features food native to the country, and most servers work in an exchange program, so the stories about “growing up in Paris” are real. Make advanced seating reservations up to 180 days in advance. If dining in the front, consider The Living Seas for atmosphere, though the food is expensive and, by some reviews, worth less than the price.
• If eating fast food, consider a World Showcase country. All countries have some kind of food – pastries, funnel cakes, etc. – but the following have actual fast-food restaurants: Mexico, China, America (mainly burger-type fare), Japan, and Morocco.
• Ask to see the restaurants. You can’t eat everywhere, and in most World Showcase countries, the restaurants have the best décor. Ask at the door if you may step in and look around – it’s allowed and hosts/hostesses don’t mind. Germany has a show enjoyed only by restaurant patrons.
• Good fast food in Future World. It’s not quite the same, but The Land offers an international menu almost as good as the food found in World Showcase, albeit without the unique atmosphere.
• Fast Pass Test Track and Soarin’. If you want to do either one twice, ride it early and Fast Pass it for a second ride. Both can get lines up to 90 minutes in the summer.
• Rides with long lines. Fast Pass or ride early the following: In World Showcase, only Norway’s ride, the Maelstrom, gets an unreasonably long wait. In addition to Test Track and Soarin’ in Future World, long lines can form for Nemo & Friends (The Living Seas) and Living with the Land (The Land).
• Rides with short lines. Save these for the busy afternoon: In Future World, lines can be somewhat short for Mission: Space; and they’re usually very short for Universe of Energy, The Living Seas (except Nemo ride), the golf ball (except in the morning), Circle of Life (movie inside The Land), Journey into Imagination (Imagination!), Captain EO (3-D Michael Jackson movie in Imagination!), and Innoventions self-discovery exhibits (commercials). In World Showcase, most countries show a really big movie with no waiting except Norway (long line), Mexico (short line), and The American Adventure (top-notch attraction, no line, boring for kids).
• Drink free. Ice Station Cool (by Innoventions) offers free drinks from Coca-cola. There’s no Coke, just a sample of sodas served in other countries. But it’s free; the cups are small but you can refill them; and they turn a blind eye if you fill up a bigger cup.
• Make a late dinner reservation. You’ll miss Illuminations if you eat after 8 p.m., but Epcot will be almost empty and at its best when you walk out at 10 p.m.
• Take the boat. The front of World Showcase connects to the far corners by way of boats. It doesn’t save time to ride if you must wait for a boat to return, but it knocks more than a few steps off your day.