Created by Walt Disney himself, Epcot's original concept was to be an Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. "It will be a community of tomorrow that will never be completed, but will always be introducing, and testing, and demonstrating new materials and new systems," said Disney. "And Epcot will always be a showcase to the world of the ingenuity and imagination of American free enterprise."
Though Walt Disney died before Epcot came to fruition, the company continued with his plans as best they could. Though Epcot isn't a residential community as Disney originally envisioned, it has become a showcase for ingenuity and imagination, not to mention one of the most-visited theme parks in the world. From 11 countries around a lake to hands-on educational exhibits, thrilling rides and a touch of Disney magic, Epcot is a fun and learning-filled destination for all ages. Here are a few secrets and favorite places at Epcot that we don't want you to miss.
1. Epcot is fun for kids
Sometimes there is a misconception that Epcot is boring for kids, but this could not be further from the truth. Though Epcot might be the adult-favorite theme park, it also offers plenty of wonderful entertainment for kids of all ages. Rides such as Soarin' and Test Track are thrilling for school-aged children, and Nemo and Friends is perfect for toddlers. Through the back exit of Mission Space is Space Base, a themed indoor playground for kids to let off steam while their parents have a moment to rest. The World Showcase presents several highlights for kids along the way. Take a boat ride with Donald Duck through Mexico; admire the elaborate toy train set in Germany; watch the giant fish in the koi ponds of the Japanese gardens; or stop at one of many Kidcot Fun Spot locales for a free art project. More ideas are below, so if you're planning to bring the kids to Epcot, read on.
2. Epcot has an aquarium
The Seas With Nemo and Friends is worth spending a morning. First, take a ride in a moving clamshell through a coral reef as you try to keep up with the elusive Nemo. At the end of the ride, Nemo ends up inside an actual saltwater aquarium, thanks to Disney's magical projection powers. Pay a visit to the super gnarly surfing turtle Crush as he interacts with dudes and dudettes in a fun and educational forum. Then, head upstairs to peer through the big glass windows into a 5.8-million-gallon saltwater aquarium with dolphins, seaturtles, rays and fish. Don't miss the special habitat for two rescued manatees, and watch as they devour heads of romaine lettuce for lunch.
3. Epcot features its own children's museum
Innoventions is spread out into two buildings near the front of the park. At Innoventions East, guests will find four interactive exhibits. In Sum of All Thrills, guests can design their own roller coaster using math and science skills then test their ride in an exciting simulator. At Colortopia, brand new at Epcot, kids learn about the power of color and use their own digital paint brush, where it's all fun and no mess. (Innovations West is closed for renovations, with the exception of Character Spot.)
4. Epcot houses some of the best restaurants in Orlando
Epcot features 11 countries around the World Showcase, each with its own elaborate architecture, restaurants, shops and exhibits. Though there are numerous restaurant options, two rise to the top. Monsieur Paul in the France Pavilion looks like a bistro straight out of Paris. That's because the restaurant was founded by renown Parisian Celebrity Chef Paul Bocuse. After splurging on the truffle soup in a puff pastry followed by the lobster with sauteed mushrooms, time dessert and Champagne for the 9 pm fireworks show just outside the second-floor window. Le Cellier in the Canada Pavilion is another exceptional choice. Tucked inside the cellar of the grand chateau, Le Cellier is known for its fine steaks and its decadent poutine smothered in Canadian cheddar, black truffles, Gruyère cheese, French onion gravy or applewood-smoked bacon.
5. Epcot has an amazing bar scene
Think of your around-the-world party from college and take it up a big, big notch. Sipping a few celebratory spirits as you stroll around to all 11 countries is one fun way to see the world. Some of the watering holes are obvious, like the United Kingdom's Rose and Crown, but others are tucked away and worth seeking out. Tutto Gusto Wine Cellar in the Italy Pavilion is one of those gems. Inside this cozy little bar, you'll find 200 bottles of Italian wine and a small-plates menu of cheeses, meats, pastas and desserts. Off to the side of the bustling plaza inside the Aztec temple is La Cava del Tequila, a tiny tequila bar serving specialty margaritas with exotic ingredients. Salud!
6. Epcot offers the best international shopping in town
The shops within the World Showcase contain authentic, imported goods from each specific country. All the front-of-the-house staff within each pavilion in the World Showcase are from that country, so you have your own personal shopper. Get a free makeover with Guerlain cosmetics and shop perfumes in the France Pavilion. Find teddy bears, Christmas items and cuckoo clocks in Germany. Pick up fine Murano glassware in Italy. Select gorgeous oragami, tea kettles and pearls inside Japan's huge department store. Shop colorful ceramics and figurines in Mexico. These are the souvenirs you'll cherish most.
7. Epcot grows its own food
Take a 15-minute boat ride through Living With the Land to see first-hand the giant working greenhouses and modern methods of food production. The world's largest tomato plant, pictured below, has been recognized as a Guinness World Record holder, with a harvest of more than 32,000 tomatoes. You'll also find Mickey-shaped melons and cucumbers, along with peppers, herbs, pineapples, fish, alligators and pretty much everything but the kitchen sink. Afterward, have lunch in the Garden Grill to taste the harvest and dine with favorite characters such as Chip and Dale and Farmer Mickey.
8. Disney characters hang out at Epcot
Speaking of characters, Epcot affords many opportunities to meet your favorites. At Character Spot, where you can skip in line with a FastPass+, meet Goofy, Minnie and Mickey all in one fell swoop. Other characters from your favorite stories also can be seen hanging around the World Showcase. You're likely to find Snow White in Germany, Mary Poppins, Alice and Winnie the Pooh in the United Kingdom along with Belle and Princess Aurora in France. In the Norway Pavilion, guests can enjoy breakfast, lunch or dinner at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall with Snow White, Cinderella, Belle, Princess Aurora, Ariel and Mary Poppins.
9. Epcot holds live shows daily
Magic Kingdom is famous for its elaborate parades and nightly fireworks shows, but Epcot has plenty of entertainment as well. Throughout the day, be sure to watch the amazing a cappella performance of American Music Machine. Over in Future World, you're bound to see the JAMMitors, a trio of talented percussionists who'll entertain you with their musical comedy routine. Each evening at 9 pm, crowds gather around the World Showcase for "IllumniNations: Reflections of Earth," an awe-inspiring show of pyrotechnics and fireworks. At Epcot's two major festivals, the flower and garden festival and the food and wine festival, world-renown musicians and peformers hit the main stage at the America Pavilion for free nightly concerts.
10. Epcot will soon be ground-zero for "Frozen" fans
The old Maelstrom ride in the Norway Pavilion is being transformed into Frozen Ever After, an attraction featuring the kingdom of Arendelle, home to Disney's newest sweethearts, Anna and Elsa. Guests will board a boat and enter a Winter in Summer Celebration to witness Elsa's magical powers. Because every theme park ride ends at a souvenir shop, finding your favorite "Frozen" items will be a cinch.