Walt Disney World Park Spotlight: Epcot – Part 2
By reading the first part of my spotlight on Epcot, you were able to see a bit about how Epcot came to be and see some of the facets that make Epcot one of the most unique parks in all of Walt Disney World (WDW).
Now, in the second portion of my spotlight on Epcot, you will discover the tiered FastPass+ system, the must-do attractions, a sneak-peek at the character experiences and where each is located, a sampling of the multitude of dining options available, and the special events showcased annually. In other words, all of the necessary information you’ll need to know as a guest once you book your vacation! Let’s get started!
Map of Epcot
Photo credit: Walt Disney World
WDW operates on the MyMagic+ system, which makes choosing FastPass+ reservations something of the future. A post from Magic Parks and Beyond tells you everything you need to know about the new system and the ease and convenience of making advance FastPass+ reservations.
Epcot, along with Disney’s Hollywood Studios (DHS) and Disney’s Animal Kingdom (AK), operates on a 2-Tier FastPass+ system. What does this mean? Basically, prior to arrival, up to 60 days in advance (if you’re staying on property) or up to 30 days in advance (if you’re staying off property), you can schedule your FastPass+ reservations via either the My Disney Experience App or Website. At each of these three parks, you will be allotted the three FastPass+ reservations in advance, but only one attraction is allowed from Tier 1 and two attractions are allowed from Tier 2. The attractions in each tier are as follows:
Turtle Talk with Crush
Character Spot (with classic Disney characters such as the Fab 5)
Journey into Imagination with Figment
The Seas with Nemo & Friends
Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival
The hidden secret here is to start at 7:00 a.m. EST on your eligible date and choose the attractions either in order of popularity or importance to you. For instance, presently, the guest favorite is Frozen Ever After, and is assumed to be for a quite some time. Therefore, though you could get lucky as time goes on, chances are this is the one attraction (as well as Soarin’ Around the World) that you would want to choose first. Ideally, you should pick attractions for your FastPass+ reservations that typically have a longer wait time than others.
Frozen Ever After in the Norway Pavilion
Photo Credit: Walt Disney World
Epcot offers a unique aspect to its character experiences: characters are seen both around the park in country-specific locations, as characters-in-training, and in dining experiences. For instance, you can find Chip & Dale, Mickey, and Pluto in farmer costumes at the Garden Grill Restaurant in Future World and Cinderella, Snow White, Belle, Aurora, and Ariel at the Akershus Royal Banquet Hall in the Norway Pavilion. If you or your little princess are looking to see the Disney princesses, this is one of the best opportunities to avoid the lines in the parks and instead just have them come to you! Other unique characters such as Baymax, Joy, and Sadness can be found in the extended Character Spot across the breezeway from the FastPass+ Character Spot. Additionally, some other favorite characters throughout the park may include:
Donald Duck in Mexico
Anna and Elsa in Norway
Mulan in China
Snow White in Germany
Characters-in-Training around the American Adventure Pavilion
Aladdin and Jasmine in Morocco
Belle and Aurora in France
Mary Poppins, Winnie the Pooh, Eeyore, and Tigger in the United Kingdom
My husband and me with Mickey Mouse at the Character Spot!
Photo credit: Ashley Hunt
One thing Epcot is not short on is food. No matter what time of day or year you’re visiting Epcot, you’re guaranteed to find great food! Imagine eating anything and everything from snacks to smaller quick food options to larger sit down style food in a variety of cuisine types. In a nutshell, that is Epcot.
One of the best Quick-Service Restaurants on property is Sunshine Seasons. Not only is there ample seating and a great location (in air-conditioning and in the same building as Soarin’ Around the World), but, there are also a variety of different foods for breakfast, lunch, and dinner offered. Quite simply, you won’t just find your typical burger and fries here!
In addition to Sunshine Seasons, there are other Quick-Service locations in Future World; but, there is a multitude of different cuisines around the World Showcase from Fish & Chips in the United Kingdom Pavilion to sushi in the Japan Pavilion to incredible pastries in the Norway and France Pavilions as well as everything in between. Did I mention it is impossible to go hungry in Epcot? There is truly something for everyone!
My favorite thing about Epcot is trying every Table-Service Restaurant. My recommendations? Tokyo Dining and Teppan Edo in the Japan Pavilion give you two choices: one at the table in traditional Japanese style and one where you receive dinner and a show while talented chefs perform the act of cooking guest’s dinner right before your eyes. Le Cellier Steakhouse in the Canada Pavilion is the place to go for steak lovers and those who love the cult-classic cheddar cheese soup (you can also catch the soup at the Food & Wine Festival, see below). If you’re otherwise looking to escape the theme park setting for a little while and you like really good food, I recommend making a reservation at Monsieur Paul in the France Pavilion. Monsieur Paul is one of two restaurants in France (the other is Chefs de France) and is definitely a fan favorite!
If the abundance of selections is overwhelming, simply choose cuisines you’re either familiar with or that you want to try and then make a reservation (up to 180 days in advance) and enjoy!
International Festival of the Arts
Photo credit: Disney Parks Blog
A new event that debuted in 2017, the Epcot International Festival of the Arts is a new festival running every Friday through Monday from mid-January to mid-February each year. The brand new festival features different events each weekend, so if you’re planning to attend, be sure to pick up a Festival of the Arts Passport during your visit.
The festival does feature a dining portion (known as Food Studios) around World Showcase and at other select locations around Epcot. What makes the food unique here is definitely the artistic presentation!
In the American Pavilion at the America Gardens Theatre at 5:30 p.m., 6:45 p.m., and 8:00 p.m. on festival evenings, the Broadway Concert Series will be featured. Select performances in 2017 included Ashley Brown and Josh Strickland performing songs from Beauty and the Beast, Tarzan, The Little Mermaid, and Tarzan. If you are interested in reserved seating for the show, guests are able to book Dining Packages with select Epcot restaurants also.
Looking to get a little more out of the festival? There are also offerings of free seminars, interactive seminars, and even premium workshops for a fee. These events could include everything from creating beautiful flower arrangements to painting masterpieces! There is a private phone line for booking reservations for the interactive seminars and one for the premium workshops; Annual Passholders (AP) and Disney Vacation Club (DVC) Members may also be eligible for a discount!
International Flower & Garden Festival
Belle and the Beast topiaries in the France Pavilion
Photo credit: Disney Parks Blog
The Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival is the annual Celebration of Spring, which runs March through May each year. It is definitely a fan favorite! It is quite a size to see your favorite characters in such an artistic form throughout the park. To keep guests informed, Epcot does offer a festival guide, known as the Garden Passport, filled with the necessary information about special guests, seminar and workshop events, topiary locations, and information about the outdoor kitchens around the World Showcase.
In the American Pavilion at the America Gardens Theatre at 5:30 p.m., 6:45 p.m., and 8:00 p.m. on festival evenings, the Garden Rocks Concert Series will be featured with an additional Dining Package if you are interested in reserved seating for the show.
International Food & Wine Festival
Photo credit: Disney Parks Blog
I have a soft spot for the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival, which runs annually September through November. This festival truly is an extraordinary event showcasing the food and drink of the world through 30+ kiosks around World Showcase each year. Don’t forget to stop by the Festival Center in Future World for merchandise and a listing of must-see events during the festival! Some favorite events include Celebrity Chef demonstrations, The CHEW live, Party for the Senses, and even some dining events at the WDW Resorts.
In the American Pavilion at the America Gardens Theatre at 5:30 p.m., 6:45 p.m., and 8:00 p.m. on festival evenings, the Eat to the Beat Concert Series will be featured with an additional Dining Package if you are interested in reserved seating for the show. Previous entertainers have included Hanson, Boyz II Men, Delta Rae, Christopher Cross, and more!
The best way to end the night at Epcot is with Illuminations: Reflections of Earth. As someone who heard the music three to five times a week while a Cast Member and the show as a guest often, I can say that it is definitely a show worth staying at the park for and is truly the perfect way to end your day at Epcot!
The show does take place at park closing each night and lasts approximately fifteen minutes (and costs Disney around $25,000 each night). Some great viewing areas include the Japan, Italy, and even China Pavilions as well as the area between the boat docks on the Future World side of World Showcase. If you still have energy at the end of the day, a trick-of-the-trade is to stay around for a bit afterwards to avoid the crowds rushing to the main exit. By doing this, you’ll actually get a private walk of a now semi-deserted World Showcase to either enjoy the ambiance or get some unique photographs!
With the stillness of the night there comes a time to understand,
to reach out and touch tomorrow, take the future in our hand.
We can see a new horizon built on all that we have done
and our dreams begin another thousand circles round the sun.
We go on through the joy and through the tears. We go on to discover new frontiers.
Moving on with the current of the years, we go on moving forward now as one.
Moving on in the spirit born to run.
We go on with each rising sun to a new day. We go on.
-We Go On
Illuminations: Reflections of Earth from the Japan Pavilion.
Photo credit: Ashley Hunt
Ashley Hunt is an Independent Agent of Fairytale Adventures Travel. She is an ex-Cast Member and a frequent guest of both Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida and Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California. She specializes in couples vacations and family travel at all Disney parks worldwide, Adventures by Disney, and Disney Cruise Line. Ashley can be reached at Ashley@fairytaleadv.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. Did you enjoy the 2-part blog? Be sure to visit Ashley’s Disney blog at MagicalParksandBeyond.com for more!