Epcot is a brilliant theme park and unlike any other around the world, with its mixture of epic rides in Future World and culture-packed World Showcase. The best Epcot attractions like Soarin’, Test Track and Frozen Ever After meant that we spent a day and half here this trip and left wanting more.
Epcot is also huge (more than twice the size of Magic Kingdom!), so you need a good plan for what to FastPass at Epcot to make the most of your time.
Epcot is like a hidden treasure, because the best Epcot rides are pretty much all indoors, unlike the rollercoasters that touch the sky at other parks. And as with everything Disney, a ride is not merely about the thrill of a steep descent, it is about the story, the atmosphere and where it takes your imagination.
- Epcot at Disney World
- What to FastPass at Epcot
- Five best Epcot rides
- Epcot World Showcase
- Our Epcot itinerary
- FastPass strategy
- Rope drop
- Day 1 at Epcot – 8.30am-3.30pm
- Day 2 at Epcot – 12pm-5.30pm
Epcot at Disney World
Once you enter the main gates, the first half of Epcot that you encounter is devoted to Future World. It is home to most of the rides, where fast cars, rocket ships, undersea and aerial exploration dominate.
This is where you’ll find the giant golfball that is the symbol of Epcot. Of course it’s not a giant golfball, it’s a geodesic sphere with the Spaceship Earth ride inside, but it does look very golf-inspired.
The second half of Epcot showcases ten countries from around the world. There’s Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, Italy, Japan, Morocco, France, United Kingdom and Canada arranged in order clockwise around the lake.
Compared to visiting the real countries it’s pretty cheesy and as a teen I wasn’t a fan, but these days I love the novelty of getting a little taster of each country, especially the food. Such wonderful inspiration for planning future travels! And the people staffing each country are from that country so it’s wonderful to hear the accents and languages.
What to FastPass at Epcot
What are FastPasses?
FastPasses let you skip the ride and attractions lines. They are generally super effective, so you will often walk straight onto a ride or only wait a few minutes. Even when the standby line is hours long.
At Disney World FastPasses are electronic and can be booked 30-60 days in advance. If you’re not a planner, then this might be a challenge, but holding FastPasses for key rides will radically improve your park experience, so it’s worth giving them some thought.
When you can book your FastPasses depends on whether you’re staying at a Disney hotel (60 days) or not (30 days).
There are other benefits of staying on-site like Extra Magic Hours when you have early access to the park. We are big fans, despite the relative expense. Find out more here.
You can book three FastPasses per person per day and they all need to be at the same park.
You will have an hour from the time you select to use your FastPass and these hour blocks cannot overlap.
To be ready to book your FastPasses, make sure your Disney World entry tickets are linked in My Disney Experience. If you have a Disney hotel booking, make sure that’s there too.
Now put your booking date in your diary. Just type “60 days before 3 April” or whatever your date is into Google. You can book on the My Disney Experience website or app, although the website is easier. And be ready at 7am Eastern (New York) time.
Epcot FastPass tiers
FastPasses at Epcot are tiered. You can choose one from Tier 1 and two from Tier 2. The most valuable Epcot FastPasses are the Tier 1 rides.
Tier 1 rides/attractions –
- Soarin’ Around the World (ride)
- Test Track (ride)
- Frozen Ever After (ride)
- Illuminations: Reflection of Earth (evening light show)
- Epcot Character Greeting
Tier 2 rides/attractions –
- Mission: SPACE (ride)
- Spaceship Earth (ride)
- The Seas with Nemo & Friends (ride)
- Turtle Talk with Crush (attraction)
- Living with the Land (ride)
- Pixar Short Film Festival (attraction)
- Journey Into Imagination With Figment (ride)
Tier 1 FastPass
Soarin’ Around the World is my pick for your Tier 1 FastPass. With no new rides or attractions in Epcot at the moment, nothing is likely to have ridiculous 3 hour long queues. But this is usually the most popular ride with the longest queues.
Test Track is definitely a contender for best ride, but I believe if you FastPass it then you bypass the design-your-own-car stage which is half the fun.
Frozen Ever After is relatively new and very popular, but I just don’t think it can compare with Soarin’ unless travelling with children who are too short for Soarin’.
Tier 2 FastPass
For Tier 2, definitely book Mission: SPACE and Spaceship Earth as they tend to have the longest lines and are great rides.
Five best Epcot rides
Soarin’ Around the World
Located in Future World and with a minimum height of 102cm (40in), Soarin’ is where you explore the skies by hang glider.
Sit safely strapped in with your legs dangling in front of a 180 degree, 24 metre high IMAX screen. Feel yourself lifting into the sky and drifting gently on the breeze as the world turns beneath you.
Fly over the Great Wall of China, Egyptian pyramids and Sydney Harbour, past polar bears in Greenland, elephants in Africa and water crashing over Iguazu Falls.
This is not a scary ride, rather it is an awe-inspiring journey over some of our planet’s most incredible sights, both man-made and natural. Spectacular footage and the gentle movement of your seat transports your spirit from one marvel to the next.
Test Track in Future World enables you to design the car of your dreams, then put it to the test zipping around the track. Minimum height is 102cm (40in).
It’s part computer creativity, part competition and part high-speed racetrack. You design in pairs so we did adults versus kids. David and my black, graffitied, plasma-burning muscle car was magnificent!
Hamish in particular puts a lot of thought into his car and loves fiddling around with its specifications. When you’re on the ride part your car gets scored and compared with the other pair in your group. That back story is what makes this ride one of our absolute favourites.
On exiting this ride there’s more fun in store with computer games, driving games, car advertisements to design and real cars to sit in.
Mission: SPACE is an exciting simulation ride in Future World, where you become an astronaut in a space shuttle taking off and flying around Earth for Green or to Mars for Orange (more information on Green and Orange below). I love the almost weightless feeling they manage to achieve here. Just like you’re floating in space. Minimum height is 102cm (40in) for Green and 112cm (44in) for Orange.
There are two queues for Mission: SPACE, but you don’t need to decide which you’ll do until you get there. Orange is more intense with spinning and tilting (and has been known to cause motion sickness), whereas Green is a gentler, more family-friendly adventure with light movement and no spinning.
We have done Green every time and it’s plenty of movement for us.
Advanced Training Lab
On exiting Mission: SPACE there is so much more to do in the Advanced Training Lab before you go back outside. Most of the room is devoted to a giant computer game where everyone can play together, one half of the computers against the other.
Hamish was right into this and you can see him up the front with the adults trying to get their space shuttle to be the first to take off. The rest of us were at individual computers making the components to send up to them. Easy to play, fantastic fun and great camaraderie amongst strangers.
There’s other computer games and even a playground for little ones.
Frozen Ever After
This is one of only two rides in World Showcase – Norway to be specific. It is a relaxing boat ride through the world of Frozen with a little splashdown. There is no minimum height.
Your Viking-style boat will take you past all the characters from the movie, many of them singing those familiar songs. It’s a lovely ride and the characters are adorable, but I was glad we had a FastPass and so hadn’t waited long for it.
Spaceship Earth in Future World is a ride that has existed since Epcot opened in 1982. It’s a slow-moving ride inside the giant Epcot sphere and is essentially a lesson on the history of human communication. But a surprisingly enjoyable one. The kids loved it!
There’s an element of retro fun, but the touch screen and computer animation that puts your face into the ride adds a cool layer.
On exiting the ride there’s a whole Project Tomorrow exhibition to explore with computer games for trying out the latest technology in medicine, driving, home gadgets and more.
Epcot World Showcase
The Epcot World Showcase is not something you can easily whizz around. If you walk past all the countries without stepping off the main path, then it is about a 2km or 30min wander. Stopping for photos, sampling the wide range of food on offer and exploring every country could easily take a couple of hours.
Last trip we prioritised the rides of Future World in our half day visit, so chose to only visit the United Kingdom. There’s a fabulous pub, where we had an early dinner, and it’s reasonably accessible having only to pass Canada to get there. See the pics from last trip here.
However, discovering the World Showcase was high on my wishlist for this trip. The rest of the family were not as excited about it and probably would have happily skipped it to revisit their favourite rides, but I could have spent much longer there. It was really quite beautiful.
Mexico is joyous and colourful with a mini (but still spectacular) Chichen Itza, a craft market, boat ride and Mariachi band.
I hadn’t heard of Chichen Itza before, but it’s massively famous in this part of the world. It is the most significant Mayan site in Mexico and one of the New Seven Wonders of the World alongside the Egyptian pyramids and Great Wall of China.
We had planned to visit the real Chichen Itza as part of our Caribbean cruise two weeks after our Epcot visit, but unfortunately a delayed port arrival caused that shore excursion to be cancelled. So we were very glad to have at least seen this version!
Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros
This is the other ride in the World Showcase and is a bit of hidden gem, because it rarely has a queue. We walked straight onto this relaxing boat ride with no minimum height.
Inspired by the 1944 Disney film The Three Caballeros, this ride takes you past some of the most famous sights and cities in Mexico while a Mexican rooster and a Brazilian parrot are searching for Donald Duck.
We really enjoyed it and it’s certainly a great way to get off your feet for awhile and be entertained by the colours, sights and music of Mexico.
Norway is absolutely stunning. This picturesque pavilion cemented Norway’s place near the top of my travel wishlist. There were some cheeky Vikings hanging out, mouth-watering traditional pastries and plenty of Norwegian being spoken.
This is where you’ll find the Akershus princess character meal in a building modelled on a Norwegian castle. Also an Anna & Elsa meet and greet, and the Frozen Ever After ride.
With limited time in the Epcot World Showcase we walked past the following countries without delving inside.
Filled with a wonderful hodge-podge of British buildings, the United Kingdom pavilion is a fabulous spot to explore and the souvenir shops are incredible. There’s a mix of things you might buy in Britain such as a scroll with your family crest, tea, tartan or a Rolling Stones t-shirt, as well as Disney-related items like an adult-sized Mary Poppins dress or toy sword.
We loved our meal at the pub here so much last visit that we headed back this time. More information and photos in our itinerary below.
Our Epcot itinerary
We planned to visit Epcot on two separate days, one full day and one half day. The best thing about having multiple days is multiple FastPasses, so our two day Fastpass strategy was –
Day 1 – Frozen Ever After (Tier 1) and Mission: SPACE and Turtle Talk with Crush (Tier 2)
Day 2 – Soarin’ Around the World (Tier 1) and Mission: SPACE and Spaceship Earth (Tier 2)
We didn’t want to FastPass Test Track and miss out on designing our cars, so this gave us FastPasses to the four other best Epcot rides plus one we hadn’t been on before – Turtle Talk with Crush.
Rope drop is the term given to when they let people onto the rides. It is typically up to half an hour before official park open time. They let you into the park and close to the rides, but hold a rope up which is dropped at the magic time.
On the day of our visit, official park open time was 9am, so we arrived at 8.25am expecting rope drop to be about 8.40am, but it only opened a few minutes before 9am. Possibly because of technical issues with Test Track, one of the most popular rides.
Day 1 at Epcot – 8.30am-3.30pm
9am Test Track
We planned to rope drop Test Track, but unfortunately ended up queuing for just over an hour for it because it didn’t open, then it paused for awhile. As I said, it was having technical troubles. Later in the day it was closed again. But we hung in there and were pleased we got on it.
10.45am Turtle Talk with Crush (FastPass)
Turtle Talk with Crush is a Finding Nemo-themed interactive animated comedy show I guess you’d call it, with Crush talking to the small theatre of people. The guy voicing Crush was hilarious and so quick to think of comebacks when talking to individual kids and parents in the audience. My expectations were low but it was such a laugh.
11.30am Mission: SPACE
Loved our Green experience as detailed above.
12.30pm World Showcase
Only hit a couple of countries today.
Started at Mexico, going on the Gran Fiesta ride.
Then Norway with a snack and a FastPass for Frozen Ever After.
1.40pm Lunch with Chip ‘n’ Dale
Back to Future World for a character meal with Chip, Dale, Pluto and Mickey. My full write-up on this fun Garden Grill Epcot experience is here.
Day 2 at Epcot – 12pm-5.30pm
12.50pm Lunch at the Rose & Crown
After moving hotels this morning, we headed straight for United Kingdom in the World Showcase for a leisurely lunch at the Rose & Crown pub. (Make bookings on My Disney Experience up to 180 days in advance.)
Our waiter was a fabulous guy from Northern Ireland, there was plenty of delicious English food and beer, all enjoyed at an outdoor shady table overlooking the lake. Heaven!
2.30pm World Showcase
We had a wander through the fantastic souvenir shops of the United Kingdom, then continued our exploration of the World Showcase. We passed through Canada, France, Morocco, Japan, Italy, China, Norway and Mexico. I could have spent a lot more time exploring this area!
3.30pm Mission: SPACE (FastPass)
Another fun ride on this family favourite, making sure we changed our responsibilities around the roles of pilot, navigator, engineer and commander.
4.15pm Spaceship Earth (FastPass)
There was quite a long queue so we were very happy not to be waiting in it. Really enjoyed it and the kids loved the Project Tomorrow area at the end.
5pm Soarin’ Around the World (FastPass)
There’s something quite magical about flying over the Great Wall of China in all its ancient beauty. Even more so when it’s followed by one magnificent sight after another.
Such an awesome ride and it was cool to see our hometown of Sydney at its sunny, sparkling best. Check out my 5 day Sydney itinerary if you’re thinking of visiting.
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