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Epcot at Walt Disney World by Sally Kilpatrick

Last week I gave a brief overview of how the Kilpatrick clan tackles the Magic Kingdom. This week we’re talking about another beast entirely: Epcot. On the surface you may think Epcot is a couple of thrill rides and a few countries to walk through. No big deal. Scratch that surface and you’ll find a totally different experience, one that can keep you exploring for days.

Epcot has basically two different sections: Future World and World Showcase. Unlike the Magic Kingdom, I don’t think it’s imperative you get there early unless you’re absolutely dying to ride the biggest E ticket attractions, Soarin’ and Test Track. Even then, Test Track has a single rider line so Epcot is, in many ways, the best place  to start on one of those days when you sleep in.

But don’t sleep in too late! Soarin’ is a different ride experience where you’ll hang glide over California. It’s a one of a kind ride you won’t want to miss. Epcot is also a good place for those who aren’t necessarily thrill-seekers since the vast majority of attractions don’t have height limits—there’s plenty to dowith the kids if you only know where to look. Spaceship Earth is a ride through our history of communication (thank the Phoenicians for me, please) and Ellen’s Universe of Energy is a great place to hang out in the air conditioning on a crowded day. Both of my children have napped on that one while I enjoyed Ellen’s antics. Agricultural enthusiasts will like Living with the Land while kids will especially enjoy The Seas with Nemo and Friends and Turtle Talk with Crush. Meanwhile, over at the World Showcase, all of the rides are kid friendly—just watch out for the trolls in Norway for the littlest ones.

Two other things to remember that are especially good for the kids: character dining and the nightly show, Illuminations: Reflections of Earth. If you’re looking for a good place to meet the princesses, you’ll meet several at  Akershus. Looking for Mickey and friends? Try the Garden Grill. Do make reservations well in advance of your trip, though, since seating fills up quickly. What better way to cap off your day than with Epcot’s nightly show of Illuminations. Epcot’s “fireworks” show is centered on the World Showcase Lagoon which means you can find some good spots to see it from just about anywhere. I think my favorite spot so far is next to Norway.

But, Sally, I took my kids to Epcot, and they were bored to tears. Well, that’s because Epcot is really for the adults. One of my absolute favorite pastimes iseating and drinking my way through World Showcase. I skip lunch or supper—sometimes both—and share snacks with Ryan all the way through.( I recommend starting with Canada, though. Bad things can happen when you start with the tequila over in Mexico.) Some of our favorites include the cheddar cheese soup in Canada, fish and chips (and beer) in the UK, ham and cheese croissant (and wine or Grey Goose slush) in France, lamb and couscous (and Casabeer and sangria) in Morocco, pizza (and wine) in Italy, sake in Japan, the Werther’s shop (and beer) in Germany, pot stickers in China, school bread in Norway, and at this point who cares what there is to eat in Mexico? No, seriously, I love the Nachos…and the Dos Equis. But the best? La cava de tequila. Pomegranate margarita, people. A word of caution: don’t actually try to eat and drink all of this on the same day. Just don’t. And, yes, I left out a lot. It’s okay. You won’t hit them all—unless you have several good friends to share and share alike.

Now, I love Epcot but I love, love, love the Food & Wine Festival. It’s like international binging on steroids. You could easily spend a week and never leave Epcot. In addition to all of the usual pavilions, Epcot sets up over 25 booths with even more countries, places like South Africa (filet mignon, sweet potatoes, and Shiraz), Argentina, Poland, and Belgium. There are even booths dedicated to simple things like dessert, cheese, and beer. Basically, each of the booths offers a small sample of food and beverage from the country in question. Most of the prices are reasonable, but at around $5 per sample you can run up a billquickly, so be sure to budget for any eating sprees. If you want to keep yourself to a budget you can purchase a wrist band gift card and load it with the amount of money you want to spend—it’s a handy little thing if you want to sample the wares without having to constantly reach for your wallet.

In addition to eating until they have to roll you back to the hotel, you can also have a special gourmet dinner (some of these are at restaurants outsideEpcot), attend a cooking seminar or a wine tasting class, attend a concert, or even experience a special party like Party for the Senses. While Party for the Senses and the special gourmet dinners are expensive, the seminars and booths themselves usually are not. The concerts? Free. You can basically make the Food and Wine experience just as cheap or expensive as you would like for it to be. Want to find out more? This web site has some great info you can explore to find out more including maps, menus, and the concert line up. http://www.wdwinfo.com/wdwinfo/guides/epcot/events/index.htm)

Oh, I almost forgot! Reservations. Dining reservations go quickly on a regular day, so make sure you think ahead if you want a formal sit-down meal. You’ll also need to make reservations for any class or seminar that’s a must see. That said, if you have neither the time nor the inclination to make reservations, make sure you start each Food & Wine day at the Welcome Center. You can ask which seminars and classes have availability and/or browse the book store and stroll through the wine cellar and souvenir shop.

Wow. I almost need an Alka-Seltzer just thinking about it. I’m actually going to be attending Food & Wine briefly at the end of September when I go for the Tower of Terror Ten Miler. Speaking of, did you know there’s the Wine & Wine Half Marathon? You could burn enough calories to earn your trip around the world if you run that one.

Any other questions? If I don’t know the answer, I’ll find someone who does….
In the meantime, get ready for Disney’s Hollywood Studios!

Mary Preston - August 17, 2012 - 4:02 am

I do love food experiences. They can create such wonderful memories.

Debbie Kaufman - August 17, 2012 - 7:17 am

Yum, I think I’ll have to go to Epcot when I’m not counting the calories. Sounds like a lot has changed. I haven’t been to Epcot in a little over 20 years. Yes, I know, practically criminal of me :)

Marilyn Baron - August 17, 2012 - 7:48 am

Debbie is right. A lot has changed since I’ve last visited EPCOT. In fact, I was one of the first visitors because my company AT&T at the time was sponsoring one of the exhibits — I think Spaceship Earth but I seem to have forgotten. But you have my attention with all the talk of the Food and Wine Festival. Itdoes sound wonderful. I’m not big on rollercoasters but if Soarin’ isn’t too scary I might like that. Thanks for another great post.

Maxine - August 17, 2012 - 8:06 am

I just had breakfast and reading your post has me wanting to go to an early lunch – at Epcot! Gee, Sally, you make it sound so fantastic – even the rides. I’ve got to try it!

Sally Kilpatrick - August 17, 2012 - 9:01 am

Mary, we’ve become THOSE people. You know, the people who take pictures of our food? Now every trip we take also involves checking out Urban Spoon or Roadfood or some other source that will tell us the best local cuisine.

Debbie, I do have to diet before and after a trip to Epcot. Sad, but true. And, yes, a LOT has changed in the past 20 years. Of course, Captain EO is back, so you can enjoy that cheesy goodness.

Marilyn, I believe you’re right about AT&T–now Spaceship Earth is sponsored by Siemens, I think. I’m telling you, food and wine is for the adults.

Maxine, thanks! Sorry to impose my hobbit habits on you, though! ;-)

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Tami Brothers - August 17, 2012 - 10:24 am

Hey Sally! Thanks a ton for all this info. We are headed to Epcot in October. We’ve been twice before, but both times with other couples (and their kids). My son LOVES the agriculture parts and would ride the Living with the Land ride over and over again. The last time we went, we had to tell him no because the other kids just weren’t interested. This year, we said we will ride it as often as he wants to.

During both those trips, we barely even touched the tour of the countries. We would hit one or two and then just run out of time. This trip, we are attending Epcot two days in a row in order to hit all the places.

Oh, and one of our favorite parts about Disney is the penny smasher machines and the hidden Mickeys. We have pennies from most of the other parks, but very few from Epcot. So we are getting really excited to finish up our collection.

We will DEFINITELY have to plan something around the Food and Wine tours. Never heard of those but now that I have… :)

Looking forward to the next post!

Tami

Sia Huff - August 17, 2012 - 11:14 am

Thanks for the great information and tips. We haven’t been to the Food & Wines Festival yet. But with your glowing recommendation, we’ll put it into our future plans for sure. Maybe just hubby and I will go. Can you sign up for the tastings and such on-line before you go to F&WF?
I love Soarin. To me it’s the best ride in Epcot. I also love a purple dragon named Figment. Can’t remember the name of the ride.
Isn’t the Garden Grill the resturant that rotates around? I believe they use all the fresh produce grown in The Land – very good.
I have to admit, Epcot is the park we’ve explored the least. I need to change that. Thanks for making Epcot exciting!

Carol Burnside - August 17, 2012 - 3:18 pm

Sally, you left off the best part of Epcot: Mexico…the jungle ride found inside the restaurant. It’s a really cool, refreshing ride to take after being in the heat for awhile. Cool off, then your tummy is more ameniable for another round of food. ;)

Oh, and Soarin’? One of my favs. I love that you can smell oranges while gliding over the groves and salt in the air over the ocean. It’s my save way to hang glide across the USA.

Pam Asberry - August 17, 2012 - 5:00 pm

I’ve never been to Epcot. But now that I know there is WINE – and pomegranate margaritas – I am ready to go. And I will totally take pictures of my food. It’s what the cool kids do.

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