Walt Disney intended for EPCOT to be a city where people could live, work, and play without ever leaving Disney World property. Sadly, he died in December 1966 before he could see his Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow (hence the name EPCOT) through to fruition.
When EPCOT opened on October 1, 1982, the theme park contained two lands: Future World and World Showcase. Future World was EPCOT’s hub of technology, imagination, and human achievement, while World Showcase celebrated global cultures and their traditions, art, and cuisine.
Though EPCOT never became the city Walt dreamt of, it retained Walt’s forward-thinking vision and innovative spirit. Because of that, the park is still evolving nearly 40 years later. EPCOT is in the midst of a massive, multi-year overhaul that will completely transform the park and it begins as soon as you step through the gates.
New Neighborhoods and Entrance Fountain
Rather than Future World and World Showcase, EPCOT is now partitioned into four “neighborhoods” called World Celebration, World Nature, World Discovery, and World Showcase. This new delineation better reflects the various attractions and experiences around EPCOT, as well as the changes still to come.
The main entrance to EPCOT is through World Celebration. Just after you step into the park, you are greeted by a redesigned entrance fountain and courtyard that were unveiled in December 2020. Three acrylic pylons bearing the park’s logo sit in the center of the fountain, drawing your eyes upward toward Spaceship Earth. At night, the changing colors of the fountain sync up seamlessly with the lights on walls surrounding the courtyard and the new permanent lighting package installed on Spaceship Earth.
A Rat’s Eye View of France
There are 11 pavilions around EPCOT’s World Showcase, each showcasing the food, art, architecture, and traditions of the countries they represent. In the France pavilion, you can grab a baguette from the patisserie and wander the cobblestone streets as you window shop for authentic French wares.
If you’re up for an adventure, you can also shrink to the size of a rat and scurry around the kitchen and dining room of Gusteau’s, the fictional Parisian restaurant made famous in Disney-Pixar’s 2007 film Ratatouille, on the new Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure ride.
Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure is a family-friendly, 4D dark ride that finds you zigging and zagging through Gusteau’s kitchen in the most adorable rat-shaped ride vehicle as you try to gather the ingredients to make the perfect dish for your friends and family (who are all rats, by the way).
If your culinary escapade leaves you feeling hungry, be sure to visit the newly opened La Crêperie de Paris for a sweet crêpe or savory galette (and a cider to wash it down) before you head back out to explore the rest of World Showcase.
An Ambitious New Nighttime Show
“Illuminations: Reflections of Earth” played nightly on EPCOT’s World Showcase Lagoon for 20 years. While the show was beloved by many for its message of unity and hope, Disney has made huge strides in what it can do with pyrotechnics, projections, and storytelling since the show’s 1999 debut. Enter EPCOT’s newest nighttime spectacular, Harmonious.
Harmonious blends these new technologies with Disney’s knack for narrative in ways that weren’t possible 20 years ago. That’s a lot to ask of huge floating set pieces with LED screens, mechanical arms, lasers, and fireworks, but the familiar Disney tunes and imagery pull it all together seamlessly.
Disney worked with artists from around the globe to interpret Disney songs in their native languages and with their own stylistic flair. The result is a show whose core message echoes that of its predecessor–that we are more alike than we are different, but those differences are worth celebrating.
A Restaurant With Artificial Gravity
Even in the age of space tourism, most of us need to accept that we will never have enough money in the bank to eat and drink among the (literal) stars. At Space 220 in EPCOT’s World Discovery neighborhood, however, you can do just that.
To get to the new eatery, you enter an elevator that takes you 220 miles above Earth to the Centauri Space Station. Why 220 miles? According to Disney, the restaurant team actually had conversations with NASA to determine how a space restaurant tethered to Earth by an elevator would work and how high the elevator would need to travel.
The tableware and upscale menu have the same space-age vibes as the views of Earth outside the large panoramic windows. Lunch and dinner reservations are available online or you can try your luck at snagging a first-come-first-serve spot in the open seating lounge.
A “Grand and Miraculous” New Look For Spaceship Earth
Spaceship Earth is one of EPCOT’s opening day attractions and the park’s most recognizable icon (yes, there really is a ride inside that giant, silver geosphere). The ride tells the story of human history, beginning with our wooly mammoth-hunting ancestors up through the dawn of the information age in the 1970s.
The ride hasn’t changed much over the years–save for updates to the narration–and we’ve moved way beyond supercomputers that take up the entire room. A lengthy refurbishment to the ride’s storyline was scheduled to begin in late May of 2020, but Disney World’s pandemic-related shutdown put the updates on hold indefinitely.
Although the interior may not get its spruce up right away, the exterior recently received a colorful makeover that transforms it into a Beacon of Magic every evening after the sun goes down. Spaceship Earth is now covered in programmable LED lights that give it the power to sparkle and shine in a variety of colors and patterns.
EPCOT’s First “Other-World” Showcase Pavilion
Until now, the cultures represented in EPCOT have all been from planet Earth. That’s all about to change when the park’s “Guardians of the Galaxy” themed coaster opens in 2022. Located in World Discovery, “Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind” will be housed inside EPCOT’s first “other world” showcase pavilion, the Wonders of Xandar pavilion.
If you’re familiar with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, you’ll remember Xandar as one of the planets the Guardians visit in both films. If not, the Wonders of Xandar pavilion will teach you everything you need to know to set the stage for the coaster experience. “Cosmic Rewind” will mark quite a few firsts for Disney attractions. It’s the first Disney coaster with a reverse launch, as well as the first “omnicoaster” that has the functionality of a coaster and an omnimover attraction that can turn you toward the action.
A lot of the story will play out on large screens inside the ride building and will presumably be accompanied by the classic ’70s and ’80s tunes featured in the films.
Spaces Where Kids of All Ages Can Play
Most Disney travelers have at least a smidge of playfulness left in them. There are a couple of attractions on the way that will satisfy the whims of your inner child, no matter how deep you bury it in your everyday life.
Details on World Nature’s Journey of Water, Inspired by “Moana,” are sparse thus far and it has yet to receive an official opening date, but it will be the first Disney attraction inspired by the hit animated film. Though we don’t know much, we do know it will be a walkthrough attraction rather than a ride and the concept art shows lush greenery and water features that allow you to interact with the magical waters of Motunui à la Moana, while sneaking in a bit of education along the way.
In World Discovery, a PLAY! Pavilion was slated to open in time for Disney World’s 50th anniversary, but the pandemic threw a wrench in those plans, too. Disney hasn’t shared any updates on the state of the attraction, but they haven’t announced its demise, either. When it hopefully does open, the PLAY! Pavilion will be a bustling “digital metropolis” where you can pal around with your friends, family, and favorite Disney characters while you play real and virtual games and activities.