“EPCOT will always be in a state of becoming.” That’s an out-of-context Walt Disney quote about his utopian city of the future. It’s also what Walt Disney World now uses to justify change and sorta explain to tourists why the park is a hodgepodge of old and new, popular characters and classic dark rides, international and intergalactic flavor.
As a result of EPCOT’s eclecticness, there’s a lot about the park that’s incredibly taste-specific. On the one hand, there are the legacy attractions from or with roots in the circa-1982 EPCOT Center mission of ‘edutainment’ (education plus entertainment). On the other hand, there are modern thrill rides and family friendly fun with characters from hit Pixar, Disney, and Marvel movies.
A lot of the longtime Walt Disney World diehards are fervent fans of the former but not so wild about the latter. Then there are casual audiences including first-timers and Disney+ subscribers, many of whom have no clue what’s up with the older attractions but love the new stuff. Why is this background relevant? Because the type of fan making the list of what you should skip at EPCOT very much dictates what you’ll find on it.
For our part, we are old school EPCOT Center enthusiasts. We are the stereotypical millennial fans who grew up on the Walt Disney World of the late 1980s and 1990s, and love what EPCOT Center once was and, to some extent, still is. We’d give a lot to go back in time and experience the extinct “boring” rides one more time.
We’re also realists who understand (however begrudgingly) that change is inevitable and must happen so that the park comports with contemporary guest expectations. In other words, we sort of have a foot in each world, and are making this list from what we think is more or less a middle ground perspective. If World Showcase had a Switzerland pavilion, this blog would occupy it.
With that in mind, we want to start by addressing a number of attractions you’ll likely find on other versions of ‘what to skip at EPCOT’ lists, and discuss why those may or may not appeal to you. Just because something’s old doesn’t mean it won’t resonate with a Walt Disney World first-timer in 2024. Likewise, just because something is new doesn’t mean it’ll be your new favorite thing.
Divisive Rides We DON’T Skip
Spaceship Earth — There are very few rides we do every time we visit EPCOT, but this is one of them. Admittedly, part of that is because we invariably walk past it on our way into and out of the park, and it often has a 5 minute or less actual wait time even on busy days.
We have been critical of Spaceship Earth. It made our List of 10 Attractions That Have Aged Poorly at Walt Disney World. That’s not because we dislike the substance of the attraction–it’s because the ride is in a state of disrepair and is ~5 years overdue for a necessary refurbishment. The track is in rough shape and the descent gives off abandoned mall vibes, with random black light triangles (rad!) and a sea of curtains cordoning off unused areas. Between that and the antiquated technology used to produce the “interactive” video finale, Spaceship Earth feels woefully outdated.
Those aren’t the criticisms the average guest who dislikes Spaceship Earth would cite as their rationale, though. Instead, they’d point to the slow-moving dark ride that highlights how human communication has evolved via Audio Animatronics and historical scenes as being “boring.” One might argue that aspects of the attraction, ironically enough, fail to connect with guests due to storytelling that’s clunky, pacing that’s a tad too slow, and a conclusion that fails to inspire.
We vehemently disagree with that, but when you’re going from Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind and Test Track to Spaceship Earth, there’s an undeniable difference. It’s completely unsurprising that this ride–a sharp contrast to those–is not going to resonate with the same audiences.
For our part, we think that humanity’s shared story is a compelling one and the ride’s location inside Epcot’s iconic geodesic sphere is really cool. Not only that, but it’s one of the few remaining Audio Animatronics-heavy attractions in all of Walt Disney World, and we think there’s something impressive and novel about seeing dozens of robots in fully-realized physical environments.
For us, there’s still a novelty to Disney’s Audio Animatronics, and it’s timeless technology that still wows us. For that alone, we’d recommend giving Spaceship Earth a chance. For most first-timers, it’ll be a ‘warts and all’ attraction at best…but that ‘best’ can still be really, really good!
Living with the Land – We’ve been told that we’re “old souls.” Coming from boomers, that’s a compliment. From millennials, it’s a bit more backhanded. From Gen Z, it’s…I have no clue, we aren’t on TikTok. In any case, Living with the Land might is essentially EPCOT’s old souls attraction.
There is an Imagineered opening act with Audio Animatronics animals, but the bulk of this boat ride presents the history of horticulture and future of farming. In so doing, you go through the greenhouses at EPCOT to see firsthand the innovative growing techniques, cross-breeding of high-yield crops, and a cornucopia of vegetables, fruits and fish (it’s an atypical cornucopia) farmed around the world.
Not exactly the stuff that excites the kids these days. And honestly, I don’t blame casual guests who are not into this sort of thing. $100+ for admission to a theme park to see plants and learn about agriculture? The concept itself is a hard sell, and with that description, a lot of first-timers won’t even bother giving ~20 minutes of their valuable vacation time to this.
I think that’s unfortunate–and I say this not as an avid agriculturist, but as someone who hates gardening. I love the look this ride offers at experimental horticulture techniques. Living with the Land is informative, interesting and inspiring–a true testament to human ingenuity. The leisurely boat ride won’t “click” with everyone, but if the above description has you at least mildly intrigued, we’d encourage you to give Living with the Land a chance. At the very least, it’s a way to get off your feet and relax for a bit, and you typically will have a short wait in line.
Journey into Imagination with Figment — If you’re visiting EPCOT for the first time today, it’s impossible to understand the popularity of this annoying Spyro the Dragon knock-off. Even that’s a dated reference, but it wasn’t when Journey into Imagination stopped being truly good. Nevertheless, we don’t skip Journey into Imagination with Figment because it’s a little hit of nostalgia, like a trip down memory lane, albeit in a different multiverse that’s not nearly as good.
Suffice to say, Journey into Imagination with Figment is not the pinnacle of Walt Disney World. To the contrary, it’s a substandard Fantasyland-style dark ride with a grating character and mostly-underwhelming visuals. It will almost certainly not be your favorite attraction at Walt Disney World, or even EPCOT. It’ll probably be among your least favorites. Opinions will be even worse if you have high expectations predicated upon fan hype for Figment. So don’t do that.
But do do Journey into Imagination. For all of its abrasiveness and issues, there’s still a certain charm and whimsy to the attraction and its titular character. It’s also one of the few family-friendly rides in EPCOT that both appeals to kids and typically has a low wait time. Against all odds, they may end up loving the attraction and Figment, too!
The Seas with Nemo and Friends — This is both a pavilion at the front of the park (across from Moana’s Journey of Water) with multiple aquatic exhibits and a dark ride retelling of the Finding Nemo story with a few scenes projected into an actual aquarium. There are other high tech scenes and memorable effects, but this is probably overselling the attraction.
The aquarium is awesome, awe-inspiring, and so forth. It’s also something you can explore at your own pace, so if you or your kids aren’t awestruck by aquatic life and the majesty of the ocean, you can leave quickly. (Conversely, it’s dark and cool in here–the perfect respite from a hot and humid Florida day.)
The ride itself is only okay. There’s nothing annoying or offensive about it; it just isn’t memorable. It is pretty low stakes, and for that reason, we don’t recommend skipping it (nor do we do so ourselves). That’s really all there is to say about it.
Gran Fiesta Tour – This is a boat ride featuring two of the Three Caballeros (Jose Carioca and Panchito) with Mexico’s culture as a backdrop as they search for the third caballero (Donald Duck). Gran Fiesta Tour weaves culture together with Disney characters in a fun experience for anyone who likes boats, Mexico, fiestas, or waterfowl. And who doesn’t enjoy at least one thing from that trio?!
Gran Fiesta Tour is a minor attraction tucked away into the Mexico pavilion and the biggest criticism of it is typically that it’s a minor attraction. The wait time reflects that, though, as does just about everything associated with the ride. It features a tie-in to an obscure movie, doesn’t offer Lightning Lane, and has zero hype.
We love Gran Fiesta Tour and have practically zero complaints about it (we miss the old music, but that’s minor), but we also enjoy it for what it is. So long as you go in with the proper expectations, I cannot imagine being overly disappointed that allocated time to riding this.
The Only Ride We Skip at EPCOT
Mission: Space — For those who are unfamiliar with it, Mission: Space is a simulator that sends guests crashing on Mars in the more intense version and orbiting Earth on the less intense one. It’s an interactive thrill ride on the intense side or an interactive leisurely voyage (like Soarin: Over Earth) on the less intense side. At least, that’s the objective way of describing Mission: Space.
We want to love Mission: Space. The concept of space exploration is undoubtedly cool, and who didn’t dream of being an astronaut as a kid?! The idea of an outer space pavilion at EPCOT that offers excitement and education sounds like the perfect marriage of the park’s original mission.
Unfortunately, the execution leaves so much to be desired. The story itself isn’t compelling, the interactivity is phoned in and fails to engage, and the visuals are outdated and underwhelming. It’s like if you took a Sega arcade game from the early 2000s, put it in demo mode, and placed it on the back of a flatbed truck driven on I-4 by a typical Central Florida tourist.
What I mean by that is that we find Mission: Space to be a generally unpleasant attraction that’s lacking in payoff. The thrill ride isn’t necessarily exhilarating so much as it is discomforting–and the difference is huge. We haven’t done Mission: Space in a while, and generally attempt to avoid it except when “researching” itinerary updates. As repeat riders, the substance of the experience just is not worth the time commitment or physical punishment.
With that said, if you’re a first-timer to Walt Disney World, you necessarily are not a repeat rider. Although we are not fans of it, there are plenty of people who do enjoy Mission: Space. (I’m sure a chorus of them will come to its defense in the comments!) As with so much at Walt Disney World, it’s worth doing at least once.
To Mission: Space’s credit, it’s unique and a fully-Imagineered attraction, which is more than can be said about several of the shows on the list below. Speaking of which, if it came down to it, we’d recommend skipping every single film on that list (except the last one) before skipping Mission: Space. Even though we’re not fans of it, the potential upside to Mission: Space is higher than those films.
Shows We Skip at EPCOT
Beauty and the Beast Sing-Along — As children of the 90s, not only did we grow up on old school EPCOT Center. We also came of age during the Disney Renaissance and are huge fans of Beauty and the Beast as a result. We’re also new parents who plan on sharing that movie with our daughter.
One of my biggest fears (after dropping the baby) is that we’ll inadvertently forge a fan of this sing-along show. That we’ll accidentally find ourselves becoming frequent viewers of the very thing we’ve derided so strongly. My only hope is that Beauty and the Beast Sing-Along is retired before that potential catastrophe, but I don’t trust Disney to do the right thing and put it out of its misery. Although I’d like to believe our daughter will exercise brilliant judgment and hate this, small children are infamous for having terrible taste. Suffice to say, I’m worried.
As for why we hate Beauty and the Beast Sing-Along so much, because it’s an absolute abomination. The plot is an offensively bad piece of revisionist lore that spews forth the untold story of LeFou, which should have remained that way. As it turns out, it’s LeFou who was the puppetmaster of the entire story, working behind the scenes to bring Belle and Beast together, among many other things.
The story of Beauty and the Beast Sing-Along is far worse than a direct-to-video sequel, and proof that even Reddit fanfic authors who get downvoted into oblivion might someday see their awful dreams turned into our painful realities. The whole thing is painful to watch, and if you want to sing the admittedly great songs from Beauty and the Beast, just put on Disney+ or something. Avoid this at all costs.
Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival — It’s a similar story with this show, except the Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival is not offensively bad. To the contrary, the material here is actually good and well worth watching. So if you need to get off your feet and into the air-conditioning, it’s a decent option.
But at the end of the day, these are literally just Disney and Pixar cartoon shorts that you could watch on Disney+ at home. The difference is that they’re shown in a 3D theater with some effects thrown into the mix. It’s a nice enhancement to high-quality shorts that are worth watching…when viewed at home. Not so much when you’re spending a ton of money on an expensive vacation.
Awesome Planet — Again, a very similar scenario here. Just like the nearby film festival above, Awesome Planet is a good option for getting off your feet and sitting in a theater. But if you’re already in The Land pavilion, why not just give Living with the Land a chance, instead?
What we like about this is that the film showcases the Earth’s awe-inspiring beauty and natural landscapes. In-theater lighting effects and an original musical score, plus narration from Ty Burrell as a realtor (ha!) pitching Earth is amusing. However, there’s a ‘stock footage’ quality to the scenes, and it’s not even as good or memorable as something like Planet Earth. No one is going to put this in their Walt Disney World top 20, and the vast majority of you won’t even remember it upon returning home. That’s probably it’s most notable quality: it’s very forgettable.
Canada Far & Wide — Another film, this time showcasing the majesty and diversity of Canada in CircleVision 360. Beautiful musical score plus narration by actors Catherine O’Hara and Eugene Levy that offers a whirlwind tour of the country.
The downside of Canada Far & Wide is that it’s not as conducive to getting off your feet. The upside is that it’s more original and less stock footage. Being fans of O’Hara and Levy, as well as the breathtaking beauty of the Great White North, we do watch this from time to time. (Usually when ducking in to avoid a storm!) We don’t necessarily recommend or recommend avoiding it.
Reflections of China — Yet another Circle-Vision 360 film, this time about China. Poetically narrated, and features scenes in China where Western camera crews typically are not allowed. It’s beautifully shot and scored, with a sweeping camera that envelopes guests in the action in a way not possible through traditional film.
Reflections of China was slated for replacement a few years ago with a new film made jointly for Shanghai Disneyland and Walt Disney World. Unfortunately, that still hasn’t happened. While we are actually quite fond of the current film, it’s definitely a bit antiquated and has some suspect stereotypes.
We don’t always skip Reflections of China, but probably do 90% of the time. (Given how much we’re in EPCOT, that still means seeing it a lot.) As for you, it’s a good option for infrequent Walt Disney World visitors mostly due to the location–it’ll give you a needed breather while wandering World Showcase.
Turtle Talk with Crush — Frankly, this does not belong on the list at all if we’re talking average families. If anything, Turtle Talk with Crush is an underrated interactive show. It allows kids to talk with Crush from Finding Nemo in a screen-based attraction that mimics a water tank. Turtle Talk is just as enjoyable for adults, as part of the humor goes over kids’ heads, and there are a lot of “kids say the darndest things” type moments in every show.
The problem is, and the reason we’ve usually skipped it (until now!!!) is that it can be awkward for solo adults or childless couples. It’s clearly aimed at kids–even though it’s enjoyable for adults, they very much take a back seat and passive role in the fun, enjoying it vicariously through their kids. If you don’t have your own children, your sorta enjoying it via strangers. Perhaps it’s just us, but we feel out of place watching Turtle Talk without kids in tow. It’s kinda like going to a 10am theatrical showing of Paw Patrol: The Mighty Movie. (Well, we assume. We have the good judgment not to do that, even though Paw Patrol rules.)
Which attractions do you skip at EPCOT? Are there are rides that you recommend first-timers to EPCOT don’t do? What about the many movies and shows? Do you agree or disagree with our advice? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!