If you're like most families, when you think of Epcot at Walt Disney World Resort, you probably think of the massive Spaceship Earth or maybe even Soarin' Around the World. But there's so much more to this incredible park than meets the eye. Today, we're sharing some of our favorite hidden gems in Epcot that your family is sure to love! These are also listed on our Florida Travel Guide.
The Hidden Gems of Epcot at Walt Disney World Resort
Before we get started on the Hidden Gems, let me share with you your best options for saving money on this trip.
While traveling be sure you bring change so you can take advantage of any pressed penny machines you come across. These make great souvenirs.
Where to stay
With rentals available all over the world, you're sure to find the perfect place to stay. Airbnb has something for everyone. Plus, with prices that are often much cheaper than traditional hotels, you'll be able to stretch your vacation budget even further.
Tours and City Passes
Orlando Tour Passes
There are so many options for bundling attractions at a fraction of the cost to get more bang for your buck. In the Orlando area, these are your best options:
Orlando City Pass – Save on tickets to famous theme parks
Orlando GoCity Explorer Pass – Choose from 2-5 attractions. You will have 60 days to use the pass.
Orlando Sightseeing Pass – Entry to 2-5 attractions. Over 25 attractions to choose from.
Orlando Tours – 25+ tours and excursions to choose from.
Hidden Gems of Epcot
Epcot theme park is one of the four located at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida. It is many times a favorite of adults because of all the world cultures there and the festivals they hold. There are so many foods and drinks from all over the world that it can truly make for a great time for everyone.
But how did the idea of Epcot come to be? I am going to tell you a bit about the concept that Walt Disney had and then give you some fun hidden gems to look for and find on your trip there.
There are way too many to list, but if you want to know more, and learn about all of the parks, I suggest reading the book, The Hidden Magic of Walt Disney World by Susan Veness. It is packed full of tidbits & interesting information that a true Disney fan will get real joy out of reading.
Epcot, which stands for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, is completely different from the Magic Kingdom, which was the first of the parks to open in Florida. Epcot was based on a concept Walt had to literally build a self-contained city where people could live and work together and at the same time, make the world better. He wanted to see a utopian city and he spent a lot of time dreaming about it and planning it. Unfortunately, he passed away before the building of the park started in 1982.
You can see a model of his idea of the “City of the Future” when you ride the People Mover in Tomorrowland at Magic Kingdom.
The people who made the vision come to be and who designed and created all the awesome details and workings at the Disney theme parks are known as “Imagineers” and they are true artists and brilliant in their work. They are not allowed to sign their art, but you will see little hints sometimes that they put into it to give it a bit of themselves.
They came up with the idea of dividing Epcot into two “worlds”, making it like two parks in one.
The front half of the park is Future World and you can see so many things in this area that really is a tribute to that theme. They chose specific colors and design elements for the buildings to give them the look they wanted. Even the plants were chosen for size and color to carry the theme. The Global Community is the main theme of Epcot on the whole and it is obvious in so many of the details there.
The fountain known as the Innoventions Fountain of Nations is exactly that – It is made up of water from many rivers and bodies of water from all over the world. They were added at the opening as a symbol of peace. This fountain is amazing to watch at night, when the water dances and jumps to the music playing, with the lights changing colors on it. It is something to be sure you allow a few minutes to observe as you make your way out of the park.
One fun little thing to observe in that area is to check out the double water fountains between the fountain and the Mouse Gear shop – listen closely as you get a drink! This is a hidden gem of Epcot not to miss.
There are two areas in Future World – one being more dedicated to the living planet and one to space. The left side has space and more technology-themed attractions. The first and most obvious is Spaceship Earth, which is a ride that is located inside the Epcot “ball”. This building was designed with an amazing number of panels that fit together perfectly and it has a fascinating system for preventing rain from reaching the ground. Instead, it is funneled to the World Showcase Lagoon.
The ride inside is all about communication and takes you through history into the future. It is a classic ride at the park and normally doesn’t even have too long of a wait so be sure to check it out. You will see the animatronics Walt was famous for designing, and many wonderful scenes from history. Attention to detail is never spared with these attractions. For example, the paint conveyor used by Michelangelo on the Sistine Chapel ceiling is an exact replica, the steam press used in the printing scene is as well.
As you near the end of the ride you will hear the phrase “Looks like it’s going to be a great big beautiful tomorrow!” which is a tribute to Walt and the Carousel of Progress at the Magic Kingdom.
Mission Space and Test Track are rides that are located to the left of Spaceship earth and if you have kids with you who are all about the rides, be sure to go to these, as there are not as many rides out in the World Showcase.
Inside Mission Space, there are many tributes to space exploration like quotes on the walls from many famous astronauts and the gold spheres that are in the Planetary Plaza which represent the moon missions that have been completed.
When you are lining up for the ride there are artist “signatures” of a kind – on the glass display panel you’ll see the white numbers and letter combinations displayed. Those are the initials of the Imagineers. How about that for great hidden gems of Epcot.
Many of the pieces on the set in Mission Control are from the old Mission to Mars ride at Magic Kingdom, so if you miss that ride, be sure to check that out.
The test track is a really fun racing ride that puts you in as the crash test dummy. Each car on the ride is powered by three working computers and has twenty-two wheels, even though you can only see just six.
On the opposite side of Future World is the Land and the Seas. Both are so well done and worth spending a couple of hours in if you have the time. The tile work heading into the Land is done in a gorgeous mosaic that represents the layers of the earth. You will see that the pavement is colored red and black as you come closer to the doors, which represents volcanic lava.
All of the elements used in the murals at the entrance were made from materials on Disney World property.
The center of the pavilion contains a beautiful hot air balloon display and those balloons represent Earth and the four seasons.
On the Living with the Land ride, you will see all sorts of plants that are grown using hydroponics. The foods grown there are used in a few of the restaurants that are nearby. Note the number on the mailbox on the ride as being #82. A nod to the year Epcot opened.
Also, be sure to ride Soarin’ – it is fantastic!
The Seas area is the only place in Epcot you will see live animals and there are many there. The first manatee to be born there was named Chester, as a tribute to the importance of Disney’s commitment to nature – it stands for Children Helping Endangered Species To Eventually Recover.
Now to the other half of the park – The World Showcase.
The layout of the countries is in the order it is on purpose, of course. America is in the center across the Lagoon and Mexico and Canada are on the outside borders on either end. It was believed that the USA should be the “host” to the world so it is centered.
There are eleven pavilions in the whole showcase and there is plenty of room for more, so maybe down the road, there will be!
America is built on top of another story, similar to the way the Magic Kingdom has its lower story underneath. As you approach it you will notice how it takes a subtle angle upwards.
The pavilion is on the second floor while the first floor houses the animatronics that is in the attraction.
The USA pavilion is designed using what is called “forced perspective”, a trick used in many buildings in Disney, such as the Castle at Magic Kingdom. If you stand at the bottom of the building and look up, you would think it was two stories high, with a cupola on the top, but it is actually five stories! The room was needed for the stage but to keep with Colonial style, buildings were never more than two stories.
In each country, there are so many details applied to make it authentic and as close to the real thing as possible.
Here are just a few:
Mexico’s pavilion is actually a combination of Mayan and Aztec architecture, and the pyramid itself represents the Aztec temple of Quetzalcoatl. The Fire God altar at the top is literally a launching location for fireworks later that night.
The buildings in Norway are designed after a combination of styles in the country and one features the Frozen ride.
The bakery café roof was intended to be the type with the grass and the goat on the roof to maintain it, but of course, that was not a practical plan, so the gardeners trim it by hand.
There is a hidden Mickey in the mural on the ride if you look closely, too. This is one of the great hidden gems of Epcot.
Germany is a favorite spot in the World Showcase and for good reason. Every building is beautiful and adorned with detail. There are sixteen coats of arms outside the Sommerfest and Biergarten that represent Germany’s sixteen regions.
The train is set up in the fashion of an authentic German town.
Italy features beautiful buildings and several sculptures you will want to see like the statue of Neptune, the Lion of St. Mark, St. Theodore, and the Dragon and the Campanile.
In Japan, the roof ornament on the pagoda is a Sorin, which means “Set of Treasures” and has great religious symbolism. It also doubles as a lightning rod to stabilize the structure.
The layout inside the Mitsukoshi store is meant to take you through time. The items for sale go from ancient times to modern.
Inside the China Pavillion, there is a pattern of concentric circles which represent Heaven, Earth, and Man, and as you move inward to the center spot, you can test that the building has perfect acoustics. Whisper something and hear it bounce right back to you.
There are intentional mistakes made in the designs in Morocco, to pay tribute to the Muslim belief that no one is perfect besides Allah.
If you go to the Fez House, which is decorated almost totally in tiles, stop and listen closely and you’ll hear conversations of the family living there going on inside.
The Eiffel Tower in France is another feature that uses the forced perspective trick. It is built to one-tenth the scale of the original and it has bird deterrents on it, so as not to ruin the illusion when the birds land on it, making them look huge and the tower too small.
There are so many gems like these in every area of the park, too many to list for sure. My hope is that you will catch a couple of them when you go each time, and my advice is to truly take your time observing as you go. You never know what you may see!
Epcot is one of our favorite parks at Walt Disney World Resort. Between the amazing attractions, delicious food, and interesting exhibits, there’s always something new to discover. Have you had a chance to explore all that Epcot has to offer? What were your favorite hidden gems of Epcot? Let us know in the comments below!