Epcot vs. Animal Kingdom

These Disney parks could not be more different, but each offers a unique and worthwhile experience.
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Written by Carissa Rawson
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Edited by Meghan Coyle
Assistant Assigning Editor
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Walt Disney World is a massive, sprawling complex full of theme parks, resorts and water parks — so we don’t blame you if it all gets a little overwhelming. Should you visit each park? When does each one open? Are there different rides in different locations? How many parks are there?

Epcot and Animal Kingdom are two of the parks located within Walt Disney World, near Orlando, Florida, and they are as different as can be. Let’s take a look at what both parks feature and how Animal Kingdom versus Epcot shapes up.

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The main difference between Epcot and Animal Kingdom is …

Animal Kingdom is Disney World’s newest — and largest — theme park. It focuses heavily on wildlife and features a free-roaming safari ride as well as a section based on the Avatar movies.

Epcot, meanwhile, was originally envisioned as a park centered around the future. Although the vision has faded, you’ll still see bits of it in thrill attractions such as Mission: Space. Epcot also features a lake around which pavilions from 11 different countries serve food, sell merchandise and showcase their cultures. 

What’s in Animal Kingdom? 

The animals

You can’t talk about Disney Animal Kingdom versus Epcot without mentioning the animals. From the birds greeting you when you arrive to the giraffes chewing leaves next to your ride vehicle, it’s impossible to visit this theme park without spotting a few of your favorite creatures. 

Fan-favorite Kilimanjaro Safaris in the Africa land boasts some of the best, including:

  • Lions.

  • Cheetahs.

  • Elephants.

  • Rhinos.

  • Hippos.

  • Crocodiles.

  • Ostriches.

Throughout the ride, guests relax aboard an open-air vehicle while a driver keeps up a witty commentary.

There are also walking trails scattered around the park full of different animals, a live show with a variety of birds and a conversation station that includes a petting zoo. 

The lands

Animal Kingdom’s newest land broke ground in 2014, taking three years to build before welcoming guests in 2017. Pandora — The World of Avatar includes two rides: Avatar Flight of Passage and Na’vi River Journey.

Flight of Passage is the main star of the show and often has the longest line, though the 3-D experience can be worth the wait. 

Animal Kingdom is also home to a few big thrill rides, including one of the biggest roller coasters on Disney property. Expedition Everest opened in 2006 and features a large drop as well as a reversed-ride section. It’s located in the Asia land, while the dark ride Dinosaur is in — you guessed it — Dinoland U.S.A. 

The food

Animal Kingdom isn’t well-known for its food, especially when compared to Epcot. But Epcot versus Animal Kingdom is a different story thanks to Tiffin’s, the fine dining restaurant complete with a high-end bar. Other park food is fairly standard, with quick service options available in all the lands and a character buffet, Tusker House, located in the Africa land.

What does Epcot have?

The rides

Epcot has had a troubled few years as its original design for a utopian city of the future was abandoned early on. However, that doesn’t mean its rides have suffered, as Epcot is home to some of the best in Disney World.

Inside Epcot, you’ll find iconic attractions such as Soarin’, which takes guests on a flight over the world, and Test Track, which allows guests to design prototype cars and take them out for a ride. 

Epcot is also home to Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, a high-speed roller coaster located entirely indoors. Opened in May 2022, it uses a virtual queue to allow guests to experience other attractions while waiting to board. 

Finally, the pavilions located around the World Showcase also include the Frozen Ever After ride and Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure. 

The World Showcase

The France pavilion at Epcot. (Photo by Sally French)

Competing for your attention in Epcot is the World Showcase, where those 11 pavilions we mentioned earlier are located. Each pavilion has its own food, drinks and merchandise, while some pavilions also feature rides. 

Themed pavilions include:

  • Canada.

  • China.

  • France.

  • Germany.

  • Italy.

  • Japan.

  • Mexico.

  • Morocco.

  • Norway.

  • The United Kingdom.

  • The United States.

  • Germany.

It’s easy to spend several days wandering around the lake, tasting all the different foods and perusing the items for sale (much of which is authentic to the country). 

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Get the best of both worlds by touring Animal Kingdom during the day and enjoying dinner at Epcot.

The food (and drinks)

Hawaii’s booth at the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival has been known to serve Spam sushi with teriyaki-glazed Spam, spicy mayonnaise, eel sauce and nori. (Photo by Sally French)

Epcot is perhaps most famous for its dining options — so much so that it used to be possible to purchase an annual pass meant specifically for enjoying dinner at the park.

You’re absolutely spoiled for choice when it comes to food at Epcot, whether you’re looking for a sit-down experience or a quick bite. However, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the different festivals that take place throughout the year. 

Depending on the time of year, you could find yourself at Epcot during:

  • The International Food and Wine Festival.

  • International Festival of the Holidays.

  • International Flower and Garden Festival.

  • International Festival of the Arts.

All of these festivals provide unique food and drink options around the World Showcase. 

Disney Epcot vs. Animal Kingdom

These two theme parks couldn't be more different.

At Animal Kingdom, the animals are the main attraction. Epcot is a little more difficult to pinpoint, specifically because it’s split between the World Showcase and the rest of the park. Suffice it to say that it’s half great rides and half great food and a wholly great time. 

But they both have some things in common. They have among the best food of any of Disney's Orlando parks. They're two of the best theme parks for adults who love Disney. And they're more about the experience and environment — rather than making a mad dash for every ride (and making you feel like you need to pay for Genie+ to do so).

If you want to visit Epcot or Animal Kingdom

Disney World is as large as ever and continues to grow. The theme parks are no exception, as Animal Kingdom plays home to Pandora and Epcot houses its newest roller coaster.

Both parks are equally fun to visit, though if you have limited time available, you’ll want to do your research to see which one best suits your needs. 

(Featured photo courtesy of Walt Disney World)

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