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Epcot vs. Animal Kingdom: Which Disney Park Is Better?

Two panes: Epcot golf ball shaped Spaceship Earth and Animal Kingdom Tree of Life

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Planning a trip to Disney World and wondering if you should choose Epcot or Animal Kingdom for your visit? While ideally you’d visit both, if you have a choose between one, here’s a full break down of all things Epcot vs. Animal Kingdom to help you decide.

Epcot and Disney’s Animal Kingdom may seem like completely different parks (and obviously they are), but I would argue that they actually have a lot more in common than most people might realize. While Animal Kingdom is all about well…the animal kingdom and Epcot centers around World Showcase, at their heart, both parks are about education and expanding our worldviews.

I love both of these parks, and while I definitely have a favorite (*coughanimalkingdomcough*), both parks have such unique offerings you can’t find at any other Disney Park in the world.

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Epcot vs. Animal Kingdom: Rides

Because both Epcot and Animal Kingdom have leaned a little more heavily into education, for years they weren’t as known for their rides. Example: I remember being bored to tears in Epcot when I was a child because we spent so much time in World Showcase and so little time on rides.

But in recent years, Disney has put more focus into the rides at these parks and given us some amazing attractions with cutting-edge technology. And while neither of these parks have as *many* rides as Magic Kingdom does, they have some of the BEST rides. In fact, my two very favorite Disney rides are found in these two parks.

Popular Epcot Rides

  • Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind — This is the most popular ride at Epcot, and it’s actually my absolute favorite ride in all of Disney World. It’s a fast indoor roller coaster with fun swoops. But the best part is how the car rotates to have you face show elements, enhancing the fun of the track. It sounds strange but it’s amazing, but do be careful on this one if you are prone to motion sickness.
  • Soarin’ Around the World — This motion simulator ride takes in you on a hang gliding adventure around the world. It’s a gentle ride, complete with scent effects.
  • Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure — This ride has you shrink down into the size of a mouse and travel through the kitchen in trackless vehicles. Do know that it’s a 3D ride too, with both real life elements and screen action. Super cute!
  • Frozen Ever After — An indoor boat ride in the Norway pavilion featuring favorite Frozen characters and songs. There are two very mild drops to be aware of if you have young kids.
  • Test Track — Enter a “test vehicle” and go through a series of road tests. The highlight is the fast loop around the track at the end.
  • Spaceship Earth — A slow dark ride in the park’s golf-ball shaped icon that takes you through the history of the world. It’s a classic!
Fountain outside Parisian looking building with "Remy's Ratatouille Adventure" sign
Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure

Popular Animal Kingdom Rides

  • Avatar — Flight of Passage — THE most popular ride at Animal Kingdom. It’s a 3D virtual reality simulator that has you fly through Pandora on the back of a Banshee. And until Epcot’s Guardians of the Galaxy Coaster opened, this was my favorite ride at Disney World.
  • Na’vi River Journey — A dark and peaceful boat ride through Pandora with bioluminescent features.
  • Kilimanjaro Safaris — Animal Kingdom has an entire savannah where animals “roam free” (really, predators and prey are separated from each other) and you can take an actual safari through it. It’s always fun and always different!
  • Kali River Rapids — A raft ride through river rapids where you are guaranteed to get a little wet. It’s perfect for those hot Florida summer days.
  • Expedition Everest — My second favorite roller coaster in all of Disney World! This ride climbs up through the Forbidden Mountain until you find signs of the yeti and end up going backwards to get away! It’s so fun!
  • DINOSAUR — A fast, dark ride where you travel back in time to try to catch a dinosaur. Only there’s a countdown to the meteor hitting earth and you’re up against the clock. (Note: This one might be changing soon, as Disney considers overhauling this area of Animal Kingdom.)
Looking out over small lake at sunset to Expedition Everest mountain rollercoaster in the distance
Expedition Everest in Animal Kingdom

Epcot vs. Animal Kingdom: Restaurants & Dining

In addition to a focus on education, there is another thing Epcot and Animal Kingdom have in common: these two parks have the BEST food of the four Disney parks.

Epcot has an unparalleled amount of choices when it comes to restaurants, with some truly great gems. Plus, there is almost always a festival going on with even MORE food booths.

And then there’s Animal Kingdom, home to my favorite Quick Service restaurant at Disney, Satu’li Canteen. Actually it may be my favorite restaurant at Disney period.

It’s hard to say who wins food here, because they are both incredible. But personally my favorite is Animal Kingdom because of Satu’li and Nomad Lounge and the lack of decision fatigue.

Popular Epcot Restaurants

Large Dining room with raised ceilings, royal flags, wooden beams, and several chairs and tables
Akershus Royal Banquet Hall in Epcot

Popular Animal Kingdom Restaurants

  • Yak & Yeti Restaurant (Table Service) — This restaurant serves Asian dishes ranging from Indian to Chinese to Korean.
  • Tiffins Restaurant (Table Service) — A favorite Table Service restaurant in Animal Kingdom, Tiffins (next to Nomad Lounge) serves Asian and Latin dishes.
  • Tusker House Restaurant (Table Service) — This is where you can find character dining in Animal Kingdom. Characters usually include Donald, Mickey, Daisy, and Goofy, all dressed in their safari attire. Note that breakfast is the meal that has the most traditional American food, while lunch and dinner have more African-inspired dishes.
  • Nomad Lounge (Table Service) — Nothing is better than sitting on the deck of Nomad Lounge with yucca fries and churros! This is technically a lounge, and they have a big cocktail menu. But you can also make a meal here! The sliders are really good too.
  • Satu’li Canteen (Quick Service) — Perhaps my favorite restaurant in all of Disney World! This Pandora restaurant offers make-your-own bowls that are delicious and a nice healthy break from standard theme park fare.
  • Flame Tree Barbecue (Quick Service) — A popular spot for BBQ. Plus they have a fantastic and relaxing outdoor seating area behind the restaurant!
Viewpoint from cushioned seating to small table on a porch overlooking trees
Outdoor seating at Nomad Lounge

Epcot vs. Animal Kingdom: Characters

At both Animal Kingdom and Epcot, you’ll be able to meet classic Disney characters like Mickey and Minnie, plus a handful of unique characters.

Animal Kingdom has more unique characters than Epcot, like characters from Up, Pocahontas, and the Lion King. But Epcot has more princesses and more characters in general. So I’d give Epcot the win as far as characters go.

Epcot Characters

  • You can meet Mickey Mouse in the Disney and Pixar Short Film building.
  • Minnie Mouse and Goofy are often found at the front of Epcot.
  • You can meet various princesses in their home countries in World Showcase. Anna and Elsa are in Norway, Belle is in France, Mulan is in China, Jasmine is in Morocco, and Snow White is in Germany.
  • The UK pavilion also features Alice from Alice in Wonderland, Winnie the Pooh, and Mary Poppins.
  • Donald Duck meets in the outdoor section of the Mexico pavilion.
  • Figment meets in the ImageWorks Lab in the Imagination pavilion.
  • Moana is now meeting near her new attraction: Journey of Water.
  • Pluto and Daisy can often be found near the International Gateway park entrance between the UK and France pavilion.
  • Asha from Wish is meeting in the gazebo at the front of World Showcase.
  • For character dining you can meet princesses at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall or Mickey Mouse, Pluto, and Chip and Dale at Garden Grille.

Animal Kingdom Characters

  • Mickey & Friends — You can meet Mickey and Minnie in their safari outfits in the Adventurers Outpost on Discovery Island. You can also meet Mickey, Donald, Daisy, and Goofy at character dining at Tusker House Restaurant. Daisy, Donald, and Chip and Dale can also be found dressed up in Dinoland USA. And you can see Pluto and Goofy in one of the flotillas on Discovery River.
  • Scrooge McDuck and Launchpad McQuack — These two unique characters have a flotilla on Discovery River.
  • Princesses — Both Pocahontas and Moana can sometimes be found on Discovery Island. Pocahontas also has a flotilla with her sidekick, Meeko.
  • Characters from UpKevin can be see walking around Discovery Island, while Russell and Dug have a meet and greet near the entrance of It’s Tough to Be a Bug.
  • Characters from The Lion King — Aside from seeing Lion King characters at the Festival of the Lion King show, you can see them floating down Discovery River. Usually this is Timon and Rafiki.

What’s a flotilla? These special parades on the water at Animal Kingdom began during the pandemic and are still continuing because they were so loved. You won’t be able to get up close to the characters, but it’s a special kind of magic to see them cruising along the river waving to everyone!

Large colorful bird (person in costume) walking down a sidewalk to two people dressed in Wilderness Explorers costumes
Kevin from Up at Animal Kingdom

Epcot vs. Animal Kingdom: Special Events

Epcot is all about special events, so they win here!

There are regular festivals going on at Epcot throughout the year, with special food booths and entertainment. And these festivals are open to all regular day guests. Plus, they have occasional After Hours events.

Animal Kingdom on the other hand really doesn’t host any regular special events at all, aside from After Hours events. And even those don’t happen very often.

Epcot Special Events

  • Festival of the Arts — This festival is all about the arts! You’ll find food booths focused on artistic dishes, visual artists selling their works, and special art installations around Epcot.
  • Flower and Garden Festival — Flower and Garden Festival at Epcot is especially famous for the character topiaries that dot the park. But of course there are also special food booths and events.
  • Food and Wine Festival — This is the festival for foodies! It’s all about food and drinks from around the world (with special booths) plus culinary demonstrations and events.
  • Festival of the Holidays — A holiday festival in December that focuses on holiday celebrations around the world. Plus there’s food booths, the Candlelight Processional show, and a fun holiday cookie stroll.
  • Disney After Hours at Epcot — A special ticketed event on select nights that gives you extra hours at Epcot after park close with lower crowds.
Large topiary of Goofy with a rainbow in the sky behind him
Goofy Topiary at Epcot’s Flower and Garden Festival

Animal Kingdom Special Events

  • Disney After Hours at Animal Kingdom — A special ticketed event on select nights that gives you extra time at the park after it closes. The big perk is lower crowds, but this one doesn’t happen very often.

Epcot vs. Animal Kingdom: Entertainment & Nighttime Shows

Even though Animal Kingdom doesn’t have a big nighttime show like the other three parks do, I still give Animal Kingdom the win for entertainment because they have so many amazing performers!

Epcot Entertainment and Nighttime Shows

  • The best entertainment at Epcot are the performers in each country! These include Matsuriza (drummers in Japan), Music of Mexico, Sergio in Italy, and Voices of Liberty in The American Adventure.
  • There are several theater shows in Epcot including a Beauty and the Beast Sing-Along, The American Adventure, Canada Far and Wide in Circle-Vision 360, and Impressions de France. To be honest, none of these are my favorite though.
  • Luminous The Symphony of Us is a nightly fireworks show that takes place on World Showcase Lagoon.

Animal Kingdom Entertainment and Nighttime Shows

  • You’ll find two outdoor bird shows in Animal Kingdom — Feathered Friends in Flight in Asia and Winged Encounters – The Kingdom Takes Flight in front of the Tree of Life. Both are super fun!
  • The two main stage shows in Animal Kingdom are Finding Nemo: The Big Blue and Beyond in DinoLand U.S.A. and Festival of the Lion King in Africa. Both are incredible, quality shows everyone in the family will love. Plus they offer a great A/C break!
  • There is no main parade in Animal Kingdom, but you will see characters and entertainers floating along Discovery River in flotillas throughout the day.
  • Street performers are all over Animal Kingdom! In Africa you’ll find the Harambe Acrobats, Kora Tinga Tinga, and the Tam Tam Drummers of Harambe. On Discovery Island you can dance to music from the Viva Gaia Street Band. And don’t miss the often hidden DiVine character in the Oasis at the park entrance.
  • There are no fireworks at Animal Kingdom for the safety and well-being of the animals. And during the Daylight Savings Time, the park usually closes before it gets dark. But in the fall, winter, and spring, you can see the Tree of Life transform in the short Tree of Life Awakenings show.
Looking up into tree of life at night lit up with different colors
Animal Kingdom’s Tree of Life at night

Epcot vs. Animal Kingdom: Themed Lands

Animal Kingdom wins for themed lands here because the theming in Animal Kingdom is INCREDIBLE. It’s really one of the reasons why it’s my favorite park. You really have to take some time in Animal Kingdom to slow down and appreciate the incredible details.

Epcot lands are great though too. Of course you have all the different countries in World Showcase, plus what they’ve done with the front of the park is really beautiful!

Epcot Themed Lands

  • World Celebration — The center part of Epcot including Spaceship Earth and a beautiful new plaza area. However, parts of it are still under construction in 2024.
  • World Nature — This includes The Seas pavilion, The Land pavilion, The Imagination pavilion, and the new Journey of Water Inspired by Moana attraction.
  • World Discovery — The “futuristic” part of Epcot where you can find rides like Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind and Test Track.
  • World Showcase — The main part of Epcot which surrounds World Showcase Lagoon. You’ll find 11 country pavilions here: Canada, United Kingdom, France, Morocco, Japan, The American Adventure, Italy, Germany, China, Norway, and Mexico.
Small area made to look like a German Square in Epcot, with German looking buildings with red roofs, coats of arms painted on the walls, and a clock tower
Germany in Epcot’s World Showcase

Animal Kingdom Themed Lands

  • Oasis — This is the entrance to Animal Kingdom where you’ll see a few animals. Pro Tip: It doesn’t matter if you go left or right here, you end up in the same place.
  • Discovery Island — The center point of Animal Kingdom and where the Tree of Life is located.
  • Pandora – The World of Avatar — A truly incredible section of the park themed after the Avatar movies. Even if you have never seen Avatar, don’t skip this area. It’s breathtaking.
  • Africa — Home of the safari and the Lion King, this section of the park has some of the best theming out of anywhere (so many details!).
  • Asia — There are two sections to Asia, the more Indian-themed area and the more Nepal-themed area. They are both great.
  • DinoLand U.S.A. — Originally themed as a home for scientific research where college kids intern and a cheesy fair has cropped up, DinoLand could use some love. In fact, Disney has announced plans to turn this into a land called Tropical Americas.
Yellow and Cream wall with bikes leaned against it, signs advertising local shows and markets, and laundry lines on top
The theming in Africa at Animal Kingdom is incredible!

Epcot vs. Animal Kingdom: General Vibes & Atmosphere

Epcot and Animal Kingdom are both parks that make it easy for you to relax. Take a stroll through World Showcase or walk the Discovery Island trails, and you’ll see what I mean.

However, Animal Kingdom is more relaxed than Epcot, mostly because it’s a smaller park with less to do and is full of incredible green spaces. Epcot is busier, with more to do.

Animal Kingdom has the best vibes and atmosphere to me, because it’s just so chill.

Looking out over World Showcase Lagoon with a rainbow in the sky
World Showcase Lagoon at Epcot

Epcot vs. Animal Kingdom: Size & Location

So *technically* Animal Kingdom is the largest park at over 500 acres. BUT most of those acres are animal spaces. The actual walkable space for visitors at Animal Kingdom is closer to 100 acres.

Epcot is a huge park at over 300 acres. It’s definitely the park that will wear your feet out the most! However, they do have some boat transportation across World Showcase Lagoon that can help save your feet some.

Animal Kingdom is the most out of the way park, so, depending on what resort you are staying at, it will likely take you the longest to get there.

Epcot is right in the center of things though, with both Skyliner and Monorail access, and within walking distance of the BoardWalk area and even Hollywood Studios.

Animal Kingdom from the sky. Lots of trees, a small lake, and the Tree of Life that stands taller than everything else.
Birds Eye View of Animal Kingdom from Expedition Everest

Epcot vs. Animal Kingdom: Which Park Should You Visit?

So, if you have to choose between Epcot and Animal Kingdom, which park should you choose?

Personally, Animal Kingdom is my favorite park at Disney World! But that doesn’t mean it’s right for you. So here’s my advice.

Why You Should Go to Epcot

  • You are traveling with just adults who are interested in food and drink.
  • You have kids who really want to see all the princesses.
  • You want to explore the countries of World Showcase.

Why You Should Go to Animal Kingdom

  • You love a day at the zoo.
  • You want more thrill rides.
  • You want a more relaxed theme park day.

Either way, you’ll have a magical time!

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