Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary celebration has been officially underway since Oct. 1, 2021, and while Magic Kingdom Park is the only Disney World theme park to be celebrating 50 years since opening, the festivities extend to the resort’s other three parks, EPCOT, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom. EPCOT, the second-oldest Disney World theme park and a nostalgic favorite among many Disney World regulars (including yours truly), opened on Oct. 1, 1982 and is now in the midst of a massive multi-year transformation. There’s no shortage of colorful construction walls concealing work in progress around the park right now, but there’s also a whole slew of new attractions, restaurants and experiences that have already opened. Here are 12 of the best new things to do when you visit EPCOT during Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary celebration.
1. Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind Is Disney’s Best New Attraction
Epcot’s first-ever coaster and Walt Disney World’s first Marvel attraction, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind officially opens May 27, but has already begun previews. I had a chance to experience this epic new attraction earlier this month during a media preview and was in awe of the extent to which its immersive queue, next-level technology, and nonstop thrills put it on par with Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, the ambitious, envelope-pushing attraction that opened in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge in 2019. This ride alone is reason enough to put EPCOT at the top of list for any upcoming visit to Walt Disney World.
Starring the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Guardians of the Galaxy, ride scenes were filmed on the set of “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.” Glenn Close reprises her role as Nova Prime and has to call in help from Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax (Dave Bautista), Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Groot (Vin Diesel) when a big bad celestial shows up to threaten the galaxy.
Featuring Disney’s first ever reverse launch, the dark coaster blasts riders through space and time in “starjumpers” that rotate — sometimes a full 360 degrees, to direct attention to action on screens. An “Awesome Mix” of a soundtrack gives riders one of six classic songs from the ’70s and ’80s that turn a ride on this coaster into an intergalactic dance party.
When the ride officially opens on May 27, it will be accessible only via virtual queue or Individual Lightning Lane reservation.
2. Spaceship Earth Becomes a Beacon of Magic After Dark
Never more grand and miraculous, Spaceship Earth, EPCOT’s shimmering icon, has received a major glow-up with new “points of light” added and a new nighttime lighting package that transforms the massive geodesic sphere into a “Beacon of Magic,” the term given to the special nighttime treatment each of Disney World’s four park icons has received for the 50th anniversary. Make sure to carve out some time to visit the front of the park at night for photos in front of Spaceship Earth and the fountain even if you normally exit from the International Gateway exit near World Showcase.
3. Space 220 Takes You to Dinner in Space
Like an attraction and restaurant in one, Space 220 “transports” guests in a “stellarvator,” aka space elevator, 220 miles above the earth surface (no, not really — but the effect is convincing!). Sip out-of-this-world cocktails and choose from a two-course lunch or three-course dinner prix fixe menu. Reservations are a must.
4. Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure Brings More Family Fun to World Showcase
A new ride for the whole family is always a good thing and this one starring Remy, the lovable rat chef from Disney Pixar’s “Ratatouille,” is adorable and a charming addition to World Showcase, especially when you want to keep kids excited about the back half of the park. The attraction is an all-ages, 3D trackless dark ride with a mix of physical sets and screens.
5. Le Creperie de Paris Is a Must-Try for Authentic French Fare
La Crêperie de Paris (table-service) and Crêpes À Emporter (quick-service) are the new dining locations in the expanded France pavilion and serve traditional made-from-scratch crêpes and galettes and hard ciders inspired by France’s Brittany region.
Both locations serve savory galettes made with gluten-friendly buckwheat batter or sweet crêpes that aren’t gluten friendly (though if you avoid gluten you *can* request that sweet crêpes be made with the gluten-friendly galette batter). I highly recommend the table-service versions, which are definitely superior to the to-go offerings. A three-course prix-fixe meal that includes soup or salad, savory galette, sweet crêpe, and a glass of hard cider is a steal at $33.
6. The France Expansion Area Is a Charming New Space to Explore
The best part of EPCOT’s expanded France pavilion isn’t even the new ride or restaurant, it’s the expansion area itself. It’s beautiful and a must-visit even if you just grab a cider from the to-go window at Le Creperie and stroll. Be sure to look closely at all of the subtle rat details, Pixar Easter eggs, and the clever employment of “crookedology,” a design approached coined and used by Pixar artists to create a real-life version of “Remy’s Paris.”
7. Connections Cafe & Eatery
A new quick-service location has opened in the World Celebration area of EPCOT. A replacement for Electric Umbrella, the restaurant brings a family-friendly quick-service destination to the front half of the park. The Eatery serves well-executed burgers, pizza, and salads in a cheerful space with floor-to-ceiling windows and lots of natural light. The attached Connections Cafe portion is a large Starbucks location where tired park goers can get their caffeine boost.
EPCOT’s new nighttime spectacular, Harmonious features new interpretations of 15 Disney songs, performed by 240 artists from around the world, and accompanied by projections on five massive barges in World Showcase lagoon and fireworks overhead. The show runs nightly and is best watched standing centered on the center ring from the north side of World Showcase.
9. Club Cool
Enjoy free samples of eight different Coca-Cola products from around the world. This fan-favorite experience has reopened in a bright, reimagined space and features a whole lineup of new flavors. Two of them are… ahem… “acquired” tastes — returning favorite Beverly from Italy, and new flavor Smart Sour Plum from China. The line can look long but it moves quickly. Worth a visit!
10. Creations Shop
The replacement for Mouse Gear, EPCOT’s longtime flagship gift shop, Creations Shop is bright and colorful and includes plenty of EPCOT-exclusive, collectible merchandise.
11. 2022 EPCOT International Flower & Garden Festival
EPCOT’s 2022 International Flower & Garden Festival is in full bloom, with outdoor kitchens serving up colorful dishes showcasing seasonal produce. Colorful topiaries and lots of live entertainment round out the festivities, which run through July 4, 2022.
12. Spot the 50th Anniversary Statues
Fifty golden character sculptures decorate all four theme parks and make for great photo ops or an impromptu scavenger hunt with kiddos. At EPCOT look out for character statues including Figment, Olaf, Pua and Hei Hei. When MagicBand+ launches later this summer, guests will be able to use the new bands to interact with the statues.
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Brooke Geiger McDonald is the national content director for Make It Better Media Group. A Chicago native, she has worked for publications like O, The Oprah Magazine and SHAPE Magazine and her work has appeared in Parents, TravelPulse, Attractions Magazine, MSN, Disney Food Blog, and more. Her favorite nonprofits to support include The Walt Disney Birthplace in Chicago and organizations focused on environmental conservation and combatting climate change, such as the Environmental Defense Fund and Shedd Aquarium. Follow her on Instagram @brookegmcdonald and Twitter @BrookeGMcDonald.