The Best of the Best Epcot Attractions
Previously, I discussed the best lower tier attractions at Epcot. Today, I’m going to rank the E Ticket attractions at Walt Disney’s World second gate. Hoo boy. This is where it gets hard. Everybody has a strong opinion about the best and worst parts of this park. I think we can all agree on the worst one, but it’s a brutal exercise after that. Get ready to send your angry tweets and emails as I rank the E Ticket attractions at Epcot.
5) Mission: Space
During the summer of 2017, Disney shut down Mission: Space. There was little fanfare, explanation, or warning. Many Disney critics anticipated that this move signified the end of a divisive ride. Then, an announcement at the D23 convention caught everyone off-guard.
Mission: Space returned with two new versions. The Green and Orange Missions are now different in ways beyond the deployment of the centrifuge. No, the calmer version of the ride doesn’t use it now. The change isn’t that aggressive. Instead, it’s more cosmetic in nature. The Green Mission now orbits Earth while the Orange Mission is basically the same as it ever was, albeit with impeccable new graphics and special effects.
While Disney’s recent plussing of Mission: Space has unquestionably improved it, the ride still has the same central flaw. After you’ve ridden each version of the ride once, there’s little replay value. All additional rides are the same. That’s totally fine for many Disney attractions (including each one ranked above Mission: Space on this list). For some reason, this ride doesn’t have the same repeat value. It gets old quickly, even if it is an amazing feat of Imagineering.
If you love the idea of realistic space travel, Mission: Space is the best simulation in the world. Out of Epcot’s E Ticket attractions, it’s the least impressive, though.
4) Spaceship Earth
If I were writing this based on personal preferences, Spaceship Earth would win. To my mind, this attraction embodies the spirit of Epcot. Park planners envisioned a place that would combine education and entertainment in a seamless marriage of form and function. The dissemination of information at Epcot gradually became a sticking point as various rides and attractions quickly grew outdated.
Spaceship Earth has avoided that fate. Then again, it has a natural advantage. The premise of the ride was always a display of key moments from the history of mankind. The 35 years of Epcot are only a tiny portion of that history, which makes the lives of Imagineers easier. Updating the ride doesn’t require the same sort of exhaustive overhauls or conceptual reboots of the other early pavilions. The premise works perfectly fine on its own.
In recent years, Disney’s still found a clever way to plus it by adding the display questionnaire. After answering a series of binary questions, the ride simulates your future. This part of the ride has countless variations (well, it’s 2 to the nth power, but let’s not be math nerds), each of which leads to an adorable animated sequence. You don’t want to know how many of these variants I have stored on my iPhone. I’m compulsive about answering differently each time so that I can see different animated clips. I’m absolutely addicted.
Even if you don’t enjoy seeing imaginary futures, Spaceship Earth is still amazing. The set pieces for the origins of humanity and significant moments in history are all stunningly detailed. My favorite is the 1960s computer lab, especially because of the Foxy Brown-style scientist. I also love the actual footage of Jesse Owens at the 1936 Olympics, and that mid-ride view of the solar system might be the most breathtaking thing at Walt Disney World.
As a history buff, I love everything about Spaceship Earth. As a realist, however, I accept that mine is a minority opinion. Still, I consider everything from first to fourth place on this list as one of the greatest attractions at Walt Disney World.
3) Frozen Ever After
Three years after the fact, Disney fanatics have finally entered the acceptance phase. Maelstrom is gone, and it’s never coming back. Its replacement is already more beloved than Maelstrom ever was, a statement that seemed blasphemous in 2014. It’s undeniable, though.
No matter how you feel about Frozen – and any self-respecting Disney fan should love it – the attraction that pays homage to it is a triumph of Imagineering. Park planners took the same space at the Norway Pavilion and altered a mythological boat ride into a celebration of the fictional land of Arendelle.
Frozen Ever After is more than just a boat ride, though. It’s also a way for Disney to highlight all of the 21st century innovations in the field of audio-animatronics (AAs). Anna and Elsa are so lifelike that you’ll feel like you’re looking at real people, not three-dimensional versions of animated characters. Even Sven the reindeer’s tongue looks life-like!
The ride itself is a series of set pieces that build to a stunning crescendo. The centerpiece of the attraction is the recreation of the Let It Go scene from the movie. The boat goes up toward Elsa to give riders an upfront view of her performance and then descends away from her as monitors continue to show her singing. At some point, Frozen the film and Let It Go the song became entwined as a single pop culture phenomenon, and the ride embraces this fact.
The strongest compliment I can give Epcot’s E Ticket attractions is that ranking the top three is a winless endeavor. No matter which attraction wins, two other worthy contenders get slighted. I am a HUGE fan of Frozen Ever After and even build Advanced Dining Reservations/FastPass plans around it. I just like two Epcot rides better.
2) Test Track
One of my favorite endeavors at Walt Disney World is building a Frankencar. That’s when you get in line at Test Track and then design a hideous monstrosity of a vehicle. Your ostensible goal is to make a sports car, but everyone winds up building uglier versions of the Batmobile. If you saw some of my ride designs, you’d think of me as the Mad Scientist of Automobile Design. I’m not 100 percent that my cars are road-safe, and they aren’t pretty. I score 215-225 pretty consistently, though. That’s all that matters, right?
Designing an imaginary vehicle is just the appetizer, though. Test Track the ride is the main event. It’s the fastest attraction at Walt Disney World, reaching an oddly specific maximum velocity of 64.9 miles per hour. Prior to the speed burst at the end, it’s a crash test simulator where the rider endures several potential collisions. The element of excitement is outrageous, but it’s those moments where you burst into the sunlight as the car accelerates that make Test Track so memorable. Well, that and the Frankencar.
Test Track is in the conversation for best thrill ride at any Disney theme park. It’s still not the best E Ticket attraction at Epcot, though. That honor goes to…
1) Soarin’ Around the World
Last week, I discussed several fun facts about Soarin’. You could probably tell from that piece what my opinion of Soarin’ is. I clearly loved the original ride, Soarin’ Over California, but I’m in awe of Soarin’ Around the World.
The experience is still the same. Soarin’ simulates the sensation of hand gliding, sweeping you into the sky and sending you past several stunning natural landmarks such as waterfalls and mountains. You also soar by manmade landmarks including the Great Wall of China and the Eiffel Tower.
The new version of Soarin’ is basically the original one with better graphics and a more international flair. The maxim of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is true in many instances. With the concept of Soarin’, however, Disney has plussed one of the greatest attractions that they ever constructed. The second iteration is vastly superior to the original, and the only noticeable loss is the smell of the orange grove. Otherwise, Soarin’ Around the World is universally superior to its predecessor. It’s also the best of several amazing E Ticket attractions at Epcot.