Having a hard time deciding between Epcot and Animal Kingdom?
Whether you’re planning a single day or a full week at Disney World, it’s important to know the differences between the parks. Each park offers a totally different experience and most guests will find that they prefer one over the other.
Epcot or Animal Kingdom? – The Short Answer
Epcot is best for adults and for guests who love eating, drinking, and experiencing cultures from around the world. Animal Kingdom is best for guests who love animals, rides, and live stage shows. Both Epcot and Animal Kingdom are full-day parks with plenty of things to do.
Both parks make plenty of appearances on our huge list of Disney World Must-Do’s.
Epcot vs Animal Kingdom: Rides
Winner: Animal Kingdom
Even though Epcot has some great rides, Animal Kingdom’s rides are better overall. Animal Kingdom has a great balance of thrill rides and tame rides for the whole family. The addition of Pandora: World of Avatar in 2017 cemented Animal Kingdom’s spot toward the top of the ride list.
Animal Kingdom’s Best Rides
Kilimanjaro Safaris (10/10)
Kilimanjaro Safaris is a can’t-miss ride at Animal Kingdom. It takes you on a truck ride through Animal Kingdom’s Harambe Wildlife Reserve and puts you up close with all of Africa’s most famous wildlife. Lions, elephants, giraffes, hippos, and lots more. Definitely one of the most unique experiences at Disney World. Take a look at our tips and tricks for Kilimanjaro Safaris to make sure you get the most out of the ride.
Expedition Everest (10/10)
Expedition Everest is probably my favorite roller coaster at Disney World. It delivers on the thrills and on the theme. It’s a big ride with a track that sends you both forward and backward at high speeds. It also has one of the coolest sets, complete with a pretty cool, gigantic yeti in the mountain.
Avatar Flight of Passage (10/10)
Avatar Flight of Passage is one of the newest rides at Animal Kingdom. It’s one of the most impressive, state-of-the-art rides at Disney. Flight of Passage simulates a trip through Pandora on the back of a Banshee. The 4D technology and effects are outstanding. The details really make you feel that you’re flying through an alien world. You’ll even feel a simulated Banshee “breathing” effect against your leg. The line queue is amazing but the wait times are always extremely long. Definitely a Fastpass-worthy ride.
Dinosaur is an indoor dark track ride that takes you on a ride to chase after a wild iguanodon. The whole thing is super shaky and you’ll be moving all over the place. It’s fun for everyone, but it’s a must for anyone who loves dinos. Lots of animatronic dinosaurs popping up all over the place during the ride.
Kali River Rapids (7/10)
Kali River Rapids is a pretty standard river raft ride with medium-intensity thrills. The drop is decent and the ride’s scenery is pretty cool. There’s a very high likelihood that you’ll get soaked, so keep that in mind.
Na’vi River Journey (7/10)
I have mixed feelings about Na’vi River Journey. It’s an indoor dark water ride in the Pandora section of the park. It’s got some really cool lighting and animatronics, but there’s not enough to make it a great ride. It’s pretty slow and the whole thing feels like it’s missing extra details. It’s still worth a ride, but I wouldn’t give up a Fastpass spot for it.
Epcot’s Best Rides
Soarin’ Around the World (10/10)
Soarin’ Around the World is one of the most popular rides at Epcot and one of the best rides at Disney World in general. Soarin’ is a hang glider simulator that takes you to some of the world’s most famous locations. The ride really makes you feel like you’re gliding high in the air. Your whole row of seats will lift high into the air and place you in front of a huge, curved screen. The sights, sounds, and even smells are outstanding, from the Matterhorn to the Taj Mahal. Always a great use of a FastPass!
Spaceship Earth (9/10)
Spaceship Earth is probably the most classic, iconic Epcot ride. It’s a slow indoor ride located inside Epcot’s famous giant sphere. The ride track goes through a wide variety of sets that depict mankind’s journey and development throughout history. The sets themselves are full of painstakingly detailed animatronics and features. You’ll see everything from Ancient Rome to 1970’s America. Spaceship Earth is also one of the longest rides at Disney, lasting over 15 minutes from start to finish.
Mission: SPACE (8/10)
Mission: SPACE’s thrills alone make it a great ride. It lost a little ground when it removed Gary Sinise from the ride’s preflight video, but that’s another story. Mission: SPACE is a space shuttle simulator that sends you on a mission to Mars. The high g-forces on this ride make it the most intense ride in all of Disney World. You may want to sit this one out if you get motion sickness or claustrophobic. If not, you’ll enjoy the feeling of getting launched into space.
Test Track (8/10)
Test Track is one of Epcot’s most popular rides. The theme is that you’re designing a car in the line queue to use in a series of road tests. There are sharp turns, obstacles, and break tests before you reach a large outdoor section where you’ll reach top speeds. Even though I think it’s wait times are a little too high for the ride quality, it’s still an altogether good ride.
Frozen Ever After (8/10)
Frozen Ever After is quite a bit different from most other Epcot rides in that it pulls directly from a Disney film. Save for one decent drop, the ride is a pretty laid back water ride through Arrendelle. Wait times are long, so I wouldn’t recommend this one for guests who don’t love Frozen. For those that do, it’s a good family-friendly ride that features some impressive animatronics.
Epcot vs Animal Kingdom: Restaurants
Epcot has the best table-service restaurants of any Disney park and it’s not even close. The sheer number of dining options inside Epcot is awesome, but the quality is there too. You’ve got access to everything from English fish & chips to fine French dining. Adults will especially appreciate dining in the park with tons of different foods and beverages from around the world.
Epcot’s Best Restaurants
Monsieur Paul (10/10)
Monsieur Paul is a French fine-dining restaurant located in Epcot’s France Pavilion. The food is outstanding, as is the overall experience. We rank is #1 in our list of Epcot restaurants adults will love. The atmosphere is quiet and romantic, making it a great spot for adult couples to enjoy an evening. It’s not cheap, but it’s worth it if you fancy a true fine-dining experience from inside Epcot. Monsieur Paul is operated by the renowned Bocuse family from France.
Le Cellier Steakhouse (10/10)
Le Cellier is a steakhouse located in the Canada Pavilion and is usually one of Epcot’s hardest-to-get reservations. The restaurant is designed to emulate a Candian chateau cellar. The food is great and so is the setting. The steaks are some of Disney’s best and the restaurant’s sides (lobster mac & cheese or loaded mashed potatoes!) are amazing.
Via Napoli (10/10)
Via Napoli is an Italian restaurant located in the Italy Pavilion that serves the best pizza at Disney World. There’s really no comparison between Via Napoli and any other Disney pizza. The ingredients are high quality from the dough to the meats and veggies. I’ve been to Via Napoli a million times and I’m never disappointed. If you like good pizza, don’t miss it.
Chefs de France (9/10)
Chefs de France is the France Pavilion’s largest restaurant. It’s a moderately-priced, casual table-service restaurant that has a large menu full of French specialties. The food is always good and there’s enough variety to keep everyone happy. If there’s one gripe with Chefs de France, it’s that it’s very large and pretty loud most of the time. Not a big deal though unless you’re specifically looking for a quiet meal.
Biergarten is a German buffet that is just as much about the experience as it is the food. The food is good, with a ton of German classics like schnitzel, bratwurst, spaetzle, etc. The real draw though is the atmosphere. The restaurant is indoors, but it’s designed to look like an outdoor town center in a charming Bavarian village. There’s even a stage in the center of the restaurant where a German polka band plays live music. Seating is also unique at Biergarten and you’ll be grouped up at tables with other guests. It’s one of Epcot’s best restaurants for good beer and good fun.
Rose & Crown Pub & Dining Room (8/10)
Rose & Crown is an English pub-style restaurant in the UK Pavilion. The menu is full of English pub classics. Shepherd’s pie, bangers & mash, fish & chips- it’s all here and it’s all good. The Welsh Pub Burger served here is also one of my favorite Disney World burgers.
Epcot Quick-Service Restaurants (10/10)
No park can compete with Epcot’s quick-service offerings. There are so many great options. Pastries in France’s Les Halles Boulangerie-Patisserie or Norway’s Kringla Bakeri og Kafe. Margaritas in Mexico’s La Cava del Tequila. Fish & chips at the UK’s Yorkshire County Fish Shop. Maybe you just want some ice cream (we have a big guide to Epcot ice cream!) or a beer. It’s all there. I won’t bother listing them all, but there are enough good quick-service food and drink spots to make your head spin.
Animal Kingdom’s Best Restaurants
For years, Animal Kingdom completely lacked a great signature-tier restaurant and Tiffins filled that void in a big way. Tiffins is one of the most underrated restaurants at Disney World. The restaurant theme is all about the Disney Imagineers’ travels and journey through the creation of Animal Kingdom. It’s more expensive than other Animal Kingdom restaurants, but Tiffins has some of the best food and one of the best themes at Disney World.
Yak & Yeti (9/10)
Yak & Yeti is a Nepalese-themed restaurant that serves a variety of Pan-Asian food. The theme and decorations are pretty cool and they’re a nice change-up from other Asian restaurants at Disney. I could order nothing but the Dim Sum Basket and be happy. The lo mein dishes and the duck are always really good too. One of my favorite in-park dining spots.
Satu’li Canteen (9/10)
I’m cheating and including this one with the table-service restaurants even though it’s technically quick-service. During the first year that Satu’li Canteen was open, I probably ate there 10+ times. Satu’li is a counter-service restaurant in Pandora that has some of the most unique food of any non-table-service Disney World restaurant. The main part of the menu consists of “bowls” that feature a protein mixed with a vegetable or potato base and topped with your choice of dressing.
Animal Kingdom Quick-Service Restaurants (7/10)
Outside of Flame Tree Barbecue, Yak & Yeti Local Foods Cafe, and Satu’li Canteen, there just aren’t a lot of stellar options for quick-service dining at Animal Kingdom. Those top three quick-service spots are in a league of their own at AK, especially Satu’li and Flame Tree.
Epcot vs Animal Kingdom: Entertainment & Attractions
Both Epcot and Animal Kingdom have some really great entertainment and attractions, but Epcot gets the edge. There’s a massive amount of variety in Epcot and there is so much to see and do.
Epcot’s Best Entertainment & Attractions
The World Showcase (10/10)
Even though the World Showcase is comprised of 11 different areas, I’m lumping it all in as one big attraction for this list. Epcot is split into two sections: Future World up front and The World Showcase in the back. Future World is fine, but the World Showcase is where Epcot really shines. The World Showcase is made up of 11 “Pavilions”- Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, Italy, America, Morocco, Japan, France, UK, and Canada. Each Pavilion is full of unique dining, shopping, and entertainment. The whole Showcase is one of the coolest things at Disney World, especially for adults.
Illuminations: Reflections of Earth (10/10)
Illuminations: Reflections of Earth is Epcot’s nighttime fireworks show. It’s hands-down my favorite “nighttime spectacular” at Disney World. The show takes place in the middle of the World Showcase Lagoon is an elaborate display of fireworks, pyrotechnics, lights, and music. It’s a can’t-miss part of any Disney World vacation.
The American Adventure (10/10)
The American Adventure is an animatronic stage show that tells the story of American history, narrated by Benjamin Franklin and Mark Twain. The show starts with the Revolutionary War works its way through America’s timeline up to the Great Depression. A great storyline and impressive sets make the show one of Disney’s best indoor shows.
The Seas Pavilion (10/10)
The Seas is an ocean-themed Pavilion located in the Future World section of Epcot. It houses a number of saltwater animals and exhibits, including one of the world’s largest saltwater aquariums. The real highlight of The Seas is the 360-degree viewing area that lets you walk directly into the middle of the tank.
Reflections of China (9/10)
Reflections of China is a 360-degree short film in the China Pavilion. The film visits a lot of iconic Chinese locations, including some that are rarely accessible to Western camera crews. The cinematography is great and the 360-degree screening makes it really interesting.
Impressions de France (9/10)
Impressions de France is a short film played in the France Pavilion’s theater. It showcases some of France’s famous areas and culture. The film’s score also features some of France’s most famous classical composers. It’s one of Epcot’s oldest original attractions and it’s a worthy stop, especially for adults.
World Showcase Performers (8/10)
While walking around Epcot’s World Showcase, you’ll occasionally find performers in the pavilions. There’s everything from Chinese acrobats to Canadian lumberjacks. Almost all of them are definitely worth watching if you see them. The only knock is that it’s hard to plan around them since they happen on different schedules throughout the day.
Animal Kingdom’s Best Entertainment and Attractions
Festival of the Lion King (10/10)
Festival of the Lion King is a live show that is absolutely outstanding. The singers are great, the acrobats are great, the story is great. It’s very lively and there’s a lot going on. The theater is circular, so there’s not a bad seat in the house. Festival of the Lion King is one of the best shows at Disney World and you shouldn’t leave without seeing it.
Finding Nemo: The Musical (10/10)
Finding Nemo: The Musical is a stage show that retells the storyline from the Finding Nemo film. It’s one of the most unique shows at Disney World, featuring huge puppets controlled on stage by performers. The whole thing is really elaborate and well-executed. This is another definite “must-do”.
Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail (9/10)
Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail is the wildlife trail in the Africa section of Animal Kingdom. As the name implies, the gorillas are the focal point. There are some other animals like hippos and meerkats, but the gorillas are definitely the most interesting part of the trail. There are two separate viewing areas for the gorillas- one for females and one for the males. Both are a lot of fun. My favorite thing to do here is to catch the trail at a time when the Cast Members come out to throw fruit to the male gorillas. It’s highly entertaining to watch the gorillas line up to snatch food out of the air. The only downside to the trail is that there’s sometimes not a lot of action and it’s possible to not see a whole lot from the gorillas.
Maharajah Jungle Trek (9/10)
Maharajah Jungle Trek is the wildlife trail in the Asia section of the park. Its main feature is the tiger exhibit, but there’s a number of other animals too. Some of the others include flying foxes, water buffalo, and even a Komodo dragon. The Maharajah trail is extremely well-executed and has a ton of details along the way. The landscapes, buildings, and ruins are quite immersive.
Up! A Great Bird Adventure (9/10)
Up! A Great Bird Adventure is a live show that features live exotic birds. The show replaced an older version of the bird show and added Russell and Doug from the Up film to the show. It’s very entertaining for all ages.
It’s Tough to be a Bug! (9/10)
It’s Tough to be a Bug! is a 4D film experience located at the base of Animal Kingdom’s iconic Tree of Life. The show is surprisingly awesome and blends A Bugs Life characters with real-life bugs. Be warned though: the on-screen bugs combined with the 4D effects have humorously traumatized many a child. I’ve got plenty of stories of friends and family members who lost their marbles during this show when they were kids. Good times.
Rivers of Light (6/10)
Rivers of Light is Animal Kingdom’s featured nighttime show. The show takes place in a lake surrounded by bleacher-style seating. It’s mostly just lights and floats. It’s an interesting concept, but I’m personally not a big fan. It’s still worth doing if you have extra time, but it doesn’t compare to the other Disney World parks’ nighttime shows.
Hopefully this breakdown and comparison helped you get a better idea of how Epcot and Animal Kingdom stack up against each other. Both parks have a lot to offer in pretty much every area. They’re both excellent in totally different ways, so it really just comes down to your preferences and mood.
Epcot’s experience is something really unique, combining the multicultural World Showcase with the technology-centered Future World. For a grown-up guide to the park, check out our Adults Guide to Epcot. Even though adults usually appreciate Epcot the most, don’t make the mistake of thinking that it’s not also good for kids. Every part of Epcot has something unique for kids to enjoy.
Animal Kingdom’s experience is a very good blend of a theme park and a zoo. The animal exhibits are outstanding, especially with Kilimanjaro Safaris and the two wildlife trails. The addition of the Pandora: World of Avatar section of the park added even more value. For years, many guests considered Animal Kingdom to be a “half-day” park. I’d caution anyone who thinks of it that way, especially with all of the additions. Animal Kingdom really deserves a full day now more than ever and I think guests are cheating themselves if they only spend half a day.
Looking for More Park Comparisons?
We also have comparisons for some of the other parks. Each one goes into the same detail that this guide has.
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