Magic Kingdom and Epcot are Disney World’s two most popular parks. They’re both great, but they’re both very different from one another. I’ve been to both more times than I could ever count and each park has a totally unique experience.
Trying to decide where to spend your time at Disney can be overwhelming, so I made this guide to provide a straightforward comparison of WDW’s two “big” parks.
Magic Kingdom or Epcot? – The Short Answer
Magic Kingdom is best for young children, families, and anyone who wants the full “Disney” theme park experience. Epcot is best for adults, older kids, and anyone who loves great food and international cultures. Both parks are quite large and have a wide variety of attractions.
That’s the oversimplified answer. The reality is that both parks have so many things that appeal to all ages and preferences.
There is an endless number of things to do at both parks. I’ve broken them up into three sections for you: Rides, Restaurants, and Attractions.
Magic Kingdom vs Epcot: Rides
Winner: Magic Kingdom
Magic Kingdom may not have the most thrill rides, but it has a huge number of iconic rides that are great for the whole family. Not that Epcot doesn’t have its share, Magic Kingdom simply has more. From the “Mountains” to Haunted Mansion to Pirates of the Caribbean, there’s a lot of fun to be had.
Magic Kingdom’s Best Rides
Space Mountain (10/10)
Not only is Space Mountain one of my favorite iconic structures, it’s one of the best rides at Disney World. It’s an indoor roller coaster that is almost completely in the dark. It doesn’t invert, but the track is really quick and there are tons of tight turns. Space Mountain’s popularity makes sure that the wait times stay pretty long, so a FastPass is always well spent on this one.
Splash Mountain (10/10)
Splash Mountain is a prime example of what a Magic Kingdom ride should be. It has a great storyline, great scenes, and a great thrill at the end. The ride length is also awesome, lasting for over 10 minutes. Everyone knows that you can’t leave Disney World without planning out a good picture for Splash Mountain’s famous drop through the briar patch.
Haunted Mansion (10/10)
Haunted Mansion is a dark ride that puts guests into “Doom Buggies” and takes them through a mansion full of “Happy Haunts”. Everything about Haunted Mansion is classic and it’s a must for anyone. Even though it’s dark and spooky, it’s not too scary for most children.
Pirates of the Caribbean (10/10)
Pirates of the Caribbean is another legendary Disney World dark ride that takes guests through a number of elaborate pirate scenes. It does have a couple of small drops, but the real draw to the ride is the set. From the giant ship to the buildings and animatronics, it’s all awesome. You’ll also have the added bonus of seeing Captain Jack Sparrow in his native habitat.
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (9/10)
Big Thunder Mountain is an outdoor roller coaster in Frontierland. It’s pretty fast-paced for a Magic Kingdom coaster and has a lot of sharp turns. Like Space Mountain, it doesn’t invert or anything too crazy. Thunder Mountain is another Disney World classic and you shouldn’t leave without riding. They don’t call it “The Wildest Ride in the Wiiilderness” for ‘nothin.
Seven Dwarves Mine Train (9/10)
Seven Dwarves Mine Train is one of Magic Kingdom’s newer rides. It’s a roller coaster, but it features a slow section with a lot of really cool Seven Dwarves animatronics. It’s been uber popular since it opened and the wait times definitely reflect that. FastPasses for the Mine Train can sometimes be hard to come by, but try to get one if you plan to ride.
Epcot’s Best Rides
Soarin’ Around the World (10/10)
Soarin’ Around the World is one of the most unique rides at Disney World. It’s a hang glider simulator that takes guests over some of the world’s coolest landscapes. The ride lifts high into the air and situates itself in front of a huge screen that shows locations from the Matterhorn to the Eiffel Tower. The sights, sounds, and smells all combine with the motion of the ride to create a really immersive experience. Soarin’ is very popular and it’s Epcot’s #1 can’t-miss ride in my opinion.
Spaceship Earth (9/10)
Spaceship Earth is a slow-moving dark ride that takes place inside Epcot’s massive geodesic sphere, a.k.a. “Spaceship Earth”. The ride is pure, classic Epcot and everyone should experience it at least once. The ride takes you on a journey through the history and development of humankind over the ages. It starts with the earliest humans and goes all the way to the 20th century. Spaceship Earth is well-known for having painstakingly accurate sets and animatronics decked out in period-specific garb.
Mission: SPACE (8/10)
Mission: SPACE always makes my list of favorite Epcot rides for one reason- it’s technically the most intense ride in all of Disney World. It’s a space shuttle simulator that puts out some really strong g-forces while it takes you to Mars. It’s great for the thrill, but it doesn’t have much in the way of storyline. Gary Sinise used to be the face of the ride, but that recently changed (much to my dismay). Avoid this one if you have problems with motion sickness or claustrophobia.
Test Track (8/10)
Test Track is a super-popular track ride. The theme is that you’re testing a vehicle you design in the line queue. You’ll travel through a series of indoor turns and obstacles before reaching an outdoor stretch where you reach the highest speeds. The outdoor part of the ride is definitely the best part and it really is quite fast. I like Test Track, but I do feel that it’s a little bit overrated. Wait times are almost always long, so definitely consider using a FastPass here.
Frozen Ever After (8/10)
Frozen Ever After is one of Epcot’s newer rides. It’s an indoor water-based dark ride that takes you on a trip through Arendelle with all of the Frozen film’s main characters. The animatronic work is very impressive and the storyline is cool. Kids and anyone who loves Frozen shouldn’t be disappointed. If you’re not really a big Frozen fan, you may want to use a FastPass elsewhere. The wait times for Frozen Ever After are almost always very long.
Magic Kingdom vs Epcot: Restaurants
Epcot is the undisputed king of Disney World dining. This is one of Epcot’s greatest strengths. Magic Kingdom does have a few noteworthy restaurants, but it can’t really compete with Epcot in this area. From outstanding quick-service to exquisite table-service fine-dining, Epcot has it all.
Check out our Insider’s Guide to Epcot Dining to get a full ranking of every restaurant, snack, dessert, and drink at Epcot.
Epcot’s Best Restaurants
Monsieur Paul (10/10)
Monsieur Paul is a restaurant that features French fine-dining. It’s a huge surprise for anyone who wouldn’t expect a true white tablecloth experience inside a theme park. Prices are high, but it’s worth it if you’re looking for some of Disney World’s best upscale food inside the gates of a park. Monsieur Paul ranks toward the top of our list of best Disney World restaurants for adults.
Le Cellier Steakhouse (10/10)
Le Cellier is an upscale steakhouse located in Epcot’s Canada Pavilion. The food and the atmosphere are both superb. The entrees (beef, especially) are some of Disney’s best. Sides are just as good and you shouldn’t leave without trying the lobster mac and cheese or the loaded mashed potatoes. Le Cellier’s Cheddar Cheese Soup alone makes it worth a visit. The restaurant is designed to emulate the cellar of a fine Canadian chateau. The stone, wood, and low lighting make it really cozy.
Via Napoli (10/10)
If you want the best pizza Disney World has to offer, you’ll find it at Via Napoli. Via Napoli is an Italian restaurant in the Italy Pavilion. It serves some other entrees too, but trust me- you’ll want the pizza. The Neopolitan-style pizza is really authentic and it’s all made with high-quality ingredients. There are a number of different “red” pizzas and “white” pizzas to choose from, or you can just create your own. You really can’t go wrong with any of them, so pick your poison.
Chefs de France (9/10)
Chefs de France is the France Pavilion’s main restaurant. It’s a moderate-priced restaurant with a really big menu containing all sorts of French favorites. The food is always good and it’s quite a bit cheaper than Monsieur Paul. The one downside to the restaurant is that it’s pretty large and it can be loud. That said, I never think twice about making a reservation here if I’m in the mood for French.
Biergarten is a German buffet that is one of the most fun table-service restaurants at Disney World. The food is hearty and the beer is (obviously) awesome. The restaurant is indoors, but the whole thing is designed to feel like an outdoor Bavarian village center. There are building facades, a water mill, and a stage that features a live polka band. Seating is a little different at Biergarten though and you’ll be placed at tables with other guests. It’s fun if you enjoy good times and drinks with friendly strangers. It’s not so fun if you’re shy or if you’re just looking for a more private experience. I’ve almost always had a great time at Biergarten, but I have had a few occasions where I got matched up with some weirdos.
Rose & Crown Pub & Dining Room (8/10)
Rose & Crown is an English restaurant that has a menu full of traditional English pub classics. Fish & chips, bangers & mash, etc. The Welsh Pub Burger here is one of my favorite burgers at Epcot. Beers here are also great, especially the “pub mixes” (different British beers mixed together).
Epcot Quick-Service Restaurants (10/10)
Epcot’s quick-service restaurants are second-to-none at Disney World. You can find plenty of amazing food here without ever setting foot in a restaurant that requires a reservation. France has incredible pastries and ice cream (which we have a specific guide for!). The UK has some of the best fish and chips you can find anywhere. Norway has an outstanding bakery. Mexico has a spot inside the pyramid dedicated to nothing but tequila. The list goes on and on.
Magic Kingdom’s Best Restaurants
Be Our Guest (10/10)
Be Our Guest is hands down my favorite Magic Kingdom restaurant. It’s safe to say that other guests agree- it’s one of the hardest Disney World reservations to get. The restaurant is themed to be a recreation of the Beauty and the Beast castle. It’s split into three rooms: The Ballroom, The West Wing, and The Castle Gallery. The whole design is extremely well-executed and immersive. The food is outstanding and it’s easily the best you’ll find inside Magic Kingdom. The menu changed in July 2018 to become more of a multi-course, fine-dining spot for dinner. Be Our Guest is unique in that it’s table-service for dinner and quick-service for breakfast and lunch. Adults will love Be Our Guest and so will children.
Cinderella’s Royal Table (10/10)
Let me start by saying that you shouldn’t choose Cinderella’s Royal Table for the food. Not that the food is bad, but this restaurant is all about the experience. Cinderella’s Royal Table is located inside Magic Kingdom’s legendary castle and is considered a signature fine-dining establishment. During your meal, you’ll be visited by each one of the Disney Princesses. It’s a really cool experience and it’s worth the money for anyone who loves all things Disney and it’s especially awesome for little girls. Even though the food isn’t the main attraction at CRT, I’ve never had a bad meal here.
Liberty Tree Tavern (9/10)
I have a soft spot for Liberty Tree Tavern. The whole restaurant, servers included, is themed to be a Colonial American tavern. I like the theme, but my favorite part is the food. Liberty Tree serves a full Thanksgiving feast year-round. Turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and all the rest. There are few places you can find this kind of meal outside of November, so this one is always high on my list.
The Crystal Palace (9/10)
The Crystal Palace is a buffet-style restaurant inside a building modeled after a beautiful Victorian greenhouse. It’s one of Magic Kingdom’s classics and the food is always good for a buffet. Crystal Palace big draw is that it features character dining with Winnie the Pooh and the rest of the Hundred Acre Woods gang. Always a reliable spot for a meal with the family.
The Jungle Navigation Co. Skipper Canteen (7/10)
The Skipper Canteen is one of Magic Kingdom’s newer restaurants. It’s located in Adventureland and its theme is an extension of the classic Jungle River Cruise ride. The menu is more adventurous and “wild” compared to what you’ll find at other Magic Kingdom restaurants. The restaurant’s most notable feature is the “Skippers” that serve you. They incorporate the Jungle River Cruise’s zany, tongue-in-cheek humor into the service. Personally, I think it can get a little old after a while, but I still enjoy it in doses.
Tony’s Town Square (7/10)
Tony’s Town Square isn’t anything groundbreaking, but it’s a reliably good, moderately-priced Italian restaurant at the front of Magic Kingdom. It’s themed to be the restaurant from Lady and the Tramp and you’ll find some cues inside (like the central fountain) that point to this. The menu is pretty large and the food is definitely a bump up from standard theme park fare.
Magic Kingdom Quick-Service Restaurants (8/10)
The quick-service restaurants at Magic Kingdom are a bit top-heavy. On one hand, you have staples like Aloha Isle (which serves the mythical Dole Whip). On the other hand, you have some spots that serve some pretty bland theme park food. All-in-all, there are some good restaurants for quick food at Magic Kingdom, but there’s an equal number of lackluster ones. Be Our Guest is technically quick-service for breakfast and lunch, which brings the curve way up. Columbia Harbor House, Cosmic Ray’s, and Sleepy Hollow are also worthy entries.
Magic Kingdom vs Epcot: Entertainment & Attractions
Both Epcot and Magic Kingdom have some really good entertainment and attractions. It’s somewhat of a close call, but Epcot has a bit of an edge here because the whole park is filled from top to bottom with attractions. The World Showcase portion of Epcot alone is essentially one gigantic attraction filled with lots of smaller ones.
Epcot’s Best Entertainment & Attractions
The World Showcase (10/10)
The World Showcase is technically one whole section of Epcot, but for the sake of this list, I’m considering it as a single huge attraction. 11 countries make up the World Showcase- Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, Italy, America, Morocco, Japan, France, The UK, and Canada. Each country’s “Pavilion” has unique restaurants, entertainment, attractions, and shopping. There so many interesting things to see and do in the Showcase that it can easily take more than one full day to experience it all.
Illuminations: Reflections of Earth (10/10)
Illuminations is my favorite regularly-occurring nighttime show at Disney World. It uses fireworks, music, pyrotechnics, and lights to create an epic show in the middle of the World Showcase Lagoon. It’s 100% an Epcot must-do and a Disney World vacation wouldn’t be complete without seeing it at least once.
The American Adventure (10/10)
The American Adventure is a unique stage show that uses detailed sets and animatronic characters to tell the story of America. Mark Twain and Benjamin Franklin serve as the narrators, taking you from the Revolutionary War all the way into the 20th century. The show is one of Disney World’s most impressive achievements and it should always factor into an Epcot trip.
The Seas Pavilion (10/10)
The Seas is a pavilion in Future World that houses a number of saltwater aquarium exhibits. The main tank is one of the largest saltwater tanks in the world and is home to an absolutely massive amount of ocean species. You’ll see dolphins, turtles, sharks, manatees, rays, and countless fish species. The highlight of The Seas is the 360-degree viewing area that lets you walk directly to the middle of the tank. You could easily lose hours just watching all of the animals in the tank swim by.
Reflections of China (9/10)
Reflections of China is a short film that plays in the China Pavilion. The film’s screens are 360-degrees, so you’re surrounded while you watch. You’ll see some of China’s most beautiful areas and landmarks, some of which are rarely accessible by western cameras.
Impressions de France (9/10)
Impressions de France is the France Pavilion’s short film. It’s not a 360-degree film, but it’s arguably better than the films that are. Impressions de France showcases France’s cities and countryside while playing a score filled with some of France’s most legendary composers.
World Showcase Performers (8/10)
There are a number of street performers and stage performers around the World Showcase. They perform at various times throughout the day, so it can be hard to plan for them. There are acrobats, lumberjacks, drummers, and more. If you happen to see any of them performing in the World Showcase, almost all of them are worth stopping for.
Magic Kingdom’s Best Entertainment & Attractions
Happily Ever After (10/10)
Happily Ever After replaced Wishes as Magic Kingdom’s daily nighttime spectacular. In my opinion, it’s WAY better than Wishes and it’s one of the best fireworks shows I’ve seen at Disney. I’ve seen it from inside the park and I’ve seen it from above the park. It’s much more momentous than Wishes was and it has a very epic feel to it. It pulls in music from a ton of Disney’s most beloved films and perfectly incorporates it into the fireworks show. Happily Ever After has been really well-received and it’s really popular, so viewing space is at a premium. Get a spot an hour beforehand if you care about your viewing location.
The Muppets Present…Great Moments in American History (10/10)
Great Moments in American History is an outdoor show featuring The Muppets that takes place in the middle of Liberty Square. It’s a unique, awesome show. During the show, animatronic Muppets pop out of buildings to tell stories and reenact American history. It can be easy to overlook this one if you don’t plan for it, so check the showtimes and make sure you see it.
Enchanted Tales with Belle (9/10)
Enchanted Tales with Belle is a great example of an attraction blending animatronic character with live actors. During the show, Belle tells stories with the help of some of the household characters from Beauty and the Beast. Audience members will also be chosen to participate in the story. The show’s seating area isn’t too big, so it’s a much more personal experience than a lot of other Disney World shows. Enchanted Tales is also the place to be if you’re looking for a convenient picture with Belle.
Country Bear Jamboree (9/10)
Country Bear Jamboree is 100% classic Disney World kitsch, but in a good way. It’s an audio-animatronic show that features a band of musical bears performing a live concert. It’s got music, it’s got jokes, it’s got goofy singing bears. What more could you ask for? This is one of those attractions that you’ve got to do at least once when you go to Disney World, no exceptions.
Mickey’s PhilharMagic (9/10)
Mickey’s Philharmagic is a short 3D film that focuses on some of the best music from some of the best Disney animated films. Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, The Lion King, Peter Pan, and Aladdin are all visited with scenes and music. It’s a great show, especially if you love those films.
Festival of Fantasy Parade (9/10)
The Festival of Fantasy Parade is one of Magic Kingdom newer features. It’s a daily parade that has some of the most elaborate floats I’ve seen. The Tangled float and the Maleficent float are particularly cool. There are tons of characters that take part in the show, so it’s a good way to see them all in one place.
Monster’s Inc. Laugh Floor (9/10)
Monster’s Inc. Laugh Floor is an interactive comedy show that pulls guest into the act. The monsters perform on a big screen at the front and are voiced in real-time. This means they can make jokes on-the-fly and respond to the crowd. Throughout the show, they’ll single out individual crowd members with jokes. Don’t be surprised if you see yourself up on one of the secondary screens while being harassed by a Pixar character. The jokes are good, but the brilliance of the attraction is definitely the audience interactions.
Once Upon a Time (9/10)
Once Upon a Time is a show that takes place at Cinderella’s Castle after Happily Ever After. It involves projections on the castle, lights, and pyrotechnics. It’s pretty cool to see some of the Disney scenes projected on the castle. Mrs. Potts serves as the storyteller as she tells Chip bedtime stories. The whole thing lasts for about 14 minutes.
As you can see, Magic Kingdom and Epcot couldn’t be more different. Hopefully this guide helped you get the information you need to make decisions and plan your vacation. Without a doubt, these two parks are Disney World’s biggest and there’s just so much ground to cover.
Magic Kingdom is the quintessential Disney theme park. It has all of the classic Disney charm and is definitely the park that incorporates the most films and characters. It’s also the park that invokes the most nostalgia for many people. Magic Kingdom is all about providing that Disney magic to families and creating memories. It doesn’t matter what age you are, you’d have to be pretty cynical to deny that Magic Kingdom has something special about it.
Epcot is a totally unique theme park experience with its international cultures on one side and its technological focus on the other. Adults and older children will generally get the most out of the park, but it still has plenty for younger kids too. Even though it’s been around for a long time, the World Showcase really is a masterpiece. There are just so many things to see, eat, and experience. Epcot has always been my personal favorite park and it’s the park in which I spend the most time.
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.
Still planning your Disney World trip?
We’ve got you covered there too. We created this complete guide to help you plan and budget your trip. It covers everything from flights and resorts to souvenirs and everything in between.