Epcot was the second theme park opened at Walt Disney World in the early 1980s and even after two other parks have been built, it has still been the second most visited location at the resort, until now. New attendance numbers for 2017 reveal that for the first time Disney's Animal Kingdom surpassed Epcot as the second most visited location at Walt Disney World, behind the Magic Kingdom. The reason for the Animal Kingdom becoming so popular is fairly obvious, Pandora: The World of Avatar.
The newest major expansion of Walt Disney World was the opening of the new land based on the Avatar films which took place in 2017. Guests apparently really wanted to check out the new rides, as WDW News Today reports that Disney's Animal Kingdom's attendance went up 15% year over year, an increase of almost 2 million visitors. This makes the Animal Kingdom the second biggest destination at Walt Disney World and the fifth most visited Disney Parks location in the world.
This is the first time Epcot has fallen from the number two spot which means that even the year that Disney's Animal Kingdom opened, it wasn't visited by enough people to overtake Epcot. That's a bit surprising, but it's good news for Disney that the investment in Avatar is paying dividends. The land is designed to be a visual recreation of the planet Pandora from the Avatar films and contains two new ride experiences, The Na'vi River Journey, which sends guests floating down a calm waterway to view the bioluminescent plant life of Pandora while also checking out the local wildlife, and Flights of Passage, which puts guests on the back of a banshee and sends them soaring through the skies above the planet.
It will be interesting to see how the attendance numbers shake out this year. Toy Story Land is about to open at Disney's Hollywood Studios which will certainly give that location an attendance boost but not nearly as much as it will get next year when Star Wars Galaxy's Edge opens there. There's a safe bet that Hollywood Studios will become one of the more visited Disney Parks locations for at least a year or two after that happens.
Epcot itself may not become as popular again until 2021, when Walt Disney World celebrates its 50th anniversary. By then a new Guardians of the Galaxy roller coaster will have opened up, along with a new space-themed restaurant and likely other enhancements.
The good news is that if you absolutely love Epcot, and with all the great restaurants in the World Showcase, you should, it's less crowded, at least by comparison, so it's the perfect time to check it out. The Epcot International Food and Wine Festival starts August 30th.
Photos Courtesy Disney/WDWNews.com