Chances are that you may have missed it if you’ve never stayed in one of the Epcot Area resorts. The Magic Kingdom will always be king of the Walt Disney World parks, most especially for families with children on the younger side. But, Epcot is becoming a real family favorite of ours – both for me and Jennifer, and for the kids who are now 8, 10, and 12.
Though we always experience a wide range of Walt Disney World so that we can advise you on all the best, with Epcot as a family favorite, we’re gravitating towards the Epcot Area Resorts as our home base when visiting Walt Disney World. And the International Gateway is one of the reasons we love the Epcot Area.
A few reasons, but first a little more info on the Area itself: The Epcot Resort Area includes those Disney Resorts surrounding Crescent Lake near Epcot:
- The Yacht Club
- The Beach Club
- The Boardwalk Inn
The area also includes two non-Disney hotels, the Swan and the Dolphin, along with a number of excellent dining options, great walking and running trails, some fun entertainment and activity options, and the best pool complex at Walt Disney World – Stormalong Bay.
The whole area is a short boat ride or easy walk from both Epcot and Hollywood Studios.
Why do we love the International Gateway?
1. Relatively Short Lines It is one of Disney’s least used park entrances. While the Epcot’s Main Entrance is famous for long and relatively slow lines, the International Gateway is often line-free with the exception of “Rope Drop” during busy periods. What is Rope Drop? Rope Drop is just Disney slang for the moment a park opens.
2. A Short Walk The average Disney guest – even those with a few smaller kids in tow – can make the International Gateway in a leisurely stroll from the Beach Club, Yacht Club, or Boardwalk in 15 minutes or less and from the Swan and Dolphin in just a few minutes more. Taking the Boats – known as the Friend-Ships – will often take you a few minutes longer (but will save just a little wear and tear on your body, which may become appealing later in a Walt Disney World adventure).
We’ve come to really enjoy the walk as the lake and the grounds are extremely pleasant, and there’s almost never a crowd to negotiate.
3. The Cast Members are Great! One of our favorite Disney Cast Members works as a security guard at the International Gateway. He has the thankless job of examining the bags of guests entering by the International Gateway. On our last visit, we saw him several times a day for nearly a week. He was always laughing and friendly, joking with the kids, and presenting them with stickers and little gifts. He always remembered us (or convincingly pretended too), and made passing through the entrance as pleasant as possible.
His name is Donald and be sure to look for him your next time through!
The International Gateway also has a Guest Services station, great restrooms, as well as a gift shop – The World Traveler. You can rent lockers, scooters, wheelchairs, and strollers, but they are all first come, first serve, and they rent to capacity early.
Adjacent to the Entrance is the dock for the Friendships that service Epcot, the Epcot Resort Area, and Hollywood Studios.
The trip from the International Gateway to Hollywood Studios, including Resort stops, will take just under 30 minutes – which is about the time it takes to walk to the Hollywood Studios main entrance.
The final thing we love about the International Gateway Entrance is the anticipation.
After you get through the entrance, it’s a short walk up a slight hill to the Great Britain Pavilion as well as the bridge over to France. Especially if you’re entering in the evening, chances are you’ll hear music playing and feel a sense of all the activity going on…it’s a bit of a rush.
Stop and soak it all in a little!
And don’t forget to: