As someone who took a hiatus from WDW starting at age 17 and not returning until 28 with my own children - I couldn't wait to get back that first time. Leading up to that trip, all of the Disney memories from childhood started coming back as I daydreamed about what I wanted my kids to see and do. Obviously, that train of thought was enough to fuel months' worth of daydreaming, but out of all that great material, one thing stuck out: EPCOT. Unlike the other things I kept thinking about - seeing my kids faces in their first Splash Mountain pic, hearing their first screams on Tower of Terror - my looking forward to EPCOT wasn't so specific. I found it hard to boil it down to certain experiences, I just knew I wanted them to see the park; the whole park. To make a long (and pretty great) story short, that first return to Disney in 2014 would be the first of a now-yearly pilgrimage, and if you - like me - have both back-in-the-day Disney experience and more current, than you can sense it too: Epcot has been, to be kind, slightly neglected by time, and by time, I mean Disney. EPCOT has become Disney's ghetto. Not to make light of real-world socioeconomically disenfranchised areas, but if you know your local ghetto, you know it's status as such is marked by certain indicators. Abandoned buildings is one of the big ones. Another one is dated infrastructure. This park has both (not to mention a roach infestation more severe than any of the other parks, I mean, it is Florida, but damn!). I cannot tell you how surprised I was that first time back to discover that what I'd remembered as always ahead of its time, cutting edge EPCOT had been outpaced by time. A main through-way of the park leading to now half empty Innoventions, the Electric Umbrella, etc. in the now-ironically named Future World was lined with pay phones (not just a few - so, so many payphones). Huge pavilions stood vacant as they have now for years, creating stretches of park that offer nothing. I won't go on - after all - this is a positive post about EPCOT - but if you're a longtimer, I know you know what I mean. And this is where I explain how in the end, none of that matters. Disney World parks are exhausting, and more so if you have children (and more, more, more, more so if you have four children, like my wife and I). I've come to realize that a typical park experience is made up of you constantly switching between four modes - walking, waiting, riding/watching, eating. There is no transition period between the four - you just go from one to the next until it's time to leave. EPCOT is the biggest exception to this rule out of all the main parks. During our last trip, my family and I went to EPCOT twice. Ride for ride, we did way less than any of the other parks, but positive experience for positive experience, I have to say - whether my family realizes it or not - EPCOT reigned supreme. 1. THINGIES (it'll make sense, just keep reading) If you took the exit areas to just about any Epcot ride in Future World and plopped them down in AnywhereElse, USA, you'd have a standalone arcade-like attraction, not unlike a Chuck-E-Cheese, but a much higher quality version, obviously. Spaceship Earth was both the most boring ride to my kids, and at the same time, one of their funnest experiences. Still in that Disney "GO GO GO!" mode of the other parks, I had already calculated the next 2 rides we'd be able to squeeze in before the park closed as our "time machine vehicle was rotating backwards for our return to Earth." Then after 15 minutes of my kids having a blast playing the games offered in the exit space, and several unsuccessful attempts to prod them to the exit, I had my EPCOT epiphany - this is what this place is all about. When we returned to EPCOT for the second time of our trip, we spent about 40 percent of our time in "GO GO GO" mode and the rest enjoying experiences like the one at Spaceship Earth. We raced the cars we'd created at Test Track video game-style, we made music with out bodies at the end of Journey to Imagination, and my kids took their shoes off to run around the water-jumping-out-the-ground circle thingy while I stood nearby under a nice misting thingy. From there, we went to what I came to know as the Coca-Cola Cool Down Station as a child, where they squealed with glee as strangers fell for their urgings to try the Italian soda, "Beverly" (don't know what this place is called now, but we'll call it "soda thingy.") Case in point - EPCOT has the most thingies, and the coolest thingies, and you must be willing to stop and enjoy the thingies the same way people have been telling you to stop and smell the roses all these years. Only then will you know the true magic of this place. It's a huge relief from the walking, waiting, riding/watching, eating, and as much as you love the other parks - you need some of that in your life when you're Disneying hard. 2. AESTHETIC & ATMOSPHERE No matter how dated elements in EPCOT might be, the overall design of the park is so immaculate, so contemporary (shout out to the hotel), that nothing can take away its atmosphere of sophistication and fun. While I'm of the opinion that all of WDW shows its true beauty at night when the lights come on, the ambiance of EPCOT at night is unrivaled by any other WDW location, possibly any other worldly location (like, the actual world). From the specs of light that twinkle in the square granite walkway blocks of Future World (another of those "thingies" that made my kids happy), to the landmarks of World Showcase - this goes beyond pleasing to the eye. It's outright mesmerizing. 3. BEING GROWN While the rest of Disney easily makes adults feel like kids again, EPCOT appeals to your adult senses while still offering plenty of the stuff that keeps your kids' eyes sparkling with the delight you love to see in them. And as great as it is to be a kid again, during a week-or-so long period of being a man/woman child, it kind of feels good to go adulting again. Sure, you do your grown up thing when you order your family's food and other boring mandatory stuff like that, but it's not the same as adulting at a park. EPCOT lets you do that like no other WDW park can. And all the while, the kids aren't losing an ounce of fun (refer back to the "thingies"). I'm realizing now that I could go on and on, but there's a sampling of what I think makes EPCOT undefeated, and why no lack of updating could ever change it. Sure, get wrapped up in the magical adrenaline rush that defines a WDW vacation. Disney so hard your face is numb. But just know that all that rushing around makes EPCOT all the sweeter, and to let that go unappreciated is to lose out on a major part of the magic.