2024 Ultimate Guide to the Water Rides at EPCOT: Get Ready to Uncover the Hidden Secrets You Never Knew!

Get ready to go on an EPIC adventure on one of the water rides at EPCOT!

What’s considered a classic attraction for theme parks is the boat ride?

These are defined as rides on water that are guided as a whole experience.

Some that come to mind are Jurassic Park: The Ride, Pirates of the Caribbean, Journey to Atlantis and Jungle Cruise.

These are staples for theme parks, especially ones located in hotter climates like California or Florida.

When visiting EPCOT at Walt Disney World in particular, you will find a few.

Some started off quite differently than they are today, but they are still popular and worth trying!

Today, I will be talking about the three water boat rides located in EPCOT: Living with the land, Frozen Ever After and Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros.

This includes:

  • Brief History
  • Storyline
  • Why It’s a Great Experience
  • Tips for Your Visit

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1. Frozen Ever After

Before we can get into Frozen, we have to talk about its predecessor, Maelstrom.


Designed by Imagineering, the ride opened in July 1988, in the Norway Pavilion. It managed to be a combination of a log chute and a traditional film attraction.

Norway Pavilion at Epcot Gods and Vikings Display Entrance
Norway Pavilion at Epcot

Visitors rode boats made to look like traditional longships that passed through various scenes that featured audio-animatronic figures.

Maelstrom Entrance at Epcot
R.I.P Maelstrom: October 2014

The attraction was originally supposed to be called SeaVenture, with the entrance sign during construction even displaying the name.

However, sometime between March 1988 and the ride’s opening, it was changed to Maelstrom.

Maelstrom Mural at Epcot in Norway Pavilion
Last day of Maelstrom 2014

On September 12, 2014, it was announced that the ride would be replaced by an attraction based on Frozen.

When did Maelstrom close at EPCOT?

Maelstrom’s final day of operation was October 5, 2014, to the dismay of many Disney Parks fans.

The Maelstrom Experience

Riders left from a dock traveling by boat, which would mysteriously turn a corner into a dark tunnel and up the lift hill.

A voice tells riders that “those who seek the spirit of Norway face peril and adventure, but more often find beauty and charm.”

Once at the top of the hill, a face of the Odin hovered above.

Norway Pavilion at Epcot Maelstrom Ride Opening Where Boat Goes Backwards with Traditional Building Architecture Surrounding

Riders passed through scenes of seamen and maritime villages, showing a fantasy version of Norway’s Viking days.

Entering a marsh, the boat would see animatronics of a Nokken and a three-headed troll.

The trolls, angered by the trespassing boat, cast a spell onto riders as the vehicle began to move backward very quickly.

Then the boats would float briskly past scenes of puffins, polar bears and living trees, before coming to a stop on the edge of another waterfall.

The boats plunged forward down a 28-foot flume into a stormy visual of the North Sea.

After passing very close to an oil rig, the ride came to a sudden end in a calm harbor of a small village.

Epcot Norway Pavilion Gods and Vikings Pavilion Display at Walt Disney World Wooden Carvings and Freya Folklore

As guests exited the ride, they had the option of watching a 5-minute tourism film, “The Spirit of Norway.”

It highlighted various attractions in Norway including skiing, hiking, and Kjerag Mountain.

Watch Next: 5 BEST Rides at EPCOT You Can’t Miss!


In June 2015, then-Disney Chief Operating Officer Tom Staggs revealed that plans for a Frozen attraction that were discussed prior to the film’s release, but were processed more quickly after the film’s success.

Epcot Flower and Garden Festival Norway Pavilion at Epcot Ana and Elsa Frozen Topiary

The attraction uses the same ride vehicles and course that was used for Maelstrom.

Also, the animatronics for the ride featured improvements in facial animation that were first used on the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, which had opened in 2014 at the Magic Kingdom.

2024 Frozen Ever After Ride at Disney's Epcot Elsa. One of the best boat and water rides at Epcot.

These would also the first ever all-electric Audio-Animatronics, with past incarnations using either pneumatics or hydraulics.

While there are no new songs in the attraction, some of the original songs from Frozen have revised lyrics written by the original composers.

When did Frozen ride open at EPCOT?

On May 20, 2016, Disney Parks revealed that the attraction would open June 21st of 2016.

Once opening day arrived, the wait times were over five hours long, as the lines started in the China Pavilion.

Epcot employees gave out ice cream and water bottles to guests in order to cool off in the hot sun.

Frozen Ever After Ride Storyline

The ride commemorates the anniversary of the day Anna saved her sister, Elsa, from an attempted assassination with an unselfish act of true love.

Disney Theme Park Festival of Fantasy Parade Frozen with Anna and Princess Elsa

This would then thaw a frozen heart and ending the eternal winter.

To celebrate the event, Elsa created an “Official Summer Snow Day” upon the Arendelle, inspiring the amusement ride.

2024 Frozen Ever After Ride at Disney's Epcot. One of the best boat and water rides at Epcot.

Ads promoting the winter festival are visible to you when you queue for the ride.

Here you’ll travel through Wandering Oaken’s Trading Post and Sauna, where they find Oaken in the sauna waving to them.

Frozen Ever After Ride Experience

You’ll then board a boat and sail off into a winter wonderland, where you’ll encounter Olaf and Sven saying hello to guests with a rousing rendition of “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?”.

Frozen Ever After Ride at Disney's Epcot with Olaf

After that, you will pass Grand Pabbie as he recounts the story of the film to a group of young trolls.

You’ll then go up a lift towards Elsa’s ice palace.

When you reach the top, you find Olaf ice skating and singing “For the First Time in Forever”, not necessarily singing the right words.

You will then pass a singing Anna and Kristoff, while Sven sits on the side with his tongue stuck to a pole.

Two gates open and guests see Elsa, who is singing “Let It Go” while conjuring ice.

The boats then zoom backwards down a small dip, passing images of Elsa creating her ice palace.

After that, you will see Marshmallow and the Snowgies from Frozen Fever as they go by.

The boat moves forward as Marshmallow spits out mist, passing through the mist, and down a short drop, at which an on-ride photo is taken.

Frozen Ever After Ride at Epcot with Olaf, Ana and Elsa in their summer attire

Riders eventually go by Arendelle Castle with fireworks bursting over top.

Lastly, you will reach Anna, Elsa, and Olaf, who are singing “In Summer”, as they return to the village and exit the boat.

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Why We Love This Epcot Water Ride

Frozen Ever After allows families to experience the world of the popular movie in a fun and immersive new way. Making it one of the best boat water rides at EPCOT.

2024 Frozen Ever After Ride at Disney's Epcot boarding boat

You can sing-along and listen to you favorite songs from the film and see your favorite characters in a new animatronic form that is more fluid and lifelike.

Great news is that it’s indoors and a great way to cool off during the summer months.

Most importantly, it’s great for ALL ages, especially for those with little ones who will delight in the immersive experience as they step into the world of Arendelle.

Tips for Riding Frozen Ever After

  • The ride is still very popular, so I would recommend making this one of your first stops to minimize the wait; especially if you have little ones with no patience.
  • If possible, you can do Lightning Lane for the attraction if you don’t wish to wait.
  • It’s included with Disney Genie+ so take advantage if you can!
  • If making this your first stop, try to enter from EPCOT’s International Gateway entrance as it’ll be slightly closer of a walk for you.
  • You can meet the Arendelle sisters next door at their meet-and-greet location after or before the ride!

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2. Living with the Land

This is an opening day attraction that has seen some changes over the years, which we will go over briefly.

Living with the Land is a combination of a dark ride and greenhouse tour located within The Land Pavilion.

NikkyJ on Living with the Land Ride during Disney Christmas at Epcot Festival of the Holidays. One of the best boat and water rides at Epcot.

The focus of the ride is on agriculture, particularly new tech to make agriculture more efficient, sustainable, and environmentally friendly. Making it one of the best boat water rides at EPCOT.

The most popular part of the attraction is the Living Laboratory, which boasts five distinct areas (plus two labs).

  1. Tropics Greenhouse – This greenhouse features crops from the tropical areas of the world, including both familiar and exotic foods.
  2. Aquacell – This section focuses on aquaculture, or “fish farming.” It includes several high-density tanks and a few low-density display tanks and tubes. Some of the fish harvested from the Aquacell are served in the Coral Reef Restaurant in The Seas pavilion.
  3. Temperate Greenhouse (formerly the Desert Greenhouse) – A greenhouse featuring crops from temperate climates.
  4. String Greenhouse (formerly the Production Greenhouse) – This greenhouse focuses on innovative high-density techniques, such as Nutrient film technique. It also shows off “vertical growing techniques”, in which plants are grown on specialized trellises which cause the herbaceous plants to approximate the shape and structure of trees. One of the most famous examples of these trees is The Land’s “tomato tree”, which produced over 32,000 tomatoes in a 16-month period.
  5. Creative Greenhouse – The final greenhouse in the attraction shows some unusual ideas about the future of agriculture. Most of the plants here are grown via Aeroponics, in which a fine mist of water and nutrients is sprayed directly onto the roots of the plants. The roots dangle freely in the air, and are not hindered by any growing medium.
  6. Biotechnology Lab – Attached to the Creative Greenhouse, this lab is a sterile research environment. Several USDA scientists are on-site at The Land, performing research on crop improvement.
  7. Integrated Pest Management Lab – An Entomology Laboratory that raises beneficial insects for use in The Land and all over Walt Disney World property. It is not visible on the Living with the Land boat ride, but is visited during the Behind-the-Seeds backstage tour.

Recommended: The Solo Theme Park Traveler’s Guide

Pre-Living with the Land

Living with the Land is an updated version of its predecessor, Listen to the Land. Very little was changed between the two versions of the attraction.

Living with the Land Ride during Disney Christmas at Epcot Festival of the Holidays

The opening scene, the “Symphony of the Seed”, gave a stylized look at the growth of a plant, was replaced by the opening storm scene.

Also, the Biotechnology Lab was relocated from the exit tunnel to the Creative Greenhouse.

Living with the Land Ride during Disney Christmas at Epcot Festival of the Holidays. One of the best boat and water rides at Epcot.

The Integrated Pest Management Lab is now in the space formerly occupied by the Biotechnology Lab.

Living with the Land has been updated to use an automated guide, not a Cast Member.

The theme song “Listen to the Land” is no longer used in the attraction, though an instrumental version can still be heard in The Land’s exterior background music loop as well the music loop played inside the Garden Grill.

Post-Living with the Land

This ride opens in a dark ride manner with a scene of a forest in the middle of a thunderstorm, showing how the forces that shape the land can appear destructive to us.

Living with the Land Ride during Disney Christmas at Epcot Festival of the Holidays

The boat then sails through fake biomes representing a tropical rainforest, a desert and the American prairie.

Some of the animatronics in this section were originally created for the never-built Magic Kingdom attraction, Western River Expedition.

What to Expect on the Living with the Land Ride

The biomes feature sound and lighting effects, in addition to heat, wind and mist, to simulate real conditions.

Living with the Land Ride during Disney Christmas at Epcot Festival of the Holidays

Plus, the boats float through a small theater that shows the relationship between humans and the environment, and the ways that we have been changing the land to better serve our purposes.

Epcot Food and Wine Festival at Disney The Land Pavilion with the Living with the Land Ride

The second part of the attraction takes place in The Land’s “Living Laboratory”, which showcases ideas about the future of agriculture.

Living with the Land Ride during Disney Christmas at Epcot Festival of the Holidays. One of the best boat and water rides at Epcot.

All of the plants in this section are grown through various methods of hydroponics. Plants are grown in sand, perlite, coconut coir and rockwool.

The ride ends with a lighted collage of people and produce from all over the world, along with a projection of Earth as seen from space.

Why We Love This Epcot Water Ride

For me personally, Living with the Land is an underrated gem within EPCOT.

Here you can find yourself immersed in a relaxing, educational setting while gaining an appreciation for the world’s environment. This is why it’s one of the best water rides at EPCOT.

If you wish to get more behind-the-scenes, you can book the Behind-the-Seeds Tour.

Here you will be able to explore all 4 greenhouses, including one section that is not visible on the ride.

Tips for Riding Living with the Land

  • This ride gets wait times of 40+ during peak season, so try to ride during lunchtime
  • There are quite a few plant hidden mickeys during the ride, so keep an eye out.
  • During the holiday season, the greenhouse receives an overlay with twinkling lights. Be sure to ride at night to see it!

WATCH NEXT: 5 BEST Rides at EPCOT to Use Genie+ On!

3. Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros

We have already dived deep into the history, experience and tips for the Gran Fiesta Tour in a previous piece, which you can find here.

Epcot Mexico Pavilion Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros. One of the best boat and water rides at Epcot.

Pre-Three Caballeros

“El Rio Del Tiempo” was born after Germany’s Rhine River Cruise attraction and Japan’s Meet the World Show was shelved, leaving not many attractions for guests in World Showcase.

Epcot Mexico Pavilion Grand Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros

Due to this, El Rio Del Tiempo was made an opening day attraction, with it being made a completely indoor attraction and having it be shortened by 40%.

The pavilion and attraction were built fairly quickly and debuted on EPCOT’s opening day on October 1, 1982.

Disney Mexico Pavilion Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros with Mariachi Band. One of the best boat and water rides at Epcot.

During the 2007 refurbishment, the decision was made to give the attraction a brand-new storyline and thus Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros was born!

Post-Three Caballeros

The story places you in longboats and prior to this, you will see posters indicating that the Three Caballeros will be putting on a concert!

Epcot Mexico Pavilion Three Caballeros Gran Fiesta Tour Poster. One of the best boat and water rides at Epcot.

As you pass by a Mayan pyramid and Volcano, you will enter another room where Jose and Panchito introduce themselves, but quickly discover the third member, Donald Duck, is missing.

Epcot Mexico Pavilion Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros

Donald has run off on his own adventure and you will join Jose and Panchito through their journey as they go through Mexico to find him.

While Jose and Panchito travel on their magic carpet, you will travel on boat as you explore different parts of Mexico.

Disney Mexico Pavilion Grand Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros. One of the best boat and water rides at Epcot.

After touring various scenes including one with “it’s a small world-esque” animatronics.

Boarding ride in Mexico Pavilion Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros Animatronics. One of the best boat and water rides at Epcot.

In the finale, you will finally join the Three Cabarellos in Mexico City as they perform their concert with fireworks in the background. Making it one of the best boat water rides at EPCOT.

Just don’t let that song get stuck in your head 🙂

Tips for Riding the Gran Fiesta Starring the Three Cabarellos

Here are just a few tips to make your experience as seamless as possible, especially during an Epcot festival.

  • The best time to ride this attraction is during lunchtime, 1 p.m to 3 p.m., or closer towards park close. This allows you to not be in the heat too long or avoid it altogether.
  • If you book a dining reservation at San Angel Inn Restaurant, try to ask for seating near the water so you can be near the volcano and have a lovely view of the guests going by on the attraction.
  • If you can’t ride during the times I suggested above, bring an umbrella with you. This will help if it rains in line and to protect you from the sun. The queue to get into Mexico Pavilion is currently social distanced and can wrap outside to enter. The wait tends to be no more than 15 minutes however.

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My Final Thoughts on the EPCOT Water Rides

I have found in my personal experience that boat rides like these are usually overlooked and under-appreciated.

Living with the Land Ride during Disney Christmas at Epcot Festival of the Holidays. One of the best boat and water rides at Epcot.

But Disney has managed to take the EPCOT water rides to new heights with their immersive creativity, storytelling and eye for encouragement when it comes to showcasing knowledge.

Disney Monorail Transportation at Epcot passing by entrance and Spaceship Earth. One of the Epcot Rides.

They have used their own Intellectual Properties to bring their guests to fantastical worlds and spark the curiosity to learn more about cultures and our natural landscape.

All with a concept as simple as a theme park boat ride.

Theme Park Travel Guide to Water Rides at EPCOT
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Do you like any of the water rides at EPCOT? Share with us in the comments section below!

Until next time, Happy Park Hopping Hipsters!

Victoria Wade Disney Writer at ThemeParkHipster

About the Author

Victoria is a professional solo traveler here to make your solo trips as stress free AND enjoyable as possible for you.

She has over 5 years of Disney and Non-Disney travel experience and was featured by POPSUGAR as one of the Top 50 Black Disney Creators you should follow.

She is a Proud Native to Baltimore, Md but always will call Disney World home. You can find her at Disney Tea with V.

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