Ultimate Guide to the Perfect Day at Epcot
Every theme park at Walt Disney World comes with its own rhythm and quirks. Your park strategy may work well at Magic Kingdom, but it could fail completely at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. You must take the right approach to guarantee the best park visit possible. Here are seven tips for having a perfect day at Epcot.
Visit during a Festival
Before you book a vacation at Walt Disney World, you should look at the dates of the various festivals hosted at Epcot. Disney presents four of them annually, starting with the Epcot International Festival of the Arts in January. Their final one, the Epcot International Festival of the Holidays ends in December. At this point, more than half of the days on the calendar feature some festival.
You want to pick a date when Epcot is running a festival if at all possible. These events have special engagements like concerts or art exhibits that will enhance your park visit. They also have special food kiosks for each event. At these pop-up restaurants, you’ll have your choice of some of the most daring and exotic foods at Walt Disney World. This is essential for the perfect day at Epcot.
Since these are small bites, they cost less than regular Disney restaurant meals, too. You can eat cheaper at Epcot when a festival is ongoing. You’ll have a much larger variety of food options to boot. It’s a win/win.
Pick the Right FastPass
Epcot employs a tiered FastPass system. In layperson’s terms, the most trafficked attractions at the park are in an exclusive tier. You may pick only one of them for your daily visit. Epcot is unusual in that the attractions that are not in the top tier generally have short wait-times anyway.
For these reasons, your primary decision comes down to a few attractions. You must book the Group A FastPass that appeals to you and your party. Your choices come down to Frozen Ever After, Meet Disney Pals at the Epcot Character Spot, Soarin’ Around the World, or Test Track. A reserved seating area for IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth is a possibility as well, but it’s not a great choice since you wouldn’t be able to book other FastPasses the entire day.
Fans of character interactions and parents with small children may prefer Meet Disney Pals, but I would recommend one of the three rides as the best use of your Group A FastPass. Out of the three, Frozen Ever After has the lowest throughput and longest lines.
So, if you want to ride it, you should prioritize it as your FastPass of choice. Soarin’ is my back-up suggestion since Test Track has Single Rider. Whatever you choose, please book the FastPass when your 60-day window opens. Otherwise, you may miss out.
Go Against the Crowd
Walt Disney World veterans know the dirty secret about Epcot. Early in the day, crowd traffic goes in one direction. Most park guests enter through the main gate and then head toward Spaceship Earth. There, they tend to stop and ride the first attraction that they see.
They do this because it’s instinctive and also due to the physically impressive stature of Spaceship Earth. From there, guests fan out into other parts of the park, but they only have three possible directions to go.
With the herd mentality in play, Epcot’s traffic patterns are easy to anticipate. Your best strategy is to skip Spaceship Earth when you enter the park. Head literally anywhere else. You’ll encounter less congestion and thereby discover shorter lines for the other attractions. Later in the day, generally after 3 p.m., work your way back to Spaceship Earth. You’ll find that this path has the least resistance.
Explore the World Showcase
From a young age, we learn that the most essential part of a theme park day is doing all of the rides. It’s almost a compulsion to check off the entire list of attractions. Since you now know that the highest-rated rides at Epcot also have the longest waits, you may feel tempted to spend most of your day conquering the best of Epcot.
Resist. You want to spread your park time out a little better than that. Look at the map of Epcot. You’ll realize that the front half is Future World, home to most of the rides. The back half is the World Showcase, home to 11 pavilions, all of which are worthy of your time during your perfect day at Epcot.
I’m not exaggerating when I say that you could literally spend hours at each of these pavilions, admiring the artistry and culture of each one. Unless you live in Orlando, however, you won’t have time to do that. Still, you should plan to roam the World Showcase for at least two hours during your Epcot day.
That’s enough time to hit the highlights of the pavilions that interest you the most. I’d recommend Mexico, Norway, Japan, and the United Kingdom, but I’m totally sincere when I say that all 11 World Showcase pavilions are marvelous.
Rest Your Feet
The beauty of Epcot is that it hosts plenty of attractions that will get you off of your feet. Since the World Showcase alone is 1.3 miles, you’ll feel thankful for any respite that you can get. Conveniently, several of these slow dark rides are quite a bit of fun, too.
Living with the Land at the Land Pavilion is an informative display of modern agriculture. Its highlight is a demonstration of live cast members working to solve world hunger through innovation. You’ll find Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros inside the Mexico Pavilion. It rarely has a long line and is eerily similar in style and tone to It’s a Small World.
Turtle Talk with Crush is an interactive show in a theater. The animated character from Finding Nemo, Crush, will take questions from the audience and crack wise with kids in attendance. The presentation is adorable and long enough to let you catch your breath. Finally, when the lines are short, remember that Spaceship Earth is a 15-minute ride in a dark environment. It’s an ideal way to relax while being entertained.
Savor the Food
Oh my, the food at Epcot causes me to salivate when I think about it. This place is foodie heaven, only you don’t have to die or even be a good person to eat it. The 11 pavilions at the World Showcase each celebrate the cuisine of their country of origin. The result is more than 20 restaurants, all of which are among the best you’ll ever try.
I could throw out a list of my favorites, but that would defeat the point. The joy of the World Showcase is the exploration. Pick the style of food that you like and then walk over to that pavilion. I guarantee that you’ll find something on the menu that leaves you smiling.
Finally, please remember that you picked a date during an Epcot festival for a reason. You will want to sample the various pop-up restaurants. They’ll serve entrees, desserts, and even beer/wine that will delight your taste buds. Epcot food is one of the most pleasant aspects of a Walt Disney World visit.
Watch IllumiNations While You Can
While all Disney nighttime presentations are delightful, the best of them is IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth. This award-winning production won the Golden Ticket Award as the best nightly show for so many consecutive years that they retired the award. That’s a real thing that happened.
Alas, all good things must come to an end. On September 30, 2019, Epcot will perform IllumiNations for the last time. Imagineers are preparing a replacement as we speak. To have the perfect day at Epcot, you simply must watch IllumiNations before it’s too late.