How to Plan a Fantastic Day at EPCOT
Are you planning on spending the day at Walt Disney World’s quirkiest park?
EPCOT marries the ideas of theme park attractions with the shopping, eating, and drinking of international travel.
You’ll need an excellent strategy to do everything you want during a visit. So here’s some advice on how to plan a day at EPCOT.
When Should You Go?
We frequently talk about the best times to visit Walt Disney World. My vote is pretty straightforward. I suggest the offseason, especially avoiding holidays.
Alas, most people can vacation more easily during the most crowded times on the park calendar. That’s why they’re so crowded, especially on holidays.
Still, with EPCOT, you should keep an eye on the calendar as you plan your visit.
You want to visit at a time when one of the festivals is ongoing. The park hosts four of them per year, usually with gaps in between those dates.
For example, in 2021, the EPCOT International Festival of the Arts closed on February 22nd. Then, the EPCOT International Flower & Garden Festival started on March 3rd.
The people who visited Walt Disney World during the last week of February felt like idiots. I speak from experience here, as I’ve been that idiot.
If possible, you should strongly consider a visit that falls squarely within the regular dates for these events.
Visits in January, April, May, late summer, and November/December increase the odds that you’ll get to experience a festival.
EPCOT always makes for a wonderful park day, but it’s oh so much better during festivals. You can eat cheap while sampling the finest in global cuisine.
Oh, it’s great for getting drunk, too. If you stay at Disney’s BoardWalk Inn or Disney’s Beach Club Resort, you can stumble back from the bar to your hotel room in like ten minutes.
Does Arriving Early Matter?
Yes and no. I’m an ardent proponent of Rope Drop at Walt Disney World as a rule.
However, EPCOT behaves somewhat differently than the other three parks. I discuss wait times here each week, and EPCOT never ceases to amaze me.
Only two attractions at this park frequently require standing in line for more than 40 minutes. I’m referencing Test Track and Frozen Ever After.
So, Rope Drop at EPCOT comes down to a choice of Frozen Ever After at the back of the park in the World Showcase or Test Track, which is toward the middle.
Running, err, fast-walking to Frozen Ever After comes with some aggravation. First, you must walk around the World Showcase to get there.
Some guests feel tired before they ever ride Frozen Ever After at Rope Drop. It’s like sprinting at the start of a marathon.
Most EPCOT veterans target Test Track, which turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Like Avatar Flight of Passage at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Test Track fills up quickly.
Unless you are among the first guests, the wait time could approach an hour even if you Rope Drop. This has happened to me as recently as this year.
A third option, Spaceship Earth, also isn’t great because that’s the first ride near the main entrance. So, guests ride it on the way to other stuff.
Meanwhile, most other EPCOT attractions come with wait times under 30 minutes. So you’re not gaining much by targeting most of them.
As such, the only attraction where you’d benefit much at Rope Drop is Soarin’.
Even the time savings on that one is a bit negligible, but it’s my preferred strategy these days.
Does Staying Late Help?
Yes! YES! A THOUSAND TIMES YES!!!
Folks, EPCOT stayed open later than the rest of the parks during the pandemic. Disney did this for a reason.
Many Orlando residents treat the World Showcase like a nightclub, a vibrant source of nightlife.
If the locals are hanging out somewhere after dark, you know it’s good.
The food, drinks, and entertainment at EPCOT remain active until the park’s closing. Even then, you can wander over to nearby Disney’s BoardWalk for extra fun.
Also, EPCOT hosts nighttime presentations that delight the senses. The current exhibition is EPCOT Forever, although it’ll end in late September.
Starting on October 1st, Disney will host Harmonious, which promises to be the spiritual successor to the ever-popular IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth.
You want to be at the parks for this, even if you don’t care for fireworks. The lines tend to dwindle as closing time approaches.
The moments before park closure represent your best opportunities to ride Frozen Ever After or Test Track, possibly even multiple times!
Cast members will let you ride anything that you’re in line for when it’s closing time. So, if anything, you want to stay until AFTER the park closes.
Don’t worry! Disney transportation will still be running after you’ve finished your last ride!
Are Any Attractions Okay to Skip?
If you want me to start a knife fight among Disney loyalists, you could just ask.
Look, everyone has favorite attractions and ones that don’t do much for them.
My top ride at Walt Disney World is Spaceship Earth. I can assure you that this is a minority opinion. I suspect snake-handling has more supporters than Spaceship Earth as Best Disney Ride.
So, please remember that my opinions likely don’t line up with yours much.
Having said that, if you aren’t a completionist, some attractions may not be worth your time.
Adults without children may not get as much out of Journey into Imagination with Figment. However, my wife, who is eternally eight years old, happens to love it.
I lament the absence of the Dreamfinder every time I ride and just cannot get past it.
For entirely different reasons, you might want to skip Mission: SPACE. This ride comes in two forms, the Orange and Green versions.
The Orange ride simulates space travel, as you’ll escape Earth’s atmosphere and crash-land on Mars.
Actual NASA scientists and astronauts consulted on this attraction. So, it’s authentic to the point of being too aggressive for some.
You may have heard that someone died on this ride. That’s true, although Disney quickly reduced the ride’s intensity. Also, this happened more than 15 years ago.
Finally, some people could do without the preachy agricultural infotainment on Living with the Land, which I think is INSANE.
At a minimum, I encourage people to ride it as a 15-minute relaxing boat ride and potential nap.
However, if you don’t like PBS shows about farmers, it may not be for you.
Everything else at EPCOT should satisfy any theme park lover.
Is There Anything Else Worth Doing Nearby?
Yes. Better yet, most of it is easily accessible now.
As I mentioned, you can walk to the BoardWalk, which is home to several shops, restaurants, and even a nightclub. Plus, it does host nighttime entertainment sometimes.
Disney’s Blizzard Beach, a water park, is only a few miles away if you want to split your vacation day. I’ve done this several times and find it quite relaxing.
Similarly, Disney Springs resides just four miles from EPCOT. You can quickly grab a bus and be shopping here within 15 minutes.
I wouldn’t recommend that you leave EPCOT to dine at Disney Springs, though. I’ll explain why in the next section.
Still, you’ll find plenty to do at Disney Springs, enough that you may find it a relaxing way to escape the chaos of a theme park for a while.
With the Disney Skyliner open, you can hop on a gondola and ride to one of the other Disney resorts or Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Remember that Disney has brought back Park Hopping for 2021. So, as long as your ticket entitles you to switch parks, that’s a fun way to try something new.
Also, riding the Skyliner itself is a lot of fun and a way to kick back while enjoying the Disney sights from high above the ground.
Alternatively, you can also take a boat around the International Gateway area behind the park. It also connects to Hollywood Studios and is quite serene.
Where Should You Eat?
Literally anywhere in the World Showcase will treat you right. As I mentioned, you also cannot go wrong with the food festival kiosks.
These tiny pop-up food kitchens serve specialty cuisine, usually four or five unique menu items that you won’t find elsewhere at the park…or possibly in Florida.
I said not to eat at Disney Springs because you should save that for the other days during your trip.
When you’re at the other parks, the flavors simply cannot compare to Disney Springs’ options. Conversely, EPCOT rivals or arguably even surpasses Disney Springs in terms of cuisine.
Personally, I would recommend a few favorites such as:
- Akershus (when open)
- Biergarten Restaurant
- Chefs de France
- Le Cellier Steakhouse
- Regal Eagle Smokehouse
- Rose & Crown
- San Angel Inn Restaurante
- Sunshine Seasons
- Teppan Edo
- Via Napoli Ristorante e Pizzeria
The one place you should probably avoid is Coral Reef Restaurant, which features one of the best setups at Walt Disney World. You’re eating in an aquarium!
Unfortunately, most people feel that the food doesn’t live up to the pricing.
Feature Image: Disney