Ah, Epcot. These days it can feel a bit more like a perpetual foodie-meets-culture festival (where’s the lie?) or one of those international food halls but outdoors and incredibly extra. And we mean that as the greatest compliment. Truly, who doesn’t love either of those things? However, no guest at Epcot will say that rides are the focus. Trust us – here, food (and drink) are the true stars. Of course, Epcot does have its fair share of can’t miss rides, or at least it will in the not-so-distant future. So, the question is, what’s the best way to go on all the must-dos while still having time to enjoy all the tasty things on offer?
The key, friends, is going in with a plan. With our 1-Day Epcot plan (both with and without kids), you’re sure to stay ahead of the crowds, saving you precious time for food and drink. And believe us, you’re gonna want that time.
This easy-to-follow guide will walk you through our tried-and-true one-day Epcot plan. While you won’t be able to get absolutely everything in the park done in a day (with the near-constant stream of festivals, there’s just too much to see, do, and eat), you will certainly be able to accomplish most or all of the rides plus make a dent in whatever else strikes your fancy around World Showcase.
With the current suspension of FastPass+, guests must visit the park like the they did back when it was EPCOT Center: by waiting in standby lines. Nevertheless, thanks to social distancing and lowered capacity levels, you should still be able to get quite a bit done. Plus, as long as you get to the parks early, you can get a head start on everyone else.
On our last trip, we were able to do Test Track, Soarin’ Around the World, Spaceship Earth, Mission: SPACE, Soarin’ Around the World, and Living With the Land, and still have time have some of the festival food and drinks. Plus, if we had wanted to, we could have squeezed Frozen Ever After, Gran Fiesta Tour, The Seas With Nemo & Friends, and Journey Into Imagination With Figment as well.
It’s all a matter of getting and staying ahead of the crowds and figuring out what your priorities are. With the help of our 1-Day Epcot itinerary and some planning (or perhaps, openness to whatever comes along) on your part, you’re sure to have fun- and food-filled time at Epcot.
A FEW CONSIDERATIONS
As we previously mentioned, while rides can be the focus of your time at Epcot, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they should be. It depends a lot on who you’re going with. For families with small children, planning your time around hitting all the rides obviously makes sense. If your group is older, however, or if you have especially adventurous kids, we’d recommend letting the various food and entertainment possibilities take center stage.
The easiest way to do this is by knocking out all the rides first and then using the rest of your time to wander at your leisure. By doing this, you keep your wait times as low as possible, banking up time for World Showcase adventures and festival booth hopping later in the day.
Given the choose-your-own-adventure vibe that’s at Epcot currently, this is the loosest of our one-day plans. In contrast, our one-day itineraries for Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studio, and Animal Kingdom are much more structured. Plus, Epcot is hopefully still on track for a huge transformation. We’re talking new rides plus some, so expect this plan to be evolving in the not-so-distant future.
One more thing to keep in mind: When you think of all the rides and shows to do and pavilions to explore in Epcot normally and add in the temptingly long list of festival food booths and special entertainment, it all might feel overwhelming. Especially if you feel like you need to get all of it done in a day.
Our advice? Don’t do it all. Like Animal Kingdom, Epcot is meant to be savored, explored. Pretty sure you can’t do any exploring if you’re running around from ride to ride and stuffing your face full at every single food booth. Strike a balance between a busy start and a relaxing end. You’ll see just enough of everything to feel like you accomplished Epcot while keeping your day as stress-free as possible.
If that all sounds easier said than done, stick with us for our 1-Day Epcot touring plan.
MOST POPULAR EPCOT ATTRACTIONS
As we’ve already said, the attractions likely won’t be the focus of your trip to Epcot. However, that doesn’t mean that Epcot doesn’t have some really great rides. In fact, there are a few rides here that must-sees for any Disney vacation. Some may be long-time favorites, while others are relatively recent arrivals. And soon enough, even more rides will be added. So, count on these to have some of the longest lines in the park.
- Frozen Ever After
- Mission: Space
- Soarin’ Around the World
- Spaceship Earth
- Test Track
- Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure (coming soon!)
- Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind (expected late 2021/2022)
If there’s another thing that Epcot is blessed with, aside from festivals and food booths, it’s cultural exhibits and films. These, along with some other less-popular attractions in Future World, are perfect for adding in between other activities or as you’re exploring World Showcase at the end of your day.
- The American Adventure
- Beauty and the Beast Sing-Along
- Canada Far and Wide in Circle-Vision 360
- Disney and Pixar Short Film Festival
- Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros
- Impressions de France
- Journey Into Imagination With Figment
- Kidcot Fun Stops
- Living With the Land
- Reflections of China
- The Seas With Nemo & Friends
- And much more!
Overall, our 1-day plan will have you hitting most, if not all, of the rides and then whatever mix of other attractions and shows you would like to see. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19 much of the entertainment is on hiatus. However, we’re sure these will return as the world goes back to normal. In the meantime, we’re very much enjoying not having to decide between Voices of Liberty or Mariache Cobre. As you’re planning your day, also be sure to save time to explore World Showcase after sunset. You won’t want to miss the different country’s pavilions lit up at night.
Should the crowds start to get long during the day or if you start to get overwhelmed, just take a deep breath and keep following the plan. We’ll get you through all the major rides. After that, it’s just up to you to eat something tasty and relax.
1-DAY TOURING PLAN FOR EPCOT
This first plan is meant for groups without any height restrictions, meaning guests who can go on any ride. It has been designed to hit the most popular attractions in the park without using FastPass+, making it perfect now that the service has been suspended, while still giving plenty of time to eat and drink your way through World Showcase.
As with our other one-day plans, you must arrive at the park one hour early. This gives you a jump on the rest of the crowd and stay there the rest of the day. Additionally, it lets you capitalize on the recent trend of Disney letting people into the parks 45 minutes to an hour before park open. For anyone who has never been to a rope drop at Walt Disney World, that is a massive head start. In short, take advantage while it’s still going on.
On that note, if you’re staying in a Disney resort and planning on using the complimentary bus system, we say think again. That bus ride will cost you about 30 extra minutes due to traffic and stops. So, you might as well drive your own card or take an Uber or a Lyft instead and get there the full hour ahead of time.
It is important to note here that Epcot actually has two entrances: the main entrance that opens into Future World and the rear entrance known as International Gateway. This last entrance is mostly for guests staying at one of the Epcot-area resorts (specifically the Yacht or Beach Clubs or the Boardwalk Inn) and opens into World Showcase. Since we’re assuming that the new Ratatouille ride is opening soon, making it the first stop on our list, the plan is the same no matter which entrance you use.
Before entering the park, you will first need to have your temperature taken. Once you’re in, make a mad dash for Ratatouille (assuming it’s open, of course). And a mad dash it will be. As this will be the newest ride in all of Walt Disney World, it’s going to be on absolutely everyone’s list. So, it’s crucial that we get it done at the beginning of the day when the lines should be shortest – as long as you came an hour early. This is us warning you now.
From there (or until Ratatouille actually opens), make your way over to Test Track. While it is true that this is one of the most popular rides in the park, it also happens to be one of the rides that breaks down the most. Blame it on a complicated ride system, but whatever the case, the earlier that you get this out of the way, the better off you’ll be. Hopefully, by going on early, you should be able to avoid any mechanical breakdowns or closures and stay in front of the crowds.
Once you’re finished, pop over to Mission: Space next door. For those who aren’t aware, this is a flight simulation ride that mimics a spaceship taking off and ultimately orbiting the Earth or landing on Mars. There are also two versions to choose from – an easy level (the green team) and a hard level (the orange team). How bad is orange Mission: Space, you might be wondering? To start, this version uses a centrifuge to recreate the experience of a rocket liftoff and weightlessness, reaching up to 2.5 Gs in the process. That’s INTENSE. Plus, the ride vehicles are very cramped. In short, if you’re prone to motion sickness and/or claustrophobia, think twice before riding the orange version of Mission: Space.
Alternatively, if you’re a bigger fan of nostalgia than stomach-tossing thrills, take a pass on Mission: Space and go for Spaceship Earth instead. This slow-moving dark ride admittedly needs an update – and it was headed for one before COVID hit – but what it lacks in thrills, it more than makes up for with old-school charm. From there, keep moving on to The Land pavilion.
The Land pavilion is home to a variety of things: a revolving table-service restaurant, a great quick-service option, a boat ride through the pavilion’s futuristic gardens, another breathtaking flight simulator that is easily in the running for one of the top ride’s in the park, and even a beautifully shot short film about conservation and the environment. As much as we’d like to recommend you do it all, stick to just Soarin’ Around the World and, if you have time, Living With the Land. This last ride is definitely leisurely, but it can give a different perspective to the park that is worthwhile if you have the time.
For most groups, this marks the end of the rides on your list. Sure, you could go on Journey Into Imagination With Figment next door, ride on Gran Fiesta Tour on your next loop around, or see any one of the numerous films throughout the park. However, as far as must-do rides are concerned, you’re finished, and it’s barely lunchtime.
That means that the rest of your day at Epcot is blissfully free for whatever else it is that interests you. Want to get in touch with your patriotic side? Go listen to the Voices of Liberty and watch The American Adventure (or take a nap in the sweet, sweet dark). Feeling international? Work your way through the various cultural films throughout World Showcase. Or, don’t do anything other than eat, shop, or listen to music – or do all three!
We suggest that you start in one spot and start working your way around. It doesn’t matter which way you go first, just see what’s in either direction and go with what sounds best. You’ll end all the way back around where you started anyway, so you don’t have to worry about missing anything.
If there’s a festival going on like the Festival of the Arts, be sure to grab a passport so you can see all the different food and drinks that are available. There’s nothing worse than eating too much and running out of room before something that you really wanted to try.
As you’re wandering around, this is when it’s really important to just give in and let the Disney magic take over. Sit for a while and watch a street performer or listen to one of the musical acts (fingers crossed that these will all return when the pandemic is over). Pop into one of the many shops and see what’s for sale – even if you’re not buying anything, it’s still fun to see what’s on offer in the different pavilions. Take in Impressions de France or Reflections of China, or don’t. The only requirement you have for the rest of your day is to eat and drink whatever makes you feel good (more on that later) and, eventually, watch Epcot’s new nighttime spectacular, “Disney Harmonious.”
1-DAY TOURING PLAN FOR EPCOT WITH KIDS
If there is one park out of them all that isn’t exactly what you’d call over-the-top kid-friendly, it’s Epcot. With a focus on food and drink (especially those that aren’t what you’d call easily accessible), a lack of rides but a wealth of cultural exhibits and films, and a penchant for science, you might think that you have to dig deep than normal to find kid-friendly fun. And while that might be true to an extent, it is certainly there. You just need to know where to look for it.
Fortunately, with our 1-Day itinerary for Epcot with kids, a bit of patience, and a splash of creativity (and possibly a drink or two), you’ll get to do all the things that makes kids smile, while also keeping them happy when you’re doing the things that make you smile. We’ve already got a good start with our 1-Day Epcot plan without children – all we need to do now is mix in some more rides and a few other attractions for the kiddos.
When it comes to rides, Disney doesn’t make parents choose between going on a ride or staying with their little one. With their Parent Swap (also called Rider Switch) program, both parents can go on whatever rides they want. All they need to do is tell the cast member at the entrance to any ride with a height requirement that they want to do a parent swap. Then, while one parent goes on the ride, the other hangs back with the child. That parent is also given a return time by a cast member. This allows them, and two other guests, to use the FastPass+ line after the first parent does the ride.
We think this a highly underrated Disney hack that doesn’t just save you time, it also makes sure no one has to miss out on the fun. As you’re out exploring the parks, keep in mind that you can rider switch on any ride with a height restriction. At Epcot, rides with a height limit are:
- Mission: Space – 40 inches (102 centimeters) or taller
- Soarin’ Around the World – 40 inches (102 centimeters) or taller
- Test Track – 40 inches (102 centimeters) or taller
If you have at least one child who doesn’t meet the above requirements, here is our 1-day Epcot plan for those with kids:
As you’ll notice above, there are only three attractions in all of Epcot with a height restriction. We also don’t know what the height requirements will be for the upcoming Ratatouille and Guardians of the Galaxy rides, if there will be any at all. That’s pretty good for a park that isn’t exactly everyone’s first family-friendly choice, but don’t worry – by the end of our 1-day Epcot itinerary, your kids will have had as much fun as the adults. As with our original plan, the flow of the day is the same no matter which entrance you use.
Start your day by getting to the park an hour early. After having your temperature taken, your first stop (once it’s open) will be Ratatouille. As this will be the newest ride in all of Walt Disney World, it will have the potential to have the longest lines, so make it your mission to get there as fast as possible once you’re in the park. We don’t know if there will be a height limit yet, but if it has one, remember that you can easily do a rider switch by letting the cast member at the entrance know.
After that (or in the meantime until it opens), make your way over to Frozen Ever After in Norway. Thanks to a little section where your boat will go backwards and some fun splashes, this ride should be a hit with the kids whether they’re fans of Frozen or not. And better yet, there’s no height limit! When you’re done, move along to yet another boat ride in the Mexico pavilion, Gran Fiesta Tour.
Next, head over to Test Track. Don’t forget to tell the cast member about your rider switch. Then, go next door to Mission: Space. Unless your kids (and you) have stomachs of steel, consider doing the green version, so you’re not stuck with a bunch of upset stomachs the rest of the day. Whichever option you choose, remember that you can parent swap if necessary. From there, keep heading on to Spaceship Earth. This will be a good opportunity to relax in the dark for a bit.
Afterwards, stop into The Seas with Nemo & Friends. When the ride is done, feel free to enjoy the aquarium for a bit if you have the time. And when it’s not closed due to COVID, most kids will love Turtle Talk With Crush. Your next stop is The Land pavilion. As soon as you arrive, make your way to Soarin’. As one of the most popular rides in the park, it’s best to check this off our list as early in the day as possible. This is also our last parent swap ride of the bunch, so remember to tell the cast member at the entrance. While you could also ride Living With the Land before leaving The Land, keep in mind that this is a slow-moving boat ride (yes, another one) through some greenhouses. It’s also pretty long. So, we think cutting this out is a pretty good way of saving some time since there are already quite a few rides on our list. There’s also a film here, Awesome Planet, that is beautifully made – and also a wonderful place for a nap.
Your final stop on our list, at least where rides are concerned, is the Imagination pavilion. This pavilion is home to Journey Into Imagination With Figment and the Disney and Pixar Short Film Festival. While your little ones will love Figment, the film festival is also a great opportunity to unwind in the air conditioning and maybe even get in a little nap or nurse.
With those out of the way, the rest of your time is free to explore World Showcase and whatever festival is going on as you please. As with our original plan, the easiest course of attack is picking a direction and doing a full circle so you don’t miss anything. While exploring the pavilions, take advantage of the Kidcot Fun Stops located in each. These kid-friendly activities help keep your children entertained as you wander through each country, and leave them with a related memento.
Additionally, if there’s a festival going on, keep an eye out for any special kid-friendly activities like an animation academy, themed scavenger hunts, or food items in a passport that you need to check off. These can help keep the festival fun and different as you work your way around and might even encourage your little ones to try something they might not have been interested in otherwise.
Finally, don’t forget about the entertainment that at each of the pavilions as you’re walking around. From cultural films to street performers (when COVID isn’t happening), there’s something for whatever situation. While some of these attractions could be boring for kids, they could also be a great place to go if a kiddo needs a nap. Others, like the Beauty and the Beast Sing-Along in France or even Reflections of China, are sure to make any kid entertained.
You might have noticed that we didn’t mention any character meet-and-greets in our Epcot with kids plan. Unfortunately, due to COVID, in-person meet-and-greets are canceled. However, the princesses and Mickey and his friends do ride by from time to time to say hello from afar. Of course, when they do return, we highly recommend taking some time to meet the characters after going on all the rides, as these up-close encounters have the potential to be some of the most memorable of a vacation.
LEAVE SPACE IN YOUR PLAN TO WANDER AND EAT (OH, AND WEATHER)
As you’ve probably figured out, when it comes to getting as much done at Disney as possible, having a plan is absolutely necessary. The problem comes when you stress yourself out if things don’t go the way you expected. That’s why we try to arrive at the park early and get all the big things done and out of the way. That way, if it starts storming (which is highly likely in Central Florida), a ride breaks down, or your kid just needs a nap, you have plenty of time to take a deep breath and work around whatever it that’s going on. You can always come back to it again later.
Also, be sure to come prepared with things like ponchos or an umbrella in case it does rain. While everyone else is hiding away, you can be out getting on rides and checking stuff off your list. And remember, no matter what you get done or don’t, you’re still going to have an amazing day with tons of delicious food at Epcot.
Traveling with kids can be a handful. Things like naptime and mealtime can take up a bunch of time, but no one’s going to be happy if they don’t happen. Fortunately, tries to make even those moments easy by providing each park with a baby care center. At Epcot, it’s located in the same building as The Epcot Experience which is to the left of the Mexico pavilion. Nursing mothers are free to nurse here as well as anywhere else throughout the park. If you like to multitask, why not nurse during one of the many shows or films? These, along with any of the parent switch rides, are also a great place to go if a child needs a quick nap.
DON’T FORGET THE PLAN
As you might have noticed, each of our one-day plans has you moving in a large, counter-clockwise circle as you go on each of the rides. This is a technique we’ve been using at each of the parks for quite some time. As long as you get to the park early, do the ride with the longest wait first, and then start moving in a circle from there, you should be able to get ahead of the crowds.
The exception would be if you happen to go on an especially busy day. If you think that you are falling behind schedule, look at your wait times. If there’s a wait longer than 45 minutes, the crowd is winning. No worries, just skip it and move on to the next must-do. Or simply cut out the next in-betweener ride on your list. You can always return to it after you’ve done everything else. If you’d like to know what the crowds typically look like over your travel dates, check out our Walt Disney World Crowd Calendar.
DINING AT EPCOT
As you’ve surely guessed by now, eating will almost certainly be the highlight of your experience at Epcot. Whether grabbing something from one of the many quick-service restaurants, taking your time at a table-service restaurant, or sharing a plate from one of the many festival booths, you’ll be making numerous food decisions throughout the day. No pressure.
And that truly is the beauty of Epcot. Even though there are so many choices to choose from, small servings from festival kitchens make it so you can try something you might not have considered before. Or, if you’d rather commit to something big, choose one of the table-service restaurants for an experience that you likely won’t soon forget. Or perhaps you’d rather get a croissant for breakfast in France, fish and chips from the UK for lunch, lefse as a snack in Norway, ramen in Japan for dinner, and an avocado margarita from La Cava del Tequila in Mexico? All of this can be yours and more. And trust us (and Neil Patrick Harris), you want the margarita.
The moral of the story? Skip the massive breakfast and save room for later in the day. You’re going to need it as you walk around. As you’d imagine, cuisines are themed according to the pavilion they are found in, or the festival kitchen they are a part of. So, if you know that you tend to like German food, you’d like to try Moroccan food, and you’d rather skip the raw fish, that probably gives you a good guideline for where to look. However, we do highly encourage trying something new.
In general, most of the country pavilions have both table-service and quick-service options, however, this isn’t always case. Canada, Morocco, and Italy only have table-service, while America only has quick-service. Also, some options are completely closed right now due to COVID-19 including some in Morocco, Japan, China, France, and Norway.
Over on the Future World side of things, you also have an array of quick-service restaurants – notably Sunshine Seasons – and a few table-service restaurants including the Coral Reef Restaurant, Garden Grill, as well as the highly-anticipated Space 220 Restaurant that’s expected to open soon in the Mission: Space pavilion.
Still other aspects to consider when selecting where you’d like to eat include character dining (these are either on hiatus or running in an altered capacity due to the pandemic currently, but you can usually do character dining at Garden Grill and Akershus Royal Banquet Hall in Norway), which atmosphere you’d like (certain pavilions – like Mexico, France, and Japan – have multiple table-service restaurants to choose from), and simply what’s available. In non-pandemic times, some restaurants will even have views of the new fireworks show, Disney Harmonious.
Remember that most restaurants will require you to make a reservation, or risk waiting a long time, while you’ll need to make a reservation sometimes weeks in advance to get a spot at on of the most popular options like Le Cellier Steakhouse in Canada. No matter what you choose, it’s almost certain to be delicious. Just keep an open mind, and a just-open-enough stomach.
PARADES AND FIREWORKS
As with everywhere else right now, parades and fireworks are on hiatus in Epcot due to the pandemic. When they return, however, we should be treated to a brand-new nightly firework spectacular: Disney Harmonious. We’re still missing Illuminations (just us?), so we’re excited to see if the new show can live up to our very high expectations.
When nightly fireworks return, we highly recommend that you stick around for the show. With everything largely happening out on the lagoon, there shouldn’t be too many bad seats in the house. With that being said, you should still plan accordingly, whether that means making a reservation at a lagoon-view restaurant or staking out a place to sit or stand.
SOME FINAL THOUGHTS
Well, that wraps up our one-day Epcot plan both with and without kids. We hope it helps you get all the big things done and still have plenty of time to eat to your heart’s (and stomach’s) content.
For all you Epcot pros out there, we can’t wait to hear what you think of our plan. Do you have any special tips or tricks? Or maybe just some expert food and drink recommendations? Tell us your thoughts in the comments or send an email our way.
Dean has been writing and blogging for over 10 years. He specializes in Disney theme park news including updates, openings, special events and general advice for travelers. He doesn’t shy away from the good, the bad and the ugly. His previous work includes being a Cast Member at Disneyland and working as a travel agent.