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, with the exception of Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure or the soon-to-open Guardians of the Galaxy coaster, 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, starting May 27 with the opening of Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind.
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, my friends, is going in with a plan. With our 1-Day Epcot itinerary (both with and without kids or Lightning Lane access), you’re sure to stay ahead of the crowds, saving you precious time for food and drink. And believe me, you’re gonna want that time. (UPDATED APRIL 14, 2022)
About Our Epcot One-Day Itinerary
This easy-to-follow guide will walk you through our tried-and-true one-day Epcot itinerary. While you might not be able to get absolutely everything in the park done in a day (with the near-constant stream of festivals, there’s often 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.
Visiting with Disney Genie+ & the Lightning Lanes
With the FastPass+ dead and gone, if you want to skip the lines, you’ll need to pay for it. At $15 per person per day for Disney Genie+ and between $8 to $11 for each Individual Lightning Lane Attraction, it isn’t cheap. Not to mention, many people are less than thrilled to have to spend money for a service that was previously free.
Luckily, when it comes to most days at Epcot, splurging on Genie+ isn’t really necessary since you can typically get quite a bit done with just a bit of planning. That being said, we’ll offer tips for visits both with and without the Lightning Lanes, so you can maximize your trip no matter your budget.
On our last trip, we were able to do Test Track, Soarin’ Around the World, Spaceship Earth, Mission: SPACE, Frozen Ever After, Gran Fiesta Tour, Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, and Living With the Land, and still had time to have some of the festival food and drinks. Plus, if we had wanted to, we could have squeezed in The Seas With Nemo & Friends and Journey Into Imagination With Figment as well.
Planning Your Visit
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 – along with a little flexibility on your part to roll with whatever magic may come your way – you’re sure to have a fun- and food-filled time at Epcot.
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 and what you’re interested in.
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 share center stage with Remy the Rat and the Guardians.
The easiest way to do this is by knocking out a good chunk of the rides first and then using the rest of your time to choose your own adventure. By doing this, you keep your wait times as low as possible, banking up time for World Showcase adventures and festival food booth hopping in between rides.
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, then 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? While you certainly can experience basically everything at Epcot in one day, you don’t need to. Like Animal Kingdom, Epcot is meant to be explored and savored, literally. Pretty sure you can’t do any of that if you’re running around from ride to ride and stuffing your face full at every single food booth.
So, 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 and saving space for any spontaneous Disney magic.
Most Popular Epcot Attractions
As we’ve already said, unless you’re visiting with kids, the attractions may not 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 attractions here that are must-sees for any Disney vacation, including long-time favorites and recent arrivals, with even more on the way. So, count on these to have some of the longest lines in the park.
Frozen Ever After
Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind (Opening May 27, 2022)
Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure
Soarin’ Around the World
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 and a mix of live entertainment, are perfect for sprinkling in between other activities or while you’re exploring World Showcase.
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
Turtle Talk With Crush
And much more!
Overall, our Epcot 1-day itinerary 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.
Epcot One-Day Itinerary – 3 Options
Option 1: No Height Restrictions or Lightning Lane Access
This first plan is meant for groups without any height restrictions (i.e., no little ones). It hits the most popular attractions in Epcot without using Genie+ or Individual Attraction Selections, making it perfect for those who refuse to pay to skip the lines, while still giving plenty of time to eat and drink your way through World Showcase.
As with our other one-day plans, you should plan to arrive early, whether you are there for Early Park Entry or regular park opening. This gives you a jump on the rest of the crowd and helps you stay there the rest of the day.
Speaking of Early Theme Park Entry, if you’re staying at one of the Disney World hotels, you’ll definitely want to take advantage of this exclusive perk, especially with the impending opening of the Guardians of the Galaxy roller coaster. And as for transportation from your hotel to the park, if you’re pondering taking the complimentary Disney bus system, you may want to reconsider.
That bus ride will cost you about 30 extra minutes due to traffic and stops. So, if you want to get the biggest headstart possible, you might as well drive your own car, take an Uber or Lyft or hop on the Disney Skyliner instead to get there prior to park opening. Or, if you’re really lucky, simply walk over from one of the Epcot-area hotels. This leads us to our next point.
Epcot actually has not one, but two entrances: the monorail-side 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.
So, to avoid too much backtracking, your first few attractions will depend on which entrance you use. Luckily, the International Gateway entrance happens to be just around the corner from one of the most popular rides in Epcot: Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure.
“What’s that you say? We won’t be making a mad dash straight for Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind once it’s open?” Nope, not unless it happens to be open for Early Theme Park Entry and you’re some of the first people through the gate – because that’s exactly what everyone else is going to do.
In fact, you’re not even going to start at one of the fan-favorite rides near the front of the park, such as Soarin’ or Test Track. Why? Because since they’re some of the first attractions folks see, they’re also the first ones they go on.
Instead, you’ll start your day further back in World Showcase at Epcot’s current most in-demand rides (and the second and third most popular once Guardians of the Galaxy opens): Frozen Ever After and Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure. If you come in through the main entrance, your first stop is Frozen Ever After. For International Gateway folks, it’s the Ratatouille ride.
Currently, the lines at both of these attractions can get pretty long quite quickly, growing to 45 minutes well within the first hour or so. But, that’s still considerably shorter than they will be most of the day. Fortunately, once the Guardians of the Galaxy ride opens, that should help to draw quite a bit of traffic away and shorten the lines even more.
With your first rides out of the way, it’s time to trade places and knock out the other one. Make your way to either France or Norway to say hi to Remy or Anna and Elsa. Feeling hungry? Then you’re in luck because the France and Norway Pavilions are home to some incredible eateries that are perfect for an AM snack or breakfast on the go before your next attraction.
For those in Norway, nibble on fan-favorite treats like School Bread, Lefse or a citrusy Troll Horn at Kringla Bakeri Og Kafe. While over in France, you actually have a couple of options. Tuck into sweet crêpes or savory galettes at La Crêperie de Paris or go for a handheld sandwich or flaky croissant from Les Halles Boulangerie-Patisserie.
Wherever you are, head over to The American Adventure once you’re finished for some patriotism and blissful air conditioning. This stage show powered by Audio-Animatronics is surprisingly moving and an excellent opportunity to rest your feet for a bit before continuing your adventure. Afterward, it’s time to enjoy even more of what World Showcase has to offer.
To really appreciate everything, we recommend you make at least two laps around World Showcase Lagoon (around 2.5 miles). This is where the choose-your-own-adventure part comes in. Each of the World Showcase Pavilions is home to unique dining and cultural exhibits, as well as a few musical acts, rides and films.
So, take some time to experience a bit of it all. Eating and Drinking Around the World are also quintessential Epcot activities, so feel free to sample a drink or dish from each pavilion. If there’s a festival going on like the Festival of the Arts, you can also eat your way through the many food booths. Just be sure to grab a passport to keep track of everything that’s available. There’s nothing worse than eating too much and running out of room before something that you really wanted to try.
In between bites, fill in the blanks with activities like the Reflections of China or Canada Far & Wide films, art exhibits, Kidcot Fun Stops, live entertainment like the Voices of Liberty or Mariachi Cobre, or Gran Fiesta Tour, the boat ride in the Mexico Pavilion. As you’re wandering around, don’t be afraid to 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. 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.
Then, following your whirlwind world tour, it’s back to the Future (World). For some people, this might seem a bit counterintuitive. But as we mentioned earlier, most guests tend to tackle Future World first before heading to World Showcase, teeing up some rides for shorter lines in the afternoon. Now, it’s time to take advantage.
We suggest you start with Journey into Imagination with Figment, then slowly work your way around. However, to really capitalize on shorter lines, you’ll need to do some backtracking. Here’s what we recommend:
Disney and Pixar Short Film Festival
The Seas with Nemo & Friends (also check out the pavilion’s resident sealife or learn about the ocean from an expert at Turtle Talk With Crush)
Living with the Land
Soarin’ Around the World
Notice how we’ve saved two headlining rides, Test Track and Soarin’ Around the World, for near the end of the night. This is when the lines for these popular attractions are at their shortest, as most guests will have already gone on them shortly after entering the park. Just keep in mind that this can occasionally cause issues for Test Track, as its complicated ride system can create some mechanical issues and temporary closures. So, keep an eye on the My Disney Experience app for any updates.
Additionally, you’ll also want to be careful about which version of Mission: SPACE you experience. 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 two versions to choose from – an easy level (the green team) and a hard level (the orange team).
So, how bad is orange Mission: SPACE? 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.
If it’s before May 27, then aside from a viewing of Harmonious, this marks the end of your night. If not, then you’ve got one more ride you need to experience before you’re through: Guardians of the Galaxy – Cosmic Rewind. Starting May 27, 2022, this will be the most in-demand ride in Epcot.
Now, you can probably expect the lines here to be pretty long for most of the day, at least for a while after the attraction opens. So, if you can’t be some of the first folks through the gate for Early Park Entry, your best bet is to wait it out until right before the park closes. Not only will the lines be shorter, but as long as you are in the queue before closing time, you’ll be able to stay in the park and go on the ride.
Option 2: With Genie+ and Lightning Lane Access
As we said earlier, for the most part, splurging on access to the Lightning Lanes isn’t really needed at Epcot on most days. While several attractions are included in Genie+, you are typically able to experience most, if not all, of them without spending anything extra.
Of course, once Guardians of the Galaxy opens, that could very well change. We anticipate that the attraction will receive Individual Lightning Lane access. And since it will likely be the most in-demand ride in all of Walt Disney World for quite some time, ponying up the cash for it will probably be worth it.
Still, having said all of that, unless you happen to be visiting on days when the park is especially busy, paying for Genie+ shouldn’t be required. Here’s what is included if you do decide to upgrade:
Disney and Pixar Short Film Festival
Frozen Ever After (part of Genie+ until August 7, 2022)
Journey into Imagination with Figment
Living with the Land
Mission: SPACE – Green
Mission: SPACE – Orange
Soarin’ Around the World
The Seas with Nemo & Friends
Turtle Talk with Crush
Individual Lightning Lane Attractions:
Frozen Ever After (see above)
Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind (anticipated)
Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure
When it comes to your booking priorities, here’s what you should keep in mind. Test Track should be the first reservation you book when you wake up at 7 AM, as well as an Individual Lightning Lane for Guardians of the Galaxy, if desired. However, once you enter the park right away in the morning, the first ride you do on standby at rope drop should be Frozen Ever After.
Your next reservation priority is Soarin’ Around the World. Besides those two attractions, you basically just need to fill in the blanks with whatever is available that you’re interested in and kill time in between rides by using the standby line, getting something to eat or checking out some entertainment.
Option 3: For Kids with Height Restrictions
If there is one park out of them all that isn’t exactly what you’d call over-the-top family-friendly, it’s Epcot. With a focus on food and drink (especially boozy beverages and more global flavors), 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 deeper 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 make 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.
Then, the parent who stayed behind will receive a return time from a cast member which allows them to use the Lightning Lane, along with two other guests, after the first parent is done with the ride. We think this is 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:
Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind – 42 inches (107 centimeters) or taller
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
As you can see, the new Guardians of the Galaxy ride will have the tallest height requirement of the bunch at Epcot. Fortunately, kids don’t need to be a certain height to go on the park’s other two most popular rides, Frozen Ever After and Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure.
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 (soon to be four) attractions in all of Epcot with a height restriction. 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 start of your day will depend on which entrance you use. We’ll try to keep things short and sweet since we aren’t changing too many things from our original Epcot plan. Here’s the general idea:
Frozen Ever After (from the main entrance) or Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure (from International Gateway)
Switch and do whichever one you didn’t do
Take a couple of laps around World Showcase – Go on Gran Fiesta Tour, do the Beauty and the Beast Sing-Along, try the Kidcot Fun Stops, see kid-friendly acts like Sergio the juggler in Italy, look for characters like Mulan in China or Jasmine in Morocco
Journey Into Imagination with Figment
Disney and Pixar Short Film Festival
The Seas with Nemo & Friends and Turtle Talk With Crush
Soarin’ Around the World (use Rider Switch)
Mission: SPACE (use Rider Switch)
Test Track (use Rider Switch)
Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind (use Rider Switch)
As you can see, you don’t have to switch things up too much if you’re visiting with small children. Adults can still enjoy some time exploring World Showcase or sampling whichever festival is in season.
As you loop your way around, be sure to take advantage of the Kidcot Fun Stops located in each pavilion. 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 at each of the pavilions as you’re walking around. From cultural films to street performers, there’s something for whatever situation. Over in Future World, you also won’t want to miss Club Cool, a globally-inspired soda shop serving free samples of the fizzy stuff from around the world.
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 keep any kid entertained.
And, of course, don’t forget the Disney characters! Mickey and the Disney princesses hold court throughout the park, including at character dining at Garden Grill and Akershus Royal Dining Hall (temporarily unavailable due to COVID-19)
Tips & Tricks
Leave Space for Disney Magic, Bad Weather & Good Food
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.
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 dining options 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.
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 country pavilions have both table-service and quick-service options, however, this isn’t always the case. Canada and Italy only have table service, while America only has quick service.
Over on the Future World side of things, you also have an array of quick-service restaurants – notably Sunshine Seasons and the new Connections Cafe and Eatery – and a few table-service restaurants including the Coral Reef Restaurant, Garden Grill, as well as the Space 220 Restaurant that recently opened by Mission: SPACE.
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.
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 one 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.
End Your Night with Fireworks
Nightly fireworks are back at Epcot and with their return comes the exciting debut of a brand-new nightly firework spectacular: Disney Harmonious. Although we’re not going to lie, we are still kinda missing Illuminations.
With everything largely happening out on the lagoon, there really isn’t a bad seat 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. Looking for other Walt Disney World touring plans? Find itineraries for Magic Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom here.