Our Epcot touring plan details our itinerary for a perfect day in the park, with strategy to minimize time waiting in lines as well as enjoying the ambiance–the whole shebang. Avoiding crowds at Walt Disney World is important, but so is soaking up the atmosphere, so we focus on both. Anyway–this 1-day Epcot itinerary covers the attractions we would do, the restaurants at which we’d dine, and the quiet moments we would stop to enjoy. It’s regularly updated, with new offerings added and strategy tweaked as necessary. (Last updated August 15, 2017.)
This Epcot touring plan is part of our series of itineraries designed to answer the frequently asked question, “what would you do if you only had one day in ____ Disney park?” We think Epcot is like a fine wine (parts of it are more like a boxed wine, but you get the idea…), in that it’s meant to be sipped rather than chugged. Our ideal experience wouldn’t be complete without strolling through the quiet corners of the World Showcase, watching the Fountain of Nations dance, stopping to marvel at (and take ~235 photos of) Spaceship Earth, etc.
There have been full days when we’ve done barely any attractions at Epcot, instead just meandering around, enjoying the atmosphere of the park. That’s not recommended for first-timers, so this itinerary starts with an efficient morning touring plan for getting as much done as quickly as possible, followed by some leisurely “stop and smell the roses” recommendations for later in the day…
Consult our When to Visit Walt Disney World post to determine how bad crowds might be during your visit or to plan your visit during a time when the park isn’t busy. Feel free to skip attractions, snacks, meals, etc., that are on the plan entirely, if certain things don’t appeal to you. For our ride ratings and reviews of each attractions, read our comprehensive Best Epcot Attractions & Ride Guide post. If you want our plans for our parks at Walt Disney World, check out our Disney Park Itineraries for 1-day and 2-day plans.
The first thing you need to consider before even arriving to Epcot for the day is FastPass+ selections. FastPass+ sort of throws a monkey wrench into this itinerary, as not everyone reading is going to have access to all FastPass+ selections; that depends upon how early you make your ride reservations. Epcot uses a tiered system for FastPass+, and my top picks for each tier are as follows: Frozen Ever After or Soarin’ Around the World (Tier A), Misson: Space, and Spaceship Earth (Tier B). For the plan, we’ll assume you are able to make the recommended FastPass+ selections.
If Epcot is your most important park at Walt Disney World, and you plan on spending multiple days there, you might consider a resort hotel that’s most convenient to Epcot. My top picks for Epcot are BoardWalk Inn or Beach Club. While these are a bit pricey, the good news is that you can save money at them by Renting Disney Vacation Club Points.
With all of that in mind, let’s cover the 1-day Epcot touring plan…
Racin’ Around the World – If you were able to score a Frozen Ever After FastPass+ (and we really hope you were!), your rope drop mission should be racing through Epcot to get to The Land pavilion to experience Soarin’ Around the World as quickly as possible.
Most people who were unable to get Frozen Ever After FastPass+ will be racing that direction–and you should too if you were unable to get it–so this race won’t be insanely competitive, but it’s still important to head there straight-away to avoid a long wait for Soarin’ Around the World, and so you can get to your second attraction as soon as possible. If you aren’t able to do Soarin’ first thing, its crowds tend to die down right before/during IllumiNations.
Test Track Single Rider – Like we said at the beginning, part of this guide is about an efficient plan of attack. The most efficient way to experience the “Big 3” at Epcot is going to require doing Test Track via the Single Rider line, or else being prepared for a modest (30+ minute) wait for it. If you’re unwilling to do Test Track via Single Rider, head here before Soarin’ Around the World.
Breakfast: ___ Bakery – After all that racing around, it’s time to reward yourself with some breakfast. And, what better for breakfast while on vacation than dessert?! (On vacation, dessert is basically one of the four food groups! 😉 ) Some of our Top 5 Bakeries at Walt Disney World are breakfast options in Epcot, and that includes Kringla Bakeri og Kafe now that Frozen Ever After has debuted. We’d recommend grabbing a decadent breakfast here before or after Frozen Ever After. Alternatively, you can never go wrong with Les Halles Boulangerie & Patisserie in World Showcase’s France pavilion.
Early Morning Attractions: Future World West – Once you’ve used your FastPass+, do Journey into Imagination, Living with the Land, and The Seas with Nemo and Friends. At the Seas, make sure to check out the aquatic life, especially the manatees. Manatees rule.
FastPass+ Attractions – We highly recommend scheduling your FastPass+ for Epcot all before 1 p.m., so you’re eligible to get more FastPass+ (and can potentially snag something strong like Test Track or IllumiNations). With that in mind, knock these attractions out now. An ideal Frozen Ever After FastPass+ time is right before lunch.
Masterpiece Muppetry – While there isn’t much in the way of atmospheric entertainment in Future World (most of that can be found in World Showcase), one thing you absolutely will not want to miss is the Muppet Mobile Lab. This is performing again after a long hiatus, and we finally caught it for the first time in May 2017. It was hilarious, and well worth the ~10 minutes of our time.
Lunch: Sunshine Seasons – Despite World Showcase being renowned for its dining options, we think the best counter service restaurant in Epcot is actually Sunshine Seasons (read our Sunshine Seasons Review). It has tons of variety, including healthier options, plus some delicious desserts. My tip: request a double order of the mashed potatoes instead of other sides. Mashed potatoes are way better for you than any other vegetables, anyway. That’s just science.
_______ Around the World – The distance around World Showcase is roughly 1.25 miles. If you follow this plan, that means you’ll be walking at least 2.5 miles (you’re likely to walk over 10 miles in a day at Walt Disney World, so this is nothing), as this is going to call for 2 laps around World Showcase. It’s worth it. During this first lap, we suggest trying Drinking Around the World or Snacking Around the World. Or try both for a different form of the “Dopey Challenge.” We recommend a snack or drink at every stop for the balanced approach, but hats off if you can do more!
Around the World Pit Stops – You should start those plans in Mexico, and to break up your day, we highly recommend hitting the following attractions: Gran Fiesta Tour, Reflections of China, and O Canada along the way as “intermissions” from the World Showcase stroll. You should also spend some time going deep into the countries, as there are many quiet spots with beautiful details waiting to be stumbled upon. Contrary to what some people think, World Showcase is not boring.
American Adventure & Impressions de France – Yes, these two attractions could be listed among the others as recommended intermissions, but they are so important that they need to be set apart from the rest. American Adventure is a powerful Audio Animatronics show montage stage featuring key moments in American history that will leave you proud to be an American. (Or ashamed to be a not-American. 😉 ) It made my list of the Top 10 Disney Theme Park Attractions, and missing it would be distinctly unpatriotic.
Conversely, the act of praising a French attraction may also be distinctly unpatriotic if you still call your fries “Freedom Fries,” but such is life. Impressions de France is the attraction we experience most in Epcot, and is one of our picks for “Underrated Walt Disney World Experiences.” The score is hauntingly beautiful, and the imagery as you swoop through different parts of France is stunning.
Early Evening Break – By this point, you might either be in a food coma or sloshed, depending upon what you did as you strolled around the World Showcase. If that isn’t the case, visit another of the World Showcase films for a nice refresher. If that doesn’t appeal to you, consider sitting on a bench and people-watching near the light-up pavement.
CAFFEINE UP! – The sight of twinkling, colorful lights should fully energize you, but just in case it doesn’t, make a stop at Club Cool for some free soft drink samples from around the world. Then, it’s time to head back to World Showcase for the rest of the night…
Fountain of Nations – If your timing is right, you should be hitting the Fountain of Nations right around dusk. The way the orange lights of the fountain complement the deep blue of the evening sky makes this perfect dancing fountain show even better. Spend a little while standing here, simply enjoying the fountains and digesting the experience (and the soda).
Dinner: Restaurant Marrakesh or Tangierine Cafe – Both of these are restaurants located in the Morocco pavilion, and both are exceptional. You can read our Restaurant Marrakesh Review and Tangierine Cafe Review to determine which might be better for you, but we think these are the two best dining options in World Showcase for table service and counter service, respectively.
IllumiNations Nighttime Spectacular – After dinner, it should be about time to grab a spot along World Showcase lagoon for IllumiNations. Illuminations is the greatest fireworks show in the history of mankind and it’s about the history of mankind. I think Christopher Nolan made a movie about that.
Like I said before, the FastPass+ viewing area is awesome for this if you’re willing to skip the Soarin’ FastPass. If not, go for a spot on the bridge to France so you can make a long, slow stroll towards Mexico after the show (alternatively, if you’re staying at a Crescent Lake Resort, watch from near Mexico and stroll towards International Gateway).
IllumiNations Post Show: World Showcase Stroll – Since the restaurants in World Showcase make dining reservations until park closing and it takes some guests over an hour after park closing to finish their meals, you have over an hour to linger and slowly make your way out of the park after IllumiNations ends. Take full advantage of this with a leisurely walk out of the park. Trust us, it’s worth it. You can read our full IllumiNations Post Show Stroll post for tips on this awesome way to end your night in Epcot.
If you’re able to do even 75% of the things on our Epcot touring plan, you are pretty much assured of having an excellent day in Epcot. If you do have two or more days to enjoy Epcot, or want to experience other attractions besides those we’ve listed, make sure to check out our Epcot Park & Attractions Guide, which rates and reviews all attractions. Also make sure to look at our Walt Disney World Dining Reviews Index to get an idea of where else to eat.
What would you include in your ideal day in Epcot? Any tips of your own to add, or things you’d recommend that this itinerary is missing? If you haven’t visited Walt Disney World, what do you plan on doing? Any questions? Hearing your feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts or questions below in the comments!