Our Epcot itinerary details strategy for a perfect day in Walt Disney World’s second theme park. It offers a step-by-step touring plan to minimize time waiting in lines for rides, avoiding crowds, seeing shows, dining at the best restaurants, and enjoying World Showcase’s atmosphere. (Updated October 18, 2021.)
This Epcot itinerary has been overhauled following the start of Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary celebration and rollout of Genie+ and Lightning Lanes, which are the the paid replacement for free FastPass. This itinerary assumes you will not be buying those line-skipping services. If you do plan on spending the extra, consult our 1-Day Epcot Itinerary with Genie+ and Lightning Lanes.
We visit Epcot at least once per week “for the sake of research” (really it’s to wander around World Showcase and eat, but we’ll call it research!), monitoring wait times, testing various approaches, and fine-tuning our strategy as crowds have progressively increased during that time. This is the revised Fall 2021 Epcot itinerary we’ve devised as a result…
This post continues our series of Walt Disney World Park Itineraries & Touring Plans designed to answer the frequently asked question, “what would you do in an ideal day at the park?” We view Epcot as Walt Disney World’s best “atmosphere park” and there have been full days when we’ve done barely any attractions at Epcot, instead just meandering around, enjoying World Showcase.
In addition to all of the post-reopening changes, Epcot is also in the midst of a massive transformation. On the plus side, this has already resulted in some fun new offerings. The new family-friendly ride, Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, has debuted in the France pavilion, the Harmonious spectacular performs nightly in World Showcase Lagoon, and Club Cool has returned as the new “neighborhoods” at the front of the part start to take shape.
The downside is the sea of construction walls. Epcot’s central spine is closed off, which means you need to choose to go left or right at rope drop. The purpose of all this construction is to eliminate Future World and replace it with 3 new neighborhoods. Suffice to say, there are construction walls all over at the front of the park, leading many readers to ask: “Should You Skip Epcot?” (which we answer in that post).
With all of that in mind, let’s cover the 1-day Epcot touring plan…
Rat Ride Rise & Shine! – On the morning of your Epcot day, at least one person in your party will need to be awake before 7 am. This is because guests with a valid ticket and a Disney Park Pass reservation for Epcot will be able to access the virtual queue system for Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure starting at 7 am on the day of their park visit. This is done outside the park–before you leave your resort hotel, or from literally anywhere.
The 7 am virtual queue for Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure fills up very quickly. Sometimes, you can do literally everything right and still miss out. In fact, our How to Ride Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure Ride Guide & Virtual Queue FAQ is essential reading right now and covers everything you need to know–like increasing your chances of success.
Early Entry at Epcot – Walt Disney World is now offering Early Theme Park Entry, which allows on-site hotel guests to enter Epcot (or any park) 30 minutes before official park opening time. Early Entry is offered at all 4 theme parks every single day of the week.
This complicates strategy, especially for off-site guests. If you don’t have access to Early Entry, consider heading directly to Frozen Ever After or Soarin’ Around the World. (For more strategy, check out our Guide to Early Theme Park Entry at Walt Disney World.)
Trek to Test Track – If you’re not buying Genie+, your Early Entry ‘rope drop dash’ attraction should be Test Track, which means taking a left at Spaceship Earth and navigating that maze of construction walls when entering Epcot. (Note: Test Track frequently breaks down, so if it’s not open to start the day, quickly move on to step two–don’t wait for it.)
Test Track consistently has the longest line throughout the day at Epcot, so without Genie+ or Single Rider, it’s best to either start or finish your day here.
Navigate to Norway – The second-most popular attraction at Epcot right now is Frozen Ever After, which is located in World Showcase’s Norway/Arendelle pavilion. This is also one of the Lightning Lane a la carte attractions, meaning you’ll have to pay around $9 to $11 to skip the line (per person) just for this one attraction.
By the time you get back to Norway, there’s a good chance that Frozen Ever After will have a posted wait time of 45 minutes or longer. If the posted wait time is over that or the line looks too long (if it’s past China), you can wait until the very end of the night. Wait times get shorter in the evenings at Epcot.
Maneuver to Mexico – In the past, we would not have recommended prioritizing World Showcase, which is mostly shopping, dining, and wandering. However, with the current 11 am opening time most days at Epcot, rides the longest lines occur earlier in the day. In fact, wait times peak at 12:35 pm on average. This means the ideal strategy involves knocking out a ride or two right when the park opens, and saving most of the rest until 2 pm or later.
By contrast, World Showcase is uncrowded the first couple hours and gets busy at night. Accordingly, it can make a lot of sense to start with the Mexico pavilion, doing the Gran Fiesta Tour boat ride. If you’re planning on enjoying a drink or few, now is also a good time to stop at La Cava del Tequila or Choza de Margarita for a drink. For once, you have an excuse to booze at breakfast: it offers a strategic advantage–both locations will have longer lines later.
Cross to Canada – Beatles v. Stones. Coke v. Pepsi. Orange v. Lime. Canada v. Mexico.
Walt Disney World fans have long debated which direction is the “correct” way to start a trek around World Showcase. We’re here to inform you that the best approach is actually both. After finishing up in Norway and Mexico, double back and head to Canada, continuing around World Showcase in that direction. Hopefully, your Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure return time will be called while you’re in that area.
_______ 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. Along the way, consider breaks for Reflections of China and Canada Far & Wide.
Meal Time at the Muppet Meatery – One of the best counter service restaurants in Epcot is the brand-new Regal Eagle Smokehouse. It has a variety of crowd-pleasing BBQ, plus salad and even plant-based options. (We’ve eaten everything on the menu–read our Regal Eagle Smokehouse: A Review of All Foods, But Mostly BBQ Meats for thoughts on what to order.)
If you have the time, it’s worth noting that World Showcase has a ton of great table service restaurants. Doing sit-down meals for lunch and dinner is a solid idea if you can swing it.
American Adventure – Right next door to Regal Eagle Smokehouse is Epcot’s best attraction. American Adventure is a powerful Audio Animatronics show montage stage featuring key moments in American history.
American Adventure is so good that it made our list of the Top 10 Disney Theme Park Attractions. Skipping it would be distinctly unpatriotic.
Around the World Pit Stops – If it’s ‘Festival Season’ at Epcot (which basically encompasses the entire year save for the middle of summer), you should stop to enjoy either the food & drink booths or special offerings during these events.
The EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival runs until November 20, 2021. Almost immediately after that, EPCOT Festival of the Holidays starts and continues through December 30, 2021. Our favorite of these is the Epcot International Festival of the Arts, which runs in January and February 2022
Back to the Future World – Once you’ve “finished” World Showcase, bounce back to Future World. This is the counter-intuitive approach. Most guests do Epcot from front to back, meaning the wait times for attractions at the front of the park are longest at the beginning of the day and decreasing in the afternoon.
Order of attractions doesn’t make a huge difference in Future World (with one big exception), but our recommended approach is:
- Journey into Imagination with Figment
- Spaceship Earth
- The Seas with Nemo & Friends
- Living with the Land
- Soarin’ Around the World
- Mission: Space
That involves a bit of backtracking, but there’s really no way around that. Most importantly, it puts Soarin’ Around the World towards the end, which is the attraction that will have the longest line earlier in the day. By early evening, Soarin’s line should be relatively short. At the Seas, make sure to check out the aquatic life, especially the manatees. Manatees rule.
After that, it’s back to World Showcase to finish your evening…
Dinner – After returning from the red planet, head above Earth for dinner at Epcot’s newest restaurant. See our Photos & Video Inside Space 220 Restaurant as well as our Space 220 Restaurant Review that looks at whether the food is worth the price tag.
In an ideal scenario, you’d book an Advance Dining Reservation in World Showcase about 2 hours before Harmonious, with dinner wrapping up shortly before that starts. If orbiting above Earth isn’t your speed, there are great options in World Showcase.
Spice Road Table is our top pick in World Showcase right now for cuisine and open air atmosphere. If this sounds outside your comfort zone, we’d encourage you to try it despite that–there are some surprisingly approachable menu options. If Spice Road Table doesn’t sound appealing to you consider Via Napoli, which serves the best pizza in Walt Disney World.
Impressions de France – This 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.
There are several Epcot films, but this is the only one that’s truly a must-do. (Be sure to check out the “Tale as Old as Time” exhibit in the lobby beforehand, too.) Unfortunately, it only is shown the last 2 hours of the day, so you might not have time for both Impressions de France and Harmonious.
Hang Out for Harmonious – The new nighttime spectacular in World Showcase Lagoon for Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary is Harmonious. This fireworks show features an assortment of songs from Disney movies, choreographed fountains, colorful lights, lasers, LED panels, fireworks, a giant Stargate, and more.
It’s an odd mix of technology and the show suffers from pacing issues and visuals that are incredibly location-dependent. Read and see more in our comprehensive Harmonious Review. For planning purposes, consult our Best Epcot Fireworks Viewing Spots posts for a list of the best spots and other tips for viewing the show.
Epcot 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 the park closes. Take full advantage of this with a leisurely walk out of the park. Trust us, it’s worth it.
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.
Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!
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!