1-Day Epcot Itinerary & Ideal Day Plan
Our 1-day Epcot itinerary details strategy for a perfect visit, including doing Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind. This Walt Disney World touring plan has step-by-step strategy to avoid waiting in long lines for rides, beating crowds, seeing shows, dining at the best restaurants, and enjoying World Showcase. (Updated February 11, 2023.)
This one-day Epcot plan has been overhauled several times in the last year, taking into account Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary celebration, Early Entry and Extended Evening Hours, festival crowds, plus paid FastPass–but 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.
Then there’s all of the construction and new additions. Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind and Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure have now been open for a while now, and these big additions plus Frozen Ever After in World Showcase are all big boosts for Epcot. Which you should prioritize is also dependent upon whether you’re coming from the Crescent Lake resorts or Skyliner gondolas and entering via International Gateway, or Epcot’s front entrance. We’ll address this in the new 2023 single-day Epcot itinerary below.
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.
Epcot remains in the midst of a massive transformation. On the plus side, this has already resulted in some fun new offerings, with Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind being the big new addition at Walt Disney World for this year. Additionally, Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure has debuted in the France pavilion, the Harmonious spectacular performs nightly in World Showcase Lagoon, and the front of the part start to take shape with new restaurants and retail.
With all of that in mind, let’s cover the 1-day Epcot touring plan…
Fast-Forward to (Cosmic) Rewind – 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 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 virtual queue for Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind fills up fast. Our How to Ride Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind & Virtual Queue Speed Strategy is essential reading and covers everything you need to know–like increasing your chances of success! (For reasons beyond us, this virtual queue is still in use. However, we expect it to be retired in the near future–likely before TRON Lightcycle Run opens on April 4, 2023. It would be unprecedented for Walt Disney World to use two virtual queues simultaneously.)
If you’re unsuccessful, you can try to join the virtual queue again at 1 pm from inside the park. Pencil Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind into this itinerary whenever is convenient after your boarding group gets called. You have an hour to return to the attraction from receiving the notification that it’s your time to ride. The virtual queue is getting easier to enter, so you shouldn’t have an issue–especially with the 1 pm drop.
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. Check out our Guide to Early Theme Park Entry at Walt Disney World for more info.
If you can take advantage of this early admission and will be entering via International Gateway, we’d strongly recommend reading our recent Early Theme Park Entry at Epcot Photo Report for how to tackle the park’s headliners via standby, and why this on-site perk is better than Genie+ and Lightning Lanes at Epcot.
Navigate to Norway – In the past, we would not have recommended prioritizing World Showcase, which is mostly shopping, dining, and wandering. However, there are several compelling reasons for doing so right now.
For starters, World Showcase is home to both of Epcot’s most popular attractions that offer standby lines. There’s also the fact that most guests arrive through the front entrance and do Epcot from front to back, meaning they do World Showcase in the afternoon. Zig when others zag, and work from back to front, which puts you on the opposite track of crowds. It’s like leaving the city during morning rush hour instead of joining the rat race into town.
This is why we start our day by heading to Frozen Ever After in World Showcase’s Norway/Arendelle pavilion. This is tied for the most popular ride at Epcot right now, and as such, you certainly will not be the only guests heading in this direction–to the contrary, a sizable number of guests will navigate to Norway. However, it’ll be proportionally fewer than other headliners–or that’ll be going to Norway later in the day.
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. So long as you arrive right at Epcot’s opening time, you should do it anyway. Wait times for Frozen Ever After only worsen as the day wears on, as most guests do World Showcase in the second half of the day.
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, double back and head to Canada, continuing around World Showcase in that direction. You’ll understand why when you see the next stop…
Scurry to the Streets of Paris – The other most popular attraction in Epcot is Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, which is also the newest at Walt Disney World. Due to this “new ride smell,” it is what most guests race to during Early Entry and at rope drop.
Consequently, we’ve observed an interesting phenomenon with a relative lull in wait times about an hour after park opening until around noon. This gap is basically between when the early arrivers have already finished up with the attraction but before the guests who prioritized the front of the park arrive to World Showcase. It’s still early, so this trend could change, but it intuitively makes sense and our expectation is that it’ll continue.
As such, your aim should be to arrive at Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure before lunch. It may not seem like much, but knocking out these two headliners before mealtime is huge, and will set you up for an efficient afternoon.
The World Showcase is Your Oyster – Routinely viewed as the culinary epicenter of Walt Disney World, there are a number of unique restaurants in World Showcase. We think the cuisine at many of these is overrated, but it’s still worth being a bit adventurous and eating somewhere unique. Some of our favorite options include Biergarten, Teppan Edo, Spice Road Table, Via Napoli, and Chefs de France.
If you want something more approachable, one of the best counter service restaurants in Epcot is 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.)
Alternatively, if you have to head back to the front of the park for your Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind return time, dining at the new Connections Cafe & Eatery isn’t a bad option. Both of these have very ordinary menus that are simple and straightforward, but surprisingly good.
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 – 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.
Around the World Pit Stops – If it’s ‘Festival Season’ at Epcot (which basically encompasses the entire year save for a few weeks), you should stop to enjoy either the food & drink booths or special offerings during these events.
Here are the various events along with their approximate annual timeframes:
- 2023 Epcot International Festival of the Arts – Mid-January through Presidents’ Day
- 2023 Epcot Flower & Garden Festival – Beginning of March through Independence Day
- 2023 Epcot Food & Wine Festival – Mid-July through is running now through Saturday before Thanksgiving
- 2023 Epcot Festival of the Holidays – Black Friday through December 30
Maneuver to Mexico – Around mid-afternoon, you should notice crowds starting to build in World Showcase. Now is the time to double back towards the front of the park. On your way out, make a stop inside the Mexico pavilion to do 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. Both locations might already have lines, but those will only be worse later.
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 a couple of big exceptions), but our recommended approach is:
- Journey into Imagination with Figment
- Spaceship Earth
- The Seas with Nemo & Friends (make sure to check out the aquatic life, especially the majestic manatees)
- Living with the Land
- Soarin’ Around the World
- Mission: Space
- Test Track
That involves a bit of backtracking; feel free to reduce that if you want to minimize steps.
The important thing is to make sure Soarin’ Around the World and Test Track are towards the end. Those are the two attractions that will have the longest lines earlier in the day. By early evening, both lines should be much shorter than they were in the morning.
Dinner – After returning from the red planet in Mission: Space, 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!
We are arriving February 4th. It seems like the virtual cue will be retired shortly before then, do you have a possible strategy for when the virtual cue is gone. We are also eligible for EMH. Thanks
We just tried this, but Frozen broke down and did not open for the morning. My advice is that, if you are going to the trouble of rope-dropping with young children, go to Ratatouille first. It’s no fun to start the day so early, be at the front of the line for Frozen, wait, and then be told it’s closed, rush over to France and still hit a 70 minute wait at 8:15. When we roped-dropped Animal Kingdom this week, Flights of Passage and the Safari broke down, too. Not sure what’s up with the parks. Good luck everyone!
The wait for Remy ended up being 45 minutes in reality. Not too bad.
Great article! Thank you. Do you have a follow up on taking advantage of extra magic hours at the end of the day (9-11pm) at Epcot?
Seems counterintuitive if coming from international gateway to bypass Remy in France to go to Norway for frozen first. My gut says do Remy first then go counter clockwise around showcase to Norway. Does this make any sense? Thanks for any input or further advice.
The beauty of a touring plan is not to do what everyone else does. Unless you’re right at the front of the gate, most of the people in front of you at the gate will also be in front of you in line for Remy’s. Skipping that line to be one of the first at Frozen and doubling back once the crowd has dispersed makes sense from touring plan perspective.
I would be interested to read a non thrill seeker itinerary for the Disney and universal parks, or at least one that only includes the most themed thrill experiences.
Do you have an itinerary for 1/2 day in Epcot with kids? We are doing Epcot in the morning and animal kingdom in the afternoon.
This was very helpful advice as first timers! We went on Weds March 2 and managed to fit in all of the rides that interested us (only didn’t get to beauty and the beast sing-along and some character meetings such as the Crush Q+A). A few comments from our experience in epcot- test track didn’t have a shorter line at the end of the day, rather it stayed a pretty constant 50-60 minute wait throughout the day. However, test track also had a ‘single rider’ option, for those single visitors or groups that didn’t mind separating in order to save time… It saved us a good 40 minutes of wait time (at least). Another comment- during the ‘regular lunch time’ (I’d say around 11:45-12:45) it seemed like some ride wait times might have decreased a bit… Something to keep your eyes open for if you can hold off and eat a bit later.
Another comment that is more relevant in the ‘where to watch harmonious’ post- we tried point #2-japan on the second floor, and the torii gate very much got in the way of the show. We ended up moving down to the ground floor which was better, but we would have been better off just going somewhere that didn’t have any structure in the way.
Thanks for the advice!
Hi, do you think once Guardians opens You will recommend Genie+ ?
We are planning to visit the week after Thanksgiving this year.
Hi Andrew Bundschuh, I’m confused but would appreciate your help. If Epcot opens at 10am but 9:30am for early park entry, how did you get on Test Track at 8:30am?
Hi Andrew Bundschuh, I’m confused but would appreciate your help. If Epcot opens at 10am but 9:30am for early park entry, how did you get on Test Track at 8:30am?
We visited Epcot for 2 days this week. If you are staying at a Disney resort, early entry can be great. go to Frozen or Test Track from the front entrance, or Remy if you are entering from the International Gateway. We walked right on Test Track at 8:30. Also since we were already shelling out for a Disney Resort, we could buy ILL at 7:00 which got us a spot on Remy.
Also, at 8:40, while we were waiting for Harmonious, we noticed the line for Remy was down to 20 minutes.
STOP THE PARK HOPPER!!!!
While you plan your day to hit the busiest rides at the end of the day you are hit with the surprise that everyone has just came from another park on the second half of their day and ramped up your wait times like it was a new day again!
This needs to stop to make sure people who pay to get into the park have a chance to ride all the rides!
Park hopper people not only pay to get into the park, they pay extra to get into another park as well. That said, Disney has clearly incentivized people to do a full day at Epcot because the second GotG VL opens at 1p, but you can’t hop to Epcot until 2p. So maybe that nugget will bring you some happiness.