This Epcot touring plan details our itinerary for a perfect day in Walt Disney World’s second theme park. It offers step-by-step strategy to minimize time waiting in lines for rides, avoiding crowds, seeing shows, dining at the best restaurants, and enjoying World Showcase’s atmosphere. (Updated February 23, 2020.)
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.
We regularly update this 1-day Epcot itinerary with new restaurants, attractions, seasonal events, etc., and strategy is tweaked as necessary. Right now, that’s really important because Epcot is in the midst of a massive transformation. On the plus side, this has already resulted in some fun and delicious new offerings. On the downside, it has meant a sea of construction walls…
As you can see in our new Construction, Closures & Cutbacks at Epcot, the central spine of Future World is now closed, which essentially means you need to choose to go left or right at rope drop. From there, you’ll want to focus on that half of Future World before moving on to World Showcase or the other side. We’ve updated this itinerary accordingly.
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).
If you do opt to visit Epcot right now, start by consulting 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. For our ride ratings and reviews of each attractions, read our comprehensive Best Epcot Attractions & Ride Guide post. Skip whatever doesn’t sound like it’ll appeal to you.
The first thing you need to consider before even arriving to Epcot for the day is FastPass+ selections. Epcot uses a tiered system for FastPass+, we typically recommend Frozen Ever After, Mission: Space, and Spaceship Earth as the top choices. See our Guide to FastPass+ at Walt Disney World if you want more info about this system or alternative recommendations.
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.
A little less than half of guests who were unable to get Frozen Ever After FastPass+ will be racing that direction–so this race won’t be insanely competitive. 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 Epcot Forever.
Early Morning Attractions: Future World West – Once you’ve done Soarin’ Around the World, consider staying on this side of Future World and quickly knocking out Living with the Land, the Seas with Nemo and Friends, and Journey into Imagination (in that order). At the Seas, make sure to check out the aquatic life, especially the manatees. Manatees rule.
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.
If you’re unwilling to do Test Track via Single Rider, head here towards the end of the night. (Or get a Test Track FastPass–our FastPass+ recommendations above assumed you’d do Test Track via Single Rider.) You can also consult our Epcot Morning Strategy & Rope Drop Tips post for several alternatives options when it comes to the Big 3.
FastPass+ Attractions – We highly recommend scheduling your FastPass+ for Epcot all before 1 pm, so you’re eligible to get more FastPass+ (and can potentially snag something strong like Test Track or Epcot Forever). With that in mind, knock these attractions out now.
Ideally, your first FastPass+ will be for Mission: Space, followed by Spaceship Earth, and then Frozen Ever After. That means a small amount of backtracking, but it’s the most efficient approach.
Noon in Norway – After all that racing around, it should be nearing noon. This means a couple of things: you’re probably getting hungry and it’s about time for your Frozen Around the World FastPass+ ride time.
In whichever order is most convenient, we recommend doing Frozen Ever After and making a pitstop for Kringla Bakeri og Kafe. Yes, this means doing dessert before lunch, but you’re on vacation. A full meal is the next stop after this! (Alternatively, you can never go wrong with Les Halles Boulangerie & Patisserie in World Showcase’s France pavilion if you’re fine waiting.)
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. It made my list of the Top 10 Disney Theme Park Attractions, and missing it would be distinctly unpatriotic.
For the full experience, time your lunch to end shortly before the Voices of Liberty begin performing, and enjoy their beautiful singing in the American Adventure rotunda.
_______ 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 runs from the end of August through the end of May, pretty much uninterrupted), you should stop to enjoy either the food & drink booths or special offerings during these events. Our favorite of these is the Epcot International Festival of the Arts, but each event is compelling in its own way.
Regardless of what special event is happening, you should start your tour of World Showcase in Mexico. To break up your day, we highly recommend hitting Gran Fiesta Tour and some of the CircleVision films 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.
Dinner: Restaurant Marrakesh or Tangierine Cafe – Both of these are restaurants located in the Morocco pavilion, and both are exceptional. If they sound like they’re outside your comfort zone, we’d encourage you to try them despite that–both are surprisingly approachable.
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.
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.)
Epcot Forever…For Now – After dinner, it should be about time to grab a spot along World Showcase lagoon for Epcot Forever, the interim nighttime spectacular that runs through (roughly) Summer 2020. At that time, Harmonious, the permanent nighttime spectacular, will debut.
Epcot Forever has garnered mixed reviews (including from us), but it’s worth seeing for yourself. The kites alone are worth the effort, and the rest might resonate with you, too. FastPass+ viewing area is solid if you’re willing to skip the Soarin’ FastPass–but it’s not necessary.
As we cover in our Best Epcot Forever Fireworks Viewing Locations (which includes a map of great spots), it’s not as essential that you get a waterfront view right along the railing for this new nighttime spectacular. In fact, we cover a couple of last-minute locations in that guide that offer great and somewhat secluded views!
Epcot Forever 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 fireworks end.
Take full advantage of this with a leisurely walk out of the park. Trust us, it’s worth it. You can read our full Epcot Fireworks 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!