Our Epcot itinerary details strategy for a perfect day, including 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 May 29, 2022.)
This Epcot itinerary has been overhauled for 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 LightningLanes.
More recently, we’ve updated the itinerary with Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind’s grand opening. This is a huge addition–a true game changer for Epcot. That ride along with Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure and Frozen Ever After in World Showcase throw a monkey wrench into crowd dynamics, and what 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 Summer 2022 1-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 Summer 2022. 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…
Before Your Visit – When making Disney Park Pass reservations, consider booking a couple of days at Epcot to improve your odds at experiencing Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind. Booking Epcot Park Passes for days when you’re planning on visiting Animal Kingdom, in addition to your dedicated Epcot day can make sense.
This is our recommendation because it gives you multiple tries at the Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind virtual queue. You’ll understand why this flexibility is important shortly…
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.
If you’re unsuccessful, you can immediately change your Disney Park Pass reservations day-of (pending availability) to a different park and simply try again on the next morning you have Epcot reservations. This is what we call the “Epcot Audible” and it’s highly recommended unless you have can’t miss Advance Dining Reservations in Epcot. Alternatively, 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.
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.
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.
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. The menu is 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.
_______ 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 the middle of summer), you should stop to enjoy either the food & drink booths or special offerings during these events.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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!