Our 1-day EPCOT itinerary has the best order to do rides, including the Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind roller coaster and Moana’s Journey of Water. This Walt Disney World touring plan has step-by-step strategy to avoid waiting in long lines, beating crowds, seeing shows, eating and enjoying World Showcase. (Updated October 7, 2023.)
This one-day EPCOT plan has been overhauled several times in the last year, taking into account the Disney100 celebration, EPCOT overhaul, 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 LightningLanes.
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 the front entrance. We’ll address this in the new single-day EPCOT itinerary for Late 2023 and 2024.
Although EPCOT remains in the midst of a massive transformation, most of this will be done by early 2024. This December, World Celebration will open and the new Luminous: The Symphony of Us nighttime spectacular will debut. In the meantime, the Disney100 celebration is underway and EPCOT is the epicenter of that.
A lot is already open, though! Moana’s Journey of Water is now available to all guests, new meet & greets have debuted for Minnie & Mickey Mouse in their Disney100 outfits, and Figment has also returned as a meet & greet character. In addition to that, there are the aforementioned attractions–Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind and Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure–that opened in the last few years and remain incredibly popular.
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.
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.
At this point, we always join the 1 pm virtual queue for Cosmic Rewind instead of the 7 am one, because this puts our return time in the afternoon when we’re going to be in the front of the park. This approach is not without risk, but unless you’re visiting during a peak week–think Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, or Easter–the 1 pm virtual queue is usually open for several minutes to several hours.
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 Strategy 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.
The following strategy is for official park opening and the remainder of the day, meaning that it assumes you are not doing Early Entry. Modify as appropriate if you are eligible for, and taking advantage of, Early Entry…
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.
_______ 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:
World Showcase Atmospheric Acts – It should be obvious from the above entries, but we cannot overemphasize the importance of slowing down and taking your time to enjoy World Showcase. There should be no sense of urgency for the middle portion of the day. Lines for attractions at the front of the park are at their longest, making this a great time to kill time–explore the nooks and crannies, engage with the architecture, browse shops, and–as discussed above–eat!
Most importantly, take some time to stop and see the atmospheric entertainment acts. Among other performers, this includes Voices of Liberty (American Adventure), Matsuriza Taiko Drummers (Japan), Command Performance (United Kingdom), Les Raftsmen (Canada), Sergio the Italian Clown Juggler, and more. Note that performers can (and do!) change seasonally, as do showtimes. For schedules, we highly recommend consulting the My Disney Experience app on the day of your visit.
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 the front of the park, formerly known as 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
Meet Minnie & Mickey Mouse
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
Moana’s Journey of Water
That involves a bit of backtracking; feel free to reduce that if you want to minimize steps.
The first 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.
Second, Moana’s Journey of Water uses a virtual queue when it’s busier. In the evening hours, Moana’s Journey of Water is typically much less busy and not using a virtual queue. With that said, it’s still early (as of our latest update, Journey of Water isn’t even officially open–it’s still in soft openings), so this could change. Accordingly, we’d recommend checking the status of the virtual queue at about 4 p.m., and maybe hedging your bets and joining if it’s still an hour-plus wait.
In an ideal scenario, you’d book an Advance Dining Reservation in World Showcase about 2 hours before the fireworks, 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 the fireworks.
Fireworks Finale – EPCOT has had three different nighttime spectaculars in the last few years, and that number will increase to four when Luminous: The Symphony of Us debuts on December 5, 2023.
Until then, EPCOT Forever is the interim fireworks show. For planning purposes, consult our Best EPCOT Fireworks Viewing Spots posts for a list of the best spots and other tips for viewing the nighttime spectaculars.
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 single-day EPCOT touring plan, you are pretty much assured of having an excellent day in the park. 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!