During an efficient morning at EPCOT, you can knock out 2-3 headliners in World Showcase and the front of the park, paving the way for a laid back day without Genie+ and Lightning Lanes. This Early Entry and rope drop report for EPCOT enters via International Gateway and includes Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, Frozen Ever After, and more.
This covers a moderately busy day (6/10 crowd level) at EPCOT, on a day that the park opened at 9 am to the general public and Early Entry began at 8:30 am. That’s about par for the course right now, even on dates with higher attendance forecasts. Park opening times of 8 am or 8:30 am are maybe possible the weeks of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve. Even then, our bet is that 9 am openings continue and closing times are more likely to be extended.
As noted above, this Early Entry and rope drop report starts from International Gateway, in this case because I was staying at Disney’s BoardWalk Inn. The Skyliner and Crescent Lake Resorts arrive via EPCOT’s International Gateway entrance, which is superior to the front entrance. However, that comes with caveats…
Whenever we mention that International Gateway is the better option for starting Early Entry at EPCOT, we get comments/questions about “creative” ways to enter through World Showcase, using convoluted routes between wherever you’re staying at International Gateway. On the one hand, kudos to you all for thinking outside the box and trying to “hack” Walt Disney World. That’s very much in the spirit of this blog!
On the other hand, we encourage counterintuitive approaches but not swimming upstream. It’s true that you’ll come out ahead by arriving to EPCOT via International Gateway, at least for now while Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind uses a virtual queue. Being so close to Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure is advantageous, and the walking distance disparity is insurmountable for those arriving from the front entrance.
The problem is that the overall cost of obtaining this far outweighs the advantage itself. You’ll need to wake up significantly earlier and potentially spend extra, either of which alone would move those approaches to “not recommended” territory. At that point, why not just buy Genie+ or start with a more straightforward approach and do headliners at the front of the park first?
This reminds me of a recent viral social media post featuring a family that got up at the crack of dawn, was at the tapstiles long before anyone else, first at the Early Entry line, and first to ride. They then compared their ~5 minute walk through an empty line to the wait time later in the day and claimed they saved significant time (90 minutes, if I recall correctly).
Except no, they didn’t. They spent nearly that amount of time waiting around before the park even opened, and also failed to account for their opportunity cost. How much time would they have saved if they rolled up ~10 minutes prior to the start of Early Entry and did something else? Much more than they did with their ‘first ones everywhere!‘ approach.
It’s fair to say that not all time is of equal value at Walt Disney World, but it’s important to find balance. Spending 60 minutes before EPCOT opens to save 5-10 minutes by doing Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure first instead of Test Track is a waste of time. There’s no two ways about it. And it’s a waste that could cost you later, if it means your kids having a meltdown, needing a midday break, or having to leave before park closing. All things to think about–and why we encouraging zigging when others zag and not circumnavigating the World when others zag! But I digress.
If my morning were a viral social media post, it’d be the worst one ever. I rolled out of bed, opted to skip the shower because I knew I’d be sweating within 10 minutes of leaving the room (and had a mid-morning break built into my schedule) and was out the door in however long it takes the in-room coffee maker to brew a cup. I might hate skipping my morning shower, but morning caffeine is non-negotiable.
I arrived at EPCOT’s International Gateway at approximately 7:55 am. Still 35 minutes to go before Early Entry officially started, but “late” as compared to the true early risers. I didn’t take a backpack and thus breezed through security and the tapstiles–inside the park by 8:03 am. Again, EPCOT’s official opening time was 9 am, meaning an 8:30 am official start for Early Entry.
It’s difficult to discern, but above is the line for Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure.
You can see people on the bridge to France, but not on the bridge before that. Keep in mind that this is still ~25 minutes before the start of Early Entry. It’s not an insignificant crowd.
Upon entering International Gateway, there’s a row of Cast Members scanning MagicBands, resort room keys, or whatever appropriate identification you might have if staying at one of the participating third party hotels. You get held back by the gift shop and can’t access the rest of the park without scanning here.
From here, you can either head towards Canada or France.
If you head towards Canada, this means you’re either doing stuff in the former Future World (Worlds Nature, Discovery, or Celebration) or are taking the short route to Frozen Ever After. The long route isn’t always open, so you’ll definitely want to head this way for Norway.
As you can see, this is a very small crowd. I couldn’t see the front of the line in France, but I’d estimate that this is about 10% of that crowd. Also keep in mind that the vast majority of guests are coming from the front entrance, so it’s not like these folks have zero competition for the headliners that are the Rat Ride.
I had wasted a few minutes by trudging over to Canada for that photo, but not many new arrivals during that time.
There are basically two ‘surges’ of guests for Early Entry: the overplanners who are waiting for the gates to open and those who show up “on time” for the official start of Early Entry. In between, it’s a slow trickle. That’s the sweet spot where you want to be for maximizing your time-savings and minimizing your wasted time!
I was surprised that, despite minimal crowd control from Cast Members, this crowd formed and maintained a line from the bridge all the way to the attraction entrance. Unlike Avatar Flight of Passage, there wasn’t diligent enforcement of this being a proper line.
One party ran ahead of everyone else, and I thought for sure that was going to be game over. The tipping point that pushed this into a pure anarchy scene from The Purge (minus the murders). Yet no one else followed suit. Other parties in my general vicinity opted to grumble about the ‘impolite and impatient’ party. I was impressed!
Despite the appearance of a long line, I made into the indoor queue by 8:30 am. (Sorry, forgot to write down what time the line started moving, but it was definitely by 8:20 am.)
I was on Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure by 8:35 am, which amounted to a total wait time of less than 30 minutes from the time I got in line.
I was off Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure at ~8:42 am, at which point the posted wait time was 35 minutes.
That’s not terrible, but the line was still getting longer thanks to Early Entry guests coming from the front of EPCOT. It’s safe to say that everyone who arrived via International Gateway by 8:30 am got in line before the first guests coming from the front of the park.
Norway for Frozen Ever After was next on the agenda.
This is the “correct” way to do Early Entry if arriving from International Gateway, so if that sounds familiar, it’s because this has been the exact itinerary every single time we’ve reported on EPCOT Early Entry. (Spoiler: the next steps will also be identical.)
Regardless of which route you take, it’s about a half-mile between France and Norway. Whenever possible, I opt to go on the World Showcase side. It’s a serene stroll, and is the personal highlight of my morning. No joke. I do the rides for the sake of research and reporting, but they’re not why I get out of bed at the crack of dawn for this.
I mean, c’mon, how many times does one solo adult male really need to ride Frozen Ever After in a calendar year? Whatever your answer to that question, I can assure you the number you picked is lower than the amount of times I’ve actually done Frozen Ever After this year.
I love my mornings in World Showcase, and these are the real reason Early Entry at EPCOT is so great. While I think that’s true for almost all repeat visitors, the tranquility and peacefulness can also be appreciated even by first-timers. Just remember to keep your head up and not singularly focused on getting from point A to point B. It’s the journey, not just the destination–if all that matters is the rides and not the spaces and moments in between, you’re better off saving money and doing Six Flags or whatever.
After several stops for photos, I arrived in Norway at 8:58 am. In general, I’m pleased with Early Entry if I can make it to Frozen Ever After before the official rope drop time. So, mission accomplished!
If you arrive to International Gateway at least 15 minutes before the official start of Early Entry, I’d estimate that knocking out Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure and making it to Frozen Ever After by or shortly before park opening is possible about 8 or 9 times out of 10.
On this particular morning (and most mornings), Frozen Ever After’s posted wait time at park opening was 15 minutes.
There was a modest line inside the attraction, but the line was moving quickly and Cast Members were fully filling the boats. (Sometimes they’re more lax at this hour, but that wasn’t the case on this day.)
I was off Frozen Ever After by approximately 9:10 am.
As I’ve mentioned before, the real optimal approach here is to repeat Frozen Ever After. Obviously, that’s only good advice if you want to do Frozen Ever After multiple times over the course of the day.
Even as I exited, the posted wait time here was still 15 minutes. I probably could’ve done it three times before the rope drop crowd arrived in full force–perhaps an Early Entry for those with ‘Frozen Fever’ during which I loop FEA is worth testing next time?
Rather than repeat-riding, I headed to Test Track. It looks peaceful enough, right? Wrong.
It’s only quiet on the outside because I arrived here after the rope drop rush, so that long line of people had already filtered into the indoor queue. The posted wait time was 60 minutes, which was probably inflated…but not by enough that I was willing to find out by how much.
I opted for Single Rider instead, where I was literally the only person in line.
And now, this nice family will forever have an on-ride photo with some random dude who looks inebriated and/or constipated. What a magical memory for them.
At this point, the wait times for everything at the front of the park were longer than I would’ve liked.
However, this was before Moana’s Journey of Water opened. If I were doing this over again today, I might’ve joined the Virtual Queue for Moana’s Journey of Water while walking from Frozen Ever After to Test Track, or done one of the new meet & greets after Test Track.
Another alternative, again, would’ve been just doubling or tripling up on Frozen Ever After, sticking to World Showcase for the first half of the day, and following a modified version of our 1-Day EPCOT Itinerary. That’s what I would’ve done if I wanted to minimize walking or had Frozen Ever. I was just hot from the heat and, despite that, chose to maximize backtracking for some dumb reason.
Regardless, this EPCOT Early Entry approach would compare very favorably to buying the Genie+ service.
With paid FastPass, you can usually score Lightning Lanes for 2 or 3 headliners plus Soarin’ Over California and a few other secondary attractions. That has been our consistent experience in using Genie+ since Frozen Ever After and Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure were added.
However, you’re almost certainly going to be subject to the 120 minute rule for at least the second selection, meaning your third ride reservation won’t come until around 12:30 pm or later unless you get incredibly lucky. By then, all three are usually gone. It’s possible that you’ll be able to score a ride reservation refill for the third Lightning Lane later in the day, but that’s far from a sure thing.
Moreover, you are almost assuredly going to be doing much more backtracking with the Genie+ service. Since you can’t choose your Lightning Lane return times, they might be inopportune or require a lot of backtracking. (Especially when paired with the aforementioned virtual queue for Moana’s Journey of Water, as well as the one for Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind.)
While Early Entry requires being out the door first thing in the morning and means hustling to start your day, there are ways to do it to minimize backtracking. (Admittedly, some degree of criss-crossing the park is inevitable if you’re trying to minimize time standing in line.) But if you’re using Genie+ at EPCOT, you’ll be up early to make your first Lightning Lane selection, anyway.
As intimated above, Early Entry also offers the intangible x-factor of taking a serene stroll around World Showcase as the park wakes up for the day. Seeing people-less pavilions glow in the morning light, hearing the background music, and savoring the details. This is impossible to quantify, but 100 out of 100 people will find this far more pleasant of an experience than burying your face all day in the My Disney Experience app!
Thoughts on Early Entry at EPCOT? Have you experienced this on-site hotel perk? Do you agree that Early Entry at EPCOT is superior to Genie+ and Lightning Lanes? What’s your preferred approach to mornings at EPCOT–starting in World Showcase or the front of the park? How would you have done things differently? Any other feedback on arriving early to the Walt Disney World theme parks? Agree or disagree with our advice or approach? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!