Efficient touring strategy is important for park opening at Epcot. In this post, we offer rope drop tips, including what time to leave your Walt Disney World hotel, which attractions to prioritize, and anticipated wait times. We also answer the question of which popular ride to do first: Frozen Ever After, Test Track, or Soarin’ Around the World.
Rope drop at Epcot has changed dramatically over the years, and that trend is unlikely to stop anytime soon with the Ratatouille trackless dark ride and Guardians of the Galaxy roller coaster opening in a few years. Both of those are sure to be among the most popular attractions at Walt Disney World, and they’re going to be on opposite sides of the park, which will certainly throw a monkey wrench into Epcot touring plans.
Personally, I still remember the days of rope drop in front of the Fountain of Nations with the Fab Five, when a “Family of the Day” was chosen to ride a Test Track car through Future World. While I’m still a little bitter we were never chosen for that, it was fun to watch a family experience a ‘Magical Moment’ to start the day. Nothing major, but a cute little experience, nonetheless. Unlike Magic Kingdom, there is no Epcot Welcome Show–it’s all about anxiously waiting until you can power walk to the first attraction of your morning…
When you should leave your Walt Disney World resort hotel to arrive at Epcot for rope drop is a common question. If you’re walking from a Crescent Lake resort, leave by 8:15 a.m. If you’re arriving by bus or monorail, be at your monorail station or hotel bus stop by around 7:45 a.m. for an 9 a.m. park opening. Regardless of your hotel, buses are abundant first thing in the morning, so you shouldn’t be waiting long.
This gets you to the park and through security–if all goes according to plan–no later than 8:30 a.m. On a related note, if you want to enter Epcot even earlier and experience an almost entirely empty Epcot, check out our Pre-Park Opening Breakfast at Walt Disney World Strategy post.
Epcot turnstiles open to all regular day guests around 8:30 a.m. Once you’re inside Epcot, you’ll be held at Spaceship Earth if you entered through the front entrance. If you walked to the International Gateway entrance from the Crescent Lake resorts, you’ll be held in World Showcase. Both sets of guests are typically “released” just before official park opening time.
As we cover in our Frozen Ever After Tips post in greater detail, there are ways to ‘hack’ rope drop for a slight advantage on Frozen Ever After. If you are super serious about that attraction and want to shave 10 minutes off your morning wait time, follow one of those suggestions. Otherwise, demand for Frozen Ever After has died down a bit, so those aggressive tips are no longer as “necessary” (not that they ever were).
Once you’re in the park–either via International Gateway or the main entrance, it doesn’t matter–the big question when it comes to morning at Epcot is whether to do Test Track, Frozen Ever After, or Soarin’ Around the World first. As usual, the answer is “it depends.”
In an ideal time-saving scenario, such as the one in our 1-Day Epcot Itinerary, you’ll get a late morning FastPass+ for Frozen Ever After, rope drop Soarin’ Around the World, and then do Test Track via Single Rider. Of course, “ideal” is in the eye of the beholder, so here we’ll assume no FastPass+ and no willingness to use the Single Rider line at Test Track.
In that situation, we favor rope dropping Test Track and then racing over to Soarin’ Around the World. You’re going to encounter a modest wait at Soarin, but our rationale for this approach is that doing Frozen Ever After via standby at the end of the night is a better option than Test Track at night.
Even that artificially-constrained scenario has the drawback of missing IllumiNations, so it’s not perfect. If IllumiNations is a must-see for you (AND IT SHOULD BE!), do Frozen Ever After at rope drop, followed by Test Track, then Soarin’ Around the World. Our rationale for switching things up here is that Test Track and Soarin’ are more time-consuming experiences (designing the car and the load process, respectively) whereas you can get in and out quickly with Frozen Ever After.
The downside to that scenario is that it involves more walking and backtracking, but it’s still better from a time-savings perspective. Realistically, you will almost certainly be able to get a FastPass+ for one of these headliners (unless you’re reading this post on the bus ride to Epcot), so this is all moot.
If you are reading this on the bus to Epcot, we’d implore you to be flexible and use Single Rider at Test Track. That opens the door to rope dropping Frozen Ever After and doing Soarin’ Around the World towards the end of the evening–but well before IllumiNations–when the wait times are dropping. That’s really the most realistic approach in terms of ‘last minute’ Epcot touring advice.
A final wrinkle to all of this is that two of the three attractions break down with regularity. Frozen Ever After’s reliability has improved more recently after a rocky debut, but it’s still an issue. Test Track, on the other hand, has been unreliable since it opened two decades ago, and goes down close to every day.
This is significant because there are still days when Test Track or Frozen Ever After do not open with the rest of Epcot. The feeling of disappointment to race across the park only to find a ride down at rope drop is deflating, and not exactly the ideal way to start your morning at Epcot.
On the plus side, these rides being down at park opening is relatively uncommon and you should not adjust your morning touring plan for Epcot. Breakdowns are still common enough that this bears mentioning, though. We’re not entirely sure what you can even do with this information, but they say knowledge is power. Perhaps awareness that these rides break down will help temper your expectations or disappointment if it impacts your morning in Epcot?
Now that we’ve presented like 37 different combinations of doing the three high-priority rope drop attractions at Epcot, perhaps the main takeaway is that so long as you do any of these 3 rides at the very beginning or very end of the day, you’re in a good position. Doing at least 2 of these attractions first thing in the morning is huge, and can enable you to have a leisurely day at Epcot.
As you might’ve surmised, we’ve tried several different Epcot rope drop scenarios. Now that Frozen Ever After’s popularity has subsided a bit (coupled with it becoming more reliable), this has become a lot easier. On a light or moderately-crowded day at Epcot, it’s entirely possible to get the big 3 done within the first 90 minutes Epcot is open.
With no other attractions that have consistently long waits, this enables us to do what we love: slowly stroll around Epcot soaking up the ambiance. This approach allows us to do Epcot’s “second rope drop” at World Showcase, and also enjoy the back part of the park devoid of crowds. As we stated in our Magic Kingdom Morning Strategy & Rope Drop Tips, pausing to soak up the atmosphere and experiencing those moments of whimsy are as–or more–important to us than the rides at Walt Disney World.
Ultimately, what we love about Epcot is the atmosphere. By having laser focus and rushing from popular ride to ride efficiently first thing in the morning, we get those “out of the way” and are able to enjoy Epcot on our terms. Commando tourists may take a go-go-go approach the entire day, and that’s fine, but we love to use mornings at Epcot to get attractions done, and then spend the rest of the day basically doing nothing.
What is your Epcot morning strategy? Which ride do you do first: Frozen Ever After, Test Track, or Soarin’ Around the World? Or do you prefer to savor the low crowds and have a leisurely experience? Do you agree or disagree with our park opening strategy for Epcot? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!