EPCOT Photo Report: Stay Away on Weekends

It’s time for another weekend Walt Disney World crowds report, this time with our experience at EPCOT on Saturday. In this photo report, we cover wait times, lines in Future World, woes in World Showcase, and strategy for avoiding the worst of this all if you do opt to visit EPCOT on a weekend.

Since Labor Day, we’ve been emphasizing the fact that crowds and wait times are increasing at Walt Disney World. We’ve also repeatedly recommended avoiding EPCOT on weekends, noting in our most recent ‘crowd contrast‘ post that there was a pronounced difference even between Thursday and Friday.

We once again reiterated that you should avoid the parks Fridays through Sundays in our latest Magic Kingdom Weekend Report, which offered a step by step recap of our day. However, unlike the main takeaway from that being that things aren’t as bad as they might appear, the polar opposite is true here–EPCOT was worse than we expected…

In response to our report about a recent Friday in EPCOT, many readers shared their experiences on Saturday and Sunday, which sounded even worse. This wasn’t a total surprise, as it has begun to feel more like a typical ‘festival season,’ even on weekdays.

Before we turn to the World Showcase woes, let’s start with a look at Future World–and some of the silver linings.

Earlier in the day, every attraction in Future World had long posted wait times and many overflow queues were in use.

However, these waits were dramatically inflated. We’re talking 40-60 posted waits for things like Journey into Imagination or the Seas with Nemo & Friends when the actual wait was around 10 minutes or less. This is where it’s important to remember that physical distancing and the lack of FastPass+ combine to create an impression of long waits if you’re just looking at the lines.

By late afternoon, those extended queues were empty and almost every attraction in Future World was a near walk-on.

This includes Spaceship Earth, Mission: Space, Living with the Land, and even Soarin’ Around the World. That last one still had a modest wait, but earlier in the day, there was a line just to get inside the Land pavilion.

The strategy for EPCOT is pretty easy: rope drop Test Track before immediately bouncing to World Showcase, do Frozen Ever After, backtrack to the Mexico pavilion, and then work your way forward to the front of the park. (We’re in the process of updating our 1-Day EPCOT Itinerary to offer step-by-step detail.)

Most crowds will start in the front and work their way to the back of the park, so this one simple thing will improve your experience and reduce discomfort pretty dramatically. If you can be done with World Showcase by around 2 or 3 pm, that nullifies most of our issues and complaints below.

On this particular Saturday, that strategy would not have worked quite so flawlessly, as Test Track was down almost all of the day. (As always, you have to be flexible and able to modify your plans on the fly.)

When Test Track finally opened for the day in late afternoon, the line almost immediately filled up. The posted wait time skyrocketed to 90 minutes rather quickly, and was almost certainly accurate.

Not only did Test Track’s line have countless switchbacks under the building’s canopy and in the Cool Wash area–the line actually stretched all the way back to the Flavors from Fire booth.

The line remained lengthy for the rest of the day. Test Track is often the longest wait in EPCOT right now, but this afternoon’s lengthy line was abnormal, attributable to the extended downtime in the morning through mid-afternoon.

Pretty much everywhere in World Showcase had crowds on par with those that descended upon Test Track. There were ~15 minute lines at many Global Marketplaces, counter service restaurants, and even to get in the Mexico pavilion. Frozen Ever After had an hour long wait much of the afternoon, with its line stretching past Nine Dragons.

However, long lines were hardly the worst of the problems in World Showcase…

I’ll preface the following commentary about World Showcase by saying that we normally avoid weekends during the EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival. (That’s hardly any secret–it has long been one of our guide to the event’s key pieces of advice.) We went to plenty of keggers in college, but that’s no longer our “scene.” As such, we’ve only done fall weekdays in recent years.

We’re not puritans, and don’t have any sort of moral qualms with drinking around World Showcase or anything. We just find the degree of party atmosphere that’s typical in World Showcase during the fall off-putting in a Disney theme park. Some people obviously enjoy it–hence the crowds that have materialized every Saturday and Sunday in World Showcase during the fall for the last several years.

We anticipated that the current rules, masks, physical distancing, and attendance limitations would act as something of a “buzzkill” on the normal party season of EPCOT’s Food & Wine Festival weekends. We were clearly mistaken.

This was not a more toned down and restrained version of the event…it was pretty much a normal ‘festivities’ during a Food & Wine weekend. Congestion was heavy–especially in Canada, Mexico, and the United Kingdom and rule compliance was far worse than on a weekday (definitely not hitting the numbers discussed in our Face Mask Compliance at Walt Disney World Update).

Despite all of those complaints, it was definitely nice to see so many people back in EPCOT, spending money, and having a good time. Numerous bakeries, snack stands, and counter service restaurants that had not previously returned were open for the weekend. No one wants more layoffs or furloughs remain in effect indefinitely, and those only end with more restaurants, retail, etc. reopening. The necessary prerequisite for that is increased attendance. So in its own way, this was oddly a “nice” thing to see.

Moreover, the conviviality and crowds we observed were all outdoors. As more is learned about transmission, I’m personally becoming increasingly comfortable in open air or well-ventilated settings, especially ones where most encounters are brief in nature. I never felt unsafe during our time in EPCOT–more annoyed than anything else, which is pretty consistent with our weekend visits the last few years.

Beyond that, I felt sorry for the “Incredi-Crew” Cast Members who enforce physical distancing and mask compliance. In overhearing conversations, it was obvious their efforts were futile. Many inebriated guests either didn’t understand their requests or didn’t care. Those Cast Members are being tasked with fighting a battle they cannot possibly win.

The blame here lies solely with Walt Disney World management. This is hardly a new problem, and there has been no shortage of criticism about the overindulgence in EPCOT over the last few years. The results here are perfectly predictable, and should’ve been easily foreseeable.

We’ve praised Walt Disney World’s efforts on health safety and proactively ensuring rule compliance. That’s not the case at EPCOT on weekends. In World Showcase, only lip service is being paid to masks and physical distancing, with lucrative alcohol sales being the clear priority.

With that said, it once again bears reiterating that we never felt uncomfortable or unsafe while walking around World Showcase. Our tolerance for outdoor activities is pretty high, whereas our tolerance for indoor activities is low. We’d sooner go back to World Showcase on a weekend than do an indoor table service meal. As always, your mileage may vary.

Nevertheless, this experience called into question the ‘to promote physical distancing and ensure guest safety’ line that’s been parroted in so many press releases about cancelled events and entertainment. That line is starting to ring hollow for me.

I’m sure it’s a complete coincidence that costly things like fireworks or parades are not safe right now, but revenue generators like indoor dining and bar kiosks are totally fine. But that’s another rant for another day.

Ultimately, there are ways to bypass the worst of EPCOT’s crowds and long waits, even if you do opt to visit on a weekend. Simply doing World Showcase first and Future World second should avoid the worst of what we’ve described. So it’s not all bad news. Moreover, a lot of guests are understandably looking to blow off some steam and stress, especially given the challenging nature of the last six-plus months. So perhaps this scene will be for you.

On the other hand, if I were planning my family’s trip to Walt Disney World, I would actively avoid EPCOT on Saturday or Sunday this fall. Weekdays are nothing like this (they’re downright pleasant!), making those the infinitely superior alternative. If we were planning a visit with small children and it came down to visiting EPCOT on a fall weekend or not going at all, I would not go at all.

Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!

YOUR THOUGHTS

Have you visited EPCOT on a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday fall started? What was your experience? If you’ve also been on a weekday, how did they compare? Are you “down” with the weekend party scene in World Showcase during Food & Wine, or do you think that’s inappropriate for a Disney theme park? Do you agree or disagree with any of our thoughts? 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!


40 Responses to “EPCOT Photo Report: Stay Away on Weekends”
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