EPCOT Report: Figment Christmas, Colder Weather, Longer Hours & Lower Crowds
We’re back with an EPCOT photo report covering our day & night experience the week before Thanksgiving. In this Walt Disney World update, we cover actual v. posted wait times, lines in Future World, crowds in World Showcase, strategy, and a preview of Christmas.
Earlier this week, we shared a new Magic Kingdom Park Report that covered the quasi-holiday weekend. That assessed crowds for the past few weeks and also looked forward to this week and Thanksgiving. If you’re want deeper thoughts on attendance and wait times, that’s worth checking out.
We’re not going to rehash all of that here, save for one thing: our November 2020 Crowd Calendar predicts that November 15-21, 2020 would be “the sweet spot during the entire Christmas season” in terms of crowds. Keep in mind that this was originally made pre-closure…
We’re sharing that crowd calendar prediction yet again because it’s looking like we were right (for once). Let’s look past the fact that we got a lot of the fall wrong and even this involves tremendous dumb luck because there was no way to know back in January how the rest of 2020 would play out.
The week between Veterans Day and Thanksgiving typically sees a lull in crowds, so the fundamental basis for our forecast was solid. It’s just that Walt Disney World has defied attendance expectations post-reopening, and the same could’ve happened this week. Instead, it appears we’re starting to see Disney find operational balance.
The result of that was a fantastic, low crowds day at EPCOT with longer hours.
We also enjoyed lower temperatures. Since we’re already pretending our January forecast foresaw how this week would play out, we’ll also take credit for the nicer weather. Might as well.
While our visits this week thus far have been lovely, Thanksgiving week should be the biggest test yet of how Walt Disney World can handle peak season crowds coupled with moving up to 35% capacity.
Or maybe not? Although Disney claimed the parks were nearly 100% booked for Thanksgiving week, the Disney Park Pass calendars do not reflect or support this.
We’re beginning to wonder whether rising case numbers have some people spooked and are resulting in cancellations. The holiday week is still going to be very busy, but perhaps not to the degree expected.
All it takes is 10% of guests to cancel and that coupled with extended hours and added attraction capacity would make the experience more pleasant.
During this visit, Frozen Ever After, Soarin’ Around the World, and Test Track all vied for longest posted wait time of the day.
The peak wait time I saw in My Disney Experience was 70 minutes for Frozen Ever After.
I’m highly skeptical that wait time was accurate.
Unless we missed it, we never saw the line for Frozen Ever After stretch beyond Nine Dragons in the China pavilion, which is an actual wait of around 30-40 minutes. Later in the evening, it was even shorter.
This was the scene around Test Track in mid-afternoon.
At this time, the posted wait was 45 minutes. Our actual wait was 20 minutes.
I don’t recall what the wait time was for Mission: Space, but I think it was 15 or 20 minutes.
The actual wait time was around 5 minutes.
Spaceship Earth had a posted 5 minute wait when I took this photo and was a walk-on.
By the time we got in line (just a few minutes later), the wait time had “ballooned” to 10 minutes, which ended up being our actual wait, too.
Soarin’ Around the World had hour-plus posted wait times at a couple of points earlier in the day, but we never saw the queue spilling out the front.
When we finally did do the attraction at the end of the night, it was a posted 15 minute wait time and a walk-on in actuality. (Note literally no one in front of us in line.)
Living with the Land was a posted 15 minute wait most of the day.
It was a walk-on both times we did it.
The first time, there were a ton of Cast Members throughout the attraction tending to the plants and getting the “Living with the Land: Merry & Bright Nights” holiday overlay set-up.
That was pretty cool to see.
We returned at night hoping that the overlay would be illuminated, but it was not.
The attraction was a mix of eerie and serene at that point. We were the only ones in our boat, with no one in the boats in front of or behind us. That made for a new “overlay” of sorts–Living with the Land: Silent Night.
Speaking holiday overlays, everyone’s favorite purple dragon is sporting an ugly awesome new Christmas sweater. I know there are already 347 of these on Etsy, but I really wish Walt Disney World would sell this–both the sweater itself and Christmas Figment merchandise. It’s the coolest Figment thing in a while.
I’ve seen some fans deride this as being a cheap gimmick, done as a distraction from all of the entertainment and everything else cut from the current Walt Disney World experience. I understand that complaint, but I do not share that perspective.
There’s a 0% chance Bob Chapek was sitting in a secret lair, petting a hairless cat, scheming up ways to trick gullible Disney fans, and landed on this idea for Figment wearing a Christmas sweater. He probably doesn’t even know who Figment is!
Enhancements like this and the Living with the Land overlay are done at the initiative of passionate Cast Members wanting to do what’s within their limited power (and budgets) to add some magic to the guest experience. Does Figment in a Christmas sweater undo the damage of the recent cuts? Of course not. But it’s a nice, fun touch. Maybe instead of finding things to complain about, we should try to seek out and savor the joy in little things like this during an unprecedented and tough time.
It would seem not enough people are “savoring” the Food & Wine Festival merchandise, as it’s all on sale–and there’s still a lot of it. (There’s also a ton of even older merchandise in the Germany pavilion AP store.)
Some of these designs are fun, but this stuff would need to be 70% off before I’d buy anything with “2020” on it. I’ll have no issue remembering this year without that reminder emblazoned on my coffee cup.
Perhaps people are trying to drown our collective 2020 sorrow in good food & drinks, as many of the Global Marketplaces had decent lines. These were probably the longest weekday lines we’ve seen for many of these booths to date.
If you’re heading to the park before the event ends, be sure to check out our Menus, Photos & Reviews: 2020 Taste of EPCOT Food & Wine Festival Booths.
As a random heads up, the New Starbucks Colorful Cups & Christmas Ornaments are available at MouseGear, with plenty of stock. There’s also still a limited selection of several older styles on the other side of the shelf.
Having done pretty much everything at EPCOT by mid-afternoon, I made a stroll around Crescent Lake and took the Skyliner over to Disney’s Riviera Resort to see if they were decked out for Christmas. None of those resorts were decorated, but that should change any day now. I wouldn’t even be surprised if it happened overnight.
Back at EPCOT, most of the Christmas decorations are up already, but not everything.
It’s unclear whether more is going to be added or not. There’s still plenty of time until the Festival of the Holidays kicks off, but other parks and resorts have seen mild reductions, so that wouldn’t be a surprise to see continued here.
All of the World Showcase pavilions that normally receive decorations have them. Not quite everything is out (or in the case of Italy, illuminated) yet, but several of the pavilions are already looking great. We’ll take it!
I can’t wait until the Christmas background music returns, because doing a couple of laps around World Showcase at the end of the night when the temperature had dropped to 59Âº and the crowds had cleared out was already perfectly peaceful. Those elegant holiday music loops would’ve been icing on the cake.
Another positive change is that several restaurants and food booths previously only open Friday through Sunday are now open daily. This really helps with dining capacity–and just makes EPCOT feel more alive.
A couple more restaurants will be opening next week for what’s being billed as a limited run. I’d assume that’ll be extended through the holiday season if it goes well.
All in all, a great visit to EPCOT and one that has us hyped for the holiday season. While the low crowd levels and short waits were fantastic and allowed us to accomplish everything (and then some), we’ll happily trade that for a bit more festive atmosphere, entertainment, and dining. I’m guessing we’ll get our “wish” next week and throughout December.
For the most part, we followed our own advice this visit. The ideal strategy for both World Showcase and Future World remains pretty simple as long as you don’t mind a bit of extra walking. (I logged 27,000 steps for the day.) We cover the approach to take in our recently-updated 1-Day EPCOT Itinerary. Even as the crowds pick up this holiday season, that strategy should remain accurate.
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If you’ve visited Walt Disney World this week, what has been your experience with crowds and wait times? Enjoying the fantastic weather? Been to EPCOT recently? Looking forward to the entertainment, decorations, and better weather of the Christmas season, or concerned about the increased attendance? Thoughts about anything else covered here? Do you plan on visiting Walt Disney World this Christmas, or are you sitting this year out? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!
Love how much you’re seeing the positive in it all and Figment looks awesome 🙂
Just hoping our January trip holds up. You mentioned riding the Skyliner to Riviera, then back to Epcot. That’s my favorite little side trip while at Epcot. Grab a cappuccino in France, and relax for about 30 minutes while gliding through the air. It’s a fantastic way to recharge.
I literally laughed out loud at your “secret lair and hairless cat” comment! Love the nod to one of my favorite movie franchises! We’re headed to WDW the week after Thanksgiving. Can’t wait to see Figment in his festive sweater! Bring on ALL the Christmas!!!
Tom, I rode Living with the Land this past Tuesday (11/17) at night with no Christmas lights on and then again tonight (11/19) with lights on, except for the tunnels. It was fantastic!
Went to Epcot today. Christmas lights and Lands is nice but lights in the tunnel weren’t on. Liked Figment. We were disappointed that besides a few decorated Christmas trees and garland, there really wasn’t much on the deco side of things.
Im tracking monorail is closed at EPCOT for EPCOT refurbishment. Christmas decor is up at contemporary.
What is the benefit of not putting up all decorations? Disney already owns them no? So at best is saves some miniscule cost related to putting them up? Seems like cutting off your nose to spite your face to me, in a time where people already feel they are cutting benefits without cutting costs.
I’d bet they are thinking about the taking them down time needed. They go up pretty slowly, a resort at a time or a park at a time, but they all need to go down in a few days. With fewer employees to do that, I’d bet they are trying to make it easier.
We went to Epcot on Monday and there were no decorations. We went on Wednesday and they were all up. We rode the Living with the Land on Wednesday and none of the lights were on except for the tiny green lights on the fish tanks of sustaninable fish.
We had an AWESOME time at Epcot on Monday! The weather was heavenly. Basically walked on Soarin’ twice in a row, and every thing else was basically walk on except Frozen Ever After which we skipped. Lamb chops for lunch in Morocco and caramel butter bars to go made for a PERFECT day! So much so , we made reservations yesterday while in line at Flight of Passage to go back and take advantage of the 9:00 pm closing time after a morning /afternoon at Universal on our last full day here. This week, as you previously posted, has been the “sweet spot” so far for sure! Animal Kingdom was awesome as well yesterday. The lines at Magic Kingdom were deceiving, they look much longer than they actually are and posted wait times were Significantly shorter than posted today.
We are scheduled to arrive on this Sunday the 22nd for a week long trip to WDW. With all that’s going on, I’m still not 100% sure that we should be going. We are driving and will have our own car to get to the parks, so we don’t have to rely on Disney buses. I feel that indoor dining is probably the riskiest thing to do, so we can avoid that. But how do you feel about standing inside attractions while waiting in line? Do you feel safe? Or are the bulk of the lines kept outside? I’m thinking about rides with deep inside lines like Space Mountain and Flight of Passage. Just trying to gauge on how nervous I will be once we around the crowds of people. Thanks for all of your reporting!
We are at Disney this week and can say a lot of thought was put into redesigning the ride queues. Most notably, the PLEASE WAIT HERE stickers placed on the ground at least six feet apart. We have almost made it into a game of waiting until the people ahead move off of their space until we move forward to that space. All lines now stretch way out into the park. Inside, the switch backs are either spaced far enough apart so that people are not next to each other or plexiglass barriers have been installed. We found several rides like space mountain and Avatar were practically walk ons where most of the wait time was actually just walking through the expanded queue. It’s amazing how some lines just constantly move. We actually prefer it to the old way of everyone just being jammed in. A good example is Buzz Lightyear. When you see the line out front it looks bad, but once you get in line it constantly is moving, most of the line is outside, on both sides of the entrance. Not much of the space is being used inside. Also we noticed that rides that are in constant motion like Buzz and Haunted Mansion are a lot shorter than posted wait times. Things that load one vehicle at a time like Seven Dwarves are a lot closer to posted wait times.
Thanks, Rick! That info does make me feel better.
Sarah W, we felt the same way you do and I’ve obsessed for a couple months over the same questions surrounding our trip over Thanksgiving week, which is an annual tradition (and we also had our April trip cancelled.) I poured over blogs, Reddit, pictures of crowds, comments, etc. We were torn over the fact we could justify and reason that going to Disney seems– with all their rules and precautions in place–low risk. Especially based on the fact we were going to drive, both to Orlando and to the parks (which would be a change for us from Disney busses), not eat indoors, etc. I was planning on using mobile order and figuring the logistics of how many masks to pack, what to do with masks while eating somewhere hopefully outdoors in our own family unit, etc. Yet, at the same time, we could equally reason and justify that we are in a pandemic with surging cases. I’m not saying that to judge anyone going or not going or to open a debate, but only to highlight you aren’t alone in the struggle of “should we or shouldn’t we?” Of course only you can answer that but a couple things that helped us to decide was first whether going to Disney matched up with our other decisions we have been making as a family to lower our risk since mid March and secondly, asking ourselves if we would rather regret going or regret not going. This was one tough call, especially with the recent admission by Chapek that attendance capacity has been increased and we know from experience Thanksgiving week is usually busy anyways. Best of luck on whatever you decide!!
Christina, wow, thank you! You have said so eloquently exactly how I have been feeling! It’s good to know that I’m not the only one who is having a hard time deciding what to do. Best of luck to you as well!
My recent experiences were similar to Rick’s. I am somewhat of germaphobe but I had no issues with the indoor attractions and even felt ok eating indoors. I actually enjoyed waiting in the queues and taking in the details while most of the people complied with the social distancing and masks. The only time I felt uncomfortable was the crowds in the gift shops near closing.
MaxBuffMelvin, thanks for the info. I hadn’t even thought about the stores. I guess that’s a good point; don’t wait until closing to do your shopping!
Tom -we were at Epcot on Sunday 11/15 and got in line for Frozen almost at China. The wait time may have said 40 minutes but it took well over an hour. The reason was so many people coming in through the Fast Pass lane, which is now called Disabled Access. After the ride we inquired about it and was told you can go to guest relations and claim that someone in your party has any one of a myriad of disabilities that might prevent a person from being able to wait in line for long periods of time. They would then give you the disabled status for the day and you use it by going to the ride you want, check in and they issue a return time that is about 10 minutes less than the posted wait time.
Have you heard of this? And is this something people try to take advantage of?
DAS and its predecessor have been around for ages. I’m sure it’s abused to a degree, but it’s nothing new. The FastPass line is also used for re-admits, which are given out in certain circumstances when an attraction breaks down. Any idea whether that happened during your visit? To me, that seems like the more plausible explanation, as DAS should be (in theory, at least) pretty consistent.
Maybe it’s because there isn’t FastPass that we are noticing it. We are seeing it at other rides too (Animal Kingdom yesterday and Magic Kingdom today). It’s also people on vip tours as well, we saw them come in with their guide. But nothing near what we saw Sunday at Frozen. I don’t believe there was a shut down. It was a constant stream of people, just like when FastPass was there. Oddly enough, when we asked about it, turns out that we would qualify for at least one of the disabilities the cast member listed, but never would have thought that to be a reason why we couldn’t wait in a line.
You may have also gotten caught waiting during a cleaning cycle. That by itself wouldn’t have added the extra 20 minutes beyond the wait time, but it would have contributed.
I like the resurgence of the classic EPCOT Center logos in your photos such as Figment’s sweater and Living with Land
I’ll bet Iger doesnt know who Figment is either since its not his beloved Star Wars, Marvel, Frozen, Mulan, or Princess & Frog IPs.
Hi, Tom. Thanks for the update. We’re heading to Disney World for Thanksgiving week and are hoping the crowds remain consistent compared to the previous few weeks. I’ve written down your 1-day touring plans for each park and appreciate how you’ve recently updated them to better reflect current conditions. I’ve already advised my family that we’re following your plans and will not necessarily be dashing towards their favorite rides at rope drop as we normally do. We’re staying at the Contemporary for the first time and I’m hoping it will be decked out for Christmas by Sunday. Do you know why Disney has chosen not to offer monorail service to Epcot? Too much trouble to add plexiglass or too hard to socially distance? Just wondering as my husband LOVES riding the monorail and it’s a perk of the Contemporary that we won’t be able to access. Again, thanks for all of the updates!! Wish we lived closer so we could be at Disney as often as you are!!
Hi Kim – not Tom but my educated guess is too expensive to operate for low capacity plus there is no park hopping available so limited demand of MK to/from Epcot travelers. Luckily you still have the perk of walking to MK from Contemporary.
I was thinking that they didn’t want guests to see so much of the front of Epcot torn up. Nearly everything the monorail circles over at Epcot is torn up.
Tom. Speaking as a retired journalist I have to congratulate you on your incisive and comprehensive reports which I read everyday. Thanks for keeping us all informed and with a real sense of independence and impartiality. We hope to return next year from UK. Bob
Well said. I couldn’t agree more.
I am looking forward to a joy filled trip in December. So grateful to the Cast members who are DOI g their very best at a tough time
I get so sad looking at all the photos and miss it all so very much we had two trips cancelled from uk and just hoping we can get there next year
Are hours at Epcot set for Christmas day? or will they change again?
I think it’s likely those are the final hours. Maybe an hour extension here or there, but even that is doubtful.
Think New Years Eve stays put too across the board?
“Maybe instead of finding things to complain about, we should try to seek out and savor the joy in little things like this during an unprecedented and tough time.”
Those are words to live by after this year (really always; especially now).
Although it alternates between seeming objectively crazy and maybe not the worst idea ever, I think we are going to let it rip and be down there in less than two weeks.
We are actually starting to get excited about something, which is an emotion we haven’t felt since 2019.
Thanks for another great report.