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 Keep in mind that this was originally made pre-closure…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 59º 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.
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!
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!