Extended Evening Hours at EPCOT is an on-site perk for select Walt Disney World resort guests, and our favorite way to do the park. This post-closing photo report offers step-by-step strategy for doing every headliner in World Showcase plus Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind and Test Track, with tips & tricks, and advice for how to approach (or ignore) posted wait times.
As background, Extended Evening Theme Park Hours has a smaller pool of eligibility than its morning counterpart and also occurs less frequently. This benefit is exclusively for guests staying at Deluxe Resorts, Deluxe Villas (Disney Vacation Club units), or other select hotels. See our Guide to Extended Evening Hours at Walt Disney Worldfor taking advantage of this perk, eligibility, and more.
Extended Evening Theme Park Hours occur two nights per week in total. Most Mondays at EPCOT from 9:00 pm until 11 pm and most Wednesdays at Magic Kingdom. We previously shared an Extended Evening Hours at Magic Kingdom Photo Report(and have another new one coming soon!), so thought we’d now turn our attention to EPCOT…
At both Magic Kingdom and EPCOT, the 2-hour perk is hugely advantageous and enjoyable, well worth “splurge status.” For those who enjoy empty parks, low crowds, or nighttime ambiance, Extended Evening Hours is about as good as it gets. This perk makes a few nights at a Deluxe Resort one of the best splurges at Walt Disney World. We’d recommend that over dessert parties and other upcharges.
With that out of the way, here’s how to make the most of Extended Evening Hours at EPCOT…
On a normal night, the EPCOT fireworks are presented at 9 pm nightly over World Showcase Lagoon. This makes for a tricky start to Extended Evening Hours at EPCOT, as attractions in the park are closed to day guests and open for the extra hours, but the nighttime spectacular is also happening at the same time.
The best approach depends upon how much you want to see the fireworks from your preferred viewing location and watch through to the finale. If you consult our EPCOT Fireworks Viewing Guide: Best & Worst Locations, you’ll see that our take on EPCOT Forever is that it doesn’t much matter. If you can see the sky, you’re good. (With that said, this advice will almost certainly change in Late 2023 when the new nighttime spectacular debuts.)
That was my approach this particular evening, opting to watch EPCOT Forever from France. I would strongly recommend you do the same. I’ve tested a number of different strategies for Extended Evening Hours, and this is consistently the one that outperforms the rest.
As soon as the final burst of the finale exploded overhead, I made a beeline to Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure. At this point, there was hardly anyone back here.
Starting at 9 pm, there are Cast Members stationed outside each attraction entrance, scanning MagicBands, hotel room keys, etc. Unlike Early Entry, this happens at every single attraction in EPCOT throughout the night–not just once upon arrival. (The difference is that other guests are already in the park, so that’s the only feasible way to determine eligibility.)
In the below photo, you can vaguely see some people in line for Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure behind the fountain. However, there’s literally no one in the outdoor overflow queue. This was despite the posted wait time being 70 minutes and the Lightning Lane return not being in use. In this scenario, an actual wait time of 70 minutes is almost impossible. (“Almost” used as a hedge only because breakdowns are possible.)
In actuality, Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure was pretty close to a walk-on. The line constantly moved, and my actual wait time was around 10 minutes. Again, as compared to the 70 minute posted wait time.
By the time I exited Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, overflow queue was in use and the line to check MagicBands extended out of this courtyard and around the corner. The posted wait time had fallen to 50 minutes.
On that note, one thing I want to warn about is inaccurate wait times and induced demand. Take a look at the above posted wait times, which are unfortunately in reverse-chronological order (sorry about that).
Based on the above, that 70 minute wait time for Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure was obviously wrong. The “issue” is that the average guest will pull up these wait times after EPCOT Forever at the start of Extended Evening Hours, and make the obvious conclusion that Frozen Ever After is their best bet.
The middle screenshot is the result of that: surging crowds at Frozen Ever After, and falling numbers for Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure. And as a result of that, later arriving guests make the logical decision to do Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure instead of Frozen Ever After, which is reflected in the final screenshot.
This is not unique to Extended Evening Hours at EPCOT. We see oscillating, reactionary wait times play out like this all the time in the parks. This offering is a more pronounced example because of its limited lineup and attendance; because of that, one attraction has the ability to impact wait times for others.
When this happens on a normal day, the impact is more localized. The way to take advantage is jumping in a line that has had an atypically high posted wait time for a while; or better yet, not making a diversion for an abnormally low posted wait time unless you actually see it drop and can be one of the first people to take advantage. Otherwise, you’re at the back of the pack, and could end up waiting in line longer than what’s posted. (A rare occurrence, but it does happen!)
More than anything else, it amazes me that Disney’s posted wait times are often so reactionary. With all of the data they should be able to leverage, they should be able to anticipate wait times throughout the day and set them accordingly–even accounting for downtime and disproportionate Lightning Lane returns at certain times. And yet, they largely do not. But I digress.
Anyway, the next stop was Frozen Ever After after meandering a bit to snag some shots of topiaries in Italy, Germany, and Japan. (I move fast, so I slowed down to make this consistent with a normal person’s speed. If anything, the average guest could’ve gotten to Norway far faster than I did.)
Another thing to note here is that sometimes, or after a certain time, the World Showcase walkway between France and Norway will be blocked off. That usually doesn’t happen until after the fireworks viewing areas have cleared, which takes a good 20-30 minutes. I beat that clearing time, but if you don’t, it doesn’t much matter. The walk is about the same time/distance whether you go the back route or front route to Norway.
I love walking through World Showcase after the crowds have cleared out. My “ideal” EPCOT Extended Evening Hours simply involves wandering around, and doing Cosmic Rewind at the very end of the night. Can’t imagine many people want or need strategy for that, though.
The point is that it’s as much about the journey as the destination. There’s an understandable desire to “accomplish” as many rides as possible, but don’t make that the sole measure of success for Extended Evening Hours at EPCOT (or your vacation in general). There’s a good chance rides will break down or things will go wrong. Roll with the punches, and simply savor being there.
Anyway, I arrived at Frozen Ever After around 9:50 pm.
As noted above, the posted wait time had spiked to 60 minutes by this point and had been at that elevated level for around 15 minutes. Almost the perfect amount of time to discourage new arrivals from lining up (and instead head to France), but it still meant a decently long line in front of me.
My total wait ended up being about 25 minutes. While I was in line, the posted wait time also dropped, falling below Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure again. Predictably, this was the scene when I exited the attraction:
This is a little deceiving, as part of the large crowd is due to the checkpoint to scan MagicBands (etc.), but it’s still a longer line than when I queued up earlier. Normally, the line for Frozen Ever After would get shorter over the course of Extended Evening Hours at EPCOT.
Again, this is posted wait times inducing demand or redirecting crowds. This should underscore the point above about not running around chasing the lowest wait times–it’s a recipe for actually being stuck in the longest lines.
The next stop was Test Track, which was posting a 30 minute wait time.
My dilemma here was whether to do Test Track via standby to “prove” it’s possible, risk being wrong, and missing Cosmic Rewind; or taking the easy way out with the Single Rider line. Given that I was doing this sans Sarah and Cosmic Rewind was the only attraction that I really wanted to do that evening, I opted for the latter. I’m pretty sure it would’ve been possible via standby, but that wasn’t a risk I was willing to take.
I was on and off Test Track in about 15 minutes total, as there was (literally) no one else in the Single Rider line.
I still had roughly 15 minutes left on the clock with everything I set out to accomplish knocked out; for those wondering, this would not have been enough time to accomplish Soarin’ Around the World and Cosmic Rewind. It is not possible to do all 5 attractions during Extended Evening Hours at EPCOT unless you skip the fireworks. Even then, I think the walking times would prevent it.
A return time at the very beginning or very end of Extended Evening Hours is ideal. On this evening, my callback time was 9:50 pm, giving me until 10:50 pm (officially) to return. I typically don’t test my luck with the unofficial policy, as Cosmic Rewind is a must-do for me. YMMV.
Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind doesn’t post wait times, but I’d hazard a guess that the line is shorter later in the night (which is why the unofficial policy is an asset, not a problem, here). That’s typically the case during daytime operations–most people return ASAP when their Cosmic Rewind virtual queue is called, as it’s their top priority.
That’s objectively bad strategy during Extended Evening Hours. Setting aside the unknown/unpredictable wait time, Cosmic Rewind has the longest minimum attraction time of anything at EPCOT due to its multi-room pre-show. This means that, ideally, you’d do Cosmic Rewind as close to the end of Extended Evening Hours as possible, pushing your wait for all of that until after the event has technically ended. Same idea behind getting in line for the most popular rides 1 minute before park closing.
I didn’t time how long Cosmic Rewind took, but Extended Evening Hours had long ended and EPCOT had pretty much cleared out by the time I was done.
Even following Extended Evening Hours, I’ve found that EPCOT is the slowest park to clear. I took my time, taking more photos and eventually made my way to the front entrance for photos of the Encanto topiary display.
In the end, my step-by-step strategy for Extended Evening Hours at EPCOT is as follows:
Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure – Arriving before the post-fireworks wave is essential. Ignore the posted wait time.
Frozen Ever After – By the time you’re done with the Rat Ride, lines should be starting to subside–but that really depends on posted wait times. I’ve been both lucky and unlucky with this one. It’s far and away the biggest wildcard, in my experience.
Test Track – Single Rider here is always ideal, but might not be necessary. Lines bottom out at the very end of the night, but it’s closer to Norway than Soarin’ is, and the overall cycle time of the latter means it’ll take nearly as long as Test Track from start to finish.
Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind – Doing this as close to the end of the night is ideal, both due to line length and the higher minimum attraction duration. This will apply once the virtual queue goes away, too.
Alternate: Soarin’ Around the World – If you can’t score a spot in the virtual queue for Cosmic Rewind, or don’t want to do it, Soarin’ is a good final stop for the same reason: long minimum duration. (Even as a walk-on, it can take a while if you’re caught between cycles.)
I’ve done Extended Evening Hours about a half-dozen times, and have yet to find a better approach than this. The only one that comes close is skipping the fireworks and doing these in the exact opposite order–but that requires an early return time for Cosmic Rewind.
Ultimately, we love doing Extended Evening Theme Park Hours at EPCOT, and would recommend those who are eligible take advantage of the perk. As with Extended Evening Hours at Magic Kingdom, is Deluxe Resort guest benefit is advantageous and incredibly enjoyable for anyone who likes nighttime ambiance.
The big difference is that EPCOT has far fewer popular attractions than Magic Kingdom, and longer walking distances between them. This means that you won’t “accomplish” nearly as many attractions or save as much time, as other guests will also be flocking to the exact same headliners, elevating their wait times over what we’ve observed during Extended Evening Hours at Magic Kingdom (outside of Seven Dwarfs Mine Train).
Accordingly, this perk at EPCOT is not as objectively “valuable” as it is in Magic Kingdom. So if you’re only able to do it at one of the two parks, definitely make it Magic Kingdom. With that said, objective value is a poor way of measuring a Walt Disney World vacation. There’s something to be said for being there, savoring the serenity and enjoying the ambiance. As with Magic Kingdom, EPCOT Extended Evening Hours truly deliver on that front.
Thoughts on Extended Evening Theme Park Hours at Walt Disney World? Have you experienced this 2-hour replacement for evening Extra Magic Hours at EPCOT? What’s your ideal strategy for Extended Evening Hours at EPCOT? How would you have done things differently? Any other feedback on doing evenings at 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!