In the past few weeks since Walt Disney World reopened, the park that we’ve visited more than any other is Epcot. At first, we had excuses for this. The 2020 Taste of Epcot Food & Wine Festival had started and we “needed” to cover it. It’s the park with the most construction. We had to get to solve the Curious Case of José Carioca.
At this point, visiting Epcot is less about having pressing reasons to return and more about a sense of normalcy and familiarity. That’s probably the best justification of all. As noted in our Epcot Reopening Report: Bizarre and Beautiful, World Showcase occupies a paradoxical position–a lot has changed, but even more remains the same.
Our Epcot evening routine was established years ago, but perfected last summer and further refined in the last few weeks. Before we delve into this, I want to warn anyone with the misconception that we might be “cool party animals.” While I don’t want to ruin that illusion, it’s not even remotely the case…
Wanting to get some exercise without, you know, actually exercising, we often take evening power walks around our neighborhood when the weather is nice. Unfortunately, there are a ton of bugs during the summer months, and the lazy lizards and Florida frogs are too busy trying to invade our house to do their jobs. Like the other cool cats our age, we would join a local mall walking club, but there aren’t any malls near us.
Epcot is literally the best nearby option for this. It might not sound impressive (or maybe it does?), but we’ve found dropping into Epcot for a few hours to be one of the biggest advantages of living near Walt Disney World. Strolling around World Showcase is always a delight; that’s especially true right now with low crowds and Epcot being the one park open after sunset.
The details of our routine are not particularly noteworthy. We head to the park at around 7 pm, going through Future World, doing two laps of World Showcase, and sometimes exiting to make a loop around Crescent Lake. (That’s currently not possible because the full circuit is closed off due to the NBA using Yacht Club and MLS using the Dolphin.)
Usually we’ll also stop somewhere in World Showcase for dinner, too. Thanks to various distractions and diversions, this evening Epcot excursion ends up being a little over 4 miles (give or take) with around 40-60 minutes of exercise over the course of 2.5 hours in the park.
Like so much else, doing this right now is a bit surreal. We don’t ride any attractions, only go indoors briefly on occasion to pick up mobile orders, and the closest human contact we have is brief interactions at the temperature and bag check stations. Otherwise, we’re nowhere near anyone else.
The surreal quality is more just the fact that we’re essentially ‘mall walking’ at a theme park during all of this. There’s an underlying weirdness to ‘walking around the world’ at a time when Americans can’t travel to almost all of these countries. We’re well aware of that.
Anyway, that’s the “why” of our frequent visits to Epcot.
During these trips to the park, I take my camera but usually no camera bag and never a tripod. Nevertheless, we frequently stop for photos and other random things, which we’ll share here…
Mexico is definitely the worst option in World Showcase for physical distancing.
Pretty much the entirety of the pavilion is indoors, and guests flock here for the air-conditioning. We’ve done Gran Fiesta Tour twice, but we’ve subsequently been skipping Mexico.
Thankfully, Mariachi Cobre still performs at America Gardens Theatre.
Mariachi Cobre does 20 minute sets on Sunday, Monday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 1:30 pm, 2:45 pm, 3:40 pm, 4:45 pm, 6:10 pm, 7:05 pm, and 8:10 pm. We usually catch one of these last two shows–it’s a delight.
Listening to Mariachi Cobre as the ‘entertainment’ in our evening has essentially been an odd yet direct replacement for IllumiNations when comparing this summer to our routine last summer, during that nighttime spectacular’s farewell.
This is totally wishful thinking, but it seems like Epcot is the park best-positioned to bring fireworks back at some point down the road due to its layout and demand. A modified version of IllumiNations this winter and next spring could really give Epcot a shot in the arm before Harmonious debuts (next fall?). It doesn’t even need to be the full IllumiNations show (and couldn’t be)–I’d settle for just the pyro and soundtrack! Highly doubt it’ll happen, but I can dream…
Right now, one of our go-to restaurants in Epcot is Regal Eagle’s Distinctly Patriotic Smokehouse: A Salute to All Foods, But Mostly Barbecued Meats ~ A Sam Eagle Craft Drafts & BBQ Joint. We reviewed this shortly before Epcot closed in March.
My order here is the North Carolina Chopped Smoked Pork Butt Platter with Mac & Cheese as a side. (The portion has been larger lately than it was when Regal Eagle first opened.) Highly recommended.
With nothing open at the China pavilion aside from Reflections of China, this is the quietest area of World Showcase.
In the evening hours, wandering the pavilion borders on awkward. It feels a bit shady to be loitering back in the alley near the shops.
It’s sort of the same deal with Morocco with Restaurant Marrakesh and Tangierine Cafe not open.
On the other hand, Morocco has always been the ‘quietest corner’ of Epcot, so not a ton has changed here. Still the most beautiful, lavish, and ornate pavilion just begging to be explored.
Japan factors heavily into our evening strolls in Epcot.
The background music is relaxing, the atmosphere is peaceful, and it’s probably the closest we’ll get to being back in Kyoto anytime soon.
Japan also has the best window shopping in World Showcase.
There are lots of fun Studio Ghibli items, other kawaii merchandise, culturally authentic wares, hideous t-shirts that are also actually sold in Japan, plus some of our favorite vending machine finds. Prices are surprisingly fair, too.
Then there’s Katsura Grill. We’ve already sung the praises of the outdoor seating area up here, but we haven’t touched upon the menu.
While every other restaurant at Walt Disney World is cutting back, Katsura Grill is out here expanding its menu, doubling down on new and bizarre options. Okonomiyaki, but in french fry form? Sure, why not.
We’re looking forward to Tokyo Dining and Takumi-Tei returning, but who knows when that’ll happen.
In the meantime, we’ll settle for Katsura Grill. Stay tuned for the most comprehensive review of that restaurant ever assembled. (But first, I need to eat the Chicken Cutlet Curry about a dozen more times to confirm it’s still good.)
Unsurprisingly, Norway is the busiest pavilion at night.
Wait times for Frozen Ever After do drop later in the day, but it’s still not uncommon for the queue to spill outside even after 8 pm.
This area isn’t truly tranquil until around 9:30 pm when the last guests have cycled out of Frozen Ever After and made their way out.
On a related note, Kringla Bakeri Og Kafe is on my Walt Disney World reopening “wish list.”
Germany is another of the more popular pavilions. Due to the drinks, Biergarten, and it’s more compact courtyard layout, this also doesn’t empty out until closing time.
When it does, we enjoy grabbing a seat near the fountain, listening to the cheery music, and gazing at the Christmas decorations in the shop windows. (I am so ready for Christmas.)
Aside from Rose & Crown on the other side of World Showcase promenade, the United Kingdom pavilion is pretty quiet right now.
I wasn’t particularly wild about the Mary Poppins ride and Cherry Tree Lane idea, and am fine with it being cancelled. I’m in this for the long term and would rather wait years for a good concept than get a fast and cheap one in the more immediate future. Regardless of that, the UK pavilion needs something. All things considered, it’s the least interesting World Showcase country.
…And back out through Future World, ending the evening with the majesty of Spaceship Earth. That sight never gets old, and never fails to fill me with awe and wonder.
Ultimately, probably not the most exciting, illuminating, or useful post, but (hopefully?) still a pleasant look into the current state of Epcot. Along with everything else that’s likely to never happen again, these “late” night strolls are something we’re savoring.
We really can’t wait until this holiday season when the weather is nicer, the sun sets earlier, and the parks are decked out. Walt Disney World has a soothing quality right now as it is, but coupling that with the comfort of Christmas should be doubly nice. I’m counting down the days!
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Have you done an evening stroll at Epcot? What was your experience? Thoughts on any of the random topics discussed here? Will you be attempting to visit Walt Disney World this summer or fall, or are you waiting until 2021 or beyond? 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!