With so much construction in Future World at Epcot, many readers are questioning whether they should skip Epcot on their upcoming 2020 and 2021 vacations to Walt Disney World. In this post, we’ll cover what’s happening now, on the horizon, when these projects should be completed, and how they’ll impact your experience on upcoming visits.
When it comes to radical Disney park overhauls, there are two existing ‘templates’ based upon recent projects: Disney California Adventure and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Most Walt Disney World fans will likely be familiar with the latter, which sacrificed a lot to get where we are today. (Arguably, too much.)
Both of these other park reimaginings significantly impacted guests, albeit in markedly different ways. Epcot’s overhaul will likewise no doubt weigh on the park experience for the next several years. The question thus becomes, should you skip Epcot? As with so many things, the answer is “it depends.” In this case, upon your priorities at the park…
At Disney’s Hollywood Studios, several attractions closed in order for construction to occur, including several flagship and opening day experiences, along with other less-popular offerings. Aside from fewer attractions to experience, the construction at DHS didn’t significantly impact the park experience. Most construction occurred out of the way, with walls up at dead-ends but not in main thoroughfares or places creating visual blight.
By contrast, the reinvention of Disney California Adventure was primarily burdensome in how it impacted crowd-flow and in the sea of construction walls throughout the park. The worst of this occurred when the park entrance actually re-routed guests backstage behind Soarin’ while Buena Vista Street was being built. Despite all of this, there were few, if any, “important” attractions taken out of commission for the overhaul.
Epcot is somewhat of a mix of these two approaches, skewing much more towards the Disney California Adventure end of the spectrum. Up until now, there have been several new attractions and restaurants under construction at Epcot. If you’ve read any of our monthly updates, you’ve no doubt seen this work taking place.
One of the things these updates do a poor job of showcasing is normalcy. The whole point of a monthly photo update is to feature what’s changing, which usually entails construction photos. That, coupled with discussion of Epcot’s transformation creates the impression that the park is a veritable construction zone. For a geek like me who tracks this stuff, that’s exciting to watch. For a family planning their once in a lifetime or even annual trip, that’s less the case.
Up until now, things have been pretty “normal” at Epcot. Almost all of the construction occurring up until now has been expansion outside of the existing boundaries of the park, or replacements for attractions that the majority of guests didn’t previously experience.
The one exception to this was Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind replacing Universe of Energy–and as much as I loved the dinosaur-goodness of that lengthy attraction, I can recognize it wasn’t exactly packing in guests.
Adjacent to Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind is the upcoming Play Pavilion, which is replacing the Festival Center (itself replacing Wonders of Life several years ago). This whole hasn’t seen much foot traffic for years, and the only way you’d find yourself over there now is by accident or if you’re intentionally wanting to check out construction.
Aside from the new films that debut in early 2020, all of the other upcoming substantive additions coming to Epcot are true expansions of the park or are being built in locations resulting in minimal visual blight for the ordinary guest. In other words, you wouldn’t have to navigate through a corridor of narrow construction walls or deal with a surplus of ride closures that will benefit future guests but hurt you.
Half of the entrance area is already walled off, the other half looks unfinished, and there are walls around large swaths of Future World. Expect more walls and closures in this area between now and the start of 2020.
Suffice to say, Future World will resemble a sea of construction walls between now and 2021. Some of this work will be done in phases, so it all won’t look awful at once. However, if you’re visiting Epcot primarily for the atmosphere of Future World, it’s going to be a rough couple of years.
In addition to a lot of walls and visible/audible demolition and construction occurring beyond them, expect congestion and crowd-flow issues on busier days and at busier times (rope drop and the post-fireworks mass exodus) as a lot of guests try to navigate through tight corridors.
Although dates and duration are presently unconfirmed, Disney has announced that Spaceship Earth will be reimagined at some point.
Previously, we reported on the 2-Year Spaceship Earth Rumored Overhaul–we now believe that will commence at some point in early 2020. (While it’s confirmed that the ride will go down, the timeframe is still rumor at this point.)
However, aside from the future reimagining of Spaceship Earth, not much is closed in Future World of significance. Sure, some guests will miss Club Cool or walking through the empty hallways of Innoventions, but the bulk of what has closed and will close at the front of the park has ‘diversion’ status, at best. (Moreover, almost all of this will soon find temporary homes throughout the park.)
This is where the Epcot transformation is confusing and surprising–it’s impacting an incredibly large area of the park…but not many attractions. (Which is probably why it’s occurring in the first place!) When it goes down, Spaceship Earth will be a huge, albeit temporary loss of one of Walt Disney World’s flagship attractions.
Other than that, there’s a lot of expansion, replacement of unpopular experiences, and aesthetic transformations. Old school EPCOT Center fans might argue ‘against’ some of what’s on the horizon, such as the placement of Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind (and its gigantic show-building) in Future World.
If pressed, few would contest that the substance of what we’re losing was not past its prime or unpopular.
For those planning a Walt Disney World vacation for 2020, you will experience the height of the Future World construction. Depending upon when you visit, it’s possible that the new arrival area and entrance plaza projects will be finished, so that’s a plus.
However, the area spanning between Spaceship Earth and Showcase Plaza will have walls throughout. Basically, everything you see in the center of the photo above will be a construction zone.
If all of the construction at the front of Epcot will put a damper on your experience of the place as an inviting theme park, rather than not visiting, our advice would be to arrive on the Disney Skyliner gondolas or FriendShips, and use the International Gateway entrance.
For the next 2+ years, this will be the superior arrival experience, and will place you in the heart of World Showcase rather than Future World.
Starting in Summer 2020, arriving via the International Gateway also should offer a strategic advantage. This entrance is a very close to Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure (in fact, you’ll fly over it on the Skyliner on your way into the park!), the new trackless dark ride in the France pavilion that will debut next summer.
Upon its debut, this ride should instantly leapfrog Frozen Ever After, Test Track, and Soarin’ to become Epcot’s most popular attraction.
Entering Epcot this way will be ideal for those who visit the park to savor the atmosphere, as World Showcase should still be lovely and romantic. (Even if construction begins on another country pavilion, it’d only result in the train set in Germany being walled-off.) This approach to Epcot is under-appreciated, but we love it and use International Gateway all the time.
If you use International Gateway and only venture into Future World to ride Test Track, Soarin’, Living with the Land, Mission: Space, and visit the manatees at the Living Seas pavilion, you’ll still witness some of the construction, but it should not negatively impact your Epcot visit to a significant degree. It’ll be more like a ‘taste’ of what’s to come while dropping into Future World, rather than setting a negative tone for your park visit the moment you arrive at Epcot.
The other upside here is on the substantive front. If you’re visiting Walt Disney World in 2020, there will almost certainly be new experiences for you to enjoy. The Epcot Forever nighttime spectacular will debut next month and continue into the new year, the Epcot Experience Preview Center will debut at the same time, and the Space 220 Restaurant should open this winter.
New attractions will start debuting as soon as January 2020 during the 2020 Epcot International Festival of the Arts. At this point, several new movies will debut, including Awesome Planet in the Land pavilion, the Beauty and the Beast Sing-a-long in France, and new Circle-Vision 360 film for the Canada Pavilion.
As mentioned above, Disney has announced that Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure will open in Summer 2020. While no date has been set for the Play Pavilion, we’re also anticipating it to debut at some point in late 2020 or early 2021.
Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind also doesn’t have an official date, but Summer 2021 is our best guess there at this very preliminary stage.
Ultimately, the answer to the question, “should you skip Epcot?” is really less “it depends” and more “probably not.” If you arrive at the main entrance and have to navigate the sea of construction walls, it could start your visit out on the wrong foot. However, there’s an easy work-around for that–and one that will offer you an advantage rather than inconveniencing you.
More to the point, what’s closed versus what’s open and will be debuting in the very near future skews heavily in favor of the new stuff. Epcot between 2020 and 2022 is not like Disney’s Hollywood Studios at all in that regard. What are are “losing” to gain all of these new attractions and a visually transformed Epcot is (arguably) the park’s mission statement and original visual identity.
I don’t want to minimize either of those things, as they’re very important to a lot of people (me included), but if you’re a first-timer to Walt Disney World or infrequent visitor, you’ll probably care less about those things (that were mostly lost a decade-plus ago, anyway). The reality is that despite a lot of stuff closing in September (and more closing this winter), it’s almost all retail, dining, and hallways of abandoned exhibits–all of which will have more than adequate replacements throughout Epcot.
Accordingly, we do not recommend anyone skip Epcot between now and 2021. The park is going through tremendous growing pains, but it’ll look worse than it actually is. When it comes to attractions, Epcot will have more to do in 2020 and 2021 than it did earlier this year.
Will you be following our advice and visiting Epcot in the next couple of years? Do you disagree and think the volume of construction is simply too much to justify paying full price for Epcot admission? Excited about the park’s future? Any other feedback on upcoming changes and how they’ll impact the experience? 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!