With construction in Future World, many fans are questioning whether they should skip Epcot on their 2020 and 2021 vacations to Walt Disney World. In this post, we’ll cover what’s happening, when projects will be completed, and how they’ll impact your experience on upcoming visits. (Updated August 28, 2020.)
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 flagship and opening day experiences that defined the park, along with other less-popular offerings. There were fewer attractions to experience, but the construction at DHS didn’t significantly impact the atmosphere. Most construction occurred within buildings or 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. Basically, the divergent approaches are “atmosphere v. attractions.”
Epcot is somewhat of a mix of these two, 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 last fall, things had been pretty “normal” at Epcot. Almost all of the construction had 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.
The good news is that the upcoming substantive additions at Epcot are true expansions of the park, and will provide more things to do in the park. The bad news is that there’s also a colossal makeover to the center of Epcot, eliminating Future World and replacing it with 3 new neighborhoods. This has now kicked into high gear.
Consequently, Future World has now been divided into two halves, with the middle closed entirely. Much like World Showcase, the front of the park is now a loop, with the two sides only connecting at the front and back. Reaching each side requires navigating temporary corridors made via construction walls.
Suffice to say, Future World will resemble a sea of construction walls between now and at least 2022. This work is no longer being done in phases–we’re in the midst of the worst Epcot will look right now in terms of construction walls, and those will likely gradually disappear over the course of the next year.
In other words, if you’re visiting Epcot primarily for the atmosphere of Future World, it’s going to be a rough couple of years. Expect a lot of walls and visible/audible demolition and construction occurring beyond them.
Even this has some silver linings, though. First, attendance has plummeted at Epcot in 2020 since Walt Disney World reopened. This is likely to hold true for the foreseeable future.
With lower crowds, there’s less congestion and unpleasantness in navigating the sea of construction walls. This makes the overall experience markedly better. One of our big complaints last fall through this spring (pre-closure) was the discomfort of walking around Future World. That’s no longer an issue–the front of Epcot is a ghost town.
Another big positive is that Epcot now makes a much better first impression than it did late last year or early this year. The guest arrival experience is so much more pleasant. The bag check overhaul is finished, and entering the park is now fast and efficient–a sharp contrast to last summer.
Moreover, while the middle of Future World still is an active construction zone, but the front entrance is already getting better. There are still some walls up around the feature fountain, but the iconic prismatic pylon has been installed and work on this is almost done. We expect the new-look front entrance to be finished and officially unveiled on October 1, 2020.
On a bittersweet note, the 2-Year Spaceship Earth Rumored Overhaul has been postponed indefinitely. This is disappointing news in the long-term; in the short-term, it means less construction in the front of the park. Additionally, not much is closed in Future World of significance.
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!) 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.
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.
Once the France expansion opens (probably in Spring 2021 at this point), arriving via the International Gateway also should offer a strategic advantage. This entrance is a very close to Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, the new trackless dark ride in the France pavilion that will debut soon.
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.
Ultimately, the answer to the question, “should you skip Epcot?” is really less “it depends” and more “probably not.” Navigating the sea of construction walls isn’t really as bad as it might seem–especially now that crowds are significantly lower. And if you do want to avoid the walls, there’s an easy work-around for that–enter through International Gateway.
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 we are “losing” to gain all of these new attractions and a visually transformed Epcot is (arguably) not much.
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 in the last few years. Plus, Epcot has better atmosphere and food options than any other park at Walt Disney World, which is especially true and important as the phased reopening continues.
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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!