In this post, I report on a Monday I spent at Epcot in October 2018 during the Food & Wine Festival. The main purpose of this post is to give people who are planning visits an example of a one-day itinerary at Epcot.
I give times for pretty much everything I did, from getting in line to modifying a FastPass+, to give you the most detailed view possible of how you could spend a day at Epcot. At the very bottom of the post, I give my final itinerary in abbreviated form.
This was a beautiful Monday, with clear skies and temperatures between 70 and 90 degrees. It was a weekday, but as it was during Food & Wine Festival the crowds were still around average, at a 5 out of 10 according to Touring Plans. Finally, this post contains no information about Epcot Food & Wine.
Advance FastPass+ Reservations
The day before this visit, I grabbed three FastPass+ reservations for Frozen Ever After (10:30AM), Mission: SPACE (1:45PM), and Spaceship Earth (2:55PM). This was right in line with what we suggest in our Epcot FastPass+ strategy, though the rest of this post contains important context how this all played out.
In short—and our Epcot FastPass+ strategy will be updated to reflect this—I could have just grabbed those latter two for slots closer to 5PM to 8PM. As it happened, I was easily able to modify them to fit my schedule, but in some ways I regretted this scheduling, and I cover why below.
Arrival and Rope Drop
The immediate goal for a morning at Epcot is to get through two of the three Tier 1 rides: Test Track, Soarin’, and Frozen Ever After. You shouldn’t have much difficulty getting a FastPass+ for the third on short (sub-30 day) notice.
If you don’t have a FastPass+ for any of the three, then you’ll definitely want to arrive as early as possible (60-30 minutes before park opening) and aim to get all three done in succession. The priority for these three rides is: Test Track, Frozen Ever After, Soarin’.
I arrived at about 8:20AM and was near the front of the crowd when the turnstiles opened at 8:33AM. The inner rope “dropped” at 8:53AM, and I arrived at the Test Track line at 8:57AM. The ride was slow to open, but we were let in at 9:04AM. I was off at 9:21AM.
As a quick note, people often forget that rides can break down! If Test Track had been closed much longer, I would have immediately headed to Saorin’ while trying to modify my Frozen Ever After FastPass+ to Test Track. Random factors like weather and ride closures can ruin even the most perfect plans, you need to be prepared to react accordingly.
I was a little nervous I’d made the wrong choice, but wait times proved me right. Test Track was at 60 minutes, and Soarin’ was at only 15. That 15-minute wait for Soarin’ was actually under 10, and I was off the ride by 9:43AM.
It’s worth noting that during this time, Frozen Ever After hovered between 10 minute and 20 minutes. Despite this, we still favor using a FastPass+ for it because of its location and because it consistently has the second-longest waits later in the day.
Conquering The Land & The Seas
The reason we recommend scheduling your first FastPass+ for a few hours after the park opens is for this time. It’s 9:43AM and there are a host of rides with short (<15 minute) waits around Future World that you can pick off. I’ve bolded them in the next few paragraphs so you can spot them. If you don’t have FastPass+ for Spaceship Earth or Mission: SPACE, this is also a fine time to hop in line for one of those.
I started next door to Soarin’ (in the same building) with a favorite of mine, Living With The Land. I was on at 9:49AM and off at 10:05AM.
Having finished The Land pavilion, I decided to conquer The Seas. The posted 15 minute wait for The Seas With Nemo and Friends was incorrect, and I walked right on at 10:13AM, finishing the ride at 10:20AM.
I just missed a Turtle Talk With Crush show, so I wasn’t in that one until 10:40AM. The show finished at 10:52AM.
I didn’t think the posted 15 minute wait for Journey Into Imagination With Figment was accurate, but I didn’t see the need to test my luck, so I headed over to Frozen Ever After and tapped onto my FastPass+ at 11:06AM when the posted wait was 55 minutes.
Off the ride at 11:18AM, I had just enough time to head next door to Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros, which had a 5 minute wait.
I was off at 11:35AM and had time to eat my lunch while watching the Mexico Pavilion’s entertainment—Mariachi Cobre.
While I would have liked to have gotten Journey Into Imagination With Figment in, this was otherwise a perfect morning. With my two remaining FastPass+ reservations, I’d guaranteed myself a short wait on every major ride in the park, and I only had three left as of noon.
Afternoon Options at Epcot
Afternoon at Epcot is almost the same as afternoon at every Disney park in the world—you need to balance short waits, FastPass+, and entertainment.
What makes Epcot different is its geography. Epcot is huge, and it’s really a hassle to hop back and forth between the World Showcase and Future World. The World Showcase is roughly a mile around, and from the United States Pavilion (technically “The American Adventure”) to the center of Future World is over a half mile.
The flipside, though, is that Epcot is easy. The question at Epcot isn’t whether you’ll have free time to explore, it’s how much time you’ll have to explore. With that, let’s get to everything you’ll have to consider!
Take Multiple Laps Around The World Showcase
We’re starting with the World Showcase because its really the limiting factor at this point. With the major rides behind you, you’re now going to need to know just how much time to spend in the World Showcase.
The World Showcase is filled with options. If you check the entertainment and attractions (you must check both, as the pavilions have items listed in both) listings on the app or in the times guide, you’ll see all the different shows at the pavilions. (I mention the ones I visited this day below.)
Besides the entertainment and attractions, there is plenty of food, drinks, and shopping to be had around the World Showcase. And of course, one should always take time to appreciate the scenery.
We think a good target is to spend no less than five hours in the World Showcase. You’ll also want a 30 minute buffer at the end of the night to find your IllumiNations spot. This means on a day with a 9PM close, you want to be starting the World Showcase no later than 3:30PM.
That particular timing is not entirely practical, though, because of the World Showcase entertainment schedule. On this day, for example, the entertainment went from 11:30AM to 6:40PM, with the bulk of shows finishing before 5PM. Since some shows overlap, starting at 3:30PM would leave you with more limited options.
Because of this, we suggest you consider making multiple laps around the World Showcase. This allows you to pace yourself around the World Showcase based on available entertainment and attractions. You might visit six countries on the first lap and five on the second lap, for example. You also avoid having to run back and forth between distant countries in order to fit shows in.
Another option is to start the World Showcase early (by noon) and dedicate five or six hours to it immediately. Besides the difficulty of putting the entertainment / attractions schedule together perfectly, you’ll be pushing toward the closing times of some Future World attractions, like Journey Into Imagination With Figment and Living With the Land, both of which often close early.
Finishing Up Future World
You should have one or two FastPass+ reservations left in Future World. If your morning was rough, you might have a few minor attractions to get to. As a general rule, we think you shouldn’t start moving through the World Showcase until you’ve got three or fewer attractions left in Future World.
There are a few things at Future World that we think are completely skippable. The Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival, for example, just isn’t worth your time. Innoventions is also a shell of its former self. That said, if you followed our itinerary to this point, you’ll notice you have nine hours left in your day. That’s plenty of time if you want to take an extra hour (even two) to see the nitty-gritty of Future World.
My Afternoon Touring Plan
I opted for a multiple-lap approach to the World Showcase. I’m not very patient, I love walking (at a quick pace), and I love to just pull out my times guide and see what the best next option is.
My Afternoon FastPass+ At Epcot
I realized I probably mis-scheduled my FastPass+ reservations. I really didn’t want to go back to Future World until much later in the day, after a couple laps in the World Showcase. I only needed to use my two FastPass+ slots and visit Journey Into Imagination, which usually has a short wait or readily available FastPass+.
Ideally, I would have had the next five to seven hours for the World Showcase. That said, I’d probably never book the advance slots with such a huge gap. My morning went quite quickly, but you won’t always be so lucky. Having midday reservations to use will allow you to start grabbing your fourth, fifth, etc. FastPass+ for any remaining rides.
After some tinkering and some FastPass+ system glitches (they really need to fix these), I wound up modifying to Mission: SPACE at 1PM and Journey Into Imagination at 2:30PM (a glitch prevented me from getting Spaceship Earth back once I cancelled it).
First Lap Around The World Showcase
I had roughly two hours for my first lap around the World Showcase. I was targeting entertainment and attractions this day, so I hopped between pavilions catching their shows. I started with the 11:45AM Reflections of China showing, which ended at 12PM. From there, I headed to Japan for the Matsuriza drummers at 12:20PM.
After a quick walk through the Morocco Pavilion (which I particularly love for its smell that is quite reminiscent of Morocco), I watched the 12:45PM showing of Impressions de France.
I finished my first lap around the World Showcase with the 1:15PM performance by pianist Carol Stein at the U.K. Pavilion’s Rose & Crown Pub.
Hopefully you can already see from this lap how well the entertainment from four of eleven pavilions fit together. A fifth, Morocco, had no entertainment this day. But I missed the entertainment in the United States Pavilion, for example, because it conflicted with the entertainment in Japan.
Back to Future World & World Showcase Part II
I swapped out my Fuel Rod (I love those things) and headed back to Future World. If you have later FastPass+ for Future World, you could just embark on your second lap. Another option would be to visit some short-wait rides in Future World if you have any of those left. I tapped into Mission: SPACE at 1:48PM when the posted wait was 15 minutes. I boldly chose the intense “Orange” option and was off at 2:08PM.
I’d modified my Journey FastPass+ to 1:55PM, so after a stop at Club Cool I tapped into Journey at 2:17PM. I finished at 2:31PM and was (again) faced with a decision.
The wait for Spaceship Earth was 40 minutes, and I couldn’t find a FastPass+ earlier than 4:35PM. A fine decision here is just to go wait in the Spaceship Earth line. You’d be done by 3:30PM and then have five-and-a-half hours to do whatever you wanted.
I went another route, grabbing a 5:10PM FastPass+ for Spaceship Earth that I planned to use at 6PM. I figured three-and-a-half hours was good for another lap around the World Showcase.
I spent much of this lap snacking, though I also caught the 3:45PM showing of American Adventure and the Voices of Liberty show that preceded it. I also passed by Serveur Amusant in France.
One fun encounter that I hadn’t experienced in a while was the raising of the bridge between the China Pavilion and the African Outpost. From 4:40PM to 4:50PM this bridge was raised for the IllumiNations floats to pass through.
Night Time at Epcot
After my second lap around the World Showcase, I tapped into Spaceship Earth at 5:37PM when the posted wait was 10 minutes. I was on at 5:42PM and off at 5:57PM.
At this point, I checked and saw that there was a FastPass+ available for IllumiNations (preferred seating) at 8:40PM. I didn’t grab it (I was planning to skip the show), but it’s good to know it was available.
At this point, there are two-and-a-half hours left in the day and really, the world is your oyster! Unlike when you have a single day at Hollywood Studios, Epcot only has one marquis night time show (IllumiNations). You won’t have to make decisions about that, you just have to decide where you’d like to spend your evening before the show.
Personally, I’ve definitely had enough of Future World by this point, so a final lap around World Showcase would be in order before grabbing a spot for IllumiNations (possibly with FastPass+), scheduled for 9PM. A 6:30PM or 7PM dinner reservation could also work, but you’d want to be sure you moved at a pace to catch IllumiNations.
Final Thoughts On One Day at Epcot
Overall what surprised me most was how easy my day at Epcot was. Even during Food & Wine, when the crowds did frustrate me at times, I had no problem getting through the attractions.
The challenge was simply that I really didn’t need as much time in Future World as I expected. Others may have different experiences. If you visit the Pixar film show and the character stop, for example, you’ll add an hour to your time in Future World.
Regardless, this itinerary, with its rope drop and multi-lap approach around World Showcase, should be pretty easy for anyone to follow to put together a great day at Epcot!
My Final Epcot Itinerary
This is the final itinerary I followed this day. The last few items I actually left before, but I confirmed that the FastPass+ for IllumiNations was indeed available.
8:20AM Arrive (9AM scheduled park open)
8:33AM turnstiles open
8:53AM inner rope is “dropped”
8:57AM arrive at Test Track
9:08AM in Test Track design studios
9:21AM off Test Track, head to Soarin’
9:43AM off Soarin’, head to Living With The Land (5 minute posted wait)
10:05AM off Living With The Land, head to The Seas With Nemo and Friends (15 minute posted wait)
10:20AM off The Seas With Nemo and Friends, head to Turtle Talk with Crush
10:52AM off Turtle Talk With Crush
Head to World Showcase For First Lap
11:06AM tap onto Frozen Ever After (posted 55 minute wait)
11:18AM off Frozen Ever After, head to Gran Fiesta Tour
11:35AM off Gran Fiesta Tour
Lunch and watch Mariachi Cobre
FastPass+ Modified to Mission: SPACE 1PM and Journey Into Imagination 2:30PM
11:45AM - 12PM Reflections of China
12:20PM watch entertainment in Japan Pavilion, explore Morocco Pavilion
12:45PM - 1:04PM Impressions de France
1:15PM - Piano player at Rose & Crown Pub (U.K. Pavilion)
Return to Future World to Use FastPass+
1:48PM - tap onto Mission: SPACE, modify Journey Into Imagination FastPass+ to 1:55AM
2:08PM off Mission: SPACE
2:17PM tap into Journey Into Imagination
2:31PM off Journey Into Imagination
Grab 5:10PM FastPass+ for Spaceship Earth
Head to World Showcase for Lap 2
3:12PM watch entertainment in France Pavilion
3:30PM watch entertainment in U.S. Pavilion
3:45PM The American Adventure show
Explore World Showcase
5:37PM tap onto Spaceship Earth (10 minute posted wait)
5:57PM off Spaceship Earth
6:00PM grab FastPass+ for IllumiNations
Finish Exploring Future World and/or World Showcase
8:45PM tap into preferred seating at IllumiNations