Ultimate 1-Day Epcot Itinerary

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Coming up with the perfect 1-day Epcot itinerary is a harder task than you might think. There are so many factors in play at Epcot, things can get complicated.

Epcot is unique compared to all the other parks. Between the rides, the festivals, the countries, and all the food, it’s easy to get overwhelmed.

That’s where this Epcot touring plan comes into play. I want you to take a look at all of the various entertainments and identify what your priorities are.

From there, you can begin to create your ultimate 1-day Epcot itinerary. This post is a monster, but I really wanted you to be able to get a true picture of what Epcot has to offer.

New entrance to Epcot, Spaceship Earth

Basics for Your Epcot Itinerary

Before we get to the more exciting aspects of planning your Epcot itinerary, it’s important to know the lay of the land.

Ever since the reopening there have been no FastPasses. It doesn’t look like this will change anytime soon. If you haven’t done so yet, look at my tips for going to Disney during the pandemic. It gives you a good idea of what to expect and how to adapt.

Epcot Hours

Ever since the reopening, Epcot has consistently opened at 11:00a everyday. This is obnoxiously late, especially for people accustomed to taking advantage of rope drop.

However, the closing time can vary pretty dramatically. As I’m writing this, Disney’s official calendar lists closing time ranging from 9:00p to 11:00p.

The closing time primarily depends on the projected crowds. If Disney feels crowd levels will be higher, they extend the closing time.

They have not yet extended the park hours by opening earlier in the morning.

Epcot Map

Click Image to Enlarge – Image Courtesy of Magic Guides

Epcot has an entirely different layout from any of the other Disney parks.

First, there are two entrances instead of one. The most heavily used is the main entrance, over by Spaceship Earth. This is the entrance used by anyone coming to the park via bus, parking lot, monorail, or ride share.

The second entrance is called International Gateway. This is located in World Showcase, in between United Kingdom and France pavilions.

Guests staying at Beach & Yacht Club Resort, BoardWalk Resort, and Swan and Dolphin Resorts can walk to International Gateway. The Skyliner Gondolas also drop guests off directly outside of International Gateway.

One thing you’ll likely notice is that World Showcase is huge. It’s actually 1.2 miles around. So plan on doing a lot of walking when you’re at Epcot.

What is the BEST day to visit Epcot?

Now that the Epcot festivals are taking up 95% of the year, this question is relevant for most people’s trips.

How does this impact deciding what day to go to Epcot? Because Epcot is very much a locals park, and during festivals they swarm Epcot on the weekends.

From Friday evening through Sunday, Epcot is a popular date night/hangout spot for the locals. There are times on a Saturday night when World Showcase can get a bit of a college party vibe.

That’s not exactly what most families are looking for.

Because of this, the best days to visit Epcot are Monday through Thursday.

Construction Projects Currently Going on at Epcot

There are a lot of projects going on at Epcot right now. The entrance and Future World are undergoing a rather substantial redesign.

The entrance itself has been finished, but the rest of Future World is still heavily worked on.

The good news is that for the most part, the construction won’t impact your trip. There’s nothing closed down that will really bring down your trip.

The main impact it has is in terms of simply being an eyesore. There are construction barricades up throughout Future World, creating some detours.

It’s a little bit of a maze getting through some sections, but it’s well labeled and not confusion. It’s just not as attractive as you might like.

At this point, we have no official word on when this project will be finished. I’m hoping at least part of it will be done by the 50th anniversary on October 1, 2021.

I’m not particularly optimistic about that though…

How much time do you need at Epcot?

Ok, most people are going to say that Epcot is a one day park. Some even say there’s not enough to do to even fill a full day.

I strongly disagree with those people. Epcot is NOT a half a day park.

Epcot is at least a 1 and a half day park, but you can easily spend 2 days in Epcot. We have gone to Epcot many times now, and we’ve never managed to see and do EVERYTHING we wanted to do in one day.

In fact, we have yet to see and do everything the park has to offer. Because we’re always distracted by rides and food.

Admittedly, that’s because we enjoy experiencing what the different countries have to offer, not just eating the food and running (though trust me, we really enjoy eating the food too…).

But that’s how Epcot is meant to be enjoyed. The whole purpose behind Epcot is to learn about technology, the natural world, and the cultures of the world, while also having fun.

However, I recognize that most people only want to designate 1 day to Epcot, hence this 1 day Epcot itinerary you are currently reading.

So, plan on spending 1 full day at Epcot. Especially with the park not opening until 11:00a, you need all the time you can to get a solid Epcot experience.

How the Epcot Festivals Impact Your Day

Really, this question all comes down to how much of the Festival you want to experience.

Most everyone wants to eat and drink at the outdoor kitchens. But even that “eats” into how much you can experience. See that pun there?

But beyond the food and drink, each of the festivals has other things to experience which are unique to that festival. If you want to take advantage of some of these things, you’ll have to cut some other things out of your day.

Luckily, there’s really no wrong answer to this. Whether you focus on the Festival activities or on the traditional Epcot offerings, you’ll still have an amazing day.

But now you can probably see why we have yet to manage to do everything. We fall into the category of people who get sucked into the festivals.

What is there to do at Epcot in 2021?

The general assumption is that there’s not a lot to do at Epcot. On the whole, this assumption is false. There’s a TON of stuff to do at Epcot.

However, everyone who goes has different priorities and expectations. I’ll be the first to admit, Epcot is likely more fun for adults than kids.

But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing for kids to do. And yes, your vacation should be about the grown-ups too, not just the kids!

Nemo and Dory at Epcot

Epcot Rides

Compared to other parks, the list of Epcot rides is definitely on the shorter side. And many of them are frequently written off by people.

I’m going to break this list into two different categories: rides and attractions. Epcot has many different short movies/presentation style experiences.

Epcot Rides

  • Frozen Ever After (Norway)
  • Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros (Mexico)
  • Journey into Imagination with Figment (Future World West)
  • Living with the Land (Future World West)
  • Mission: SPACE Green or Orange (Future World East, 40″ height requirement)
  • Soarin’ Around the World (Future World West, 40″ height requirement)
  • Spaceship Earth (Future World)
  • Test Track (Future World East, 40″ height requirement)
  • The Seas with Nemo & Friends (Future World West)
  • Turtle Talk with Crush – Temporarily Closed

A note about Mission: SPACE. There are two options for the ride, orange or green. Orange is a more intense version, involving spinning at rapid speed.

The wait time for Mission: SPACE Orange is always longer than Green. The Green version often has a wait of under 20 minutes.

Epcot Rides Coming Soon

  • Remi’s Ratatouille Adventure (France) – Confirmed opening October 1, 2021
  • Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind (Future World East)- unknown opening date

Other Epcot Attractions

  • SeaBase (Future World West)- did you know there’s an aquarium inside Epcot?
  • Awesome Planet (Future World West)
  • Canada Far and Wide in Circle-Vision 360 (Canada)
  • Disney and Pixar Short Film Festival (Future World West)
  • Impressions de France (France)
  • Reflections of China (China)
  • The American Adventure (America)
  • Beauty and the Beast Singalong (France)

Epcot Festivals

Epcot has four different festivals throughout the year. Each festival has it’s own theme and offerings, but the general formula is the same.

There are outdoor food booths (the largest draw for any festival), entertainment, special decor, and so on. Many of the festivals have looked different in 2020, but with Food and Wind Festival in 2021, things are getting closer to normal.

The four festivals of the year are:

World Showcase

Have you ever wanted to travel around the world, but didn’t have the money or tolerance for all those plane rides? Well, World Showcase at Epcot might be the next best thing.

There are 11 countries represented in World Showcase.

  • Canada
  • United Kingdom
  • France
  • Morocco
  • Japan
  • The American Adventure
  • Italy
  • Germany
  • China
  • Norway
  • Mexico

Each of these pavilions is actually sponsored by a private company associated with the country it represents. Morocco was previously sponsored by the Moroccan government, but Disney recently took over control of the Morocco pavilion.

Typically, the countries are staffed with Cast Members from the representative country to provide a more authentic experience. However, since international travel is not really a thing right now, many of the Cast Members in World Showcase are Americans.

Each of the pavilions represents architecture of their respective countries. They also typically have restaurants, bakeries, stores, entertainment, and a couple have rides.

Entertainment

This is an area which is a lot different now than it used to be. In days of old, some of the musicians used to roam around Epcot, entertaining the masses.

Clearly, this isn’t possible right now.

However, Disney has adapted to this somewhat. You can find the Jammitors, Mariachi Cobre, and Voices of Liberty performing on stages around World Showcase.

While there are no character meet n greets, you can spontaneously find characters throughout Epcot. You might find Winnie the Pooh catching butterflies or Joy spreading her sunny cheer.

And that’s not counting whatever entertainment is arranged for the various festivals. Usually, each festival either has a concert series or Candlelight Processional.

Activities for Kids in World Showcase

A major concern that most people have is that Epcot is not a good park for kids. This is a common misconception, but there’s actually a lot for kids to experience at Epcot.

The main issue seems to be when adults want to spend time eating and drinking in World Showcase while kids get bored.

But Disney is pretty smart. They make a lot of money on food and drink sales in World Showcase, so they want both kids and parents happy to stay there.

Kidcot Fun Stops

Each of the pavilions in World Showcase have a designated Kidcot Fun Stop. Kids can collect activity cards from each Kidcot station while engaging in an activity and learning about the cultures of different countries.

Here’s where you can find the Kidcot Fun Stops:

  • Mexico Pavilion (near Mexico Folk Art Gallery) 
  • Norway Pavilion (at The Puffin’s Roost) 
  • China Pavilion (near the exit of Reflections of China) 
  • Germany Pavilion (at Volkunst) 
  • Italy Pavilion (outside, near La Bottega Italiana) 
  • American Adventure Pavilion (outside, near Art of Disney) 
  • Japan Pavilion (in the Bijutsu-kan Gallery) 
  • Morocco Pavilion (at the Marketplace in the Medina) 
  • France Pavilion (at Souvenirs de France) 
  • United Kingdom Pavilion (at The Toy Soldier) 
  • Canada Pavilion (at the exit of Canada Far and Wide in Circle-Vision 360)

Scavenger Hunts

Each Epcot festival has at least one scavenger hunt for kids (and adults) to participate in. Typically, the scavenger hunts cost around $8 to get the map.

However, sometimes there are some free scavenger hunts to participate in.

Character Cavalcades

Character cavalcades are a new edition ever since the reopening. It’s one of my favorite things to come out of this interesting situation we find ourselves in.

The character cavalcades in Epcot only happen in World Showcase. They happen spontaneously throughout the day, so you never know when one will go by.e

Clearly, these are a huge draw for kids, and an incentive to keep hanging out in World Showcase.

Princess cavalcade at Epcot

1-Day Epcot Itinerary

Ok, now, let’s start putting together all the pieces of the puzzle. But there are some things I want you to think about first. The answers to these questions will help shape your itinerary.

  1. Is your priority to get on as many rides as possible?
  2. Do you want ample time to explore the nooks and crannies of the countries?
  3. How many shows/movies can your family tolerate?
  4. Do you plan to focus on eating/drinking at a lot of Festival booths?

Your going to take the answers to these questions, and use them to adjust the amount of time you spend at each step of your Epcot touring plan.

If you know you want to focus on eating and drinking around the world, then you’ll eliminate some of the rides.

Conversely, if rides are king, you’ll spend less time in World Showcase. You can still follow this basic Epcot itinerary I’m presenting, you’ll just customize the amount of time you spend in each step.

Also, as a warning, there’s a lot of walking at Epcot. In order to get on rides with lower lines, or break up long stretches in World Showcase, you have to zig-zag the park.

If you’re more concerned with minimizing walking, you’ll want to tackle attractions located close to one another.

What is the first thing to do at Epcot?

Regardless of what your overall plan is for Epcot, the first thing you should do it head for a ride.

But to determine which ride, there are a couple of factors I want you to consider while answering this question.

  • Which gate are you entering at?
  • Is there a ride you absolutely want to get on?

The most popular rides at Epcot are Test Track, Soarin’, and Frozen Ever After. When Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure opens in October 2021, you can add that one to the list.

Across the board, all the guests at rope drop are heading to one of those rides.

If you enter Epcot through the main entrance, you are pretty close to Test Track and Soarin’. If you’re entering at International Gateway, you are closest to Frozen Ever After, and soon Remy’s.

So, the most obvious strategy is to simply head to one of the rides that’s closer. That gives you a leg up on people coming from a longer distance.

Despite this, my family has almost always followed this pattern, regardless of entrance gate: Test Track, Soarin’, check wait times to determine next ride.

I’ve seen many other bloggers recommend going to Soarin’ first. I strongly disagree with that. I find that Soarin’ lines stay low longer than Test Track, and often go down to reasonable lengths later in the day.

Test Track consistently has longer lines throughout the day. This makes it harder to get one with less wait, so we make it a priority to get on it first.

It is a HAUL from International Gateway, but we are fast walkers and it’s always worked out. According to Google Maps, it’s 0.6 miles.

Ironically, that’s the exact same distance it takes to walk to Frozen Ever After from International Gateway. You’ll just get to Frozen ahead of the main gate crowds, while Test Track they might beat you there.

Once Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure opens, I recommend anyone entering from International Gateway to head there first, then Frozen Ever After.

So, for right now, what is the first thing to do at Epcot? Go to Test Track.

Morning Epcot Itinerary

Let’s face it, with Epcot opening at 11:00a, there’s not much of a morning to play with. This is unfortunate since morning is typically one of the best times to get on rides.

However, Epcot should actually let guests in by 10:30a at the latest. So you have a little extra time to play with.

Because of the late opening time, I highly encourage you to rope drop Epcot. There is a very small window of opportunity to get on rides before the crowds swell.

If it’s a higher crowd level day, you might need to cut out out one or two chunks of steps 1-4. Remember, a lot of this is a judgement call based on what happens the day of.

Anything that is cut out, try to tack it back into the plan in the evening.

Step 1: Feel the Need for Speed

Regardless of which gate you enter, plan to head to Test Track. If you are entering at International Gateway, try to be towards the head of that line to have as much of a head start as possible.

You should be allowed into the park no later than 10:30a. Hoof it on over to Test Track.

Pro Planning Tip: If you are coming from International Gateway, take a look at the Epcot map before you go. There are a few different paths to get there. You don’t want to make a wrong turn as you’ll loose too much time. Or just pull up directions on a map app on your phone.

You might get in line and the ride still isn’t running. But don’t fret, it will run soon and you’re in good position.

Test Track does break down frequently. If it’s down when you get there immediately skip to Step 2.

Step 2: It’s Time to Soar

Next, you want to cross to the other side of Future World and head towards Soarin’. By this point, the posted wait time for Soarin’ should be between 15-20 minutes. Your actual wait will hopefully be less. But even 15-20 minutes isn’t half bad.

The best seats for Soarin’ are the front row of the middle section.

**Check the wait for Soarin’ as soon as you get off Test Track. If the wait is 30 minutes or greater, check the wait for Frozen Ever After. If Frozen is still less than 20 minutes, head there instead. Soarin’ will have shorter lines later.

Step 3: Let it Go!

Ok, this is going to be a little bit of a hike, but not too bad. After this, you can concentrate more on being more efficient with your walking.

Head on over to Norway to take a ride to visit with Anna and Elsa on Frozen Ever After. Turn left when you enter World Showcase from Future World. You’ll go through Mexico and hit Norway after that.

If the socially distanced line is already on it’s way to China, you might consider waiting until shortly before closing to get on this ride. But the line also just looks really long these days.

Step 4: Backtrack to Mexico

Yes, it is odd to consider getting on Gran Fiesta Tour now. The ride line itself is likely 5 minutes. However, due to the Mexico Pavilion being largely indoors, there’s limited capacity to even get in the temple.

This often leads to a line outside the building, before you even get to the line for Gran Fiesta Tour. This lets you knock this ride off the list before the outside line builds up.

Gran Fiesta Tour at Epcot

Afternoon Epcot Itinerary

I’m writing this with the assumption that there is a Festival of some sort going on during your trip. Because really, they’re pretty much year round at this point.

With that understanding, it’s time to eat!

Step 5: Eat and Drink Around the World

Since you’re already in World Showcase, you might as well hang out there and start eating. Start making your way around World Showcase sampling the outdoor kitchens or restaurants. It’s up to you whether you want to head clockwise or counter-clockwise.

As you do this, consider popping in to the different countries to explore. You’ll need time to let your food settle. Each country has some really cool things to look at.

Explore the shops, watch some of the movies. Don’t sweat about deeply exploring every country on this round. You’ll be back through again later.

Pick the countries that most interest you for this round. That way you know for sure you get to experience your priority countries.

Remember, it’s 1.2 miles around World Showcase, so you’ll get the miles in today. By eating as you go, you won’t need to stop for lunch.

If the kids needs something a little more standard, stop at Regal Eagle Smokehouse at the American Adventure. It’s the best quick service restaurant in Epcot.

Some highlights to consider as you make your way around: American Adventure animatronic show, Beauty and the Beast Sing-a-long.

Step 6: Head back to Future World

A lot of the “lesser” rides should still have quite reasonable wait times at this point. Rides like Journey into Imagination, The Seas with Nemo & Friends, and Living with the Land tend to always have waits on the lower end.

As you head back in that direction, pull out My Disney Experience and see where everything stands. Your plan for the next little while is to simply bounce around Future World and see what you can get done.

Spaceship Earth and Mission:SPACE are probably the most popular rides left on your list. Watch the waits and be opportunistic.

While you’re here in Future World, don’t miss SeaBase, the aquarium attached to The Seas with Nemo and Friends. It’s not a grand aquarium, but it’s a nice little interlude in your day.

Hidden mickey in Epcot aquarium

During this time, if you see Soarin’ drop down again, you might as well give it another go.

This should take you into evening.

Evening Epcot Touring Plan

The sun is setting and the lights are turning on. I LOVE how beautiful Epcot is all lit up at night. Once the sun goes down, please take some time to simply enjoy the beauty and take some pictures.

A note on dinner: depending on how much Festival food and/or snacks you want to eat, you might not need dinner. My husband and I have successfully done an entire day at Epcot without ever needing a restaurant. There’s just so much food.

But, I also understand if you want to eat at one of the amazing Epcot restaurants. It’s really a hard call. We are big fans of Rose & Crown Pub and Biergarten.

When there is a fireworks show (hopefully Harmonius opens soon), Rose & Crown is fantastic for fireworks viewing.

Step 7: Go Back and Explore the World

The evening is a great time to head back to World Showcase. Your plan now is to eat more booth food, drink more drinks, find more snacks…oh and explore the countries you missed earlier today.

World Showcase will probably feel a little more crowded at this point, but unless it’s a Friday through Sunday, it should be pretty reasonable.

Also, the later it’s open, the more everything will thin out.

Step 8: Last Minute Spin Around the Track

This is of course going to vary depending on what time Epcot closes. The later the closing time, the more opportunity you have to re-ride your favorites.

One of the big tricks at Disney is to hop in line for a ride right before park closing. Disney artificially inflates the wait time as a deterrent. It’s often one of the shortest waits of the day.

If there is any ride you weren’t able to get on earlier in the day, now is the time to revisit that attempt.

Test Track is probably my number 1 recommended ride for getting on right before closing. As a bonus, riding Test Track at night has a completely different feel than during the day.

Final Thoughts on This 1-Day Epcot Itinerary

I think this is a pretty solid Epcot itinerary. It could be a little overly ambitious on a heavy crowd day. You simply can’t get as much done when there’s a big crowd. There’s no way around that.

As always, you never know exactly what’s going to happen on the day of your trip. Test Track might be out of commission most of the day, driving up demand for night time.

You could get distracted by all the food and miss some of the rides. Just remember to think on your feet and be adaptable.

While this Epcot touring plan gives you a good framework of a successful plan, you WILL need to alter it on the big day. But don’t worry, you’ll still have an amazing time.

If you’re looking for some other itinerary ideas, take a look at these:

Epcot itinerary pin image featuring Mission space entrance

Your Thoughts

What do you think about this Epcot touring plan? Do you think it’s doable or a little over ambitious? What have you tried that worked really well? Let me know in the comments below.

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