The allocation of time is the biggest challenge when planning a Disney vacation.
How many days can I afford to be in the Disney World parks? Should I plan a day just to relax at the resort?
Does one theme park need more days than the other? Should I do two days in EPCOT? Should I do two days in Magic Kingdom?
The hard part is that it’s different for everyone. You have to figure out what you MUST do and what you’d like to do and go from there.
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How do I plan a perfect day at EPCOT?
Let’s make a list.
1. Enter at the International Gateway
Unless you want pictures of the iconic Spaceship Earth, the International Gateway entrance is by far the superior way to enter the park.
Originally built for those staying in the Disney Boardwalk area hotels, the International Gate is now accessible via the Disney Skyway hotels – Pop Century, Caribbean Beach, Riviera and Art of Animation.
Landing in the World Showcase, you enter the park between the United Kingdom and France – perfect for a quick rope drop on Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure and over to Frozen Ever After before the park even warms up for the day.
If you do land in France, my recommendation is to go to the right, counterclockwise towards Morocco and enjoy the best of the World Showcase to start your day.
Also, if you’re park hopping, you can connect to Hollywood Studios via the Skyway using the international entrance.
In fact, entering the front of the park – especially while all the construction walls remain up – can be mildly disorienting.
2. Make time for Turtle Talk with Crush
This show in the Finding Nemo Aquarium takes one of the best Pixar side characters and makes him the start of the show. Crush, the surfer dude turtle, interacts with a group of children.
It’s like Monsters Inc. Laugh Factory, but actually funny. Whoever they cast to do Crush is quick-witted and makes the show fun for adults and kids.
During one show, Ainsley, our youngest, got really into answering Crush’s questions with the group, shouting to be heard. But when Crush asked her a question directly, she did not adjust the volume or tambour of her voice.
“A FOOTBALL HELMET!” she shouted.
Crush paused for just a second and asked, “Why are you so angry?” then spent a minute or two interrogating the delighted, incredibly loud child who wanted to shout back all her answers. It was great.
3. Target The Seas with Nemo & Friends in the hottest part of the day
Speaking of Nemo, the air conditioning in the Nemo ride and the aquarium is fantastic. I know it’s a ride that usually has a short wait time in the morning, but if you can get an afternoon Lightning Lane, spending time with Nemo is a great way to beat the Florida heat during the hottest part of the day.
By the way, if you’re dreaming of seeing the Disney Dolphins, don’t hold your breath. They’re total divas, in my experience.
4. Skip the Gran Fiesta Tour in the Mexico Pavilion
The Gran Fiesta Tour featuring the Three Caballeros may be the worst ride in any Walt Disney World park.
It’s a Small World-like boat ride that serves as a kind of visual encyclopedia entry for Mexico. It certainly lacks the pizazz and vibrancy you’d expect given the options Disney has to work with.
I keep hoping that Disney will perform a Maelstrom-to-Frozen Ever After makeover featuring characters from the film “Coco”, but it’s possible that Disney is still mulling over whether to do something bigger with Coco … so we keep waiting.
5. Get to Norway early if you have Frozen fans with you
Not only is Frozen Ever After one of the more popular rides in the park, it also shuts down frequently.
If you have a six-year-old Frozen fan in the group, missing out on that ride can really put a pall over the trip.
Luckily, Disney had Anna and Elsa come out just as they closed the ride, which proved just enough of a distraction to keep the disappointment from turning into a disaster. If you can get a Lightning Lane on Disney Genie+, do it.
With this ride – or with any ride that is an absolutely must-do – riding early is always the best option.
6. The fireworks show? It’s optional
I’ve always liked but never loved the various EPCOT fireworks shows over the years. They’re visually impressive, but the emotion just isn’t the same as in the Magic Kingdom.
With this in mind, as people begin picking prime spots for the show, that’s a great time for you to get some rides in. For instance, we’ve been able to just walk on Soarin’ a couple of times just because so much of the rest of the park is fixated on fireworks.
7. Don’t skip Soarin’
Speaking of Soarin’, the ride is aging but it still rips.
Am I thrown off when Seinfeld-era Patrick Warburton shows up? I am. It’s almost as bad as Claire Huxtable showing up in Dinosaur in Animal Kingdom.
But all that is forgotten once we take off into the sky to fly around the world. You’d think after all these years, the scenes and effects would be aging. I suppose they are, but they still work really, really well.
8. Buy the Individual Lightning Lane for Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind
Cosmic Rewind is one of the best rides in Walt Disney World and one of the most popular rides in Orlando.
Ride it as many times as you can. Pay for the Individual Lightning Lane and get into the Virtual Queue if you can.
9. Skip the character dinner at Akershus
If you want a princess dining experience, the one in Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom is far superior. I didn’t love the food selection at Akershus, but it was also the atmosphere.
Of course, the princesses were great and friendly and just what you want. However, the building holds noise, and it was almost impossible to hear and interact with the characters. The tables were too tight for the little parade they do. It was all just a little underwhelming for the price we paid.
So if you wanted to do character dining in EPCOT, should you go to the Garden Grill? Maybe. But honestly, I’d skip that too. For the amount you spend on a character dining meal, there are several better experiences than those at EPCOT.
I would say consider breakfast at Chef Mickey’s or Ohana on your travel day when leaving the resort if you can schedule the time. I’ve found that last night in the parks is a little less depressing if you still have a character meal experience reservation before checkout. It just lessens the blow.
10. Ride Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure
Remy’s has gotten a bit of an unfair reputation, but we love it. It’s new and inventive and clever and fun.
And after you ride Remy’s, get the ratatouille at Chefs De France.
We’ve had good luck getting into Chefs de France without reservations over the years. I think people assume it’s just going to be booked up or are turned away by the price.
On our last trip, we wanted lunch after we got off the ride and popped over to Chef De France. Since it was early in the day and hot, I didn’t want anything too heavy – otherwise, I would have gotten a steak.
I hesitated to order the Ratatouille Sur Quinoa because I didn’t want to seem too basic – it just seems a little on the nose. But in the end, it was what I wanted so I ordered it.
It was fantastic. Paired with French onion soup, it made for the perfect lunch that wasn’t overly filling.
11. Eat as many meals as possible in EPCOT
EPCOT food is famous. So of course, you should take advantage.
In fact, normally, I’d advocate eating breakfast before you get in a park to maximize park time on attractions, shows and the like.
However, EPCOT food is part of the experience. Don’t miss out. Take your queue from Taco Bell and schedule a fourth meal, too.
12. Treat the Skyliner as a ride
The Skyliner is one of the truly cool additions to Disney parks. But if you’re not staying at a handful of Disney hotels, it’s hard to access.
However, if you come to EPCOT, you can use the International Gateway entrance/exit to leave the park and take a ride on the Skyliner, high above the Walt Disney World property.
Treat it as a ride that’s just located between the UK pavilion and France and make it part of the day.
13. Have some barbecue at American Adventure
Disney does barbecue well. Everyone knows this. But tread carefully.
You don’t want a case of the itis halfway through the World Showcase.
14. Try to plan for the EPCOT festivals
EPCOT hosts four annual festivals including the Festival of the Arts, the EPCOT International Flower and Garden Festival, the EPCOT International Food and Wine Festival and the EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays.
Familiarize yourself with which festival coincides with your arrival and plan accordingly. Check out the special food, drink and shopping options associated with each while you’re there. It will make the trip even better.
15. Get a beer in Germany and watch the mini-train
I have no idea why watching a mini-train roll through a mini-town is so mesmerizing, but it is.
When I was a kid, my mom had a friend whose husband had built a massive model railroad town in his basement. It was the coolest. Now, I can chill in EPCOT, drink a Dunkel and watch model trains like I did when I was a kid. The world is a wonderful place.
16. Skip Canada
You can skip Canada unless you want poutine. If you do, go to Canada, but don’t stay there long.
No offense. The steakhouse is certainly good, but honestly, you can find a steakhouse or two in any large city just about anywhere. There are too many exciting and unique options to settle for a Canadian steakhouse.
17. The United Kingdom is also skippable
I love the real UK. However, the EPCOT version is absolutely skippable, at least for me.
EPCOT UK needs a ride. Pre-2020 Disney announced a Mary Poppins ride here that would have been perfect, but that idea appears to be gone now.
What have they got? Fish and chips? Tea? The truth is, if you want a fun UK experience, check out the Wizarding World of Harry Potter over at Universal.
18. Don’t expect too much from the entertainment
I’ve had very talented friends who made their living as theme park performers. I am not here to disparage the hard-working talent in any of the Disney parks.
But at EPCOT, the shows are fairly bland. They’re designed to be. They’re that way on purpose so that if a performer leaves the cast, they can be replaced without too much trouble.
Most of the shows for me are worth a couple of minutes of watching and then moving on.
That said, there are some exceptions throughout the Disney parks where the shows really shine – like Animal Kingdom’s Festival of the Lion King.
19. Plan your character meet and greets
EPCOT has a lot of popular characters beyond Mickey and Minnie and friends. Know who you want to meet, where they will be and when they will be there before you go.
You can plan your character meetings using the My Disney Experience app.
20. Eat in Italy
Italy is a great place to grab a slice of pizza, a little gelato or a full Italian meal. That said, if you’re planning on going big, leave time for digestion.
21. Pace yourself
The walk around the World Showcase Lagoon can be a bear in the Florida heat. Give yourself enough time to rest, relax and find some shade.
The park pace at EPCOT is different. There aren’t as many must-dos and are a lot more might-dos.
A change in perspective can really help you appreciate all the EPCOT has to offer.
22. Hang out with Mulan in China
When it’s hot out, Mulan goes inside the temple in the China Pavilion where the air conditioning is great.
Mulan is among the rarest of the Disney princesses in terms of meet-and-greet availability, but in EPCOT, you know right where she’ll be.
23. Eat at a table service restaurant
Plan time on your trip to sit down and enjoy a good meal. It will probably be memorable whether you go to Italy, France, Germany, China, Mexico or heck, even Canada.
24. Get a snack from a quick-service restaurant
EPCOT has great food, but it’s also got great snacks. Get some chicken pot stickers or maybe a street taco or two.
You’ve got to try the best of both worlds at EPCOT, and snacks are a great way to sample a wide variety of food.
25. Visit La Cava Del Tequila in Mexico
Choosing your alcoholic options at EPCOT is almost as hard as choosing your food. You’ve got wine in France and Italy, beer in the UK and Germany, sake in Japan and whatever it is they drink in Norway.
When in doubt, get a classic margarita in Mexico or pop into the pyramid for a tequila drink. That’s the safest way to go.
26. Learn the sections of EPCOT
Challenge your fellow guests to name what attraction is in what World. World Celebration? World Discovery? Natural World? Future World?
Outside of World Showcase, everything is a mystery. I think EPCOT’s theming – outside of World Showcase – is the least successful of any of the major Orlando parks.
27. Try sodas from around the world at Club Cool
Do you ever get tired of the same old soda drink options? Well then, Club Cool is the place for you. There, you can try tastings of exotic soda flavors from around the world.
Are they good? Your mileage will vary. I try very hard not to palette shame unless it’s Norway.
28. Don’t forget about Morocco
If there’s one thing the World Showcase lacks its adequate representation of Africa. Sure, you have a very nice Africa section in Animal Kingdom, but Morocco is the only real African pavilion in EPCOT.
Its shopping and dining stand apart from the heavily represented Western Europe.
We keep hoping that one day Restaurant Marrakesh will reopen, but until then, the Mediterranean flavors of the Tangierine Café are worth your time.
29. Have a crepe in France
Look, a savory or dessert crepe is a wonderful thing. Get one.
30. Try not to mind the construction
Delayed by 2020, it seems like the middle of EPCOT has been under construction for a very long time. And it seems that many hardcore Disney fans are upset about it. My Twitter feed – my X feed? – is full of them.
Next time you’re in the park, give the walls a quick curse under your breath and then let that anger go.
31. Get a picture with the giant golf ball
If you take time to think about it, the EPCOT Ball (Spaceship Earth) is weird. Looking for a centerpiece for the park, Imagineers were like, “We need something that looks like a massive golf ball.”
In fact, isn’t a golf ball at all. It is a 165-ft diameter geodesic sphere that was inspired by the Expo ’67 Dome in Montreal.
Designer Gordon Hoopes said he wanted to “create an atmosphere for our guests that raises their spirit and kindles an excitement for the human experience in the future.”
I don’t know if he quite achieved all that. But the giant sphere is an iconic structure now, and any trip to EPCOT would be remiss if you didn’t stop and pose for a few pictures.
32. Skip the Pixar Short Film Festival
Unless you need a break and some air conditioning, you can watch movies at home. Don’t pay Disney hundreds of dollars for the wonders of digital projection.
33. Try to go when it’s least crowded
Sounds obvious enough. But when is EPCOT least crowded? I think the consensus is that Wednesday is typically the lightest day for visiting EPCOT.
Locals generally aren’t hitting the park midweek, and the folks who got to town on Sunday will often plan a rest day to relax at the hotel pool midweek.
I think Sundays are often good as well because that’s a big travel day. Folks are heading home or they’re arriving and checking into their hotels, getting ready to hit the parks on Monday.
Is EPCOT doable in one day?
Yes and no. I do EPCOT in a single day because I’ve whittled it down to the things I want to do in EPCOT.
There are several attractions in EPCOT in which I’m not overly interested.
I’m not riding Spaceship Earth again until they overhaul it. And I drive through Atlanta frequently enough that the Test Track really doesn’t enthrall me.
I’m not into Journey into the Imagination with Figment. If I miss Mission Space, I’m not losing any sleep.
However, if you want to do everything at EPCOT, you might want to consider getting a park hopper and doing at least a day and a half.
The figure eight configuration of the World Showcase pavilions, and the other “worlds” make it a park that’s difficult to traverse. It’s harder to get across the park – say Frozen Ever After to Finding Nemo – than it is at any of the other Disney World properties.
The big dang lake in the middle has something to do with that.
Still, there is some good about scheduling a pair of EPCOT days. For example, you get to try a lot more EPCOT food.
What is your best EPCOT tip? Let us know in the comments!