Once upon a time, Epcot was my favorite park at Walt Disney World. Nowadays, Walt Disney’s original Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow is currently what I like to call…a park in transition.
They’ve been doing soooo much construction at Epcot the last 5 years or so that it’s hard to remember what it was like without all of the construction walls. But the good news is that it’s starting to wrap up and so far the additions have been FABULOUS. The addition of the Guardians of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind Coaster, the expansion of France to include Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, and Moana’s Journey of Water have all opened within the last year or so and the rest of the park is supposedly being unveiled by the end of the year.
I’m excited to get to experience this park again without all the construction walls, plus there’s going to be a new nightly fireworks show, too!
Now, when I visit Walt Disney World, I usually stay in one of the resorts behind Epcot’s International Gateway (Disney’s Boardwalk Resort, Disney’s Beach Club and Yacht Club Resort or Marriott’s Swan and Dolphin) so my strategy is usually to pop into Epcot for parts of a day, but it’s not a park that I tend to do from rope drop to fireworks.
But maybe that will change soon!
Until then, here’s everything you need to know about spending the day at Epcot:
Under No Circumstances Should You Miss These
Guardians of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind: This isn’t just the hot new ride at Epcot (at all of Walt Disney World!), it’s pretty much the gold standard that all other coasters/thrill rides are going to be compared to.
It’s fast, it’s smooth, and it’s FUN. I really can’t emphasize how much the Guardians of the Galaxy theme makes a ride just pure fun. It’s probably equal parts the music and the chaoticness of the characters, but this coaster packs a punch without ever feeling “scary.”
The first time I rode Cosmic Rewind, I was laughing and screaming so hard I had tears streaming down my face. And it’s consistently held up as my favorite attraction at Walt Disney World. Every trip I take, I usually manage to ride it about 4 times or so.
Cosmic Rewind is still using a virtual queue which means that you CANNOT just show up and stand in line to ride. You either get a spot in a virtual queue and come when your boarding group is called, or you can purchase an Individual Lightning Lane to ride. Or you can do both.
The first virtual queue opens at 7AM and you join it from your phone wherever you are (in bed, at breakfast, on the monorail, etc.). And it goes FAST. Like in less than one second. So have the app open, navigate to the screen where you’ll join the queue and be ready to hit the button exactly at 7AM. I have about a 50% success rate with getting a spot in the 7AM virtual queue.
If you miss the 7AM queue, there’s another chance to join the queue at 1PM but this time you have to be scanned in and inside of Epcot.
Once you’re in the queue, it’ll give you a boarding group number and an approximate time that you’ll be called back (it’s usually pretty accurate within 30 minutes or so assuming the ride doesn’t go down at all). Once they call your boarding number, you have an hour to show up at the ride.
If it’s at all in the budget, I HIGHLY recommend buying a Lightning Lane AND doing the virtual queue so you can ride it twice. It’s that good. Plus it’s different every time you ride it. There are six possible songs that you can get: September, Everybody Wants to Rule the World, Disco Inferno, One Way or Another, I Ran, and Conga.
Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure: Epcot’s France pavilion got a HUGE expansion in 2022 and with that came the brand new ride Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure. It’s such a cute ride and a don’t miss if you have kids (really even if you don’t).
Frozen Ever After: I still have Frozen Fever so I think Frozen Ever After is a don’t miss but even if you’re not a huge Frozen fan, the attraction is really well done and the audio animatronics are top notch. I dare you not to sing along ; ) Plus you can meet Anna and Else in their Royal Sommerhus nearby.
Soarin’: When Soarin’ opened at Epcot, it was a MAJOR deal and honestly, after 20 years it’s still an incredible attraction.
In September 2023, they brought back the original Soarin’ Over California film for a limited time run, but normally it’s Soarin’ Around the World.
Stroll around World Showcase: This isn’t an attraction per se, but it’s what everybody comes to Epcot to do. The 11 countries that circle the lagoon are filled with shops, restaurants, shows, attractions, and places to just hang out.
A lot of people like to do an eating or drinking around the world challenge where they have something from every country, or even buy a little souvenir in each country.
Journey of Water: This Moana inspired interactive exhibit on the water cycle feels more like an elaborate playground that’s fun for both kids and adults. It just opened in October 2023 and it’s definitely worth a walk through. The photo op with Te Fiti is pretty great, plus you can meet Moana here.
Other “Big Rides” That Aren’t My Personal Favorites
Both Test Track and Mission Space are kind of billed as “big rides” (they were certainly a big deal when they opened), but neither have really held up well and they’re completely eclipsed by the newer stuff that’s opened in the last few years.
I think they’re in a weird category where they’re not big headliner attractions, but they’re also not nostalgic favorites.
Test Track is definitely worth a ride if you’ve never done it before and it has a pretty fun “thrill” at the end where the car races around a track at 60 MPH. Disney just announced a big overhaul/refurbishment for the ride so hopefully they’re able to make it more of a “must do.”
Mission Space is just a hard pass for me. I rode it once when it first opened and I’ve never been back.
Full disclosure, I have a somewhat bizarre phobia of outer space, so it’s really just not for me, but the ride is a simulator of a flight to Mars and you’re locked into a pretty confined place. There are two versions of the ride (one that spins and one that doesn’t) and the spinning version gives the effect of pretty significant g forces on your chest when you “lift off.”
They had to create a second version that doesn’t spin because so many people kept getting sick on it…it’s just…problematic. Anyways, if you’re going to ride it verify which version you’re getting in line for if you have a sensitive stomach ; )
These Aren’t A Listers But They’re Worth Your Time
Spaceship Earth: This is an iconic old school Epcot attraction, and the PERFECT place to go when you need a little break in the ac.
Living with the Land: Another classic Epcot attraction, this is actually one of my favorites at Epcot and I usually don’t miss it. It has a vintage vibe, but it’s still really cool going through the greenhouses and learning about how they’re growing food right here at Epcot. Do this when you’re in the Land Pavilion to ride Soarin’.
The Seas with Nemo and Friends: I love Finding Nemo, and if you have kids, this is a don’t miss. The actual ride is a slow moving ride in the clamshell that tells the story of Finding Nemo but the Seas Pavilion is pretty big with some other good attractions.
Turtle Talk with Crush is a pretty funny (live) show plus the aquariums in the pavilion are pretty impressive. Don’t forget to go upstairs to see the manatees.
Grand Fiesta Tour: I think of this as the Mexican version of It’s a Small World. There’s not usually much of a line and it’s a great way to break up all of your “eating and drinking” around the World Showcase.
Reflections of China & O’Canada: Both China and Canada have giant Circle Vision theaters that play movies about each country respectively. They’re actually really cool, but you have to stand up the whole time : )
Impressions de France: Finally, a theater you can sit down in! This theater actually shows two different shows. One is a Beauty and the Beast sing a long and the other is a film about France.
American Adventure: The scope and scale of this show is pretty impressive and it’s another great place to get out of the heat and sit for a while. Plus don’t miss the Voices of Liberty show in the rotunda before the show starts.
Character Meet & Greets
Surprisingly, I think Epcot has the best character meet and greets of any park. I LOVE meeting characters around World Showcase in their “home” countries:
Donald (Three Caballeros) in Mexico
Anna & Elsa in Norway at the Royal Sommerhaus
Mulan in China
Snow White in Germany
Jasmine in Morocco
Belle & Princess Aurora in France
Alice, Mary Poppins & Winnie the Pooh in the UK
Plus there are plenty of character meets scattered throughout the rest of the park:
Mickey Mouse has been meeting in the Imagination Pavilion in the Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival Theater
Minnie Mouse, Goofy, Pluto and Daisy usually rotate around between the main entrance of Epcot, the gazebo at the front of World Showcase, and the International Gateway Entrance.
Check the daily schedule to find out exactly who is where, but it seems like once the front section of Epcot is complete, one of the things it’s going to include is a more permanent character meet and greet situation for the Big 5.
Also there’s a brand new meet and greet with Figment in ImageWorks in the Imagination Pavilion (plus Joy from Inside Out is there too).
And Moana just started meeting near Journey of Water.
Epcot Plan of Attack (aka Itinerary)
Okay, now that I’ve told you about all of the great things to do in Epcot, here are some tips for how to actually get it all done…
Epcot is different from the other theme parks for me. Maybe it’s just my perception, but I feel like it has less “things to do” and more of a vibe where you just kind of hang out and walk around.
So personally, I usually like to stay at one of the Epcot Resorts (Boardwalk, Beach and Yacht Club, Swan and Dolphin) where you can walk into the back of World Showcase and I like to spend a few hours at Epcot several times throughout my trip instead of doing one long day.
It works for a couple reasons:
- Guardians of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind is my absolute favorite ride EVER and you can currently only ride it with a boarding pass or a lightning lane so the max you could ride is twice a day (if you get lucky) so I usually go to Epcot multiple times so I can ride it multiple times during my trip.
- Epcot is almost always having a festival and it’s a fun place to be in the early evening.
So if that sounds like something that might work for your trip, you’ll need less of a plan regarding rides since you’ll have several different opportunities to ride the most popular rides, but I know that probably won’t work for most people, so here’s my best “traditional approach” for doing a day at Epcot:
Genie+ in Epcot
When Genie+ first debuted at Epcot, its value was a little questionable. First of all, there just aren’t a ton of rides at Epcot in general, and two of them were not in the regular Genie+ attractions pool, but were Individual Lightning Lanes instead. But things have started to change at Epcot. Two brand new attractions have recently opened, and with Disney cutting down the number of ILLs in each park to just ONE ride, I think it’s increased the value of Genie+ at Epcot.
Currently, Guardians of the Galaxy is the Individual Lightning Lane at Epcot (the one ride you can pay an additional $14ish to skip to the front of the line).
Besides the Guardians coaster, rides that I would prioritize for Genie+ in Epcot are: Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, Frozen Ever After, Soarin’, Test Track.
Plus there’s a handful of rides that usually have Genie+ availability late in the day (Spaceship Earth, Mission Space, Living with the Land, Seas with Nemo and Friends).
This means, if you’re willing to get there early to “rope drop” one attraction and you work the system well, you can do pretty much every single ride at Epcot with little to no waits using Genie+.
Depending on which entrance you’re coming into Epcot, I would either head to Frozen Ever After or Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure as your first ride (Frozen if you’re entering at the park’s main entrance and Remy if you’re entering from the World Showcase). And then I would pick the alternate ride for your first Genie+ selection of the day.
My Ideal Epcot Day
Okay, I know I said I mostly like to pop into Epcot in the afternoon/evenings for a stroll around World Showcase and a little festival appreciation, but Epcot’s got some pretty good rides in the last couple of years so it’s worth a morning.
Since I like to stay back in the Epcot Resort area, it’s super easy to walk over and do Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure right when the park opens with no wait.
So my Epcot strategy is usually:
7AM (Hopefully) get a Cosmic Rewind boarding group for the virtual queue. If not, definitely get one at the 1PM drop.
7AM Buy a Lightning Lane for Cosmic Rewind (I told ya, I like to ride as many times as possible!)
7AM Book Genie+ reservation for Frozen Ever After
Instead of booking a Genie+ for Remy, I head straight there when early entry starts.
After I ride Remy, I like to stop for breakfast at the bakery in France.
Throughout the day, you’ll grab Genie+ reservations for:
Soarin’ (a must do)
Test Track (I usually skip but it’s definitely worth doing once)
Mission: Space (I did it once and never again but it’s still a “big” ride)
Besides Genie+ rides, Spaceship Earth is a classic and I always enjoy spending a little time in the Seas with Nemo and Friends. Be sure to go upstairs to see the manatees!
And while I’m in the area for Soarin’ I like to squeeze in a ride on Living with the Land.
A lot of the timing and pacing for a day in Epcot depends on your Genie+ and Lighting Lane return times, but generally speaking after I ride Remy in France, I head to Future World (the front of the park) to spend the morning and then plan to be back in the World Showcase for the afternoon and evening.
Festivals at Epcot
Epcot has become a festival park! It started with the Food & Wine Festival for 30 days in the fall of 1996 and it’s grown to four different annual festivals that honestly span most of the year now.
There’s the Festival of the Arts in January/February, the Flower & Garden Festival March-July, Food & Wine Festival July-November, and the Festival of the Holidays in November/December.
My personal favorite is the Flower and Garden Festival in the spring. The food booths are just as good as for the Food & Wine Festival, but the whole park is landscaped incredibly well including dozens and dozens of topiaries.
Festival of the Arts
Flower & Garden Festival
Want more Walt Disney World posts? Check these out…
P.S. If you want to follow along on my travel adventures in real time, you can follow me on Instagram (@caitylincoln). My post captions are full of travel tips and I have a ton of story highlights and videos with great info. And share my account with your travel loving friends! Your support really helps me keep this blog running!