Often thought of as the more “grown up” oriented of Walt Disney World’s four parks, Epcot actually has a fabulous range of attractions for all ages. This park is divided into two distinctly different areas – World Showcase, featuring a cultural trip around the globe; and Future World with a mix of… well, all sorts of things. Add in some of the tastiest, most diverse Disney dining options and you’ve got a full day of must-do Disney. Here’s how to make the most of one day there.
Epcot always makes my family’s list of must-see Disney Parks when we visit central Florida. I’ve got a 6 year old son (and his dad) who can’t wait to zoom around Test Track at top speeds. My 12 year old daughter adores riding Soarin’ almost more than anything else (add me to this category).
These popular attractions are both found in Epcot’s Future World, which is the front portion of the park that opens first. It’s a great way to start the day, but there’s lots more in store.
Here I’d like to share my Disney-loving, TravelingMom Approved Best 1-Day schedule for Epcot. But first, a little Disney planning goes a long way. Before your visit, consider these options for laying the groundwork.
TravelingMom Tip: This park is HUGE, and covers more walking distances than any of the four Disney World Parks (although technically Animal Kingdom is the largest). Even up through age 5, we rented a stroller for our kids at Epcot. It adds to the enjoyment, and then you can leisurely tour the World Showcase the second half of your day… without your kids tiring out.
How to Make the Most of One Day at Epcot ~ Laying the Groundwork
As is always true of Disney, having a plan to make the most of one day at Epcot will pay off. You’ll want to make a few decisions and reservations ahead of time.
Epcot ~ Two Different Opening Times
Every Disney Planning Guru will lecture you, “Start your Disney day when the park opens!” I agree this is a smart play. But if your family insists on having at least ONE leisurely morning of their vacation to sleep in… consider making it your Epcot day.
Being there at “rope drop” at Epcot isn’t as crucial as it is at Magic Kingdom. Plus, the World Showcase (back half of the park) doesn’t typically open until 2 hours after Future World (front half of the park).
There’s a lot of ground to cover in Epcot, but much of it is the “mosey and experience” kind. Not the “stand in line for this ride” kind. It’s nice to have a little of the pressure taken off!
Epcot ~ FastPass+ Tier 1 Choices
There are a handful of big headliner attractions you’ll want to work into your day, and the awesome Fast Pass+ system will allow you to skip some of those lines. Epcot utilizes a tiered approach to FastPass+. Although you are allowed to reserve 3 FastPass+ for your day, you can only select 1 from the Tier 1 Group of Epcot headliner attractions:
- IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth
- Frozen Ever After
- Test Track.
Of these four, Frozen Ever After currently experiences the longest wait time.
Personally, I wouldn’t use my Tier 1 FastPass on the IllumiNations fireworks show, as there are many great places for viewing. That leaves your family with deciding which 1 of the other 3 is at the top of your “must-do” list, then queuing up early for any others you want to ride.
When selecting a FastPass+ time, note that since Future World opens first – you’ll likely be starting your day off there. In this area, the top two attractions with a long line are Test Track and Soarin’. Chat with your family about which they want to do more. If your family is like mine, that won’t really solve anything… because we love them both.
Our typical approach is to get a FastPass for Test Track, and head right to Soarin’. The lines for both of these will usually only increase throughout the day. It may mean a wait at your non-FastPass choice, but both of these are well worth it.
Epcot ~ Advanced Dining Reservations
Numerous mouth-watering dining options are available at Epcot, particularly around the World Showcase. You may wish to make an ADR (Advanced Dining Reservation) for one ahead of time.
Got kids who love character dining experiences? You can dine on fresh farm-to-table fare with jokesters Chip & Dale at Garden Grill. This is one my family’s absolute favorites. We get a kick out of the revolving restaurant with fantastic food served family-style. The characters who visit you right at your dinner table are a hoot.
Another great character dining option is feasting on delicious Norwegian fare along with regal Disney Princess hostesses, at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall.
You can’t go wrong with the amazing authentic ethnic food options offered at the various country pavilions in the World Showcase. Or if you’re looking for a quick service dining location with a nice variety and some more “American” food options, we love Sunshine Seasons in The Land. The food there is always delicious, and they have a drool-worthy dessert case.
Check out the Disney dining reviews at AllEars.net if you’d like to see menus and read customer feedback to assist in your decision making.
One Day Epcot Schedule
Here’s my best advice on making the most of one day at Epcot. Rather than use specific times, this schedule is laid out in the general order I recommend you approach the very best Epcot attractions throughout your day.
- Soarin’ – Hit this first! If you chose a FastPass for Soarin’… swap steps 1 and 2 and head to Test Track first instead. Note there’s a height requirement to ride of 40”.
- Test Track – Note height requirement of 40”.
- Character Spot – Meet and greet classic Disney characters. Have your camera and autograph book ready. We like this location, since waiting in just one line gives you access to meeting at least 3 characters.
- It’s never too early for a Mickey Ice Cream Bar. Gotta keep those Disney vacationing batteries charged!
- The Living Seas – Tour the impressive aquarium and ride “The Seas With Nemo & Friends”.
- Spaceship Earth – If the line isn’t too long, catch Spaceship Earth. Often the wait time for this attraction is 10 minutes or less, so although I highly recommend it, I wouldn’t wait in line too long. Instead watch the wait times via the Disney World app, and swing back during a slow time.
- Lunch – We typically go with the quicker (cheaper) option of a quick service dining location for lunch. Then we have an ADR for a table service restaurant in the evening, when we are ready to sit down and rest. So many excellent dining options at Epcot! If you want ethnic food, head back to World Showcase for lunch. Otherwise I highly recommend Sunshine Seasons in The Land.
- Living With the Land – Particularly if you just ate lunch at Sunshine Seasons, hop on the Living With the Land ride before you head back to the World Showcase for the second half of your day. It nearly always has a short line, and is both fascinating and fun.
- World Showcase Touring – Enjoy your tour around the globe! Each country features gorgeous architecture, music, food, unique items for sales, entertainment, and Cast Members from their respective homeland. It’s a feast for the senses, and so exciting to explore. Up the interest factor for little ones by watching for Kidcot Fun Stops.
- Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros – Located in Mexico Pavilion. One of the few rides in World Showcase, this musical journey by boat is fun for kids and usually has a short line.
- Snack – Keep your strength up with one of many delicious options. My top recommendations include the legendary caramel treats at Germany’s Karamell-Küche, and the savory creations at France’s pastry shop Boulangerie Patisserie. Such an awesome use of Disney Dining snack credits!
- Frozen Ever After – Located in the Norway Pavilion. This is the hottest new Epcot attraction, based on the Disney movie Frozen. If you don’t have a FastPass+, be prepared for a wait or check out these tips for riding Frozen Ever After. Consider skipping, if not a fan.
- Reflections of China – At the China Pavilion. A few of the country pavilions feature a film from their homeland. China’s is unique due to its 360 screen presentation, and is one of our favorites.
- The American Adventure – At the US Pavilion. An interesting show which offers the chance to relax in an air conditioned theatre for a spell. Listen to an animatronic Ben Franklin and Mark Twain chat about highlights from America’s history.
- Dinner – We typically have an ADR for dinner at a World Showcase restaurant, and dine a little later in the evening. Allow a good hour before IllumiNations start time. My family’s favorite is the Biergarten Restaurant in Germany, featuring a buffet and live entertainment.
- IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth – This fireworks show is a fabulous way to end your day at Epcot. Can be viewed from anywhere around the World Showcase Lagoon, but we prefer to see it from the Future World side. This allows the best vantage to take in the light and laser show surrounding the country pavilions. You can also make a faster getaway at park closing.