Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Epcot - Park Strategy




We’re going to be looking at park strategies for all four of the parks at Walt Disney World.  My previous strategy guides assumed that you wouldn't be staying on property or purchasing Genie+ or Individual Lightning Lanes (ILL).  But so much of the best strategies involve these options, so instead I'm going to talk about what the best option is for each particular park.  Since Early Entry is available to all on property guests, this also changes traditional rope drop strategy. We'll also talk about what you can do if these options aren't available to you.  Today we’ll be discussing Epcot. (Updated April 19, 2023).


Epcot attractions:

Highest wait times – Remy's Ratatouille Adventure, Frozen Ever After, Test Track

Moderate wait times – Soarin' Around The World, Spaceship Earth, Mission: Space, Meet Elsa and Anna at Royal Sommerhaus

Lowest wait times – Journey Into Imagination With Figment, Living With The Land, The Seas With Nemo and Friends, Turtle Talk With Crush, Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros

N/A - Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind (see below for more on this one specifically)

Best Strategy: Early Entry with Extended Evening Hours if possible

Alternate Strategy: Genie+ (and Early Entry)


A couple of notes on the above – first, I’m not including any of the shows (The American Adventure, Awesome Planet, etc) as those generally have set schedules (which you can find at the park or on Disney’s official website) and mostly have little to no wait (essentially the amount of time that the show takes is how long you’ll wait if you just missed it).  Second, wait times are relative, not absolute. This means that the lowest wait times at the busiest time of year will probably still feel quite busy, while the highest wait times on the slowest day of the year won’t seem so bad. Context matters.  


All of that being said, let’s take a look at a typical day at Epcot and figure out the best way to go about hitting all the attractions that you want.  Obviously if there are some (especially high wait time) things that you don’t want to do, you can skip that and free up a whole bunch of time for yourself.  I’ll assume that you at least want to experience all of these rides one time, which is certainly doable on most days.


A lot has changed in recent months with Epcot, more than any of the other parks.  It is currently undergoing a years long transformation that isn't yet complete, but there have been a couple of new additions in recent months that will draw guests. Epcot is starting to have the problem that Hollywood Studios has, which is a top heavy lineup.  I typically don't recommend purchasing Genie+ for Epcot, though my mind has been changing on that since our recent trip.  If you're going in a somewhat busy time, this might be your best bet.  That will be discussed more below.  

The newest and biggest attraction at Epcot is Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind.  This is a draw on the level of Flight of Passage or Rise of the Resistance and will be the longest line in the park for years to come.  On the bright side (?), as of now, this is a moot point.  You CAN'T ride Guardians via standby.  Your only options are virtual queue or Individual Lightning Lane (ILL), both of which go live at 7:00 a.m. There are times when these fill up quickly, but lately there has been availability for over an hour after the virtual queue opens up.  Start with that strategy rather than paying. If you happen to miss out, there is at least one other virtual queue window at 1:00 p.m.  Either way, if you get it, you have a one hour window to experience it.  You don't have to plan your day around it (at least not yet - once it goes to standby, it will require a lot of strategy).  Since Guardians has been open for a few months but is still using the VQ, you should be able to secure a boarding group either in the 7:00 or 1:00 drops.  I don't recommend an ILL purchase for this one as long as the VQ is active.

Remy, Frozen and Test Track (usually in that order, but not always) all compete for the highest wait time at the park.  These will be the attractions you really need to plan for - if you can take all of these in one day, you should be able to fit in everything else in between.  What order you do them in, and when, depends on where you enter the park.  Most guests (on property or off) will enter through the main entrance, meaning that the best plan (during Early Entry) is to rope drop Test Track. This ride has reliability issues, particularly in bad weather, so keep that in mind.  If it's down, continue on to Frozen and hope it hasn't gotten too bad.  Otherwise, Test Track is a good one to get done before the other guests make their way over to it

On the other hand, if you're staying on property at one of the Crescent Lake resorts (Yacht Club, Beach Club or Boardwalk) or one of the resorts that has access to the Skyliner, you will enter through the International Gateway and will enter into World Showcase.  Remy is literally right on the other side of the entrance from International Gateway, and is an obvious rope drop choice.  There is no point in coming in the main entrance and rope dropping Remy, as you will be behind everyone coming in the other way (vice versa for Test Track).  From either one of these, moving on to Frozen is the next choice, and should still put you ahead of any of the guests that don't have access to Early Entry.

During busier times, it will be very difficult to get to all three of these "headliner" rides before the crowds build.  Even with Genie+, the chances of getting all three is very low.  Rope dropping one, picking up a Genie+ for one and heading to the third one right away will be your best bet there.  If you didn't purchase Genie+ (and our top recommendation is to not do so), I would focus on getting two of these done early and then circling back later to the other one. 

Our recommendation would be then to head to Soarin’, which sees a wait time dip after an initial rush (all this information, by the way, comes from with some assistance from the WDW Wait Time Twitter ).  Soarin' used to be one of the highest wait times at the park but some of the newer rides have pushed it down a bit.  It sees pretty consistent wait times, but it doesn't top out as high as some of the others.  That is to your benefit - Soarin' is one of the best rides in the park, so making it more accessible throughout the day is a good thing.


When you're finished with Soarin’ early, the next logical thing to do would be Living With The Land considering it's literally right next door.  This ride often has little to no wait time, but there's no reason to come back to it later when you are right there.  Journey Into Imagination is another easy one to pick up if you're headed into World Showcase, as you have to pass that building on the way up there and often has a low wait time.  If you managed to do Frozen earlier, stopping at the next pavilion over (Mexico) and doing the Gran Fiesta Tour would be a good idea; if not, this is a good time to do this one as well, since it also has a typically low wait time.


Once you’re done with some of these, our recommendation is to continue clockwise around World Showcase.  Most people entering the park will stop at Future World (or the three new neighborhoods as they are now known) before working their way up to World Showcase later in the day.  It behooves you to do the opposite, hitting World Showcase now and coming back to Future World later when crowds have moved on.  This has the added benefit of putting you in line with some of the best food options in all of Walt Disney World.  Pick a cuisine and stop in somewhere for lunch as you’re walking around.  Some of the shows are in this area, as well as Remy, though the lines at this time of day are typically not great. You can also stop next to Frozen and meet Elsa and Anna if that's a priority for you.


Now that you’ve gone around World Showcase, you can continue down into Future World on the east side, passing the attractions you did earlier (if the line for Soarin’ is low, I’d drop in there again, but that’s just me).  You can then pick up the attractions you missed before.  As I said above, most of these have low wait times.  I would prioritize Spaceship Earth and Mission: Space, both of which can have slightly higher wait times on average.  Take a look at what looks best when you’re in the area, and decide which order you want to hit these rides, but largely, you should be able to do all of them with little difficulty.




Keep an eye on Test Track as well if you didn't rope drop it, in case the line happens to be lower or if you decide to just suck it up and wait if you have nothing better to do.  If not, I would eat dinner - we always recommend one table service meal, often for dinner, as it gives you a good respite from the walking and the heat – probably in World Showcase again, though Space 220 (if you can get it) and Coral Reef in Future World are both good options as well.


The last big thing to fit in your day would be the nighttime spectacular at Epcot, which is currently Epcot Forever but will be changing to an all new (as yet unnamed) show this fall.  This is one good reason to eat a late dinner in World Showcase, as you’ll already be on that end of the park and have easier access to a good viewing spot around the lagoon.  Most of the best spots fill up about an hour before the show starts, but if you’d rather not wait, there are plenty of good spots around World Showcase where you can still see the fireworks if not a head on shot at the central screen.


Conversely, if you don’t want to watch Epcot Forever, this is probably a great time to finally fit in Frozen or Remy, as a disproportionate number of guests will be watching the show.  Or you can position yourself near the entrance to World Showcase (on the Mexico side) to make a quick beeline for Test Track once Epcot Forever ends (but be warned – Showcase Plaza at the entrance to World Showcase will be where the largest contingent of guests watching the show are congregating.  This could make for a bottle neck if you’re not quick enough to leave).

As mentioned above, though, the best strategy for Epcot is a combination of Early Entry rope drop AND Extended Evening Hours.  Only deluxe resorts and villas qualify for this perk, meaning the pool of eligible guests is much lower.  If you are able to splurge on your resort (or rent DVC points, do a split stay, etc), this is a HUGE advantage.  In fact, it's likely that you can knock out all three of the busiest rides in a single night, and possibly even hit Guardians, depending on your boarding group.  There is a 6:00 p.m. VQ for Guardians available only to Extended Evening Hours guests.  This is by far the easiest VQ to join, and will allow you to backload everything into the evening hours.

I would recommend rope dropping, then going back to your resort when crowds get bad and only return for dinner and the EEH.  You will easily be able to do all the big attractions this way.  If you don't rope drop, you can still use EEH to your advantage.  This works best if you are skipping the fireworks, but that's not entirely necessary.  Once it hits 9:00 p.m., the only guests who can even get in line for attractions are those EEH eligible guests.  Be ready to hit one right away or right after the fireworks, depending on your preference.

The best order is probably to do Remy first, then Frozen, then Test Track, though you could certainly reverse those depending on how things are looking.  This was what we attempted last year, but two of these rides were down, which is always a risk.  If you've already done one or two of these in the daytime hours, you can either re-ride or just skip it and focus on the others during the EEH period.  There are plenty of good options here, and most of them don't require you to spend any additional money on G+ or ILL.  


Nighttime is my favorite time at Epcot, so once done with everything, I would take a leisurely stroll back to the front of the park, taking in the sights and sounds.  Spaceship Earth looks incredible at night, and can give you plenty of great photo opportunities.  With the exception of the headliner attractions, you can probably drop in and hit anything else you missed or wanted to do again.  Hopefully this guide helps you have your best day possible at Epcot!

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