Did someone say, "Bibbidi-bobbidi-boo"? EPCOT is currently in the middle of a MAJOR transformation, and we're so excited about what's coming to the park in the future! But in the meantime, it needs extra time, patience and pixie dust until Disney can complete all of the proposed projects, which may span over the next few years. Additionally, with the health and safety measures in place due to COVID-19, some experiences may be modified or temporarily suspended until further notice. With all of that in mind, we've had mixed feelings about visiting EPCOT lately. If we're being toadally honest, the ongoing construction and lack of cultural representatives has impacted the overall experience at EPCOT.
That said, it's only temporary! We expect the cultural representatives will return once it's safe to travel from their home countries, and some of the new attractions will debut this year. Most notably, the France Pavilion expansion, which includes Remy's Ratatouille Adventure, is set to open in 2021! Also in recent news, the park entrance's new fountain is getting closer to its reveal, and new barges for Harmonious, a new nighttime spectacular, have appeared in the lagoon.
If you're planning an upcoming trip around the world at EPCOT, here's everything you should expect, from construction walls to its year-round festivals (which are still hoppening in a modified format!). In exciting news, park hopping has returned! We'll keep you updated on how it affects the park, as we expect it could be a popular choice in the evenings due to later park hours and plentiful dinner options.
Getting into EPCOT
Don't froget that the Disney Park Pass reservation system is currently in place to manage the park's capacity! That means that you'll need both valid admission and a Disney Park Pass to enter (note that if your ticket has park hopper permissions, you'll only need to make a Park Pass reservation for the first park you'll be hopping to.) EPCOT has had more availability than some of the other parks to date, but we still recommend making your Park Pass as soon as you're able.
When you arrive at EPCOT at the main entrance or the alternate International Gateway entrance, you'll need to undergo a temperature screening before you pass through security and the touch points. This process generally goes quickly and smoothly. One time before entering the temperature screening area, we noticed that a guest in front of us was wearing a neck gaiter, which isn't an approved face covering. The situation was handled perfectly by the cast members stationed outside. The cast member asked him first if he had another mask. When he replied that he did not, the cast member let him know about the face covering policy and directed him to a nearby vending machine filled with disposable masks ($2 each). Kudos to the cast members and the guest for respectfully complying! We felt safer after seeing this exchange in action, knowing that the rule was successfully enforced.
If you're entering through the main entrance, you'll encounter the regular metal detectors. But if you're using the International Gateway entrance, you'll come across the new high-tech, contactless detectors — the same ones that are being used at Disney's Animal Kingdom, Disney's Hollywood Studios and Disney Springs.
Keep in mind that the parking trams are not currently operating. The EPCOT monorail has been temporarily unavailable since Walt Disney World reopened in July.
EPCOT Attractions and Wait Times
As two of the most popular rides at the park, Test Track and Frozen Ever After consistently have the longest wait times throughout the day. Soarin' can get busy as well, but it tends to fluctuate more as the day goes on (the line gets shorter in the afternoons and evenings). The remaining rides may be busier in the mornings, but generally have low waits in the afternoons and evenings. Weekends tend to be busier than weekdays.
Every attraction has safety measures in place, including floor markings 6 feet (or more) apart and touchless hand sanitizer dispensers. Some queues have plexiglass barriers when it's not possible to maintain physical distancing in switchbacks or places where the standby and FastPass+ lines are next to each other. There are no FastPasses available. However, people with a DAS card or those taking advantage of Rider Switch will typically use the FastPass+ line. Theaters have rows closed and appropriate spacing between seats in rows that remain open.
Except for Turtle Talk with Crush, traditional character greetings and EPCOT Forever, EPCOT has the majority of its attractions and shows available. Spaceship Earth was supposed to undergo a major refurbishment (its proposed final date of operation passed during the COVID-19 closure). But the ride's reimagining has been postponed, so it's operating as usual! Glad we didn't have to say "see you later" to the Phoenicians just yet.
Character Experiences at EPCOT
Out of all the new character experiences at Disney World, I think I personally enjoyed the promenades and pop-up appearances at EPCOT the most. Previously, you'd find the characters in the countries that represented them, such as Belle in France. Now, as part of the EPCOT reopening, you can watch a variety of promenades around World Showcase. So, yes ... Disney characters are now traveling around the world! It is so cool seeing Anna and Elsa strolling through Japan. There are three separate promenades with different characters:
- Frozen Promenade: Anna and Elsa
- Mickey & Friends World Tour: Mickey, Minnie, Pluto and Goofy
- Princess Promenade: Snow White, Jasmine, Belle and Aurora
But that's not all! Several other characters have popped up around EPCOT. Alice and Mary Poppins take turns greeting guests from the gazebo in the U.K. pavilion. We've also seen Joy dancing in the gardens right next to Journey into the Imagination with Figment. Alternatively, Winnie the Pooh catches butterflies in the same spot as Joy.
Taste of EPCOT International Festivals
Good news, frogs! Modified versions of EPCOT's festivals have continued to take place year-round. Previously, the 2020 EPCOT International Food and Wine Festival began as soon as EPCOT reopened after the COVID-19 closure in July and ended in November, making it the longest running festival ever. EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays quickly took over for the holiday season, and EPCOT International Festival of the Arts began Jan. 8, 2021, earlier than ever before. Later in spring, EPCOT International Flower and Garden Festival will blossom from March 3 until July 5, 2021!
Festival activities that attract crowds, such as large concerts or seminars, have not taken place, but you can still enjoy special entertainment and scavenger hunts in addition to the food booths. Disney updated its face covering policy to reinforce that guests must remain stationary while eating or drinking. That said, Disney has also upped the amount of tables available, so even on a busy weekend, we haven't had any issues finding a spot to stop and snack.
Cultural Representatives, Restaurants and Retail at EPCOT
EPCOT is unique because it has so many restaurants and retail locations, especially around World Showcase. The best aspect of the World Showcase pavilions have always been the cultural representatives who embody each country. They bring the pavilions to life with personality and authenticity. Because of COVID-19, these cultural representatives had to return to their home countries.
Upon the EPCOT reopening, other cast members have been temporarily assigned in these positions until the cultural representatives are able to return. The cast members stepping in are doing a fantastic job (we had a lovely chat with a cast member in China!), and there are still some cast members working in World Showcase who possess dual citizenship for the country that they represent. However, we didn't realize how much we would miss the cultural representatives as a whole, and exactly how their absence would affect the theming and overall experience.
We noticed that many restaurants and retail locations have remained closed in World Showcase, most likely due to the missing cultural representatives and understaffing. The most glaring example was in China. The table-service and quick-service restaurants have only opened during busy periods — leaving Reflections of China, the Joy of Tea and the festival kiosk available for the majority of time. The rest of the pavilions have at least one restaurant and/or gift shop open.
EPCOT has the least amount of mobile ordering options, which are available at Regal Eagle Smokehouse: Craft Drafts & Barbecue (the American Adventure pavilion) and Sunshine Seasons (the Land pavilion). As for table-service restaurants, we've found that it varies if you need a reservation. Via Napoli in Italy had a sign saying that no walk-ins were being accepted, but Rose & Crown Dining Room may take walk-ins. The Rose & Crown host told us it really just depends if the restaurant has availability at the exact moment you ask. After a recent My Disney Experience update, it should now say if a restaurant has Walk-Up availability. But of course, it never hurts to ask, and you can always take advantage of the festival food booths!
Touring Advice for EPCOT
Unlike our experiences with crowds at the other three Disney theme parks, EPCOT seems to get busier in the late afternoon and evening, especially on weekends. EPCOT is also the park that stays open the latest. So we suggest hopping on rides in Future World earlier in the day. Afternoon showers may shut down and cause further delays for Test Track, so it's best to get that ride done early.
Now that Park Hopping has returned, we expect that EPCOT may be a hoppin' spot for park hoppers who want to take advantage of later park hours and a wider variety of dinner options. Plus EPCOT has the largest capacity limit (meaning it shouldn't fill up as quickly as, say Disney's Hollywood Studios) and year-round festivals to enjoy! Park Hopping is subject to availability and generally runs from 2 p.m. to the park's closing time. While we think EPCOT is a great choice for hopping, we also realize that many others may feel the same — so we'll be monitoring how busy things get and reporting back!
With all of the construction in Future World, it's not easy to get from Future World East to Future World West (or vice versa). So you may want to start on one side of Future World, go around World Showcase and then end on the opposite side of Future World — unless you want to get your frog hops in! Check out our EPCOT park plan without FastPass+ or characters for our touring recommendations.
Additional EPCOT Reopening Tips and Tidbits
- If you need a break from your face covering, EPCOT has three mask relaxation areas. The two outdoor locations are located in Future World East (by Test Track and Mission: SPACE) and Yorkshire County Fish Shop (U.K. pavilion). Akershus Royal Banquet Hall offers an indoor relaxation area. I think the Yorkshire County Fish Shop was my favorite out of ALL the relaxation areas at Disney World because of the beautiful waterfront views that you get when sitting right by the lagoon.
- Kidcot Fun Stop stations may not be fully operating, but you can pick up a Ziploc bag filled with stickers and coloring postcards from each country.
If you're planning to visit EPCOT in the near future, do you have any questions for us? Feel free to share in the comments below.