Planning a Walt Disney World vacation is full of challenges and surprises, but an effective EPCOT one-day plan can help. This is a great time to head back to Disney or make your very first visit. Especially as the 50th Anniversary celebration approaches. One thing about EPCOT, in particular, is that there is almost always something special going on. Even before the official Anniversary celebration kicks off There is still the Food and Wine Festival, one of the park's most popular seasonal festivals. If you only have one day to spend at this sprawling multi-dimensional theme park you need an organized plan of attack. Here are some tips to help you see and do as much as possible while you are there.
DIVIDE AND CONQUER
EPCOT is huge so to win at your EPCOT one-day plan, you need to break it down. For starters, it's essentially two parks. It was designed that way before Disney ultimately combined the two concepts. As a result, it's much larger than the magic kingdom.
Besides that, the park is largely segmented. Instead of lands, EPCOT has pavilions. In Future World, there are five open pavilions at this time. In the World Showcase, there are 11. Since EPCOT is only open for 11 hours in a single day, You must carefully plot your time in each section if you want to experience it all.
The trick to doing this is determining what you want from each location. Since there is no way to do everything, you need to decide what will satisfy your own sense of completion by the end of the day. Some pavilions may only warrant a quick stop, while others will require you to spend more time simply by virtue of the attractions they offer. How you break up your day is a value judgment, but breaking it all down in advance is necessary if you want to feel as though you have done it all.
THE LITTLE THINGS
One easy approach to completing the World showcase quickly and easily is to focus on minor details. They stack up well to create a complete experience. Many pavilions have small self-guided exhibits to explore. You can take as much time as you want in these gardens and galleries.
While 6 pavilions in the World showcase feature attractions, there are a greater number of pavilions that include gardens and galleries to view at your leisure. They are pivotal to gaining the most exposure to the park.
These are the pavilions in the World showcase:
- Mexico Pavilion
- Norway Pavilion
- China Pavilion
- Germany Pavilion
- Italy Pavilion
- The American Adventure
- Japan Pavilion
- Morocco Pavilion
- France Pavilion
- United Kingdom Pavilion
- Canada Pavilion
MOST POPULAR ATTRACTIONS AT EPCOT
Epcot is not as popular for attractions compared to Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios, but….they do have some really great attractions. Some of the Epcot attractions are more popular than others and preplanning your one day at Epcot will help you fit in the ones you are most excited to try out.
Here is a list of the attractions that will have the longest lines and will attract the most attention:
- Remy's Ratatouille Adventure is opening in Oct 2021 and will be wildly popular as all-new attractions are. It is located in France.
- Frozen Ever After is located in Norway and is a very magical ride with the Frozen characters. We got to the park early and lined up. As soon as they let the rope drop we raced over to Frozen Ever After and got in line and were on in 10 minutes. Otherwise, this is a ride you will want to get a FastPass+ scheduled for. I will admit this is no thrill ride and if no one in your party cares about Frozen then skip it!
- Soarin' Around the World is a motion simulation ride and was one of the first simulation rides I rode on my first trip to Disney World many years ago. My dad still talks about how much he loved this ride! This is a ride that still leaves me with a happy, awe-filled feeling even after riding it multiple times.
- Mission Space is another motion simulation ride and some consider it a thrill ride. This ride has some very fun concepts and you and 3 other crew members get to fly to Mars. There are two versions of the ride, orange, and green. The green version is a tamed-down version and is great for younger children and anyone who gets motion sickness. I have ridden the orange version before and honestly…didn't feel too hot afterward! People who love outer space will definitely not want to miss this ride.
- The Seas with Nemo and Crush is not an exciting ride but is a must-do for Finding Nemo fans.
- Test Track is considered a thrill ride. I can honestly say that I have not been on it yet. On the first two trips to Epcot I was the one sitting outside with a baby while the rest of the family did the ride. My 3rd trip was just me and 2 girls and none of us were interested in it! But…car lovers will enjoy getting to design a prototype vehicle and then going on a 65 miles per hour race around the building.
- Spaceship Earth is housed in the iconic Epcot geodesic sphere. This is a long ride at 15 minutes and it shows the history of communication….from the beginning of time to now. A great way to get inside the massive and amazing sphere!
- Guardians of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind is a new roller coaster coming in 2022 and is highly anticipated! Epcot is lacking in super exciting rides and this may help move them up the rankings!
OTHER RIDES AT EPCOT
There are several more rides at Epcot that are not as popular as the ones I mentioned above. Nevertheless, they are each special in their own way and some of them might become a favorite for you or your family.
Here are the remaining rides at Epcot that you may want to fit into your Epcot one-day plan:
- The Land is in the same building as Soarin'. It was my 3rd trip to Epcot before I took the time to ride it and I was glad I did. This is a slow-moving boat ride and I will admit…one of my kids fell asleep. I found the ride very educational and it showed a lot of behind-the-scenes agricultural stuff they are doing at Disney.
- Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros is in the Mexico pavilion and there is rarely a line. It is a cute boat ride and my kids always enjoy it. If it is a hot day…this ride is dark and cool! Plus the inside of the building it is housed in has some cute booths and delicious Mexican food!
- Journey Into Imagination with Figment is part of Future World and the line will probably be short for this 6-minute ride. The purple dragon, Figment, takes you on a journey to show you how our five senses help capture our imaginations. This is so-so in my opinion…and could be skipped if you are short on time.
NON-RIDE ATTRACTIONS AT EPCOT
Epcot offers a variety of non-ride attractions that are loved by many guests…more so the adult guests than the children, LOL. There are around 30 other attractions you can check out if you have all the time in the world. Unfortunately, if you are doing an Epcot one-day plan, you do NOT have all the time in the world!!
This is an area where you will need to pick attractions based on your likes and interests. There is something for everyone at Epcot. Here is a brief rundown of some of the offerings….and remember, they will have seasonal attractions that come and go.
- Each pavilion usually has a movie of some kind that gives an overview of that part of the world. These are very intricate works and are worth your time if you have an interest in that area of the world. The American Adventure is truly a dramatic production and I hope it makes your list!
- The Epcot of Tomorrow is located in Future World. It shows the progress of Epcot plus you can preview the big changes coming to Epcot in the future. Disney die-hards will enjoy seeing what the future holds for Epcot.
- I am excited to see the American Heritage Gallery in the American Adventure pavilion. It explores the heritage and artistry of American Indian communities across the US.
- Awesome Planet is an immersive film that uses in-theater effects like wind, scents and water to tell the story of why we need to protect our planet. You will find this 10-minute movie in Future World.
- Disney and Pixar Short Film Festival is also located in Future World. Great for fans of 4-D films. If you need to rest your feet this is a great 18-minute break while wearing 3D glasses. Kids will enjoy the three short films…especially the 4D in-theater effects!
- Beauty and the Beast Sing-a-Long happens over in France. You can rest your feet for 15-minutes and sing along to some of the best songs from the movie. Another tip is to be sure and look at the gallery cases while you are there…they house costumes and artwork that are worth seeing.
- The coral reefs in Future World are beautiful and something my kids always enjoy. There is a lot to learn while you are in this area too.
The list above is not exhaustive and the sad thing about Epcot is that it is HUGE and you cannot see it all in a day….you could spend 3 days at Epcot and still probably not see every single thing. There are many, many galleries where you can see artwork and artifacts from around the world. So much to learn in one park!!
PLAN MEALS IN ADVANCE
Another way to maximize your EPCOT one-day plan is to leverage meals. EPCOT is best known for food because of the Festivals there each season. It also helps that it's the best place to find a variety of world cuisine. One way to enjoy the park is to sample the food from all over the world.
Because meals at EPCOT are so fundamental to the park experience, your dining schedule will shape the impact and efficiency of your day. This is where it gets really difficult and you can see why EPCOT is a 2+ day park. Condensing everything into a single-day ticket means you will have to cut some things out of your plan as you choose others.
If you want to devote a whole pavilion to mealtime and move on, Italy is the best choice for a lunchtime break. There isn't much to the pavilion besides food, so it makes sense to make it your primary food stop. For a quicker pace around the World Showcase, consider picking counter service locations along the way for quick bites while you are on the go.
Epcot is known for its snacks and unique food offerings. We love eating as we walk around the pavilions. This is a way to save time so you can fit as much as possible into your Epcot one-day plan.
CHARACTER DINING AT EPCOT
If you want part of your day at Epcot to involve character dining there are two choices (one is temporarily closed due to COVID, but should open before long).
The Garden Grill Restaurant has table service and the lovable Chip n' Dale. This is a family dining style meal and is located in Future World. The restaurant actually rotates and some of the food is grown in the Disney greenhouses. Remember, reservations are required for this character-dining experience.
If you have a princess in your life you won't want to miss the Akershus Royal Banquet Hall character dining experience when it opens back up. The Disney princesses will visit your table while you dine in a medieval castle. This meal is located in Norway. I took my daughter to this dining experience YEARS ago and she loved getting all the princess autographs and photos with each one. When this opens back up it will book fast so be sure to make reservations way in advance.
MEETING CHARACTERS AT EPCOT
In my opinion, meeting characters at Epcot is epic. They have many unique character autograph opportunities that are not found at any other Disney park.
Right now character meetings are still on-hold, but I can't wait till they are back up and running. One of our favorites is Mary Poppins in the United Kingdom pavilion.
The tours at EPCOT are awesome, but you should only splurge on this if you have an extra day or two to spend at EPCOT. Tours are an in-depth exploration and they are slowly paced so that other tour guests can keep up.
If you only have a day at EPCOT you need to keep your own pace. Being in a large group will be frustrating. If you yourself are in a large family, you will need to reach a consensus on everything you are doing before you get to EPCOT. You don't need to rush through everything, but you do need a solid plan and an agreed-upon expectation.
SHOPPING AT EPCOT
If you are looking for some unique shopping experiences, Epcot is the place to be. Each pavilion has it's own culturally themed shopping and stores and you will find so many cool items.
Remember, if you are staying on property, they will deliver your purchases right to your room so you don't have to carry them around all day!
Currently, there is no nighttime show, but HarmonioUS should open very soon at EPCOT. If the show is running during your visit, make sure to plan for it, or at least plan around it.
You may want to take advantage of the crowds waiting to see the show and plan Future World attractions in the evening. If you want to see the show, consider splurging on a dessert party so you can have a guaranteed viewing of the show.
Otherwise, you should stake out a space on the terraces in the Showcase Plaza, Or near the UK Pavilion. The third best viewing area is near the African Outpost and Germany. If you want to dine with a view, try Hacienda De San Angel, Spice Road Table, or Rose and Crown.
AN EPCOT ONE-DAY PLAN THAT WORKS
As you begin to create a detailed and personalized Epcot one-day plan that will work for your group….it is important to ask the other members of the group a simple question.
Ask, “What are your top 3 attractions or areas you want to see while at Epcot”. Look over everyone's preferences and then begin planning the day so that everyone gets to experience some of their most-anticipated attractions.
I like to go straight to the Walt Disney World website to get the latest information on what will be open, park hours, and to see everything Epcot has to offer. You can download the Epcot guide…it has amazing information.
Be sure to comment and let me know what your top sights are for Epcot and check out these other helpful Disney-related posts while you are here:
- Why We Loved Our Disney Travel Agent
- 8 Reasons Why Disney Memory Keeper is Worth It
- Why We Love Disney Caribbean Beach Resort
- DIY Disney Autograph Book
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