In our 4th and final article in the series, we take at EPCOT and what it’s like since reopening. Out of all 4 theme parks in Walt Disney World, EPCOT has changed the most and will give you a very different experience than what you are used to when visiting.
In this post, we are going to explain what’s changed in EPCOT since reopening on July 15, 2020. We’ll cover everything including which attractions are open, what entertainment is running and which restaurants are available to dine at.
While other parks are harder to plan from a touring perspective (Hollywood Studios), EPCOT isn’t difficult to figure out. There aren’t a ton of rides anyway, and once you decide when to go on the top 3 rides, the rest of the planning stage is easy.
What’s different about EPCOT is the feel the park. With everything currently going on there, it sends off a vibe at times that doesn’t feel the same in either Future World or World Showcase.
Of course, you’ll need to know about all the changes to the Disney park guidelines before going and how to get your park passes so you can actually get in. We thought it would be a good idea to share some first-hand photos from the park, discuss what the crowds and wait times are like, and let you know the best way to visit right now.
Make sure to read our other guides to the Disney park reopenings before visiting:
Also, before we look at EPCOT, make sure to read our Complete Walt Disney World Reopening Guide which will answer any questions you have about anything going on during the reopening period in the parks, hotels, and restaurants.
Keep checking back as we will continue to update this post with the latest news from EPCOT and anything else you need to know during this reopening phase.
What to Know
The most important thing you need to know during the reopening phase for any of the Disney parks is all the new safety and health guidelines guests have to follow in the parks. Even if you didn’t know, it’s hard to miss all the signs around EPCOT.
Here are the most important ones to know about:
- Increased cleaning and sanitation
- Wearing face masks
- Physical distancing in queues
- More guest hand-washing and sanitizing stations
Some of them are common sense and easy to follow (handwashing), while others are more cumbersome and test guests’ patience (face masks).
All in all, we haven’t noticed too many people breaking the rules and most guests are pretty respectful of others, more so than we imagined before visiting, especially during festival season. This has been consistently the case in all 4 parks.
Even at the entrance, you’ll notice all the distancing markers on the ground. Get used to them, they are everywhere! Attractions, restaurants, guest relations all have them. Basically anywhere a line would normally form, you will see the distancing markers.
While we know these changes can be annoying, try to have patience while visiting Disney right now. They are the only reason the parks are allowed to operate, and the better things run, the sooner we can have more of a “normal” experience there.
If you want to get more details on the heath and safety while visiting, read our post on all the New Safety Measures at Disney World.
Limited Capacity – How many?
All 4 Disney World theme parks have limited capacity from what they normally have. That means many fewer guests each day are allowed entrance.
EPCOT has the highest park capacity, and under normal circumstances, it can hold as many as 100,000 or slightly more. That of course is not happening right now, and Disney has announced they are limiting it to only 35% of the normal capacity.
From what we’ve seen ourselves, EPCOT isn’t even hitting that threshold and is under 20,000 on most days.
Not Everything Open
As in the other parks, not everything is open in EPCOT, so expect some closures while visiting during this period. Some of the attractions are still closed (though very few), entertainment options are scarce, and even many of the restaurants in World Showcase have yet to open their doors.
EPCOT Festivals Still Going On
Let’s face it, most of our visits to EPCOT are during one of the 4 yearly festivals, so we were happy to learn that Disney is still running them going forward.
The EPCOT Food and Wine Festival took place last year. In fact, Food and Wine started right from reopening Day 1 on July 15, and it wound up being the longest-running festival the park has ever had.
It’s actually a hybrid between the Flower and Garden Festival and Food and Wine with some of the menus from Flower and Garden sticking around and a couple of topiaries too.
The only bummer is there are a significantly reduced number of food marketplaces this year and each of the menus is missing a few items that in a normal year would be there. In fact, they are calling it “A Taste of EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival.”
This is understandable given the situation, but it also means we won’t have to return quite so many times with the smaller menus in place.
As for the other festivals in EPCOT, Disney ran the EPCOT Festival of the Holidays in 2020, and have announced the Festival of the Arts and the Flower and Garden Festival are also running in 2021, though in a reduced form.
Not the “Culturally Authentic” EPCOT
One of the beautiful things about EPCOT is the cultural diversity throughout the countries in World Showcase and the fact that you normally find representives from each specific country actually running the shops and restaurants in those pavilions.
Unfortunately, that’s not the case right now as most of the international Cast Members were forced to go home shortly after the closure.
While all the Cast Members have been super-friendly, there’s just something strange about walking into the Japan pavilion and seeing mostly Americans working there. It kind of takes away some of the immersion the experience should give you. I guess you don’t appreciate what you have until it goes away, as is usually the case.
There is no telling when the countries will get members from the International Program back, but Disney hasn’t made any announcements yet which means we are still many months away.
Lots of Construction
Not that this was much different before the closure, but the construction is EVERYWHERE in EPCOT and is impossible to miss. Future World at this point is mostly a maze of construction walls and work is visible from almost every vantage point in the park.
We’ll get into the specific projects happening later on, just know before you go that it is a major factor when visiting, and we still have a few years left ahead of us before it’s finished. That doesn’t mean it still can’t be fun, but construction is very present.
Suspended Services and Experiences
Many of the normal services and experiences in EPCOT are not currently running at this time and have been suspended. Here is what to expect:
Extra Magic Hours
Disney still isn’t running Extra Magic Hours in the parks at this time. This includes both Morning and Evening Extra Magic Hours. Instead of keeping the parks open extra time, they have actually been reduced even further into the Winter.
Disney has come up with a replacement for Extra Magic Hours called “Early Theme Park Entry.” It lets all Walt Disney World Resort hotel guests access the parks 30 minutes before the scheduled park opening for that day. It will be available at all 4 theme parks, every day of the week once it debuts sometime later in 2021.
It’s better than nothing, but it’s not as good as Extra Magic Hours and doesn’t give incentive nearly as much when deciding to stay on-site or off-site.
One essential key to touring EPCOT is usually FastPass+, however at this time it currently isn’t running. Disney suspended FastPass+ for all 4 theme parks and we still don’t know when or IF it’s coming back.
The only way to get on any of the attractions in EPCOT at the moment is to wait in the stand-by line.
In the meantime, the queues that were previously dedicated to FastPass+ are now being used as extra stand-by queues to help soak up the guests waiting in line for a given attraction. In some parks it’s a bigger deal, but lines are so low right now it’s not that important that it’s missing.
Of all the procedural changes in the parks, dining and restaurants have perhaps been the most affected. Here are some of the changes you should be aware of:
- No Disney Dining Plan – This has been suspended for the rest of 2020 and into 2021. That means no more snack credits for a while and guests will not have the option to pay for meals ahead of time.
- Dining Reservations – The Advanced Dining Reservation booking window has been reduced from 180 days to now only 60 days.
- Limited Dining Options – Some restaurants are not running at this time.
- New Technology – For safety reasons, Disney is using new technology in its restaurants including contactless menus, Mobile Ordering, Mobile Dine Check-In, Mobile Dine Waitlist, and cashless payment.
As of this writing, all special experience bookings, tours, and events have been canceled in EPCOT for now in 2021. Disney will release more info soon on when we can expect these experiences to return.
How to Get Into EPCOT in 2021
A huge change in the park-going experience is the fact that you must buy tickets in advance, and they must be accompanied by one of the new Park Pass reservations.
First, you need to buy your park ticket for EPCOT if you don’t already have one. Both Single and Multi-Day tickets are available to purchase for dates in 2021 online on the Disney World website. Tickets are available right now through December 31, 2021.
If you are an Annual Passholder you already have your park admission covered, just remember to check blockout days depending on the type of annual pass you have.
Getting Park Pass Reservations
Once you have your park admission, you also need to make a Park Pass reservation. These are two separate things and the reservations are free, but both are required.
It’s very important to know that you CAN’T get into the parks without a park pass reservation.
Disney started the Park Pass system due to the current limited capacity of the theme parks. It’s necessary to control the number of people they let in each day, and it’s a much better system than just waiting until a theme park hits its limit at which point you are forced to send people away.
There is different availability depending on which type of park ticket you have (Annual Pass, Regular Park Ticket, or Disney Hotel Guest), but for the most part EPCOT usually isn’t sold out.
There are some restrictions on how many park pass reservations you can have at once.
- Disney World Resort guests can have reservations for each day of their hotel stay.
- Annual passholders are limited to 3 at a time.
You can make reservations on the Disney World website, just remember, you’ll need to have a valid park admission before making a park reservation.
TIP: EPCOT is the easiest park to make last-minute park pass reservations to, so if you are a local, use this to your advantage
Read our post on How to Make Disney World Park Reservations for a detailed walkthrough on the new system.
Park Hopping is Back
One of the biggest bummers when the parks reopened, was that Park Hopping was temporarily suspended.
This was bad news for anyone like us that like to go to one of the parks in the morning, head back to the room for a nap, and then over to EPCOT in the evening for dinner.
That however has recently changed and Park Hopping has now returned to Disney World starting January 1, 2021.
There are still some restrictions however as the parks still have capacity limits. To understand the latest changes read our post on Park Hopping at Walt Disney World where we break it all down.
We are obviously happy to have this option back and EPCOT especially will benefit from thousands of guests who like to come to the park in the evening for the many dining options after visiting a different park the same day.
Usually, EPCOT has 9:00 am openings and 9:00 closing times, with the park staying open even later on days with Extra Magic Hours or during the busy season. However, like all the other Disney Parks right now EPCOT has greatly reduced hours.
Here is the upcoming EPCOT Park Hours:
- From Now through January 9 – 11:00 am to 9:00 pm daily
- From January 10 through Jan 23 – 11:00 am to 8:00 pm daily
- From January 24 through March 20 – 11:00 am to 7:00 pm daily
Starting in January, EPCOT hours were reduced with openings at 11:00 am and closings from 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm daily. These are the new Winter Hours starting up at Walt Disney World with all parks getting a significant reduction after the holidays.
We don’t know if those will be the final hours for EPCOT or if park times will be changed again and possibly extended as the weeks go on. It’s possible all hours will be extended to 9:00 pm if there are enough guests coming to the park.
TIP: Disney’s new Early Theme Park Entry for Walt Disney World Resort hotel guests allows you access to the theme parks 30 minutes earlier than the scheduled opening time. Make sure to take advantage of this if you are staying on-site.
We’ll keep an eye on it and let you know as soon as we find out more.
Are you ready to head into EPCOT? Let’s see what it’s like…
The entrance arrival experience is definitely different than before. The first thing before even leaving the parking lot, you will notice the face mask dispensers set up in case you forgot yours at home. They cost $2 each.
Signs are up all along the walkway as you approach the entrance telling you about all the new safety and health measures in effect.
Now that we’re through security, let’s head to the turnstiles.
On our trips to EPCOT crowds were low and there wasn’t much crowding at all to get in.
If you haven’t been to EPCOT in a while, the whole entrance to EPCOT has been re-done and it is now a much smoother experience. The new security checkpoint at the EPCOT entrance is working and guests were moving through quickly without many holdups.
The turnstiles are just as quick and unless you are there at rope drop you shouldn’t find many people in front of you at all.
Once you tap in and enter the park, you find yourself in the new EPCOT Entrance Plaza. Work has been going on here for over a year now and the the layout is completely different.
You may notice the huge Leave a Legacy monuments are gone, and Disney is putting more emphasis into making the entrance green with lots of trees and flower beds.
The centerpiece of the plaza is the re-done fountain right before reaching Spaceship Earth. It’s a throwback to the original EPCOT fountain and we couldn’t be happier with the way it’s turned out. We just love those old school acrylic prisms!
The fountain is now open and it offers so many awesome photo opportunities both during the day at night (when we can actually still be here at night).
Just like in the other parks, not all of the attractions in EPCOT are currently open, though most of them are. Right now there are a total of 19 open attractions on the list, meaning you can visit all but 2 right now. Attractions have never been EPCOT’s strong suit, but at least almost everything they have is open right now.
Let’s check out what’s open, what’s not open, and then how some attractions are different after reopening.
- Awesome Planet
- Beauty and the Beast Sing-Along
- Canada Far and Wide in Circle-Vision 360
- Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival
- Friendship Lagoon Boats
- Frozen Ever After
- Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros
- Impressions de France
- Journey Into Imagination with Figment
- Kidcot (modified)
- Living with the Land
- Mission: SPACE
- Reflections of China
- Soarin’ Around the World
- Spaceship Earth
- Test Track
- The American Adventure
- The Seas with Nemo & Friends
- Walt Disney Imagineering presents the Epcot Experience
- Turtle Talk with Crush
- Project Tomorrow: Inventing the Wonders of the Future
Even though EPCOT doesn’t have the most attractions of all the parks, all the big ones are open and running fine for the most part, though some like Frozen and Test Track have had small maintenance issues.
The only attractions closed at EPCOT right now are Turtle Talk with Crush and Project Tomorrow (if you want to consider it an attraction. Turtle Talk should be coming back soon but we expect Project Tomorrow to stay closed until a refurbishment happens to Spaceship Earth.
We’re happy that at least most of the best rides at EPCOT are open once again and will now stay that way.
Attraction Reports & Wait Times
Thankfully, wait times at EPCOT have been extremely low since reopening, in fact, it’s the park with the second-lowest wait times behind only Animal Kingdom.
The Big 3: Test Track, Frozen Ever After, and Soarin’ Around the World are all on average 30 minutes or less making them easy to get on multiple times per day. Of all the rides in EPCOT, Test Track has the highest wait times at around 30-35 minutes and Frozen Ever After averaging 25-30,
For the most part, wait times have gone up since the reopening, but now that we are in Winter when things are slower, they will probably be reduced.
Beyond those 3 rides, you don’t have to worry much about wait times in the other attractions. The majority never go above 10-15 minutes, and many are walk-ons at all hours of the day outside the “busy” period from 12:00 pm – 3:00 pm.
Park-wide, wait times are lowest in the first hour of EPCOT opening, then they spike for a few hours until mid-afternoon and then drop lower until closing. As we now have even further reduced park hours we’re interested to see what this will do.
We’ve also discovered that wait times are usually much lower than what they are listed at when you enter the queues, and often a listed 30-minute wait, in reality, is only 15. This has been consistent with all 4 parks.
Frozen Ever After
This has steadily been one of the two most popular rides in EPCOT since it opened in 2016, and it remains that way after reopening.
We’ve seen average wait times of 30 minutes or so which seems strange since the line is often out the door and into the plaza. That’s due to the distancing set up in the attraction queue and everything moves very quickly.
There are also protective plexiglas barriers set up in the queue since it’s indoors and in a small space. Get used to these because most attractions have them.
The boats are being loaded with fewer guests, only the front and back rows are being used with the middle rows left open.
Test Track is the other most popular ride in EPCOT, and like Frozen it’s been averaging about 30 minutes, but less first thing in the morning or later in the day.
The queue here also has plenty of plexiglass barriers:
The interactive pre-show where you build your car has been disabled at this time for obvious reasons.
Let’s head into the ride loading area where more distancing is set up.
Like on many other attractions, the ride vehicles for Test Track are being cleaned frequently and only guests together in the same group are being loaded into the vehicles together.
Yes, masks are obligatory even on thrill attractions like this one.
After the ride is over, we find the interactive features of the post-show also turned off, but the cars are still viewable.
Soarin’ Around the World
Just from the first two attractions, you see a big drop in wait time for Soarin’ Around the World, which has average wait times below 20 minutes, and even 10 minutes if you go early or late.
The queue has plenty of distancing markers:
And those plexiglass barriers are here too once you get to the loading area:
Even the ride vehicles have plexiglass dividers between seats:
Another big change is there are no scents on any of the scenes which is a big part of the ride imo.
Spaceship earth was supposed to close down in May and start a massive refurbishment project, completely overhauling the classic ride. Due to budget cuts, that isn’t happening right now and Spaceship Earth is back open once again. At least we can ride it a few more times again before the change.
Waits for Spaceship Earth are almost inexistent and rarely have wait times more than 10 minutes. The ride itself is pretty much the same except the scent in the Rome scene had been turned off, but is now back again.
Once you leave the ride, Project Tomorrow is totally shut down. Even before the closure, most of the machines here weren’t working, and it looks like they are packing it in until the refurbishment starts where this whole area is getting gutted.
Living with the Land
The Living with the Land queue is like all the others with a socially distanced queue and plexiglass barriers up throughout.
The boats have been modified and now have plexiglass dividers between rows. It’s a little cumbersome and we find it distorts your view somewhat. They could have done what they did in Frozen and just put fewer guests in each boats.
The biggest change with Mission: SPACE besides the distanced queue is they only load from the same party into each ride vehicle. The interactive Advanced Training Lab has also been turned off.
Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros
The Gran Fiesta Tour had an interesting start as the José Carioca animatronic was having mechanical problems and went missing for a couple of weeks. The problem was fixed and he’s now back in place once again.
The small queue utilizes the plexiglass dividers and the boats are loaded with fewer guests and cleaned before each new loading. Wait times are usually 5 minutes.
The Seas with Nemo & Friends
Another super easy ride to get on with waits between 5 and 10 minutes. The queue has distanced markers on the ground for guests:
It also has plexiglass dividers:
The other exhibits in The Seas pavilion are cleaned often by Cast Members, especially in the high-touch areas.
Journey Into Imagination with Figment
Journey Into Imagination with Figment averages less than a 10-minute wait to get on, and we have been getting on even faster.
Guests are loaded one group per ride vehicle as these are small to begin with.
All the interactive areas of the post-show are turned off at the moment.
Impressions de France/Beauty and the Beast Sing-Along
Right now this is a split attraction with Beauty and the Beast Sing-Along running for most of the day and Impressions de France only available for a few showings during the last hour of each day. Don’t get us started on that one….
Both the theater and the lobby have greatly reduced capacity.
Awesome Planet is running in The Land pavilion.
There is a distanced queue leading into the lobby area where places to wait are clearly marked.
Inside the theater many of the seats are blocked off and it’s easy to tell where you can sit.
Changes to World Showcase Pavilions
All 11 of the EPCOT World Showcase pavilions are “open,” but we’re using that word lightly since many of them are like walking through a ghost town.
The problem is as we brought out earlier is that almost all of the international Cast Members were sent home months ago, leaving the World Showcase pavilions understaffed as less immersive than they once were.
China is one pavilion where the change is felt most as the restaurants are all closed along with many shops. The only thing open right now is Reflections of China. It’s like you stepped into an alternate universe…very weird indeed!
The lack of cultural representation is felt in all the other countries too…France, Japan, Morocco, etc. Not saying that it’s still not fun to quietly stroll through World Showcase, it’s still one of our favorite places in Disney World.
However, with no international Cast Members and many restaurants and shops closed, it just doesn’t have the same feel to it as before. Maybe we’ll get used to it the more we go, but here’s hoping they come back soon.
EPCOT like the other parks has very limited entertainment choices at the moment. Again, you take the simple things for granted once you don’t have them anymore.
Something simple like strolling the World Showcase promenade and stopping at the numerous street performers has always been a favorite EPCOT pastime. Unfortunately, for the time being, that isn’t happening.
Besides the performers not being available, character meets are closed throughout the park. You will have opportunities to see them but from a distance and not close enough to hug them or to get an autograph.
Disney has replaced this with the new Character Cavalcades in each park, and in EPCOT there are three separate motorcades and ride randomly down the World Showcase promenade with your favorite characters. Included are Mickey, Minnie and Friends, plus a bunch of the Disney princesses.
Thankfully, Mariachi Cobra and the JAMMitors play throughout the day at the America Gardens Theater. Seating is clearly marked and some rows closed off.
Here is a list of the EPCOT Entertainment you can expect to see during your visit and also what’s not opening at this time…
- America Gardens Theatre Presents… featuring popular EPCOT performers such as:
- Mariachi Cobre
- Character Cavalcades throughout the day, featuring favorite Disney friends traveling around World Showcase promenade—including:
- Frozen Promenade
- Mickey & Friends World Tour
- Princess Promenade
- Character Meets
- British Revolution
- Entertainment at Canada Mill Stage
- EPCOT Forever
- Jeweled Dragon Acrobats
- Rose & Crown Pub Musician
- Serveur Amusant
- Viva Mexico
- Voices of Liberty
Families will be upset about the absence of character meets, and unfortunately at this time we have no idea when they will be coming back. If it’s a big part of your family’s theme park experience, you might want to wait and book your next trip when they are running again.
During festival season we definitely miss the Eat to the Beat concert series. They were so much fun to watch and brought a lot of energy into World Showcase which now is pretty dead. Some guests like it that way, and we do to at times, but we also enjoy grabbing some food, a drink and watching the nightly shows.
We also really miss the Awesome Live Mix featuring the Guardians of the Galaxy which is one of the most high-energy shows EPCOT normally does.
There are also no nighttime spectaculars going on right now in Walt Disney World, and that means EPCOT Forever isn’t running. That’s the hardest one for us since we love to grab a spot around World Showcase Lagoon and watch the fireworks off to finish our night anytime we visit EPCOT.
No word yet on when this is coming back or how long Disney Harmonious, the new replacement fireworks show has been delayed.
As we mentioned, there is still a way to see the Disney characters even though there are no character meets. The Character Cavalcades. These have been a pleasant surprise in all 4 parks and we hope they stick around in some for even after things go back to normal, especially in a park like EPCOT which doesn’t have a formal parade.
The three motorcades in EPCOT are: Mickey & Friends World Tour, the Frozen Promenade and the Princess Promenade.
Mickey & Friends World Tour – Goofy leads the way here with Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse in a travel-themed Rolls Royce and Pluto following not too far behind.
Princess Promenade – Princesses like Belle, Aurora, Snow White, Jasmine and more ride along in a horse-driven caravan greeting guests.
Frozen Promenade – Lastly, Anna and Elsa make their way down World Showcase Promenade, Anna from her caravan and Elsa on foot.
There were also special Christmas Character Cavalcades going on during the holiday season:
- Santa Claus Promenade
Even if you don’t catch a character procession, there are a couple more opportunities to see characters in EPCOT.
Winnie the Pooh and Joy from Inside Out – These two can be found in Future World hanging out and playing in the grass. Winnie the Pooh over by the Imagination! pavilion and Joy in the butterfly gardens. They are both hit or miss and no schedules are posted, so keep checking throughout the day.
Alice and Mary Poppins – Both of these lovely ladies can be found in the gazebo, in the back of the U.K. pavilion. They alternate appearances and you might be able to get a distanced selfie with them.
To learn more about how to find all the characters now, read our guide to the Disney Character Cavalcades in the Disney Parks.
As we mentioned earlier, not all dining locations are currently open in EPCOT, but it still has three-quarters of the 50+ restaurants available.
If you aren’t in the mood for a meal, you c