For lovers of the original Epcot, you know World of Motion, Horizons and Communicore, Disney…
In our 4th and final article in the series, we take a look 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 of 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 (this has been relaxed)
Some of them are common sense and easy to follow (handwashing), while others are more cumbersome and test guests’ patience (face masks).
Currently, face masks are required in all Disney theme parks, including Disney’s Animal Kingdom, though with some exceptions.
Unvaccinated Guests – Masks are required in indoor areas and on all attractions, including thrill rides like Expedition Everest and Flight of Passage even.
Vaccinated Guests – Masks are optional in all areas of Walt Disney World and only required on Disney transportation.
Face masks are not required for any guests in outdoor areas or when consuming food or drink.
You also need to be aware that distancing is practiced throughout the park, including in the attraction queues. You may have seen the distancing markers on the ground to space guests out. This has been relaxed in recent weeks and the protective barriers and ground markers are slowly being removed from the parks.
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 somewhere above 35% of the normal capacity.
From what we’ve seen ourselves, EPCOT has been getting increasingly busier and it is probably somewhere near half capacity 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 and is happening in 2021. In fact, Food and Wine is starting on July 15, and it is one of the longest-running festival the park has ever had.
Last year there was a reduced number of food marketplaces and each of the menus was missing a few items that in a normal year would be there. These have both increased this year and are almost back to normal.
As for the other festivals in EPCOT, Disney ran all of them in 2020 and the Festival of the Arts and the Flower and Garden Festival also ran in 2021, though in a reduced form. The EPCOT Festival of the Holidays is also happening in November 2021.
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.
It looks like the countries might be getting members from the International Program back soon, 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 2021 with no word for 2022. That means no more snack credits for a while and guests will not have the option to pay for meals ahead of time. The Disney Dining Plan is coming back, we just don’t know when yet.
- 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 pm 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 July 17 – 11:00 am to 10:00 pm daily
- From July 18 through August 31 – 11:00 am to 9:00 pm daily
In June EPCOT hours have been reduced with openings at 11:00 am and closings at 10:00 pm daily. These are the new Summer Hours starting up at Walt Disney World with all parks getting an extension for now.
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 10:00 pm for the whole summer 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
When EPCOT first reopened, wait times were extremely low. In fact, it’s the park with the second-lowest wait times behind only Animal Kingdom. That has been changing however with the park getting more and more busy since the Spring.
The Big 3: Test Track, Frozen Ever After, and Soarin’ Around the World are all on average 45 minutes or less making it doable even multiple times per day. Of all the rides in EPCOT, Test Track has the highest wait times at around 50-60 minutes and Frozen Ever After averaging 45.
For the most part, wait times have gone up since the reopening, and since we are in the Summer with crowds increasing, expect to see wait times keep going up too.
Beyond those 3 rides, you don’t have to worry much about wait times in the other attractions. The majority never go above 20-25 minutes, and many are walk-ons 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 increased 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 20-25. 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 45-60 minutes 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 60 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
For a while Soarin’ Around the World had significantly lower wait times than the other “Big 3” but it too has seen increased wait times in recent months. The average wait time is usually around 45 minutes but closer to 20 minutes later in the day.
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 2020 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 20 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 10 minutes.
The Seas with Nemo & Friends
Another super easy ride to get on with waits between 10 and 15 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 20-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…
- EPCOT Forever (Returning July 1)
- 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
- 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.
At least we know that nighttime spectaculars are returning to Walt Disney World starting July 1, and that means EPCOT Forever. This is great news as we love to grab a spot around World Showcase Lagoon and watch the fireworks off to finish our night anytime we visit EPCOT.
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 can always just snack your way around World Showcase, which is what we are guilty of doing more times than not.
Right now there are 41 restaurants open in EPCOT including table service, quick service, lounges, and snack carts.
- Biergarten Restaurant
- Chefs de France
- Choza de Margarita
- Coral Reef Restaurant
- Crepes des Chefs de France
- Fife & Drum Tavern
- Funnel Cake
- Garden Grill Restaurant
- Joffrey’s Coffee & Tea Company
- Joy of Tea
- Kabuki Café
- Katsura Grill
- Kringla Bakeri Og Kafe
- L’Artisan des Glaces
- La Cantina de San Angel
- La Cava de Tequila
- La Hacienda de San Angel
- Joy of Tea
- The Land Cart
- Le Cellier Steakhouse
- Les Halles Boulangerie-Patisserie
- Les Vins des Chefs de France
- Lotus Blossom Cafe
- Popcorn in Canada
- Refreshment Outpost
- Refreshment Port
- Regal Eagle Smokehouse: Craft Drafts & Barbecue
- Rose & Crown Dining Room
- Rose & Crown Pub
- San Angel Inn Restaurante
- Spice Road Table
- Sunshine Seasons
- Teppan Edo
- Traveler’s Café
- Tutto Gusto Wine Cellar
- Tutto Italia Ristorante
- UK Beer Cart
- Via Napoli Ristorante e Pizzeria
- Yorkshire County Fish Shop
Right now there are 10 restaurants in EPCOT that are not open:
- Akershus Royal Banquet Hall
- Block & Hans
- Cool Wash
- Monsieur Paul
- Nine Dragons
- Restaurant Marrakesh
- Space 220 – Coming Soon
- Tangierine Café
- Tokyo Dining
Most of the best places to eat at EPCOT are open once again, but there are still a few restaurants we are missing a lot right now.
An EPCOT without Tangierine Cafe is a sad EPCOT, and we hope it comes back soon. Also Tokyo Dining is also a personal favorite that we would love to go to right now.
Overall we can’t complain too much about the selection of restaurants in EPCOT at this time. 41 is certainly enough to cover the needs of the greatly reduced crowds in the park right now.
Most of our favorite EPCOT table service restaurants are open. Le Cellier, Biergarten, San Angel Inn, Garden Grill, Rose & Crown, Via Napoli and Teppan Edo are all solid choices and give variety depending on which type of cuisine you are in the mood for.
EPCOT Quick service restaurants are fewer to come by, but Katsura Grill and Regal Eagle are two of your favorites and would be our first stops. Regal Eagle is seriously good and it’s vaulted up into the top 10 quick service restaurants in Disney World.
Katsura has a revamped menu and if you are looking to get away from people, the secluded garden in the back of the Japan pavilion still is one of the most peaceful places in any of the parks.
Here are a few of the other restaurants of note since returning.
Thankfully, Sunshine Seasons have a huge seating area, so finding a table is not a problem, and as you can see from the above photo, the tables are well-spaced from each other. The only bad thing is the extremely limited menu right now.
The Garden Grill is one of the only character meals still running in Disney World right now, but the experience is different than normal. Characters here don’t come to your table, but the wave down at guests from above at a safe distance.
The characters include: Mickey, Pluto, and Chip ‘n’ Dale.
La Cava del Tequila
This is always a must-stop on our trip around World Showcase as they serve the best tequila drinks in Disney World. All drinks are to-go now and drinks are served in plastic cups. If you can find an empty spot inside the pyramid you can stay there, otherwise you can take it outside.
This is just one of the many restaurants that have the menu available to guests by QR code so you can scan and read it on your phone.
The biggest disappointment with EPCOT dining has been the closure of Tangierine Cafe. The restaurant is run by a third-party company and there just hasn’t been enough foot traffic to keep the restaurant open at this time.
Let’s hope the closure is only a temporary one and we’ll be having some delicious shawarma again very soon!
For more info about the changes to dining right now, read our post about Disney World Restaurants after reopening.
Just walking through EPCOT, you notice many of the stores are not open at this time. The shopping experience has changed in Disney World as shoppers have had to wait in a distanced queue to enter the stores, or a virtual queue in some cases. Disney is slowly eliminating the distanced queues so it might be back to normal by the time you go.
Shoppers are encouraged not to touch the merchandise unless they are seriously considering buying it. Contactless forms of payment are accepted and plexiglass shields are up at the cash register between Cast Members and guests.
The following shops are open in EPCOT:
- African Heritage
- Arribas Brothers
- Art of Disney
- Baby Care
- Canada Cart
- China Kiosk
- Disney Traders
- Galerie Des Halles
- Gateway Gifts
- Glas Und Porcellan
- Karamell Kuche
- La Bottega Italiana
- Mexico Indoor Plaza
- Mission: SPACE Cargo
- Mouse Gear Temporary Location
- Pin Traders – Camera Center
- Port of Entry
- Puffin’s Roost
- Sea Base Alpha Gift Shop
- Strollers & Wheelchairs
- Tea Caddy
- Test Track Simporium
- Wood Carver
- World Traveler
Since construction started on World Celebration in 2019, the popular merchandise store Mouse Gear closed down in its original location and temporarily relocated to the Innoventions East building where it’s been open ever since.
The original Mouse Gear location is still undergoing refurbishment and it will be a main component of World Celebration when the EPCOT construction finishes.
Here is some concept art for the new Mouse Gear from the D23 Expo:
You can still find most of the same merchandise in the temporary store as you could the old one, it’s just laid out a bit differently and has a more barebones look and feel to it. We can’t wait to see what the new store looks like when it’s finished.
Pin Trading Headquarters
Long-time EPCOT fans remember this as the Camera Center. Now it has turned into Pin Trading Headquarters. There is a queue starting outside the shop.
(UPDATE) Disney has since discontinued the relaxation stations in the parks.
Having to wear face masks while visiting EPCOT is probably the biggest, and most cumbersome change for guests. Anticipating that not all guests will be able to go all day in a theme park without a break from face coverings.
Face masks are not required however in outdoor areas, when consuming food or drink or when in one of the new “Relaxation Stations.”
There are 3 Relaxation Stations in EPCOT and they are located at:
- Akershus Royal Banquet Hall (Norway Pavilion, World Showcase)
- Morocco Pavilion
- Between Mission: Space and Test Track (Future World East)
- Yorkshire County Fish Shop – Outdoor seating at UK Pavilion, World Showcase (Closed)
Hand sanitizer is located in all three locations, as well as plenty of signage and distancing markers.
Out of the three locations we prefer the the section between Mission: SPACE and Test Track since staying outdoors when taking off your mask seems like the better choice.
The one in the U.K. pavilion offered more shade and tables to sit at, whereas the one in Future World is standing tables and little shade. The If you want A/C though, head to Akershus.
Overall mask-wearing in EPCOT has been on par with the other Disney Parks. 99% of the people follow the rules and are respectful of others, and there are a few who you find every now and then trying not to wear them.
For the most part the Cast Members have been good at telling people who aren’t following the proper mask-eating rules to change what they are doing. Most of the time it goes well expect the man who attacked a security guard who was told his family needed to change masks.
To learn more, read our article on Face Masks at Disney World – FAQs and Tips, where we explain everything you need to know about them.
Construction in EPCOT in 2021
It’s no secret that a massive overhaul is going on in EPCOT right now with much of the park behind construction walls. We aren’t going to sugar-coat anything here, it’s unmissable how much work is going on and in the front half of EPCOT it’s impossible to get a real sense of immersion at this time.
Hollywood Studios just went through a similar situation being tied up in construction for 4+ years before getting to the point they are now. EPCOT is going through a similar phase and right now, unfortunately, we are still near the beginning of the work.
The biggest part of the work is focused in the old Future World, which is getting split-up into three separate lands. Construction walls are up everywhere here and if you get the feeling of being a rat with all the mazes, at least Remy is in good company.
The closure set things back, especially the budget, and you can expect to see construction in EPCOT into 2023 at this point. Here is a list of the biggest projects underway right now in EPCOT:
The entrance to the park has been under construction since 2019 but is nearing completion now. The new drop-offs for the trams are finished, along with the new and improved security checks, making the process much simpler now.
We like the way Disney got rid of the ugly stone monuments in the entrance plaza. We know many families had their names on them, but they were horrendous to look at and we dig the new green look much more. Disney is currently transferring all those names to another location outside the entrance so stay tuned there.
The new fountain is also finished and we absolutely LOVE it! Now there are only a few minor things before the whole entrance is completed.
World Celebration/Future World
This is where things get really messy. This whole area of the park is surrounded by walls and inaccessible right now. Guests are routed around the middle, either to Future World East or West and to the desired attractions there.
Since Disney announced the budget cuts, a lot is up-in-the-air for World Celebration and Disney hasn’t updated us yet on what is getting cut. You can say goodbye to that multi-story festival center though as Disney has already removed the model from the EPCOT Experience. What will replace it remains a mystery.
Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind
This is EPCOT’s biggest and most exciting new attraction. Progress on the Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind coaster is now back up and running as Disney continues to prepare this highly anticipated E-Ticket attraction.
It was supposed to be ready to open in 2021, but now it won’t be opening until 2022. This will be the crowning jewel of the park during the 50th Anniversary celebration so Imagineers will be working around the clock to make this happen.
Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure
The entire section of land behind the France pavilion is getting an addition including a new restaurant, shops and of course a ratatouille ride brought over from Disneyland Paris. This was supposed to debut in Summer 2020, but the construction on Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure also hit a setback due to the closure.
This new ride is opening on October 1, 2021, so at least one attraction is getting crossed off the list for sure.
Little is known about the Play! Pavilion at this time, only that it will be a group of virtual experiences in the former home of the Wonders of Life pavilion. Most of the construction is happening inside, so it’s hard to see how far along it is.
One of the details was revealed recently as it looks like we could be getting a monorail attraction of some kind when it opens. No opening date has been given yet.
The Future World side of EPCOT is light on restaurants, but one that is coming is truly out-of-this-world…the Space 220 restaurant.
The premise of Space 220 is that you are blasted up to a space station and get to enjoy the most unique dining experience in Disney World. We honestly don’t know when Space 220 is opening as it was supposed to open in Winter 2020, but it has been plagued by delays, then the park closure on top of that. The rumor is Fall 2021 so we hope it’s ready to go by then!
Stay up to date with all the construction projects in Disney World here including opening dates and more.
Transportation to EPCOT
There are a few options for transportation to EPCOT depending on where you are coming from and if you are staying off-site or not.
Going to EPCOT by Car is easy enough and you will have no problem finding a parking spot. Car is by far the best way to travel at the moment if you are trying to minimize contact with others, which isn’t always possible on Disney transportation.
If you are staying at an EPCOT-area hotel (Boardwalk Inn, Yacht & Beach Club or Swan and Dolphin), or on the Disney Skyliner route (Pop Century, Caribbean Beach, Riviera Resort and Art of Animation) then you have a few options.
If you are in that first group, it means you are within walking distance of EPCOT and that is your only choice at the moment. The Friendship boats are also back up and running from these hotels if you prefer.
If you are on the Skyliner route, then that is the best option and we recommend it since it’s our favorite form of transportation right now in Disney World.
While the Monorail is running on the Magic Kingdom loop, it is NOT currently bringing guests to EPCOT. That means if you are staying in one of the Magic Kingdom hotels you need to take a bus to EPCOT, and the same goes for any other hotels not already listed.
Read our post on Disney World Transportation changes where we explain everything you need to know.
Best Hotels to Stay for Going to EPCOT
Of course, if you plan on spending a lot of time in EPCOT during your stay, you should opt for one of the EPCOT-area hotels or one on the Skyliner route. This makes it convenient and easy to get to, and since guests are only being loaded one group at a time on the Skyliner, your risks are minimized.
Staying close to EPCOT means you can go back and forth as many times as you want to the Food and Wine Festival (as long as you have a Park Pass for EPCOT that day). We do this often from the Beach Club and that way we can try as many snacks as possible.
Another nice thing about staying near EPCOT, it means you are also close to Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Since Rise of the Resistance is such a big draw, you’re going to want to dedicate a significant portion of your trip there and exploring Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
Read more about staying at a Disney World Hotel after reopening in our recent post where we cover all the details.
Like all Disney World parks not named Hollywood Studios, EPCOT has experienced extremely low crowds in 2020. At times it was even difficult to get anyone but locals to come to the park.
The first reason for that is the same as it is for the other parks, people just weren’t coming to Disney World. There was some traffic during the summer and things picked up even more during the holiday season, but it was mostly from Orlando-area residents who are looking for something fun to do after being stuck at home for so long.
So far in 2021 things have made big strides forward with more and more guests coming to the parks. It got busier in the Spring and so far into the Summer. We expect this trend to continue into the Fall when the 50th Anniversary celebration starts and lots of pent-up travelers will come visit.
That said, EPCOT has been right there with the Animal Kingdom for the lowest attended park. Just to show how crazy things have been, the average wait time across the board for EPCOT attractions since the reopening has been only 20-25 minutes.
Since there have been festivals almost every month World Showcase traffic has picked up and it’s no longer the empty wasteland it was in 2020.
As usual, the weekends are more crowded. Locals tend to come more for the festivals, making the EPCOT feel a bit more full. Wait times also increase by about 50-60% on average on Saturday and Sunday. For that reason, we would suggest visiting during the week for the least crowds, especially early in the week is best.
As far as times of the day, the first hour after opening is always the least busy, then things get more crowded until about 4:00 pm-5:00 pm before dying down again until park closure. Again, EPCOT is not quite as busy compared to normal times, and unless you come on the weekend and in the middle of the day, crowds will be significantly lower than what you’re used to.
Check our Disney Crowd Calendar for a closer look at crowd expectations for the rest of the year and beyond in all the Disney World parks.
I’ll be perfectly honest, having a specific plan right now just isn’t as important as it usually is. You can just show up at EPCOT with no touring plan at all and still have a fantastic day. That being said, we’ve put together some tips that will help you get the most out of your day in the current situation.
Rope Drop Not As Important Here
At Hollywood Studios for example, rope drop is still a vital part of your touring plan, at EPCOT, not so much. You can wander into the park at midday and still get all the main attractions done that you want.
I will say that Test Track has been having maintenance issues since reopening, and it might be better to go early just in case it breaks down later in the day and doesn’t come back online.
If you are going to rope drop EPCOT right now, the ride you go for first will depend on which entrance you are coming from. In both cases
Main Entrance – If coming from the main entrance of the park, head to Test Track first then over to Frozen Ever After.
International Gateway – If coming from the Disney Skyliner or EPCOT Resort area and in through the International Gateway, head to Frozen Ever After first and then Test Track.
In both cases these two attractions are going to be your first two, just invert the order depending on where you com in.
Wait Times Drop At the End of the Day
If you aren’t there at rope drop, no worry. You should be able to do everything no problem anyway and especially in the last couple of hours of the day the lines die down even more. So if you didn’t do one of the big ones early on, you can get it before going home.
Stay Late for Dinner
Since EPCOT is opening late now, your time in the park is greatly reduced. The Summer hours are going to be 11:00 am to 9:00 pm, which means you can get a late start.
If park closing is really early like 7:00 pm, try booking dinner as close to 7:00 pm as possible. Don’t waste time eating in the early evening (5:00 pm or 6:00 pm, use that time to go on rides and then have dinner at the end. This way you will be seated right when the attractions are all closing down.
EPCOT Best on a Weekday
While not as big of a difference as normal, weekdays are still much less crowded in comparison to weekends in EPCOT. That means lower wait times and fewer people to deal with. This is also true for the Magic Kingdom and the Animal Kingdom.
If you are here for a week and doing multiple parks, put Hollywood Studios on the weekend since it always is full, and leave the other parks for the weekdays.
Visiting any of the Walt Disney World theme parks right now requires a level of patience. There are a bunch of new rules to get used to, face masks to struggle with and not to mention the Florida heat.
Everyone, including Cast Members are still trying to get used to the new changes, so go into your trip knowing that things will be a little different than usual and possibly not as convenient as they usually are.
Our overall experience at EPCOT since reopening has been a good one, though still the strangest out of the 4 parks. We love the atmosphere of World Showcase, and there is some advantage of having it seemingly all to yourself as you stroll through. EPCOT to me is also the safest-feeling park with the wide walkway around World Showcase Lagoon.
We also love the low wait times that are here pretty much all the time, and having Food and Wine open is always a draw that keeps us coming back. We also hope the character cavalcades stick around, they add some needed fun to the park.
The biggest downer for us is the lack of international Cast Members, who we feel do a tremendous job in creating the wonderful environment in EPCOT that we are so used to.
The construction is a negative too, but if you spend your time in World Showcase and come for dinner, it is easier to overlook. We definitely will be coming back to EPCOT more in the coming months so stay tuned.
I want to know what you think about our Guide to EPCOT after reopening…
- When are you going to EPCOT?
- Which changes are you most happy/sad about?
Let us know in the comments section below!
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