With only a handful of attractions and a totally different vibe than the other three Disney theme parks in Orlando, Epcot requires a different strategy for success. Guests often prioritize restaurants, festivals, and even leisurely strolls over the thrill rides. Get a more advanced lesson in touring Epcot, with FastPass+ strategies, favorite restaurants, character meet-and-greets, and a sneak peek at how the park will change in the next few years.
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If you are new to Epcot, be sure to check out our Epcot 101 episode for an overview of the basics of this park. In Epcot 101, we covered the Tier 1 Fastpass attractions in Epcot – Soarin’, Test Track, and Frozen Ever After. We also talked about the seasonal festivals that seem to be consuming an increasing amount of time on the Epcot calendar as well as a few top dining picks.
Since publishing our Epcot 101 episode, Disney moved a fourth attraction into Tier 1 – the Epcot Character Spot. This character meet-and-greet in Future World features Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy in a single line and can be a smart pick for families with younger kids who prioritize character time.
Tier 2 Epcot Attractions
So what about the rest of the Fastpass rides in Epcot? Disney guests are only allowed to pre-book one Tier 1 Fastpass+ attraction out of the three Fastpasses they are allotted. That leaves two slots that can be booked with Tier 2 attractions. (If you don’t know how Fastpass+ works or know about the parks that have Fastpass tiers, see our Fastpass+ Basics episode first).
Epcot Tier 2 attractions currently include: Spaceship Earth, Turtle Talk with Crush, Journey into the Imagination, the Seas with Nemo and Friends, Living with the Land, and the Pixar Movie Shorts. If you are familiar with these attractions, you probably know these are fairly slim pickings. These aren’t attractions that will regularly have much of a wait anyway.
If rides are your priority, how do you allocate your Fastpasses to have an efficient Epcot day? We recommend booking all three of your Fastpasses fairly early in the day. Epcot regularly has same-day availability for some of the Tier 1 Fastpasses later in the day. The key is therefore to use up all three of your pre-booked Fastpasses in the morning (or let them expire) so you are then eligible to book more in the afternoon. It’s entirely possible to snag an afternoon or evening ride on Soarin’, Test Track, and even occasionally the still-very-popular Frozen Ever After with this strategy.
World Showcase Restaurants & Touring
No matter where you dine in Epcot, you can rarely go wrong with most of the restaurants. The restaurants of World Showcase are a major draw for visitors to the park and many guests come only for the dining. Leslie recommends Teppan Edo in Japan and Biergarten in Germany for sit down options. Joe loves La Cava del Tequila in Mexico, although he can rarely get in thanks to long lines.
Even if you aren’t dining or are just grabbing bites to eat here and there, World Showcase is an attraction unto itself worth of time for a long stroll and time to explore. Here are a few highlights in several country pavilions worthy of a stop:
- Mexico: Make time for a ride on the Gran Fiesta Tour featuring the Three Caballeros. It’s one of the very few attractions in Epcot that doesn’t offer Fastpass, but lines are rarely long. It’s a slow boat ride where it’s easy to cool off or lull a baby to sleep at naptime.
- China: Joe recommends Tipsy Ducks in Love as an adult beverage that includes coffee, bourbon, and chocolate.
- Germany: Two words – Werther’s popcorn. Five more words – With chocolate drizzle and stroopwafel. Joe says don’t wait in the long line for the fresh version. He grabs a bag or two and checks out in the Christmas ornament line to save time.
- Italy: Look for regular shows in Saint Mark’s Square in the entertainment guide.
- Japan: Try to catch Matsuriza, the Taiko drums show (check the entertainment guide or Disney World app for times).
- USA: The American pavilion is home to a patriotic show, The American Adventure. There is also a new exhibition featuring Native American history.
- Morocco: Tangierine Café is one of the most unique counter service restaurants in Disney World.
- France: For a treat, stop in L’Artisan des Glaces for ice cream. The indoor show Impressions de France is also another good place to cool off during hot times of day and is one of the better shows in Epcot.
Epcot Character Dining & Meet-and-Greets
With fewer rides, Epcot has also become the park for characters, elevating its appeal for families with younger kids.
Epcot is home to two character meals: Akershus in the Norway pavilion in World Showcase and Garden Grill in the Living with the Land pavilion in Future World.
Akershus is the place to see princesses, but the food is not fantastic – it’s regularly one of the lowest rated character meals for food. Guests often use an early morning reservation as a way to be first in line to ride Frozen Ever After, making this reservation still quite competitive.
Garden Grill is one of the only spots to meet Chip N Dale in Disney World. It’s often an easier reservation to get.
There’s not necessarily a need to do a character meal if you want to overdose on character meet-and-greets. Epcot has a lot. In addition to the Epcot Character Spot that is a Tier 1 Fastpass attraction, kids can regularly see Elsa and Anna (Norway), Belle (France), Joy and Sadness (extended character spot in Future World), Mulan (China), Donald Duck (Mexico), Baymax (extended character spot in Future World), Alice in Wonderland (UK), Sleeping Beauty (France), and Pluto (Epcot entrance).
Check the Disney World app for characters, times, and exact locations. It is often a good strategy for line up about 15 minutes before the character is due to appear. You’ll often wait less than you will after a line has already formed.
What’s Coming to Epcot Next: Future Expansion Plans
Epcot is going to be expanding and changing a lot in the coming years, almost assuredly in time for Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary in 2021. Look for a Ratatouille ride coming to the France pavilion. Illuminations, the night time show over the water in World Showcase, will be getting a reboot as well.
Finally, Universe of Energy has closed and will be becoming a brand new Guardians of the Galaxy coaster. If you know Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout! in Disney California Adventure park at Disneyland, this is going to be something totally new. But we expect some of the same irreverence, awesome music, and a lot of energy around this attraction.
Leslie and Joe revisit Epcot and go more in depth about what you need to know if you’re visiting our favorite Disney park! Updates on Fastpass+ Tier 1 attractions, our preferred Fastpass+ strategy, our favorite world showcase foods and activities, a closer look at some of the restaurants, and why we love the character meet and greets. Plus, our least favorite ride in Disney do’s and don’ts and what’s next for Epcot!
If you like what you hear, please share the podcast with others you think might enjoy it. Also, we’d appreciate if you subscribed on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify, TuneIn, PlayerFM, or Google Play (please leave a positive review if you’re enjoying the show), liked our Facebook page, or followed us on Twitter!
You can also e-mail us at disneydeciphered AT gmail DOT com. Connect with Leslie @TripswithTykes on social media and Joe @asthejoeflies.
0:00 – Epcot 101 recap
2:09 – Tier 1 Fastpass+ updates
3:44 – Our Fastpass+ strategies
6:34 – Favorite World Showcase foods
10:39 – World Showcase attractions
13:40 – Restaurants and character dining
14:46 – Character meet and greets
17:23 – What’s next at Epcot?
18:41 – Disney do’s and don’tsConnect with Disney Deciphered!