EPCOT Park at Walt Disney World is best known for the World Showcase, annual festivals, and favorite rides. But as the best Disney park for Adults, this park gets crowded after 4 pm and is crazy on the weekends. As such planning, your 1 Day at EPCOT will require a strategy. If you’re looking for how to do EPCOT in one day, this Itinerary can help you maximize your day in the park.
Walt Disney World has changed a lot in the last few years. And with the addition of Lightning Lane and Disney Genie+ getting onto rides has become more complicated. So, how can you strategically plan your day to where you actually get to do everything you want to do?
From deciding your top rides, to where you’re going to eat and which restaurants will need reservations, to shows, fireworks, and more. There is so much to do that a few decisions upfront can make your One day in EPCOT easy, fun, and manageable! Get ready to plan your day.
When does EPCOT Open?
EPCOT is typically open from 8:30 am to 9 pm, But hours vary. There are some times throughout the year when EPCOT does not open until 11 am, and stays open until 11 pm, so keep an eye on park hours.
Be sure to arrive at EPCOT at least 30 minutes prior to opening. If you’re staying at a Disney Resort you’ll have access to both Early Theme Park Entry and Extra Evening Hours throughout your stay. Check the 5-day Disney Calendar for the schedule.
Planning EPCOT Rides for One Day
With the arrival of Disney Genie+ and Lightning Lane Passes there are many different options for riding rides at EPCOT. But never fear, there are many ways to get on your favorite rides. Check out our Disney Ride Strategies post for all your options.
What are Disney Genie+ and Lightning Lane?
This new service and skip the line ride pass system have replaced FastPass throughout all of Walt Disney World. This allows you to wait in a “shorter” line than the regular standby line and therefore add more rides to your day.
And while you can use the Disney Genie service as part of your My Disney Experience app, to help plan your park day the paid version gets you access to 2 Lightning Lanes. Disney Genie+ is a service you pay for, daily, for each person in your party who will want to take advantage of the Lightning Lane Passes. Disney Genie+ Lightning Lane Passes only include certain rides. As part of Disney Genie+, you can only hold one Lightning Lane reservation at a time. And you can’t choose what time your Disney Genie+ Lightning Lane reservation is for, which makes planning your EPCOT day tough.
If you are a Disney Resort guest then you get to make Disney Genie+ and Lightning Lane reservations early- at 7 am- which means you have a better chance of getting your highest priority ride.
Read about the Rides included in Disney Genie+ at Walt Disney World.
An alternative to purchasing Disney Genie+ for everyone in your travel party is to purchase Individual Lightning Lane Passes. These passes are most costly than Disney Genie+ but do include different rides that may be on your EPCOT day bucket list.
Read about the rides included in Individual Lightning Lane.
What are the Best Rides at EPCOT?
If you only have one day at EPCOT your time is limited! Especially if you’re visiting during an EPCOT festival. And so much of it will depend on crowds. And some rides are naturally more crowded than others.
Virtual Queue and Individual Lightning Lane afterward
Guardians of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind Rollercoaster Opens May 27, 2022.
- Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure
- Frozen Ever After
- Test Track
- Mission Space
- Journey into Imagination with Figment
- Spaceship Earth
- The Seas with Nemo and Friends
- Anna and Elsa at the Royal Sommerhaus
- Gran Fiesta Tour with the Three Caballeros
- Living with the Land
- Turtle Talk with Crush
What are the Best Rides to Use Disney Genie+ for in EPCOT?
These rides are the best rides to try for if you’re using Disney Genie+. And overall, EPCOT rides you’ll want to add to your 1-day itinerary regardless.
- Test Track
- Mission Space
Other rides offered as part of the Disney Genie+ service are Disney short Film Festival, Journey into Imagination, Living with the Land, The Seas with Nemo and Friends, and Turtle Talk with Crush. None of these rides have long enough waits to warrant using a Disney Genie+ selection.
Is getting Disney Genie+ at EPCOT worth it?
For our time and money and we say NO. The best rides available as part of Disney Genie+ at EPCOT are Soarin, Test Track, and Mission Space. Test Track is the ride with the longest waits in this group. And the others don’t have excessively long waits to warrant the $15 per person price tag for the day. If choosing to skip Disney Genie+ we’d recommend heading for rides in the morning and during meal times for the lowest waits.
What are the Best Rides to Use Individual Lightning Lane for in EPCOT?
The rides available for purchase as part of EPCOT Individual Lightning Lane include Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure and Frozen Ever After. Regardless if you have Disney Genie+ or not, you will still need to purchase an Individual Lightning Lane pass for each of these, unless you are willing to wait in line. And while it was a fun ride, we don’t think Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure is worth an Individual Lightning Lane purchase.
Characters at EPCOT
If you’re adding characters to your day in the park, the main character visit is meeting Anna and Elsa from Frozen at the Royal Sommerhaus. This Disney character meet and greet generally has a low wait. While you can see other characters throughout the day at EPCOT, they are less scheduled and intermittently offered. Snow White in Germany, Belle and Aurora in France, Mulan in China, Mary Poppins and Alice in the UK, and more can be found across the park.
If you’re looking to meet the Disney Princesses with ease, you can book a meal at the Akershus Royal Banquet Hall. This restaurant offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner and features Belle, Aurora, Snow White, Cinderella, and Ariel. This restaurant offers a Norwegian menu, so be sure to check the menu. We like breakfast at Akershus best.
Planning EPCOT Meals for One Day
We are big fans of the Disney Dining Plan layout; the best of which is 2 quick service meals and 1 table service meal per day. This setup gives you the treat of having a special meal and is a good way to stick to your Disney Dining Budget. If getting the Disney Dining Plan as part of your Disney Vacation Package this will be built in for you as meal credits.
Breakfast at EPCOT
Depending on EPCOT hours, if you’re grabbing breakfast at EPCOT there are options. As expected, you can grab Starbucks, but we like Les Halles Boulangerie de Patisserie best. But, as one of the most popular restaurants at EPCOT plan to get in line as soon as the park opens to wait in line. An early table-service reservation at Akershus gets you close to the line at Frozen Ever After if you’re trying to rope drop that attraction. And Sunshine Seasons in The Land Building always has basic breakfasts and Mickey waffles.
Lunch at EPCOT
Lunch at EPCOT is easy to do during any of the annual festivals due to the wide variety of foods available at any of the outdoor kitchens. But, if you’re looking for something more substantial, then there are several places that are great to grab a bite during the lunch hour. Since almost all of the World Showcase countries have a quick-service restaurant, there are many to choose from. We best like La Cantina de San Angel for Mexican food, but if you’re looking for classic American food, try the Regal Eagle BBQ Smokehouse. Check out our Best Restaurants at EPCOT post for a list of ones to try, and skip!
Dinner at EPCOT
Since EPCOT becomes unbearable with crowds in the evenings, it’s the perfect time for a dinner reservation. With so many options for cultural cuisine, you can simply pick your favorite kind of food and head to the restaurant. Via Napoli in Italy is great for pizzas and pasta. Tokyo Dining in Japan is great for sushi, seafood, and miso. If you’re looking for a buffet, Biergarten in Germany is an immersive dining experience with a show.
Planning EPCOT Entertainment for One Day
Morning Shows at EPCOT
EPCOT does not offer any morning shows.
Afternoon Shows and Parades at EPCOT
Character Cavalcades at EPCOT happen intermittently throughout the park. As you generally have a better chance of seeing characters throughout the day at their posts in each country.
Matsuriza in World Showcase Japan is live entertainment that happens throughout the day and features classic Japanese drumming. Typically a 15-minute show, this is one you’ll want to stop for when you see it.
Evening Shows at EPCOT
Beacons of Magic is a digital projection show covering
Harmonious at EPCOT is a nighttime spectacular featuring projections on water and screens that set center in the lagoon. This show also features fireworks and familiar Disney favorites. This 20-minute show is able to be seen from anywhere around the lagoon. But be sure to grab a good spot without obstructions at least 30 minutes ahead of showtime.
EPCOT Park Itinerary for One Day
EPCOT is one of our favorite parks, and while you can fit it all in one day, we recommend 2 days, especially during festival times. And if you’re hoping to fit in the major rides, it’s important to figure out when, and how to ride them without a long wait. That said, if these are priorities for you, just add them in! This isn’t by any means a one-size-fits-all situation, just a template to help you get started.
If purchasing Disney Genie+ for your EPCOT plan to buy it between 12 am-7 am the day you’re hoping to use it. That way you will already have Disney Genie+ attached to your travel party before you need to select your Lightning Lane selections. This will give you your best chance at getting the ride at a decent time.
If purchasing Disney Individual Lightning Lane for Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure or Frozen Ever After you have to grab that the second you step into the park. As they will sell out by late morning.
Get there Early
Frankly, the earlier the better. Whether you’re grabbing breakfast in the park or heading to your favorite ride, being there earlier is better. It doesn’t matter how you arrive at EPCOT. By Monorail, Ferry, Walking Paths, and parking your car at the TTC are all ways of getting there. Know that the busiest times for guest arrival are typically between 10-11 am. With heavy crowds happening from 11 am- 6 pm each day. While this 1-day itinerary for EPCOT focuses on trying to complete everything before 4 pm, this is a lot easier when you get to the park early!
Do Popular Rides in the Morning
When figuring out what to do at EPCOT it’s best to aim for the top priority rides on your list early. Mainly because while crowds at EPCOT tend to stay average throughout the morning and afternoon, once 4 pm arrives, the park becomes noticeably crowded. The exception here is if you are visiting on a day with Extra Evening Hours. Knowing that if you wait until later to ride your top priority rides, you may be stuck standing in line and/or missing out on them entirely.
7:30 AM: Arrive
Breakfast: Plan an early morning breakfast reservation at Akershus, or head to Les Halles Boulangerie de Patisserie when the park opens. Note that the Starbucks line is consistently long in the mornings, so be ready to stand in line and wait if that is your breakfast choice.
30 minutes before Park Opening ( Early Theme Park Entry)
The rides included with Early Theme Park Entry at EPCOT vary seasonally. But, the main rides that make this worthwhile are Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, Frozen Ever After, Test Track, and Missions Space. Know that everyone is racing to these rides in the morning, so if the lines feel horrible to you, check back during meal times between 12-2 pm. While everyone else is eating lunch ride lines lessen.
8:00 AM: Early Entry Starts
EPCOT Park’s newest ride is Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, and everyone (everyone) races to that ride with Early Theme Park Entry. That said, we recommend against adding Remy to your morning plans. Here are the rides that will be easiest to fit into the morning.
- Frozen Ever After
- Test Track
8:30 AM: Park Opens
- Mission Space
- Seas with Nemo and Friends
- Club Cool
12:30- 1:30 PM: Rides with Long Waits
Anything you were unable to get to in the morning should be checked for wait times between 12:30-1:30 pm. This time of day has people either eating lunch or park hopping to their next park.
- Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure
Plan a Late Lunch
1:30/2 PM: Lunch
There are tons of places to eat lunch at EPCOT, perfect for any palate. Of course, visiting during a festival gives you more options. Favorite places for lunch are Katsura Grill in Japan for something light, or at Sunshine Seasons for a variety of options.
Wrap Up Late Afternoon
By late afternoon you should have tackled all your top rides. This is the time of day when you should take time for the Matsuriza show, grab a Joffrey’s Coffee, or browse around the World Showcase countries. We also recommend you head to Creations, the gift shop at the front fo of the park, as this will be crowded later.
Break for Dinner
Around this time of day, the park starts to get crowded. As a result, we recommend heading to a table-service dining reservation or taking a break at Disney’s Boardwalk. If staying in the park Chefs de France, Nine Dragons, and Spice Road Table are all good choices. If needing a break, you can head to Disney’s Boardwalk for some of the best restaurants at Walt Disney World. We like Trattoria al Forno at Disney’s Boardwalk Inn, and Ale and Compass at Yacht Club. This is also a great time for browsing the gift shops.
Evening hours are typically spent grabbing any favorite rides you may have missed, and finding a great spot for watching the nighttime show. It’s also a great time to grab any last EPCOT snacks you need before you go. We love getting the homemade caramel popcorn at Karamell Kuche for evening snacking.
8 PM Harmonious Nighttime Spectacular
How to Make the Most of Your EPCOT Day
Early Theme Park Entry
Reserved for Disney Resort Guests only, Early Theme Park Entry allows you to get into the park 30 minutes before other guests. This is most worth it at EPCOT if you are hoping to ride Test Track or Frozen Ever After. Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure will quickly form a 60-minute line during early theme park entry. And other rides won’t have long enough waits throughout the day to warrant arriving early.
Choose a Day with Extra Evening Hours
Extra Evening Hours are reserved for Disney Guests, staying at SELECT Disney Resorts. Typically, Disney Deluxe Hotels are included. This allows you the opportunity to stay later than park closing on certain days. Often on a 9 pm-close, extra evening hours are extended to 11 pm. This gives you two more hours to ride what you didn’t during the day.
Take Breaks When You Can
While this may feel counterintuitive, remember you are still on vacation! So, it should feel like a vacation, and less like a checklist. That said, we like grabbing a break as a treat for finishing the main rides in the morning. While this break can sometimes blend into lunch, we like heading to the nearby Disney Boardwalk, just on the other side of the International Gateway entrance. This gives us a chance to explore the resorts and get out of the heat. The Boardwalk also has ice cream shops to help you beat the heat.
Don’t Save More than One Popular Ride for the Evening
Evenings are busy for several reasons. First, most people take stock of wait times of rides throughout the day, and when they see it’s too long of a wait, they just hope it will ease up later. This leaves many people finally giving in at the end of the day to ride the top priority rides they didn’t get to earlier. Second, after 2 pm, EPCOT fills up with people who have park hopped there. This includes locals, pass holders, and other guests who have park hopper tickets. So getting to as many rides as possible in the early part of the day is a must.
Mobile Order your Meals
An easy way to keep out of lines, be sure to check out EPCOT Quick-Service Restaurants that offer Mobile Order. This means you can select and purchase your meals in your My Disney Experience App. Quick Service Restaurants we like, that offer Mobile Order, are Regle Eagle Smokehouse BBQ and Sunshine Seasons.
Make an Advanced Dining Reservation
We highly recommend one sit-down meal for your EPCOT day. Mainly because taking a break from a whirlwind day is always needed. Plus, there are certain restaurants both at EPCOT and on the Disney Boardwalk that are well worth the time! If you’re looking for a fun experience check out Teppan Edo for hibachi grill dining. Or try out
Ride popular rides during the 12-2 pm hour
Between 12-2 pm most people are either eating lunch or heading to their next park for the day via the park hopper. This is because 2 pm is the earliest you’re allowed to be at your second park for the day if you’ve purchased the park hopper ticket. This means between 1-2 pm many people are traveling to their next park, leaving parks across Walt Disney World a little emptier as people travel between parks. As a result, 12-2 pm is an IDEAL time to try and finish up your morning batch of high-priority rides.
While You’re Waiting for Your Lightning Lane
If purchasing Lightning Lane passes or using Disney Genie+ you want to make the most of the time while you’re waiting. Since times given for these scheduled rides has a cushion of waiting, we recommend you fill this time with browsing the World showcase countries or riding the low-wait rides. That way your EPCOT day is filled with fun, even when it’s not scheduled.
One Day at EPCOT
While we always recommend 2 Days at EPCOT, hopefully, this one-day itinerary has helped you see some options. As Disney’s busiest park it’s easy to get discouraged and feel like you need to spend all day waiting in lines. But that’s not the case! Planning Ahead can help you prioritize each part of your day and make the most of your Disney Vacation. Grab this FREE Printable Fill-In Disney Planner for EPCOT to get started. Happy Planning!
Rochelle Mariah is a writer, designer and photographer with an MLIS in Information Science and a B.S. in Arch and Design. Determined to make Planning a DIY Disney Vacation easier she makes lots of lists and drinks lots of coffee. When not designing apparel at Polka Dot Pixie Shop, she's watching old movies and planning the holidays. She has been traveling to Disney destinations since 2010.