One Day Guide to Touring Epcot

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A little while ago, I shared our One Day Guide to the Magic Kingdom, and since I haven’t posted about Disney in a bit, I thought it was time for an Epcot post! Epcot is my husband’s favorite park, and over the years has become almost tied with the Magic Kingdom for me! We love Epcot and usually give it at least 2 days on our trips, if not more than that.   There is so much to see, do and EAT in Epcot that we find ourselves park hopping back multiple times during our Disney World Vacations.

Mickey Mouse in Epcot, Disney World
Visiting Mickey Mouse in Epcot

Since the average Disney Vacation Package includes 4-5 day tickets, for this post, I’m going to assume that you’re only going to give Epcot one day, and that it’s not during any of the amazing festivals. Just like the Magic Kingdom post, my goal is to help you have a fun laid back day while covering as much ground as possible, and without the stress of running all over the place.

The wonderful thing about Epcot is that it’s not as big, or as difficult to navigate as the Magic Kingdom, but there is still a ton to see (and eat, did I mention eat?).  I always recommend getting to every park early, and even getting a pre-opening breakfast reservation if possible! Epcot is known for it’s food, and it has some wonderful options for breakfast.

Epcot park map
Epcot Park Map

There are two locations that offer character dining options for breakfast. For your little princess, you could visit the Akershus Royal Banquet Hall in the World Show Case. The cool thing about this breakfast is that it offers many of the same character experiences as Cinderella’s Royal Table in the Magic Kingdom, so if you weren’t able to score that reservation, this is the perfect backup! If you’ve already had your fill of princesses (haha you’re going to Disney, you haven’t had your fill of princesses) The Garden Grill in Future World is open for a fun breakfast hosted by Chip & Dale and some of their pals! The Garden Grill is home to the famous Sticky Bun Bake! Yum!

Morning Touring Plan

Epcot opens in two stages with Future World opening first (usually around 9:00) and the World Show Case opening two hours later at 11:00. What we’ve noticed is that those two hours in the morning are really nice and fairly quiet with the big rush arriving when the World Show Case opens.

It’s also important to note that Fast Pass+ works differently in Epcot than it does in the Magic Kingdom.  There are two tiers of rides, and when initially setting your Fast Pass+ reservations up, you can only select one from Group A and then two from Group B.

One Day Epcot Guide - Epcot Fastpass +

Your Fastpass strategy works the same way in all parks: stack your 3 reservations in the morning so you can add more in the afternoon & evening! Your choices will vary, of course, based off of your family’s priorities. For my family, I have always selected Soaring for our Group A (if I cannot get this as a Fastpass, I select the character greeting for 9:00 in order to knock as many early Fastpasses out as possible to try to grab Soaring later in the day), and then we add Nemo & Mission: Space. If you’re a Frozen family, make sure to get that Frozen Ever After reservation as close to 11:00 as possible. For some reason, Spaceship Earth gets a really long line, this is one that we will nab a later Fastpass for (Luke loves this ride), but we won’t waste one of the first three.

***With so many changes coming to Epcot over the next few years, 
this list will undoubtedly change!

Minnie Mouse in Epcot, Disney World
An early morning visit with Minnie Mouse at Epcot

Spend your morning touring Future World, starting on the West side. Unless you have a 9:00 Fastpass, head straight for the character greetings. Across from the Disney Pals (Mickey and the gang) there is another character greeting. If Mickey is your first Fastpass, go to the other greeting first (if you’re there first thing, you’ll walk right in). We have been first in line to meet Baymax, and Joy & Saddness, and now Wreck It Ralph is also available to meet! Once you’ve had fun with these characters, head over with your Fastpass to meet Mickey & Pals.

Meeting Baymax, Joy & Sadness in Epcot, Disney World
Meeting Baymax, Joy & Sadness in Epcot

The main reason we do this very first is that the kids and I LOVE meeting characters, but my husband does not like wasting a lot of time in line for them. He gets antsy and wants us to go do something else and check back later. Character lines, however, only get longer and longer through the day! If you have somebody who doesn’t like to wait, knock them out in one early swoop.

You should wrap up with the characters in about 15-30 minutes, then you should be just in time to head over to your first Fastpass+ reservation, Soaring Around the World. This ride is an absolute MUST for your Fastpass+ and will get insane waits without it.

Once your hang-gliding tour of the world is finished, head over to The Seas with Nemo & Friends and Turtle Crush with Crush. Be sure to wander through the aquatic exhibit when you exit the rides. It’s beautiful, and the dolphins and manatees are really cool!

"Fish are friends, not food!"  The Seas with Nemo and Friends, Epcot, Disney World
“Fish are friends, not food!” The Seas with Nemo and Friends, Epcot

Finish up your morning on the East side of Future World with Test Track and Mission: Space. If you’re not a thrill-seeking family, take the Green trip on Mission Space for a more relaxing space journey. If you love a good thrill ride, Orange is a little more intense and advanced. Green normally does not need a Fastpass+ while Orange does.

***If you are at all claustrophobic, Mission Space may not be the ride for you! I had a panic attack on it the last time we went and will allow my husband to take the boys from now on. The ride is simply a cockpit but harnesses that go over your chest, but I start to freak out if I’m pinned down and cannot see fresh air or an exit. I opt to go get a drink and people watch!

Afternoon Touring Plan

If you’ve timed your morning out correctly, you should be wrapping up with Future World right around the time the World Showcase is opening. This is around the time Matt gets really excited. The World Showcase is his favorite place in all of Disney World! The World Showcase is an incredible display of countries around the world with each stop featuring top-notch theming, characters who’s stories took place in that country, food & drinks from the region, shopping opportunities, and more. We typically make two, if not three laps around in an afternoon.

Frozen Ever After, Epcot's World Showcase
This picture always cracks me up! Frozen Ever After, Epcot’s World Showcase

Did you finish up all three of your Fastpasses before entering the World Showcase? If so, log onto your app and see if there is one available for Frozen around 2:00-3:00 that you can grab. If not, see what you can get after that time back in Future World if there is something you want to circle back around to (like Spaceship Earth).

When you exit Future World, you have an option to go left or right to make the loop through the World Showcase. If your 11:00 Fastpass is for Frozen, your choice is made for you and you’ll go left to head towards Norway. Otherwise, you’ll strategize your afternoon based on two priorities: hitting all the characters in the World Showcase and tasting your way around the world. With little ones, characters are going to be the top priority so make them the focus of your first lap around the World Showcase, by lap two everyone will be ready to slow down and enjoy some snacks! If characters are not a big priority you get to take your time sampling something from each country and meandering through all the cool shops!

Biergarten in Epcot's World Showcase
Enjoying lunch, right next to the stage in their favorite restaurant in Epcot: Biergarten

Before we talk afternoon strategy, let’s talk lunch (remember, I love Epcot for the food, lol)! Regardless of your direction, you should hit the middle between 12:00-1:00 meaning you’ll be very close to Matt and the boys’ favorite spot for a lunch reservation: Biergarten! We prefer to have a lunch reservation so that we are almost forced to take a break, sit down and cool off for an hour. You can easily snack your way all the way around the World Showcase (we’ll get there in a minute) without actually stopping for lunch and have a blast, and we’ve done that before, just be mindful of your legs and giving yourself a moment to chill every now and then!

Biergarten, Matt’s favorite lunch stop, is located in Germany and typically does need a reservation to get a table. I’m not a huge fan of German food like my husband is, but I am a massive fan of the environment in the restaurant. It is SO FUN! Imagine walking the streets of Germany and stumbling upon an Oktoberfest event in full bloom!

Lap One: Character Focus

Little known fact about Epcot, it is a great place to visit a lot of characters! It is so fun to see so many different characters in their native countries. If your little one’s autograph book is burning a hole in their little Mickey Mouse themed backpack, make characters your first priority in the World Showcase. You’ll find they’ll be much more prone to let you enjoy the details on your next tour around if they’ve accomplished their to-do list.

Epcot Character Locations

Going back to where you choose right or left, look at the crowd and go the opposite way (usually meaning you’ll go right), pull up your My Disney Experience App and check the character greeting schedule. Wait times are only listed for a select few like Anna & Elsa, but can see the schedule for most everyone else appearing that day. You’ll notice the schedule is typically tiered a bit with close proximity characters like Aurora showing at 1:00 and Belle at 1:20. Others like Snow White won’t make an appearance until later in the afternoon, so be sure to note those times so you remember to circle back. Let’s assume you went right… if Anna & Elsa are the top priority, you probably went left, just got off your 11:00 Frozen Ever After Fastpass, so go see them first then do this list in reverse.

***Our rule with Character Lines, if it looks like we are going to have to wait through a break or two, we skip it and move on (with very rare exceptions). In Epcot, make a note of the next viewing times and come back 15-20 minutes earlier than that time. For example, if you try to meet someone at 11:30 and their line is already crazy, note their afternoon times and plan to come back for the 2:00 or 3:00 visit, arriving early so you’re first in line.

Alice in Wonderland, Epcot World Showcase
Meeting Alice for the first time in Epcot’s World Showcase

Breeze through Canada, you’ll come back here later for the food tour, and head into England. Beeline for Mary Poppins in the British Gardens area. It is hard to see Mary Poppins as her line fills up fast! She is currently greeting guests in the Magic Kingdom too, so hopefully, that helps with her Epcot lines. After Mary Poppins, be sure to visit with the loveable Alice who is home in England from Wonderland. Be sure to wish her a very merry unbirthday!

Aurora in Epcot World Showcase
I mean, have you seen a more adorable picture??? Meeting Aurora in France in Epcot’s World Showcase.

Next, cross the bridge by the International Gateway (back entrance from the Boardwalk area), and head into France. I LOVE France!!! It’s theming is adorable (get your picture in front of the Eiffel Tower), and it has some of my favorite food… focus on characters, Junell… food later! In France, you have the opportunity to meet Aurora & Belle. We always have skipped Belle in France because we see her in the Magic Kingdom, but if your Princess wants to meet her, be sure to stop! Aurora holds a special place in my heart because Sleeping Beauty was my very first movie I remember seeing in the theaters, the very first princess I remember loving, and has created some of my favorite memories in Disney!

Meeting Jasmine & Aladdin in Morocco Pavilion in Epcot's World Showcase
Meeting Jasmine & Aladdin in the Morocco Pavilion in Epcot’s World Showcase

Morocco is up next and it’s colorful streets are home to Princess Jasmine. The last time we visited her, Aladdin was still taking visitors there, but currently is can only be visited in the Magic Kingdom. The Morocco pavilion is cool, and really underrated. It’s the only country in the World Showcase where it’s government actually was involved in the construction to help ensure the authentic feel!

Snow White, Germany Pavilion, Epcot's World Showcase
Snow White & her brave protectors! Germany Pavilion, Epcot’s World Showcase

The next character country is Germany where you will meet the one and only Snow White! Snow is one of the few we wait for. Normally we are finishing up lunch right as she is going on break, so we will grab some German beer, one of us will go sit in her waiting area, and the other will take the kids to wander in the German trains for a minute. Snow White’s visits have always been WORTH THE WAIT as she treats the boys like her knights in shining armor every time they see her! At 10 he won’t admit it, but Landry eats the attention up, so much so that last time he saw her he had to dress in his Viking Armor when she came out! Yall…. she made such a big deal over how brave and strong he looked, it was adorable!

Continuing on the Character Loop, you’ll head into China where brave warriors have the opportunity to meet Mulan. We have never stopped for her because the boys only just recently saw her movie, but we will be on the next visit! We do tend to spend a lot of time in China wandering their super fun store and always wind up with all sorts of random souvenirs from there (not the kids, Matt buys all the things in China, lol).

Queen Elsa & Princess Anna are located in Norway's Pavilion in Epcot's World Showcase
Queen Elsa & Princess Anna are located in Norway’s Pavilion in Epcot’s World Showcase

Norway has a massive following now because of Frozen, and here is your shot to meet the Ice Queen herself, Elsa with her sister Anna. The boys were going through an anti-Frozen phase on our last visit, so while they humored me and went on the ride, they absolutely refused to go meet Anna & Elsa. Assuming you have already used all three of your Fastpasses, hopefully, you’ve been able to nab up #4 and that it’s Frozen if that wasn’t one of your initial three. If not, keep trying, because you’re going to stop here again for a snack later.

The last stop in the World Showcase is the Mexico Pavillion where you can meet Donald all dressed up from The Three Caballeros. Remember that movie from when you were a kid? If not, I’ve just aged myself! We loved it when we were little but I haven’t been able to find it for the boys. I wish they’d bring it back, lol!

As you exit the World Showcase, you might be able to snap a photo with Pluto a the Legacy Plaza West. After that, use your Fastpasses to grab whatever you missed the first time around in Future World, and then get ready for your second lap! Are you wearing your Fitbit? You totally should to count your steps!

Lap 2: Food and Drinks Tour

Epcot Food & Drinks
Epcot is known for it’s food & drinks! Photo credit: d23.com

The direction you go for your second lap (or first if you skipped the characters) will again depend either on the crowds or if you’re trying to backtrack to a character that you missed the first time around. This lap is totally a mosey around at your own pace tour around the World Showcase! There is so much to see in the World Showcase, and Kidcot craft stations in each country, so your kids will never be bored.

Typically we make dinner reservations at either Le Cellier in Canada or Chef de France in the France Pavilion so we will usually reverse our route for the second World Showcase tour.

School bread, Norway Pavilion, Epcot
Do not miss the School Bread in Norway! Photo credit: Disney Food Blog

We’re native Texans and get a lot of good Mexican food, so most of the time we skip a second stop in the Mexico Pavilion, unless it’s a quick stop for a margarita. Our first snack stop is back in Norway for the treat that has a cult following, school bread! This is a gooey, sweet pastry with coconut topping and is UNBELIEVABLE! Usually, mom and dad get a drink too!

Laila Perfume, Norway Pavilion Epcot
Photo credit: Disney Parks

After a quick break on a bench with our treats, take a moment to wander through the stores. They have incredible costumes (my boys favorite Viking gear that they wore with Snow White), a fun photo opp with a troll, and my absolute favorite scent in all the planet, Laila by Gier Ness. Who would have thought I’d find my favorite perfume in Disney World???

Norway Pavilion, Epcot
Vikings in Norway!

While you’re walking around Norway, watch out for real Vikings!!!

China Pavilion, Epcot World Showcase
China Pavilion. Photo Credit: Disney’s Memory Maker

If you did not wander through the House of Good Fortune while you visited Mulan on your first tour, take a minute and check it out. It has everything from Matt’s favorite incense (he stocks up when we go), to puppets and wind chimes.

Germany Pavilion, Epcot, World Showcase
Taking a rest by the Germany Pavilion

Germany is another great spot to grab a good snack and catch a break. There is a row of benches that have a beautiful view of the lake where you can have a bit of a picnic. We normally grab a couple of warm pretzels, and some beer (I LOVE the grapefruit beer) and go have a seat for a bit. The boys, in full Viking costumes, will usually have a sword fight by the water while we just sit and take in the sights for a little bit.

Sergio the juggler in Epcot, World Showcase, Italian Pavilion
Don’t miss Sergio Juggle in the Italian Pavilion. Photo Credit: Disney Parks

Once your rested, head over to quaint Italy. Here you’ll be whisked away to a quiet street in Venice and immediately feel the romance and artistic flair! In Italy, the kids will normally get a gelato, we will get a Bellini and we’ll gather around to watch Sergio perform! He is an expert juggler and mime!

The American Pavilion, Epcot World Showcase
The American Pavilion

The American Pavilion is right in the middle of the World Showcase. It doesn’t have a character so we skipped it on the first round, but it is a great stop, made to model Colonial America. This is a popular quick service stop for guests for lunch. We normally skip the food here since we can get American any time, but we’ll hang out to listen to the Voices of Liberty. If it is really hot, or you just need a longer break, inside the Colonial building is a theater featuring the American Adventure show. Throughout the year, the large stage on the water, the American Gardens Stage, is used for different festival performances; when not in use for that, you can catch the American Music Machine Group (on select days).

Matsuriza in the Japan Pavilion in Epcot's World Showcase
Matsuriza in the Japan Pavilion in Epcot’s World Showcase

The Japan Pavilion is a fun place to grab an authentic shaved ice, or some sushi and watch the girl drumming group, Matsuriza! These performers are fierce! Also be sure to wander through the shopping area! In the Mikimoto Store, you will find everything from chop sticks & Hello Kitty, to one of the most unique souvenirs you can get, a spot to pick your own pearl and have it set into a jewelry setting. Tokyo dining is an authentic Japanese dining experience with hibachi tables, and is a great option for lunch or dinner (reservations highly recommended).

France Pavilion, Epcot World Showcase
Enjoying crepes in the France Pavilion in Epcot’s World Showcase

You probably saw all of Morocco when we went to the back to visit Princess Jasmine, and you are probably nearing dinner time, so head towards France. If you’re too early for dinner, France is my favorite happy hour stop! We will stop at the Crepe stand and get a treat or two to share, and I’ll get a champagne!

France Pavilion in Epcot's World Showcase
France Pavilion in Epcot’s World Showcase.
Photo Credit: Disney’s Memory Maker

Wandering the French Pavilion is one of my favorite things to do! It takes me back to when I visited Paris with a girlfriend when I was MUCH MUCH younger! There is a wine tasting room, and a fun gift shop towards the back. Soon one of Epcot’s most exciting changes will be happening with a Ratatouille ride! EEK! Chef de France is one of my absolute favorite stops for dinner!

If you’re doing Epcot the way I do Epcot, you probably have a good buzz going! LOL! The downside to the buzz is my eyes move slower than my kids so the next stop is perfect! Head back over to England and catch a performance by the British Invasion! Grab another drink and a bench, and let the kids dance themselves silly to this super fun band! Mosey through the stores to find some cool tea, kitchen goods, and all things soccer!

Rose & Crown in England Pavilion, Epcot World Showcase
Rose & Crown. Photo Credit: Disney’s Memory Maker

If you didn’t get reservations for dinner in France or Canada, The Rose and Crown in England is my next suggestion. Get them later to enjoy some traditional Fish & Chips while watching the fireworks from their patio!

Garden leading to Le Cellier in Canada Pavilion, Epcot World Showcase
Garden leading to Le Cellier in Canada Pavilion, Epcot World Showcase

Now that your kids have danced their sillies out, it’s time for dinner at Le Cellier (if you were able to get the reservation). Le Cellier, in Canada, is our absolute favorite spot for dinner, and I will crave their Mushroom Risotto inbetween trips at the most random times! Canada is a fun pavilion to wander around, (if we’re sweaty we usually grab a shirt in the gift shop and change before dinner lol), and the garden leading up to the restaurant is BEAUTIFUL!

Bridge at the International Gateway between the France & England Pavilions, Epcot, World Showcase
Bridge at the International Gateway between the France & England Pavilions

If you didn’t make a dinner reservation, take another lap and try foods from the other countries you didn’t stop at the first time around! There are so many options to eat and drink that there is no way you’ll leave hungry! About 30 minutes before Illuminations is set to start, we start heading back over to the bridge between France & England to grab a spot to watch the fireworks. We like this spot for several reasons: 1) it’s a great view 2) it’s easy to grab another drink or dessert for viewing the fireworks from and 3) if it’s too much for the kids (Landry’s ADHD sometimes causes some sensory issues with noise) then it’s a quick escape out the International Gateway back to the Boardwalk and Beach Club, where we normally stay.

Illuminations, Epcot, Disney World
Illuminations view from the bridge at the International Gateway

Nothing caps off your day at Epcot quite like the incredible Illuminations nighttime fireworks spectacular! After a long day of touring and snacking, it is simply the cherry on top!

This was a lot of information for one day in Epcot! If you don’t want to plan your own day, I’d love to help you! I’m a Travel Agent with Kingdom Destinations. Simply send me a message, and I’ll be happy to help you plan your entire Disney World trip!

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Junell

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52 COMMENTS

  1. PegP | 27th Apr 19

    FYI. While Epcot certainly is a lot easier to navigate than the Magic Kingdom, it isn’t smaller. Epcot is the largest of the 4 parks, covering 300 acres compared to the Magic Kingdom’s 107 acres (the smallest of the 4 parks). Hollywood Studios is next with 135 acres and Animal Kingdom trails Epcot by a smaller amount, coming in at 580 acres.

  2. Nicki | 3rd Feb 19

    This looks so fun! I haven’t been to Epcot since I was a child. I think I will have to add it back to the list.

  3. T.M. Brown | 29th Jan 19

    Great touring layout!! You packed a ton of stuff in there and I love the pics. Epcot is one of our favorites to visit, as well. Although, I have to confess ~ I have never been to Akershus Royal Banquet Hall!!! My boys have never been interested, so I’m going to have to find an excuse to just go myself. LOL.

    • Junell | 31st Jan 19

      Thanks! Epcot is so fun! =)

  4. Kat | 28th Jan 19

    This is such a great guide! I haven’t been to EPOCT since I was about 7 year old. I’m excited to bring my kids and this guide will be so helpful.

    • Junell | 31st Jan 19

      It’s so fun! So much has changed since we were kids. I remember it being the boring park way back then. Now it’s our family’s favorite.

  5. Dennis | 27th Jan 19

    What a great guide to a wonderful spot! We love Disney World and everything it has to offer. The customer service there is outstanding.

    • Junell | 31st Jan 19

      Right? I’m constantly comparing customer service experiences to Disney!

  6. Susan Franklin | 27th Jan 19

    I’ve never been to Epoct and I’m not sure we’ll ever make it there as my hubby doesn’t care for the theme parks. Maybe someday if we ever have grandkids….. I was able to live it through your post. The School Bread looked to die for and I’d love to be able to try that along with tasting other foods from all the countries. Maybe the food would be enough enticement for my man! Great Post.

    • Junell | 31st Jan 19

      Epcot would be the park to visit if your husband isn’t into theme parks! It really feels so much different than anything else you could ever go to. I think several people who changed their theme park opinions after visiting.

  7. Carmen | 27th Jan 19

    There’s so much to do at Epcot–we need a guide like yours. Thank you!

  8. Shirley | 27th Jan 19

    I have never been there but it is on my bucket list! Thanks for Sharing your adventure. What a great time.

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