After taking some time to look at one-day touring at Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom, we move on to Epcot on Monday May 25th. We’ll take a look at Hollywood Studios touring once the Frozen Fun thing begins June 17th. And hope that we’re not stuck waiting in front of the stage for a two minute video like last year.
I recommend arriving at Epcot by 8:20am. That’s the sweet spot in between arriving so early that you’re twiddling your thumbs unnecessarily and so late that you end up waiting 75 minutes for Test Track because you didn’t arrive until 9am.
If you arrive after 8:20am or so, one trick that works particularly well at Epcot is waiting for the breakfast reservation tapstiles to switch over to regular entry a couple minutes before Park open. Around 8:40am with a regular 9am open, the cast members here will invite regular guests over to get in line. If you line up closest to these tapstiles and watch for it, you can quickly move over and be in front of a line instead of 50+ people back.
Even here at 8:18am, there are already a ton of people waiting for the Park to open.
By 8:25am, people are lined up back to the monorail platform and well beyond the ticket windows.
Another tip is to head to the furthest tapstiles away from the center, where fewer people dare venture to go.
This is the crowd waiting to enter the Park at 8:42am. If you were to arrive now, you’d be behind well over a thousand people.
The arrow points to the rope that previously separated the breakfast reservation tapstiles from the general population. Since regular guests have been invited over, you see similarly long lines now.
Epcot routinely lets guests enter the Park and head to the attraction of their choice at 8:47am. According to my camera, we started moving forward at 8:48am.
Bad luck here as one of the Mickey Readers in our line is broken – in essence doubling the amount of time it’s going to take for everyone in this line to get in. Good thing we got here early! The Epcot Cheat Sheet outlines all of this:
Two-day plans at Epcot are easiest, whether you want to arrive early or with a late arrival. Being able to use FastPass+ at Soarin’ one day and Test Track the other guarantees access to both rides, and with four Tier 2 FastPass+ choices, you can arrive at the majority of Epcot’s attractions and wait just a few minutes.
FastPass+ tiers make one-day touring considerably more complicated, at least assuming you want to visit the majority of the Future World attractions:
You’re limited to only being able to choose Soarin’ or Test Track in advance and it’s unlikely that there will be much, if any, FP+ availability for either come noon.
The two-day plans are super easy with early arrivals and offer you the opportunity to ride Soarin’ and Test Track at least two times each with minimal waits, in addition to running into virtually no waits at all either morning. And you have a lot of flexibility with the Tier 2 FP+ attractions:
One day touring is not so simple:
There is one better way to go about your 1-day touring at Epcot, but it might not be practical for most people. You typically find the longest waits in Future World from 10:30am-4pm and the lowest crowds in World Showcase from 11am-1pm. If you can, you’re best off hitting Future World from 9am-11am, visiting World Showcase from 11am-5pm or so, and then returning to Future World around 5pm when the majority of people are headed up to World Showcase to shop (drink), eat dinner (drink), and watch IllumiNations (drink). While that cuts down on waiting, circling World Showcase over the course of six hours and then returning to Future World for a couple hours before heading back up to World Showcase for dinner and IllumiNations isn’t what most people have in mind on their Epcot day. So the plan instead focuses on Future World first before moving up to World Showcase. I may include another touring plan that employs this strategy, but it’s an awfully long day to go straight through from 9am-9pm with that much walking.
As written, the problem with the 1-day plan is Living with the Land when crowds are a “7” or higher on our 1-10 scale for “well above average.” And we’re going to run into a considerable wait for the popular boat ride when we arrive. Unfortunately, there really isn’t a better way to do it if you want to do Sum of All Thrills and Mission: SPACE. Sum of All Thrills has such a low capacity that you’re going to wait 20 to 30 minutes from around 10:15am to around 6:15pm even when crowds are low. And Mission: SPACE will see waits longer than Living with the Land given heavier crowds, so it remains a higher priority. If you are visiting Epcot when the crowd level is a “7” or higher and looking to complete this plan, you’ll probably want to try to get a 4th FP+ for Living with the Land or return between 6pm and 7pm instead of riding standby around noon. I’ll discuss it a little more when we get there.
Back to the task at hand. I was on my way toward Test Track at 8:51am.
Waits at Spaceship Earth have gotten so bad that while it still doesn’t really make any sense to rope drop it, it almost makes sense to rope drop it. That’s not a sentence I was ever prepared to write. By 10am, both sides of the external queue are going to be full with a 45-minute posted wait. That’s going to be the norm moving forward through the third week in August.
Those headed to Test Track head left after passing Innoventions East and Electric Umbrella. Those headed to Soarin’ head right after passing Innoventions Empty (West) and before arriving at Fountain View Starbucks.
I arrived at Test Track at 8:56am to a posted wait of 30 minutes, but it’s important to note that the default wait is 30 minutes first thing in the morning every day, as this chart of wait times over the last few weeks shows:
So you don’t necessarily want to be deterred.
I marched through the queue.
And had already designed this monstrosity just five minutes later.
And about to board at 9:06am.
And driving by under the speed limit just five minutes later than that at 9:11am.
By the time I got back out front at 9:15am, Test Track’s external queue was already completely full.
This far back, you’d be looking at waiting 75 to 90 minutes already. Feel free to show the in-laws this photo when they complain about getting to the Park 25 minutes before they let you in. We’ve already saved well over an hour in line after just one attraction. And if you actually did wait the 75 minutes to ride Test Track now, you’d be pretty screwed for the rest of the day as by 10:30am, it’s already going to be hard to find something that moves with a wait under 30 minutes.
Sum of All Thrills is the next priority and the main reason why we’re on this side of the Park first. From Test Track’s entrance, turn around and walk straight back. You’ll see this entrance in front of you with Mission: SPACE on your right and Electric Umbrella and Mouse Gear further down.
With an hourly capacity in the very low hundreds and only open until 7pm, boring 20 to 30 minute waits develop daily by around 10am and continue through at least 6pm. If you have no interest in Mission: SPACE and/or Sum of All Thrills, it would make more sense to start with Soarin’ and then move to Living with the Land, The Seas with Nemo, Turtle Talk with Crush, and Journey into Imagination with Figment before using FastPass+ at Test Track. I may add a second touring plan that omits Sum of All Thrills and instead focuses on Future World West in the morning.
Anyway, Sum of All Thrills is a fun “KUKA arm” ride that you get to design yourself and then experience via the simulator.
Why they focus on the importance of science when what the world needs is more theme park bloggers is beyond me.
As it stands, you have the opportunity to design your own ride. Maybe instead of Disney building new rides, which is probably never going to happen, you could just design them yourself on tablets and watch them on screens. Or just go to Universal where they toss in the cavity search gratis.
Even with a short initial wait for the pre-show, the attraction is going to take 15 to 20 minutes to complete. And as much as I’m making fun of it here, it’s worth doing, which is emphasized by the fact that it’s the #2 attraction of the day.
I initially arrived at 9:18am and was back out front at 9:33am for a total experience time of just 15 minutes.
Like with the Magic Kingdom plan, the arrival times are padded to account for a little more time moving from attraction to attraction. I finished Test Track five minutes ahead of schedule and now find myself 12 minutes ahead of schedule after the first two rides. You also get five minutes to walk to Mission: SPACE, which is about two minutes away.
You may recall Innoventions West is empty save for the Visa Meet and Greet and bank of PS3 games with WALL-E and last year’s sports games. Over in Innoventions East, Vision House is closed because you didn’t buy Bosch.
Test the Limits Lab is gone.
We’ll always have Habit Heroes.
Remember when I was on and off Test Track in under 20 minutes? This is 9:35am. You can’t even see where the standby or FastPass+ lines end.
Never thought I’d be so happy to be headed to Mission: SPACE instead. Sort of like nobody is ever excited to receive any other HP product.
Since I’m not sure there’s such a thing as wanting to ride this, waits remain short with the Orange side at ten minutes and Green at five.
Orange is the more intense version and will always have a longer posted wait because Disney doesn’t want people to subject themselves to the 15 to 19 seconds of relative discomfort that Orange brings just to save a few minutes in line.
For enjoyment, must be free of good taste in attractions.
Lines don’t develop here until at least 10:30am and usually peak in the 20- to 30-minute range, making it a relatively low morning priority and waits are usually nonexistent again after 6:30pm.
Mission control was asleep. Don’t worry though, I’m sure it will be fine. It’s not like we’re headed to Neptune. Or Texas.
A good “Lieutenant Dan!” is always good for a courtesy laugh.
I was back out front right at 10am for a total experience time of 23 minutes.
20 to 25 minutes is how long it’s going to take this early or with FP+ later in the day.
Test Track is still backed out to here.
There’s always Ellen’s Energy Adventure.
Since I had some time before I was supposed to be at The Seas with Nemo, I doubled back to Sum of All Thrills. Unsurprisingly, the line is much longer now and even though it’s still “short,” it would take 35 to 45 minutes to get through if you got in line now. The ride only moves through about 15 people every five minutes.
At 10:10am, both sides of the Spaceship Earth queue are full with a 45-minute posted wait.
Blurry but you get the idea.
Nothing of much interest at Art of Disney.
Character Spot had a 40-minute posted wait at 10:15am with virtually nobody in the standby queue.
Due to some guest confusion, the FastPass+ line for The Seas with Nemo stretched a ways back from the entrance with a 15-minute posted wait.
About 90% of the time you’ll be able to more or less walk on Nemo in this time slot, but that’s not going to be the case here on Memorial Day. If you can stomach a few minutes of the DIS, I explain a little bit about how FastPass+ is affecting standby waits beginning with this post.
With three quarters of the interior queue left empty, it could be a lot worse. And it will be in about an hour.
I arrived at 10:15am and didn’t board the ride until 10:30am, which is the longest I’ve ever waited for the ride by a solid ten minutes.
Disney hasn’t been able to figure out how to fix this shark, which literally does nothing but move its head in and out of the shipwreck all day, in some number of years.
This chart of The Seas with Nemo wait times over the last month or so reveals a few things. First of all, you might be thinking, “HAHAH THIS IS A MOST RECOMMENDED DAY JOSH YEAH RIGHT YOU IDIOT.” But like all the crowd calendar recommendations, they’re based on the best day to visit the Park versus the other days around it. So you’ve got the most recommended day with shorter waits than the Sunday or Tuesday. And thus, a better day. The chart also illustrates how much lower waits are in the evening. If you’re planning a break from 1pm to 5pm or so, which is smart in this heat with these crowds, you might consider spending a couple hours in Future World before moving up to World Showcase for dinner and IllumiNations to take advantage of some of these shorter waits upon your return. While Nemo is still posting 10-minute waits after 5pm, you’d be able to walk-on virtually any day of the year after 6pm. It also shows that 25 to 35 minute peak waits at Nemo in the FastPass+ era are a common thing. It also illustrates the potential importance of spending two days at Epcot. The 2-day plan gets you here before 10am, which is before waits develop even on the busiest days over the summer. With the one-day plan, getting here before 10:30am is going to result in a 7ish to 10ish minute wait most days that aren’t major holidays. But moving through the summer we are going to see 35- to 50-minute peak waits most days. Epcot just doesn’t have the number of attractions it needs to properly cope with current crowd levels.
FastPass+ at Turtle Talk can actually be hugely beneficial, which might be surprising. FP+ guarantees entrance into the next show. You can see the gate past the FP+ readers is open. Cast members will routinely close the standby line as the pre-show area fills and only allow FP+ users to fill in the final space.
Disney actually built this “temporary” standby queue inside the waiting area. If you get stuck waiting in this, you’re going to wait about ten minutes to enter the pre-show area and another 20 minutes for the next show to start, for a relatively boring, albeit air-conditioned, 30 minutes. There is one caveat to using FP+ here. If you arrive and find that you can walk right into the pre-show area for the next show in standby, you’ll probably want to change the FP+ to another experience. There is no reserved seating section for FP+ or anything – it just guarantees you entrance into the next show. And if you can see the next show in standby, it becomes a waste of a FP+.
I arrived at 10:37am and we began filing into the theater 18 minutes later at 10:55am, which means I missed the show I wanted to see because of the longer-than-usual Nemo wait.
Turtle Talk is worth seeing at least once even if you don’t have kids. The improvisation is legitimately funny and no two shows are alike. And when Crush asks, “What do you like to do at the beach?” You can yell, “DRINK!!! Plenty of fluids.”
Looking over the barrier into the The Seas with Nemo queue after the show at 11:15am, the posted wait is 35 minutes and you’d wait around that long if you got in line now – maybe even longer.
With the 20-minute posted wait, you’d be waiting about 30 minutes to see the show. 10 minutes in the queue waiting for the pre-show area to open and another 20 minutes for that show to conclude. Like with the Nemo ride, once 5pm hits you’d be able to walk into the next show easily and 4th FP+ availability is healthier than any other attraction.
The 35-minute posted wait for Nemo – something you almost never saw prior to FastPass+ outside of one of the two busiest weeks of the year – Easter or Christmas. The main culprit here is maximum FastPass+ distribution. If you got in the standby line now, hundreds of people would arrive after you with FastPass+ and because of the way ratios work, they would board before you. Cast is directed to move through FastPass+ queues and if possible, empty them as quickly as possible, which usually means pushing 60% to 70% of capacity toward FP+. I think most of us have been at the front of a standby line only to watch 20 or 30 FASTPASS users march on in front of us. With the maximum number of people using FP+ at the majority of the rides on the majority of the days, a tremendous amount of capacity goes toward FP+ and standby waits suffer greatly because of it.
I arrived at Character Spot to use FastPass+ at 11:20am with the same 40-minute posted wait. At least this time, there’s somebody in standby.
FP+ uses a separate queue with a nice barrier that protects us from the riff raff in standby.
Even with FP+, it was 17 minutes before I entered the room to meet Mickey, Goofy, and Minnie. Even with just a hundred people in front of you in standby, you could easily wait that 40 minutes.
With the whole Memorial Day crowds thing, I’m about 15 minutes behind schedule as I exited Character Spot at 11:37am. That’s mostly due to missing the 10:30am Turtle Talk show with the longer-than-expected wait for Nemo.
Living with the Land at 11:42am is not a pretty sight.
Like Nemo and most other “secondary attractions” in Future World, waits peak around 11am and drop significantly after 5pm. Living with the Land closes at 7pm most days, but continues operating through regular Park close and then into the night on days with evening Extra Magic Hours attached, which is why you see the numbers after 7pm on Fridays.
130 minutes at Soarin’.
Not particularly keen on waiting the 30 to 40 minutes for Living with the Land and being about 20 minutes behind schedule anyway, I moved on to lunch at Sunshine Seasons. If you find yourself behind schedule, obviously the easiest thing to do is skip something and come back to it. Ideally, it’d be a “green” attraction on the cheat sheet maps because those are the easiest to return to. Looking over the wait times chart for Living with the Land above, it’s going to be easy to come back to later in the day.
I was happy to see that the Roast Beets and Goat Cheese Salad was removed from the menu in favor of the return of this Sesame Crusted Tuna Salad. The beet salad was the only entree here that I hadn’t tried and don’t have a picture of.
I was planning to hop over to Animal Kingdom later to check out the new Harambe Market, so I just ordered a cup of the $4.79 Chicken Corn Chowder, which is a rich and hearty cup of what is probably mostly saturated fat. It would be a great use of a snack crredit, but probably too filling and too expensive to add to most entrees. If you added this to an entree in addition to a fountain drink, you’d be looking at a $20+ fast food meal. But it was filling with the creamy broth and chicken and could probably hold most people for a few hours, particularly with so many opportunities to snack in World Showcase.
For a preview of my thoughts on the market, visit this forum thread, which also includes pictures of all the food items at Boma and a mini review.
Living with the Land at 12:03pm. Yeah…no.
I used my Soarin’ FP+ at 12:04pm with a standby wait of more than two hours. $97 to get in and you’d wait three hours just to ride the two things that move in this single Pavilion.
FP+ here gets you past the initial wait, but you’re still going to wait about 15 minutes after the merge point with the lengthy line up until the start of the pre-show.
Standby was backed up all the way out here…which might not look like much from the picture, but we’re an awful long way back.
My total experience time was just about exactly 30 minutes, which is about four minutes longer than average. Not bad considering standby.
I arrived at Spaceship Earth with FP+ in hand at 12:44pm to a 45-minute wait and the FP+ line backed up out here.
But it doesn’t really matter. I was on the ramp up into the golf ball just four minutes later.
And was here one minute after that.
I got stuck in sort of an awkward spot.
And I was back out front at 1:09pm for a total experience time of 25 minutes, which is a minute or two longer than average with the stoppage.
It’s almost not even worth concerning yourself with a 4th FP+ at Epcot most days. Test Track and Soarin’ are going to be long gone save for cancellations.
As a party of one, I was able to snag Living with the Land just ten minutes in the future, but only because somebody canceled that time slot between when I visited the FP+ kiosk across from Character Spot and when I refreshed the times on my phone:
But even as a party of one, nothing much is available:
And while Journey into Imagination technically has capacity, there is only one time slot available and it’s more than three hours in the future:
Remember what we learned during the Magic Kingdom plan – the smaller your party size, the more availability that you’ll see.
Three slots for The Seas. Granted, this is one of the busier days of the year, but FP+ availability is lousy just about every day with such a limited number of attractions.
At 1:22pm, the line for Living with the Land is already dying down a bit, even if the posted wait is stagnant at 30 minutes.
I waited about three minutes in line and was here at 1:31pm.
I was back out front about 20 minutes later. Soarin’ was down to “just” 95 minutes at 1:46pm.
Overall, the plan went well considering this is probably going to end up being one of the 25 busiest days of the year at Epcot. Being too late for the 10:30am Turtle Talk was the major hiccup and we had to skip Living with the Land in its standby spot and instead return with FP+. Those of you planning a break in the afternoon would be best served holding off on Living with the Land and Journey into Imagination for after 5pm. If you’re planning to stay in the Park for the duration, heading up to World Showcase after Spaceship Earth and returning to Future World after 5pm will cut down on waits at the “secondary” attractions as well.
The waits from May 31st should be reminiscent of what we can expect for the rest of the summer through the third week in August. They’re better than Memorial Day, but you still see 35 minute waits at Figment, 40 minute waits at Living with the Land, 120 minute waits at Soarin, 40 minute waits at Nemo, etc. Spaceship Earth was down for most of the morning, which pushed afternoon waits up to a whopping 60 minutes. Ordinarily, you’d be looking at “just” 45 minutes.
We’ll take a look at what’s going on at Animal Kingdom next.