Epcot Arrival and Rope Drop Experience After Reopening
Our in-depth coverage of Walt Disney World’s reopening continues with Epcot. Up ahead is the main temperature check for those parking their own vehicles or being dropped off. You’ll remember that tram service is not available at any of the Parks at the moment. The temperature check line can theoretically extend back here as we see blue physical-distancing tape on the ground more than a hundred feet from the tent up ahead.
Currently, Disney isn’t opening Epcot’s parking lot until 10:30am, or 30 minutes before the Park officially opens at 11am. Until the parking lot opens, you’ll likely be held at the toll plaza. To be ahead of the game, you’ll want to arrive at the toll plaza around 10:15am. With the staggered Park openings, the first bus over to Epcot from your Disney resort may not arrive until 10:15am or later. That could put you at Epcot at 10:35am, or even later.
Disney buses drop guests off at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, which opens at 8am, first. Then many of them switch to Magic Kingdom around 8:15am for the 9am open. Hollywood Studios opens at 10am, and then it’s Epcot at 11am. On the day of my visit, Wednesday, July 29th, 2020, I only watched about six buses arrive between 10:15am and 10:30am. That means most guests driving themselves were in better position to arrive at their first attraction earlier and wait less.
If you’re traveling over the next several months, and potentially beyond, you may want to rent a car or drive your own vehicle down. Historically, Disney’s transportation system is efficient in the grand scheme of things. But you can very easily run into long delays on the micro level. With Disney offering only limited bus, monorail, and boat transportation, driving yourself will put you in control of when you arrive at the Parks. You also won’t be sharing enclosed spaces with other parties to and from the resorts/parks, which is probably a good thing at the moment.
The Disney Skyliner begins dropping guests off at the International Gateway entrance at 10:30am from the Hollywood Studios, Riviera, Caribbean Beach, and Pop Century/Art of Animation stops. As we know, the International Gateway is best for rope dropping Frozen, since it’s closer.
For Uber/Lyft, you likely want to time your arrival at the toll plaza for about the time that guests will be allowed to park. Over at Animal Kingdom, Disney typically opens the parking lot at 7:30am with the 8am open. For Magic Kingdom, Disney usually opens the parking lot closer to 8am with the 9am open. At the Studios, parking typically opens at 9:15am with the 10am open. At Epcot, you’re looking at the parking lot opening at 10:30am. If you arrive a few minutes early, most drivers should be understanding, particularly if you mention that you’ll tip a few extra dollars for the time.
At 10:33am, I’m headed towards security on the left. Those arriving via Disney buses or walking in from the parking lot on the other side use the bag check on the right. This early, there is nobody waiting ahead of me.
If you missed the coverage of the previous Parks, you can pull up each part in order:
We started with Magic Kingdom:
- Magic Kingdom Rope Drop Expectations and Tips
- Morning Touring in the Current Normal
- Fantasyland and Frontierland Touring in the Current Normal
- Late Morning Adventureland Touring
- Afternoon Touring After Reopening
- A Virtually Crowd-less Opening Day at Magic Kingdom
And continued on to Disney’s Animal Kingdom:
- Rope Dropping Avatar Flight of Passage in the Current Normal
- Morning Touring at Disney’s Animal Kingdom After the Reopening
- Low Crowds and Nonexistent Waits in the Current Normal
- An Afternoon of Low Crowds, Nonexistent Waits, Yak & Yeti Lunch, and a Bird Show at Disney’s Animal Kingdom
And for Hollywood Studios:
- Disney’s Hollywood Studios Rope Drop and Rise of the Resistance Virtual Queue
Disney’s Hollywood Studios Rope Drop to Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway
Star Wars Rise of the Resistance Return
Backlot Express Hummus and Afternoon Touring at Disney’s Hollywood Studios After Reopening
Disney’s Hollywood Studios Toy Story Land Touring After Reopening
While the website is probably not known for its brevity, we did spend some extra time covering all of the changes since the Parks reopened. That’s in addition to our usual touring strategy information. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be focusing on some alternate plans of attack and overall wait time trends.
Bag check at the main entrance is the usual deal of placing your larger electronics, drink containers, and aerosol cans in the plastic bin. You’ll walk through the metal detector with your bags without anyone pawing through them. The system is not nearly as streamlined as the ones at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and the International Gateway at Epcot. Both use new Evolv Technology scanners. With those, you only have to hold your umbrella out in front of you as you walk through the scanner.
At 10:36am, or 24 minutes before the Park officially opens, I’m in good shape.
If you encounter a long line to get in, continue moving down to the left until you find a shorter one. Test Track, most people’s first destination, is down here anyway.
Disney has taken down some of the walls at the front of the Park, revealing a number of planters.
Test Track remains the Park’s most popular attraction and highest rope drop priority. We’re headed there first. Now in August, I think most people assumed Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure would be open given the official Summer 2020 opening timeline. Disney has since removed those banners. While the new area in France is largely done, there are no international cast members to operate the attraction. With Epcot’s dismal attendance, Disney may well push Ratatouille’s official opening into next year.
We’re sticking to Test Track, which means taking a left at Spaceship Earth. Soarin’ is a much more forgiving first stop. If you arrive closer to or after 11am, you may want to start there or at Frozen instead of Test Track.
Maybe 10% of the rope drop crowd is headed to Soarin’ or Future World West, if that.
As with the other Parks, we’re no longer herded in front of the gates until closer to Park. There are also no holding areas once inside. Disney doesn’t want a lot of people congregating in small spaces. I’ve pushed for similar opening procedures for years. It’s much more comfortable, and much more fair, to allow those who arrive earlier to gingerly walk to the attraction of their choice and experience it first. They should set up a special section for people who lie about enjoying the Jammitors first thing. We could stand there and watch all the people bypass them now that they’re given a choice. Typically, I’m slightly less hungover at 11am than 8:30am. So I’ve got that going for me.
All of this means we can head straight for Test Track unencumbered, even if the ride doesn’t begin operating until official Park open.
We’ll continue through this corridor.
And up through here.
And around here. To our left is the future location of the Guardians of the Galaxy ride, which will immediately become the Park’s most popular attraction once it opens. At least it’s convenient to the main entrance.
We’ll have plenty of time to ride Test Track first and then continue on to Frozen after. If you want to visit Frozen first, you’ll continue more or less straight past Test Track and continue up to World Showcase. We’ll take a similar route after Test Track.
The walls blocking access through the old Innoventions Breezeways remain, as they will for at least another 18+ months.
To get to the other side of Future World, you’ll need to walk around the walls on the back side. That means going the long way around to the left.
As I look back at 10:42am, there are not a lot of people who haven’t already passed me on the way to Test Track. With Disney buses typically arriving later, a lot of people are in the same boat.
So long as you catch the first bus of the day to the Park, your arrival time shouldn’t end up being a problem.
We’ll wind our way around the standby queue. Single rider is unavailable at all attractions at the moment, as is FastPass+.
The incoming crowd is light, despite 11am nearing. Prior to the Parks reopening, I was somewhat concerned by Epcot’s relatively late open. Certainly, anyone who really wants to be at Park open can be there at 11am. That’s less true with an 8am open. Disney’s transportation delays are probably a big part of why we don’t see more people here early. It’s by design.
Disability access, rider swap, and VIP Tours still have access to the old FastPass+ lines, which is why we see physical-distancing markers on the other side.
Queue modifications at Test Track are similar to what we’ve seen elsewhere.
These dividers run along most of the indoor queue.
As we pass by at 10:45am, or 15 minutes before the Park officially opens, they won’t come into play much.
Historically, we’ve taken some intangibles into account when touring. The unpleasantness of some of these dividers will play a small role in how we reorganize our day.
None of what we see inside Test Track is unpleasant at all. It’s still not where I would want to spend 45+ minutes if I could help it.
But we’re also going to run into this at Living with the Land. It’s significantly more claustrophobic with all of the browns. On the other hand, you may have a thing for mahogany.
Here’s the narrow queue at Gran Fiesta Tour. If we have to spend 15 minutes in line somewhere, it might as well be spacious. And not this.
I was slightly surprised to see these monitors in the Test Track queue on, though we probably need to be more concerned about air flow than surfaces. I’m not touching them either way.
There is currently no design studio stage as part of Test Track. These rooms, where we would have designed our vehicles as recently as the middle of March, are simply used as queue space. You can see the physical-distancing stickers on the ground.
As time goes on, and more people arrive, they’ll fill in to our right.
Like so. People will then fill in the other design studio, which will eventually back up into the regular queue and then outside.
Some of the monitors continued to display a demo mode of the design phase in one language or another.
It may have been slightly less depressing than seeing them all turned off, but the kids were definitely going for the screens with their displays’ on.
By about 10:50am, we were on our way to load.
This part is largely the same. You can see the people filing through the Design Studios down on the left.
We’ll round the corner.
Then each vehicle is limited to one party, whether that’s one person or six.
You’ll remember that Test Track seats three across in each of its two rows. Parties of six or fewer can spread themselves out however they like. Parties larger than six will need to break up into groups of six or fewer. That’s a problem I can’t relate to.
With the early start, I was on before 11am:
Outside, we enjoy a glimpse of three projects that Disney is actually likely to finish.
That blue building is Guardians of the Galaxy.
The gold roof is the top of the future Play! Pavilion.
Then that green building is supposed to be the future home of the Space 220 Restaurant.
Something tells me that we’re barreling towards its opening faster than Patina, the restaurant operator, and we haven’t even hit highway velocity.
Space 220 still doesn’t have an opening month, or perhaps, year. With multiple restaurants at Epcot still closed, and little demand at those that are open, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Space 220 open in about that many days. Seven or eight months from now would put us around spring break 2021. Even dining outlets that did originally reopen, like Tangierine Cafe, have shuttered due to low demand. That’s not exactly the atmosphere Patina was expecting when they were looking at a December 2019 opening. Just in time for Christmas and New Years.
As I’ve mentioned with each post, it’s impossible to keep your six feet of distance around all of the people and cast members. I will inevitably pass right by two of them to no fault of either of us. That’s just where the controls are located near the exit path.
Disney has turned virtually all of the interactive elements off in the post-show.
It’s a good thing we got into Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy or I would have no idea how to drive my new Lamborghini.
Epcot had opened with the Chevrolet Showroom still closed.
It has since reopened, probably resulting in the same number of Chevys sold.
I go out so rarely now that I can’t even remember if I get upset when the entrance is on the right or the left. I’m pretty sure I prefer to go in on the right, though. Here, we’re exiting on the right as we look inside, probably because it’s the area furthest from the registers. Not that anybody really buys anything here.
I was already done with Test Track and back outside at 11:06am, or just six minutes after the Park reopened. Here’s a look at wait times right off the bat:
Like with Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway at Hollywood Studios, we purposefully started with the Park’s highest priority. We can easily identify it by the fact that it already has a posted wait longer than Soarin’, Frozen, and Mission: SPACE…combined.
Frozen Ever After is a much lower priority than it was shortly after it opened. Or, at a minimum, it’s much more forgiving, with most people headed to Test Track first. This is particularly true with the way Disney funnels guests into the Park in one of two directions. You’d have to walk by Test Track in order to continue on to Frozen. The only reason to do that would be if you’re skipping Test Track altogether. With The Epcot Experience open in the old Odyssey Building, we don’t even have to go around it to get up to Norway. That means Frozen is about a six-minute walk away, which isn’t too bad.
In the ten years that we’ve been touring the Parks together, Future World has opened at least two hours before the majority of World Showcase. At least as far as memory serves. Prior to the extended Park closure, the French bakery and everything in Norway opened with the Park. The rest of World Showcase followed with an 11am open, typically to the confusion of guests.
With Epcot opening at 11am, Future World and World Showcase open in tandem. Theoretically, we could hit Test Track, move up to Gran Fiesta Tour in Mexico and Frozen Ever After in Norway, and then continue on enjoying World Showcase for the next few hours. We don’t have to immediately return to Future World to do other things. Come 4pm or 5pm, when the crowds have had a chance to move up to World Showcase from Future World, we could then return to Future World where waits will be shorter.
For now, we’ll see how visiting the two operating rides in World Showcase goes after taking a brief break at The Epcot Experience. You never know what projects might be canceled. This video, based on what’s no longer featured, seems like the only way to find out.
Once we get finished getting reacquainted with Epcot, I may run the “Taste of Epcot International Food and Wine Festival” reviews.
It’s a pretty sad Festival at the moment with the limited number of booths and short menus. With no International College Program, chances are that whoever serves you in Mexico, Italy, France, the UK, etc. will be your standard cast member, which also takes away from some of the authenticity of the event. I don’t have any problem with Paula from Montgomery, of course, but there’s just something about ordering that $40 crepe from someone hailing from Lyon named Alexandre.
While I am not typically a big proponent of crowds, people, and the excitement that they bring, are a big part of why Food & Wine works. The prices might be stupid and the drinks might be weak, but it’s still fun because so many other people are having fun alongside you. Disney has tried to recreate the success of Food and Wine with similar booth offerings, seminars, and events at the Flower and Garden Festival, Festival of the Holidays, and Festival of the Arts with little success.
This year is a bust any way you look at it, but you wonder if Disney running the Festival under these sad, barbarically-hot conditions will do more harm than good. Remember, Disney doesn’t know how to recreate the success of Food and Wine. Sometimes you just get lucky by building something slowly over a number of years.
With so few people around, it’s unlikely that most people will experience this year’s Taste of Epcot Festival, anyway. Or if they do, it will be in October or November, when crowds pick up and temperatures cool a bit. With virtually no exceptions, I don’t think you’re missing much by sitting this year’s Food and Wine Festival out. With no international cast members, no concerts, no snack credits, no half marathon, no real special events, or much else to differentiate the Festival from what Epcot would look like during the summer anyway, it’s not a particularly lively event. Of course, that could change come weekends in October. We could be slamming $25 shots of tequila together before you know it. I’ll give you the money, but you’ll still have to go into La Cava for me.
About one other person is in front of me on the way to Norway. He could be lost.
Unless you know that the only thing you want to do in the Mexico Pavilion is the Gran Fiesta Tour ride, I’d probably backtrack here after experiencing Frozen.
While it’s not exactly a race back here, waits for Frozen will materialize much earlier than Gran Fiesta.
And that guy isn’t even headed for Norway. Unless he’s rocking Reflections of China, he’s not going to run into much open until Germany. And even then.
We should be in for a wait of five minutes or less for Frozen.
With ten minutes posted.
There aren’t many queue modifications to speak of here.
It’s just this one barrier.
And what looks to be more Disney-installed plastic on the left. You can see how empty the queue is around me and behind me.
We’ll basically walk right on:
I arrived at 11:12am and boarded at 11:17am.
Like Pirates of the Caribbean, cast should seat parties in the first and fourth rows:
I was back out front at 11:23am. That’s a total experience time of just 11 minutes, which is about the best that you could hope for when using the currently-defunct FastPass+. I could get back in line and wait about ten minutes to ride again, if that.
Akershus Royal Banquet Hall is currently a “Relaxation Station.” In about an hour, you can head inside, take off your face covering, and enjoy some air-conditioning and at least a couple of the three C’s that we’re all supposed to avoid.
We’ll double back towards Mexico for the Gran Fiesta Tour and then head to Future World to see what we can expect from Mission: SPACE, Living with the Land, and Soarin’.