We’ll take some time to check out what’s happening at Epcot, with an emphasis on Future World, before we move on to World Showcase. I’ll also weave in some touring strategies as we move about the Park, beginning with what it takes to reach Test Track first thing in the morning in this post.
Above is the latest concept art released by Disney, showing what we can eventually expect from Epcot’s entrance, from a vantage point that we will probably never enjoy ourselves. The focus down below is on greenery with a number of what appear to be permanent topiary lining the outskirts of the walk into the Park. Obviously, the Leave a Legacy Monoliths, or what was colloquially refereed to as “the war memorial,” will eventually be removed in their entirety. Interestingly, it doesn’t look like the future is going to bring a lot more room to walk than there is now with the installation of all the planters. With so many tall trees, one also wonders how much of the view ahead will be obscured by branches. It remains to be seen what kinds of topiary and other decorations end up at the entrance, but those in the concept are are all currently in Disney’s repertoire. Down on the right, you might recognize Sorcerer Mickey, who can often be seen at the front of Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Beast and Belle in the planter behind him are right out of the France Pavilion during Flower and Garden, as are Donald and Daisy on the far left and Winnie the Pooh behind them. Since it’s just concept art, we probably shouldn’t read too much into any of that. The concept art may also be timed to the Flower and Garden Festival.
Obviously with just one static image, we can’t tell what Epcot’s entrance will look like throughout the year, but it will be interesting to see if the seasonal topiary scenes return. You’d have to think that they would.
Leave a Legacy was always unpopular with the masses, but the monoliths did serve to bring the eye forward to the awesome geodesic sphere that houses Spaceship Earth in the distance. Perhaps all of those tree branches hitting you in the face as you walk into the Park will sort of act like the train station at Magic Kingdom, blocking the view of Cinderella Castle until you finish passing through.
Of course, we’re still quite a ways off of the beauty that you see in the concept art. How much of the dirt and construction you see will depend largely on how you approach the Park. If you arrive by Disney bus, you’ll be able to tell that there’s something going on behind the walls to the left, but you won’t see much or any of what is probably best described as destruction rather than construction. The tram loop is completely walled off at the moment as it’s moved further away from bag check and the entrance. A temporary tram loop is currently in operation even further away from the entrance, not unlike recent experiences at Hollywood Studios where the tram drop-off and pick-up had to be moved further out during front entrance construction.
With the usual walkway behind walls, most guests walking from the parking lot will need to take a bit of a detour as well.
This panorama should give you a pretty good idea about where we’re at with a monorail currently in the station over to the right.
Of course, you’ll only have to look at this if you’re about 6’10” tall.
Otherwise, it’s just more temporary green walls.
And some good news: it’s not nearly the labyrinth that walking to the entrance would have been as recently as last month, when far more walls were up.
You’ll just follow the walls and everyone else. Historically, I almost always walk to the entrance rather than take the tram at Epcot. With Spaceship Earth standing tall in the distance and what has been a straight shot to security, it usually “feels” like it’s a pretty quick jaunt. The tram is loud and slow and often, you have to stand there waiting for it to arrive for just about as long as it would take to walk. The current state of construction probably adds 90 seconds to two minutes to the walk, but you’d also need to add that amount of time to the tram ride since it now drops off further away as well. But the bottom line is that the walls probably aren’t a big deal, and if you’re traveling via Disney bus or monorail, then you’ll only be affected by seeing some walls or active construction. It’s not like the Studios, where the temporary bus stops were about five minutes further away from the entrance than the original loop.
On this side, there are two sets of bag check areas and which one typically has shorter lines varies by the time of day. At 7:54am, Bag Check 1 isn’t open at all with just a short wait for Bag Check 2. Historically, Bag Check 1 has been the main security area, but that has changed with the recent construction now that a lot more people are coming from this side.
Guests arriving via Disney bus or the monorail continue to use bag check on the opposite side. If anything, the necessity of having both sides open all day should increase throughput and reduce waits. Over the last few years, Epcot security has gotten bogged down, particularly on Saturdays from around 10:30am to around 1:30pm. Outside of that, things are usually okay. I waited less than a minute when I arrived and here at 12:13pm on Friday, July 26th, you could still walk right up. The green wall that you see leads to the bus stops. The Skyliner will also begin delivering about 6,000 rooms full of people to the International Gateway instead of the main entrance come September 29th. That should help reduce waits as well.
The old tram area is down to dirt.
This should be the new tram loop on the other side of the monorail station.
That’s the walkway up to the monorail on the right as we leave the station. We’re looking at the opposite side of what should become the tram loop.
This angle from the other side may offer a clearer look at just how substantial this project has become.
My estimation is that the new configuration is designed so fewer people have to hold for the trams as they arrive at and leave the drop-off/pick-up area and will likely eliminate that crosswalk that a lot of us have traversed time and time again. That should make the area safer and aid in guest flow.
Here’s a look at the past and current walkways into the Park.
From the monorail platform, the construction is evident, but I’m not sure anybody cares. If anything, it’s interesting to see what they’ve got going on. Based on what we’re currently seeing, it looks like we better get used to the view, which may be a shame since construction at Hollywood Studios is finally winding down.
Walls went up around the western half of the Leave a Legacy Monoliths back in May with the initial removal taking six or seven weeks.
The walls came down on the opposite side over a month ago, on June 18th.
That was over a month ago and work hasn’t begun on the opposite side.
During the day, it’s not particularly attractive, but the lights still shine bright at night, giving an elegant look to the area.
I’m not sure that this is necessarily an area that “needs” to be expanded from an operational standpoint. Certainly, there are lots of spots where we might wish the walkways were a little wider – principally around Fantasyland at Magic Kingdom. The thought may also come to mind outside Expedition Everest at Animal Kingdom, among other spots.
But I think most people, by their very nature, will continue to take the path of least resistance, staying as close to the center planter as possible and ignoring most of what’s around them. This is still America.
At the moment, that’s probably ideal.
At some point in the near future, just about everything inside Future World will likely be behind walls. For example, this fountain will be reimagined at some point, which means tall construction walls circling it.
While we’re here, we’ll go ahead and rope drop Test Track, which is the Park’s top priority at the moment. For a year or so after opening, Frozen Ever After was the top FastPass+ and rope drop priority, but that’s been taken back over by Test Track, which sees higher waits and less FP+ availability. Securing FP+ for Test Track, which is one of the least reliable rides at Walt Disney World, is also the best way to guarantee that you’ll be able to ride. Test Track is down at Park open about 15% of the time, which is the highest of any attraction in any Park. It also goes down with lightning in the area, which is incredibly common during the summer months. And there are all of the technical problems, too. If you have FP+, then you can use it outside the original window if the ride goes down for any reason during the time for which you were supposed to ride.
If you’re using FP+ at Test Track, then you could still start your day with Frozen and then potentially trek all the way back to Soarin’ or head to Mission: SPACE. I don’t recommend going to Frozen first thing for those entering from the main entrance because of how much of a slog it is up to World Showcase and back. My plan is going to start with Test Track and then I’m going to hoof it over to Soarin’ to see how long the standby wait is there. I’ll use FP+ for Frozen, so I can visit after lunch and then continue to enjoy the afternoon in World Showcase. Since nothing on that side of World Showcase, outside of the Norway Pavilion, opens until 11am, those who ride Frozen first will have no choice but to walk all the way back to Future World after.
Frozen makes more sense as a first stop from the International Gateway, as it’s a shorter distance than Test Track or Soarin’. If you’re coming in from that direction and interested in seeing what that process looks like, then you might pull up this post. It’s going to be interesting to see what changes Disney makes to the rope drop procedure once the Skyliner opens on September 29th. There are going to be thousands more people dropped off at the International Gateway every day.
Above is the scene at 7:57am. Those with pre-opening breakfast reservations are lined up on the far left. As usual, if you arrive later than you’d like, you might hang around over there as those tapstiles will be converted to regular entry closer to opening time.
If you arrive early, you might check to see if there’s a set of uncovered tapstiles with nobody standing in front of them. That’s the case on the far right. Instead of getting in line behind about ten people, I could be first in line.
Here’s the scene at 8am. These days, getting to bag check around 8:10am is early enough. You might still shoot for 8am as transportation delays and the longer walk that we saw earlier may delay you a bit.
Here’s the scene behind me at 8:10am – about a hundred people have arrived since 8am.
Ten minutes later, at 8:20am, there are considerably more people and you’d be about 20th in line.
Five minutes later, at 8:25am, things are predictably busier.
Hope for some cloud cover as the sun blazes down overhead.
8:25am is later than we’d like for Test Track, but you would still be fine for Soarin’ or Frozen. About half of the people at rope drop will be headed for Test Track, with about 22.3% heading to Soarin’ and 21.9% headed to Frozen.
Here’s the scene at 8:30am, which is typically when Epcot begins letting people enter the Park. The crowd here is well below average. During busier times of year, like October, there would be a few hundred more people here.
It’s not very far until the next holding area.
With its wide walkways, Epcot is the most pleasant of the rope drop experiences, at least until about 8:44am.
I’ve let myself fall behind a bit, but this is where you’ll be held for the next 25ish minutes.
For Test Track or Frozen, you’ll want to stay to the left.
For Soarin’, stay to the right.
This is actually a relatively pleasant place to stand with Spaceship Earth providing some cover from the sun and the area acting as a bit of a wind tunnel with a nice breeze coming in underneath the sphere.
That’s a bit less true if you’re farther back. At 8:40am, crowds are almost unbelievably low. The summer, before the Food and Wine Festival starts, has become the best time of year to visit Epcot from a crowds and wait times perspective. There are no real special events driving crowds.
Around 8:44am, the Jammitors will come out and bang on some trash cans with drum sticks for a few minutes. It probably isn’t what Walt had in mind with the whole prototype community of tomorrow thing, but if education is the focus of the Park, then it may be a testament to staying in school. On the other hand, banging on trash cans with drum sticks at Epcot is probably just about the best job you could have, perhaps with the exception of complaining about them on Twitter for a living.
Here’s the scene behind me at 8:50am as more people are filing in. With the low crowds, even arriving now would be fine for Soarin’ or Frozen.
At about 8:52am, you’ll hold your right hand up and promise not to run. These people must have been crossing their fingers on their left hand at the same time.
And at 8:54am, we’re off.
It’s a pretty easy walk with the wide paths. There are also no cast members walking us at a slow pace, so we’re not bunched together uncomfortably like at Flight of Passage, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train or Slinky Dog Dash. Those posts should help if you’re headed to the top priorities at the other Parks. We’ll be making a left turn for Test Track. For Frozen, you’d continue walking straight.
There’s the group heading to Soarin’ first. If you’re not interested in Test Track or plan on using FP+ or single rider later in the day, then Soarin’ is a viable first stop if you don’t want to walk all the way to Frozen Ever After in World Showcase. With its third theater and hefty hourly capacity, the hang gliding simulator is much more forgiving than it once was and FP+ are relatively easy to pick up as a 4th selection later in the day. With the low crowds, I’m not going to have to wait in the queue before the merge with FP+ at all after I arrive at 9:30am.
We’ll pass under here.
I would say that this is the same path that we’ll be taking for Guardians of the Galaxy after it opens, but with all of the expected construction and demolition, what we see here may not exist in two years.
Here we are heading right.
And Test Track is just ahead.
In the next part, we’ll get to riding and take a look at some other current and upcoming construction projects as we tour the Park.