Epcot Morning Touring After Reopening
We pick things up at Epcot on Wednesday, July 29th, 2020. It’s both 11:24am and 24 minutes after both Future World and World Showcase opened. This is a departure from how Epcot operated before the extended spring closure, when Future World opened at 9am and most of World Showcase followed at 11am. Since the Frozen ride opened in Norway, that Pavilion opened with the Park, typically at 9am. The bakery in France also opened with the Park. Now, just about everything that will be open will open with the Park…at 11am.
Pull up Part One if you missed it, which will get you acquainted with Epcot’s current opening procedure and also take you along to Test Track and Frozen Ever After. To recap, I entered the Park at 10:37am, arrived at Test Track at 10:43am, boarded my sim car at 10:58am, and was back out front at 11:06am. I then proceeded to Frozen Ever After in Norway, where I arrived at 11:12am, boarded my boat at 11:16am, and finished up at 11:21am. That’s two of Epcot’s highest priorities completed in about 20 minutes. It’s an auspicious start at a theme park that nobody really goes to anymore.
Historically, if we wanted to visit Frozen after Test Track, we’d have to trudge all the way back to Future World after because just about everything else in World Showcase would remain closed for another ~90 minutes. It was typically worthwhile to do that since the wait for Frozen would be ten minutes or less. Then we’d be looking at a six or seven minute walk to Mission: SPACE or a ten minute walk to the other side of Future World. Currently, you could visit Test Track, then ride Frozen, and then stay in World Showcase and enjoy the lowest crowds of the day there before returning to Future World. At least 80% of the people visiting Epcot enter via the main entrance and spend at least a couple of hours in Future World before moving up to World Showcase.
To run into the fewest people, and to enjoy the lowest crowds, staying in World Showcase from 11:30am through about four hours before Epcot closes would be smart. Disney just reduced Epcot’s operating hours beginning September 8th, so Epcot is currently slated to close at 7pm from then through the end of October. It should continue to operate until 9pm through September 7th. You may need to adjust your plans a bit based on the closing time.
Epcot’s early close is a bit curious considering it’s a dining/drinking destination for most visitors. With no nighttime spectaculars, it’s possible that few people are sticking around as it is. Disney should continue to offer dinner reservations up until just before close. You should be able to score a 6:45pm or 6:55pm reservation with the 7pm close. That would put you back out on the World Showcase promenade around 8:30pm as the sun sets and you can enjoy a leisurely stroll out of the Park.
Considering the crowd levels that we’ve seen on weekends in October in the past, it’s almost unbelievable that Epcot would close at 7pm on a Saturday during Food and Wine. But we’ll see. Obviously, what you see above will not be the reality of this year’s situation on a number of fronts.
Back to touring efficiency, staying in World Showcase after Frozen would put you in a good position to enjoy lunch at one of the operating restaurants. While we haven’t been bothered too much by what’s closed at the other Parks, that’s likely less true in World Showcase. If one store on Hollywood Boulevard at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is closed, chances are that similar merchandise is available at a host of other locations, including the store across the street. At Epcot, a lot of what you find in World Showcase is unique. You can pull up a list of what’s currently open across the Parks at DisneyWorld.com here.
At Epcot, virtually all of the entertainment is unavailable. That includes everything from the Voices of Liberty to Serveur Amusant to Sergio to Matsuriza. The international college program is “paused,” which means the cast members in their respective pavilions are more likely to be named Pam or Jimmy than Helga or Yuki. It takes away a lot of the charm of visiting the Pavilions. Or, at least, what’s open in them. In the China Pavilion, Lotus Blossom Cafe, the quick service, is closed. Nine Dragons, the sit down restaurant, is closed. Mulan isn’t meeting despite having a movie to push. The Jeweled Acrobats don’t perform. The only thing that reopened with the Park is the Circle-Vision 360 film Reflections of China. Disney already announced its replacement, which should already be installed. But it isn’t, so Reflections of China is it outside of the food kiosk out front and about 40% of the open-air merchandise kiosk. But there is one piece of potential good news: The House of Good Fortune store did reopen on August 8th. Don’t worry. You can still buy one of those fluffy flamingo marionettes.
Anyway, we’re not focusing on World Showcase anymore because it’s depressing. But it does make sense from a touring efficiency perspective to spend your time there earlier rather than later. Just double check that where you’re planning on eating is open. Also make sure that the Park is open when you plan to eat. Tangierine Cafe reopened with the Park, but has already closed, purportedly due to a lack of demand. It’s possible other establishments will follow, whether they’re operated by Disney or not.
The France Pavilion made some waves yesterday when the head chef retired and joked that it wasn’t a matter of “when” the restaurants in France would reopen, but “if.” Disney has since clarified that they will reopen when it’s safe to do so. Disney and its partners will have to restart the international college program to import a couple thousand cast members. Until that happens, many of the restaurants and other outlets that are closed should remain closed. You don’t want me behind the grill at Teppan Edo. I haven’t been able to flip a shrimp tail into my chef’s hat since my back went out for the third time in the summer of ’96. Luckily, it looks like they’re slated for an August 24th reopening. Probably without me, though I haven’t heard for sure. It will be strange if some things reopen because of anticipated demand at the same time others close because of a lack of it.
We’re stopping in the Mexico Pavilion on our way back to Future World. We’re met with an A-frame warning sign and arrows pointing us to the right. Theoretically, that social-distancing sticker on the ground on the right is for La Cava.
I don’t think we’ll run into a tremendous wait for our pre-made drink today. This is another example of when physical distancing can be a little more difficult. There probably aren’t six feet between the party waiting for their jugarita and those heading down to the rest of the Pavilion.
While it’s relatively easy to keep your distance in most outdoor spaces and in the attraction queues themselves, it’s significantly less true in stores. We’ve all probably seen something from across the way and made a beeline for it, passing closely by numerous people only to not buy whatever that thing is. With the various kiosks in the Pavilion, space is tight.
By spending most of your first couple hours in World Showcase, you’ll have far fewer issues with this.
I’m headed to the Gran Fiesta Tour with its extended queue not currently in use. It wraps around to the right towards San Angel Inn.
While the line still moves relatively quickly, this narrow queue feels all the more claustrophobic with the barriers in place.
It’s probably not a huge deal for most people.
But if we have to spend ten minutes here, or ten minutes where there’s something to look at other than brown, we’d probably take the former.
At 11:27am, it’s a straight shot to load.
Seating here works like most other boat rides like Pirates of the Caribbean and it’s a small world. It doesn’t look like it in the picture, but I’m in the last row, while another single group of four people occupies the first two rows. That puts capacity around 40%.
We’ll enjoy a quiet ride on one of Disney World’s most under-appreciated attractions:
For about a week, the José Carioca animatronic was missing due to technical trouble.
It has since returned.
Mexico may be the most “complete” Pavilion at the moment with the most open things. I’m assuming you could find someone to check you out if you wanted to purchase something.
Even the woodworkers were at it. You can also see Mariachi Cobre at the American Gardens Theater in the United States Pavilion.
The Kidcot Fun Stops are still sort of a thing. You should be able to pick up the kit from the usual locations, but there are no international cast members to speak to. If you see me, I could tell you about latkes or something.
What may or may not be the “lobby” area of the pyramid has social-distancing dots on the ground. This is potentially for downpours, when people inevitably try to get out of the rain via any mechanism possible. It’s not uncommon for this area to resemble a flop house around 3pm. It’s also possible that on much busier days, assuming that’s possible, there would be a wait to head down into the rest of the Pavilion.
Like most interactive elements, these Coco-inspired screens are unavailable. The whole “Day of the Dead” thing, while thematically on-point, may not be the best choice for the current environment.
It’s 11:40am and I’m three rides in. If this were a vlog, I think this is where I scream “WEEEEEEE” and roll down the stairs. You’ll have to take my word for it that I did not do that.
Most of the people heading this direction are probably looking for Frozen.
Choza de Margarita is open. There’s no line now, but there will be later. Another good reason to stick it out in World Showcase.
La Cantina de San Angel is also open. The Nachos there are always a good shareable option. Since the Park opens at 11am, and you’ll be done with your first three rides around noon, you may elect to share something here before moving on. I’d be eyeballing a Via Napoli reservation for around 2pm.
We’re interested in seeing how things progress in Future World, so we’ll head back in that direction. We may take a more positive approach to World Showcase in the future, highlighting the architecture and details rather than the fact that it’s empty, there’s no entertainment, and the things are closed.
And we do have time for the occasional flower photo.
While the Epcot monorail isn’t currently operating, we do see a little something moving on the tracks. I thought about attaching my umbrella and going for a ride, Mary-Poppins-style. Anything to get out of Epcot and back to Hollywood Studios a little bit faster.
The Donut Box, outside Test Track, was slated to be Taste Track for a while. They even put up the hamburger menu prior to the extended closure. Electric Umbrella is now part of the hole, so Disney was concerned about meeting frozen beef patty demand. That ended up being a problem that did not need solving. And may be further proof that procrastination/ignoring the problem really is/are the key(s) to success. If a burger is what you’re after, Regal Eagle Barbecue is your best bet, followed by Sunshine Seasons. I need to write my Regal Eagle review, but it’s a solid quick service option, and the only one in World Showcase that accepts mobile order.
There are five or six Festival kiosks that aren’t yet open. “COMING THIS FALL” it says on the left. We’ll see. I may or may not have my Festival reviews up in time for the next batch to open.
Cool Wash is another of many locations that remains closed. Akershus, Block & Hans, Chefs de France, Kringla Bakeri, Lotus Blossom, Monsieur Paul, Nine Dragons, Restaurant Marrakesh, Sommerfest, Takumi-Tei, Teppan Edo, Tokyo Dining, and Yorkshire Fish are also currently closed. If Teppan Edo sees success in a couple of weeks, other restaurants may follow.
We’re swinging by Test Track again at 11:45am, or 45 minutes after the Park opened. While the queue spills outside, it’s not nearly as bad as it looks given physical-distancing. The posted wait is 45 minutes at what is just about the worst time to get in line for a priority attraction.
There are not a lot of people streaming into Disney World’s least popular theme park. Instead of cutting Epcot’s hours, I’m surprised that they didn’t open it up to Park Hopping. Come September 8th, all Parks will be closed by 7pm. That will push a lot of people to the lawless land that is Disney Springs. That’s easily the most hectic time to visit the shopping and dining district, particularly on weekends. There, people are more likely to spend their money at third-party establishments. There are probably a lot of people who would like to hop over to Epcot in the evening to enjoy a leisurely walk around World Showcase. Even if a lot of things are closed, it’s still a pretty, relaxing jaunt.
My advice would be to avoid Disney Springs at night if you can. Or if you do visit, be prepared to see a lot more people than you do at Epcot. I’d instead look at a last-minute reservation inside the theme park or at a resort restaurant. That will be a much more relaxing end to your evening than trying to transfer back and forth to Disney Springs. If you’re relying on Disney transportation, you can always take it to a resort that you’re not staying at for a dining reservation. Then use Uber/Lyft for a ride back to your home resort. It will cost about $10.
The 7pm closes in September could be temporary. At a minimum, I’d expect Disney to keep Epcot open until 9pm on Fridays and Saturdays in October. Closes at 7pm in November and December would also throw off Festival of the Holidays and the Candlelight Processional schedule, among other things.
It was nice to see Disney continuing to work on the roof of the old Wonders of Life Pavilion. It will become the Play! Pavilion at some point. You can probably add a year to whatever opening dates we were originally expecting.
At 11:48am, Mission: SPACE was still posting a 20-minute wait for the Mars Mission and a 15-minute wait for the Earth Mission. That didn’t sound too bad.
But with a line that stretched outside and around the extended queue, things didn’t look promising.
Then I looked back up and the wait for the Orange Mars Mission increased to 45 minutes. We’ll come back. This does also reinforce the idea that staying up in World Showcase for a few hours is smart. Waits here in Future World are longest from 11:30am to 2pm.
While it’s hard to find much comfort in these unsettling times, it is nice to “feel” slightly less creepy taking pictures of playgrounds when they’re closed.
That’s one thing that there haven’t been a whole lot of since Walt Disney World reopened. Kids. While I would prefer not to meet Anna and Elsa, that’s potentially a minority opinion among the younger set. I also wouldn’t want to have to explain to my kids why they can’t hug Mickey or have to constantly patrol their face covering, among many other reasons to avoid the Parks with kids at the moment. It’s certainly doable if you’re a regular visitor, but as I’ve said from the start of this thing, it’s probably not the time for that once-in-a-lifetime trip.
Poor food and wine. Disney doesn’t rely on the revenue from the event quite to the extent that Universal leans on Halloween Horror Nights, but those kiosks have been cash cows for years. Now, the Hawaii booth might sell four or five Kahlua Sliders an hour on a Tuesday afternoon.
While not exactly tone deaf, Disney is already sending its #DisneyCreators to try to hype their least popular theme park:
There’s a very specific checklist that each entity follows, advertising exactly whatever Disney wants highlighted packaged in exactly the way that they want it. In this case, we’re pushing the Festival that nobody is spending money at and trying to reinforce Disney’s enhanced sanitation measures by showing pictures of temporary hand-washing stations. These people would do whatever Disney tells them to do in what remains the bizarre world of social media “influencing.” Most people don’t realize that this is the equivalent of paid advertising, which is basically the point of the program. If a #DisneyCreator doesn’t follow Disney’s guidelines exactly, they will find someone else who will….create properly. There is only one narrative.
Poor Flower and Garden. We hardly knew thee. That single, closed booth across the water sums up the current state of Epcot pretty well.
I pulled up the My Disney Experience app to see what we could expect from wait times around Future World:
We’ve already taken care of two of the attractions with the longest waits. Ten minutes for both Soarin’ and Living with the Land seem more than reasonable.
We’ll have to walk around the back side of the hole to get over to the other side of Future World.
We’ll be stopping by the Imagination Pavilion for both Journey into Imagination and the Disney and Pixar Short Film Festival.
The current state of the hole is about where we left it.
Without the monorail going, this is about as high up of a view as we can get without being lowered down from a helicopter.
This may come as a surprise, but I’m not that agile.
This is what the same area looked like seven months ago. It doesn’t look like we’ve seen a tremendous amount of progress on a project that was originally supposed to take about two years from about seven months ago. You can probably tack two more years on to today’s date for when we’ll be able to walk through here again. If we’re lucky.
While that was not particularly positive, we’re headed for Living with the Land next. That’s always a good thing.