This post has a little bit of extra fluff. Skip down to the “The State of the Monorail – Epcot” section for just the Monorail business.
This post is going to be somewhat less exciting than the Magic Kingdom edition, which is available here: https://www.easywdw.com/uncategorized/the-state-of-the-monorail-magic-kingdom-edition/. Beginning July 11th, Epcot’s Monorail system shut down one hour after regular Park close every night. Since Epcot closes at 9pm most nights (9:30pm from November 25 – December 30 to accommodate Candlelight Processional and occasionaly at 10pm on weekends during Food & Wine Festival), the Monorail system will disallow any new guests from entering the Monorail queue right at 10pm. Like Magic Kingdom Monorail, guests are allowed to ride the Monorail as long as they are through the Monorail entrance within one hour of Epcot close, even if the Monorail doesn’t show up until shortly after. I’ve witnessed this procedure a few times over the last month. Unless you have dining reservations that begin right before 9pm, you should have no trouble getting to the Monorail entrance by 10pm, even if you hang back for about 30 minuets letting most guests exit in front of you. Like with Magic Kingdom, the theoretical “problem” would be if you’re staying at a Disney World Monorail Deluxe Resort (Contemporary, Grand Floridian, Polynesian) and are unable to make it to the Monorail by 10pm or plan to stay through evening Extra Magic Hours. It may also come into play if you’re staying off-site and/or parking at Ticket/Transportation Center for some other reason. If this is the case and the bus ride would be too much to bear, you can move your car to the Epcot parking lot rather than take the bus back after 10pm. Since evening Extra Magic Hours only occur one evening per week in most cases and this website strongly discourages participation, the 10pm closure should not affect most visitors.
Because the Epcot Monorail System does not service any resorts directly, there’s no worry about guests staying on the Epcot Monorail line, like there is with the Magic Kingdom. The Epcot Monorail simply runs from Epcot’s main entrance to Ticket/Transportation Center. For those parking at Ticket/Transportation Center, you can move your car to the Epcot Parking Lot at no additional cost on the same day, so long as you keep your ticket.
But I Want to Whine Anyway
I know you do. So do I.
These are the same signs we’ve been seeing for just under a month. It confirms what we already know.
Welcome to sunny Florida. Nothing clears out Epcot like a good 60-90 minute rainstorm that begins around 6:30pm, like we had tonight. People set out to stay for IllumiNations, but they aren’t as hellbent about it as they are about the nighttime Parade and Fireworks at Magic Kingdom. It’s just not as popular with kids, in particular.
Future World always clears out a lot after 7pm as many of the attractions cease operation. After 7pm, Test Track, Mission Space, Spaceship Earth, and Soarin’ continue operation through Park close. Innoventions and everything inside it, Ellen’s Energy Adventure and the Energy Pavilion, Captain EO, Journey into Imagination and the Imagination Pavilion, Living with the Land, and Circle of Life all shut down at 7pm. We see a lot of people move up through the World Showcase beginning around 4pm and by 7pm, much fewer people remain in Future World. When it rains like this and people exit Epcot in droves, Future World is even less busy. Test Track had a posted wait time of 30 minutes, but the actual wait was more like 15 minutes, including the preshow and the second queue after. I basically walked on in the Single Rider line – there were four or five people in front of me. The “bonus” is that you get to skip the preshow video in the Single Rider line, which cuts out a few minutes and speeds up the line.
Club Cool is also open until 9pm now as are the other Future World restaurants and quick service locations. Until a few weeks ago, Club Cool had closed at 7pm.
As I said before, the rain really helps clear crowds out. This is along the Mexico Pavilion railing around 8:30pm. Without the rain, this area would be significantly busier. Crowds at the base of World Showcase were also very low.
The seating area at La Cantina de San Angel in the Mexico Pavilion is one of the most popular locations to see IllumiNations. Forget about seeing it there unless you want to arrive by 6pm and defend your position for three hours. It’s covered and there are tables and chairs, but I don’t think it’s worth it. Your chances of just finding a random table open up around 8:30pm are basically zero as there will be plenty of lurkers ready to pounce. You also run the risk of people standing right in front of your table, which is beginning to happen now.
A pretty chill scene at the Norway Pavilion. A lot of people have moved further up through the World Showcase by this time, which often translates to lower crowds in Mexico and Norway. My favorite viewing location is along the railing across from Norway (pictured above). It’s usually less crowded and Kringla Bakeri is a two minute walk away.
A poor image of the Italy Pavilion railing looking busy. Another thing that comes into play in the World Showcase is the fact that you can basically rent out any slice of it for a private function of one variety or another. The minimum cost, with (required) food, is about $750, but it’s an option if you’re looking to do something special. The point here is more that the crowds along the railing in a specific location will be heavier if there’s a large private function going on next door, as there was in Italy.
I ended up getting a spot right along the railing to the left of the boat dock in Germany. This is a picture of the Italy Pavilion from that location. It’s not the best place, but it was perfectly fine and I didn’t have to get there until 8:59pm. Rain is certainly a hassle if you find yourself in an open area when it’s pouring, but it can also be a blessing in disguise. Just head to dinner or a few shops if the rain is coming down. It will most likely clear up within an hour. It can certainly pour in Orlando, but rain storms that last longer than an hour are pretty uncommon at any time of day, even if the weather forecast states there’s a 40-50% chance of rain throughout the afternoon or evening.
IllumiNations. While I tease the Disney Blogging Elite from time to time, one thing I can’t do is give my real opinion of IllumiNations.
An empty Morocco Pavilion around 9:30pm. Very pretty.
A mostly empty Les Chefs de France at 9:35pm. Most Epcot restaurants accept reservations right up until Park close (8:55pm this evening). Reservations at most restaurants after 8pm aren’t very popular because it means missing IllumiNations outside. If you don’t care about IllumiNations or plan to see it on another night, but really want a dining reservation that seems hard to get, consider checking for availability after 8:30pm (do this by inputting 9pm as your desired dining time on Disney Reservations). Also consider walking up to any restaurant after 8:30pm. They most likely will be happy to have you. This can change during the upcoming Free Dining Promotion, but it’s still usually easy to get seated after 8:30pm and certainly your best chance of walking up to a restaurant and getting a table with a short wait.
This is the bridge right outside the Outpost area in World Showcase, right before you arrive in China from Germany. Disney raises the bridge around 9:40pm to move some of the pyrotechnics backstage. You can sort of see a low boat in the water in the second image.
All of the World Showcase stores close at 9pm, but several of the major World Showcase stores continue operating until 10pm. This is Mouse Gear, Epcot Camera Center, and Gateway Gifts operating at 9:50pm. There’s no one rushing you out the door.
The State of the Monorail – Epcot
Here we are back out front at 9:50pm. Sorry it’s so blurry. If you actually want to be able to see what it is you’re looking at, you would have to visit: http://www.disneytouristblog.com/. As I mentioned in the Magic Kingdom Monorail post, the Epcot Monorail actually shut down at 8pm this evening due to technical difficulties. You can see the Monorail cast member out front and the chain in front of the Monorail entrance. Normally, this would still be open to guests and as long as you passed under the sign by 10pm, (or 9:55pm to be safe), you would be allowed to ride. The Monorail failure we saw this evening is relatively common and goes back to the reason behind the Monorail’s shorter hours. While it appears that Disney will only be able to conduct minor maintenance on the Monorail trains that will be in service during the day, they must think that shorter hours of operation will ultimately lead to fewer breakdowns. Although I’m about as far from an engineer as you could get, this would seem logical. After all, a television that is on two hours a day would most likely last longer than one that’s on 24 hours a day. There’s probably some truth to the fact that Monorail trains would malfunction less often if they’re run less often.
This is the signage outside the Epcot bus stops, pointing people down to bus stop 3 and 4.
Here we are in line. This is a somewhat stressful place to be because of the confusion concerning where the lines start and which line is for which bus. We’ve got two lines here, one of which is incorrectly marked. To the left of this long line is another separate line. The line to the left is for a bus that services the Grand Floridian and Polynesian Resorts. The entrance to this line is all the way down past this long line we see ahead of us. If you were staying at the Grand Floridian or Polynesian, you would need to scout this out by “cutting” in front of all of these people and then entering the opening in the gate which is all the way down at the end, past 100+ people. The line we’re standing in now is marked for the Ticket/Transportation Center and Contemporary Resort. However, this bus doesn’t actually stop at the Contemporary Resort – it only makes one stop at the Ticket and Transportation Center. Those staying at the Contemporary Resort would have to get on this bus and then transfer to the Resort Monorail at the Ticket/Transportation Center and then ride that Monorail system all the way around to Polynesian Resort, Grand Floridian Resort, Magic Kingdom, and ultimately back to the Contemporary Resort.
A better look to the left at guests in a separate line for the Grand Floridian/Polynesian bus. Note that most people in line to the right are in line for the Ticket/Transportation Center bus.
A lot of people in line at 10:05pm.
A look at the incorrectly marked sign.
To Disney’s credit, six buses arrived within ten minutes. This line would take forever if one bus showed up every 20 minutes, but Disney was ready with plenty of buses. You can actually see them loading two buses at a time here. There’s a bus directly in front of us and another bus behind it. You can see it pulled ahead a little bit. While it was at times a stressful, confusing, long-looking line, it turned out to be a pretty short wait for most people. It’s about a 12 minute ride to the Ticket/Transportation Center, which is just about as long as it takes to travel the same distance on the Monorail. Like the Monorail, some people will be forced to stand.
So I can calm down?
You might consider it. The problem is the confusion caused by the lines and the appearance that it’s going to take a long time. Disney could do a better job of crowd control and making it clear where the lines begin and end. In reality, those staying at the Grand Floridian and Polynesian are actually in for shorter travel times. On the Monorail, someone staying at the Grand Floridian would normally have to wait for Epcot Monorail to the Ticket/Transportation Center, disembark at the Ticket/Transportation Center, walk back up the other side to wait for the Resort Monorail, and then ride to the Grand Floridian (with a stop at Polynesian first). This can easily take 45 minutes. By bus, it’s closer to a 25 minute trip (with the stop at Polynesian first).
However, you can avoid all of this extra business by simply getting in line for the Monorail before 10pm or moving your car from Ticket/Transportation Center to Epcot if you decide to Park Hop. Those staying at Disney Resorts other than the Monorail Deluxes will not be impacted much at all.