Things are definitely different at Walt Disney World these days, but you can still have amazing experiences at each of the parks. Disney is doing a great job with enforcing safety measures to help guests feel comfortable, but this does come with some significant changes to the theme park experience. If you’re considering a visit to Disney’s EPCOT, here are ten things you must know before visiting!
1. Easier access to must-do rides
We’ll start with one of the biggest positive differences – lower attendance! Less people in the parks means shorter lines for even the most sought after attractions. The Fastpass+ system is not in use currently, which will probably work to your advantage at EPCOT. Normally you can only get a Fastpass+ for one Tier 1 ride and have to deal with long wait times for the others. Now you will likely find relatively short lines for all of those Tier 1 attractions!
2. Food and Wine is on!
One of the big draws to EPCOT in the fall is the annual Food and Wine Festival. It looks a little different this year, but the festival is on and it’s even longer than it usually is! While many of the typical ticketed events aren’t happening, there are 20 marketplaces set up around the park with tasty treats and drinks. If you’re a Food and Wine regular, you’ll find many of your favorite booths from years past plus some new additions. And if you’re visiting with kids, make sure they check out Remy’s Ratatouille Hide and Squeak Scavenger Hunt!
3. Food and Wine is stationary!
If you’re used to grabbing a small plate or a drink from one of the Food and Wine Festival kitchens and wandering around while you eat or drink, you’ll have to make some adjustments. Disney’s mask policy stipulates that your mask must be on at all times, except when eating or drinking. Of course people initially found the work around by carrying a drink with them while they walked, and a new rule was enacted: you must stay in one place while eating or drinking. This goes for all food and drink, but definitely has the biggest impact on festival goers as it means a choppier path around the kitchens.
4. Transportation is up and running
Well, most of it is. The Friendship boats that take guests between EPOCT, Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club, Boardwalk, Swan and Dolphin Resorts, and Hollywood Studios are running, with every other row blocked off for social distancing. This might be the best time to ride the Skyliner, as each party gets their own gondola! Busses are also operating as usual from all of the Disney resorts, with reduced capacity to keep guests spread out. The only EPCOT transportation that is, unfortunately, closed is the monorail from Magic Kingdom. This makes sense as there is no park hopping, but is a bummer for those guests at the Magic Kingdom resorts who were looking forward to taking the monorail to EPCOT.
5. Characters make surprise appearances
Have you heard of a cavalcade? I certainly had never heard this word until Disney reopened! A cavalcade is a small parade or procession, and they are one of the highlights of the current Disney parks experience. Disney cancelled all of the normal parades and shows to keep people from gathering in large groups, and they don’t share information about when and where cavalcades will appear for the same reason. But it’s likely that at some point as you are making your way around EPCOT you will run into one of these super fun processions!
6. There are a few socially-distanced meet and greets
EPCOT’s typical character meet and greets are closed to help with social distancing, but you can still catch a few characters from a distance. You may find Winnie the Pooh or Joy near the Imagination pavilion and Alice in Wonderland or Mary Poppins in the United Kingdom pavilion. EPCOT is also home to one of the very few character dining experiences that is currently open at the Garden Grill. This meal with Chip and Dale and friends (usually Farmer Mickey and Pluto!) has always been a highly rated character meal, and even though the characters greet guests from a distance, it is still getting rave reviews.
7. More space while shopping
In addition to shorter lines for the rides, the lower attendance also means you have more space to enjoy shopping at the various shops at EPCOT. Normally on crowded days many of the shops, especially in World Showcase, can be packed and make it hard to enjoy perusing the merchandise. Now with the lower crowds, it’s easier to take your time and really check out what they have to offer.
8. Shows are limited
One thing that is disappointing for some EPCOT guests is that many shows are closed or have limited hours. Many of the performers in World Showcase are not currently working, Turtle Talk with Crush at the Seas pavilion is closed, and the fairly new Beauty and the Beast show in France has limited hours. Make sure to check the My Disney Experience app as these things might change, but in general be prepared for less entertainment than you are used to.
9. No interactive areas
Another thing you’ll find closed throughout EPCOT is the interactive and play areas. It makes sense that Disney would close these as they are high touch areas where it is hard to maintain social distancing, but it is still kind of sad to walk by them. It also means there is less to entertain young kids, who normally might love spending time in ImageWorks in the Imagination Pavilion or on the playground at the exit of Mission Space.
10. Limited dining
While there are still plenty of restaurants open for the number of visitors Disney is allowing at EPCOT, your options will be much more limited as several table service and quick service restaurants have not reopened. Make sure to check the My Disney Experience app to see the current list of which restaurants are open.