The Four Hour Tour: Epcot

April 15, 2008, 2:34 PM · [Updated: 4/16 with a change to first get FastPasses for Soarin', instead of for Mission: Space.]

Epcot, Walt Disney World, Lake Buena Vista, Florida. [Map]

Theme Park Insider's "Four-Hour Tours" are designed to get you and your family to the top attractions in the world's top theme parks... before anyone can get tired and cranky. The attractions and restaurants selected for this tour are those in Epcot most highly rated by Theme Park Insider readers.

When to go: Epcot is one of four theme parks in the Walt Disney World Resort, located south of Orlando, Florida. All Disney World theme parks are open 365 days a year, although opening and closing times for each park varies from day-to-day.

In general, if you are traveling without kids, try to visit on a school day to avoid the largest crowds. If you need to visit during a school vacation, try to visit Epcot earlier in the week, as most visitors go to the Magic Kingdom first when visiting Walt Disney World.

If you are not staying at a Disney World hotel, avoid visiting parks on their Extra Magic Hours days, as Disney's hotel guests get into those parks early on those days, inflating wait times for visitors who arrive at the park's normal opening time.

Before you go: Buy your Walt Disney World tickets online at Disney World's website. For advice on picking the right ticket, see our guide to Disney World tickets, keeping in mind that for the Four-Hour Tour, you will *not* need the park-hopper option.

A large part of Epcot's appeal is its many wonderful full-service restaurants. Due to the popularity of Disney's Dining Plan, getting reservations at the more popular Epcot restaurants can be difficult, so we recommend that you call 1-407-WDW-DINE up to 180 90 days before your visit to make your reservations.

When you get there: Epcot is divided into two parks, Future World and World Showcase. So we've divided the tour into two parts, as well. The morning tour will cover Future World and the evening tour covers World Showcase. (This matches the operating hours for the two sections of the park, which tend to be staggered - Future World opens and closes earlier in the day, and World Showcase opens and closes later.)

Because we've split the tour for this park, each part will be shorter than the normal four hours.

The Morning

As with all of our Four-Hour Tours, you must arrive at the front gate before the park opens in the morning, which typically is at 9am. When the gates open, walk to the right of the massive Spaceship Earth geosphere that dominates the park's entrance plaza and proceed toward The Land pavilion and the Soarin' ride.

1. You will be getting FastPasses, which are Disney's ride reservation tickets, for everyone in your group. That will allow you to return to Soarin' later in the morning without having to wait in a longer stand-by queue.

2. Once you have gotten your FastPasses, cut across Future World to your first ride of the day, Test Track.

3. After riding Test Track, walk next door to Mission: Space.

4. Next, head back to the entrance plaza for a ride on Spaceship Earth.

5. Then return to The Land pavilion and your final ride, Soarin'. Go to the FastPass return line, which will allow you to skip what will now be a substantial stand-by line.

6. Lunchtime! We recommend the Coral Reef Restaurant, located in The Seas with Nemo and Friends pavilion, next door to The Land. Since you should be able to complete the morning tour for Epcot in less than four hours, we suggest trying to get reservations for noon, assuming a 9am opening.

After lunch, you're free for the rest of the afternoon. Head back to the hotel for a nap or swim, or wander the park exploring some of the other attractions not on the tour.

The Evening

If you can get away with it, try to use the "International Gateway" entrance to Epcot, located next to the Yacht and Beach Club hotels. That entrance puts you right into the World Showcase section of the park, without having to walk through Future World. If you are staying at a Disney World hotel, you can take a resort bus to the Yacht and Beach clubs, then walk to the International Gateway entrance from there. If you are driving, you can try to park at one of the Epcot area hotels, also including the Dolphin, Swan and Boardwalk hotels, though that's not always possible.

If not, though, no worries, you'll just have a longer walk through Future World from the main Epcot parking lot.

1. Start your evening with dinner reservations at the Le Cellier Restaurant in the Canada pavilion. We suggest a 6pm reservation. (If you can't get that, go a little earlier rather than later, especially if you are visiting during a busy time of year.)

2. After dinner, walk over to the France pavilion for a showing of Impressions de France.

3. Next, it's off to U.S. pavilion for The American Adventure.

4. Finish the day with the nightly performance of Epcot's Illuminations, a laser and fireworks show that takes place over and around the World Showcase lagoon.

And... you're done!

The next tour: Disney's Hollywood Studios, posted on April 16.

Replies (11)

April 15, 2008 at 4:28 PM · I like it, Robert. In fact, I'm getting the impression that if you hit what you deem the best attractions first thing, you really have time later to come back if you want to and re-do them or see other stuff. We probably won't do the 4-hour thing at any park we go to because we tend to go crazy once we arrive, but we will take a break mid-day and come back in the evening hours.
April 15, 2008 at 7:34 PM · Epcot is a special park. One to be savored and not rushed. It is almost two parks in one and perhaps four hours for the front and four hours for the back would make more sense.

However, given the task at hand:

I would use your fastpass strategy, but hit Soarin' first instead of Mission: Space. The split for the opening crowd is about 65% to Soarin' and 35% to Mission: Space/Test Track.

Once you have your Soarin' fastpass head over to the opposite side of Future World and and use the standby line for Test Track followed by Mission: Space (spinning version). Head back to Soarin' when your fastpass is ready (remember, even if your fastpass time has passed Disney rarely - if ever - turns away late fastpasses, only early ones!).

The Sunshine Seasons Food Fair is an excellent counter service option for lunch, and could provide some extra time (and energy) for things like Living With the Land and Turtle Talk With Crush - two can't miss attractions, imho.

Then you can finish the tour with Spaceship Earth as you exit the first half of the tour.

During the World Showcase part of the tour, I have to put a plug in for getting a Kaki Gori snack just on the outskirts of the Japan pavilion....these combination snow cone/slushies are outstanding and should not add much time to the touring plan...just a few inches to your waist! =)

April 15, 2008 at 7:34 PM · One of the things I wanted to avoid in these tours were plans that required people to double back across parks. Especially multiple times. (That's making my Magic Kingdom and USF tours real bears to put together! Help!)

My gut reaction was to do as you suggest, James, and send people to Soarin' for FPs first. But I questioned if that would leave people better off. Is it worth the longer wait at Soarin' to avoid having to walk across Future World an extra time?

Granted, I'm not in Orlando, so I'm going with second-hard reports here. So if I'm wrong, and the line for Soarin' gets nasty fast, even on moderately busy days (i.e. more than 30 minutes after the park's been open for one hour), then I'll switch the tour to the order James suggests.

Let's try this: Can any Orlando readers answer this? What is the typical stand-by wait time, during summer, for Soarin', Test Track and Mission: Space at 10 am?

April 15, 2008 at 7:45 PM · Ok... As far as Future World goes......with the fastpasses, you have a whole hour to kill while waiting for the fastpass to expire, and its best to get your fastpass for Soarin' rather than Mission: Space as Soarin always has a minimum 50-60min. wait time for pretty much the entire day, whereas Mission: Space doesn't tend to exceed 30min. Also after lunch at the Coral Reef restaurant or before lunch, make sure to catch "The Seas with Nemo & Friends" and "Turtle Talk with Crush" as they are absolute must do attractions(if you have kids with you). 3 other notable attractions to not miss(if within your timeframe) are "Ellen's Energy Adventure"(keeping in mind this attraction is a 45min. long attraction), "Honey, I Shrunk The Audience"(very cute 4-D film, similar to MuppetVision at Hollywood Studios and Its Tough To Be A Bug at Animal Kingdom), and "Club Cool"(coca-cola branded soda flavors from around the globe.

For World Showcase....there are 2 notable rides(Not-To-Be-Missed). "Gran Fiesta Tour Starring.....The Three Caballeros"(its inside the Mexico Pavillion. If you don't know who the Three Caballeros are, you'll be satisfied to know that Donald Duck is 1 of the 3 members, so don't pass this ride up, because Donald plays a great role in this nice boat ride through mexican culture). And "Maelstrom" at the Norway Pavillion area(Its a nice boat ride with lots of norwegian theming including some tricky trolls). If you are a fan of theme park rides, more than shows, than you will want to note that "Gran Fiesta Tour" and "Maelstrom" are the only 2 "rides" througout all of World Showcase, however, even if you aren't a fan of shows, "Illuminations: Reflections Of Earth" is by far the best firework show you will see at any theme park you ever visit, so don't pass that show up at the end of your day at Epcot.

April 15, 2008 at 8:12 PM · Pretty good plan, but I usually hit Soarin' first, as it crowds faster than either Mission: Space or Test Track. Also, I like the single-rider line at TT, as the three-across seating on that ride makes it well suited for single rider.
April 15, 2008 at 8:57 PM · When I went to Epcot in May 2007, almost everyone headed to Soarin' first. I sent my wife and kids over to Test Track to wait for me, while I hot-footed it over to Soarin' and grabbed the fastpasses. Incidentally, we had time for TT, MS (twice), and Living With The Land (a very unique attraction that is worth visiting) before our Soarin' FP was ready.

In your touring plan, you could probably grab Soarin' fastpasses, ride TT, MS, and Spaceship Earth (on the way back to Soarin') before your Soarin' FP is ready. However, I like your plan for hitting SE on the way out as it seems like a fitting conclusion to the tour.

Hitting Ice Station Cool (as mentioned above) would be kind of neat, because the coke products from around the world you sample are free (something for free at Disney!!), and fun. However, we are getting way beyond the two hour limit for the front half of Epcot that you have established...

...that's the problem with Epcot...if you are a first time visitor, you really need to take the time to explore and savor the experience.....there isn't another theme park like Epcot in most people's backyard....

Still...four hours is four hours....stick to the plan, but I say hit Soarin' first for fastpasses, the time saved is definitely worth the backtracking.

What say you, Orlando natives????

April 15, 2008 at 8:55 PM · One more thing to add to your park synopsis: presuming the visitors are NOT staying at a Disney resort, they should avoid going to any park during its scheduled Early Morning Magic Hours because the crowds will be out of control way before the NORMAL gate opening time.
April 15, 2008 at 10:12 PM · I have been to Soarin' at 10am and there was already over an hour wait, in season. Definitely need to get those passes first.
April 15, 2008 at 10:38 PM · Working at Epcot for the past few months (imma CP) i can tell you that the lines lately have been ridiculous. I get to Epcot for a relaxing evening off at 6 pm only to see 120 min wait for Soarin and 85 for Test Track. Even Spaceship Earth had a 20 min wait. I usually work afternoons to late evenings and find that 75 min wait for Soarin to be pretty short. It is very important to get these fastpasses first thing in the morning as you will find them all distributed by the afternoon.
April 16, 2008 at 4:47 AM · Ok Robert here it is The Land tends to open earlier then another part of the suprise openning for resort guests Yea Soaring first, then Mission Space then Test Track...Or get your fast Passes for Soarin...then the other two...
April 16, 2008 at 9:14 AM · Okay. I've changed the order now. We'll start with getting FPs for Soarin', then do TT, M:S, Spaceship Earth, then Soarin' on the FP.


Disney's Hollywood Studios coming up later today....

This article has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.

Park tickets

Weekly newsletter

New attraction reviews

News archive