There are Disney People. Then there are the rest of us.
The night before we were to fly to Orlando for a day at Epcot Center, I realized I should probably come up with a plan. After reading countless blogs and Facebook groups with obsessive, down-to-the-minute advice, I was completely overwhelmed. I’m sharing what I ended up gleaning and applying on our trip, which consisted of me and my two daughters, ages 19 and 12. Epcot emerged as their favorite park, which delighted me since it was mine, too, once upon a time.
First, download the My Disney Experience app.
Then, just after midnight on the date of your visit, sign up for Genie Plus. This is a paid service to get Lightning Lane access to certain popular attractions. It does not include the Guardians of the Galaxy ride, which many friends regard as Disney’s best roller coaster (more on that later). Ours cost $18 per person.
Then at 7 a.m., you’ll want to do two things: sign up for Lightning Lane access and also sign up – separately – for Guardians of the Galaxy. You can do this via a virtual queue or by paying for an extra Lightning Lane pass. We did the latter; I logged on at 7:02 a.m. and got three passes for a timed entry of 1:05 to 2:05 p.m. I also signed up for the Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure and was given a time for late afternoon.
We arrived at the park around 10:45 a.m. (if you stay at a Disney resort, you get admission earlier by a half-hour; we were indeed staying at one but our flight didn’t land till later. Also note: we found it more efficient to take Lyft everywhere versus waiting in lines for the free shuttle buses).
I had fond memories of Spaceship Earth so we joined the standby line and waited 35 minutes. The journalist in me was tickled by our inclusion in the evolution of humans. My kids found it less inspiring. While we were in line, at 11 a.m. sharp, I booked us for the Soarin’ ride for late afternoon.
My eldest, age 19, was bleary eyed at this point so we grabbed coffee at Joffrey’s. At 1 p.m. sharp, I booked us for the time frame offered for the Frozen ride in the evening. Then we zipped through the Guardians of the Galaxy line. That ride… Woke. Us. Up.
We had a 2:20 reservation at Teppan Edo, a hibachi place in the Japan section of the World Showcase. We showed up early and our table was not ready. We killed time at the nearby exhibit of kawaii—Japan’s “cute” culture–and discovered an outlet in the corner to charge our phones. (Notes: Outlets and places to charge are rare at Disney parks.) By the time our table was ready, we worried hibachi would take too long so they switched us to Shiki-Sai next door for sushi and izakaya. I ordered a violet sake, which my kids had seen on Instagram’s dutiful reporting of around-the-world drinking at Epcot. I have never had good food at Disney and now I know: Epcot is where that can happen!
We finished lunch in under a half hour and walked over to Remy. Note: The Remy ride is in the France section of World Showcase so it makes sense to do it around mealtime. I did not plan this to be so perfect but you can.
The sushi chefs had advised us to try the nearby L’Artisan des Glaces Croque Glacé, a brioche pressed ice-cream sandwich.
From there we dragged ourselves to Soarin’ over California. I liked the flight motion simulator but my kids seemed underwhelmed—and very cranky. We were bleary eyed by 5 p.m. and decided that we should try to nap. On our way toward the park exit, we did the Journey of Water, Inspired by Moana walk-through. My 12-year-old actually loved it.
After a quick return to our hotel (we stayed at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort) and napping for an hour, I roused the girls and begged them to wake up. “We spent so much money-come on!” They eventually obliged and we returned to Epcot by 8:30 p.m.
The Test Track ride is near the entrance and my kids both wanted to do it but the standby wait time was more than two hours. Lucky for us, Test Track is one of very few rides that allows single riders on. You basically work as a row-filler but it moves super quick. We waited only 15 minutes and LOVED the feeling of riding a roller coaster over Epcot at night.
By then it was almost 9 p.m. I was worried the Frozen ride would not let us on (our passes were for 6 p.m.) but it did. It’s also in the Norway section near World Showcase so I grabbed a Fiesta Margarita —it combines lime, mango and strawberry—at Choza de Margarita on our way over to dinner.
Our reservations at Rose & Crown, a pub in the U.K. section, was for 8:50 p.m., so obviously we were late (sense a trend to our day?) but I did the mobile check-in while we were exiting the Frozen ride and by the time we arrived at 9:15, our table was ready. Epcot closes at 9:30 p.m. but the restaurants and rides wait till the last people have gone through.
We were ordering greasy comfort food like fish and chips and bangers and mash when the waiter asked if we needed to make it outside for the fireworks. Fireworks? Oh yes, Disney’s infamous fireworks. My friend Annemarie had told me to try. “Can we see it from here?”
“You’ll catch the bottom part of them,” he said.
“That’s good enough,” I responded.
Indeed, it was. But we ended up watching the last 10 minutes of the show (they last about 20 minutes) from the restaurant’s patio with the clearest view we could have asked for. The three of us gazed up, full in every way, feeling awestruck and accomplished.
Beforehand: Download the My Disney Experience app.
Midnight: Sign up for Genie Plus.
7 a.m.: Sign up for Lightning Lane access to a ride (ours was Remy) and also sign up – separately – for Guardians of the Galaxy via virtual queue or a separate Lightning Lane pass.
8:30 a.m.: Arrive at the park a half-hour before opening time if you are staying at a Disney report
11 a.m. Book another ride through Lightning Lane.
1 p.m. Book another Lightning Lane.
5 p.m. Virtual queues start to show some movement here as people cancel.
9:30 p.m. Fireworks (suggest booking on patio of Rose & Crown)
Remember that Test Track has a single-rider line, that lunch and dinner reservations book up quickly, and that Remy and Frozen rides are located near the World Showcase side of Epcot.