Walt Disney World’s visitors should pay attention to each theme park’s operating hours. This resource will serve as a guide to the Epcot operating hours at Walt Disney World.
EPCOT at Walt Disney World continues to be one of the most popular theme parks in the world. Approximately ten million guests visited EPCOT at Walt Disney World in 2022. The crowds fluctuate daily in terms of attendance based on events and time of year.
EPCOT presents guests with an environment to explore many cultures besides the United States of America. Also, guests can ride attractions like Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind and Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure.
Nevertheless, EPCOT requires some planning to maximize your experience. This guide will help explain standard EPCOT operating hours, ways to experience attractions after the theme park closes, and some strategies for maximizing your time during the first few hours of the day at EPCOT.
In this article:
Guide to Operating Hours at EPCOT
This section will cover the pattern of operating hours at the EPCOT theme park at Walt Disney World. The theme park operating hours do not remain the same. These will change based on various factors, such as expected crowd levels and time of year.
Visitors to any of the four Walt Disney World theme parks should continue to check the theme park operating hours. These may change as late as the day before. Though those changes may be slight, they can impact your theme park day. We will explain that aspect of planning in more detail later in this resource.
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Important EPCOT Change in Recent Years
One of the most significant recent changes to park operating hours and procedures involves EPCOT. For those who have visited EPCOT before 2020, this change has been tough to remember. Nevertheless, this change at EPCOT will make your theme park to EPCOT better overall.
EPCOT is divided into sections or neighborhoods now. Each neighborhood speaks to important aspects of the world and its people.
The front area of the park, if you enter through the main entrance near Spaceship Earth (the signature attraction within the large geodesic sphere), hosts three of the four neighborhoods or worlds. They are:
- World Discovery
- World Celebration
- World Nature.
Those that have visited EPCOT before may know this area as Future World. Some guests jokingly refer to this area as the land formerly known as Future World. These theme park areas are commonly open to all guests at 9:00 a.m. each day.
The fourth neighborhood is World Showcase. For experienced visitors to Epcot, this vast area around a lagoon did not receive a name change when the concept of neighborhoods was introduced. This world or neighborhood hosts eleven different pavilions showcasing an individual country each.
The significant theme park hours of operation change revolved around when World Showcase opens to all guests. In the past, World Showcase opened at 11:00 a.m. every day. However, that pattern stopped. Now, World Showcase usually opens at 9:00 a.m. each day. This has changed the way many guests experience EPCOT now.
EPCOT Operating Hours: About Opening and Closing Times at EPCOT
When Walt Disney World initially publishes individual theme park hours, we most often found the standard 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. schedule. However, park hour updates are based on demand. The busier the parks are expected to be, the higher the likelihood that Walt Disney World will extend the hours.
Disney makes updates to the theme park hours regularly. This can happen weekly. Of course, these updates will not change everything. For example, these updates may not change the operating hours of every Walt Disney World theme park. Also, it may only change a few individual days instead of an entire week.
The theme park hour updates happening closer to the actual date usually involve extending theme park hours at opening and closing. Still, that should not be taken as a guarantee. However, it is possible that theme park hours will be reduced. Yet, this only happens sometimes.
Since Walt Disney World updates park hours based on projected attendance, the closer you get to your Disney vacation, the more data they will have to decide on theme park hours. Thus, guests should check Walt Disney World theme park hours often in the weeks leading up to their vacation. For example, one wants to avoid showing up to EPCOT only to discover it opened before one expected.
Historical Trends of EPCOT Theme Park Hours of Operation
For EPCOT, 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. dominates the calendar regarding operating hours. This looks to be the hours for about 90% of the year. The frequency of 8:30 a.m. official opening times and 9:30 p.m. closing times occur mostly during busy holiday weekends, some summer weeks, around Thanksgiving, and the weeks around Christmas Day.
Rope Drop Strategies
Once you have determined the operating hours at EPCOT, you must decide if you plan to rope drop EPCOT. The term “Rope-Drop” comes from a former opening procedure at the Walt Disney World theme parks.
Rope drop means at a theme park, like EPCOT, before it opens, guests arrive to be ready for the exact moment the park. This enables guests to maximize their time in the theme park. In the past, a literal rope was dropped to indicate a theme park opening.
That happens no longer, but the term “Rope-Drop” lives on. Many guests enjoy rope-dropping theme parks since they tend to be less crowded during the first few hours of operation. As a result, guests can experience more attractions with shorter waits in the queues during the first hour or so of theme park operation.
Of course, you will need to arrive early. This means waking up early on your vacation. A Walt Disney World vacation provides many amazing benefits. Still, sleeping in every morning may not be one of them.
Advantage of Staying at a Walt Disney World Resort Hotel: Early Theme Park Admission
If you want to maximize your Disney theme park day, a rope-drop strategy will be useful. However, guests staying “on-site” receive a head-start in the rope-drop process. Guests staying at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel receive the ability to enter the theme park a half hour before other guests.
Walt Disney World used to call this advantage Extra Magic Hours. However, Walt Disney World now calls this perk Early Theme Park Entry.
Every Walt Disney World theme park, like EPCOT, states an official opening time. As mentioned, the most common opening time will be 9:00 a.m. When 9:00 a.m. marks the official opening time at EPCOT, those staying at Disney hotels may enter officially at 8:30 a.m. to EPCOT.
EPCOT Operating Hours: Official Opening vs. Actual Opening
In theme park culture, experienced theme park guests learn that theme parks often open before the scheduled official opening time. If 9:00 a.m. marks the official opening time, the park may open for all guests as early as 8:30 a.m. This happens that early rarely. We see this more often during busy times of the year, like Christmas week, holiday weekends, and spring breaks.
Most days, Epcot and the other Walt Disney World theme parks will start early entry time and official opening time a few minutes before the official scheduled time. Since a higher percentage of guests rope-drop at EPCOT than in previous years, you must arrive early.
As a result, if you want to be there for the rope drop at Epcot, we suggest arriving at one of the entrances to EPCOT 45 minutes before you are allowed to enter officially. EPCOT offers guests two entrances. Most guests will enter via the main entrance near Spaceship Earth. Some Walt Disney World Resort guests can use the International Gateway entrance. This entrance allows guests to start in the World Showcase area.
For guests utilizing the Walt Disney World free bus transportation to EPCOT, they should be at their resort’s bus stop 90 minutes before time to enter EPCOT. This extra effort in the morning will make your day move smoother at EPCOT as the day goes on.
Guests staying at a Monorail Deluxe on-site hotel should board the monorail towards EPCOT 60 minutes before the time they may officially enter EPCOT.
If you are driving to Epcot, the parking lot situation varies from day to day. We suggest arriving at the entry portal to the EPCOT parking lot about one hour before your official entry time. This will allow you some extra time in case of backup at the parking toll booths.
You will enter via the International Gateway entrance for those staying at Walt Disney World resort hotels with Disney Skyliner access. It would be best to arrive at your Skyliner station 90 minutes before you can officially enter EPCOT.
EPCOT Operating Hours: For Those With Early Theme Park Entry
If you qualify for early theme park entry, we highly recommend you take advantage of the extra time. In planning, you must decide how important riding Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure is for your day at EPCOT. If you enter from the International Gateway entrance, the Remy attraction makes the best first stop after the rope drop. After experiencing the cuteness of Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, you should get in the queue for Frozen Ever After in the Norway Pavilion.
In contrast, the decision becomes tougher if entering from the main EPCOT entrance. The walk from the main entrance to the France Pavilion in World Showcase will not be short. You will be behind all the guests entering via the International Gateway. This walk will reduce your valuable half-hour of early theme park entry time.
Based on historical wait times at EPCOT, Test Track should be your first stop if entering from the main entrance. The priority increases based on this attraction’s lower reliability issues (mechanical and weather). If things move properly, you should race to Frozen Ever After next. If you get lucky, you will beat all the non-resort guests there.
After that, you can backtrack to Soarin’ Around the World or join the queue at Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure. Either way, you will be ahead of most EPCOT visitors that day making rope-drop worth it.
For Guests Lacking Early Theme Park Entry
Your best option on most days remains visiting Test Track first. Frozen Ever After should probably be avoided until later in the day, if possible. Like for guests with early theme park entry, the Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure variable determines your strategy. If you absolutely must ride the Remy attraction, you can start there. However, the queue will not be short since you are behind all the resort guests for that attraction.
Reminder About Official Park Opening vs. Actual Park Opening
Visitors to EPCOT should expect the theme park to open before the official opening time. If you arrive early and EPCOT opens early, your day receives a bit of extra pixie dust. Still, EPCOT might open at exactly the official opening time. You should plan for an earlier entry time but understand that nothing is guaranteed. We think of it as bonus theme park time.
Guide to EPCOT Operating Hours: Official Park Closing vs. Actual Closing Time
For the sake of discussion, let us suppose Epcot officially closes at 9:00 p.m. In those cases, the nighttime lagoon show in the World Showcase area will start at 9:00 p.m., weather permitting. In a practical sense, guests will stay in EPCOT past official closing time.
Like the other Disney theme parks, EPCOT indicates when all the attractions will close for day guests with the official closing time. For example, when the lagoon fireworks show starts, the attractions at EPCOT no longer allow guests to enter the queue attractions.
However, all guests in an attraction queue by 8:59 p.m. will be allowed to experience that attraction. So, if you enter Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure at 8:59 p.m. and wait in that queue for 45 minutes, you receive extra time in the theme park. Depending on how your day at EPCOT has gone, this may make a pleasant end to your theme park day.
Several merchandise locations will remain open after the official closing time at EPCOT. This allows you to enjoy more theme park time and pick up that souvenir you wanted on your way out of EPCOT.
Guests can also remain in Epcot after official closing time in two other ways. These are Extended Evening Hours and After Hours Events.
Extended Evening Hours for Disney Resort Hotel Guests
Only some EPCOT attractions will be operating during Extended Evening Theme Park Hours. Also, only some of the World Showcase areas will be open too.
The list of open attractions during Extended Evening Theme Park Hours includes:
- Beauty and The Beast Sing-Along
- Frozen Ever After
- Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros
- Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind (available via virtual queue)
- Mission: SPACE
- Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure
- Soarin’ Around the World
- Spaceship Earth
- Test Track
- The Seas with Nemo & Friends.
If you visit during one of these nights while staying at a Deluxe Walt Disney World-level hotel, you should experience the lower queue wait times for attractions. Also, guests without the ability to ride attractions after 9:00 are not immediately ushered out of Epcot on Extended Evening Theme Park Hours evenings. If you are not staying at a Disney Deluxe hotel, you could hang out longer on those evenings soaking up the ambiance of EPCOT.
Epcot Operating Hours: After-Hours Events
Another way guests can enjoy the EPCOT attractions after the official closing time Involves the new EPCOT After Hours event. Walt Disney World states on its website that guests can “Experience an evening of magic and thrills—with lower wait times for select attractions—select nights through August 24, 2023!”
These evenings are mostly on Thursdays. The cost ranges from $99 for annual passholder and DVC members to $139 for other guests. The events run from 10:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m., so be prepared to stay awake. Also, guests purchasing tickets to the EPCOT After Hours event can enter the theme park at 7:00 p.m. to start their evening. The tickets also entitle guests to complimentary popcorn, ice cream novelties, and soft drinks after 10:00 p.m.
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