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Reopening of EPCOT: 10 Things You Must-Know Before Visiting

2020 has looked very different than anyone could have ever imagined. Walt Disney World decided to shut down the parks back in March because of COVID-19 and recently reopened, but things look quite a bit different than we’re used to. There were some updates and plans that have been changed or canceled, and many new protocols have been put in place. Here are ten things you should know before visiting Epcot.

 

10. Reservations

Park guests are used to being able to show up anytime but you are now required to make a Disney Park Pass reservation before going into the park. It’s a little trickier for Annual Passholders because there are a limited number of spots reserved for them. You will most likely have to plan your Disney days in advance. If you have a regular ticket or are staying at a resort there is a better chance that you can grab a spot without notice. There’s also no Park Hopper for the time being. 

9. Masks

This one has been said time after time but let’s just get it out of the way because it is important. Face masks are required for anyone two and older while on Walt Disney World property, that includes the theme parks. Face coverings must have at least two layers of breathable material with ear loops or ties. Gaiters or masks with valves are not allowed. It must fully cover your nose and mouth and fit securely under your chin. Face coverings must be worn at all times unless you are actively eating or drinking, but you should stay stationary at that time and maintain physical distance from others. This includes if you are enjoying something from a Festival Marketplace. It might be a good idea to bring a couple of extra masks so you can change them out throughout the day. It gets extremely hot in Central Florida.

Credit: Disney

8. Social Distancing

It is recommended to stay six feet away from others to stop the spread of COVID-19. What Disney World has done is that they put markers down on the ground to keep parties separated. This is for all lines, rides and dining. There is also no FastPass+. Guests are used to booking their FastPass+ reservations weeks in advance, but for the time being there is only a standby line. Wait times have been short at Epcot, so FastPass+ isn’t needed right now.

 

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7. Taste of Epcot International Food and Wine Festival

Many guests look forward to the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. This year it will look a bit different. It is not the full festival, it’s called the Taste of Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. The Eat to the Beat concert series has been canceled so unfortunately some of our favorite artists won’t be performing. You will still be able to eat and drink around the world, though. Thankfully that is one thing that this pandemic didn’t take away from us. There are about 20 Festival Marketplaces which allow you to try foods from around the world. Instead of a paper Passport, you can now find all the necessary information on the My Disney Experience App.

6. Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival 

COVID-19 canceled lots of plans, and that included Walt Disney World plans for the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival 2020. We got a little taste of it before Disney made the decision to temporarily shut down the parks back in March. Disney decided to leave up a couple of the topiaries, so it’s still sort of there, but just to a minimum. Some of the foods sold at the Festival Marketplaces were on the Flower & Garden menus. You can still buy Flower & Garden merch, at least while supplies last. Who knows, maybe something you buy will become a collector’s item.

5. Disney Skyliner

Guests are able to catch the Disney Skyliner at the International Gateway entrance to Epcot. The line from Epcot runs to Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort, with a stop at Disney’s Riviera Resort. You can then ride the other Skyliner lines from Caribbean Beach. Just know that you are not allowed to park at any of the Walt Disney World resorts to ride the Skyliner, since parking at all of the resorts is still for hotel guests and those with dining reservations only.

4. Some Updates Canceled 

Last year at the D23 Expo in California they had some pretty big announcements about Epcot. There was going to be a full refurbishment of Spaceship Earth and a new area in World Showcase called Cherry Tree Lane. Like many things, COVID-19 ruined those plans. It looks like they have scratched Cherry Tree Lane and are not going to do a refurbishment of Spaceship Earth, at least for the time being. Not all changes have been put on hold. Make sure when you are at the park that you check out the Epcot Experience. It’s a short film that will show you the new plans for Epcot. This video used to have the updated Spaceship Earth plan and Cherry Tree Lane, but you will now see that those have been removed from the video. 

3. No Character Meet and Greets

Although guests are no longer able to get up close to their favorite Disney characters, there are still plenty of opportunities to see them. At random times throughout the day they will be traveling around parts of World Showcase. They can see you, so make sure you wave and grab your camera. Also keep an eye out over in The Land by Journey Into Imagination With Figment. The lovable Winnie the Pooh will often be out with his butterfly net, and Joy can also be found at that spot. You can do social distanced selfie’s and they will interact with you. It’s a great way to still see some of your favorite characters.

2. Character Dining

One more way that you can see characters is through character dining. Garden Grill Restaurant is still up and running for lunch and dinner, and Chip and Dale are excited to see you. They’ll still be at a distance, but this is another way to interact a little closer with some of the most popular Disney characters. There are very few character meals at Walt Disney World right now, so you will want to make a reservation for this one.

1. Regal Eagle Smokehouse: Craft Drafts & Barbecue

Regal Eagle Smokehouse had just opened before the parks had to temporarily shut down. Now that they’re open again this is a tasty new dining option. There’s ribs, chicken, burgers, and more; barbecue fans will love it. There are four different sauces to try. If you’re vegetarian or vegan, they have a delicious vegan barbecue sandwich. There is beer on tap, wine, and even a specialty cocktail. The restaurant has a tie-in to Sam Eagle from the Muppets, but it is not obvious unless you look for him. Regal Eagle Smokehouse: Craft Drafts & Barbecue is highly recommended. 

Credit: Disney (Regal Eagle Smokehouse)

About Tricia Kennedy