Spaceship Earth at Night from across the lagoon

Winter 2024 Trip Report Day 2 – EPCOT Extended Evening Hours

The first half of the second day of the trip was spent doing Magic Kingdom early access rope drop on one of the least crowded days of the year. If you missed that post you can read it here. The second part of the day was to be spent at EPCOT to take advantage of the Extended Evening Hours at that park.

After a few hours back at the resort for a proper mid-day nap we hit the Boardwalk to follow the path to the International Gateway entrance to EPCOT. We got there about an hour before our 5:20 Biergarten reservation, so we took our time strolling through world showcase on the way. We stopped for a Moroccan Mule at the Spice Road Table bar. It’s a pretty well stocked bar and is often overlooked by passer bys and the drink was delicious and refreshing.

EPCOT was considerably more crowded than Magic Kingdom had been earlier in the day. Though festivals do make World Showcase a nighttime attraction, this was a Monday evening which normally would have balanced things out a bit – most locals aren’t going to hit up EPCOT on a work night. So what was going on? Well, all the guests that avoided short operating hours at Magic Kingdom had to go somewhere. We zigged when they zagged earlier in the day but now we were zagging with them.

We eventually made our way to Germany and checked in for our dinner. We greatly enjoyed both the food and ambiance of Biergarten. I would highly recommend this as a reasonably priced, but uniquely Disney dining experience. While it’s not cheese burgers and french fries, it’s pretty accessible fare that even picky eaters should do ok with. For a more in-depth review check out this post. We were in no rush and really enjoyed the experience so we spent right around 2 hours at dinner. You could easily be in and our under an hour though – it’s really how much you want to eat and how quickly you can do it!

At this point it was around 7:15 and we had no other concrete plans for the evening. We were both absolutely stuffed and agreed we needed to walk it off a bit. We continue around wold showcase at what could only be considered a slow waddle. We eventually hit Mexico and I figured since we were already moving like a duck we might as well go visit the most famous duck of all.

Donald at Three Caballeros
Donald at Three Caballeros

We got in line, yes there was actually a line remember we were now firmly zagging with the masses, and were on a boat in about 10 minutes. This ride could certainly use a facelift but it will always remain a personal feel good attraction. Love it.

We hadn’t checked out the new World of Celebration area since the walls came down, so we headed there next. This area at night is beautiful and calm. At any time of day it’s a great addition to the park. There are quiet nooks with charging stations to rest tired feet or get some quick juice for your devices and best of all some shade to get out of the sun. Sitting above it all is the famous Walt statue with a dedicated photo pass photographer ready to snap a memorable moment with the man himself. This area isn’t an attraction or anything, but it’s a great spot to take a break and recharge.

Since we were standing in the shadow of Spaceship Earth I got the urge to do the ride. The posted wait time was 25 minutes and that actually turned out to be a little low. The line took around 30 minutes all told. This was definitely not an ideal use of time, a we probably could have rode Soarin with the same wait and then rode Spaceship Earth later as a literal walk on. We didn’t have plans though and this was less walking after what had already been a long day.

Spaceship Earth Sistine Chapel Scene
Spaceship Earth Sistine Chapel Scene

It was around 8:30 after we said hi to the Phoenicians. We wanted to watch a bit of Luminous but didn’t necessarily need to get the perfect spot. We head back towards World Showcase, stopping to admire the incredible chalk art along the promenade on the way. This is why the Festival of the Arts is currently occupying the top spot in my list of favorite EPCOT festivals. There is so much to admire everywhere you look.

Mickey and Minnie Chalk Art
Mickey and Minnie Chalk Art
Fesitval of the Arts Chalk Art
Fesitval of the Arts Chalk Art

Heading nowhere in particular we found ourselves near Morocco when Luminous was about to beging. We ducked back into the Spice Road table bar for a refreshment for the show then find a decent view point up the path a bit. The normal best areas to view EPCOT shows are still the most desirable spots, but with Luminous you really just need an unobstructed view of the lagoon to have a decent viewing experience.

We started moving towards Norway before the show was completely over. This had nothing to do with the show, I actually liked it more than both Harmonious and Illuminations, and more to do with trying to get a jump on Extended Evening hours. Since EPCOT has only a handful of premier attractions and relatively view attractions overall, you’re going to hit lines at those top tier attractions even during extended hours. Our rough plan of attack was to get in line at Frozen first thing and Remy last. In between was up in the air.

We were in line at Frozen a few minutes after the end of Luminous with a posted 25 minute wait. That seemed about right as the line was starting just outside the building and wasn’t a straight shot to the village queue area. The queue was moving, albeit slowly, and the 25 minute wait seemed accurate or maybe a little under quoted. We were in the village courtyard area when the ride stopped loading. I’ll admit, at this point some frustration hit me. Last trip we were unable to get on Frozen because of prolonged downtime. Earlier in the day, the same thing happened with Seven Dwarves. I know it’s bit of an entitled perspective to expect not to be inconvenienced by the randomness of ride malfunctions, but it was getting a bit tiresome. It’s probably just confirmation bias, but I don’t think rides use to go down at this rate in the pre-COVID years.

Frozen Portraits
What are you smiling about?

Anyway, we decided we didn’t want to wait this one out and got out of line. The queue was slightly unpleasant and we didn’t want to risk wasting too much time waiting for a ride that didn’t come back up. There was another ride that I couldn’t wait to experience, Soarin’ Over California!

To me, Soarin’ Over California is the superior version of this attraction. I’ll admit the cuts between scenes is a little jarring, but scenes themselves feel more immersive. This is largely due to the added dimension of the smells that they pump into certain scenes. Maybe it’s nostalgia, but while the video quality was certainly not up to modern standards it doesn’t detract at all from the experience for me. I was very happy that we were able to catch it after just missing it while we were in Disneyland in 2022.

By the time we exited Soarin’ it was past 10pm and this was the first attraction we experienced during extended hours. While we did run into a bid of bad luck waiting for Frozen, this also represents an ever present challenge in planning how to attack limited time EPCOT events. The sheer size of the park and distance between attractions represents a real time cost. It’s going to take near super human speed as well as good luck to experience all the headliners. In fact, you probably can’t do so if you include Guardians of the Galaxy in your list owing to that attractions required pre-show. It’s best to pick your top 2 and prioritze your touring around that hitting 1 or 2 attractions based on opportunity. With better luck at Frozen we probably would have been able to experience 4 attractions, but no more.

At this point we were hitting our limit. We had probably walked 10+ mile already between Magic Kingdom and criss crossing EPCOT a couple times. So we slowly made our way back towards the International Gateway with the intention of heading back to the hotel room. As we got closer we discussed hopping in line for Remy’s since it was basically on the way out. When it came time to choose our adventure we ultimately went left towards France instead of right towards the exist and got in line for the rat ride. The line was longer than I expected, again probably due to Frozen being down and less dispersion of the crowd over time. A lot of people probably opted to head to France from Norway after or instead of riding Frozen keeping the ride busy all night. I won’t lie, the wait was rough. We were beat, the crowd was mostly beat, energy was low. In the end, it was worth it though. The ride is cute, interesting, and fun.

Ultimately, the extended evening hours did not live up to expectations but I wouldn’t call it a bust. We did get to experience two of the parks top attractions with much lower than normal wait times. With better luck that would have been more. That said, the size of EPCOT is a real constraint that cannot be ignored during planning. If you want to catch Luminous then throw in another constraint. That show takes up the first 18 minutes or so of extended hours.

I think the best general approach to maximize attractions is to skip Luminous and get in line for a 2nd tier attraction close to 9pm. Most daytime guests trying to squeeze in one last ride are going to gravitate towards Test Track, Frozen, or Remy. Not many will be going to Soarin’ for example, and definitely not the others. Try to time that so you can make it to a top tier attraction just before the end of Luminous. This will give you a jump on other extended hours guests who were unwilling to skip the show while also allowing 15 minutes or so for the attraction to work off the last of the day guests. Depending on waits you should be able to do something like

  • Soarin’ – in line around 8:40 based on wait times.
  • Test Track – in line by 9:15.
  • Spaceship Earth (optional)
  • Frozen – out in time for the walk to France, note heading back towards Canada is slightly shorter
  • Remy – in line just before park close.

Hoping to do more than that is probably wishful thinking unless wait times are very low or you want to reverse things a bit and do Test Track first, accepting longer waits during normal park hours, then go to Soarin and do Living with the Land or the Seas while you’re in that area. Another issue is the relatively long run times for attractions like Spaceship Earth and Living the Land, with both coming in around 15 minutes. Point is, maximizing attractions is going to take some serious planning and foresight taking into account not only wait times, but attraction run time and travel times. Unless this is your only chance to some of the EPCOT headliners I think the best approach is to prioritze 3 rides and take your time to get to them so you can enjoy the unique ambiance of a relatively empty park. To me, that’s the best part of these extra hour offerings.

Despite some frustrating setbacks to our plan both early and late this was a very satisfying day and without the use of Genie+ (we did use ILL at MK though.) We dragged ourselves back to the Boardwalk, grabbed a nightcap from Bellevue Lounge (which was still hopping even close to Midnight) and collapsed back at the room. The next day would be a late arrival at Hollywood studios. We earned it.

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *