4. World Showcase is a little weird right now
Most of our visits to Epcot usually surround a fair amount of time spent in World Showcase, both to enjoy some food, shopping, and to hang out in the park’s beautiful gardens.
While World Showcase still holds plenty of its old charm, there is no question that it’s a little strange right now.
The first thing we noticed was that a lot of shops and dining stops are closed—this included some favorite locations like Kringla Bakery og Café in Norway and Tangierine Café in Morocco. If you are going to World Showcase for a specific experience, you may want to make sure it is open ahead of time. You also will want to place reservations for dining experiences early just in case walk-up lines fill up.
On a positive note, we were very happy to see one of Epcot’s newest offerings open: Regal Eagle Smokehouse! This place smells amazing, and it’s a perfect addition to the American Adventure pavilion. I've honestly longed for years for the American Adventure pavilion to up their food game with some barbecue. The plaza surrounding the restaurant is particularly cozy with lots of outdoor seating. We didn’t get a chance to sample it on this trip, but we definitely will on an upcoming visit.
The second thing that stood out was we definitely noticed the lack of cultural representatives. I first remembered this change when we checked in for our reservation at The Biergarten—we have German family, so I’ve always had a soft spot for the team at this pavilion. While there were still a few German cast members left, they were rare, and I definitely missed the element of being able to meet such a wide cast of people from the country. It definitely made World Showcase feel a little less magical.
Third was a change specific to The Biergarten restaurant—buffets have been converted to family-style dining experiences. I had actually tried to look this up ahead of time and wasn’t able to find a clear answer until we arrived for our reservation. We arrived just as the restaurant had opened, so it was pretty empty, and we were seated at our own table away from other guests. The family-style meal consisted of pretzel rolls, a selection of salads (macaroni, tomato-cucumber, potato and eggs, and pickled beets), a large tray of entrees (including schnitzel, bratwurst, potatoes, chicken, and spaetzle), and a selection of desserts (strudel, Black Forest cake, cookies, and a light berry cake). The band did play during our visit as well, even if they’re not having guests shout back the traditional German toast.
While I respect Disney’s efforts to preserve the most popular dishes from the buffet in a safer experience, I honestly felt like the price was too high for the dialed-back experience. The thing for me that really made the cost worth it at The Biergarten previously was how you could completely customize what you wanted, and the buffet also often included some special dishes like Sauerbraten with paprika sauce and a wide variety of cold meats to try. These aren’t deal breakers if all of your favorite items are included in the family-style offerings, but they were enough that we probably won’t be going back until the buffet returns.
5. Food and Wine fest – light version
One area where Epcot actually felt pretty familiar was in The Taste of Epcot Food & Wine Festival. This scaled-back version of the yearly festival may have been missing a few of the popular activities guests have grown used to (celebrity chef appearances, Eat to the Beat concerts, large exhibitions, etc.), but it actually didn’t feel that different from last year’s festival to us.
Around the time of last year’s Food & Wine Festival, we started to notice Disney already dialing back some of the festival offerings. The Festival Center, for example, went bye-bye to prepare for the construction of the upcoming Play Disney pavilion in the old Wonders of Life building. The food offerings this year are similar to those offered previously, with only a few favorites missing or adapted (the Liquid Nitro Chocolate Almond Truffle, for example, has been converted into a cake-pop dessert). We liked the creativity of some of the new dishes, and we appreciate that Disney even attempted something like a Festival Center in using the World ShowPlace building near the International Gateway to house several booths, a festival merchandise center, and even offer some live music and other demonstrations.
Overall, we really appreciated the presence of the festival this year. It did give a sense of normalcy for the park, and you may even find different booths open on multiple visits.
Oh, and Starbucks fans, don’t fret—just because the fountain plaza is closed doesn’t mean you have to go coffee-less. Starbucks has a large booth for the festival near Promenade Refreshments.
6. The park still has some great quiet places… if you know where to look
Despite a little weirdness, we still enjoyed some really great moments during our visit to Epcot, particularly in the quieter areas of the park.
The Morocco pavilion remains our favorite quiet getaway in the park. The pavilion doesn’t have as many shops open, so less guests are crowding into the area. We definitely caught a few beautiful “empty park” pictures and enjoyed just taking it easy. While we are hopeful to see Tangierine Café reopen soon, you can still pick up some Moroccan quick bites at the country’s booth for the Taste of Epcot festival.
Certain pavilions felt more crowded than others. We didn’t find much peace and quiet in the UK pavilion, France, or Norway, but China, Japan, and Germany felt emptier. Even Japan’s Mitsukoshi store felt much easier to navigate than usual, and the gardens across World Showcase remain very peaceful. If you catch it at the right time, this also may be a good time to hang out at Akershus Royal Dining Hall, which is currently available as a relaxation station where guests can remove their masks while distanced and stationary.
We also really loved the way that guests get a lot more space on rides during this season. I had the whole back of a boat to myself on Frozen Ever After, which was surprisingly relaxing. We also noticed increased distancing measures on other rides, even Soarin’. If you’re more on the introverted side, this still might be a good time to visit Epcot.
Epcot isn’t a terrible park right now, but it definitely feels scaled back compared to the other three at Walt Disney World. The combination of heavy construction, no cultural representatives, dining changes, and limited attractions is definitely noticeable on the park experience. The difficulties we saw with social distancing give us the impression this is not a good time to visit if you or someone in your household are high-risk. At the same time, if you love the park overall and want to enjoy short waits and low crowds, this could still be a good time to visit Epcot while capacity remains reduced.
Enjoy this article? Keep reading to learn What Disney Resort Hotels Are Like Right Now and 6 Places Every Disney Fan Should Visit While the Parks are QUIET…