If you've ever thought about not visiting Epcot on your Disney vacation because you’ve got younger children and think they won't enjoy it, you're not alone. A Google search for "Epcot with kids" turns up over 3.7 million results, which is only slightly more than what turns up if you Google my name. I try to convince so many parents with kids to visit the park that I'm waiting for Disney executives to name me an honorary ambassador and give me a sash and fancy hat. Sure, Epcot is known for "drinking around the world" and the not to be missed Food and Wine Festival, but there's plenty for children to do there too -and none of it involves them having a hangover the next day, either.
If you've got young children, you may think that there's nothing for kids in a park known for thrill rides like Soarin, Test Track (currently in refurbishment) and Mission Space, all of which have generous height requirements, and World Showcase appearing to cater more to adults, but you’d be mistaken. Here then is why you should include Epcot in your theme park plans.
1) Innoventions: A two building pavilion for kids (and adults) of all ages that is very hands on. Featured exhibits include Sum of All Thrills, where you can design your very own thrill ride, Storm Struck, where you learn what it feels like to be caught in a perfect storm, Videogame Playground, where you can try out the latest in video game technology, and Where's the Fire, where you can have your picture taken by the 30 foot fire truck, try to become fire chief by answering the most fire safety questions, and explore the Play it Safe maze.
2) Club Cool: Okay, so it's not an attraction, and not even a pavilion, but if you like free stuff, you'll like this. Sponsored by Coca-Cola, this building, located across from Mouse Gears, showcases unlimited free samples of Coca Colas from around the world, such as the Smart Watermelon from China - my personal favorite - and the Fanta Colita from Costa Rica. Plus, if your kids have been misbehaving, you can insist they drink a nice cup of Beverly from Italy. Maybe two cups.
3) The Seas With Nemo and Friends/Turtle Talk With Crush: Board a "clamobile" (I think Batman used to own one of those) on this quick loading undersea adventure at the Living Seas pavilion. Through a little Disney magic, the characters from Finding Nemo can be seen frolicking with real fish in the massive 5.7 million gallon aquarium. After you get off the ride, take the time to look around the aquarium - one of the largest on the East coast. There's plenty of marine life to see, from sharks to manatees. When you're done, make sure you don't leave without seeing "Turtle Talk With Crush", where Crush interacts with guests in the "human tank" teaching him about his environment and asking questions about ours. This funny show is different every time, and kids get a huge kick out of having the chance to ask questions.
|Visit Crush and Friends at the Living Seas.|
4) Living With the Land: A gentle, slow moving boat ride in the Land pavilion, this is one part dark ride, one part greenhouse tour, giving you a behind the seeds" (see what I did there? Clever, huh?) look at how Walt Disney World grows many of the fruits and vegetables it serves in its restaurants. As a bonus -it's air conditioned. Note that it is a little dark at the beginning and there is some noise of thunder early on.
5) Character Spot/Park Entertainment/Shopping: Located near Innoventions West, you'll find the character spot. If you've got bigger kids who have run off to do Soarin or Mission Space, and you're looking for something to do with the little ones that will kill some time, head here. This is the place to meet Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Pluto, Goofy and Chip n' Dale. Also be sure to check out Mouse Gears, right next door, which is a huge gift shop full of lots of Disney goodies. It's my go to store in Epcot, and probably the best gift shop for Disney merchandise in all the parks outside of Downtown Disney.
When it comes to entertainment, most guests think it's all in World Showcase, but that's not so. Future World has the Jammitors, a "Stomp" like percussion group that beats on trash cans and other assorted everyday objects in their environment to produce some amazing sounds. And, while Test Track is undergoing its facelift, you can still catch the sounds of an a cappella group singing songs, appropriately enough, about cars. I even caught some local choirs out there last weekend, too.
1) Grand Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros: Located inside the Mexico pavilion, this relaxing boat ride features Panchito Pistoles. Jose Carioca and Donald Duck on a humourous and fun tour through Mexico. Part of this boat ride is also similar to “It’s a Small World” in that it features moving and dancing animatronics in one section. This attraction is another great way to escape the elements, and kids love the ride itself. As a bonus, Donald Duck often appears outside the pavilion for character greetings. Check your times guides.
|These happy fellows can be seen on the Grand Fiesta tour.|
2) Maelstrom Boat Ride: In the Norway pavilion, climb aboard a Viking ship for a stormy voyage through a Norwegian fjord, a troll infested swamp, and onto the North Sea. Make it safely back from your voyage, and you can enjoy a 5 minute film about the beauty of Norway. If you want to skip the film, you can walk right through the other side to the exit doors. The boat ride is a lot of fun and most kids enjoy the mild thrills, however some are scared by the darkness, loud noises, or the slight backwards drop that your log flume takes.
3) Live Entertainment: Each country showcases some wonderful acts for kids and adults to enjoy. It’s important that you look at your times guide so if there is something you want to see, you don’t miss it. Among my favorites:
· Voices of Liberty (America pavilion) – This a cappella group sings patriotic and folk songs in 15 minute shows before viewings of “The American Adventure.” With amazing sound, these vocal artists are not to be missed.
· The Serveur Amusant (France pavilion) – A comedic balancing act, this “waiter” stacks more and more chairs on top of one another and then gently balances on them. As he goes higher and higher, you’re captivated by his skill.
· Jeweled Dragon Acrobats (China pavilion) – This talented group of acrobats is a crowd pleaser. I don’t think there was ever a time in my life I was that flexible.
· Off Kilter (Canada Pavilion) – You haven’t heard Bryan Adams until you’ve heard it played by this bagpipe blowing, kilt wearing rock band.
4) Kidcot Stations: Located throughout Future World and World Showcase (check your park map) these stations are set up where kids can decorate a cardstock Duffy the Bear at whichever station they visit first. Then, as they visit each additional station they can add another decoration onto Duffy.
5) Character Meet and Greets: World Showcase is a great place for your kids to meet characters. For example, you can see Belle and Beast in France, say hello to Aladdin and Jasmine in Morocco, and give a joyful “Cherrio!” to Mary Poppins in the U.K. The lines also seem shorter than in the other parks, so if you haven’t had the chance to see a lot of characters, Epcot is the place to go.
6) A Taste for Flavor: Epcot is a great place to expose your children to different tastes from around the world and show them that life is made up of more than pizza, chicken nuggets, and macaroni and cheese. Arrange to eat in Morocco, stop by the bakery in France for some wonderful pastries or sandwiches, sample a Kakigori shaved ice from Japan, or try to find chocolates or other sweets from each country to try. I’m fond of the Curly Wurlys from the U.K., personally. You could spend hours just walking through the shops in each country, exploring things and eating goodies. Not that I would have first hand experience with that. Ahem.
So you see, there’s no reason that Epcot can’t be enjoyed by the whole family, including children. These are just a few of the things you can do there, and it easily fills up a day of touring. Give it a try next time, you may find that Epcot becomes a favorite park!