Epcot Really is a Park for Children
If you listen to some people they'll have you thinking that Epcot is designed exclusively for senior citizens. It's too bad it still has this stigma as Epcot can be just as much fun for for the little kids as it is for the "inner child."
First and foremost, rent or bring a stroller even if your little guy has outgrown it awhile ago. Unless your family has been training for the Boston Marathon, this is one big park and it's very easy to get tired out.
Epcot is the only Disney theme park with the "Kidcot" program. All of the World Showcase countries have "Kidcot stations". The kids are provided with a picture of Duffy Bear to color and at each station they can get a stamp to decorate it. Yes, your eyes aren't playing tricks on you. "FREE" is a word rarely heard in Disney World.
An added bonus at the World Showcase, Kidcot stations is the chance for the kids to get their autograph book or Epcot Passport stamped. They'll learn how to say "Hello" in a different language. Kids love the idea of "collecting" the stamps and in the process will be taught some new skills.
Probably the best thing for kids is the ongoing redesign of the Living Seas. Previously (unless you're raising a future Marine Biologist) this attraction quickly became a yawner for the little ones. Not anymore. With the new focus on "Finding Nemo" this is one attraction that kids love. The best part is "Turtle Talk With Crush" but with popularity comes long lines. Try to get there first thing in the morning or be prepared to wait.
Another attraction designed for the little ones is the Imagination Pavilion. The Journey Into Imagination is a cute ride for all ages. Afterwards, there are all sorts of interactive stations for you to enjoy at the "Image Works - Kodak 'What If' Lab. (You don't have to go on the ride to access this area.) Then there are the fountains. They go up, they go over and they captivate the kids.
Imagination is also home to "Honey I Shrunk the Audience." This 3-D movie is great, but there are some scary elements to consider when viewing it with kids. If they (or you) don't like mice or snakes, skip this one.
"Living with the Land" is a boat ride. Don't let the Fast Pass option trick you into thinking this is an exciting attraction. While budding botanists familiar with hydroponics will love it, it's a bit on the B-O-R-I-N-G side. Still, simply being on a boat and seeing the fish and baby alligators in one section you go through may be just enough to hold their attention for one go round.
Thanks to the renewed popularity of Ellen DeGeneres, most kids will recognize her as the star of the Universe of Energy. It's a funny spoof of the Jeopardy Game Show that finds Ellen and Bill Nye the Science Guy going back to prehistoric times in search of the source of energy. Although this attraction is a bit on the long side, you can't beat the combo of dinosaurs and kids.
Test Track is great, but again, height requirement. If your kid is too short for this, you can still visit the "after ride" area where there are a couple of interactive displays as well as the latest GM model cars. Kids love hopping in and pretending to drive. (Dad usually enjoys this as well.)
Another attraction with height restrictions is Mission:SPACE. Kids love the action, but you may be reluctant to go on this ride if you've heard of its dubious history. After distributing countless motion sickness bags and sadly, after two real tragedies, you now have the option of choosing a less intense experience. There's also an interactive area that all ages can enjoy.
Spaceship Earth is one of the "grand daddies" of Epcot. A semi-snoozer, it probably has just enough elements to keep the kids interested at least for one go through.
One area that's often overlooked is Innoventions East and West. It's a shame since this is where the kids can work off some energy and learn while playing. There are tons of hands-on activities that they'll love to experience. Give it a chance, you'll be glad that you did.
Combine water with kids and you'll get soggy smiles. There are two fun fountains where kids can jump in and splash away. (Please don't toss them over the fence into the main fountain. That would be a bad thing.) Look for the fountain by the walkway towards Test Track and the other play fountain by the central walkway to the World Showcase. Warning, kids don't get wet, they get soaked. Be prepared with either a change of clothes or have them wear their bathing suit under their outfit that day.
I admit it, this is where the kids eyes roll back into their skulls and they get "that look." You know the one, you promised them Mickey Mouse and now they're looking at a bunch of boring buildings.
Be realistic, some of the World Showcase is over the kid's heads. When you were five years old, did you really care that the tiles in the Morocco Pavilion were handcrafted? (You probably still don't care.) This doesn't mean that the entire section is a wash, it just means that you have to plan more carefully unless you want whine to go with your wine.
As mentioned earlier, the Kidcot stations at each country are a godsend. Kids love making their own souvenirs, and with a bit of luck, you'll be able to browse some shops while they admire their handiwork.
Speaking of souvenirs, you've no doubt discovered that the Mouse and his many friends come in all sorts of shapes and forms and your kid will want each and every one of them. At the World Showcase, your wallet can get some welcome relief. It's surprising how inexpensive a lot of the merchandise is.
World Showcase offers Agent P's World Showcase Adventure. It is an adventure for the entire family. You are given missions to solve in many of the World Showcase countries. It's a great way to spend some time with your family and discover some hidden treasures in each country. Be prepared for some surprises along the way.
In Japan there's an extensive assortment of Hello Kitty and Anime items and some very reasonably priced and unique candies. (This is the perfect solution if your kids promised to bring back something for their friends.)
In Germany almost every flavor and shape of Gummy candy that's made is found here. Italy has Perugina chocolates in small packs. The United Kingdom pavilion also has wonderful candies. Canada has maple sugar treats. Again, inexpensive and something the kids will love.
Mexico is great for finding a reasonably priced toy. China has some little trinkets that don't cost much at all. You can find inexpensive handcrafted Christmas ornaments in Norway. Let the kids pick one out and you'll bring back great memories when you give it a special spot on your tree. There's a HUGE carved wooden Troll in Norway that's a perfect picture op.
Now onto some action. At the Mexico and Norway Pavilions there are boat rides. The Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros rarely has much of a wait and is just short enough and colorful enough to keep the kids interested. At Norway, Maelstrom does have Fastpass but it's often not needed. Again, quick and just enough to keep kids entertained.
Look for the Koi fish in the ponds at Japan. With any luck, a candy making demonstration will take place!
Facing Germany, head to the right and look for the model trains. These are great and the kids will get a kick out of watching them run.
Over in Morocco you'll usually find Aladdin, Jasmine and/or the Genie doing Meet & Greets. If they're not out front, go through the open market shops opposite the Marrakesh Restaurant. They're often there with no wait at all for a picture and an autograph.
Speaking of the Disney Characters, many of the most beloved names are derived from Fairy Tales that originated in the World Showcase countries. For instance, you may find Snow White in Germany, Beauty and the Beast in France and Pinocchio in Italy. There's also a double decker bus with many of the Disney characters (including Mickey & Minnie) that makes appearances. At Epcot's Guest Relations they'll be able to provide you with the day's schedule.
Some of the best snacking can be found in the World Showcase. In Japan the shaved ice is always a hit, Germany has wonderful soft pretzels, Mexico has churros, funnel cakes are found at a kiosk in front of the America Pavilion, and both France and Norway have bakeries with some of the yummiest treats the whole family will enjoy.
Don't forget the character meals. The Princess Storybook Dining in Norway and the Chip and Dale Harvest Feast at the Garden Grill are very popular with the kids. (Be sure to make a reservation as early as possible for these venues.)
There are some real snoozers in the World Showcase as far as the tot set is concerned. The movies in France, China and Canada are simply not going to hold their interest. Ditto for the American Adventure. While it's an amazing animatronic show, the subject matter is going to find most youngsters squirming in their seats.
Throughout the day most of the countries schedule entertainment. Some of it has kid appeal, some of it does not. Off Kilter may be a lively, fun band to you, while it's just a bunch of guys in skirts to your kid. Gauge your child's reaction to see if it's worth sticking around to watch the shows.
At night, IllumiNations is spectacular but there are a few things to keep in mind. You are very close to the fireworks and I've seen more than a few kids lose it during the loud booms. It can be scary (and painful) for little ears. The other problem you might encounter is getting a decent view. The best spots are up front around the lagoon, but if the park is crowded, scoring a good view can be a challenge.
There you have it. Epcot with kids can be magical or it can be your worst nightmare. The good news is, even if you don't get to see all of the "adult" venues, by creating a great experience for your kids they'll be happy to go back to Epcot again and again. Don't be surprised if it ends up being your family's favorite destination.
- Epcot After Hours Wind Down extended through November 9 - Stick around after IllumiNations for an evening at one of 4 exclusive lounges featuring food and beverages from award-winning Epcot chefs and sommeliers.
- Blog - Review: "Guardians of the Galaxy" combines humor, action, and a stellar cast to become the perfect summer blockbuster
- All-Star Music food court closes for refurbishment - The Intermission Food Court will be closed 8/1/14-12/20/14 for refurb.
- New events added to Epcot International Food & Wine Festival - Late Nights LIVE! and new Premium Package events added.
- Astro Orbiter rehab extended by one week - Originally scheduled to end September 19, the ride will now reopen September 28.
- Food & Wine Festival Premium events now available for booking - This includes seminars, signature dining experiences and other special events.
- Changes coming to Move It, Shake It, Celebrate It Street Party? - An update is rumored for this parade later this year, possibly around October. Possible changes are new music; Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and Donald moving to the top of the floats; and Stitch joining the fun. Sebastian, Lumiere, and The Mad Hatter will leave the parade.
- During pool rehab, Polynesian guests will have free admission to Blizzard Beach - Originally, the resort guests were just going to be given one-day tickets to the water park, but that has been changed. They will now have complimentary unlimited admission to Blizzard Beach during their stay at the Polynesian.
- List of restaurants participating in the 2015 Disney Dining Plan - This list will be updated as more restaurants are added. Epcot and Downtown Disney restaurants don't normally finalize their participation until later in the year.
- 2015 Magic Your Way Disney World packages released! - A Walt Disney World package is a resort room and theme park admission. The Disney Dining Plan may also be added.
- Happy 15th Birthday to Rock 'n' Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith! - The attraction originally opened its doors at Disney’s Hollywood Studios on July 29, 1999.
- Victoria & Albert's will no longer accept Tables in Wonderland - This begins August 1, 2014.
- Summertime Pals Ink & Paint Cel release - This limited release will be available at the event, or pre-order by September 25 at 5:00pm EST.
- Haunted Mansion merchandise shop coming to Magic Kingdom - The former Yankee Trader shop will become a Haunted Mansion merchandise location in the near future. The decor will be inspired by Madame Leota and will carry items from the Haunted Mansion Authentic program, such as apparel, home goods, souvenirs and more.
- Merchandise Events and Artist Appearances/Signings for August - List of authors and artists coming to the theme parks for signings and merchandise releases.
- List of characters updated for Villains Unleashed! event - Over 50 Disney villains will be taking over the park until the 13th hour!
- Beginning today, PhotoPass print packages are no longer offered table-side at character meals - This includes Chef Mickey's, 1900 Park Fare, 'Ohana, Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue, Disney's Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show and Tusker House Restaurant.
- Disney Visa cardholders can book Food & Wine Festival events early - Disney Visa cardholders can book special events two days earlier than the general public - on July 29 and July 30 from 7:00am-11:00pm EST.
- Tables in Wonderland adds blackout dates for several restaurants - The Tables in Wonderland program offers Florida Residents, DVC members and Annual Passholders 20% off of all food and beverage purchases at the participating Disney restaurants.
- Information on Holiday sleigh rides at Fort Wilderness - This horse-drawn "sleigh" ride is a fun way to celebrate the season.
- Marketplace menus for Epot International Food & Wine Festival - List of menu items for the marketplaces set up around World Showcase.
- Rehab planned in November for Magic Carpets of Aladdin - The Magic Kingdom attraction will be closed 11/10 - 11/21/2014.
- Food & Wine Festival Special Dining Experiences released - Bookings for these experiences begin July 31.
- 10 Places to Wait Out a Thunderstorm at Walt Disney World
- Disney Castaway Cay Challenge added to Princess Half Marathon Weekend - Runners who are registered for any of the Disney races (5K or longer) during the Weekend have the option to complete the Disney Castaway Cay Challenge when sailing on the Disney Dream February 23-27.
- Fantasia Miniature Golf Course rehab planned off and on for the next two weeks - Gardens Course closed 7/22-7/25/2014, 7/28-8/1/2014, 8/4-8/8/2014. The Fairways will still be open.
- Blog - I Can Go The Distance: Deciding is one thing, registering is another
- Save up to 30% on a Room Only reservation at Walt Disney World! - Valid for stays most nights 10/4/14 - 11/25/14 and 11/29/14 - 12/23/14.
- 2015 WDW hotel discount released for U.S. Military - Valid for stays most nights 9/28/14 - 10/3/15.
- All 3 remaining weekends sold out for Harambe Nights - July 26, August 2 and August 9 are sold out.
- Annual passholder discount for Spice Road Table - Through 9/17/14, Annual Passholders can get a 30% discount on their bill.
- 2015 Military Ticket Discount info released - Members of the military can purchase 4-day Magic Your Way tickets with Park Hopper option for $177 each.
- Changes to reservation times for Wishes Dessert Party - Reservations are all being set for 6:00pm, no matter when Wishes is taking place. The dessert party will actually take place one hour before Wishes.
- Frozen Summer Fun Premium package is sold out for all remaining dates - This package gives guests at Frozen Summer Fun Live reserved viewing for several events.
- Wild by Design tour to be discontinued after 9/26/14 - This tour takes place at Disney's Animal Kingdom.
- Fantasy Football Convention coming to ESPN Wide World of Sports - The convention will give attendees access to ESPN talent, a live fantasy football draft and more.
- Blog - Sneak Preview of What's Coming to the 2014 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival
- Dates and pricing released for ICE! at Gaylord Palms - Using two million pounds of ice, this Gaylord Palms Resort special ticket exhibit will be transformed into the North Pole.
- Blog - Disney's Magical Express Age Limit Changes: A Parent's & Teacher's Perspective
- Blog - Five Reasons Why We're Not Seeing "Planes: Fire & Rescue" in Theaters
- Blog updated - I Just Spent $20 on FastPasses! Would You? - The author has taken the tour she discussed in the blog - check out her thoughts to see if she would do this again!
- Blog - July 2014 Magic Kingdom Construction Update
- Information for Food & Wine Festival special dining experiences - book 7/31 - Premium events will be announced July 24 and can be booked on July 31 beginning at 7:00am EST. To book, call 407-WDW-FEST (939-3378).
- Princess Half Marathon fills in less than 24 hours - The Princess Half Marathon, the Princess Enchanted 10K and the Glass Slipper Challenge are sold out, filling less than 24 hours after registration opened.
- Dolphins at Epcot will be offstage through August 7 - Guests will not be able to see the dolphins at The Seas with Nemo & Friends. The Dolphins in Depth Tour will be unavailable during this time as well.
- Changes in parking due to Downtown Disney Remodel - Speeds in the area will be reduced, as well as lanes closed. Buena Vista Drive will be expanded to 10 lanes.
- Blog - Disney Responds to Disability Access Service Lawsuit
- Walt Disney World exec leaves to head up Disneyland Paris
- SeaWorld no longer partnering with Southwest Airlines
- Walt Disney World 2015 packages now available to book
- High-speed train will link Shanghai Disneyland to city
- "Clyde and Seamore Take Pirate Island" show cancelled at SeaWorld
- PBS plans Walt Disney biopic
- Release date set for 5th Pirates of the Caribbean film
- Man arrested at Typhoon Lagoon for molesting 4 teenage girls
- Standby line to be cut off in Anna and Elsa meet and greet
- Disney's second quarter injury report: 12-year-old boy cuts fingers on Pirates ride