By Melissa Bretzius & Jen Zinno, Vacation Specialists with Mickey Adventures.
One of the questions we get most often is whether it is worth it to go to Epcot with young kids. Our quick answer is a resounding “YES!” Many think that this park is geared more towards older kids and adults, but our kids have loved it for many years. Although there are a few thrill rides geared towards older kids, there are a lot of fun things for kids of all ages.
Epcot is split into two sections – Future World and World Showcase. World Showcase is the back of the park and generally opens two hours after Future World, which is where most guests will enter. Future World is split in several different pavilions, each with its own theme and rides, and almost all of them have things for young children to do.
EPCOT is an acronym for Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow (or as my kids prefer, Every Person Comes Out Tired!) Walt’s vision for this was not a park, but an actually community as you will learn from riding the Tomorrowland Transit Authority in the Magic Kingdom, where you can see his original model for Epcot!
If you heard that Epcot is not a great park for kids, or that Epcot is for adults, or that Epcot is the park you can miss, I’m going to assume the person(s) you heard it from did not have all this information below! Sure it is a little more educational than the other parks, but is that a bad thing?
Let’s start with Future World…
The Land Pavilion houses one of Epcot’s more popular rides, Soarin‘. Though many think of this as a thrill ride since it has a height restriction, it is not a wild roller coaster. It is a flying simulation where you sit in rows of seats, and are lifted up (while seated and strapped in) to be surrounded by a large movie screen. It gives the feeling of moving through different countries and famous landmarks, like the Taj Mahal and the Great Wall, and is a wonderful, relaxing amazing experience. If your kids are tall enough (40 inches), most young kids love this! In addition, the Land Pavilion also has Living with the Land, which is a nice boat ride that takes you through the history of agriculture, and then through the actual greenhouses being used in Epcot. If you’re lucky, you’ll see a real pumpkin growing in the shape of Mickey Mouse, or the hidden Mickey by the live shrimp! If you have some extra time, sign up for the Behind the Seeds Tour to get a closer look at everything happening in the greenhouses. Much of the produce used in the Garden Grill restaurant is grown right here! My 3 year old (at the time) loved riding on Living with the Land while his older siblings were on Soarin’.
Test Track is another great ride and one of Epcot’s 3 most popular attractions! You create your own virtual test car in the queue and then you’ll get to see how it preforms as you ride a car through the test track facility, including an outside speed test! While it does have a 40” height minimum, it is not overly intense, and most kids tall enough for it will love it.
Mission Space is a rocket simulator where you and your co-pilots will fly your space ship to Mars. There’s an “easy” side (not spinny) and the more intense side… this is where I like to head over to Starbucks while my husband and kids ride! Outside of Mission Space there are some sprinklers and a playground that can keep you busy.
Club Cool… not a ride, but a fun stop where you all can sample FREE soda from around the world. Hint: The Beverly is not to be missed!
The Seas with Nemo and Friends is a perfect pavilion for young children! It starts with a tame clamshell ride with the characters from Finding Nemo. It then empties into a huge aquarium including a see through walk though area, with so much to see! You can spend 1-2 hours here if you wanted! You may even catch site of Nemo, Marlin, or Dory! We got to see a SCUBA demonstration here one year. And best of all, be sure not to miss Turtle Talk with Crush. This hilariously interactive show features Crush (from Finding Nemo) on screen interacting with guests. Children get to sit up front, and can ask Crush questions. It’s a wonderful show!
The Imagination Pavilion is another great one for young children. First, you can ride Journey Into Imagination with Figment. It then empties into an interactive room where kids can explore their imaginations. Outside the Imagination Pavilion is one of the coolest jumping water fountains that you’ll see in Disney World!
The Innoventions Centers are a great place to take young children when older ones are riding the bigger rides. There are all kinds of interactive exhibits to keep kids busy. In addition, there are outside fountains to play in on hot days.
Spaceship Earth is the ride housed in the big “golf ball” at the front of Epcot. It is a continuous moving car that slowly takes you up into the ball, through scenes showing the history of communication. Then you descend backwards, and get to participate in an interactive story that lets you shape what you want your future to look like.
And now for my kids’ favorite, World Showcase!
Many parents think that World Showcase will be too boring for kids, and decide to skip it. While there are certainly less rides to do, there is still a lot to do and see!
Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure, is a fun way to kids explore some of the countries. It is an interactive adventure where kids get clues to special things to find in a given country, and are led through a series of activities. You can do an adventure in every country or just the ones you choose. You can use your iPhone or you can get a phone from any of the Agent P booths.
Every pavilion will also have a Kidcot Fun Stop where the kids can Collect stamps and create a personalized souvenir at any or all 11 of these World Showcase craft stations. Give the kids a couple dollars in each of the countries to buy a candy or trinket specific to that country. The shops in all of the pavilions have so many fun items to be discovered!
Keep in mind that the Cast Members in each country are from that specific country, so your kids can learn a lot just talking to them. One fun activity is to pick a word or phrase, and have your kids talk to someone in each country to learn how to say it in their language. Or have that cast member write your child’s name or a greeting in their native language on a piece of card stock… makes for a great scrapbooking souvenir!
Food! Epcot is a great place to try flavors from around the world! You can choose to eat a full meal at one of their table-service restaurants featuring foreign cuisines or pick up something light at any counter service or gift shop within each country’s pavilion. Or pick up an appetizer or dessert at any food booth during Epcot’s Flower & Garden Festival or Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival! (Again, these events aren’t just for adults either – there’s plenty of fun and learning to be had by kids!)
The Mexico Pavilion has a boat ride called Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros. Norway has Frozen Ever After. We love to go in the shops in the Japan Pavilion and participate in Pick a Pearl. You pay a flat rate here (less than $20), and get to pick an oyster out of a large case. The cast members do a little show, and open the oyster. You get to keep whatever pearl is inside. You can also purchase settings for the pearl, and they will set it for you right there. You can also see Miyuki the candy maker in Japan, or play the drums in the African Outpost. If you stop in the American Adventure Pavilion and participate in the show, the kids will get a copy of the Declaration of Independence. Here you can also get a funnel cake or a famous Turkey Leg! There’s a hedge maze in the UK (along with a cute toy shoppe) and a very cool model railroad in Germany! Canada and China both have short Circle Vision movies too… if you haven’t seen a Circle Vision film, it’s pretty cool!
Characters Galore! You can meet many of the princesses in their native countries, too! Belle in France, Snow White in Germany, Mulan in China, Anna and Elsa in Norway, Jasmine in Morocco, Mary Poppins or Alice in the UK…. Epcot is a great place to meet many characters and collect autographs too! Hint: “Character Training” often occurs around 3 PM to the left of the American Adventures Pavilion – it’s a great way to meet even more characters with little to no wait times!
World Showcase has street performers that you can stop and watch, like the chair balancing act in France or the Acrobats in China. Always check your Times Guide to see who’s performing when and where!
The nighttime show in Epcot is called Illuminations: Reflections of Earth and it is fabulous! It’s a great way to end your fun-filled day at Epcot.
World Showcase is over a mile around, so leave yourself plenty of time to just walk around, enjoy the atmosphere, and see where it takes you! My kids have always loved Epcot, from a very early age. It’s one of the parks that we try to spend at least 1 ½ days, if not 2 full days. I think you’ll all be pleasantly surprised with your visit to Epcot! Who knows… it may even end up being your favorite Disney park! It is very large, and there is so much to do and see! Don’t be scared away by people that say it isn’t for kids – you just have to know where to look!
In 2021, a Ratatouille-inspired attraction open in the France Pavilion in World Showcase as well as the Guardians of the Galaxy attraction set to take-over the current Universe of Energy attraction. Also, in the works is a new space-themed restaurant to be located next to Mission: Space.