Epcot

It’s possible that, if you’ve been to Disney since you were child age, you’ve also been to Epcot. This is the giant golf-ball (Spaceship Earth) park. Most people consider Epcot to mostly be for adults… and that’s partially true. The World Showcase countries aren’t the most exciting thing for kids. But Future World is DEFINITELY for everyone.

Future World is the part of the park closest to the main entrance. It has the attractions that kids will like (especially if they’ve seen Finding Nemo – as they relatively recently rebranded the Seas as “The Seas with Nemo and Friends“). You’ll want to ride Soarin’ at the Land Pavilion (recently updated with a third theatre in time for the new movie, Soarin’ Around the World), as well as do Turtle Talk with Crush at The Seas. Spaceship Earth is still good (the giant golfball) – and has recently been updated. Your kids will like Journey into Imagination at the Imagination Pavilion… and if you like roller coasters, you will definitely like Test Track (which just re-opened in 2013 after extensive refurbishment). Mission: Space can be a little much… but if you like the Tilt-a-Whirl and always wondered what would happen if it came off the rails… you’re gonna’ love it.

The Land also has a movie loosely using Lion King characters, as well as a boat ride eco-tour showing the various farming advances being made at Epcot. Show up around 4-6pm at The Seas, and on most days, you’ll catch divers in the tank, interacting with guests. There’s also a lot to do in the various “central” areas of Future World – mostly for kids… including a new attraction called “Sum of All Thrills” which is a make-your-own rollercoaster and then RIDE it in a motion simulator thing. Very cool.

World Showcase, while not always thrilling for kids, has a few things going for it. The first is that there are two boat-based attractions: Frozen: Ever After (FEA, formerly Maelstrom) in Norway and Gran Fiesta Tour (GFT) in Mexico. FEA can be a little scary – it’s in the dark for the bulk of the ride… and goes backwards once. GFT is basically “it’s a small world” – and we affectionately refer to it as “it’s a small Mexico”. You’ll figure out why. But it’s starring Donald Duck and the other Disney birds – so it’s silly and cute.

China and Canada have circle-vision movies… cool for adults, boring for kids. But each of the countries has at least one live performance thing happening. Again, grab the time schedule flyer when you enter the park and you’ll be able to see what you might want to view. Personally, I like the Chinese acrobats.  I used to also really like “Off Kilter” – a Canadian “rock” band, but they’ve been replaced by a lumberjack show.

Epcot attempts to engage school-aged children through a program that used to be called Kidcot. While the term is no longer used, you can still start at any country (Mexico is on one end and Canada is on the other, then just walk across to get around the WS lagoon). Go into the nearest shop and ask where the Duffy fans are (they have Duffy-the-Disney Bears on paintsticks for the children to color). They’ll point you to it. Your child will be invited to meet people from that country (visiting college-age kids on a work visa) and color the fans with the “natives”, who will also write the child’s name on the stick in that country’s language.

Additionally, Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure is a Phineas & Ferb-themed game (which used to be Kim Possible).  It’s a themed adventure that involves a digital communicator toy you borrow at one of the central store locations… and then use it to solve clues and have an adventure around World Showcase. Obviously, they’re trying to get kids interested in the international flavor… and using tech to do it. What I hear is that it’s working… and that kids (and parents) really love it. Most recently, I’ve also heard that they’ve updated the adventure, so do it again even if you’ve already done it once.

You can find Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Donald, one (or both) Chipmunks and Goofy for autographs in Innoventions. They’re all there, waiting for you to come find them. Wait in one line and sequentially see all of them. That way, you don’t have to stand out in the heat.  On the other side of that same area is another character meet and greet, currently Baymax and Hiro from Big Hero 6.

At the end of the day, Epcot’s fireworks show is called “Illuminations: Reflections of Earth“. Just get a good spot around the WS lagoon when you start to see people sitting down around it. You want to be able to see the CENTER of the lagoon – you’ll understand why during the show. It’s awesome and again, personally, I love the music. If your kids are scared of loud noises, however, it is fireworks and the speakers around the lagoon aren’t shy about pumping some volume into the performance.

Epcot is also host to about a dozen different special events depending on the time of year: The Epcot Food and Wine Festival, the Flower and Garden Show and typically at least one summer concert series with bands the parents remember from childhood (we were there in October 2011 to see Howard Jones). Check the Disney Parks website to see if there’s an event going on while you’ll be there. If so, note that that specific park might be more crowded.

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