With a couple of notable exceptions, my family’s most memorable Epcot moments happened when exploring the less-known, low-key, hands-on stuff more than when riding the popular rides. When traveling with children to any of the Disney parks, it's best to do some research and develop a list of must-see attractions and then let your kids' energy level and interests guide the way.
In planning your visit, keep in mind that Epcot is huge. In fact, it’s double the size of the Magic Kingdom. On two separate days I thought I could get away with using just one single stroller for my toddler, and twice I wound up renting a second stroller for my preschooler's tired tootsies. To maximize your walking efforts, here are eight attractions and simple pleasures that you might want to squeeze into a visit any Epcot visit with children.
World Showcase Attractions
Each of the 11 pavilions representing different countries in Epcot’s World Showcase has its own culturally-inspired form of live entertainment. While it’s tempting to hurry the kids along to the next country on the park's map, take a moment to stop and watch these performances as you come across them. My kids were enthralled by the Chair Balancing Act in France, the Taiko Drummers in Japan, and the Dragon Legend Acrobats in China.
The Taiko Drummers in the Japan Pavilion
The United Kingdom’s Hedge Maze & Toy Shop
It’s easy to miss the hedge maze tucked in the back corner of the United Kingdom. Despite its small size, my kids could have played here for at least an hour if I hadn’t nudged them along after a few giggle-infested run-throughs. Afterwards, be sure to pop into the UK’s darling toy shop, The Toy Soldier, especially if your little one is obsessed with trains as is my son. Why? There’s a Thomas the Tank Engine table complete with wooden tracks and choo-choos aplenty. If you need a reprieve from the lines, the heat, the cold, or the whining – a visit here will buy you some time as the kids zoom the trains around the tracks.
My daughter zipping through the United Kingdom Pavilion's hedge maze
Germany’s Model Railroad
Speaking of trains…the model railroad in the Germany pavilion is another delightful low-key attraction that young children adore. My kids literally jumped for joy when they first caught sight of the miniature trains chugging around a scaled-down version of a German village.
The miniature train in the Germany Pavilion
The Outpost’s Drums
The Outpost is not one of the main country pavilions. This little area representing African cultures is sandwiched between the Germany and China pavilions. Its only restaurant is a fast food stand called the Refreshment Outpost. But The Outpost does have one major draw for kids of all ages…big ol' drums! It was hard to pull my kids away from the joy of thumping on these instruments! There are drums and other African-inspired instruments for sale at an adjoining store.
My son beating a drum in The Outpost
Mexico’s Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros
This ride featuring Donald Duck and two other animated “cowboy” bird characters is reminiscent of another toddler favorite, It’s a Small World (minus the annoying song). The Gran Fiesta Tour is one of only two rides in the World Showcase. The other one, the Maelstrom in Norway next door, should be avoided with very young children. While it’s not a very fast ride, the troll and dark theme frightened both my kids to pieces.
The Gran Fiesta Tour in the Mexico Pavilion
Future World Attractions
Living with the Land
I was surprised by how much both my children were intrigued by Living with the Land. Teens looking for thrill rides might find this one boring, but my young kids enjoyed naming all of the veggies in site on this mellow 14-minute boat tour of futuristic greenhouses that grow real plants.
Edible flowers and herbs growing in the Living with the Land greenhouse ride
This is a tasty little distraction for all ages. Go here for free samples of Coca-Cola Company drinks from around the world. Even my 23-month-old got a kick out of putting his little cup up to the dispenser and pressing the button to fill it up (with my help)…again…and again…and again. My favorite was the red berry Fanta Colita from Costa Rica but my kids, who had never tried soda before and didn't like the bubbles, preferred the non-carbonated Japanese Vegitabeta health drink.
Free refreshments and fun at Club Cool
The Seas with Nemo & Friends Pavilion
This ride was the absolute highlight of my daughter’s Walt Disney World vacation. In fact, it is because of The Seas with Nemo & Friends Ride that Karissa has declared her preference for Epcot over the Magic Kingdom. Her Grandma Ellen took her on this ride six times in a row, thanks to short lines on a very chilly February day. Both she and her brother were mesmerized by the Nemo characters interspersed with real-live fish, as they rode along in their huge clamshells. Afterwards, we walked through the 5.7 million-gallon Sea Base and Caribbean Coral Reef Aquarium to view more fish, sharks, manatees, and dolphins. Don’t miss Turtle Talk with Crush for an interactive, animated 3-D show where kids can really chat with Crush, the surfer-dude turtle from the Finding Nemo movie.
Real-live “Nemo” fish in the aquarium in the Seas with Nemo & Friends Pavilion
There is so much to see and experience at Walt Disney World, it's easy for kids to become over-stimulated and for parents to feel frazzled. My favorite Disney vacation memories occur when I slow down and focus on the little moments…like the look of pride on my son's face when he held out his little cup to fill it up with a colorful drink at Club Cool all by himself (well, with a little help)…and the joyous sound in my daughter's voice when she asked (for the fifth time), “Can we ride Nemo again?”…and the way my kids jumped up and down, and shouted, “Choo-choo!” when they spied the miniature train in the Germany Pavilion. That's what Disney magic is all about.
What is your favorite Epcot ride, attraction, or memory? Let us know in the comments!
A Note from the Travel Mama: I attended the Social Media Moms Celebration at Walt Disney World in February 2010 along with other blogging moms and dads. The cost to attend this three-day event was $350, which included conference attendance, lodging for four, some meals, Park Hopper tickets, and some swag. I will always let you know if I receive any sort of discount or complimentary goods or services related to a blog post.