Walt Disney World’s EpcotNovember 9, 2010 No Comments
Opened in 1982 as EPCOT Center (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow), Epcot is a celebration of world cultures and new technologies. At first glance, Epcot may not seem like the park of choice for small children, as the park’s focus is primarily educational. Yet Epcot is a wonderful place for families to explore and learn together. Most pavilions are immense, containing multiple attractions, shops and dining locations. If possible, try to schedule two days at Epcot to take everything in at a reasonable pace.
The front half of Epcot is known as Future World. The front courtyard is filled with futuristic-looking stone monoliths, part of the now-defunct Leave a Legacy program. As you enter the front gate, you will be in the shadow of Spaceship Earth, a massive geodesic sphere that is popularly referred to as the “giant golf ball.” You can rent strollers, wheelchairs and ECVs to your left, but due to high prices, it is generally best to rent from an outside company. To your right is Guest Relations, a one-stop shop for any questions or concerns. If anyone in your group is disabled, stop by to learn about the various accommodations that can make your trip a bit easier.
Virtually all Future World attractions are kid-friendly and appropriate for all ages. The major exceptions are Mission: Space and Test Track, both located on the East side of Future World. Mission: Space is an extremely realistic simulator that replicates a voyage to Mars. The ride offers two sides: the more intense Orange experience and the milder Green side. Both have a height requirement of 44 inches. The Orange side spins rapidly to create the sensation of weightlessness, and has caused nausea, disorientation and headaches even in those not normally prone to motion sickness. The Green side spins much more slowly. Unless your kids are known thrill seekers, consider trying the Green side before moving on to Orange.
Test Track sends riders on a trip through the punishing GM proving grounds, culminating in a 65 mph outdoor curve. Although nothing is inherently scary, the height requirement is 40 inches. Both Mission: Space and Test Track offer Child Swap, in which one adult can wait with the children while the others ride, and then switch places without standing in line again. Ask an employee at the ride entrance for details.
Located on the West side of Future World, Soarin’ also has a 40 inch height requirement. There is a moment of total darkness and the ride takes place high in the air, but most kids seem to love the experience of flying over California. Child Swap is available if needed.
The rest of Future World is kid-friendly and fun for the entire family. Plan to spend a bit of time playing interactive games, relaxing in slow-moving ride vehicles and getting a sneak peek at soon-to-be-released technological marvels. Don’t miss Captain EO, a 1986 sci-fi thriller starring Michael Jackson. It was brought back for a limited release in the summer of 2010, but proved so popular that it was retained for an open-ended run.
The back half of Epcot is known as the World Showcase. Pavilions dedicated to 11 different countries are arranged around a central lagoon. When Epcot first opened, some kids found the World Showcase boring, with its heavy focus on shopping and dining. Today, however, the area is filled with experiences specifically designed for young children. In each country, look for the Kidcot stop, where kids are invited to participate in craft projects or games representative of that nation. Disney characters also make frequent appearances in their appropriate homelands.
Kim Possible is an interactive scavenger hunt fun for all ages. Pick up a Kimmunicator (which resembles a stripped-down cell phone) at one of many locations throughout the park and follow the clues. Some of the effects are quite impressive even for the adults!
Make sure you grab a show schedule. Each nation features entertainment throughout the day ranging from the World Showcase Players’ comedy rendition of “Romeo and Edna” to the Celtic rock music of Off Kilter. Shows repeat throughout the day.
There are a few rides in the World Showcase, each presenting the landscape and culture of the nation. The Maelstrom, located in Norway, may be a bit frightening for sensitive children. Although it was billed as “Epcot’s first thrill ride,” this boat adventure is fairly tame, but some scenes are somewhat scary. Preview it first if you have any doubts. The rest of the World Showcase rides and attractions are appropriate for all.
Dining at Epcot
Dining at Epcot is an experience in itself. Each country around the World Showcase Lagoon offers both table service and counter service restaurants that feature the cuisine of that nation. In Norway, the Disney Princesses hold court at a buffet. Or dine with the sea life at the Coral Reef in Future World. Plan to spend at least an hour and a half at any table service restaurant, and make your reservations well in advance. It is virtually impossible to get a table on a walk-in basis during crowded times of the year, including summers and holidays.
Epcot After Dark
Epcot takes on a special charm by night, so try to keep the kids awake. Illuminations: Reflections of Earth is a nighttime spectacular on the World Showcase Lagoon. Originally debuted for the Millennium Celebration, this version of Illuminations is the best yet. Laser lights, fireworks and film projection combine in a stunning tribute to human innovation. The show is visible from around the lagoon and generally occurs at park closing.
After Illuminations, take your time making your way out of the park. Epcot is especially beautiful late at night when most of the crowds have departed, so slow down or even grab a spot on a bench. It’s much more pleasant than fighting the throngs at the park exit!