Teenagers and Pre-Teens love EPCOT. Even though there is very few thrill rides at the park most of the attractions (especially the ones in Future World) really target what 11 to 16 year olds are learning in school. Of all the theme parks EPCOT is the one that caters to the entire family.
If you are traveling with teenagers we suggest looking into renting one of our Disney World pool homes. As you well know, teenagers like their space and that is what these homes offer…lots of space. The average vacation home near Disney World is over 1500 square feet.
Your preschoolers or school-age child may be interested in shows, but cares primarily about rides. Here are the rides they shouldn’t miss, arranged in order of importance.
It comes as no surprise that the rides to get busy the fastest in the morning are the thrill rides (with the exception of Mission Space, which has the capacity to handle crowds without lines forming). Visit those either first or last, or use FASTPASS for them (see below). Spaceship Earth is closest to the entrance, so it gets a line in the morning. Skip that for now, and come back later, and there will be no line.
Lines are minimal or basically absent on almost all rides at Epcot. For film-based attractions, you may have to wait one cycle before the next film begins. Rides that do have a line are mostly the thrill rides, though you should know that Test Track sells out of FASTPASSES much faster than any other ride, including Soarin’.
Be sure that you prioritize your choices. Many families ride only 10-12 attractions per day, so plan to spend a second day or to knowingly skip many.
- Test Track – an automobile testing facility, including a high-speed loop in the open air. Almost like a roller coaster but with individual cars. Height requirement of 40”
- Mission Space – a simulator of a mission to mars that uses high-speed spinning to generate positive and negative g-forces. Very intense (which many kids love; others won’t). Height requirement of 44”
- Soarin’ – a hang gliding simulator with a height requirement of 40”.
- The Seas with Nemo and Friends – an Omnimover dark ride that re-tells the Nemo story with a combination of sets and films, often using innovative effects.
- Journey Into Imagination With Figment – a stop-and-go dark ride with middling special effects and a largely uninteresting storyline for adults and older children alike.
- Spaceship Earth – a classic Omnimover attraction with music and robotic performers. It lasts longer than most rides at other amusement parks (including the Magic Kingdom).
- Gran Fiesta Tour featuring the Three Caballeros – A boat ride through Mexican history and sights with Donald Duck, Panchito and Jose Carioca. This is a slow-moving ride with a musical finale.
- Innoventions – two separate pavilions with interactive counters and displays designed especially for children. Part science museum, part corporate display, Innoventions offers a pleasant diversion in a temperature-controlled environment using the newest technology.
- Honey I Shrunk the Audience – a 3-D movie experience with some theater effects as well, designed to startle and delight. One loud scene (just following the attack of the mice) may frighten young kids, but by and large this is a fun diversion for all kids.
- Turtle Talk with Crush – a live interaction, along the lines of a stage show, with an animated character on the screen. Humor is highlighted in this fun but short interaction with Crush. Older preschoolers get a lot out of this.
- Maelstrom – a dark ride on a boat, including a portion traveling backwards for a minor thrill. Short lines, and a short ride.
- Living with the Land – an automated boat ride through simulated ecosystems and futuristic greenhouses. The line moves quickly, and there’s lots to look at, but the material isn’t gripping for most adults or older children.
- Reflections of China – a film projected in 360-degrees on screens all around you. The innovative presentation will be engaging, and the constantly-shifting imagery may keep kids involved for the whole 20-minute movie. Audiences have to stand, however, which can grow tiresome. No lines to speak of.
- O Canada – another 360-degree film, paced slower. No lines are common.
- Circle of Life – a movie at the Land pavilion that preaches environmentally-sustained habits using the characters from the Lion King. Political correctness run amok, the problem is not so much the message as the overbearing method of presentation and preaching.
- American Adventure – a stage show of robotic performers tracing American history over 30 minutes. This attraction is notorious for encouraging naps in the comfortable chairs, since the pace of the show is sometimes quite slow. Many infants fall asleep, so be wary of noise if your child fusses when tired.
- Ellen’s Energy Adventure – a traveling theater moves past full-sized robotic dinosaurs, eschewing physical thrills for multiple films. Infants might easily become bored by the extended movies (and dark spaces), and the sometimes loud sound effects are almost certain to startle. The 35-minute ride time, though, is the biggest hurdle for most infants.
- Impression de France – this tour of France uses three giant side-by-side screens for 180-degrees. Audiences can at least sit this time, and the chairs are so comfortable, napping becomes a danger. The soundtrack of classical music is wonderful for adults, but at times too loud for tykes.
There are several smaller entertainment experiences at Epcot localized to smaller venues, especially in the country pavilions of World Showcase. Few are of “must-see” quality, and are advisable only if you need a break or wish to take in a particular kind of cultural offering. One consistent crowd-pleaser is the troupe of gymnasts at the China pavilion, though this too is fairly low-key.
The major entertainment of the day occurs late at night: the Illuminations fireworks, which explode over the central lagoon of World Showcase. Simply put, do not miss this show. The decentralized nature of this show means you can view from anywhere around the lagoon, but choose a spot where you can see the globe in the center of the lake, or else your view of the fireworks may be slightly obscured. You may wish to start finding a spot 30 minutes (or even 60 minutes) before show time if having a prime seat is important for you.
Epcot is the park at Disney World with the most dining options. If you just want something quick, there’s fast food at Electric Umbrella and healthier options in the Land pavilion. In World Showcase, just about every country pavilion has a counter-service option, so you can really explore different tastes during your visit, and you’ll regret it if you don’t sample as many as possible. Being adventurous is half the fun of exploring Epcot.
The park is rife with table service options—almost every country pavilion has one. All are decent, though they have different pricing levels. At the top end, the Bistro in France and Le Cellier steakhouse in Canada enjoy the best reputations, and you’ll find the atmosphere of Mexico’s Cantina de San Angel hard to beat. All of the options, though, are decent. Character dining can be found in Norway and the Garden Grill at the Land pavilion.
Reservations for all table service restaurants are a must, and are available on a rolling 180-day schedule (simply call 407-WDW-DINE). Many of these restaurants fill up their available seats weeks before the date
In addition to the Character Dining mentioned above, you can find costumed characters that simply walk around (check with a Cast Member to locate the schedule for any particular character). Additionally, there are some structured character meeting areas:
Figment – the former icon of Epcot, this purple dragon was invented just for Epcot and can still be met at the top of the Imagination pavilion.
Disney characters by land – the country of origin for the original story serves as the greeting place for numerous Disney characters, such as Belle in France, Snow White in Germany, Mushu in China, and so on. These characters are not always present, though, so you may wish to check for schedules.
Article on where to see characters at EPCOT.
At all the character interactions, as well as key photogenic locations, you may run across park workers offering to take your picture and “put it on a card.” This is a free service and ideal for vacationers. On your first such encounter, you’ll get a card. On all future encounters, hand over the card and they’ll swipe it, making sure that whatever photos are taken get added to your account. When you return home after your vacation, you can view the pictures online, and order prints of any that you desire, with no pressure whatsoever.
Here are a few experiences that don’t draw nearly as many crowds, but may be of paramount importance to your particular child (pick and choose as your preferences dictate):
Living Seas aquarium – When visiting the Seas with Nemo, don’t forget to head upstairs and spend time ogling the enormous fish tank, at one time the largest in the world.
Mission Space Advanced Training Lab – play a mildly engaging video game that uses teamwork to pit one side of the room against the other.
Interactive play zones at the Imagination pavilion – make music by waving your arms and simply jump on carpeted tiles that make special effects noises. For older children, the better attraction may be the free photo postcards you can email from this area.
Video postcard emails at Mission Space – record yourself being loony and send an email to someone (or yourself), who can then view it online.
Germany outdoor train set – watch this garden-scale miniature train set navigate the scale model German villages and mountainous countryside. It may not hold your interest for long, but it’s neat to see once.
Fuel for Thought and the Car Showroom – As much a corporate advertisement for GM as anything else, these areas at the exit to Test Track at least have some theming and some things to read, and are ideal air-conditioned places to wait for Test Track riders to finish.