Epcot For Toddlers
Originally a park with few offerings geared directly to toddlers, Epcot has in recent years matured away from “edutainment” and toward more traditional Disney-type attractions, meaning there is more than a token effort to appeal to toddlers these days. That said many of the things for them to do are exhibits and interactive opportunities, not rides, so you probably don’t need more than a single day here to satisfy your little tyke. Of course, adults may wish to spend more time (often, two full days), and that may grow a bit old for toddlers.
We recommend if you are visiting with Toddlers to spend only 7 or 8 hours a day at the park. If you go in the morning then return to your Disney World hotel in the afternoon for a quick nap and head back to EPCOT in the evening your children will not be walking zombies by the third day.
An unnumbered list of “don’t miss” attractions might seem to make the most sense since people differ so radically from each other that my experiences may not match your particular child’s preferences. But that would also neuter the utility of any list at all. Thus, here is my (admittedly highly subjective) list of rides for toddlers at Epcot, presented in order of importance.
Older preschoolers may desire to take on the thrill rides: Soarin’ (40 inches), Test Track (40 inches), and Mission Space (44 inches). If so, move these rides to the top of the list. Soarin’ is a hang-glider simulation, so a fear of heights may impede enjoyment. Test Track will prove enjoyable for all involved. Mission Space is a simulation of space travel—there’s a version with actual weightlessness, achieved by rapid spinning, and one without. Some kids find the spinning nauseating, but most children quite like it (for the adults, the split is closer to 50/50).
At the other end of the spectrum are the rides you shouldn’t bother with. This list is also subjective, and refers to attractions that specifically toddlers may want to skip:
– Circle of Life – a movie at the Land pavilion that preaches environmentally sustained habits using the characters from the Lion King. Political correctness runs amok, the problem is not so much the message as the overbearing method of presentation and preaching.
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 for one cycle before the next film begins. Rides that do have a line are mostly the thrill rides, as well as Turtle Talk with Crush.
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.
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. It’s worthwhile to stake out a spot for 30-45 minutes before the show begins if you’re traveling with toddlers, or else they’ll find themselves in the second or third row of spectators, and adults may have to hold them up to see everything.
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.
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.
Toddlers can find Epcot trying if the day consists of following around adults as they sample food and ride grown-up attractions—Epcot just isn’t geared for children as neatly as the Magic Kingdom. If adults do a lot of shopping for themselves, the problem is compounded. Shopping for toddlers specifically should also be kept to a minimum, though you may find it helpful to let them explore the country-specific shops as their interest dictates. A central store with the most common souvenirs can be found at Future World’s MouseGear.
Here are a few experiences that don’t draw nearly as many crowds, but may be of paramount importance to your particular toddler (pick and choose as your preferences dictate):