Epcot with Kids through Your Eyes
Part I


Edited by Deb Wills, ALL EARS® Editor-in-Chief

Feature Article

This article appeared in the
January 17, 2006, Issue #330 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)


Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.


A few weeks ago we asked you to send us your best tips for touring Epcot with kids -- anything you've discovered that would help kids have a magical vacation. Thanks to everyone who wrote in -- we were really overwhelmed by your enthusiasm, and enjoyed reading all your tips. So many of you responded that we decided to devote an entire feature article (or two!) to showcasing your ideas. And, as we promised when we solicited your tips, those whose tips we selected will receive an AllEarsNet.com goody bag. (Goody bag recipients emails are on the way.)

So, without further ado, here's our look at Epcot through YOUR eyes!

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START THE DAY
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It's interesting that in all the tips we received (close to 200) not a single one mentioned going to Epcot for Extra Magic Hours (morning or evening). Here are three ways to start your day in Epcot:

Jeff Kays: Epcot is my family's favorite Disney World theme park. (Our kids are 9, 8 and 6.) One of our favorite things to do is to first go to the Fountainview Cafe. We all get one of their fantastic croissants or pastries (Mom and Dad also get an espresso drink) and then we head to the outdoor patio. Our kids have a fun time eating and watching the fountain while Mom and Dad drink their coffee and plan the day. What a great way to ease into the day!

Ann Thomas: Get there BEFORE the gates open and get in line to be one of the first people there. While everyone else is running to fastpass Soarin' or Test Track, veer off to the new Character Connection and HAVE A BALL! We had the characters all to ourselves and there were LOTS of them. They played with our kids, played tag, laid on the floor with them -- we got awesome videos!

EDITOR'S NOTE - The Character Caravan Bus that used to circle Epcot's World Showcase and part of Future World no longer runs. In its place is the new Character Connection located near the Fountainview Cafe. http://allearsnet.com/tp/wander/wander4.htm

LSMFLECK: Last year Julie went to the Princess Breakfast in Norway dressed as Jasmine. When Jasmine came to our table, she made a huge fuss over her, and asked her to come visit her and Aladdin later that afternoon in Morocco. We did stop by, and both of them, again, made a very magical Disney moment for us. It was the highlight of my daughter's trip.

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ATTRACTION RECOMMENDATIONS
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You all shared many tips about the individual attractions -- here are our favorites:

Davida Kosa: My 3-year-old son Nat loved the "Living with the Land" boat ride. We had to ride it twice, and we ate in the Garden Grill twice on the trip, too. I don't know what was so intriguing for him, but a friend said her preschool daughter rode it repeatedly, too.

Kim Oehrlein: Both of our children (5 and 2) also enjoy El Rio del Tiempo in the Mexico pavillion. We're always pleasantly surprised to walk onto this ride with no waiting. It's a great attraction for impatient little ones (and their parents)!

Toby, age 4 1/2: Living Seas is where Nemo lives! The gang is all there including the little guy himself.

Lauren Ferner: My husband and I go to Disney very often with our 2-year-old. Since she can't go on the Soarin' ride at Epcot, and it is, of course, one of our favorites, we found a great thing for her to do while she waits. We have to do the parent swap thing, and while one is on the ride, the other takes her upstairs where they always have a big table set up to make her own necklace. She can color it with markers and she can color as many as she wants. They attach them all together like they do with the masks in the World Showcase. Then, while the other parent goes on the ride, the one who already rode takes her into The Circle of Life film with Timon and Pumbaa, which is right next to the craft station. By then we've both gone on Soarin', and she's had a great time!

Cathy Koncurat: Another really neat attraction is the Nestle Toll House booth in the Land pavilion. Several times a day they will choose a group of kids to help "bake" the cookies. The kids get chef hats, everyone adds in ingredients, and they get free cookies to take home at the end. My 4-year-old was thrilled when she was chosen to add the chocolate chips!

Lisa Brose: Our son, who was probably 9 years old at the time, went to all the country movies (Canada, France and China) with his grandfather. They had a great time discussing what they learned from each movie and had a great afternoon together.

We could write an entire article just on Innoventions (hmmmm) especially after so many of you told us how much your children enjoy all the different activities there. Here are a couple of your favorites:

Maria Sellers: We just took our six children (12 years to 3 weeks) to Florida and spent two days at Epcot. The kids discovered Innoventions East and West as we were walking through to get out of the rain and go to another destination. We had to drag them out of there with a promise of letting them spend as much time as they wanted to on the second day. I recommend that you pick up maps of Innoventions (at the entrances). The maps list different stations designated by a road sign number. As your child visits the stations, have the Cast Member initial the map on the signs. When certain stations are visited and the map initialed the child will receive a little paper card "driver's license." Our children loved doing this. Their favorite station was the Plastic Council's. After a brief introduction to plastics, each group got to compete in a virtual race (you run and jump in place while your robot races on a computer screen) and then make their own robot out of plastic parts created right there in front of you. They even got to KEEP the robot for FREE... how often does that happen at Disney? My children did this both days so they could make two robots.

Jean Scanlon: My kids can't pass Innoventions without a quick visit to play Toon Town Tag. It's a computer game that is played with four children at a time. They get to play "tag" as Goofy, Donald, Minnie or Mickey -- all in a quest to avoid being "it" while collecting ice cream cones. There's an emcee/Cast Member helping the audience keep tabs on who is "it" and adding extra excitement. While Minnie doesn't always win "most ice cream cones," she's usually a shoo-in for cutest smile. My kids love it, and the adults often welcome a cool place to rest for 5 or 10 minutes.

Journey into Imagination is a huge favorite with many of you...especially the Image Works "playground!"

Alisa Brown: They both enjoy doing the Journey into Imagination with Figment ride. Although, it should be noted that very young children do NOT like the huge puff of air near the end of the ride. Both girls love sending picture postcards (which are free) from the Kodak center after you exit the ride. It's a great opportunity to send a picture of yourself at Disney World.

Lesley Sawhook: Our children were 2 and 4 at the time and they loved the Figment ride, but even better than that was the interactive play area after the ride was over. They still talk about the area where there are lighted pads on the floor with different items on them: trumpet, elephant, lion, etc. When they would step on the square it would make that specific sound and light up (i.e. step on the trumpet square it lights up and they could hear a trumpet playing). My two children played at this spot for a VERY long time, and every time they would discover a new sound their eyes would just light up. We got some of the best pictures of them jumping around on the colorful squares -- truly a hidden gem at Epcot and we will find it again this summer when we return!

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IDEAS FOR KIDCOT FUN STOPS
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KIDCOT Fun Stops are "Kid Stations" located in several Future World pavilions and in all of the World Showcase countries. These areas, staffed by Cast Members, feature an activity and/or craft table especially for children.

Suzanne: I know that most people are aware of the Kidcot Fun Stops, so I would like to share what my daughter and I do to make it even more special. We choose a day usually near the end of the trip, and start at Mexico right when World Showcase opens. We make our way from country to country just stopping at the stations or any of the stores she would like to visit. Because I love to scrapbook our trips, I also take a picture of her with each Cast Member at the station and of her with something representative of the country. One year she put on a hat and another she held up one of the mini flags. We also stop to enjoy some lunch together, pastries, and anything else we see that's interesting. It's a great sense of accomplishment when we make it all the way to Canada.

Rebecca Grohall: If all of your kids don't want to partake in the Kidcot activities, have an adult make an extra lanyard (or mask) for them! This fall, two of my three kids started and the third had no interest (initially!) in partaking. A little more than a third of the way into the Kidcot stops in the World Showcase, he decided he wanted to participate. Luckily, we had started a lanyard in Future World and a mask in the World Showcase, so he was able to start at the next stop (he colored his mask and picked up the next charm) -- and more importantly, we didn't have to go back to the beginning!

Kelly Adams: When doing the World Showcase masks, ask them to attach a map of their country with the charm. Most countries have maps (only USA didn't have one available) and most countries have a wishing legend on the back of the maps. They are wonderful to read.

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IT'S IN THE DETAILS
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LAURIE ABRAHAMSON: While touring Epcot with my family last June, my 2-year-old son and I discovered a machine in the Mexican pavilion that lets you choose an animated postcard. We chose the Three Caballeros flying on a Mexican carpet! We had a lot of fun waving and blowing kisses to family and friends. After we "recorded ourselves" we were able to send our postcards showing how much fun we were having at Disney World! And the best part... it is FREE!

Cheryl O'Shea: Midway through a busy day at Epcot, the jumping fountains outside of Journey into Imagination are a great place to stop and relax for a bit. The fountains keep children (and adults) entertained. It is fascinating to watch the water "jump" from one spot to another. My daughters make a game of guessing where it will come from next and trying to catch it. This is just another example of Disney's wonderful special touches that make these parks so much better than any other amusement park.

Mia Randazzo: On a recent trip in December for my daughter's 5th birthday, my family parked ourselves across the street from the Rose and Crown where there are a couple of benches. My daughter spent about an hour and a half playing hopscotch on the painted one in the "street." She loved it. Little kids and "big kids" alike stopped and had a turn as my daughter explained the rules to one and all. We enjoyed a much-needed rest while my daughter played and then later my 6-year-old son joined in after doing all the extreme rides with his father. We then enjoyed the "Beatles" show (The British Invasion) and returned to "our" bench for a few more rounds of hopscotch before the fireworks. The hosts and hostesses even came out from the restaurant and engaged the kids in some ball bouncing games. It was fun!

nickybear3665: As we left the park each night we would head towards the main gate via the left side of Spaceship Earth, just so that my son could chase the lights on the illuminated paving stones. We always told him that the fireworks from IllumiNations made the stars sprinkle some stardust just for us.

K. Wade Williams: My favorite tip... be sure to ask one of the ladies at Mitsukoshi if your children can try on the kimonos/ slippers. My girls loved it as their new friend oohed and aahed.

Wendy & Chip Holland: We decided to visit each and every country in the World Showcase, in detail, which we had never done before. To our surprise there were many character meetings (Mulan, Belle, Jasmine, etc.) that we had no idea about. However, one of the best things we found was in the Japan pavilion. In one of the stores, for a small charge (under $14.00), each of my girls got to pick out their own oyster from a huge tank and watch as the Cast Member opened the oyster, found a pearl, cleaned it off and then measured it to see how big it was. My girls just loved this, knowing that they chose the oyster and it was their very own pearl. You can also have it set into a piece of jewelry, too (we just took ours home and will decide what to do with it when they get older). Riley and Maddie loved this little treasure!

Jenny Patton: The countries in the World Showcase also offer many unexpected "discoveries" -- like the waterfall gorge in Canada, the gardens in Japan and China, the fountain in Italy, and the miniature town and railroad next to Germany.

Janice Albers: My children love to visit the miniature train and village near Germany. While my son could watch the trains run round and round for hours, my daughter and I enjoy examining the incredible detail around the miniature village and countryside community. There are also some surprises for Hidden Mickey watchers!

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KID FRIENDLY ENTERTAINMENT
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Pam Passwater: We see many youngsters enjoying the rollicking music of Off Kilter, a Celtic rock band (yes, you read that right) performing at the Canadian venue in World Showcase. It s hard for anyone to sit still as they bang out their songs. The children usually give in and start dancing in the area in front of the stage provided just for that purpose. With encouragement from the band members and the audience, they "strut their stuff" and show Mom and Dad more than a few new dance moves. The dancers have a wonderful time while burning off excess energy, and they provide some great video footage, too. Keep that camera or camcorder handy! Off Kilter appeals to all ages, and we usually catch 5-6 shows every time we visit Walt Disney World.

Anna Maloy: Take your younger kids (toddler through elementary school) to see the Fife and Drum Corp at the American pavilion. During the show, the kids all get to go up with the corps and lead the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance. My boys, ages 3 and 4, thought it was great even though they only knew about half of the words!

M'Shel Bowen: My kids were 6-1/2 and 4-1/2 the last time we went to Disney World. They have been to Epcot three times. The last two years were the best! One of their favorite memories of their entire trip is seeing the acrobats in China. They are mesmerized by the actions and totally amazed that kids can do such things! For our last trip, the kids "had" to get to the China pavilion 40 minutes prior to showtime. We sat down to "reserve" our spots. Unfortunately, it was very windy that day, and they moved the show indoors. There were people already sitting on the benches who had just finished a show, so we didn't think the kids would have good seats. Thankfully, some very nice people let our children sit on the floor in front of them for the best seats! Although it wasn't as extensive a show as it would have been outdoors, the kids were still thrilled and amazed.

And these tips are just the "tip" of the iceberg! We'll have a second installment of reader tips on touring Epcot with Children in an upcoming issue of ALL EARS(R). As always, if you ever come across something fun or unusual in your travels around the World, please feel to share! We're always eager to see Walt Disney World through our readers' eyes!

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Related Links:

Epcot: http://allears.net/tp/ep/ep.htm

Epcot Overlooked Attractions: http://allears.net/tp/ep/issue099.htm

Epcot Live Entertainment: http://allears.net/tp/ep/ep_live.htm