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Tips for Visiting Epcot Theme Park at Disney World

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Epcot
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Epcot, Epcot... what's with the weird name? Kids might wonder, and adults too.
The word stands for "Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow," and Walt Disney once dreamed of an entire community built on-site. Disney died years before "Epcot Center" opened in 1982, and the park probably doesn't much resemble what he had in mind. But still the vision is different from any other theme park; as its dedication plaque says, "May Epcot Center entertain, inform and inspire."

Today Epcot boasts some top rides and attractions, but it's still often compared to a permanent World's Fair, and basically has two giant World-Fair-ish halves:

  • Future World: has exhibits mainly about technology.
  • World Showcase: eleven pavilions from different countries surround a 41-acre lagoon. As always, the Disney's in the details, and Epcot's recreation of architecture and ambiance is excellent.

Epcot probably won't be your kids' favorite park, but it's unique and has some definite "must-see's". Below are tips to help you enjoy Epcot with kids.

Epcot: Top Tips

Mission Space attraction. Photo © Teresa Plowright.

Mission Space attraction.

1. Go the Distance:
this theme park is giant, twice the size of Magic Kingdom, so be prepared for a lot of walking.

  • rent a stroller even if your child is getting too big for one: it's amazing, the size of kids squeezed into strollers at Disney World!
  • use the free boat service to cross the World Showcase Lagoon-- it saves a lot of steps
  • allow plenty of time for rest stops, drink stops, etc. (See hints about saving money on drinks, and other Top Tips for Visiting Walt Disney World.)

2. Have a Game Plan:
if your time is limited, make some choices beforehand. The "Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World" has touring plans; also check the itineraries at Family.com. Looking back on our first visit, I wish we'd spent less time in Future World and more time at World Showcase where many pavilions have live events.

3. Make a Must-See List:

  • everyone should see the spectacular night-time IllumiNations, a display of fireworks and much more, over the World Showcase Lagoon. Arrive early for a good viewing spot.
  • Mission Space (photo above) is a top attraction, but make sure you and the kids can handle the G-force.
  • Honey I Shrunk the Audience is a fun attraction.
  • Test Track: you'll probably want to use FASTPASS for this race-car ride.
  • Many people like the Soarin' Over California simulated flight
  • Spaceship Earth is a long-time signature attraction: no thrills, just a pleasant (and cool indoor) ride through time. This ride is near the Epcot entrance, so don't join the crowds here when the park opens, wait until later.

4. Enjoy Cool Minor Attractions.
On a hot day, cool down inside Epcot's air-conditioned pavilions. Turtle Talk with Crush, in the Living Seas pavilion, is cute. Some indoor attractions mix education and fun: we enjoyed Cranium Command, Timon and Pumbaa's Circle of Life, and even Living with the Land, a boat cruise through some intensive vegetable-growing. (This is Epcot, remember.)

Gymnasts' show, at China pavilion, in Epcot. Photo © Teresa Plowright.

Gymnasts' show, at China pavilion.

5. Allow Lots of Time for World Showcase.
This area, with its eleven international pavilions, is huge. Allow time to walk slowly around the whole Lagoon, and to linger when you come across live events, such as the Character Masquerade at the Italy Pavilion, or amazing acrobats at China.

You should also budget plenty of time for...

6. Great Eats!
The World Showcase is a fantastic place to eat internationally: from French pastries at the patisserie in France, to fine dining at many pavilions, with lots in between. The Morocco pavilion has delish fast food at the Tangierine Cafe.

7. End your day with IllumiNations.
If you have a Park Hopper pass, you can add IllumiNations to a day spent in another park: typically Epcot closes later than other parks. (Check the Disney World calender.)

Epcot Festivals and Special Events

Visitors get some great extras at Epcot during certain times of year.

  • From March to mid-May*, the Epot Flower and Garden Festival brings dazzling flower displays, amusing topiaries (a signature feature), and free "Flower Power" outdoor concerts with acts from the sixties and seventies.
*Always check destination web sites for updates!

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