If you have never visited Epcot, you don’t know what you’re missing. Think of traveling around the world, but never leaving the confines of the United States. Well, central Florida for that matter. Think “It’s A Small World” on steroids. The park is made up of two distinct sections: Future World and World Showcase. Future World is not so futuristic, it actually consists of an aquarium, soaring experience, and some hands on technology exhibits that now seem incredibly dated. If you have read any of my previous posts, you know why World Showcase appeals to our family. Eleven pavilions, each representing a different country, ring a central lagoon and within each one you can experience a bit of culture through shows, rides, shopping, and our favorite, food. This time we showed up just in time for the Disney Princess Half Marathon (bad idea) so the park was crazy busy. NOTE: These people actually run a half marathon and then tour the park the rest of the day. Who does that? Be sure to check the Disney calendar and make sure there are not any major events on the days you are planning your visit.
We entered the park and headed directly for the FastPass+ kiosk (see previous post about navigating Fast Pass +), got our coffee on at Starbucks, and set off to explore.
Five Things We Learned at Epcot:
Don’t wait in line if you don’t have to
The kids love Test Track and since they are now tall enough to ride on their own and we don’t mind riding with people we don’t know, we skipped the long lines by choosing the “Single Rider Line”. Disney offers this on several rides throughout their parks and I highly recommend this option for shortening your wait times. We walked right to the front of the line, hopped in with someone we didn’t know, and enjoyed the ride multiple times.
Don’t waste your FastPass +
Fast Pass+ groups rides by popularity and sorts them into three different groups. You only have one choice from the “most popular” rides. I would recommend choosing either Test Track if you have to wait with younger kids, Soarin’, the Frozen experience, or the Disney character meet and greet. The other options will be easy to see without a long wait. From the other selections, this is what we experienced: Turtle Talk with Crush is always popular, so that might be a good choice. The Seas with Nemo & Friends is rarely crowded. Mission Space is a good one, but not if you suffer from motion sickness (we have one of those). The rest you should easily be able to see without crowd issues.
Disney is amazing with food allergies
I really want to scream this from the rooftops since this was by far the best part of the park. No matter where I was, who I asked, they all had access to a food allergy manual and could tell me within minutes whether a particular food item contained tree nuts or peanuts or any allergen for that matter. Kudos to Disney for taking the extra step and being an industry leader in my book when it comes to addressing food allergies.
Disney makes learning about other cultures fun
Disney’s Phineas and Ferb: Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure is a great way to get your kids excited about different cultures and countries. Each family can check out a flip phone to navigate a secret agent mission through the World Showcase area. This does require some adult interaction for the younger ones, but grade school kids enjoy heading off through the countries in search of the clues to help defeat the evil Dr. Doofenshmirtz!
World Showcase is over the top authentic
Once again Disney thinks of everything. The stores in each pavilion are stocked with food goods, trinkets, and clothing representing each country. The food is a reasonable substitute for what you would eat abroad. The greatest part of World Showcase is that every employee in every country’s “pavilion” is truly from that country with a name badge indicating their home town. Example: We went into the shopping area of the China pavilion. Each country has a Kidcot Fun Stop where a native speaker will write your child’s name on a traveling passport in the native language of that country. We took it a step further. Our younger children have been in a Mandarin Immersion program for the last two years, so we used this as an opportunity for our kids to practice their budding language skills. We were amazed when our 9 year old carried on a five minute conversation with a native speaker. Others gathered around and watched in amazement. What a beautiful gift Disney has given to our country by bringing in these people from other cultures.
A lot of people skip Epcot in favor of the other theme parks in Orlando, but for our family it is by far our favorite of the four Disney parks. Once again Disney goes over the top with their attention to detail, from their replica of the German village to a smaller version of the Eiffel tower, there is nothing it seems they cannot recreate. There are not a lot of rides, the grounds are immaculate, and we love to eat and drink our way through the World Showcase. The fireworks show at night, Illuminations, is beautiful and far less crowded than what you experience at Magic Kingdom. Maybe that is what keeps us coming back over and over again.