Epcot with Kids through Your Eyes Part II

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

Feature Article

This article appeared in the
February 7, 2006, Issue #333 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.

Last month 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 two entire feature articles to showcasing your ideas.

Part I included: Starting the Day, Attraction Recommendations, Ideas for Kidcot Fun Stops, It's in the Details, and Kid Friendly Entertainment. For those who missed the first part, or would like to read it again, visit: http://allearsnet.com/tp/ep/issue330.htm

And, as we promised when we solicited your tips, those whose tips we selected will receive an AllEarsNet.com goody bag. (The last batch of goody bags will be mailed this week.)

So, without further ado, here's our look at Epcot with Kids through YOUR Eyes, Part II!

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Cathy Koncurat: My kids' absolute favorite Epcot attraction is the jumping fountain on the bridge between Future World and World Showcase. We have them wear swimsuits under their clothes, strip down, and have a ball. There are comfy benches for Mom and Dad, and bathrooms nearby in the Odyssey pavilion. Often, other guests will stop to watch and even take pictures!

Nancy Hannah: I go through the old Disney guidebooks for things of interest, such as fountains, talking trash cans or bubblers, monorail colors, topiary, and interesting factoids about the pavilions at each country (for example, how many blocks in the center of the Chinese pavilion and why?). Gear the facts to the children's age and print them out before you go. While on the ride to the park, pass them out to the kids and let them look as you tour. Or give them their autograph book and see how many autographs of Cast Members from different countries they can "collect."

J. Johnson: My kids are amazed that people around the world speak different languages. On every trip to Epcot they choose a special word and ask the Cast Members at World Showcase to say it in their native language. It's a great way for the kids to get some good interaction with the Cast Members, a great picture opportunity, and a wonderful learning experience! On our next trip the kids are also going to ask for the World Showcase Cast Members' autographs and have them write the "chosen word."

Leanne Hackett: I also give my children an allowance to buy a special souvenir from the Epcot pavilions that they can bring back to school for a Share and Tell. When they are in the pavilion for their purchase, it is their job to pay for the item and have a conversation with the Cast Member from that particular country. My oldest son who is 8 loves it. He still talks about some of his purchases.

Ben: My son's favorite spot was the United Kingdom pavilion, toward the end of the street near the gazebo. We spent quite some time running through the hedge maze, which was the perfect size for him. After we'd had enough, we were able to rest on the park benches.

Cathy Moses: My 10-year-old spent HOURS at Mission: Space — but NOT going on the ride! At the exit, there is a whole area of exhibits, email postcards, and an interactive game called Mission Space Race. Kyle played round after round of Mission Space Race, teaming up with other kids and adults. He enjoyed it so much that we downloaded a live version to play along when we got home!

Bob: For an afternoon break, take a long but pleasant afternoon stroll through the International Gateway and then through the Swan and Dolphin to play some miniature golf at Fantasia Gardens!

Leonick: Once my daughter made her own "passport" type book. She used index card sized pages with the names and images of the countries each on a separate page, all tied together with a ribbon and topped off with a homemade cover. On some pages she added images of characters that are associated with the countries (Belle, Mulan, Aladdin) and it was fun to collect their autographs with the country stamps and greetings on these pages.

Lori: My 2-year-old LOVES the African village in Epcot! He spent half an hour with several other new little "friends" he met on the trip playing the variety of drums lined up for the public. And I also got some great video of him dancing to the beat while we waited our turn to play. (This experience also made him eager to watch the exciting display of drumming in Japan… he still talks about it!) There are also nice umbrella-covered tables across the path where his grandmas sat and watched while sipping their cool drinks.

Kim: We spent Mother's Day 2005 at Epcot, which happened to be during the Flower and Garden Festival. The kids loved seeing the elaborate topiaries shaped like favorite characters, and one of the biggest hits was the butterfly garden and sky climber playground. They spent more than an hour going back and forth between climbing the soft, springy structure and visiting the screen house containing the lush plants and the butterflies who love them! Finally, even if you usually have your kids walk the parks, a stroller is not a bad idea at Epcot, as there seems to be a lot more walking between the attractions.

Tina Harris: I get the children to pretend we are on a fact-finding adventure. We have a notebook and use it to write down anything that takes our fancy, from what the smell is in Figment's ride (cinnamon we think) to "Wow! Is that where pearls come from?" in Japan.

M. Craft: Our last trip we played a fun game of "Mickey around the World." We took our Pal Mickey to each country and each picked a perfect spot to take Mickey's picture visiting each country by himself. Not only was it fun, memorable, but lots of people got a laugh at the places we chose.

Sam Walls: If you are there in the spring during the Flower and Garden Festival, the Home Depot builds a nice outdoor play area for the kids, which is great as it allows them to just have fun! Grab a drink, find a bench next to the play area, and enjoy some relaxation right in the middle of the World Showcase!

Lisa Brose: On our last trip, we sent our oldest son, who was 11 years old, on a hunt for a candy bar from each country. This meant that he had to find the shop in each country that sold some kind of candy and then got the opportunity to talk with the Cast Member in that shop about which candy bar or candy novelty to buy that best represented the country. This was a really fun experience for our son.

Wendy from New York: Bring your own crayons and paper. When eating at a "non-child"-entertaining restaurant in Epcot, pull out the crayons and paper. Have the child draw a picture of something from the country you are eating in — a maraca from Mexico, a statue in Italy, a moose from Canada, etc.

Karen Robinson: When we went to Epcot when my daughter was 5, we tried to think of a school project she could do while away from school. What we decided to do was some research about each country represented at Epcot. We looked up each country on the globe. We printed out the flag for each country and made a little book with a page for each country. Then my daughter had to think up two questions she wanted to know about each country. She thought of some very good questions. This made her very interested in visiting each country. She couldn't wait to find her answers. We had fun, learned a lot, have a great memento and she gave a great presentation to her class. Isn't that what Epcot is all about?

Lisa McBride: I used all of the different guidebooks to get information on each country. I then made a scavenger hunt list using the information. When we got to Epcot, I gave each child their list and a camera. They were instructed to find as many items as they could on the list and take a picture of it. The list included: Find a Mexican artifact (Mexico); find a train (Germany); find a giant troll (Norway); find a drum (Japan); find a totem pole (Canada). Even Hunter, who was just 4 at the time, got in on the fun. (Of course, we had to read the list to him.) We had so much fun that we decided to continue on with our scavenger hunt theme. One year it was finding the Hidden Mickeys in each country — kind of typical, but fun. Another year, we gave each child $20 and they were instructed to find a snack item in each country. The goal was to see if they could find an item in each country without going over their $20 budget. Actually, that scavenger hunt was fun for all of us because at the end of the day, we were able to sample all of the goodies. The next year, we again gave them a budget ($30), and they had to find an item in each country that had the country's name or symbol on it. The goal again was to find as many items as possible and not go over budget. Some of the items they purchased were antenna toppers, magnets, pins, postcards, etc. Yet another year, we gave them a list and a camera. This time they were to find something with an armadillo on it (Mexico); find something with a cat on it (Japan); find a giant soccer ball (United Kingdom); find a beautiful statue (France); find a cart selling glassware (Germany), etc. All of these scavenger hunts have encouraged the children (and my husband and me) to explore the various World Showcase countries and it also encouraged them to talk with the Cast Members.

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JJeffcoat: Our kids were told they could each shop for a special souvenir from World Showcase — something that would keep the magic going back home, with the stipulation that they had to search in at least five countries before deciding. This REALLY kept their interest and observation skills keen while we adults got a generous portion of shopping and sightseeing in. To our amazement and delight, they both chose bonsai tree kits from Japan. We will definitely use this "trick" again in June.

TINA LALA: We backtrack to our Leave A Legacy tile we received in 2003. Each year we take the girls' picture right next to our tile so we can see how they've grown. They love looking at all the funny faces on the tiles. It's a great memory-maker for anyone's scrapbook.

Mary Butz: On one of our family trips to Epcot with friends of ours and their children (ages 8, 7, 6 and 6) it poured. We still planned on going to all the countries, but because of the rain we thought it would not have been fun for the children. So, to make each country more memorable we collected the country flags (small flags, which include the base). It became quite the challenge because some of the flags were sold in the carts, which in most countries were closed. While in Italy we looked in each store but no flag. We asked a Cast Member if she wanted to be the only country not represented in the children's collection. Not to be overlooked she went to the cart and sold us a flag of Italy. The kids had a great time trying to find the flags in the shops and also got a chance to talk to Cast Members from all over the world.

A Jazzy Mom from Louisiana: My daughter (10) decided she would like to add to her pressed penny collection this past year (2005). We went into every building in every country hunting for the pressed penny machine. She got her pennies from each country and has asked me to do this again this year. She says it was so much fun and that this is the most she has ever paid attention to the details of each land. And she gets a prize from each one.

Kimberley Schulman: My 13-year-old daughter is into the Anime craze. She enjoys shopping and looking at both the Japan and China pavilions. She has purchased the necklaces with your name in Chinese for herself and friends.

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Many of you told us your children (and you) enjoyed dining at Morocco — dancing with the belly dancer is fun and makes great photo ops! A good number of you also told us that the German Biergarten was excellent for children of all ages. We found that this first story not only shared the essence of Germany, but also of Disney.

Sam Walls: Eating in the German Biergarten (or the German Dance Party, as my son has called it since he was 3 years old) is a MUST! They have mac-n-cheese and chicken strips for the kids to eat and built-in entertainment. This allows us as parents to relax and enjoy our meal while our son dances; then we have some special time with our son on the dance floor. We have also met so many other families at this restaurant due to the family dining. One night, several families "collapsed" down to three large tables on the floor to enjoy another drink while our kids took in another show. (Many thanks to the waitstaff that night for being so accommodating to strangers who had become friends!)

Amanda Gonzales: Our children, ages 4, 2.5, and 11 months, love Epcot! At Coral Reef we play the spot the fish game while eating dinner. The restaurant gives you a sheet with all of the fish in the tank to help you with this game.

hbryfogle: Every time my family goes to Epcot, we have a discussion about which is the best pastry from the France pavilion. Well, no more! On our last trip we discovered the pastry shop in Norway. This, by far, was the kids' favorite snack break. We all got pastries and of course sampled each other's. The chocolate-covered almond flavored cookie was a hit.

Dan Schmidt: We take our orders [from Harry Ramsden's Fish & Chips] over to the "Secret Garden" behind the UK pavilion and eat while sitting on the park benches. Our daughter loves "The British Invasion" band, so we usually try to time our early dinner with one of their appearances. If they're not performing, she enjoys walking through the maze after we eat. We also usually find Mary Poppins, Pooh, and Tigger in the shops here.

William Overby: Our kids have always enjoyed dining at the San Angel Inn at the Mexico pavilion. The last time we were there, we sat right next to the railing overlooking the El Rio del Tiempo ride and the big volcano. It was fun for them to enjoy their dinner while waving at the passengers on the ride.

Queenofclean77: When we go to Epcot with our kids, we have a tasting party at each of the countries. Instead of eating at an expensive sit-down place (where kids sometimes get bored and restless), we make it fun by getting a little something from each country and sharing each treat… Mexico — nachos and churros; Norway — dessert; China — eggrolls; Germany — pretzel; France — French pastries; United Kingdom — fish and chips, etc. Not only do we get really full, but we have tasted a lot of different cuisines from other countries and it always sparks conversation about what everyone in the world eats.

Wendy Wallberg: Since she was little, my daughter loved the little garden area behind the France pavilion. It is a little quiet area where she can have some quiet time, and is a perfect place for feeding a baby. Now that she is older we will get a baguette and butter from the bakery and just take a break. And if she is lucky, we run into Aurora or Belle.

ChristiAnn Naeder: We went to Walt Disney World with four children ranging from ages 2 to 8. The best time we had in Epcot was eating at Teppanyaki in Japan. The chefs really interact with the kids, and had them laughing. The children especially liked the volcano made from the onions, and really enjoyed watching their food cooked in front of them. Plus there are a lot of choices for everyone.

Lynda Champion: My son has always really enjoyed eating at the Garden Grill Restaurant in the Land pavilion because sometimes you will find a Hidden Mickey in your salad! They use a special mold to grow a cucumber in and when they slice the cucumber it looks like Mickey's head. The last time we were there he had his picture taken with Mickey Mouse holding the Mickey cucumber on a fork.

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Ronni Turrisi: When our kids were younger we took advantage of the impeccably clean Baby Station located at the old Odyssey Center area. I feel this is the best-kept secret (for families with small children) at Epcot and the other three theme parks. It's always nice and cool in there. The attendant has always been kind and helpful. They have everything you'd ever need for a baby or toddler. They sell baby food, diapers, medicine, etc., and the station has a little kitchen area with a water cooler (hot and cold water) and a microwave oven for warming food. They have a TV room with rocking chairs and high chairs and a little table for siblings to sit and color or have a snack. They even have a private room, dimly lit, with a rocking chair for nursing mommies. It's been a priceless refuge in the past when our children have been wet, cranky and hot. It's never crowded. In fact, I've never visited the baby station when other guests have been there.

Chris and Jane Morris: Our son, who is a special needs child, surprised us when he actually jumped up to dance with the belly dancer at the Marrakesh restaurant in the Morocco pavilion at age 4; every subsequent visit to the restaurant has resulted in the same response by him the past four years. I am pleased that last year we shared a photo of him and Shakira with her; he autographed it for her. She now stops by and says a personal hi to Christopher, her biggest fan!

Michelle Suit: Our daughter, Lindsay, is 14 and a high-functioning autistic child. She is completely fascinated by all the countries in the World Showcase and never wants to miss a moment at any of them. We found out during our trip in 2003 that we could purchase an "Epcot Passport" that she could take with her to each country and have the representative from that country put a special "stamp" in there and write a greeting especially for her on the entry page. She was ecstatic! Each passport comes with a very cool Epcot traveler button to wear and a sheet of stickers for each country's page that your child can put in their passport. We went again in June 2004 and Lindsay just had to do it again, and although the passport was much the same, her experiences and interactions with the Cast Members in each country made it just as special the second time around. We are going again in June of this year and she's already talking about this year's passport! It's definitely a great activity for the whole family to enjoy and continues to be a great keepsake after your trip is over… the magic lives on.


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