Touring with a Toddler – The Epcot Plan

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Welcome back friends (we’re friends right…right).  This is a melancholy post for me because it is the last in my series of how to adjust touring plans for toddlers.  This was a very fun series to write and, if you missed them, here are my posts on the Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios.  Until I discover a way to shoehorn in more long-winded posts about attractions I like/dislike, this will be the last.

I have saved Epcot for last because it is my favorite park and I am incredibly self-centered like that.  Okay, I actually saved it for last because it turned out to be my daughter’s second favorite park (after Magic Kingdom, of course), which came as a surprise to me.  In my usual style, I will be going step by step through the Epcot One-Day Touring Plan for Parents with Small Children.  As we go I will give you tips, pointers, hints, and my personal thoughts about pretty much everything.  Enjoy!

1. Epcot Entrance – Arrive at the entrance to Epcot 30 minutes prior to opening.

I’ve gone through it before, but arriving as close to park opening as possible is the key to avoiding long waits.  I know that waking a sleeping child is also undesirable, so if your little one tends to sleep in, you might have a tough choice to make.

2. Soarin’

This is not a tough choice because this is a fantastic (although imperfect) attraction.  Unfortunately, there is a 40” height requirement, so a toddler will likely be too short.  I would suggest snatching a few FASTPASSes for use by the adults later.

Be aware that if your child is tall enough, this is an attraction where kids must sit in their own seats with no chance of comforting or removing them during the ride.  Once it starts, they have to take the whole flight.

A quick aside about my ‘imperfect’ comment above:  I really enjoy Soarin’, but I love a ride with a story and Soarin’ doesn’t have one.  It’s like watching a California travel video rather than actually flying.  Also, it wouldn’t hurt anything to upgrade the picture quality (yes, yes, I’m nitpicking).

3. Living with the Land

This attraction depends on the kid It can be seen as a fun boat ride, a scary thunderstorm (just one part), or a tedious ride about gardening.  I have never taken my daughter on it because I’m afraid of boredom.  I have also never taken my wife on it for the same reason.

Crush addressing his adoring public

4. The Seas with Nemo & Friends / Turtle Talk with Crush

Yes, yes, yes.  This single attraction is the reason that my little girl loves Epcot.  It is a very short ride with almost no story (they lose Nemo…again…then easily find him…yep).  What it does have is all the Finding Nemo characters, which is all a toddler is really going to care about.  The last few scenes where the Finding Nemo characters are projected into the actual fish tanks is actually very cool.

I also strongly recommend Turtle Talk with Crush.  It is technologically cool and just plain cool.  It is fun, funny, and just short enough to not let those short attention spans drift.  It seems that a lot of people skip this out of disinterest or unawareness and I urge you to not make that mistake, even if you don’t have kids.

(I also suggest you allow a few minutes for staring at the seagulls in front of the pavilion and repeating “mine.”  It will happen.)

5. Journey into Imagination with Figment

Even as I write this, the 5 year old boy in me is tearing up.  I miss the original version so much, but it is sadly not there.   What we have instead is a bland, stale, mostly uninteresting “journey” through the Imagination Institute.  My daughter doesn’t love this ride, but she doesn’t dislike it either…much like everyone else.  One bonus (or curse) is that you will sing “One Little Spark” the rest of the day.

6. Captain EO

Um…so…I’ve never seen it.  Honestly, I always forget it’s there.  I’m not sure that a toddler would like it because of its 3D, interactive theater, and Michael Jackson-ness (even I don’t know what that means).

7. The Circle of Life

This is another one that a child may not enjoy so much.  It does feature characters from The Lion King, but I don’t think just that will keep my attention the whole time (whoops, I mean ‘a toddler’s attention.’ Freudian).

Mine, mine, mine

8. Sunshine SeasonsEat lunch.

Sunshine Seasons is good. It has variety, quality, and food to fill my belly.  Sure your heart will skip two beats when you get to the cash register, but this is Walt Disney World.

9. Ellen’s Energy Adventure – This ride can also be seen after Spaceship Earth later today.

From entry to exit, you will be in the Energy building for about 45 minutes, most of which is in the form of a movie.  Rare is the occasion that I have stayed awake through the entire movie and, since I’ve already proven that I have the attention span of a 2 year old, that is the best that you can hope for.  The worst would be 43 minutes of screaming.  There is a pretty cool ride-through dinosaur exhibit, but that does not an interesting attraction make (and you have to sit through the movie parts to see it).

If you do this attraction, I would use it as a rest/nap and not expect a small child to understand, or pay attention to, the movie (don’t blame me, it’s Judy’s fault…stupid Judy).

10. Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros

This is a pretty lame attraction and it was made lamer when it was changed to its current iteration.  That said; it has Donald Duck in it, and the appearance of that angry, speech impedimented water fowl means that my daughter now loves it.  From an adult standpoint, it is not terrible nor is it terribly interesting.  It is also not very long, an opportunity to sit down, and cooler than the Florida summer.  Go for it.

11. Maelstrom

The bad:  It’s on the dark side and features trolls, polar bears, a backwards section, and a drop.

The good:  It’s a short boat ride.

Final verdict:  It’s worth a try because even if your child is a little scared, it will be over very quickly.  Of course if there’s a fear that it will frighten the little one into avoiding dark rides or boats then you may want to keep walking.

Final final verdict:  Parent’s choice.

12. Return to your hotel for a mid-day break.

I know I’ve stressed before how important this is, but I’m going to do it again.  Epcot is big and requires a lot of walking.  It is stressful enough trying to keep a toddler happy day after day in such an overwhelming place as Walt Disney World without running them (or yourself) ragged on top of that.

13. Spaceship Earth

This attraction has just enough to keep a toddler interested.  With the rapidly changing show scenes and the constant movement they should be fine.  It probably won’t be one they ask to ride repeatedly, but they won’t recoil in terror every time they see a Phoenician either (thanks for the alphabet by the way).

14. O Canada!

This film (and the same goes for Impressions de France and the China film) will probably not hold a child’s interest.  They are glorified travel guides to the countries and, while beautifully done, they are not exciting in the eyes of a 2 year old (i.e. no characters).

15. The American Adventure

Much like the films I just mentioned, this will be a little dry for a kid (and quite a few adults).  Rather than a film it is animatronic-based, but it is still a telling of America’s history.  Since that can be summed up in the words “America Rocks,” there is no need to see the show.

16. IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth

Much like the other nighttime spectaculars, IllumiNations contains fireworks, fire, and music.  It is up to you whether your child would enjoy that or think that the world is ending…there seems to be no in between.

That’s it for the plan, but here are the other attractions that are not listed:

- Test Track: With a 40” height minimum, most toddlers will not be able to ride.  If yours can, and has an affinity for quick, jerky movements, they may enjoy this attraction.

China...well, not really

- Mission: Space: Even if your child meets the height requirement (44″) here, I would definitely avoid the Orange side.  It spins very fast and while I didn’t necessarily know I was spinning, my stomach sure did.  If I couldn’t handle it a small child couldn’t either (because I am theoretically tougher than a child…theoretically).

The Green Misson: Space is much tamer and basically just watching a small TV and shaking a bit.  Sure I can’t do the Orange side, but I just don’t see the point in this one.

- Innoventions Most children will find the displays at Innoventions dry and possibly boring, but it is probably worth a walk through anyway.  There are a lot of interesting displays and you may be surprised what your kids find appealing.  It also is decidedly indoors and therefore not eligible to experience intense heat or rain.

- World Showcase:  My personal favorite area of Walt Disney World.  I am however not a child (technically), so that may not be of vital interest to you.  There is very little in the way of attractions in World Showcase but, much like Innoventions, you may be surprised by a child’s reaction to it.  There are several little things like the drums at the African Outpost, musical groups in several countries, and various character greets that can keep your little one’s happy.

 

That sums up my thoughts on Epcot as well as my series on Touring with a Toddler.  I hope you have enjoyed them and found them helpful (although I’ll take one out of two).  Thanks for reading!

 

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Posted on November 15, 2011

19 Responses to “Touring with a Toddler – The Epcot Plan”

  • Great info Brian. Although my son is now 13, this type of list is great to use for a lot of families! Enjoyed it.

  • I think you forgot the most important part for a toddler: The fountains to play in! My 2 year old LOVED playing in the fountains this past summer. I think it is important to mention because we spent about 30-45 minutes there and you need to bring a change of clothes or bathing suit! I also think you could have mentioned the extra time toddlers take in the exhibits- like in the aquarium part of the Nemo exhibit looking at animals, or the play area after the Imagination ride- those “extras” in Epcot really are what made the park for my toddler!

    • You’re right Nicole! The fountains were a terrible oversight, thanks for mentioing it.

      The other stuff was in there at one point, but ended up getting cut. As much as I love writing 4,000 word posts, not everyone would like reading them. My kids love the aquarium and the Imagination post show.

  • Here are two more important pieces of info –
    1) Although it’s not a ride, you are every bit as stuck in Turtle Talk With Crush as you would be on a ride. I discovered this on my last trip with a 2.5 year old who was perfectly happy outside the theater but decided she was DONE once we got in, and cried/screamed/etc. pretty much the whole show. I did the best I could to calm her and to get away from the rest of the folks so they could enjoy the show but that is just an AWFUL feeling. You can’t help HER and you can’t help the other people trying to watch. My 6 year old was up front having a BALL, though. So be aware that once you’re in, you’re IN, and plan accordingly.

    2) My kids thought Epcot was OK, but didn’t really care for the rides or most of Futureworld — World Showcase was where it was at, and ONLY because of the KidCot fun stops & the passports w/stickers. Even the 2.5 year old was totally into it, because they had baskets full of colorful Sharpies, and a free duffy-bear-on-a-stick that you could color. She scribbled on her duffy bear at every country, i think!

  • For Captain Eo…enjoy it as an adult, but will likely be too scary for most toddlers. It’s loud, it’s dark, and it has the other special effects left over from Honey I Shrunk the Audience that make it a bit too intense for most kids (and even some adults). The two parts of Future World what were our kid’s favorite were Living with the Land (she LOVED the greenhouse, especially when we pointed out plants that were her favorite foods) and Character Connection.

    With a young kid, we’ve avoided the entire left side of Future World. Mission Space and Test Track wouldn’t work for height issues, and the idea of being stuck on a ride for 45 minutes with no ability to leave isn’t a chance we’ve opted to take at this time. That being said, Epcot is one of the top fave parks (with Animal Kingdom running neck and neck) for our kid because she loves that we can put her on the baby leash and have some fun running around. Unlike other parks, where kid on a leash = adults being tripped, there’s enough room in Epcot that she can get down and walk some. On our most recent trip, our kid also enjoyed Food and Wine. Portion sizes were perfect for her, and there were plenty of neat things she liked trying.

  • Thanks for the great overview! I would like to add one thing that I think you ahve overlooked that is so important to many Toddlers and Preschoolers and that is character greetings. Over the years of visiting with my 3 children, I have found that Epcot is one of the very best places for meeting characters for toddlers. This should certainally be built into your touring plans adaptaion.

    The photo spot with Mickey and frieds, if visited early in the day, can have a short line and provides a chance to meet multiple characters with one wait.

    As you explore the World Showcase the every increasing number of character enounters available are wonderful! With a very short wait you can meet and get a photo with most of your favorite friends. The open outdoor meeting places allow toddler and preschoolers to see others meet the characters and decide for themselves if it is something they wish to do (as opposed to waiting in a long line at MK to meet the princesses only to have your toddler panic at the sight of them in person!). The fact that they are evenly spaced around the countries allow parents to interest little ones in moving on to the next country when they are ready to go with the offer of meeting a new character in the next country.

    One final comment I would make is even children who do not normally need a stroller will be much better company later if the day if you rent one when at EPCOT! You may push an empty stroller for a portion of the morning, but later you will be happy to have it.

  • My 2 and 4 year old boys loved Living with the Land. it was a great ride for them to enjoy while we did child swap for Soarin. My 4 year old didn’t like Soarin that much but loved Test Track. I think he rode that one 4 or 5 times. And Nemo was always a hit. Especially after seeing the Nemo musical at AK.

  • One of my very first memories is seeing EO is Disneyland when I was 3. It scared the daylights out of me! I was deathly afraid of the ‘evil woman with sharp fingernails.’ Apparently, I complained about this the rest of the trip. Of course I saw it again 30 years later in Epcot and wondered what on earth was so scary. Word to the wise: skip EO with your toddlers.

    • THIS is my strongest memory from my first trip to Disney that included Epcot (I had just turned 5). My entire family still remembers my horrified reaction to this film, and clearly I do too since I still haven’t seen it as an adult. Glad to know someone else had the same experience.

  • So why was it your daughter’s 2nd favorite park? Just the Living Seas?

  • At 2 & 3 my daughter’s favorite Epcot rides were Spaceship Earth and Living with the Land. We went on Living with the Land at least 4 times that first year when she was too short for Soarin’. She LOVED knowing what was coming next and telling me not to be afraid of the thunderstorm because it is just pretend.

  • I would (and did) hesitate to take a toddler on Maelstrom and Energy. I probably wouldn’t take a toddler in EO either.

    I would recommend trying the live entertainment. Mariachi Cobre, the Japanese drummers, and JAMMitors all were entertaining for our kids when they were toddlers. See if they’re interested in the trains in Germany. Take them by the fiber optics in the sidewalk in Future World on your way out of the park. And just in general, when something captures their attention, linger for awhile. You never really know what will end up making a memory (for you!).

  • I would also seriously recommend the World Showcase Passports and the Kidcot stops. I remember doing those when I was a kid and it was our favourite part of the holiday!
    Also those Japanese drummers are very hypnotic for children! (or maybe that was just us…)
    Kitty

  • Here’s a tip on Maelstrom: the cast member at the desk as you board the ride keeps a flashlight handy and you can take it on the ride with you for your child to use if you think he/she will be scared of the dark, etc. Worked very well for our 3 year old son.

  • Do they still have the Kimpossible scavenger hunt? Has anyone tried it? (My kids are 3, 7, & 9.) Thanks.

    • They still have it. My 8 year old had a lot of fun doing it. It was way too complicated for my 4 year old to actually do herself, but I helped her with it, and she loved pushing the buttons on the device and seeing all the little special effects that happen to get clues.

  • Great tips. Epcot is surprisingly one of the best parks. My kids love it. The Kim Possible Adventure is great fun! And the passports for the kids are a great idea. It really gets them involved in each country.

  • A tip for parents with kids who do not meet the height requirement is to dio child swap. One goes in the ride first while the other waits with the child and when the first adult is done, the one who waited can use the fast pass lane to get on the ride.

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