Epcot, Walt Disney World
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Epcot is super fun for the whole family, as long as the kids are 4 and up. Kids younger than four won't have much fun because there are very few rides or shows that aren't dark inside or scary in some way. Kids 4 and up will be able to ride everything except Mission Space, which isn't a fun ride anyway. Most important: Be first at the park (half an hour before opening) in order to ride the rides without long lines!
We had a blast at this park because it was one of those rare moments when everyone in the family is happy! The rides and shows appeal across the board, and the two sides of the park add variety. The World Showcase side is wonderful for people who are artistic and love different cultures and foods. The Futureworld side is great for more scientifically-minded people.
I was in bliss at World Showcase. You walk through Canada past the flowers of Butchart Gardens and a roaring river between jutting rocks, and you can watch a film (with screens all around and behind you) about Canada that's interesting. There's no seating so it's not much of a rest. Next, you stroll through England past a maze and country gardens, and it looks like you're in the little hamlets of rural England. The shops here have some adorable architecture inside and out, and the pub has a fantastic waterfront patio.
Then you're in France, with its Haussman buildings. Here, acrobats perform stunts with chairs. We watched the film about France called Impressions de France, and I was very impressed! There are five screens that wrap around you so that you see the scene from all angles. It really feels like you are in Belle France! This theater has seating, which makes it a nice place to take a break.
Next, you walk through Morocco where the alleyways with intricate architecture are glorious. Tangerine Cafe is DELICIOUS! And the seating out by the fountain where you're surrounded by ornate lampposts, orange trees in pots, and colorful tiles is lovely! In each country the employees are really from that country, and it says on their nametag what city they are from. So you can practice your French with native speakers! Pop into the stores and small museums in Morocco- they are filled with magical things. Girls will like the genie bottles! Kids can fill out a Kidcot card- in each land they will get a stamp, and best of all, someone from that country will write their name. It was amazing to see my daughter's name written in Arabic!
Next you walk through Japan, with more beautiful buildings. A cool store has Japanese candies- try the litchi gummy candies- now you're in heaven! At a little stand near the front of Japan, you can buy shave ice- the Melon flavored one is delicious. We had dinner at Katsura Grill and the atmosphere was charming with the lanterns strung over the tables, and waterfalls and trees everywhere. The food is so so.
Next there is America with its proud building and film. Musicians perform throughout World Showcase, and the harmony group in the America building was especially good.
A performance of men waving colorful flags was going on when we arrived in Italy. Here, you can see the tower from St Mark's square in Venice. Germany is next with its beer garden.
Then there's China, where we saw incredible acrobats performing stunts on the street. It's fun to talk to the Chinese students at the Kidcot station inside the store. You can also watch a film about China with screens all around and even behind you, though there are no seats inside so it doesn't give you a rest. Photography of Guilin, the area of China with the amazing pointy mountains, inspires you to travel.
Norway has gorgeous buildings. Finally, there's Mexico with its romantic Spanish indoor square where it's always evening. You walk inside the Chichen Itza pyramid to reach the square- it is impressive when lit up at night. Here you can enjoy a fairly tame ride called Gran Fiesta, with Daffy Duck leading you through Mexico.
Boy have you walked a lot by now! Make sure you wear really good shoes, and rent or bring a stroller. Even teenagers wish they could be in a stroller!! There isn't much shade at Epcot when you're walking around, so wear a hat and sunscreen. Epcot improves vastly in the evening when the hot weather cools a little. Here, at day's end, you can enjoy a spectacular fireworks show with fireworks situated in the middle of the lake, reflecting on the water. Make sure you have an unobstructed view of the lake- the area around Mexico is a good spot.
Future World offers some memorable rides. It is where you arrive first so you can do all the rides in the morning when the lines are short, and then head over to World Showcase for lunch. The best ride is Soarin' which you should get to first when you enter the park. Don't bother to go straight to Spaceship Earth because it is busy early and then empty later in the day. Most of the busy rides have Fast Pass systems so you don't have to wait long in line. You just put your ticket in the machine and then come back at the time they give you. Soarin' has you seated upright and takes you flying over California. It's not really scary like they say, but it is exhilarating! We all loved it and wanted to ride over and over again. Another big hit was Test Track, where you're in a race car that goes very fast. If you go as a single rider (in other words, you opt not to sit with your loved ones), you don't have to wait long at all! Mission Space (Mars) is a terrible ride. It made my son and husband feel so ill that they were unhappy for over an hour afterwards- not recommended! Figment is another bad one- boring and with some scary bits that kids hate. Living with the Land is a nice one. It shows futuristic cultivation of real plants.
Spaceship Earth is inside the huge ball. It is a classic Disney ride that is very enjoyable. It takes you past animatronic figures in ancient Greece and Rome and rides all the way to the future, where a photo of you appears! It is very fun and highly recommended. Nemo and Friends is a tame ride where you sit in a clam shell and ride past aquariums where Nemo is projected inside. The aquariums you can walk around at the end are lovely. There are eels and coral reefs with fish. Turtle Talk with Crush was boring to me and I was mad I waited so long for it! The kids were pretty ansy in there too. But it is interesting how the animated turtle interacts with the audience. Innoventions is fun for science dudes with its interactive exhibits made by companies like IBM. One part that was fun was making a video game of ourselves. You jump, run, and do a victory dance. It films you and then puts you in a video game that you can play. You can make this with your child and they LOVE it!
It makes sense to leave the park for a nap around 2pm when it gets crowded and hot, and return for dinner and the fireworks, if your hotel is nearby.
If you come between March and May, there are special gardens and topiaries set up throughout the park, that add to the beauty. A butterfly garden is lovely to walk around, the gardens in England and Canada are just gorgeous, and there are flowers and surprises everywhere!
There are two things that make Epcot more fun than Magic Kingdom- it is far less crowded and on top of that, far more spacious. Secondly, the food is so much better that it's not even comparable.
Check out the other Disney parks: Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. When in Orlando, stay at a resort with waterfalls and beauty all around- this is a good way to relax the day before or after you visit one of the Disney parks: try Hyatt Grand Cypress or Marriott World Center. If you stay at a Disney resort, it's super fun to take the ferryboat to Disney Springs waterfront restaurants or Boardwalk in the evening, depending on the hotel, plus you get free parking at the Disney parks, which saves you $17.
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From Florida's Turnpike, take the exit for Osceola Pkwy and head west for 11 miles. Turn right on World Drive and follow the signs to Epcot.
Epcot opens at 9am and closes at 9pm. Some days it opens early or stays open late for Disney hotel guests.
Florida residents can find highly discounted passes on the park's website, for example $129 for any three days between Jan and early June. Other guests can save money by buying multi-day passes. Cost for just one day is over $100.
Parking costs $17, but is free for Disney resort guests.
This is an interactive map, you can zoom and move it.
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