Epcot at Disney World in Orlando

A Surprising Wonderful Multigenerational Vacation Place with Grandchildren

As Floridian grandparents, Disney World is a great place for a multigenerational family vacation.  We always go to the Magic Kingdom but decided to expand our horizons to Epcot.  What a surprising wonderful multigenerational vacation place with grandchildren!  We visited what we could in one day moving quickly.  Two days would be better, unless you have the financial ability to hire a private guide.  A private guide is expensive but maximizes the time in the park, knowing exactly, based on the ages of the grandchildren, where to go and when and the shortest route.  The grandchildren love that the guide is able to take them on a ride again and again and again without a wait–fastpass speed for every ride.  I think the record was six times in a row on one ride on one ride–of course, as grandma I have the patience to make that happen.  What would take you two days takes one day—imagine what you save on lodging and food!  As you pay by hours packages, we do the early morning by ourselves when the parks are most empty, and meet the guides around 10-10:30 am.  We love the guides Rene and Connie at:

Traveling childGUIDES: http://www.vipthemeparktours.com/  e-mail: viptours@att.net or call: 1-407-473-2498

If you are a Florida Resident, you can save with a 3-Day Play Pass*. This Pass includes three one-day, one-park admissions to any of the 4 Walt Disney World theme parks. It’s a 40% savings as compared to the price of a 3-Day Magic Your Way Base Ticket.  Plus, you can use your 3-Day Play Pass at your leisure. Use it for any three days you like for six months from first use with no blockout dates.  When you order Florida Resident tickets, you will receive an exchange certificate in the mail. Redeem the exchange certificate at any Walt Disney Worldr Theme Park ticket window by presenting the exchange certificate and valid photo ID.  Tickets are non-transferable, are only valid during regularly scheduled operating hours and exclude activities/events priced separately. No additional discounts apply. Proof of Florida residency for each adult required.

I, of course, went on every website I could find for tips to make the time at Epcot the best.  Here are the best of the best tips.  I included EVERYTHING possible to see and do on an Epcot multigenerational vacation.  Select what interests your group.

When to go

Check www.weather.com and look at the average monthly temperature in Orlando.  You will be surprised that you might need a winter coat in January and February (okay, I am a Floridian and wear a sweater when it is 75 degrees outside).  There are cold spells in Orlando!  The spring and fall are wonderful but expensive, as are holiday and school vacation times.  Summer time is the cheapest.  Do not be fooled by the forecasts that say rain in the summer – in the rainy season it will rain every day (however, weather change can bring rainless days) but just for a few minutes or a few hours at a time (see, bring ponchos below).  The afternoons tend to be cooler than you think.  If you plan a summer trip, remember to plan morning and afternoon in the park and midday napping or at your pool.

Where to Stay

Disney World is a convention magnet.  The best rates are convention rates.  Try to go with a professional, community, or church group or put together your own group and contact Disney for group package rates.   www.disneyworld.disney.go.com has a wealth of information. If you are a Florida resident, there are always specials on line for lodging and packages.  Airlines such as Jet Blue and Southwest Airlines have Disney vacation packages: www.jetblue.com/vacations/walt-disney-world-vacations/  and www.southwestvacations.com.

Disney has its own vacation rental club: www.disneyvacationclub.disney.go.com.  Condo and home rentals are numerous in the Orlando and Kissimmee (yes, this place exists).  Try the major websites: www.homeaway.com and www.vrbo.com.  Also, www.tripadvisor.com now features vacation rentals, some with amazing themes such as http://www.tripadvisor.com/VacationRentalReview-g34352-d1897852-Jungle_Safari_condo_rental_near_Walt_Disney_World-Kissimmee_Florida.html.

The Polynesian Resort is actually the closest Disney Resort in which to stay.  You can walk from the Polynesian to Epcot, even with small children.  As a general rule, if you are traveling with very little grandchildren, staying at the Contemporary Hotel on Disney grounds is the best for multiple park visits in one stay at Disney.  It is one monorail stop from the Magic Kingdom and a quick ride from all the parks.  When a grandchild has a meltdown due to overstimulation and exhaustion, the Contemporary’s location is wonderful and worth a splurge.  Also, Chef Mickey’s Buffet is there.  Go for breakfast.  It is the least expensive meal and can fill the family up for the day.  My children’s favorite hotel is the Grand Floridian.  Of course, it is the grandest and best hotel on the Disney grounds.  Boardwalk or Beach Club resorts  are also favorites.  You can find great deals at the Swan and Dolphin, it seems, year round.

TIP:  Everything is expensive in the parks.  If you are going to Disney in Florida’s rainy season, buy cheap ponchos on line for the entire family and bring them along.  You can get them in packages of twelve at about $1 each.  http://www.amazon.com/Disposable-Poncho-Hood-Blue-Case/dp/B000PS8D6A/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1357924569&sr=8-3&keywords=disposable+ponchos.  Also, stop at a supermarket (Publix is the best in Florida) and pick up bottled water by the case and snacks that you cannot bring in your suitcase.  Always bring cereal in small plastic bags to the park for snacks.  Bring cold packs from home.  Most Orlando hotels will provide a mini frig and maybe even a microwave if you ask.

Tip: Limit impulse buying and whining by giving the kids a certain amount of Disney Dollars for souvenirs when we enter the park. The bills, available from Guest Relations and the ticket booths, come in denominations of $1 (Mickey), $5 (Goofy) and $10 (Simba), and are accepted anywhere in Walt Disney World. When grandchildren were little, we could convince them that this was the only form of money the parks accepted.  Disney Dollars remain a multigenerational family tradition.   To save money and time, buy Disney themed souvenirs, stuffed animals, sweatshirts ahead of time on line at www.disneystore.com.   Remember—grandmas always have gifts ready for grandchildren!  If you sign up for alerts, you can get great deals on line.

What do Do and Where to Eat

Be sure to check the Times Guide at Epcot the day of your visit for show times.

Remember, grandchildren four and under want to see characters and more characters so gear your travels through Epcot to maximize character interactions.  Grandchildren seven and older want excitement so gear your travels to exciting rides early in the day.  Everyone loses steam in the afternoon so note 45 minute Ellen’s Energy Adventure below when everyone needs a break.

Best Attractions by Age

Grandchildren 3 TO 7

  • Honey, I Shrunk the Audience, in the Journey Into Imagination pavilion
  • The Journey Into Imagination ride (and the Image Works exhibit next door)
  • Meeting the characters at World Showcase
  • Kidcot Fun Stops at World Showcase

Grandchildren 7 TO 11

  • Test Track
  • Innoventions
  • Honey, I Shrunk the Audience, in the Journey Into Imagination pavilion

The most crowded attractions are Mission: SPACE, Test Track, Soarin’ & Spaceship Earth.

Tips to maneuver Epcot

Epcot theme park, one of 4 Theme Parks at Walt Disney World Resort, sprawls across 300 acres-twice the size of Magic Kingdom theme park-and is divided into Future World and World Showcase.

 If you want to experience Epcot without wasting a lot of your time waiting in long lines at every attraction, if you do not have a guide, you may want to try the following tip: Obviously, you should arrive at the staging area early so you will be among the first to enter when it opens, but, more importantly, do not be tempted to visit the first exhibits and attractions you come to just inside the gates (like Spaceship Earth). Instead, pass on through Future World and go immediately to the World Showcase. You can start on either side and visit each of the national pavillions you encounter. You won’t have to compete with crowds to view the spectacular video presentations like “Oh, Canada!”, shop in any of the specialized gift shops or dine in any of the national restaurants because most of the attendees are back in Future World. Best of all, by the time you complete your journey around the World Showcase Lagoon, you can return to the impressive attractions of Future World and walk right in because the crowds have now moved out to the World Showcase. You will still get to see it all, but you will spend very little time waiting in any lines and you will have a much more enjoyable experience.

Originally the park name was an acronym:   Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow.  Some have suggested that the real truth is that Every Person Comes Out Tired.  This theme park is huge – it is about twice the size of Disney’s Magic Kingdom .  Consider renting a stroller for toddlers and grandchildren who generally no longer use one – even six or seven year olds will find this a lot of territory to cover and will appreciate the ride.  Remember to bring a change of clothes for those who might venture into fountains and a poncho or jacket.  Remember this is Florida and bring more sunscreen than you think you need and apply often, even on a cloudy day!  Epcot is a touchy-feely place and grandchildren will be touching everything.  Bring Purel!

FUTURE WORLD

Future World is full of sensational attractions-including one of the fastest attractions in all Disney Parks-as well as inspiring entertainment and shows, all of which focus on technological advancements, innovation and wonder.

The Epcot theme park icon, Spaceship Earth, looking like a giant golf ball rising high above the horizon, welcomes you as you walk through the Park’s main entrance.

Character Tip:  First thing to do: Veer off to the new Character Connection and HAVE A BALL! We had the characters all to ourselves and there were LOTS of them. They played with our kids, played tag, laid on the floor with them — we got awesome videos!  Attraction Changes: Tinker Bell and her fairy friends will be joining the cast of Epcot.

Character Connection is located near the Fountainview Café.  Fountainview Café has fantastic croissants or pastries (Mom and Dad also get an espresso drink) and then we head to the outdoor patio and watch the fountains.  Then there are the fountains. They go up, they go over and they captivate the younger grandchildren. Combine water with kids and you’ll get soggy smiles. There are two fun fountains where grandchildren can jump in and splash away.  Look for the fountain by the walkway towards Test Track and the other play fountain by the central walkway to the World Showcase. Warning, grandchildren don’t get wet, they get soaked. Be prepared with either a change of clothes or with having them wear their bathing suit under their outfit that day.

Epcot Character Spot:  near the Innoventions West exhibit space. Look for some of these Disney Characters during your visit: Mickey Mouse Minnie Mouse Donald Duck  Pluto Goofy

Chip ‘n’ Dale.  Epcot Character Spot is open throughout the day. Be sure to check the Times Guide at Epcot the day of your visit to find out when your favorite Characters will be appearing.

Journey into Imagination Pavilion: The Journey Into Imagination is a cute ride for all ages. Afterwards, there are all sorts of interactive stations for you to enjoy at the “Image Works – Kodak ‘What If’ Lab. (You don’t have to go on the ride to access this area: See below.) Imagination is also home to “Honey I Shrunk the Audience.” This 3-D movie is great, but there are some scary elements to consider when viewing it with younger grandchildren. If they (or you) don’t like mice or snakes, skip this one.

Tip: preschoolers who find the special effects of HONEY, I SHRUNK THE AUDIENCE a bit too intense to lift their feet off the floor and take off the 3-D glasses. That way they won’t feel the puffs of air that simulate mice running up their legs, and without the glasses, the snake seems decidedly less menacing.

Captain EO, the classic  17-minute interactive 3-D film musical starring Michael Jackson and a cast of intergalactic characters.

Journey Into Imagination With Figment: Journey Into Imagination With Figment, an attraction that’s fun for younger grandchildren, is a tour through the sensory labs in the Imagination Institute. The tour guide is the playful purple dragon Figment who tickles your senses with his mischief and music.

Entertainment: ImageWorks: Conduct an orchestra, experiment with lights and video, make dragons sing, check out the live show Digital Imaging which features the world’s largest digital camera, and explore the interactive stations at ImageWorks. ImageWorks is an interactive play area. Check out hands-on, sensory-themed activities where you can exercise your imagination and explore your creative side in exciting exhibits that allow you to do things like: Wave your arms and move your body to create magical music. Transform yourself into an animal and e-mail the photo to friends Videotape your image and play it back in super slow motion. You can even photograph yourself with the world’s biggest digital camera and e-mail the photo to family and friends! It’s all the fun you can possibly imagine-and more!

Another attraction with height restrictions is Mission:SPACE.   Grandchildren love the action, but you may be reluctant to go on this ride if you’ve heard of its dubious history. After distributing countless motion sickness bags and sadly, after two real tragedies, you now have the option of choosing a less intense experience. There’s also an interactive area that all ages can enjoy.  Mission Space (height requirement: 44″/ 112 cm) is probably the only thing that may be too intense – and even that has a new “Less intense / no spin” option that is very well done. If you still have concerns, get a “Rider Switch” pass and have the more cautious parent ride first. If he/she thinks the ride will be fine for your little one, they can ride with the other parent. You can always add one extra rider with the “Rider Switch” fastpass but sometimes 2 or three additional riders are allowed.

Spaceship Earth is one of the “grand daddies” of Epcot. A semi-snoozer, it probably has just enough elements to keep the kids interested at least for one go through. One area that’s often overlooked is Innoventions East and West. It’s a shame since this is where the grandchildren can work off some energy and learn while playing. There are tons of hands-on activities that they’ll love to experience. Give it a chance, you’ll be glad that you did.  Innoventions is the arcade of the future, and one of the dumbest things I’ve ever said is, “We’ll stop in for just a minute.” Once kids get a glimpse of these brand-new video games, they are hooked. Since the lines are much shorter at night, you can play the virtual-reality games more than once.

The Seas with Nemo & Friends Pavilion: Features a massive aquarium that holds one of the largest man-made ocean environments in the world. Plunge below the surface and join characters from the DisneyPixar film Finding Nemo as they share the secrets of their hidden undersea home. The pavilion features: The Sea Base and Caribbean Coral Reef Aquarium; The Seas with Nemo & Friends ride; The Turtle Talk with Crush show; Coral Reef Restaurant.

The Sea Base and Caribbean Coral Reef Aquarium: Travel deep below the ocean waves to discover the magic and mysteries of underwater life. The pavilion’s signature 5.7 million gallon salt-water tank, named Caribbean Coral Reef, is home to 6,000 inhabitants representing over 60 species-including sea turtles, angelfish, dolphins, rays, sharks and a very special manatee rehabilitation area. The underwater environment is a wonder. Walk out onto a unique circular observation platform in the middle of the aquarium, and you’ll find yourself almost completely surrounded by water. In addition to the central tank, there are a variety of informative smaller exhibits where Nemo and his friends share knowledge about their wondrous underwater world. Younger grandchildren should be sure to check out Bruce’s SharkWorld-a fun activity area where you can learn about the fearsome silent predators of the deep.

The Seas with Nemo & Friends Ride: Plan on going many times.  Hop on a “clamobile” and join Nemo on an undersea adventure. Some of the smallest grandchildren might still get scared.  Try it once and see.

Turtle Talk with Crush Show: Turtle Talk with Crush is a 15-minute show presented throughout the day.  This is a favorite with grandchildren.  Catch up with the famous sea turtle, Crush, in Turtle Talk with Crush-a show where lucky Guests get a chance to talk directly to the big kahuna.  Takes place inside a theater featuring a large “window to the ocean world.” After taking your seat, watch Crush swim to the window from his ocean home and begin taking questions and chatting with audience members. He’ll also educate you on the importance of protecting the world’s oceans. How Turtle Talk with Crush Works Turtle Talk with Crush uses state-of-the-art, 3D, voice-activated computer animation. Through this advanced technology, Crush can communicate directly-in real time-and hold unique, improvised conversations with audience members. Each and every show is different.

Coral Reef Restaurant: Dine on ocean-inspired cuisine-with a spectacular floor-to-ceiling view of the pavilion’s massive central aquarium-at the Coral Reef Restaurant.

Special Programs: Epcot Seas Aqua Tour and Dolphins in Depth offer an immersive educational experience-including the chance to actually snorkel in one of the world’s largest aquariums. If you are a certified scuba diver, you can spend even more time below the surface on DiveQuest. Call (407) 939-8687 for more information on these programs.

Land: Food court downstairs in The Land and everyone can get something different, from salads to barbecue.  If you can arrange to arrive by lunch, this is great for multigenerational families.   Another really neat attraction is the Nestle Toll House booth in the Land pavilion. Several times a day they will choose a group of kids to help “bake” the cookies. The kids get chef hats, everyone adds in ingredients, and they get free cookies to take home at the end.   

The Land has a cute nutrition show called Food Rocks. 

Soarin’ is fantastic, but there is a height requirement. Our children and grandchildren wanted multiple rides.  Our tall five year old who is adventurous was fine.

Circle of Life is a lively 20-minute environmental film for big grandchildren, teens and adults in Future World at Epcot theme park. “The “Circle of Life” movie is pretty cute, especially for Pumbaa and Timon fans. Marvel at the wonders of nature through a magical mix of animation, live action, and Simba, Timon and Pumbaa from The Lion King. When Timon and Pumbaa start clearing trees from the savanna and damming rivers to build the Hakuna Matata Lakeside Village, King of the Pridelands Simba gets ruffled and steps in to teach them the impact of their actions. Pumbaa and Timon soon realize how important the different kinds of plants and animals are to the health of the planet. After all, they’re part of the Circle of Life. Using live-action footage of environmental concerns around the world, this film is a great opportunity to introduce children to eco kindness.

“Living with the Land” is a 14-minute boat ride. Young kids enjoy naming all of the veggies in site on this mellow boat tour of futuristic greenhouses that grow real plants. Don’t let the Fast Pass option trick you into thinking this is an exciting attraction. While budding botanists familiar with hydroponics will love it, it’s a bit on the B-O-R-I-N-G side. Still, simply being on a boat and seeing the fish and baby alligators in one section you go through may be just enough to hold their attention for one go round.  Explores agricultural advances in the rain forest, Africa and beyond. Set sail on a voyage of discovery through living laboratories as you cruise past the American plains, a tropical rain forest and the African desert to witness the latest developments in aquaculture and desert farming. Float by experimental greenhouses-where produce is grown for Epcot restaurants-and take a fascinating first-hand look at an aqua environment, the Aquacell, with alligators and fish. The greenhouses grow crops native to many cultures, including rice, sugar cane and bananas.

Club Cool This is a tasty little distraction for all ages. Go here for free samples of Coca-Cola Company drinks from around the world. Put a little cup up to the dispenser and pressing the button to fill it up again…and again…and again. Try the red berry Fanta Colita from Costa Rica and the non-carbonated Japanese Vegitabeta health drink.

Universe of Energy Pavilion: When tired go on the 45 minute Ellen’s Energy Adventure at the journey through the creation of the universe. See and hear the explosive Big Bang. Travel around, between and under giant dinosaurs. Narrowly escape streams of molten lava. Discover how fossil fuels were formed. Float far above Earth with satellites and atoms, and finally, explore a future filled with fusion power. Thanks to the renewed popularity of Ellen DeGeneres, most kids will recognize her as the star of the Universe of Energy. It’s a funny spoof of the Jeopardy Game Show that finds Ellen and Bill Nye the Science Guy going back to prehistoric times in search of the source of energy. Although this attraction is a bit on the long side, you can’t beat the combo of dinosaurs and kids.

Test Track:  Test Track is great, but again, height requirement. Kids have to be at least 40 inches tall to ride Test Track.  Every generation loved this ride! If your grandchild is too short for this, you can still visit the “after ride” area where there are a couple of interactive displays as well as the latest GM model cars. Grandchildren love hopping in and pretending to drive. A high-speed vehicle-simulation ride in which big kids, teens and adults test their mettle in one of Disney’s longest and fastest rides. Step into the world of automotive testing as your 6-seat vehicle undergoes the safety and quality tests that General Motors performs on every prototype it manufactures.  As you begin this 5-minute, nearly one-mile auto escapade, strap yourself in, ascend steep terrain that’s 3 stories high, then let loose downhill, blasting across a bumpy road and roaring through 50-degree banked curves and hair-pin turns that test suspension and brakes at speeds up to 60 miles per hour! Zoom into the environmental chamber to endure the extreme heat and cold tests-at temperatures that are 100 degrees apart! Then, see if your vehicle will withstand corrosion when robots mist water upon it. Finally, face the challenge of avoiding a crash barrier. in the nick of time! Learn More About Automotive Safety at Test Track Pavilion: Located within the Test Track Pavilion in the Future World area, Test Track is a wildly popular ride with a pre-ride waiting area that’s loaded with auto test lab simulations, crash-test dummies and other wares of the trade. You can also view real cars in various states of production in the post-ride area.

WORLD SHOWCASE

Beyond Future World, if entering from the main gate at Epcot theme park, is the World Showcase area. World Showcase is a collective of Pavilions that wrap around the World Showcase Lagoon. Inside the Pavilions, find shops, attractions and restaurants that represent the culture and cuisine of these 11 countries.

Check performances at different times throughout the day: the Times Guide at Epcot.

TIP: You can have your purchases at the World Showcases delivered to Package Pick-up, near the exit, or directly to your room if you are staying at a Disney resort.  Travel clockwise around World Showcase, starting at Mexico.  Ride the ferry boats that run across the World Showcase Lagoon to go from country to country, this will provide a rest from all the walking.

Be realistic, some of the World Showcase is over the grandchildren’s heads. When you were five years old, did you really care that the tiles in the Morocco Pavilion were handcrafted? (You probably still don’t care.) This doesn’t mean that the entire section is a bust, it just means that you have to plan more carefully.

The Kidcot stations at each country are wonderful. Grandchildren love making their own souvenirs, and you’ll be able to browse some shops while they admire their handiwork. Speaking of souvenirs, you’ve no doubt discovered that the Mouse and his many friends come in all sorts of shapes and forms and your kid will want each and every one of them. At the World Showcase, your wallet can get some welcome relief. It’s surprising how inexpensive a lot of the merchandise is.

TIP: Buy the children an Epcot Passport (autograph book)  from one of the vendor carts. An added bonus at the World Showcase, Kidcot stations is the chance for the kids to get their Epcot Passport stamped. They’ll learn how to say “Hello” in a different language. Kids love the idea of “collecting” the stamps and in the process will be taught some new skills. At many pavilions, your little ones can meet Cast Members from around the world and learn about their native countries as well as create a souvenir craft. Kidcot Fun Stops mirror the pavilion hours of each Kidcot location.

Epcot is laid out in a 1.3-mile circle around the World Showcase Lagoon, so start at the opposite side from where you decide to be eating a meal or sit down snack.  Wherever you begin, drop by any gift shop and pick up Epcot Passports for your grandchildren. As you visit each country, an attendant stamps the kids’ passports and writes their names in that nation’s language. Take  it to school for show-and-tell.  Each of the 11 nations is staffed by citizens of the country represented so have your grandchildren learn to say hello, goodbye, please and thank you in different languages and write that in their passports—gives them a reason to talk to the staff in each country.

There are some real snoozers in the World Showcase as far as the younger grandchildren are concerned. The movies in France, China and Canada and American Adventure are simply not going to hold their interest.  While American Adventure is an amazing animatronic show, the subject matter is going to find most young grandchildren squirming in their seats.  Throughout the day most of the countries schedule entertainment. Some of it has kid appeal, some of it does not. Off Kilter may be a lively, fun band to you, while it is just a bunch of guys in skirts to your grandchildren. Gauge your grandchildren’s reaction to see if it’s worth sticking around to watch the shows.  The street shows are a better choice than some of the indoor attractions for a multigenerational family with preschoolers. If the grandchildren get restless or fussy, you can just go on.

During the afternoon, characters appear around World Showcase in their “home” nation. Aladdin is in Morocco, Alice hangs out in the United States.

World Showcase offers Kim Possible.  It is an adventure for the entire family, but better for grandchildren age 8 and older.  You are given missions to solve in many of the World Showcase countries. It’s a great way to spend some time with your multigenerational family and discover some hidden treasures in each country. Be prepared for some surprises along the way. Become secret agents. Volunteer at Team Possible recruitment centers in Innoventions: The Road to Tomorrow, on the Odyssey Bridge, and near the International Gateway as well as locations throughout World Showcase. You’ll receive your mission assignment and be sent out to thwart evildoers.The Kimmunicator Upon reporting for duty, recruits receive their super-secret Kimmunicators-interactive, handheld, cell-phone-like devices that help maneuver agents through their mission. Using state-of-the-art technology, your Kimmunicator will connect agents with a variety of Kim Possible characters who will provide clues to help stop super villains from carrying out their dastardly plans.Your Mission Embark on exciting quests for clues throughout the Mexico Pavilion, the Norway Pavilion, the China Pavilion, the Germany Pavilion, the Japan Pavilion, the France Pavilion or the United Kingdom Pavilion. Each pavilion hosts a different mission, so you can go back again and again. Missions are designed with groups in mind and can last anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes. As many as 2 to 4 agents can share a Kimmunicator. Kimmunicators even recognize when a team has broken away from the action-even secret agents need ice cream breaks-and will alter your mission accordingly. The Bad Guys Disney’s Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure is really 7 different experiences with 7 unique super villains. In the China Pavilion, for example, you must rescue the precious Jade Monkey from Lord Monkeyfist and his monkey ninjas. In the Germany Pavilion, you must stop Professor Dementor from using his evil mind-control device to influence world leaders. Not every villain has such dark intentions behind their dreams of global domination. In the United Kingdom Pavilion, Duff Killigan simply wants to turn the earth into a giant golf course. Hidden Rewards Upon successfully completing your mission, you’ll experience a secret finale event, and then you can return your Kimmunicator knowing that you’ve done your part to save the world.

Kidcot Fun Stops are colorful craft stations for grandchildren who are preschoolers located in World Showcase at Epcot theme park. Epcot is the only Disney theme park with the “Kidcot” program. All of the World Showcase countries have “Kidcot stations”. The grandchildren are provided with a blank mask and and at each station they can choose from free items to decorate it. Part of the craft project is to decorate a blank mask that the grandchildren are given. As the grandchildren work their way through the various countries, they use their imagination to add details to their mask. Grandchildren can try painting on their mask in Paris, making jewelry for their mask in Morocco, constructing an origami piece to add from Japan and other country-specific activities. When finished, the grandchildren have an amazing mask to take home to share with family and friends and hopefully they have learned more about cultures around the world.

Mexico: (Kidcot Fun Stops near Animales Fantasticos) Mexico has churros.  Mexico is the best for the smallest grandchildren.  The Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros is a gentle boat ride through the pyramid-shaped Mexico Pavilion in Epcot theme park. This stars the characters from the 1944 Disney film, The Three Caballeros: Donald Duck; Panchito, the Mexican rooster; and José Carioca, a Brazilian parrot. Gran Fiesta Tour Starring Two Caballeros? Where’s Donald? These 3 feathered friends are reuniting for a grand musical performance in Mexico City. Distracted by the sights of the city, Donald has disappeared. His friends go looking for him, but will they find him in time for the big show? The attraction combines traditional animation superimposed over live-action film clips shot in such stunning locales as Acapulco, Chichen Itza, Manzanillo and Mexico City. These vibrant sights, accompanied by lively music, showcase the people, culture, history and arts of Mexico.  Mariachi Cobre is a traditional 12-piece Mexican Mariachi band that performs daily in the Mexico Pavilion.  Swing to the rousing sounds of Mariachi Cobre at the festive Plaza de los Amigos market inside the Mexico Pavilion or in front of the handsome Mayan exterior, and bask in the traditional musical musings of Jalisco, Mexico. Mexico is great for finding a reasonably priced toy.

Norway: (Kidcot Fun Stop near The Puffin’s Roost) Character Greet: favorite Princesses in Akershus Royal Banquet Hall. At Norway, Maelstrom  log-flume-like boat ride does have Fastpass but it’s usually not needed. Again, quick and just enough to keep kids entertained.  Should be avoided with very young children. While it’s not a very fast ride, the troll and dark theme frightened  kids. Plastic Viking helmets are available from the outside vendors.

China: (Kidcot Fun Stop near exit to Reflections of China). China has some little trinkets that don’t cost much at all. This is a good place to stop and shop with the grandchildren.

The Outpost’s Drums: The Outpost is not one of the main country pavilions. This little area representing African cultures is sandwiched between the Germany and China pavilions. Its only restaurant is a fast food stand called the Refreshment Outpost. But The Outpost does have one major draw for kids of all ages…big drums! It was hard to pull grandchildren away! There are drums and other African-inspired instruments for sale at an adjoining store.

Germany: (Kidcot Fun Stop near Volkunst) Head to the right and look for the model trains. These are great and the grandchildren will get a kick out of watching them run. Germany has wonderful soft pretzels. Character Greet: Dopey and Snow White and Robin Hood . In Germany almost every flavor and shape of Gummy candy that’s made is found here.

Italy: (Kidcot Fun Stop outside near La Bottega Italiana). Character Greet:  Pinocchio.    Sergio the Italian Clown Jugger:  is a comedic mime like the ones you might enjoy in an Italian piazza. His phenomenal juggling skills and side-splitting interaction with Guests. Italy has Perugina chocolates in small packs.

United States: (Kidcot Fun Stop outside near Heritage Manor Gifts) funnel cakes are found at a kiosk in front of the America Pavilion. Spirit of America Fife & Drum Corps is a colonial-era band that plays marching music and makes military formations at the American Adventure Pavilion at Epcot theme park. Enjoy their patriotic performance, preserving America’s musical heritage with magnificent renditions of “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” “God Bless America” and more.

Japan: (Kidcot Fun Stop near Bijutsu-kan Gallery) In Japan the shaved ice is always a hit.  Rubber samurai swords are available to buy from the outside vendors. There is a store where you can choose an oyster with a pearl in it. The cast member will clean it for you and put it in a nice little box. Look for the Koi fish in the ponds at Japan. With any luck, a candy making demonstration will take place and you just might the be lucky recipient of a sweet treat. Feel the thunderous sound of Matsuriza as they perform Taiko-a time-honored form of drumming. Catch this stirring, 15-minute Japanese drum show on the main stage at the Japan Pavilion’s 5-story pagoda.   “Taiko” is Japanese for “great drum.” The history of the great drum can be traced back centuries to religious ceremonies, harvest festivals and battlefield performances.  In Japan there’s an extensive assortment of Hello Kitty and Anime items and some very reasonably priced and unique candies. (This is the perfect solution if your grandchildren promised to bring back something for their friends.)  For a splurge, consider dinner at Japanese Habatchi Tappen Edo for a show with great food.

Morocco: (Kidcot Fun Stop in Marketplace in the Medina). Character Greet: you’ll usually find Aladdin, Jasmine and/or the Genie doing Meet & Greets. If they’re not out front, go through the open market shops opposite the Marrakesh Restaurant. They’re often there with no wait at all for a picture and an autograph. Enchanting World beats of Mo’Rockin! This 6-person musical group plays a 20-minute show full of fun, rhythm-infused World Music

France: (Kidcot Fun Stop near Souvenirs de France) Character Greet: Belle and the Beast

United Kingdom: (Kidcot Fun Stop near The Toy Soldier). Character Greet:  Sometimes Mary Poppins and Alice in Wonderland hold a pretend tea party. The United Kingdom pavilion also has wonderful candies.  Hedge Maze & Toy Shop: It’s easy to miss the hedge maze tucked in the back corner of the United Kingdom. Despite its small size, grandchildren could play here for at least an hour. Afterwards, be sure to go into the UK’s toy shop, The Toy Soldier, especially if your little one is obsessed with trains. Why? There’s a Thomas the Tank Engine table complete with wooden tracks and choo-choos aplenty. If you need a reprieve from the lines, the heat, the cold, or the whining – a visit here will buy you some time as the kids zoom the trains around the tracks.  World Showcase Players, who do a hilarious spoof of the King Arthur story using volunteers. the British Invasion, a Beatles-clone pop group, also appearing at the U.K. pavilion.

Canada:  (Kidcot Fun Stop near exit from O Canada! attraction) Canada has maple sugar treats.

While walking between Pavilions, be amused by live performers-some may even invite you to participate in the show! There’s also plenty of kid-centric entertainment, too, like Disney Character meet and greet locations and Kidcot fun stops. At Kidcot stations, kids can create one-of-a-kind souvenirs.

Night time:  Illuminations

TIP: At night, Illuminations is spectacular but there are a few things to keep in mind. You are very close to the fireworks and I’ve seen more than a few grandchildren lose it during the loud booms. It can be scary (and painful) for little ears. The other problem you might encounter is getting a decent view. The best spots are up front around the lagoon, but if the park is crowded, scoring a good view can be a challenge.   TIP: Watch from a location near your exit. If you’re leaving via the main gate, find a good spot near Mexico or Canada; if you’re staying at an Epcot resort, the best viewing is on the bridge between France and the United Kingdom. There is a little area behind and below the pub in England that is a great place to watch Illuminations. If you are only going to Epcot for the Illuminations fireworks, go to the Boardwalk or Beach Club resorts first. Then just walk to the back entrance of Epcot – brings you right into the World Showcase. After the fireworks, exit the park using this same entrance / exit. You’ll beat all the crowds! The best place to view Illuminations is behind the store between Mexico and Canada (right up against the railing). Be sure to get there early, it fills up completely.  Since IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth is an outdoor show, it is subject to cancellation due to inclement weather.  When viewing the fireworks, make sure the wind is to your back. If the wind is to your face, all you’re going to see is a cloud of smoke. It ruins the show.

IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth, a mesmerizing fireworks, laser and water show featuring a rousing soundtrack, plays nightly in the World Showcase area. It is a14-minute, live pyrotechnic show that brings together the past, present and future of our planet and its colorful nations. Featuring breathtaking fireworks, brilliant bursts of fire, laserlight effects, dramatic fountain barges, a stirring musical score and the world’s first spherical video display system-the 350,000-pound Earth Globe-IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth is an inspirational nighttime spectacular bursting with surprises for the entire family.

The Story of llumiNations

IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth at Epcot tells the story of our planet in 3 unforgettable acts.

Act 1: Chaos – Bear witness to the explosion at the dawn of time that brings about the creation of Earth, where you are invited to observe the Inferno Barge, a liquid-propane mechanism launching balls of fire 60 feet into the air.

Act 2: Order – Behold the glowing Earth Globe as it glides peacefully to the center of the lagoon, illuminated with-and celebrating-the famous faces and achievements of our time

Act 3: Meaning – During this final act, the Earth Globe blossoms to reveal a torch and the glow of a thousand fireworks and laserlights that fill the night sky in a shimmering kaleidoscope of color and sound, propelling us into the future.

Exhausted!  But aren’t grandparents always exhausted at the end of a vacation with grandchildren.  My husband calls family vacations “trips” and our travels without children or granchildren “vacations.”  I understand.

Joy!

Mema

 

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