This is the third in our series of posts on how to do Disney with multiples, you can read about the Magic Kingdom and Disney Resorts by clicking on the links. Today we’re talking about EPCOT, so grab your cup of coffee, maybe refill or two, and kick back and relax!
EPCOT (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, in case you were wondering what it stood for) is the second largest park at Walt Disney World and is twice the size of Magic Kingdom. Seriously, it’s huge. There are two distinct sections of EPCOT, Future World and World Showcase. We’ll cover each one separately below along with many of our tips and tricks.
Getting to EPCOT and Parking
- If you are not staying on Disney property during your trip and will be driving to the parks there is a $14 charge for parking. This parking is good for all parks that day and that day only. So let’s say you decided to drive over to Magic Kingdom after your day at EPCOT, just show your parking pass at the toll plaza and you will not have to pay again.
- If you are traveling to EPCOT from another park there are a few options. If you are coming from the Magic Kingdom you can take the monorail from the Transportation and Ticket Center. If you are coming from Animal Kingdom or Hollywood Studios there is bus transportation available. Here’s a little known secret, there is a walkway and boat option from Hollywood Studios. The boat is on the left hand side of the park exit, be warned it stops at all the hotels in that area (Swan and Dolphin, Yacht and Beach and Boardwalk) and will drop you off at the entrance to World Showcase. The other positive is you don’t have to fold your stroller, so if your kiddos are sleeping this is a great option. The walkway is along the water and will take you through The Boardwalk resort. You will also enter through World Showcase.
- If you are traveling to EPCOT from your Disney resort you will be arriving by bus, unless you are staying at Yacht Club, Beach Club or the Boardwalk, then you will be arriving by boat or walking. Other resorts that will not have to take the bus are the Polynesian, Grand Floridian and Contemporary. You can simply take the monorail to the Transportation and Ticket Center and then transfer to the EPCOT monorail. All strollers must be folded on the buses (if you have a Run About simply let the driver know and he/she will be able to assist you).
- If you are driving there really is not a bad place to park. The parking lot is not as deep as Magic Kingdom, so it’s a much easier walk to the front of the park, no matter where you park. The tram is available if you would rather ride to the front.
- After you park and you get ready to walk to the main entrance, take a picture (either on your camera or phone) of the row you are parked in. You have a long day ahead of you and will probably forget which row you are parked in. If you do forget this though, at the end of the night let a cast member from either parking or security know and tell them what time you arrived, they will be able to locate which section you are parked in.
- Before you can get into the parks you have to go through bag check. Amanda’s husband Scott would like to remind everyone that a camera bag still counts as a bag, as does a fanny pack.
- Before you get to the table try to start unzipping all your zippers and have all your bags pulled out. They will also ask to look in the baskets under your stroller.If you do not have any bags, camera bags or fanny packs, you can go directly through the center no bag line. Strollers cannot go through this line since the baskets need to be checked.
- Scott also wanted to share some security tips with everyone to help make their stay more enjoyable (FYI Scott works in Disney Security, previously as a manager and currently in their dispatch center). The next few tips are from him.
- When you arrive to the park each day take a photo of your children, either on your camera phone or actual camera. That way if you are separated for some reason you have a photo from that day to show security. It has been Scott’s experience that nine times out of ten parents cannot remember what their children were wearing that day, and the photo eliminates that problem all together.
- Do NOT leave your valuables in your stroller while you go on a ride. Just because you are at the happiest place on earth doesn’t mean that you are completely safe from thieves!
- If you do for some reason become separated from a child it is important to find a cast member and let them know. The sooner you do this, the sooner every cast member in the park knows to look for your child. If one of the parents walks off to look for this child on their own while another stays behind with a cast member, make sure you both have phones and can communicate (sounds so simple, but is one of the biggest mistakes). Also, be sure to inform the responding security officer of any special circumstances (ie Autism or Downs).
- Close and lock your doors/trunk. Scott cannot even begin to tell you how many times he has personally seen trunks and doors wide open, or windows rolled down. Also, if you have a GPS take it down and put it out of sight, the same goes for any other valuables you have in the car.
- Do not lock your keys in your car unless you can get them out on your own. Disney cannot pop your locks, they have to call a locksmith and you will be charged.
- Do not try to sneak alcohol into any of the parks, they will find and sadly, it will be dumped down the nearest drain.
- While glass jarred baby food is allowed, it may slow up the process of getting in. Try and bring the plastic tubs if you can.
- No weapons of any kind are allowed. However, if you are licensed to carry a weapon and have it on you, it must be checked with security. Any federal or local law enforcement agencies also have to comply with the weapon check.
Tickets and the Main Entrance
- As far as tickets go children ages 3-9 are considered a childs ticket (Under 3 is FREE), 10+ is considered an adult. Visit Disney’s site for more ticketing information.
- We are sorry to report that there is no such thing as a multiples discount at Disney World. The only discount offered on admission is Florida resident, AAA, and military. Please see the Walt Disney World website for more details on tickets, prices, and restrictions. Also, please please please do not buy tickets on the side of the road that say they are cheaper. You will get ripped off and will not get a refund. Just remember if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
- The gates at EPCOT are larger than the other parks, so you should have zero problems getting any size stroller through them.
- Now since Amanda used to work the turnstiles at Magic Kingdom many moons ago (fun fact: that’s how she met Scott) she has some special tips to share: it does not matter how you put the ticket it, right side up, upside down, it’s all the same, you just can’t put it in sideways.
- Make sure you remember what finger you used with your ticket, and remember which ticket is yours. If you use your husband’s ticket you will get denied (put your name on the back of your ticket so this doesn’t happen).
- Do not keep your tickets on top of your credit cards, it will demagnetize them and you will have to have them reprinted.
Maps and Times Guides
- We cannot stress enough that you should really grab both the map and times guide to help maximize your experience. Both can be found as you walk through the main entrance on a big display. You can also find both throughout the park at the gift shops, attractions or if you ask a cast member.
- The park maps are available in several languages, see Guest Relations if you do not see the language you need.
- Guest relations at EPCOT is located next to Spaceship Earth (if you are looking at the giant “golf ball” from the entrance, it will be on the left hand side).
- Guest relations offers translator headsets in the following languages: French, Spanish, Portuguese, German and Japanese. These headsets are free of charge, but you are required to put down a deposit that will be refunded upon their return.
- International calling cards are available for sale at Guest Relations at each of the four theme parks. Pay phone instructions are printed in Japanese, French, Spanish, German and Portuguese. Another nice feature of the pay phones is the ability to dial directly to international locations without the need for operator assistance.
- If you are interested, Guest Relations offers guided tours (there is a fee for this). If you are traveling with small children (who can’t wait in long lines) during a peak attendance time, VIP tours will allow you to bypass most lines for the rides. This is NOT cheap, but well worth it if you have the means. The tours do need to be set up in advance, especially if you require them in a foreign language. If you The tours are offered in English, Spanish, French, German, Japanese, Portuguese, and Italian.
- Guest Relations also handles currency exchange, but it is limited. If you are needing currency exchange simply call the Disney Operator to ensure that it can be done at Guest Relations. If not, it can be done at the Suntrust Bank located across the street from Downtown Disney.
- If you would like to make dining reservations you can do so at Guest Relations. You can also make reservations prior to your trip by called 407-WDW-DINE (407-933-3463).
- Also if you are celebrating anything, or it is your first visit stop by to get a free button!
Stroller and Wheelchair Rental
- Stroller rental at EPCOT is located on the left hand side of Spaceship Earth (if you are looking at the golf ball from the entrance, you will see it on the left). It is somewhat tucked away and is not as visible like the other parks. These strollers really are great, and very lightweight.
- Double strollers are 31.00 per day, and singles are 15.00 a day, with discounts on weekly rentals. Wheelchair rental is 12.00 per day, and ECV(electric wheelchairs) rental is 50.00/day.
- If you rent a stroller at the a Disney park, and decide to park-hop to another park, you can get a stroller at the second location for no additional charge (same for wheelchairs).
- Wagons are not allowed at any of the Disney parks, or Downtown Disney, as they can be a tripping hazard.
- If you do bring your own stroller, opt for the lightest one you own that folds up the easiest for you. If you do any bus or boat traveling after/during your day at the park, there is a good chance that you will have to take the kids out of the stroller to get on the vehicle.
- Future World is the entire front section of EPCOT and mainly focuses on the advancement of technology through an array of different venues. This is also where the majority of the rides are located. We suggest you utilize Fastpass on the majority of these rides.
- The first ride you will encounter is Spaceship Earth, you know, the golf ball. This ride has just been overhauled and shows the progress of communication starting with the cavemen all the way to the present day. There is also an interactive section where you can design what your future may hold. At the exit of the ride there are a literal ton of new technologies to test out. It’s a great way to beat the heat and learn about new technologies.
- After Spaceship Earth, if you go to your left you will be around Mission Space, The Universe of Energy and Test Track. If you go to the right you will be around Journey into Imagination, Honey I Shrunk the Audience, The Land, and The Seas.
- Mission Space is a simulator style ride, and you must be at least 44 inches to ride. Fastpass and rider switch are both options for this ride. Now, as a warning, the simulator on this ride is intense. Thankfully there are two team options for this ride, orange and green. If you think your tummy can handle 2.4G forces than opt for the orange team, if not pick the green. If you even get slightly motion sick, pick green.
- The Universe of Energy is a showcase of different types of energy and is partial powered by solar energy. The ride is also narrated by Ellen DeGeneres.
- Test Track is one of the fastest rides at Walt Disney World and reaches a top speed of 60mph. If you ever wondered what your car goes through before it gets to you, this is the ride to check out. There is a height requirement of 40 inches for this ride. When we went we used this ride as our rider switch. Scott and Todd patiently waited in line while we checked out all the cars in the showroom. Simply ask the cast member outside of the attraction for a rider switch and they will be happy to assist you.
- The Seas with Nemo and Friends has two options, you can either ride in your very own clam and journey through the story of Nemo, or walk through the exit and simply enjoy all of the tanks. Strollers are not allowed inside The Seas though, you will need to park them in the designated area. The ride itself is adorable for kids of all ages and is about 5 minutes long. Also inside The Seas is Turtle Talk with Crush, which is an interactive show where kids can ask Crush anything they would like about life in the ocean. Periodically throughout the day you can see divers in the tanks and watch dolphin feedings. Simply check your times guide for more information. There is also a dining option at this location, Coral Reef Restuarant is a casual dining location that specializes in amazing seafood, plus the view in the dining room is amazing.
- The Land is home to two attractions, one show, a food court and casual dining restaurant (more about the food later). Inside The Land you will find Soarin’ which simulates hang gliding over California. You must be 40 inches to ride this and if you are prone to motion sickness we would suggest you skip it. This ride normally has an extremely long wait no matter what time of day you go so we really suggest getting a Fastpass early on in the day and then using the rider switch so everyone can enjoy. Also in The Land is a 14 minute boat ride, Living with the land. This is one of the more interesting rides in the park and shows you were most of the food for Disney restaurants is coming from (that’s right, they grow their own produce!). Finally, The Circle of Life, is a 20 minute movie that introduces children to eco kindness. The two dining locations here are The Garden Grill, which is a family style character dinner (and it also rotates), and Sunshine Season Food Fair, which is basically a giant food court with every food you can imagine.
- Journey into Imagination (or Figment as many of you may know it), explores the 5 senses and how to use your imagination. It’s an adorable ride, but does have moments that children may find scary. After the ride is over you can check out ImageWorks which houses many different interactive stations. You can conduct a band with the wave of your hand, or stomp on the ground to create different sounds. We let our 5 munchkins run around on the floor to make music and it was hilarious! Plus, after being in a stroller for a good portion of the morning it’s great to let them burn off some energy! Also on the back side of Journey into Imagination there are restrooms that nobody ever seems to know about.
- Honey I Shrunk the Audience is a 3D show that takes you into the lab of Dr. Wayne Szalinski where mayhem definitely ensues. We do not recommend taking small children to this show are there are several scary moments. If you have phobias of snakes and mice (*ahem Amanda ahem*) you should probably skip this as well.
- Innoventions can be found on either side of Spaceship Earth and house dozens of different interactive games for kids of all ages. Check out Innoventions website for all the latest information!
- World Showcase is located behind Future World and features 11 different countries. World Showcase does not open at 9 am like Future World, it opens two hours later (11 am).
- The 11 countries featured are: Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, Italy, America, Japan, Morocco, France, The United Kingdom and Canada. Each country features different aspects of the culture and cuisine.
- There are two boats that can shuttle you to either side of the lagoon. They both pick up on either side of the entrance to World Showcase and drop you off in either Germany or Morocco. These boats run about every 15 minutes and stop at least 1 hour prior to IllumiNations.
- Mexico would be the first country you would stumble upon if you went to the left. The inside of the pyramid is set up like a marketplace. There is also a dining location here, San Angel Inn, which features traditional (not tex-mex) Mexican cuisine. There is also a festive boat ride inside Mexico called the Gran Fiesta Tour featuring The Three Caballeros. This boat ride is similar to It’s a Small World and can very easily be done with your children. Outside of the pyramid there is a quick service food location called La Catina de San Angel, which is more of your tex-mex feel. For those of you who are over 21, there is a margarita bar (frozen, not on the rocks) that features over 70 varieties of authentic tequila. Also, throughout the day you can enjoy the Marichi Cobre, they are amazing and we highly recommend you checking your times guide and catching one of their performances. If you’re lucky you may even see Donald in his sombrero tucked away between the pyramid and the margarita bar.
- Norway is next to Mexico (only at Disney, right?) and features all things Viking. Inside the impressive Stave church you can learn about the history of the Vikings and even check out some of their weapons. Across the way is the Akershus Royal Banquet Hall where you can dine with the princesses (make reservations this books quickly). Finally you can ride Maelstrom which is a journey through the history of Norway (no height requirement, but may be scary for the little ones). Be sure to check out the shop at the end of the ride and smell Amanda’s favorite perfume, Layla (it’s amazing!).
- China is next and is the only one of 2 countries at EPCOT to feature a CircleVision 360 film entitled, Reflections of China. This show is breath-taking and if you have the chance, definitely check it out. The main shop in the back is amazing too and you can find just about anything there from candles, tea pots, to amazing jewelry. For dining there is two options, Lotus Blossom Cafe (quick service) and Nine Dragons (casual dining). Both locations are phenomenal. There is also a ton of entertainment here from acrobats to musicians, simply check your times guide for more information. Also, if you’re lucky you may find Mulan around the lotus pond.
- Between China and Germany you will find the outpost area that has a quick service dining location (mainly snack type food).
- Germany is home to Snow White and one heck of a beirgarten! The Beirgarten Restuarant is set up like a traditional Oktoberfest where everyone sits together (the tables seat 8) and enjoys a giant buffet of amazing German food. There is also a band, Oktoberfest Musikanten, that plays traditional Bavarian music while you eat. Reservations are highly recommended and a tip here is to eat there as a late lunch (the food is the same at lunch and dinner but is significantly cheaper at the lunch price). If you are really into ornaments, wine, figurines, steins, or amazing collectible toys be sure to check out all the shops in the area.
- Italy is home to Pinnochio, beautiful fountains, amazing food and authentic Murano glass. Tutto Italia in the main restuarant here (you may remember it as Alfredo’s from years past) and has amazing food. Reservations are highly recommended and there is an option for family style dining at this restaurant.
- The American Pavilion and American Gardens Theater are at the center of World Showcase. The pavilion hosts a theartical style show, The American Adventure. If you don’t feel like staying for the whole show we really recommend going in about 15 minutes before the show would start to hear the Voices of Liberty. They are an amazing a cappela group that perform in the rotunda. (Fun fact: Amanda and Scott hosted their wedding reception at this location). The Liberty Inn is your main dining option and features your basics (hamburgers, chicken nuggets etc). The tables here are somewhat close together, but there are also seats outdoors. Word of caution, unless it is an emergency, avoid the bathrooms at this location, they are really small and no stroller is fitting inside, use the bathrooms in Germany or Morocco instead. The American Gardens Theater is home to a variety of entertainment throughout the year, always check your times guide or click on the link for more information.
- Japan is home to some amazing sushi, beautiful lush gardens and one heck of a gift shop. Japan offers three dining options, Tokyo Dining and Teppan Edo (both casual dining) and Yakitori House (quick service). Teppan Edo is a traditional Teppan-yaki style cooking and Tokyo Dining is a sit down sushi restaurant. Yakitori House is your quick service option (with the amazing sushi) and is located behind the koi pond. The gift shop here is huge and features everything from anime to Mikimoto pearls.
- Morocco is home to Aladdin, Jasmine and the Genie. You can also browse through the traditional bazaar and take a walk through history in the gallery (if you’re looking at the pavilion it’s the first set of doors on the left, most people think it’s not a real door, but open it you’ll be surprised what you find). Morocco is also home to Restuarant Marrakesh, neither of us have eaten hear but we’ve both heard amazing things! Throughout the day Mo’Rockin’ performs on the main stage. This is a lively show complete with a belly dancer.
- France is home to Belle, the Beast, Princess Aurora and the busiest bakery we’ve ever seen! There are two main dining options here, as well as the aforementioned bakery. Les Chefs de France and Bistro de Paris are both casual dining and we recommend having reservations. The bakery is located behind Chefs de France and usually has a line that goes out the door. Your stroller probably won’t fit in here, this is when the cell phone comes in handy. There is a film called Impressions de France and was probably made when EPCOT opened, but is still amazing and a must see. There is a great “hiding” place opposite the perfume store, where the gardens are in case you need a break.
- Between France and the United Kingdom is a second entrance which is mainly used for guest staying at Yact Club, Beach Club, Boardwalk Inn, Swan and Dolphin. If you are planning on heading to Hollywood Studios you can take the boat from this entrance over there instead of walking to the front of the park to catch the bus.
- The United Kingdom is home to Mary Poppins, Alice, The Beatles and Guiness. You can walk with your kids through a traditional English rose garden complete with a maze while checking out The British Invasion. If the band is not playing, this is a great “hiding” place from the crowds. Periodically through the day you will also find the World Showcase Players, which is a improv troupe that puts on skits and uses the audience to its full advantage. For dining options there is Rose and Crown Pub which features all the traditional foods from Great Britian (think fish and chips, and bangers and mash) and Yorkshire Country Fish Shop that is your quick service location for traditional fish and chips. Next to the Rose and Crown is the beer stand where we shared a Harps and finally decided to start Multiples and More.
- Canada is home to the other CircleVision 360 film, O Canada! that features Martin Short. Neither of us have seen it since it has been redone, but we’re positive that it’s a great show! For dining there is Le Cellier which is one of the hardest restaurants on Disney property to get in. If you are even having the slightest thought of eating here call and make a reservation as soon as possible. Canada also hosts the band Off Kilter that you should definitely check out.
- Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure is a great way to get your kids involved in the countries. Let’s face it, when we were all younger this was our least favorite park. The Kim Possible Adventure makes it an interactive experience for you kids and is basically a giant scavenger hunt. From the looks of it, the parents are just as excited as the kids.
IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth
- This is EPCOT’s 12 minute firework and laser light presentation.
- IllumiNations can be viewed from anywhere around the World Showcase. Seating fills up fast though so be sure to reserve yourself a seat well before the 9 pm start time.
- First Aid is located between Future World and World Showcase on the left hand side of the park in the big brown building (there really is no other way to describe that).
- Disney’s first aid is staffed with registered nurses that can assist you with any concern you have.
- If you have medication that needs to be refrigerated you can check it at first aid and they can store it for you so you don’t have to haul a cooler.
- Baby Care is located directly next to First Aid. Here you will find several changing tables, a nursing room, separate feeding room, as well as a small shop for buying all baby essentials, such as ready-made formula, pacifiers, Infant Tylenol, bottles, sippy cups, and even onesies. There’s even a comfy couch to relax on if you don’t happen to be the one on diaper duty!
- This is a great place to visit if your child is becoming overstimulated, and need to be away from the excitement for a while. A little spell in an air-conditioned room (with cartoons, of course) may be in order if anyone starts feeling overwhelmed (them, or you!).
- Unfortunately strollers are not allowed in the Baby Care Center.
- Disney’s PhotoPass Service gives you professional photographs of your Walt Disney World vacation. View the photos online, order prints and create custom photo keepsakes. You can also purchase/view the photos in the park.
- To use PhotoPass simply see any of the photographers located throughout the park and they will hand you a card that will store all your photos. Simply create an account when you get home and you can edit the photos and create fun gifts. Be sure to check out their website for more information.
- This is hands down the best invention ever! Simply put your ticket in the FASTPASS machine and come back to the ride at the time it tells you. It virtually eliminates having to wait in line and allows you to see more of the park. Check out Disney’s site for the list of rides and for more information on FASTPASS services.
Rider Switch Pass
- Rider Swap is when you can take turns waiting with kids too small to ride a certain ride then “swap” with another adult from your party to experience the ride without standing in line twice.
- If you’re not sure if the ride offers rider swap, simply ask the cast member at the entrance.
Dining Tips/Dietary Concerns
- If you are going to eat at one of the casual dining locations call ahead for reservations, most can be made 180 days in advance by calling 407-WDW-DINE.
- If you have any food allergies let them know when you are making your reservation for your casual or fine dining location, that way a note can be made in your reservation.
- Disney also recommends that if you are staying on property you make note of food allergies or dietary concerns at least 14 days in advance.
- If you are celebrating something special (first trip, birthday, anniversary, engagement etc) let them know and they can fix something special for you. Amanda and Scott eat at a Disney restaurant every anniversary since they were married there and have gotten anniversary menus to keep from each place.
- If you have food allergies and are eating at a quick service location they can bring someone out to show you what foods are best suited for you.
- There are three main special events every year at EPCOT, Food and Wine, Flower and Garden and Holidays around the World.
- Food and Wine is usually in October and November and features at least 25 different countries. Be sure to check out Disney’s site for more information.
- Flower and Garden is usually from March until May and hosts the biggest concert series of the year, the Flower Power series featuring music from the 1960s and 1970s. Be sure to check out Disney’s site for more information.
- Holidays around the World is host for the Candlelight Processional. Please click the link for additional information.
- The best time to visit Disney with multiple small children is of course, at the least busy times. We have found that right now (mid-to late-January until Spring Break) is one of the best times, as schools are generally in session in all areas of the country. You do run the risk of some slightly cold weather, but we’re betting it’s still going to be warmer than wherever you are from:) Once “spring break” time hits, it’s going to be crazy for a while.
- In general, weekdays are less crowded than weekends and holidays.
- During your day at the park, be flexible and ready to leave and take a break if needed. A day at Disney with several small children will be a blast- but will also be pretty physically and mentally demanding. Watch for your kids’ cues, and head for the exit before you have a multiple meltdown!
- If you are traveling to the park with your kids and are the only adult, it IS doable, but you will not be able to do most of the attractions unless your kids are old enough to walk on their own and stay with you. Since we are local to the area we frequent the parks together with our kids, mostly to walk around, see the parades, and maybe a show or two.
- If you are visiting the park on vacation, bring as many spare hands as possible! To be able to enjoy ALL of the attractions, you will want at least one adult per small child. If you are saving up for your Disney vacation and want your kids to truly enjoy every single aspect, consider waiting until at least age 3 or 4.
- If you or someone in your party has a disability (mobility, visual or hearing) please visit the Guests with Disabilities page on Disney’s website for more information.
- Visit Disney’s website and request a vacation planning DVD, it will have even more information than we provided and it’s free!
We hope you enjoyed all the tips and information. Please let us know what you think or if you have any additional questions!