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Headed To Disney? You Should Skip Magic Kingdom & Take the Kids to Epcot. Here’s Why.

Don't sleep on the "educational" park...

Originally Published: 
The new Guardians of the Galaxy ride at Epcot is already proving very popular.
Orlando Sentinel/Getty Images

Walt Disney World is home to four major theme parks: Magic Kingdom (the original), Disney's Hollywood Studios (home to Star Wars and the movies), Disney's Animal Kingdom (all the animals), and Epcot. The last is perhaps best known as the park with the World Showcase, and the one that seeks to provide education at its core. Because of this, it's also a park that parents with kids may avoid if forced to choose between Epcot and one of the other parks.

But coming from a mom-slash-Disney-writer who's been to both parks (~a lot~), let me assure you: That would be a mistake. Epcot may have aced the element of "edu-tainment" for which it's so well known, but it's so much more than that. I'm sharing the four major reasons kids of all ages will adore Epcot the next time you visit Disney World.

World Showcase

One of the best-known aspects of Epcot is the World Showcase, which features pavilions meant to represent countries and regions around the globe. At first glance, the World Showcase may seem like an adults-only zone, with its reputation for drinking around the world. However, this section of Epcot is a hidden playground for kids, offering a unique blend of entertainment and education.

For younger kids, World Showcase is a prime spot to see their favorite Disney characters. In the Norway Pavilion, you can ride the only Frozen-themed attraction at Walt Disney World, Frozen Ever After. The pavilion is also home to a meet and greet with Anna and Elsa from the film, and a Disney Princess character dining buffet at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall.

Over at the U.K. Pavilion, you could have the chance to meet with Winnie the Pooh, Mary Poppins, or Alice, while other countries are host to characters like Belle, Aurora, or Snow White.

World Showcase is home to some incredible shops that kids of all ages can enjoy, too. Over in the Japan Pavilion, make sure to check out Mitsukoshi, where you'll find an assortment of souvenirs, including unique apparel and Japanese candy, plus Nintendo and Pokémon merchandise.

Another underrated activity to consider in the World Showcase is Kidcot Fun Stops, which you can find in various pavilions. At each spot, your kids can collect activity cards with fun facts about the country, serving as a scavenger hunt for them to collect them all. You can find them at the following locations:

  • Mexico Pavilion (near Mexico Folk Art Gallery)
  • Norway Pavilion (at The Puffin's Roost)
  • China Pavilion (near the exit of Reflections of China)
  • Germany Pavilion (at Volkunst)
  • Italy Pavilion (outside, near La Bottega Italiana)
  • American Adventure Pavilion (outside, near Art of Disney)
  • Japan Pavilion (in the Bijutsu-kan Gallery)
  • Morocco Pavilion (at the Marketplace in the Medina)
  • France Pavilion (at Souvenirs de France)
  • United Kingdom Pavilion (at The Toy Soldier)
  • Canada Pavilion (at the exit of Canada Far and Wide in Circle-Vision 360)

Year-Round Festivals

While Epcot festivals used to last just a few weeks at a time, the park has essentially become a year-round festival park.

At the start of the year, you can enjoy the Epcot Festival of the Arts, focusing on culinary, visual, and performing arts. In the spring, you'll find a celebration of flowers with the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival. In the summer through fall, enjoy the Epcot Food and Wine Festival, followed by the Epcot Festival of the Holidays.

Each of these festivals includes not only food booths for the whole family to enjoy but also kid-friendly activities.

One of the most popular is the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival, where the park transforms into a blooming wonderland. The festival includes vibrant topiaries themed after fan-favorite Disney characters, and you'll find many interactive play areas for younger kids to enjoy.

The Epcot Food and Wine Festival introduces families to a world of global flavors. While parents can enjoy the wine and delicious eats, children can participate in kid-friendly activities, such as a Ratatouille-themed scavenger hunt, where you need to find Remy in each pavilion.

Journey of Water, Inspired by Moana

One of the newest additions to Epcot is a walkthrough attraction, Journey of Water, Inspired by Moana. As the title suggests, the new attraction is inspired by the film Moana but serves as a love letter to the beauty and thrill of water. (Seriously, don't let the sh*t-talkers deter you from visiting and enjoying it!)

As you walk through the path, you'll find different water elements that you can interact with, all with the movement of your hand or body. For example, at one point, you'll come across a doorway with water falling, water that will stop for you as you walk through. At the end of your journey, you'll be met by a giant Te Fiti from the film, which will thrill any young fans of the movie.

While this may not be a must-do for teens or older kids in your group, it will be a must-do when visiting Epcot if you have younger kids.

Thrill Rides

Speaking of older kids or thrill seekers, Epcot has a secret when it comes to its rides. While it may be best known for the slow-moving Spaceship Earth or the leisurely Frozen Ever After, it's actually home to some of the best adrenaline-pumping rides in Disney World.

Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind is a stunning roller coaster themed to the Guardians of the Galaxy films. The innovative coaster is Disney's first backwards-launched roller coaster, and each ride is accompanied by one of six different potential songs ("Everybody Wants to Rule the World" is my personal favorite). While the popular ride is marketed as a family coaster, you'll find that it's plenty thrilling for the teen in your group who is so over the slow-moving attractions at the park.

Nearby, Test Track is another must-do if you're looking for a speedy ride. The ride allows you to create your virtual concept car and test it out as it goes through various terrains and obstacles. The ride ends with a thrilling coast around the track, speeding you up to 65 mph.

And for any space-loving kids in the group, Mission: Space will be where you want to go. The ride is supposed to simulate astronaut training, so you'll find yourself in a capsule on a centrifuge. What this means is the ride is particularly intense, so much so that you can choose from two different versions: The Orange Mission is more intense, while the Green Mission is less intense with a centrifuge that does not spin as much.

So, yes, while Epcot may have some sneaky "edu-tainment," it does so in a way that can be enjoyable for all ages. While you'll find plenty to do at each of the four parks, here's my plea to not skip out on Epcot the next time you visit — you'll be glad you didn't.

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