EPCOT: KIDS DO LOVE IT! {plus a FREE download}

Hearing people talk about how EPCOT isn't for kids drives me up the walls.  As if a kid isn't allowed to love a park that isn't roller coasters & rides from dawn till dusk.  So today I'm making it my personal mission to convince you to take your kids to EPCOT, no matter how old they are (or aren't).  I think it's World Showcase (aka the countries) that makes most parents apprehensive, but that can be the best part of the trip for kiddos, especially if they are less adventurous than the likes of "Soarin" & "Test Track".

Just because there may not be a Fastpass to catch your eye on every corner in World Showcase, there are still fun (& some free) ways to explore each country.  But how to do that you ask?  I have come through as the pinch hitter & designed a totally FREE way to discover some easily hidden gems. Check out this photo scavenger hunt I created to help keep your clan busy at EPCOT!  Click here to download a pdf printable version & then share your finds using the hashtag #kidsloveepcot to show your Disney love!  {All photo locations are listed at the end of the post in case you get stumped!}

Want another free option for added excitement?  Before you leave home, plan to have your kids collect pennies & quarters around the house.  In the past, we have bought containers of "Mini M&M's" to keep them organized.  The goal is then to press a penny in each country!  You can print off PDF maps of each park from this website ahead of time to help you easily locate them in each countries pavilion.  Your kids (or big kids like myself) can choose from designs with different characters & symbols from each country (flags, architecture, etc).  Maybe it's just fun, maybe it's educational....that's for you to decide!

If pressed pennies aren't your thing, there's plenty of other ways to use "tasks" to help your kids explore each pavilion where the rides are few & far between.  Each pavilion has KIDCOT stations manned by cast members from each specific country.  The first time you stop at one, the kiddos will get a Duffy the Disney Bear (on a sturdy popsicle stick) to color.  In each country, cast members will write a note, or even maybe your kids name, on their Duffy in their native language.  That was always my favorite part of EPCOT as a kiddo - seeing the cast members different clothes & hearing their accents.  {All the employees in each country work there as part of an educational exchange program & are residents of the country they represent.} It's a great place to ask questions about each country - what they like to eat at home, what is the weather like there, and so on.  It's perfect for the inquisitive crowd....and way cheaper than family vacations to China, Germany, & the rest.

You can also purchase an EPCOT passport in the shops in any country & at certain kiosks on the walkway to World Showcase for about $10.  They look almost exactly like a normal passport, but includes specific pages for each country that you get stamped in each pavilion at the KIDCOT stations. My parents bought one for my sisters & I to share decades ago (hello....3 pre-adolescent girls share?...bless them for trying) and we seriously fought over who got to hold it.  Who got to ask for the stamp.  Who got to look at it first.  You get the idea.  If your kid has show & tell, it's a great thing to bring home to tell about all the countries they "visited".

Aren't the stamps just the cutest?

If you are more of the kid-at-heart, then you may opt for taking the "Benches Around the World" challenge.  Perfect for moms, dads, grandparents, & kids alike.  If you want to print a copy to take with you, click the picture below & it will take you to the original image for a 3x4 card to carry or even scrapbook! 

 If your trip to EPCOT falls during either of the two festivals that occur throughout the year, there are even more exciting things to entertain the kids.  The Food & Wine festival clearly appeals to adults, but its' a fun way to expand the horizons of your kids appetites.  Plus, as part of the festivities there are multiple gardens and exhibits throughout the park - last year there was even a cranberry bog!  I recommend visiting on a weekday during this festival, as EPCOT gets very crowded & busy on the weekends with people coming purely to 'drink around the world'.  Over the past few years, it's become a bit more rowdy than in years past, so parents beware if you are hoping for a bit more "family" atmosphere (stick to a weekday).  

During the Flower & Garden festival (my personal favorite of the two), there is a walkthrough butterfly garden & a fairy garden with none other than Tinkerbell.  Hands down, the best part of the festival is the large topiaries throughout the park.  As a kid, my goal was to take a picture of EVERY. SINGLE. ONE.  Go big or go home, right? It's amazing the shapes they can great from plants of all sorts of Disney characters in the most elaborate scenes.

 If you (or your little ones) love them as much as me, there is a festival kiosk that sells wire topiary frames in various shapes (I recommend the Mickey shaped one, clearly) that you can take home & create your own.  All you need is peat moss & ivy or another low growing plant.  Don't worry though, they will send you home with basic instructions!  My dad & I each bought one years ago in a competition to see who could create the best one.  I may not have the greenest of thumbs....that's all I'm willing to say on the subject.

There are tons of character meet & greets at EPCOT that you can't find at other parks, like Donald dressed as one of the Three Caballeros, Sleeping Beauty by the Eiffel Tower, & Mulan in China.  There are a few recent changes to characters here, as Anna & Elsa have moved way from the Magic Kingdom to their new home in the Norway pavilion. (PS - Get a Fastpass for the new Frozen ride...the wait last week when it opened was 300 minutes!! I won't wait more than 30 minutes for anything but most definitely not FIVE HOURS!  Imagine the smells....the close talkers...the kids crying for a bathroom....beyond unmagical).

Another awesome new kid-friendly addition in Future World is the only chance to meet Joy & Sadness from 'Inside Out' & Baymax from 'Big Hero 6'.  Ususally characters from recent movies don't stay in the meet & greet rotations for extended periods, but at least there's now a location where future new faces might be seen in years down the road!

I hope you are able to find an idea or two to help your family experience all there is to offer at EPCOT - young and old alike.  The food.  The architecture.  The music.  The performers.  The characters.  And don't forget the rides!

Photo scavenger hunt answers: {Mexico - try on a sombrero; Norway - huge troll in the giftshop; China - white stone dragons guarding the giftshop exit; Germany - wall of cuckoo clocks in the gift shop; Italy - gondola poles at the water; USA - hall of flags walking into the American Adventure theater; Japan - koi ponds; Morocco - oversized camel in the gift shop; France - try on a beret in the shop; UK - red phone booth; Canada - totem poles}