epcot2When we decided to visit Disney World during Spring Break and Easter weekend, we didn’t really factor in the expected lines and big crowds. So, we decided to spend our first day at Epcot.

Epcot may not be the first Disney park you may consider as a good place to start for your kids. It’s big, it’s educational, it doesn’t have the roller coasters and more popular rides (although it’s Soarin’ is actually the theme park’s most popular ride we were told), it kind of involves concentration and awareness. But it is fabulous with a capital “F” for so many reasons and really is the best place to orientate your children to the magic of Disney.

It’s also less congested than the other parks. The lines are more manageable, and there are creative strategies to avoiding lines if you know in advance, like the Fast Pass which is described in more detail below. Asa a parent, it’s nice to combine the thrills and the education. The rides teach about history – future and past. They also explore the depths of our imagination. It is a unique and wonderful place and it’s very easy to fill up an entire day.

There are nine pavilions in the Future World part of the park, and 11 countries are featured in the World Showcase. We started and ended our day in the Future World. My six-year-old is very into planets, spaceships and technology, so I knew he’d be attracted to much of its offerings, which includes rides, touch and feel exhibits, 3-D films and shows. We took a stroll through the countries to break up the day between rides. It was a very pleasant day – no rushing around from attraction to attraction. We followed our nose and it worked out. A lot of guidebooks suggest that you map out your route, and I’m not saying that wrong. But we kind of liked going with the flow. However, knowing what rides you don’t want to miss in advance is a huge help.

One especially helpful hint to note: Disney has a wonderful policy called Fast Pass where you insert your ticket into a machine and get a timed reservation to return. When you do, your wait is 10-15 minutes. We did this several times throughout the day, and it was a wise move every time.

The park opens at 9am and we managed to organize ourselves to get up and out to make it before the lines got long. Here’s a snapshot of our visit to Epcot with some thoughts so you know what attractions are hits and which are misses for family trips to the park:

  • Spaceship Earth: It’s a 13-minute ride that shows how human communication has evolved since the beginning of time. It starts in prehistoric ages and shows the scientific progress made until today. At the end of the ride, you map out your own future. My son, who was a first-timer at Disney, was mesmerized and ready for more.
  • Soarin: Worth the wait. I was happy to see that my son was big enough for this ride and many others in the park. You are seated in a plane-like row of seats and taken on a exhilarating ride through the air that takes you across the world. This was the first time that my son looked at me during the ride and loudly stated, “I love this ride so much.” He’s not the easiest child to please, so what a feat.
  • Mission Space: Our son loves space and everything to do with it. Thankfully, he met the height requirement on this ride. You step into a mock space capsule which simulates some of the experiences of a real launch and spaceflight. It threw me off at first when I saw vomit sacks
  • Test Track: In my son’s opinion, “Awesome.” He loves race cars, and this ride is no exception. You board a GM vehicle and take a long, fast ride, both inside and outside. It’s fast and furious, and a complete and utter thrill.
  • Epcot Charater Spot: My kids had no problem waiting 30 minutes to meet 5 of their favorite Disne
    y characters including Mickey and Minnie. They secured their autographs in their new autograph books (purchased at the gate as soon as we entered).
  • Other attractions to cheek out: Living with the Land, Journey into Imagination with Figment, Image Works, The Circle of Life, The Seas with Nemo & Friends. The 3-D film, Captain EO, starring the one and only Michael Jackson and Character Spotting Areas where kids can met up to 5 characters at a time.

Then, of course there’s the wonderful World Showcase featuring eleven countries. Even my cynical husband was impressed by the amount ofukepcot detail that went into each one. The walk through took about two hours and the attractions in a few made them more interesting for my kids (Gran Fiesta starring Three Cabelleros in Mexico, Reflections of China in China, Maelstrom in Norway). The food is also incredibly authentic in each country, and I can’t tell you how happy my English husband was to stop for a beer ina UK pub. And how much fun was it for my kids to meet Pooh and friends in an English toy shop and Mary Poppins outside the pub? There’s also music in the streets, art projects in various countries and character meeting opportunities for when the kids have had enough.

Epcot is a wonderful day-trip for a family. It’s leisurely, not as crowded as the other parks, but requires a bit of foresight into what you want to see. Be ready to pull out your ticket to get a fast pass when necessary, and give your children breaks when they get tired. The great thing about Epcot is that you they can stop to look at flowers or explore the Rose Gardens in England. The options are endless.

Disclosure: I was provided with a complimentary Disney World Park Hopper ticket by the folks at Visit Orlando, but all opinions expressed are my own.