Of all the Disney parks, Epcot has always seemed the most grown-up. Perhaps it is the international influence, the beer and wine served at various eateries and fewer Disney character sightings. But the reality is, Epcot has much to offer to children, especially when it comes to cultural educational opportunities. Recently I spent some time at Epcot with my three grandkids. There were plenty of teachable moments – and they didn’t even realize they were learning.

Entertainment that provides educational value is always a good thing. Here are a few Epcot experiences that kept my little ones entertained and taught them a few things along the way.

Into Spaceship Earth, Photo by Jennifer Acocella

Into Spaceship Earth, Photo by Jennifer Acocella

Spaceship Earth – Inside the Giant Golf Ball

Epcot’s iconic Spaceship Earth is impossible to miss. The 180-foot-tall ball is the first thing you see when entering the park.  My grandkids were excited to go inside the “giant golf ball” for a ride and had no idea they would be learning about the history of communication. We traveled through a time machine experience back to the days of prehistoric cave men who communicated with smoke signals and on to the invention of the alphabet. The computer that took up an entire room fascinated the kids – especially when I told them I remembered those. At the end of the ride the kids had the chance to design their own future using the touch screens embedded into the ride cars.

Living With the Land – Beyond the Grocery Store

Plants from Living from the Land, Photo by Jennifer Acocella

Plants from Living from the Land, Photo by Jennifer Acocella

A ride that teaches the origins of food and illustrates new and innovative ways to garden might not sound all that interesting, but Living With the Land will surprise you. The ride brings agriculture to life as you go through multimedia displays of rain forests to farmsteads.  There are examples of produce from around the world and you can even see nine pound lemons and Mickey shaped pumpkins. We cruised past live eels, tilapia, catfish, freshwater shrimp and alligators at the fish farm.  When I pointed out the cacao pods, the kids were excited to learn that chocolate really does grow on trees. .

If you have time, check out the Behind the Seeds tour.  This one hour educational walking tour of the fish farm and four greenhouses that make up The Land Pavilion provides a unique interactive experience for everyone from preschool kids to adults. You can visit the fish farm during feeding time, check out the alligators, get a close up look at gigantic fruits and vegetables from all over the world and release ladybugs into the greenhouse to help protect the plants.

Pick a Country – Any Country

Norway at Epcot, Photo by Jennifer Acocella

Norway at Epcot, Photo by Jennifer Acocella

As the Globetrotting Grandmom I spend a good amount of time traveling internationally. Obviously I cannot always take the grandkids along, but I can walk with them through the pavilions of countries I have visited.

One of my favorite countries is Norway, the land that inspired the mega hit movie, Frozen. The kids have all seen the movie, so there was no need for me to introduce them to Anna and Elsa. But walking through the Norway pavilion, I could point out the replica of a 14th century fortress that I recently visited in Oslo and a stave church built using 13th century medieval craftsmanship.

In the Canada area, elements of the country’s diverse landscape are built into the setting. The Canadian Rockies are featured in the stream strewn with boulders that flows to a 30 foot waterfall. Butchart Gardens from Victoria are mimicked in the lush grounds.

Over in Germany, the clock tower has a glockenspiel that chimes each hour and the miniature German village houses have model trains – always a kid favorite.

Visiting these and other country pavilions provide plenty of opportunities to tell the kids stories about the various cultures and places I’ve visited – something I hope will inspire them to travel internationally when they are older.

IllumiNations – More than a Fireworks Show

The highlight of any Epcot Center visit is the brilliant nightly spectacle IllumiNations.

IllumiNations at Epcot, Photo by Jennifer Acocella

IllumiNations at Epcot, Photo by Jennifer Acocella

Even though my little ones began to fade before the start time of 9 p.m., they quickly brightened up for the show and sat mesmerized as it unfolded before us across the World Showcase Lagoon. Of course their eyes are focused on the brilliant colors, music and designs, but spend a few minutes explaining the meaning behind IllumiNations and it opens an entire new world to the kids.

The presentation actually represents the history of the planet.   It starts with the birth of Earth. There are flames and fireworks depicting a heavenly explosion followed by a glowing globe gliding across the lagoon waters.

Next the globe’s illuminated surface chronicles the history of humanity and achievements through time – life’s triumphs. Finally, the globe blossoms into a flower revealing a blazing touch which represents our dreams for the future.

And as a grandmom, I am all about dreams for the future.  Loved this show.