The World Passport area of Epcot is one of the most educational places to visit with children in the Magic Kingdom. In just a few hours, families can learn about cultures from all over the world. One of our favorite experiences is taking a food tour through World Passport, where children are exposed to unique dishes they might not find at home, opening their eyes to a new way of eating.
Teaching Kids About Culture Through the Food at Walt Disney World’s Epcot
Visiting Epcot offers the unique opportunity to travel around the world and experience many cultures in a loop that spans just over a mile. A great way to make this relevant and fun for kids is through their stomachs. Epcot is like a walking buffet with each “country” offering delicious food and drinks native to those countries.
Strolling along, visitors can stop in each country to soak in the ambience. With its replica buildings and gardens Disney really tries to make the experience as authentic as possible. Cast members in this area of Epcot actually hail from the country they work in and are more than willing to engage visitors in their native tongue and talk about their homeland.
When you find a country where you want to eat, sit down and talk with your kids about the food they’re enjoying and what they might be learning about the culture of that country. When you’re sitting in this perfect Disney created setting and all of these elements together, it results in a magical trip around the world where kids can learn while having fun.
Start at Epcot’s Souvenir Shops and Kiosks
There are 11 countries throughout World Passport (Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, Italy, the United States, Japan, Morocco, France, United Kingdom and Canada), each with its own table service restaurants (advance reservations are recommended), counter service restaurants, and kiosks serving native food and drink. The biggest challenge for families is knowing where to begin.
In our family we have a good eater, a picky eater, and an eater with a peanut/tree nut allergy. They can all find something to eat at Epcot. Children in general may be skeptical at first of trying unfamiliar food from other countries, but if you start small, you may find success.
I would recommend starting in the gift shops. Each country has its own souvenir shop which has small food items such as candy, chips, and cookies that are traditional to that country. Most of these items have a flavor or taste that American children find unique or unusual. This provides families with a way to expose children to another culture through food and they don’t have to spend a lot of money.
On our first trip to Epcot, we allowed each child to pick a snack from one country and then we would share it. We would discuss the texture, taste, similarities/differences with other products, and what it might tell us about the culture. For example, in Japan, we tried chocolate dipped Pocky biscuit sticks. We enjoyed the cookies, but the kids did comment on the unique shape of the cookie (it’s a stick) and the fact that once you got past the chocolate it didn’t taste like much of anything. When I asked my kids why they thought Japanese people might like these instead of our version of the cookie, they thought that maybe they didn’t like things that were super sweet or that they like snacks that aren’t messy. I think they might be on to something.
Epcot’s Counter Service Restaurants
One of my favorite areas in Epcot for exploring culture through food is France. At Les Halles Boulangerie, families can enjoy warm baguettes with butter, or macarons and éclairs while sipping café at the indoor or outdoor tables. Sitting outside on a sunny day, the smell of French pastries filling the air, truly transports visitors to another place and time.
Our kids could not believe their luck when we stumbled into the shop, because the smell makes your mouth water and the dessert selection is visually stunning. My children are very fortunate in that they have vacationed in France, so they connected with the smells immediately. They fondly remembered the croissants and fromage and even recognized some of the French words on the menu. The quality of the food is among the best in Epcot and families will not be disappointed with their small taste of la vie française.
Table Service Restaurants at Epcot
The table service restaurants are another fun way to experience other cultures in Epcot, so be sure to make a reservation in advance. We enjoyed our lunch at the Biergarten in Germany, designed of course as a Bavarian beer hall, with community table seating, serving buffet style German fare, and a traditional Oompah band completing the experience. The buffet offers a wide assortment of German sausages, sauerkraut, and potato dishes along with amazing apple strudel and Black Forest cake for dessert. Since it is a buffet, we asked the children to be open minded and try as many foods as they wanted. Surprisingly, they found some new favorites like white sausage, spätzle and schnitzel. They even proclaimed “if Germany is like the Biergarten, we want to get on the next plane to Munich!” Funny kids, it’s all about the food sometimes.
Teaching your kids about different cultures through the food at Epcot is easy to do. Disney provides the environment and the food, you supply the willing participants. Not all children have adventurous palates, but I’m sure there is something to entice them. It is the Magic Kingdom after all.
Other TravelingMom articles you might enjoy include: Outdoor Kitchens at the Epcot Food & Garden Show and Vegetarian Eats at Epcot International Flower & Garden Show