Epcot’s the park for adults at Disney, right? Think again. There are a number of rides, activities and attractions designed just for toddlers, including a gentle boat ride through an amazing greenhouse and a Q&A with the coolest dude in the ocean, Crush the sea turtle. Here are the not to be missed activities for preschoolers at Epcot In Walt Disney World.
Yes, Epcot has Plenty of Activities for Preschoolers
I have a confession to make.
For a number of years, we stopped visiting Epcot with our kids during our annual pilgrimages to Walt Disney World.
My husband and I loved stepping from one country to the next in the World Showcase and sampling international food and beverages. And we really enjoyed all the innovative technology on display in Future World. To us, Epcot always felt like a BOGO special; you got to visit two parks for the price of one admission.
But we just didn’t see the appeal for our children.
Boy…did we miss out.
Disney designed a number of perfect rides, attractions and activities for preschoolers at Epcot. Like all of the Walt Disney World parks, they offer free admission for children under 3.
And the best part about toddler rides at Disney World? The qualities that make them super for preschoolers mean they’re perfect for Grandma and Grandpa too! Here are some of our TravelingMom favorites.
The Seas with Nemo and Friends at Future World
Where can you learn about the birds and the bees from a turtle?
“Turtle Talk with Crush” is one of several preschool-friendly activities in The Seas. Cast members invite children to sit cross-legged in front of a very realistic video screen depicting the ocean floor. Crush, the lovable sea turtle from “Finding Nemo,” greets the kids and instructs them in the proper way to say “Duuuuuude.” If you’re unfamiliar with Crush, he speaks in a surfer dialect that reminds me of “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.”
Then the children ask Crush questions. He picks children with their hands raised, identifying them by the colors of their shells (shirts) and fins (sleeves). I sat in awe, impressed by the seamlessness of the video interaction with the kids. It’s Disney magic at its best.
The “Where do babies come from?” question came from one cheeky preschooler. Crush handled it nimbly by talking about mommy turtles laying their eggs in the sand. If the eggs sit in cool sand, boy turtles are hatched; hot sand produces girls. I like to learn something new every day, so this fun fact was an added takeaway!
More Fun for Preschoolers in The Seas
The namesake ride in The Seas takes guests on an underwater expedition in a clamshell as everyone looks for the perennially lost clownfish, Nemo. The preschoolers on our ride liked it but they LOVED Bruce’s SharkWorld, a play space dominated by a gigantic shark head that’s perfect for pictures.
The interior of The Seas pavilion is dominated by SeaBase Aquarium.
“After going on The Seas with Nemo & Friends ride, my toddler twins enjoy simply running around the 5.7-million-gallon saltwater aquarium with coral reefs, sharks, dolphins, turtles, manatees and more to point and look at,” says Tara Settembre, VIP TravelingMom. She recommends catching the fish feedings at 10:00 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. And, best of all, the attractions are inside so you’re protected from the heat or rain.
The Land Pavilion: Living with the Land
“Look at the cucumbers! Someday, they’ll become pickles!”
The mom sitting behind me in our boat explained this amazing fact to her preschooler as we cruised through the Disney greenhouses. Living with the Land is a perfect attraction for young, old and in-between. Why?
First, it’s air-conditioned. It can get brutally hot in Orlando theme parks and sometimes you just need to take a break.
Second, Living with the Land is a gentle boat cruise that feels like two rides in one.
The first part of the ride takes visitors through animatronic scenes depicting different temperate zones around the world. The ride opened in 1982 and was updated in 1993, but the technology feels old-school, compared to newer animatronic Epcot attractions like “Frozen Ever After.”
The ride continues through the Disney fish farm and greenhouses. Walt Disney World restaurants serve the 5,000 pounds of tilapia, sturgeon, and catfish, plus the produce is grown on site. The displays are beautiful, educational and inspiring. I left ready to build my own greenhouse!
TravelingMom Tip: Although “Living with the Land” is one of the wonderful activities for preschoolers at Epcot Center in Walt Disney World, the boat ride begins in a dark scene with a thunderstorm. If your little one is timid, you can gently discuss it as you leave the ride loading dock.
Soarin’ at the Land Pavilion
While visiting The Land, don’t miss the newly redesigned attraction Soarin’. I rode with TravelingMom Editor-in-Chief Cindy Richards. We’re both veteran travelers and our reaction was “WOW!” The young girl who exited with us kept squealing that she’d only been to one of the destinations we soared over (China with her grandma) but was now ready to see the world.
Soarin’ has a 40” height restriction, but parents visiting The Land with preschoolers can take advantage of Disney’s Rider Switch service. Approach one of the ride’s cast members, let them know you’d like to ride switch. One adult enters the ride and the other is given a pass and escorted to a waiting area with your preschooler. When the ride’s over, adult #2 can enter the ride without waiting.
Disney’s offered this service for as long as I can remember. When we visited the parks with our 3 little ones, each a different height, we used it extensively to juggle rides. Epcot offers the service on Soarin’, Test Track, Frozen Ever After, and Mission Space.
Imagination! Pavilion at Epcot
Figment, an adorable purple dragon, serves as a mascot for adventures in creative thinking at Epcot’s Imagination! pavilion. And the fun’s not just for the kids.
Sky riding, movie-clips watching, and hands-on science experimenting pleased Christine Tibbetts, Cultural Heritage TMOM as much as the preschoolers and families of all ages she observed.
Science and wondrous big thoughts intersect as the playful-yet-analytical fellow Figment teases imaginary thoughts and conclusions from everyone riding through the sky. It’s an entertaining exercise in “Let’s pretend!”
In the walkabout exhibit wing, experiments with sight and sound with lots of arm waving and toe-tapping entice little kids to see what results they can trigger. Traveling grandmothers wait their turn because Imagination! presents challenges equally interesting for all ages.
With three distinct sections, all indoors (two are seated events), Imagination! is a good spot to chill as well as dream.
Plus, Imagination! is located near the walkway connecting to the World Showcase, providing a meaningful bridge to familiar thinking and grand visioning.
Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros at the World Showcase
Many of the age-appropriate activities for preschoolers at Epcot are boat rides. The Gran Fiesta Tour, located in the World Showcase, is one of the best, exploding with color and brightness. Guests climb aboard a boat that floats past various settings highlighting Mexico. Kids will love the chase after Donald Duck and the upbeat music. Portions of the attraction have an “It’s a Small World” feeling with animatronic characters.
TravelingMom Tip: Ask to sit in the front row. It’s easier for preschoolers to see!
Sherry Boswell, Melodious TravelingMom offers the following words to the wise: “Watch little hands in the marketplace. The authentic Mexican merchandise like pottery, crystal, and jewelry is very tempting.” It’s great advice in Mexico and throughout Epcot where sparkling trinkets are within reach of preschoolers in strollers.
Norway’s Frozen Ever After
Guests traveling the World Showcase clockwise will leave Mexico and arrive in Norway and the newest attraction at Epcot. “Frozen Ever After” features beloved characters from the film; Elsa, Anna, Sven, Olaf and the rest of the cast star in brilliant animatronic displays, appearing to their young fans as magically life-like.
The ride is very, very popular with both girls and boys. And surprisingly, it’s extremely popular with seniors. That could have something to do with the air conditioning and the chance to sit down for a while.
TravelingMom Tip: To avoid long lines and extended wait times, definitely use the FastPass+ option for this ride. Even with the FastPass+, we waited about 15 minutes to board on a busy Friday afternoon.
Besides the major attractions and rides, there are a number of opportunities for character meet and greets at Epcot. Wayfinding TravelingMom Jennifer Kaufman feels these opportunities are less crowded than ones in the Magic Kingdom. Disney’s helpful online calendar provides a daily schedule of times and locations.
And, after a long day touring Epcot with your preschooler, finish up in one of the great restaurants in the World Showcase. If you’ve done it right, your little one is happily stroller napping and you can enjoy a crepe and a glass of wine – c’est la vie!