Disney World with a Toddler – Part 4: Epcot (or, "ISHYS!!!" that is, fishies, according to Baby Girl)

We rounded out our trip with a visit to Epcot. This park is much more focused on education and science, and while they’ve definitely made an attempt to be more appealing to kids, it didn’t offer a whole lot for the youngest visitors. If your time at Disney is limited you should definitely eliminate this park in favor of more time at Magic Kingdom, but if your stay is long enough (we had six park days) it’s worth it to spend at least some time at Epcot, if only for the character experiences (and the aquarium if your kiddos like fishies).

Rides/Attractions
1. The Seas with Nemo and Friends

C is obsessed with “ishys,” and was utterly captivated with this ride that took you on a tour of Nemo’s undersea world. There was a close encounter with sharks and that glowing fish with huge teeth from the movie that might be frightening for more sensitive toddlers, but C absolutely loved this ride. We did it twice (walked on both times, though they do offer a fastpass option).

2. Turtle Talk with Crush
This was a fun, interactive experience (much like the Monster’s Inc. Laugh Floor in Tomorrowland) where Crush visits with a group of tourists to find out more about people and answer our questions about turtles. If C had been a bit older she would have loved it, but right now sitting still isn’t high on her list of priorities so she got kind of bored and had more fun looking at the sea creatures in the exhibits outside the theater.

3. Seabase (the aquarium)

I think this might have been C’s favorite thing about our whole trip. The aquarium is gigantic, and full of floor to ceiling windows so you feel like you are actually inside the tanks with the sea creatures. C was fascinated by it all, and would have happily stayed here all day.

4. Maelstrom
This is a boat ride through the history of Norway. It was interesting to us and had a lot of fun displays to look at. There is a giant troll that shows up a couple times and a waterfall “drop” that could be scary to some, but C didn’t mind it.

5. The Circle of Life
This is a movie, which we thought would be kind of a recreation of the Circle of Life song from the Lion King with real animals. Instead it was a rather depressing and pointed description of the mess humans have made of the planet, and seemed to imply that we should go back to living off the land in small tribes, fighting for survival like all the rest of the wild animals. Meh. Skip this and go see The Festival of the Lion King at Animal Kingdom.

Entertainment
We didn’t end up watching any shows here, although several of the countries on the World Showcase had troupes of entertainers (acrobats, musicians, etc.). It was very hot when we were walking past the countries, and if we had stopped C would have wanted out of the stroller and then we would have been chasing our toddler through the back alleys of Morocco…yeah, we decided not to go there. 🙂 We also decided against staying for Illuminations, since the evening show again would have meant getting back to the hotel way past C’s bedtime. Maybe when she’s older and can handle sleep deprivation a bit better…

Characters
If your child loves characters, Epcot is definitely the place to take them! You can meet virtually all the classic Disney characters as well as most of the princesses. C had a field day!
1. Mickey, Minnie, and Puto

We met these guys first thing. They have their own “character spot” inside one of the buildings, but we didn’t have to wait at all (I think there was one group in front of us). Mickey left for a “cheese break” right before we met him (this is very common, I think it’s probably a chance for them to switch actors as needed) but we only had to wait about two minutes before he came back. Since this was one of our last days at Disney World C was already super familiar and comfortable with meeting characters, so she just ran right up to them. Unfortunately she didn’t want to smile at the strange photographer taking our family pictures…oh well.

2. Chip and Dale

We met these guys outside. We had to wait for a bit since they took a water break not long after we got in line (it was HOT and they were in head to toe fur…I don’t blame them for needing frequent breaks!) but it was worth it. C treated them like giant stuffed animals, hugging and cuddling and holding hands. They loved her, and didn’t want her to leave. 🙂
3. Alice in Wonderland

We didn’t even plan in meeting Alice, but she was standing outside England as we were walking past so we thought, why not! C warmed right up to her, giving big smiles and waves. Alice’s attendant was an Arkansas Razorback fan, so he chatted for a while with Chris (who was wearing a Hogs shirt) and then offered to take our picture (he didn’t do that for everyone). These are some of my favorite group shots.

Food
1. Akershus Royal Banquet Hall

I made reservations for this character buffet as soon as we booked our trip, and I’m so glad I did! This is absolutely the best way to meet the princesses in my opinion, cheaper and easier to get into than Cinderella’s Royal Table (which generally books up 180 days in advance). Other reviews said you don’t necessarily get to meet princesses (Alice and Mary Poppins are sometimes included in the mix) but we got to meet all the classic ones, including Cinderella! (We were told she doesn’t often appear at this venue). We started with a photo op with Belle (this photo package, unlike ones at the other character meals, was complimentary). Then we got our food (only the appetizer was buffet, the entree and dessert you ordered off the menu) and waited for the princesses to make their way to us. Snow White came first, followed by Aurora, Cinderella, and Ariel. C and I also participated in the “Princess Promenade” around the restaurant, led by Snow White (Snow was absolutely taken with C, and gave her another forehead kiss as she left). Right after we met all the princesses C started to have a meltdown (it was passed nap time at this point) and then proceeded to leak out of her diaper all over my leg (I didn’t have a change of clothes for either one of us…whoops). So we ended the meal quickly, but at least our character experience was a good one!

2. The Reef
We had another reservation at the Reef restaurant for dinner, which is built against the aquarium so you can see the fish through the floor to ceiling windows. The ambiance was nice, but it was very crowded and our table was at the top tier, farthest away from the “windows,” so C didn’t really get to see much of the “ishys.”

3. Starbucks Frap snack
We used one of our snack credits to get Starbucks frappuccinos. If you’re a fan of overly sweetened coffee drinks (which we definitely are) this was a great value! You could get any size you wanted for one snack credit, so naturally we opted for ventis. 🙂

General Tips
1. Nap spot
By the time we left Norway after our princess meal C was out, so we found a nice, dark, cool spot inside Innoventions West (near the Great Piggy Bank Adventure). It was the perfect place to cool off and post some pictures to Instagram (taking full advantage of the free wi-fi offered pretty much all over Disney World).
2. My Disney Experience Ap
If you have an iPhone I highly recommend getting the free Disney World ap (search for My Disney Experience). It will give you maps of the park, show schedules, wait times for rides, and best of all character meet and greet times, which can vary greatly. It was super useful to us, and I would think even more so if you go at a more crowded time of year.

We had a great time at Epcot. Even though there wasn’t as much specifically geared toward toddlers, C still loved it here. We had a truly magical trip. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about our experience (and/or scrolling through pictures). If you missed any posts:
click here for Animal Kingdom
click here for Magic Kingdom
click here for Hollywood Studios

Let me know if you are planning your own Disney World adventure with tots, or if there are any tips I’ve missed!


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