Is Epcot Fun for Tweens?
Epcot is fun no matter how old you are, but let’s face it, it can be a complete hit or miss when it comes to tweens. I mean there is no denying navigating the tween years can be tricky. They are too old for Dumbo at Walt Disney World, but depending on their maturity, Epcot may be a bit too mature or lacking the excitement of Space Mountain.
For those hoping your tweens will love Epcot have stumbled upon the right article because here is our comprehensive list of tips, tricks, hints, and everything else you need to know about our favorite Walt Disney World theme park. It also highlights our favorite places to dine inside the World Showcase because it really does have the best selection of dining whether you are using your Disney dining plan or not.
Knowledge is power and if you have enough cool insights and tidbits on the secrets behind Epcot, then it’s a million times more interesting. If I had to pick one park over another it would without a doubt be Epcot’s World Showcase. Epcot has always been my favorite Disney Park. I absolutely love it there, and I could spend days wandering around the World Pavillion taking in the different cultures sans the jet lag which is a huge bonus.
There is so much to see, do (…and eat,) that we’re constantly finding new things we love, but for quite sometime Kiddo didn’t feel the same magic, and that needed to change.
Why Epcot is Great for Traveling with Tweens
On our last trip to Walt Disney World for the Disney Social Media Moms Conference, we spent as much time as we could inside Epcot because we welcomed the change of pace. Quite frankly, I forgot how much I loved it there. So much that I will be getting a guide the next time we go because I genuinely want to know everything about the property. But before then, I am on a clear mission: To explore Epcot like I’ve never done before.
Epcot World Showcase is also known for their exceptional shopping. I personally think it’s the best out of all the other theme parks. Indigenous to the country, expect to buy perfume in France, tea in Great Brittain, hand knit woven sweaters (and trolls,) in Norway, hockey jerseys in Canada, to trolls in Norway, parasols, paintings, beer steins, you name it.
By taking advantage of Extra Magic Hours you and your family can ride the most popular attractions first using your FastPASS+ without having to wait in long lines.
What You Need to Know Before You Go to Epcot
For those who are first-timers to Epcot, take advantage when the park has Extra Magic Hours. Regardless, I highly recommend getting there as early as possible (to avoid the afternoon and evening crowds,) via water taxi. You can jump aboard one at Disney’s BoardWalk Inn, Disney’s Beach Club Resort, or Disney’s Yacht Club Resort. The water taxi will drop you off at the back entrance of Epcot along the World Showcase between France and Britain. It is the perfect spot to start your day.
Plus, if you plan properly, this is a park where you can miss all of the crowds and really enjoy yourself. But remember to wear comfy shoes because many visitors don’t realize Epcot is twice the size of the Magic Kingdom! I swear! The distance around the World Showcase and lake from France to Canada is 1.25 miles.
Epcot World Showcase with Tweens
The American Pavilion was created using what they call “forced perspective.” This is the same method they used when constructing Sleeping Beauty’s castle in Disneyland. Imagineers felt actual-sized buildings from this era were quite small and could not be visibly seen from across the World Showcase Lagoon. The structure that houses “American Adventure” is five stories high, but has tall doors and window designed to seem only three stories. You can definitely notice this when you are near the gift shop door. The opens appears to be somewhere between 10-12’ high. Now that’s crafty!
The front wall of the American Pavilion is home to a series of doors which the first ones open to reveal an elevator!
When strolling through Canada in Epcot’s beautiful World Showcase, pay special attention to the enormous rock at the Kodak picture spot. This rock is a mere decoy and actually opens! Inside is the lighting and sound equipment used in IllumiNations.
The Canada Pavilion also has not one, but two walking trails. The first trail is home to a rickety, deserted mine and waterfall (which masks the sound of a loud generator,) on the way to see the O Canada! movie, and the second one is a true walking trail where you can clearly see the landscape of the pavilion. But don’t get too used to the view because the trees located in Canada are replaced when they grow large. Speaking of which, the vegetation changes to mimic the seasons in Canada.
What I would consider some of the most identifiable traits of the Canada Pavilion are the large three totem poles. But did you know that they are real? I swear! The cedar totem pole on the left weighs 700 lbs. The 30-foot totem pole was carved by Tsimshian Indian carver, David Boxley. The top of the totem pole shares the story of Raven fooling the Cheif of Skies to release the sun, moon, and stars from a decorated cedar chest.
Another example of “forced perception” can be found here in Canada, but only in reverse! Hotel du Canada appears to be five stories tall when in fact is only three.
Fun fact: Up until 2013 the public phone booth in the Canada pavilion worked and the telephone number was: (407) 827-9884
Where to Eat: Make a reservation for a proper steak and seafood dinner inside the candlelit cellar at Le Cellier Steakhouse.*
Just so you know, the temple in China is what can be defined as being acoustically perfect. Try it yourself if you don’t believe me! Stand exactly in the middle and your own voice will echo back. And if the area seems crowded, it really isn’t. The Imagineers designed the pathways in China narrow on purpose. This gives the illusion that you are on a busy street, crowded with pedestrians.
China also has a great souvenir option. Guests are invited to purchase hand fans which can be personalized at no additional cost. The bonus? They write your name in Mandarin.
Also, if you happen to be near the African Outpost near China at 5 pm, you are in prime location to see the drawbridge go up. This is where you can see the crew bring out the launching pad they use for the Illuminations show. But be prepared to wait it out because once the drawbridge is open, all foot traffic comes to a halt and you won’t be able to cross until they are finished.
Oh, and make sure to open the lids on the crate in the African Outpost and see what happens next!
Where to Eat: We are big fans of the Pan-Chinese cuisine served up at Nine Dragons Restaurant. It’s one of our favorite places for lunch for Cantonese, Mongolian, Szechuan, Hunan, and Kiangche specialties.
There is nothing better than starting your day out in Paris, France. The entrance is near the waterway which signifies the English Channel between the France and United Kingdom pavilions. As for France’s most iconic structure, The Eiffel Tower is only 1/10 the scale of the real Eiffel Tower measuring only 103 feet high. Birds are a dead giveaway, so Disney uses natural bird deterrents in order to keep birds from sitting on the design to prevent ruining the illusion.
For the longest time, diners at Chefs de France could expect a special visit from the one and only Remi, star of Ratatouille. Why they removed the item in 2013, I’m not sure, but I wish they would start again. The small, animatronic Remis would visit diners and interact with them. It could even answer questions!
On your walk to Morocco, you’ll notice a curvy, dark stretch of pavement. This apparently symbolizes the Straits of Gibralter.
Where to Eat: For a true fine dining experience, look no further than Monsieur Paul. This luxurious restaurant is located above Les Chefs de France, where you’ll discover a sophisticated wine list and sweeping views of World Showcase. Please note, a dress code is enforced.*
I’m not a fan of German food, but apparently, I’m the only one. How do I know this? Well, the Biergarten restaurant serves 26.2 miles of bratwurst. That’s longer than a marathon course! The Biergarten is a fun place to dine, and much louder than any other Epcot restaurant I can think of.
If you look up in the courtyard of Germany, you will see a clock. Be there on the top of the hour to catch the cuckoo clock in action when it rings and a wooden German girl (fräulein) and a wooden German boy (frau) twirl around.
But when you are looking at the train set in Germany, find the church and on the side near the bridge by the lagoon, there are four hidden Mickeys. There is also one on the castle.
Also in the train set—On the side of the bridge farthest from the lagoon, in the brownish-colored castle, on the right side in the farthest window is a hidden Mickey. It looks like one of the little rubber ones you can buy. He is dressed up in his suit and is just standing there in the window.
Where to Eat: Celebrate Oktoberfest all-year long at Biergarten Restaurant with authentic German cuisine and live Polka! Not only is it family style, but you sit at communal tables with others feasting on bratwurst, chicken, pork schnitzel and strudel.
Located in the center of the Italy pavilion is Plaza del Teatro where you can find none other than the Fontana de Nettuno. This fountain boasts the image of Neptune who is the god of the sea and was inspired by Bernini’s famed Fontana di Trevi in Rome, Italy. Don’t forget to make a wish!
Rumor has it that one of the column sculptures featuring carved men which are probably monks or clergy, in the far corner of the pavilion, is actually holding a bowling ball. Yes! A bowling ball because one of the designers was a bowler and wanted to leave their stamp on the building.
Perception isn’t always reality, at least at Epcot it’s not. Many of the statues you see look as though they’ve been carved by Italian marble when in fact they are hollow! They are so lightweight that they need to be screwed in using rods to prevent them from blowing away!
Where to Eat: Those looking for vegetarian-friendly dining options in Epcot should consider Tutto Italia Ristorante. But that’s not all they have. Go back to your childhood Sunday dinners when grandma would make her famous red sauce, antipasti, and cannoli.
The Japanese pagoda is five stories tall, each representing one of nature’s elements: earth, water, fire, wind, and sky.
The statue on the right side of the entrance to Japan was a gift to Walt Disney World from the government of Japan when the Magic Kingdom opened decades ago.
On the lower level, check out Mitsukoshi which is a department store with the coolest stuff! Kiddo even picked an oyster which had a very large pearl inside. From there, she chose a setting, and the ring was made for her right their in the adjacent jewelry shop. The pearls range in size and color, and you get to keep it. But act fast because there is always a line!
Another super secret find, that was the pop-up “sushi and shaved ice” shack outside the entrance of the pavilion. I’ll admit, at first I was hesitant, the way I am with pre-packaged grocery store sushi, but oh, my, goodness it was delicious! And an extremely affordable option for those looking to grab a quick lunch in the park. The three of us ate here twice during our visit.
Oh, and did you spot the hidden Mickey on the gold bells?
Where to Eat: There is something incredibly seksi about Tokyo Dining (a full review will be coming up shortly!) Between the authentic Japanese cuisine and views of the World Showcase Lagoon, it is hard not to love this place. It’s so vibrant, modern, and most importantly, delicious!*
I’m sad to share that we really didn’t have the pleasure to spend much time in the Mexican pavilion. I’ve heard many wonderful things about their restaurant, but we did not have the chance to experience it for ourselves.
There are relief carvings decorating the sides of the pyramid which happens to be a focal point in the Mexico pavilion. They were actually added later to the structure to deter small children from climbing the little steps.
Where to Eat: One of the best places to view the fireworks, La Hacienda de San Angel is home to authentic Mexican cuisine and old-world hospitality. Enjoy your favorite Mexican dishes and signature margarita under colorful star lanterns.*
Another favorite of mine, Morocco is without a doubt one of the most special pavilions in all of Epcot. Each of the tiles found in Morocco has been handmade and not one depicts life.
At nighttime, you may notice the temple in Morocco is particularly dark. This is another perfect example of how there are no accidents or oversights at Disney. Remember how I told you that casts members are recruited from their native lands? Disney Imagineers felt it was important to honor and respect the nation’s religion and practice their beliefs. They also designed a gold prayer room for the Cast Members to use and it’s also open to the public.
To our delight, guided tours of Morocco are offered at various times. The 20-minute tours are complimentary. For more information, simply ask a cast member at the Marrakesh kiosk for assistance. They can even help you find one of two secret museums in Epcot!
The Moroccan King was so excited that Disney had included the Morocco Pavillion in the World Showcase, that he not only paid for the constructions himself, but sent a team of his very own men over to help build the structures. But it didn’t end there! Every year, the King of Morocco still sends craftsmen to Epcot to fix and touch up anything that needs attention free of charge.
And there’s even more! When walking through Morocco, take a closer look at the mosaics. Did you notice each piece of artwork has at least one cracked or flawed tile? Created by Moroccan artisans and courtesy of the Moroccan government, it is another touch which honors the Moroccan religion. People of Morocco worship Allah and they are taught to believe only Allah can create perfection, therefore every mosaic is purposely flawed.
One particular spot tweens love at Epcot is located inside of the Morocco Pavilion. At the Art of Henna boutique, artisans will paint beautiful designs on guests which can last a few weeks.
Where to Eat: Who knew eating with your hands could be so romantic? At Restaurant Marrakesh, dine on Moroccan delicacies like lamb, shish kebab, couscous and chicken inside the sultan’s palace.
Another big favorite of mine is the Norway Pavilion of Norway. What a cool place. Even way before the hugely popular Frozen attraction was added, Norway always brought us so much pleasure and the cast members inside the store are a blast.
Authentic to its roots, the rooftops in Norway are even decorated with real grass. Since the Pavilion is lacking goats, Cast Members are responsible for trimming the grass with clippers and if you look closely, you can even spot sprinklers.
Whatever you do, walk behind the ship behind the bakery, where you can snack on ice cream, cloud.
The Frozen attraction is ready to go, and hugely popular so make sure to carve out time to see it for yourself, but if you have a child obsessed with princesses, Norway is also home to Akershus Royal Banquet Hall. Reserve an early 8 am reservation with the advance dining option (available 180 days prior to your visit,) to secure this sought after breakfast. Not only will you beat the Epcot crowds, but the magical breakfast is hosted by many Disney Princesses like Belle, Cinderella, Aurora, Ariel, Snow White and more are available for meet-and-greets.
8 am reservations also mean you’ll be the first guests in the park when you are finished. If you will be the first in line to take part in all of the Frozen-themed fun. Set inside a medieval castle, meet the Disney Princesses for Storybook Dining. We highly recommend trying “Taste of Norway” for a day filled with Norwegian-inspired cuisine. A selection of the finest Scandinavian seafood, cheeses, and meats will be waiting for you and your family.
This is the same location where you’ll find the Frozen Ever After ride as well as the Anna and Elsa meet and greet for those looking to score a photo.
Near the Rose & Crown are shops each representing a century throughout history beginning with the 1600s. Some have thatched roofs, low ceilings, dim lighting, and wrought iron fixtures, while the shop with an Est. 1702 plaque has a higher ceiling and if you stare at it from the outside you can clearly see the cantilever which served multiple purposes, the prime was having to do with tax evasion. Second, and to give you an even more visual, was what they “may or may not have” thrown out the upstairs windows into the drains that ran down the center of the streets. Just another reason gentlemen walking near the road wore large brimmed hats while ladies walked very near the bldgs.”
Finally, the neoclassical building designed in the 1800s. The windows, interior window coverings, lighting fixtures are quite ornate. Even the ceilings are carefully painted with beautiful murals. Upon exiting the shop, on your right, is another 1800 building, but be sure to look up and study the rooftops. Notice Mary Poppins style chimneys? She’s known to make afternoon meet and greets in that area in the garden which represents Hyde Park. This is where you can find a shrubbery maze with short hedges to prevent children from getting lost.
If you enter the area using the path rather than the pedestrian road, you will notice a “not-a-Garden” or more specifically, a “Knot-a-garden” representing the local apothecary. The hedges are grown in the shape of a knot, and each “section” of the garden had a different herb planted in it.
Where to Eat: If you’re up for a pint, bangers and mash, or fish and chips, Rose & Crown pub will hook you up.
* Advance reservations are highly recommended and can be made up to 180 days prior to your visit.
Have You Visited Epcot?
We would love to know more about your experience. By sharing your tips, recommendations and memories in our comment section below, you help fellow members of The JetSet Family community decide the best fit for them and their families. Let us know what you liked most, or if you have any questions about Epcot World Showcase.
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