Epcot is my entire family's favorite park. Hang out on any Disney-themed forum, and you'll hear lots of parents say Epcot isn't for kids because it's boring. We actually spend most of our time in World Showcase, though we have our favorites in Future World too. My son's favorite attractions include Soarin, Spaceship Earth, Agent P's World Showcase Adventures and Power City. What? You've never heard of Power City? Like us on our first visit, you probably walked right past it and never even knew it was there.
It's a running joke that all theme park rides exit through the gift shop, but in Epcot Future World, most of the rides exit through a pavilion full of interactive exhibits. The gift shop is still there, of course, but so are games your kids will love, cute photo ops and an array of digital souvenirs perfect for scrapbooking. And, unlike the gift shop, it's all free with your park admission.
Spaceship Earth Pavilion
After returning from your time travel experience and exiting the Spaceship Earth ride, you'll find yourself in Project Tomorrow. The first time we visited Epcot, we were on a busy touring plan, intending to see all the major attractions, so we bypassed this area and headed straight for the exit, even though my son really wanted to stop. On the next trip we scheduled in time to hit all of these pavilions. The interactive play area in Spaceship Earth has become a must-do for our family.
When you first exit the ride, you'll see an illuminated globe overhead showcasing photos of the guests taken during the ride, pinpointing where they're from. Watch for a few minutes and you're sure to see yourself up there. Stop at one of the kiosks in the center of the room, and you can email the photo and a video of your selected “future” to friends, family or yourself.
Project Tomorrow also includes the following interactive exhibits:
- Power City – This is my son's favorite game, and we play it every time we're in Epcot. You use shuffleboard sticks to push digital pucks around the floor. Each represents energy, and you need to move it around the city to areas that need power. This is a great way for the kids to burn off some excess energy (or for moms to get exhausted).
- Body Builder – A game about constructing the human body.
- Innervision – A Simon-type pattern game.
- Super Driver – A driving simulation game.
The Seas with Nemo and Friends Pavilion
The Seas with Nemo and Friends houses The Seas with Nemo & Friends ride and the interactive show, Turtle Talk with Crush. The pavilion also houses one of the largest saltwater aquariums in the world and an educational play area, Bruce's Shark World. Parts of the play area are geared for smaller children, but don't miss the shark-themed trivia and the photo op with Bruce. Note: This area of the pavilion is dimly lit. You will need your flash.
The aquarium houses more than 200 species of sea life and is fun for the whole family. (It's also one of my favorite places to sit down in the A/C and take a quick nap.) Check the schedule for fish feedings, and don't miss the second floor Observation Deck.
After your Journey Into Imagination with Figment, you'll find yourself in the ImageWorks – “What If” Labs. This play area is fun for kids of all ages, including some great activities for pre-readers.
The exhibits here include:
- Figment's Melody Maker – In this exhibit, you wave your arms to make Figment play music (“One Little Spark”, of course!). The pitch changes based on where Figment is on the screen.
- Stepping Tones – This is another great activity for burning off excess energy. Kids (or adults!) step on the squares to create sounds from different musical instruments.
- Compose Your Own Figment – At this exhibit, you choose a head, body type, wings, color and name for your own dragon, then email him home.
This area used to have a lot more exhibits, but we still really enjoy the ones that are here. Also, the gift shop area has a green-screen photo station where you can have your photo taken in a variety of Disney backgrounds and settings. It does cost extra, but it can be a really fun souvenir. My parents tried it out on their last visit.
Mission: SPACE Pavilion
After exiting Mission: SPACE, you'll find yourself in the Mission: SPACE Advanced Training Lab. Alternatively, you can take the kids (or adults prone to motion sickness) directly to the Training Lab and bypass the ride altogether. My son and I generally hang out here while the rest of the family rides.
The exhibits in the Mission: SPACE pavilion include:
- Mission: SPACE Race – This game is unique in that up to 56 people can play at once. Guests play on two teams to see who can get their rocket up first. The game runs continuously and you can step in and help your team at any point.
- Expedition Mars – This is a joystick video game where you fly around with a jet-pack.
- Space Base – Space Base is an indoor playground and climbing area for younger kids.
- Postcards from Space – This is another email station. Create and e-mail a video postcard of yourself.
Test Track Pavilion
The interactive activities in the Test Track pavilion are all related to the car that you designed on the ride. However, if you bypass the ride, there is a station where you can design your car and try out the exhibits. I'll be honest, we tried this pavilion right after the updated Test Track opened and most of this wasn't working correctly. I don't have much personal experience with these exhibits, but there's another email kiosk and a cute photo op, so it's worth checking out.
The interactive exhibits are:
- What’s Your Score? – This is a big screen where you can see how your vehicle compares to other guests.
- Give It a Spin! – In this video game, you race your car around a track against other guests and test out your vehicle over obstacles and challenging terrain.
- Showroom Showoff – Create a Chevy commercial for your vehicle and email it home. This is a great way to memorialize your vehicle design.
- Photo Finish – At this green-screen photo station you can pose for a picture with a Chevrolet car or your concept vehicle against various backdrops. The photos are sent to your email, and, unlike the photos in Imagination! pavilion, this one is free.
The most important tip is you don't have to ride the main attraction to explore these pavilions. Every pavilion has a back door that bypasses the ride, usually the door where you would normally exit the building.
If you are child-swapping or you have family members skipping a particular ride, these are great places to hang out and wait for the rest of your party. With all the fun exhibits, the younger kids won't even notice what they're missing out on. Keep in mind that each of these play areas can easily take 30 minutes to an hour to fully explore. It makes for a perfect area to sit in the A/C while the kids run around for a bit. However, I generally give my son a set time limit so he's prepared when I have to haul him away from the video games.
There are two pavilions without play areas – The Land pavilion, which houses Soarin', Living with the Land and the Circle of Life film, and The Universe of Energy pavilion, which houses Ellen's Energy Adventure. Of course, the two Innoventions pavilions house nothing but interactive exhibits. If you've never been to Innoventions, or if you've only ever stopped in to ride Sum of All Thrills, I highly recommend checking out some of the smaller exhibits in these pavilions too.
Scrapbooking with Your Digital Ephemera
I really love the email features on a lot of these activities. I always make sure I send emails to myself, in addition to sharing a bit of the magic with loved ones. With the email, you can save your photos and/or download your videos. Note: Videos do expire at some point, so remember to download them when you get home. After you save your photos, you can print and use them in like any other photo of your trip in Project Life or on a traditional layout. Here you can see I cut out my son's Figment and preserved it on a Project Life card.
Have you explored the Future World pavilions? Share your experiences (and your scrapbook pages) here!
Special thanks to Tobey Fierst for sharing more of her photos. Thanks, Mom!