Although it is really hard to choose, Epcot may be my favorite of Disney’s theme parks. There is so much to offer for everyone—great dining, cultural experiences, thrill rides, animal encounters, learning experiences and fun live entertainment. Another thing I love about Epcot are the hidden gems that can be discovered throughout the park. Many of these are hidden in plain sight, but we often forget to visit them or take them for granted. Here are my top 7:
7. Behind the Seeds Tour
This tour is offered at the Land Pavilion multiple times per day, and takes you behind the scenes into the greenhouses featured on the Living with the Land attraction. Your guide is one of the interns working in one area of the greenhouse where they are researching a topic of interest. You will learn more about how the greenhouses operate, the projects they are working on, and walk through all of the areas of the greenhouse including the hydroponic section, the aquaculture section, and the plant section. The tour includes some hands-on experiences too. This one is pretty inexpensive, and although I encourage making a reservation ahead of time, there is sometimes room for walk-ups.
6. Experiences in the Seas Pavilion
Hanging out around the aquariums in the Seas is one of my favorite things to do—especially when it is rainy or very hot outside (not that those weather conditions ever occur in Orlando). Not only is it relaxing, but you also happen upon a lot of presentations going on. Sometimes it is a feeding time for the dolphins or manatees that includes a presentation, sometimes a diver is coming into or out of the tanks, or there are divers in the tanks cleaning or working with the animals. There are also a few behind-the-scenes experiences offered at the Seas that you can add on to your Epcot experience—these can be reserved through the Disney Tours (407-WDW-TOUR).
Yes, I realize Morocco is not really hidden. But, have you ever taken the time to walk around the pavilion into all of the nooks & crannies, and hidden corners? The artistry in this pavilion is truly beautiful, and the intricacy is fascinating. Plus, not many of us will have the opportunity to visit the actual country. Next time you are in Epcot make a point to really explore the Moroccan Pavilion—it is also full of great photo spots!
4. The Fountains at the Imagination Pavilion
These aren’t really hidden as much as they are out of the way. As you exit the Imagination attraction (after the gift shop) you have to go up some steps to the fountain level, near the Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival. Kids love this area, chasing the jumping water, trying to catch it or get splashed, and it is pretty well contained so unless it is super crowded you can let them run around a little bit and burn off some of their energy.
3. Gallery at American Adventure
Did you know that there is a museum caliber gallery in the American Adventure pavilion? Many of us enter to listen to the talented Voices of Liberty or to see the show, but not that many people walk over to the side to view the exhibit. It is a changing exhibit, so at different times you will see different aspects of American History told from different perspectives. All of the exhibits contain actual historical artifacts along with educational panels that help you understand their significance in the history of our country. Several other countries in World Showcase also have cultural exhibits—take some time to explore.
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2. World Showcase Cast Members
Although it is something we all recognize and realize, I think we sometimes take it for granted that the cast members in the World Showcase pavilions are natives of that country. Take advantage of this! There are lots of ways (other than the Agent P missions) to get your kids engaged in the World Showcase through these great cast members. You can purchase an Epcot passport (or create one yourself—there are lots of downloads for these available on the internet), and as you visit each country you can engage one of the cast members to tell you what it is like to live in their country, and how it may be different from their experience here. Another fun thing is to ask them to write your child’s name in their language—Morocco, China and Japan are the most interesting for this one.
Did you know that in the Outpost section of the World Showcase you can purchase beads made from recycled park maps? Disney sends old park maps to Africa where a group of women turn them into beautiful works of art in the form of beads that are made into jewelry like earrings, bracelets and necklaces. Not only is it a very unique souvenir, the proceeds go to these women who are working to support their family. Next time you are there check them out—they really are lovely, and so colorful.
What are your favorite hidden gems in Epcot?