Walt Disney World is a theme park and a fun family vacation, but there are also a few areas in the park where you can learn a few things too. I’m not saying that a Disney vacation is an educational trip, but as Walt Disney himself said, “I would rather entertain and hope that people learned something than educate people and hope they were entertained,” and you can find a sort of “edu-tainment” in some attractions at Walt Disney World. Here are my top 7 “Educational” Attractions:
7. World Showcase, Epcot
All of the World Showcase pavilions offer a glimpse into that country’s history and culture—some more than others. If you take your time as you tour the world you can experience food from various countries, see examples of native architecture, visit museum quality exhibits in several countries, talk with Cast Members from those countries, and experience performances that relate to that country’s cultural arts. In Canada, France and China films are offered to help give you a better understanding of that country.
6. The Seas with Nemo & Friends, Epcot’s Future World
Unlike its predecessor, The Living Seas, the beginning portion of this attraction does not carry on the educational components of the overall aquarium. Once you disembark your clam shell, however, the aquariums themselves are very educational. The fish, manatees, dolphins and sea turtles are fun to observe, and reading the panels adds to the educational component. If you catch a diver in the tank (or even better getting ready to enter the tank) you can get even more out of your visit.
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5. Spaceship Earth, Epcot’s Future World
An opening day attraction that has undergone some updates over the years, Spaceship Earth is one of my sentimental favorites. On your journey through time you will learn about different ways cultures used to communicate and record knowledge for the future—from the cavemen up to the modern home computer. Where else can you see Michelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel and a computer engineer from the 1970s with bright yellow tights and go go boots in the same place? Thanks to your narrator’s commentary and the audio animatronics, you will learn a few things on this attraction.
4. Hall of Presidents, Magic Kingdom’s Liberty Square
This attraction undergoes an update every 4-8 years, and the present version is very good. As you enter the lobby to wait on your show, be sure to take in the exhibit of Presidential Memorabilia—it is really very nicely done and cool stuff to see. Once you enter the theater (we like to sit front and center for a good view) you are in for an educational treat. The beginning movie is very good, highlighting the office of the President, how it came to be, and how it has changed over the years using several specific presidents as examples. After hearing Abraham Lincoln present the Gettysburg address, the curtain rises to reveal all of the Presidents to date. The audio animatronics are wearing the appropriate fashion for their day and are very lifelike (which is why we like to sit down front), and they all move throughout the presentation acknowledging their fellow office-mates.
3. Living with the Land, Epcot’s Future World
Living with the Land presents an education on the environment and agricultural practices. The first portion of the ride takes you through created environments including the rain forest, desert and the American prairie. After you pass into the barn in the farm scene you come out into the active greenhouses that are staffed by professional agriculturalists. Here they study alternative crops and alternative growing methods. The recorded narrator on your boat lets you know all about what is growing on both sides of you. If you want to take it a step further, you can schedule one of the Behind the Seeds Tours that takes you on a guided tour through the greenhouses (http://www.disneydining.com/behind-the-seeds-tour-review/)
2. American Adventure, Epcot’s World Showcase
As the prime attraction in the World Showcase, the American Adventure is a showstopper. First, you enter the colonial building and you may listen to the Voices of Liberty present traditional American Songs. There is also an exhibit housed in the right side of the entry area that features artifacts from American history and the story they tell. After you ascend upstairs through all of the historic American flags you enter the massive theater for one amazing show. The actors are all audio animatronics, but the way they are synchronized with the backdrops add to the realism of the show. Topics in American History are explored from settlement up through World War II using historic paintings, photographs, and documents along with the audio animatronics that complete the scene. Our hosts are Benjamin Franklin and Mark Twain who tell the stories along with the original music written for the show. The technology that goes into this attraction is really breathtaking. At the end a film with a moving score takes the story from WWII to the present. It is a must see whether you want to be entertained or educated (you will probably get a little of both)
1. Kilimanjaro Safari, Animal Kingdom
There are several great educational opportunities at the Animal Kingdom including the Pangani Forest Exploration Trail, the Maharajah Jungle Trek, and the Conservation Station, but the most entertaining has to be Kilimanjaro Safari. The safari gives the chance for your live guide and driver to give you all kinds of information about the animals that you are seeing up close and personal on the savanna. There are not many parks in the US that allow you to come that close to the animals in such an authentic setting, and the knowledge of the drivers has always been very good on my safaris. Like Living with the Land, if you want to take it a step further, I highly recommend the Wild Africa Trek for an even closer look at the animals and unique safari experience (http://www.disneydining.com/wild-african-trek-in-animal-kingdom/).
What are your favorite ways to learn at Walt Disney World?