Epcot, particularly World Showcase, is often perceived as the least kid-friendly park in Walt Disney World. Disney has made a tangible effort in the past decade to remedy that perception with the addition of Kidcot Fun Stops at each pavilion, as well as the spy adventures around World Showcase—first starring Kim Possible, and more recently, Phineas and Ferb. For 5- to 12-year-old children, the daily entertainment options in World Showcase may surprise in ability to engage this often hard-to-please age group. Most of the entertainment provides a great introduction to live shows for kids too young to sit through an entire theater production. In this article, I pick my favorites for school-aged kids, using the following criteria:
- Time of production less than 20 minutes.
- Ability to keep school-aged kids and their parents engaged
- Available seating, although the seating is usually on the ground, preferably shaded
Italy Pavilion – Sergio the Italian Clown Juggler
This mime and master juggler uses audience participation, along with some serious soccer skills and a whistle, to entertain all ages. The humor is lighthearted and visual, a perfect combination for school-aged children. Shade is usually easy to come by on one side or the other of the Italian plaza, although arriving a few minutes early offers you the best spots, including a table at the nearby wine bar for the parents.
China Pavilion – Jeweled Dragon Acrobats
This amazing troupe of young Chinese acrobats will keep most school-aged children engaged for the entire performance. The discipline and skills on display by the Chinese youngsters is breathtaking, and in addition to on-ground seating on one side of the performance area, ample shaded standing room is usually available, often with something to lean on.
America Pavilion – Voices of Liberty
Every Epcot visitor should hear this wonderful a cappella singing group at least once, including children. Eight or more costumed performers sing a variety of American classics, such as “Old MacDonald," “America the Beautiful,” and “Yankee Doodle Dandy" in the cool comfort of the American Adventure rotunda. The choirmaster provides brief background for each song, then leads the voices in beautiful harmony under the rotunda dome. The music set is short enough to keep the attention of most children, and they should recognize most of the songs. At worst the time is well spent out of the Florida sun and off your feet. The “American Adventure,” a 30-minute audio-animatronic, music, and film trip through American history, immediately follows the Voices of Liberty, but you are welcome to stay in the rotunda or depart the pavilion without moving to the theater for the show.
U.K. Pavilion – World Showcase Players
This small troupe of actors performs a short improvisational version of a well-known English play, real or imagined, such as “King Arthur and the Holy Grail.” The humor is infused with puns and double entendres, many of which will fly over the heads of youngsters but will keep adults in stitches. The troupe hand-selects two or three members of the audience for major roles and engages the entire audience for group responses. Much of the entertainment value depends on the talents of the selected audience members and their willingness to laugh at themselves, although the real performers always manage to put on a good show with visual humor, puns, and terrific comedic timing.
Additional entertainment and tips
British Revolution (U.K.) and Off Kilter (Canada) are very entertaining bands, although their sets may be too long or the music too unfamiliar for some restless kids. Plan a take-out meal or snack during a show, and arrive 10-15 minutes early for the best seating so you can enjoy your food while listening to the music. Mo’ Rockin (Morocco) plays upbeat music from the Middle East, Africa, and other countries, but the limited seating options are mostly exposed to the sun. Since it is easy to come and go from the bands’ performance areas, I recommend making time to appreciate the unique offerings of each band; most school-aged children will enjoy even a partial set.
Miyuki creates remarkable animal figurines from candy rice "dough" at the Japan pavilion, and has been a family favorite for years. Unfortunately she is no longer permitted to give away her creations, and the area surrounding her stand is small. Arrive early if you have young children so they can stand in front and possibly be selected to choose one of five animals Miyuki will create during her demonstration.
For children young and old, the extensive miniature train display outside the Germany Pavilion can provide supervised distraction while other family members enjoy nearby shows. The extensive lay-out of trains and buildings is a great place to rest or to play the children’s game “I Spy” and search for hidden Mickeys.
Follow these tips to catch the entertainment in World Showcase:
- Check the Times Guide when you enter Epcot for times and locations of the acts. Unlike parades and headline attractions, you don’t need to line up 30 minutes or more ahead of time, but you will want to arrive a few minutes early for optimum seating.
- Not all acts perform every day.
- Some acts, such as the Jeweled Dragon Acrobats, may be moved inside in the event of inclement weather. Always ask.
- A show’s location is not always intuitive. Ask a cast member when you arrive at the appropriate pavilion so you can pick out a good spot to enjoy the show.
- Don’t sit too close to the bands and their speakers if you hope to carry on a conversation with a companion. The music is terrific, but very loud.
World Showcase in Epcot may surprise new travelers to Walt Disney World who perceive this area only appeals to adults. A wide variety of dining establishments, character meet-and-greets, craft areas, shaded seating, and entertainment provides a wonderful touring opportunity for all ages. The change of pace of World Showcase is a welcome break from the stimulation overload of headliner attractions in other parks, as well as on the Future World side of Epcot. And to top off your time in World Showcase, don’t miss arguably the finest nighttime show in Walt Disney World—IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth.