We typically don’t have drinks at home while our kids are awake. I just find that staying on top of your babies and toddlers doesn’t mix well with relaxing with a beer or cocktail. I associate that first drink with not having to be responsible for awhile, and when the cocktail world and diaper world mix it creates stress. So I try to avoid it. But I make an exception for Epcot.
We are heading to Disney World in a few weeks. This will be my 5th week-long trip to Disney in 4 years, after spending 3 days there total in my first 35 years. I guess I’ve been making up for lost time.
My wife’s family took me on my first real Disney trip. It was hardcore for the first 5 days. There was a system. We would be on the first bus. Fastpasses would be had. Rides would be ridden. As I was sprinting through Epcot in my donald duck t-shirt to get Soarin fastpasses at 8am I wondered if it was OK to do that as a 35 year old man with no children. The answer was absolutely yes.
In the evenings, eating and drinking was tackled with just as much enthusiasm. Magic Kingdom was (and for the most part still is) dry. Animal Kingdom closed early. Hollywood Studios was a morning thing for us. But our hotel was a short walk to Epcot, and it was on this trip that I came to see Epcot as the world’s premier sip and stroll (aka bar crawl) destination. The rides and entertainment in the World Showcase were a little old fashioned and not exactly thrilling, but combine them with wines and beers from around the world and it’s awesome – a happy state of calm adult entertainment.
Now that we have kids we can’t have the same experience, but the kids do like the rides (Donald Duck boat ride!), and we end up eating in Epcot a lot since we stay nearby, so about once a trip we recreate the adult experience and have a few drinks with the kids as we stroll around Epcot. Here is our guide to drinking at Epcot while still being a good parent and enjoying your kids.
- Pick the right stroller. This is all about cupholders. Make sure you clear out two nice, deep cupholders without any junk in them. Matchbox cars, cell phones, chapsticks, and random cracker wrappers all need to go somewhere else. Adjust any hanging diaper bags so there is plenty of room for a full 16 ounce cup in each cupholder, and make whatever adjustments are necessary to make sure cups sit perpendicular to the ground. You should test this in both “upright” and “full recline” mode.
- Start later and make the early part of the day about the kids. You will not enjoy adult time if you’re thinking all you’ve done as a parent all day is wheel the kids around while they’re strapped in a stroller. The night will be more fun if you’ve run around Fantasyland all morning and spent the afternoon in the pool with the kids as they do their best to drown themselves for three hours. I’m not saying you want cranky babies, but it will be nice for them to relax and people watch if they’ve already had a full day, and nice for you if you don’t feel guilty that they’re missing out on Mickey while you’re drinking wine in France.
- Be extra prepared. If you’re in Disney then you should always be prepared anyway – diaper bags, snacks, sunscreen, etc. This is not the night you want to forget something. Again, stress and drinks don’t go well together.
- Feed the kids something before you start. This is another big stress reducer. You can always buy snacks and fun stuff along the way, but don’t put yourself in a corner by having hungry children. For that matter, you might want to down a PB&J yourself before walking out the door. It won’t hurt.
This itinerary assumes you’re staying over by the Boardwalk. If you’re coming in/out the main entrance by the monorail then you may have to juggle some things, but I think you’ll get the point.
- England. I’m thinking it’s about 5 or so, maybe an hour before sunset. Start with a base of fish and chips outside the Rose and Crown and grab a nice Harp or Guinness to go with it. The kids will enjoy some fries. If you don’t want to eat, just stop inside the bar for a “to-go” beer. Order a Carl’s Combo (and say hi to Carl, the bartender), and carry it over to see the British Invasion. Without fail our children go nuts for this band. Always a highlight of the trip. One set lasts about 20 minutes, or long enough to enjoy that to-go beer.
- France. There is a “wine shop” in France that sells to-go wines. You can even do a tasting. One of you can stop in there and grab two pours while the other finds a spot with the kids around the back of France on the other side of the “arcade”. This is a good time to mention that there’s a reason the Beaujolais Nouveau is cheap…it’s “new” and it tastes bad.
With any luck you’ll catch some street performers outside of France or Italy as you continue your stroll. The women who play the drums in Japan are usually a big hit with our kids. Slowly enjoy your wine as the kids watch. Let them be your guide. At this point you’ll be feeling the drinks and will be in no rush. Grab a water from the bottom of the stroller, then on to…
- Germany and America. These are about beer. Germany obviously has good German beer, and America now has good craft beer. But you’re with the kids so you have to choose. Will you follow the Reinhotsgebot and grab a half-liter of Pilsner? Or will it be some intense dark hoppy brew from America? If Germany then take the kids to the caramel shop for a treat, then walk out to see the model trains while they eat and you enjoy the beer. If America then hope that something is going on in the outdoor theatre because the “American Adventure” is probably going to end in a temper tantrum for anyone under 60. Plus you can’t bring your drinks inside.
- Africa. Good luck getting past here without your kids playing the bongos for 45 minutes. It’s a modern pied piper. Quite likely this visit will end in tears as you pull them away but don’t worry, here comes…
- Mexico. Used to be there was a cool boat ride at Norway as well, but that’s been torn down and a new “Frozen” ride is going in and my guess is the lines for that will be scary long. Don’t worry – the Three Caballeros are still in Mexico and perfect for all ages. There is also a Tequila bar in Mexico and margarita stands outside. You may be tempted but I’d say relax on the boat ride and see how you’re feeling before jumping into the Tequila.
Now is the time when you can take a break from the world showcase for some rides. Grab a to-go drink from Mexico if you need it and cross the bridge to Future World. This is where the kids get to do rides and have fun and you get to tag along. Obviously Soarin’ and Test Track are the two best rides over here but now is the time to make the most of the few drinks you’ve had and go for some short and sweet rides that don’t tax your brain too much like…
- Nemo. This is great for little kids and good entertainment at this point in the evening. Rarely a line.
- Imagination. Ditto. Really good fun with the kids after a couple of drinks. If you ride it at 10am then you probably wouldn’t find it nearly as amusing.
- Spaceship Earth. If your kids will sit through this then it’s a great time to catch a snooze. You might need it at this point.
Bringing it home
If all has gone well at this point then it’s getting close to fireworks time and the children’s eyelids are getting very heavy. Hopefully they are blissfully strapped into the stroller at this point and starting to doze. Walk back over to the worlds and check out…
- Canada. This has become one of the best beer worlds in Epcot. Not only do they have old favorites Labatts and Moosehead, but you can get the whole family of Fin du Monde beers as well. This is a good stop for your final beer that you’ll nurse through the fireworks. They also have popcorn that you’ll have to buy if anyone is awake.
- Fireworks. Our kids have never made it this far. It’s 9pm and we’re usually walking out of the park with two sleeping monkeys as the fireworks start going off, but in theory this is the capstone event of the evening. The drinks you’ve enjoyed help make the Illuminations show as good as any light show you’ve seen (have done it without kids), and the fireworks themselves are top-notch. Hopefully this year at least one of the kids will be up to watch with us.
- Head home. This is where staying near Epcot is awesome. Otherwise the challenge is to get home without kids waking up and buzzes turning to headaches. Hopefully you know yourself and haven’t overdone the drinking. If you’ve done it right then you’ll have no problem getting to sleep before 10 and getting up bright and early to tackle the next day.
I hope this helps those with youngsters find a way to get out and enjoy Epcot as an adult. Been there? Let’s hear your tips and tricks to balance adult time with kid time…