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Pregnant at Epcot: A Guide for Moms-to-Be
Walt Disney World when you are in the best of health can be daunting. Walt Disney World when you are six months pregnant? Forget about it. Or should you?
When I went down to the Walt Disney World Resort in December for the opening of The New Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom, I knew that it wouldn’t be a typical trip. Riding Expedition Everest and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster were not an option. Enjoying a glass of wine while watching Illuminations at Epcot? Nope. And since I totally cut out the caffeine around the start of my second month – would I even be able to stay awake through a day at one of the parks?
Luckily, Walt Disney World first and foremost is a park for families of all shapes and sizes. Did being pregnant mean I couldn’t have fun? No way! It just meant modifying what my pre-pregnancy self would call “fun.”
Like Cinderella, I knew my time was limited (I arrived on a red-eye flight at 5:30 a.m. Wednesday and headed back to Los Angeles on Friday afternoon). But I had a good chunk of time Wednesday – provided I could stay awake – to have fun.
I spoke to my doctor before heading out and his suggestion was to make sure I got up every 90 minutes or so to keep my circulation going. On a five-hour flight from LAX to MCO (when you have a window seat and don’t want to disturb the guy next to you) I was afraid it wouldn’t be easy. Thankfully, my mother gave me an early Chanukah present and upgraded me to first class – where I was grateful that there was no one next to me.
When I arrived at MCO, I took the tram to the main terminal (after a bathroom break, of course) and headed down to Disney’s Magical Express to catch a ride to my resort hotel. Magical Express means that my bags were tagged to go to my hotel (and that someone else would be carrying them). Since it was so early, there was no wait – I literally walked right onto a bus where one other person was also waiting. That meant only two stops, and I arrived at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge by 6:30 a.m.
Normally rooms aren’t ready until the afternoon, but I since I had such an early arrival, I arranged for an room to be ready from the previous day. After dropping off my things ,I enjoyed a pregnant woman-sized breakfast at Mara: eggs, Mickey waffle and milk – plus some cereal and yogurt for the road. If I learned anything from this pregnancy it is bring snacks! While not every resort hotel has a sit-down restaurant, each one does have some sort of grab ‘n’ go food venue that is usually open from early in the morning until late at night.
Where to Go?
Remember the limited-time issue? It means I only had enough time for one park. I knew from the itinerary that I would be at Magic Kingdom that night and the next day. Disney’s Animal Kingdom, while the closest of the theme parks, was also the most spread out with the least shade (since it was Orlando there was always a chance of rain – and a certainty of humidity). Disney’s Hollywood Studios was one of my favorites – but how many shows could I watch in one visit? (Plus, missing Tower of Terror and Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster starring Aerosmith would have just depressed me.) This made the answer clear – and I was off to catch a bus to Epcot.
Luckily, staying on property makes getting around Walt Disney World easy – especially since I am not of fan of driving places I’ve never been with no one else in the car.
The bus pick up was conveniently located just outside the lobby entrance (at some resorts there are multiple pick-up points, others there is just one). The important thing is to make sure you get on the right bus. Each one is labeled with a destination – but that doesn’t mean everyone always gets on the right one (I mean, I always do, but I’m sure it happens to others). The good news is that if you do get on the wrong bus, you can course correct and then take the right bus from that theme park.
So I hopped on the not-very crowded bus, which is great to ride because it is air conditioned and the step is not up too high, making it easy for a pregnant woman to get on and off of it.
So I had to figure out how to tackle Epcot. I knew I could go on just about everything, I just hadn’t been there in a few years and, certainly, was not pregnant the last time. I took my park-planning skills and coupled that with what would help mom-to-bes during their time at Epcot. So below is a round-up of the Epcot attractions that pregnant women would not only be able to go on – but enjoy (along with some bonus sites and sounds).
Just a note: If you are feeling woozy, ill or overheated, don’t push it – the first-aid center is located near the Odyssey restaurant between Test Track and the Mexico Pavilion.
Attractions are listed in location order counter-clockwise in Future World after you enter the park and in World Showcase (starting from the Canada Pavilion).
Attraction: Spaceship Earth
What It Is: The geosphere (aka huge golf ball) you spot when you enter Epcot houses this attraction that tells the story (with the help of Dame Judi Densch) of man’s technological evolution from caves to computers. The theme of communication is one that is really driven home on the 14-minute attraction (an appropriate attraction for parents-to-be who will be trying to communicate with their little ones).
Tips for the Mom-to-Be: Since it is the first attraction most guests come to, the lines tend to be larger in the day and thin out later. Even so, I went early in the day and the wait was less than 10 minutes in shade – thanks to the Omnimover-style load system. The attraction cars do not have lap bars, so you won’t have anything pushing on you. Sitting down in air conditioning was lovely and the movement is very smooth. Enjoy the interactivity on the journey’s second half and you might enjoy spending time in the Project Tomorrowland section, as well (especially if you are trying to get ideas for your registry).
Attraction: Innoventions West and East
What It Is: Head east for hands-on activities involving environmental conservation, extreme weather, product stress testing and ride engineering. Go west to learn about the best when it comes to personal transportation, finance, computer technology and fire safety.
Tips for the Mom-to-Be: If you are traveling with other kids, they will enjoy this attraction. But if you are looking for a place to sit down and put your feet up, you might want to skip it. Some of the more enjoyable parts – like riding a Segway and creating and then testing a roller coaster – are off-limits for moms-to-be.
Attraction: Test Track – Presented by Chevrolet
What It Is: After a long rehab – the Epcot attraction reopened in full force in December 2012, with a new sponsor – Chevrolet – and a new look. Guests will become Chevrolet designers as they create their own car highlighting four attributes: Capability, Efficiency, Responsiveness and Power. (FastPass and Single Riders can get in on the fun, but for the first-timer full experience, stick to the main queue.) How well will your car navigate through bumpy roads, icy conditions, turn-on-a-dime curves and more? Board your six-person “SimCar” vehicle and find out. But those who loved the feeling of racing around the track at 65 mph, don’t worry – that’s the best test of all.
Tips for the Mom-to-Be: The bummer on this is you can’t actually ride the attraction, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. The preshow involves creating your own vehicle – and the post-show lets you send a commercial of it and take pictures with a bunch of General Motors cars. Early in the attraction, let the cast member know you aren’t riding, but want to decorate a vehicle. Stick with your party until near boarding, and just let the cast member know you aren’t riding. There are stairs and an elevator you can take around the loading area. The downside is the lines can get VERY long for Test Track – especially with the recent reopening. If you don’t get to this first thing in the morning, you might want to sit this one out in a shady spot or at the exit (which has plenty of things to do while you wait for the rest of your party).
Attraction: Mission Space
What It Is: A blast into space where you and three others control the shuttle. The good news, is there are less-intense and more intense options. The bad news is you don’t get to ride either one.
Tips for the Mom-to-Be: Sorry mamas – this one is pretty off-limits. Feel free to get some water and sit down while your family goes on this one.
Attraction: The Universe of Energy Pavilion
What It Is: The attraction here is called Ellen’s Energy Adventure and features Ellen DeGeneres, Bill Nye the Science Guy, Alex Trebek and Jamie Lee Curtis – who are all there to teach guests about energy sources and where they come from. The entire experience combines humor and education to update what for years was called “the dinosaur ride.”
Tips for the Mom-to-Be: Enjoy 45 minutes of sitting! That’s right… plenty of time to soak up the air conditioning. When you come into the first room, head toward the back and get a spot on one of the benches for the opening movie. When you move to the larger theater (where the seats convert to a moving tram(, the benches offer plenty of room for you to maneuver – and there is nothing pushing on your belly either. The attraction can hold a lot of people at once, so the most amount of waiting you will do is for guests to clear out of the pre-show area. Confession: I actually fell asleep on the tram portion – through dinosaurs and all!
Attraction: The Seas With Nemo and Friends Pavilion
What It Is: Three attractions in one building – all highlighting the world under the sea: Turtle Talk With Crush (an interactive show featuring Nemo’s friend Crush), The Seas With Nemo & Friends Attraction (a clam-mobile trip through the story of “Finding Nemo” – complete with some real live friends); and the Caribbean Coral Reef (which holds 6 million gallons of water and 60 species of sea life)
Tips for the Mom-to-Be: The wait for Turtle Talk With Crush can be long, but once you get inside you are rewarded with the ability to sit in air conditioning for 10 minutes. The Seas With Nemo & Friends is an Omnimover attraction that allows guests to sit down – and not have to use a lap bar. The wait is entirely inside and isn’t too bad. If you don’t get claustrophobic and need to stretch your legs after the ride, explore the Coral Reef for a bit.
Attraction: The Land Pavilion
What It Is: Six acres all about food. That’s right moms-to-be – it’s the perfect attraction if you are “eating for two,” or if you just want to grab a bite. The three attractions here are Soarin’, which takes guests flying over the state of California; “The Circle of Life,” a film that uses characters from the Lion King and some live-action to discuss the dangers to the environment; and Living With the Land, a boat ride through different settings – from farms to rainforest – that highlights the different plants that grow there. Plus, there’s a large food court if you need a snack.
Tips for the Mom-to-Be: Some moms-to-be have no problem with Soarin’ (I’m one of them), others get queasy. There are no limitations on this attraction about pregnant women, so use your own judgment. A FastPass is highly recommended as lines can get long (and FastPasses can run out on busy days). “The Circle of Life” film lasts 20 minutes in blessed air conditioning. Living With the Land is a tame boat ride that last 13 ½ minutes (if motion sickness or claustrophobia is an issue, you might want to skip). Also – for that’s 13 ½ minutes you can’t use the bathroom – so make sure to stop in the one near the gift shop right before.
Attraction: Imagination Pavilion
What It Is: Probably one of my favorite pavilions at Epcot – this one is all about embracing the heart of Disney: Imagination. There are three attractions inside the “pyramid” as most people refer to it. “Captain EO,” a blast from the past featuring Michael Jackson and some awesome ‘80s music about a rag-tag crew on a mission to “Save the World” from the Supreme Leader; Journey Into Imagination with Figment features one of my favorite Sherman Brothers songs, “One Little Spark,” as background to the quest to explore the senses of imagination. Lastly is the Imageworks Labs which, like Innoventions, is set up to encourage creativity and play.
Tips for the Mom-to-Be:
Captain EO can be loud – so if your tummy grumbles at the slightest loud noise, you might want to skip it. Also, because it is 3D, it can make some moms-to-be queasy if they have motion sickness. Otherwise, you are sitting down in air-conditioning, and each show holds a lot of people. Journey Into Imagination with Figment lets you sit down and go on an attraction – again no lap bars. It does have one room with special scents (I just held my nose as a precaution). There was little no line – and any wait you do have is probably inside unless you come on a super busy day.
Note: You can spend a lot of time wandering around the stores and restaurants in the different countries, I’m just going to highlight a few of the attractions. Just keep in mind that sometimes World Showcase can open up to two hours later than Future World.
Attraction: Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure
What It Is: You’ll learn all about other countries and cultures – and have a lot of fun in the process. Epcot guests who accept their mission will head to one of seven countries (Mexico, France, Germany, Norway, Japan, China and the United Kingdom) and follow clues that allow them to interact with people and places around World Showcase. For example, getting a puzzle right in the UK actually rewards you with a bag of tea. Sign up at one of four kiosks around the park and the cast members send you out to explore with a special F.O.N.E. (Field Operative Notifications Equipment), to thwart Dr. Doofenshmirtz (and you can play and play and play as long as there are missions to accomplish). You might even spot Agent P himself!
Tips for the Mom-to-Be: You can take your time exploring each pavilion – the only time constraint is you might have to get to your first stop relatively quickly once you sign up. There is a bit of walking involved – but for moms-to-be who need to get in some exercise (both the brain and the body), this one is a lot of fun.
Attraction: The American Adventure
What It Is: A celebration of the American spirit with Ben Franklin and Mark Twain leading the way through key events in American history – starting with the Boston Tea Party. The Audio-Animatronic show tells both the positive and negative aspects of history as told through the stories of inventors, athletes, politicians, entertainers, innovators and great American storytellers.
Tips for the Mom-to-Be: Emotion alert – bring tissues! I find myself crying at many Disney theme park shows, and the patriotism and closing song in this one is no different. The 26-minute show (in an air-conditioned theater) can even bring tears to the eyes of those who aren’t pregnant – so you have been warned.
Attraction: Norway – The Maelstrom
What It Is: Take a boat tour through Norwegian history – starting in a Viking village, then an encounter with trolls and a backward trip down a fjord (and a possible trip over a waterfall). Don’t think Splash Mountain – the dip is fairly tame. The attraction is followed by a movie that you can pass through if you wish.
Tips for the Mom-to-Be: Again, the beauty of Epcot – no lap belts. The backward movement can be a little strange on your equilibrium, though. A FastPass is available – but you might get lucky and hit a downtime where you won’t need it. The majority of the queue is inside – and you will need to step down to get into the boat.
Attraction: Mexico - Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros
What It Is: This boat ride, which highlights a trip all over Mexico, has been made over with help from Jose Carioca and Panchito – who have to try to try down wayward duck, Donald, so the three can perform in Mexico City. The attraction acts like a travelogue of sorts for the country. You might even pick up some Spanish phrases along the way.
Tips for the Mom-to-Be: The entire queue is inside the pyramid-looking Mexico Pavilion. The line is typically not long – but you do need to step down into the boat (so be careful). As far as the speed, it moves no faster than “it’s a small world” or “Pirates of the Caribbean.”
Bonus: Senses Spa
For a bonus treat after a long day at the park – take the Monorail from Epcot to the Transportation and Ticket Center and then hop on the Monorail to Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa. The new Senses Spa (http://spoonful.com/family-fun/ignite-senses-walt-disney-world) offers a pregnancy massage (50 min for $145) along with manicures and pedicures in a peaceful, relaxing environment where the order of the day is pampering! For more information: Call (407) WDW-SPAS or visit the Senses Web Site.