No thrill rides. Few characters. Great food and shopping. Alcohol. For many Disney guests, Epcot's World Showcase is their kind of theme park, and this first-ever, illustrated, pavilion-by-pavilion guide is your passport to everything it has to offer.
The World Showcase can be overwhelming in its variety and detail. Each pavilion is a self-contained "experience", with entertainment, shopping, dining, and even attractions and shows. With so much international flavor on display, it's easy to breeze past hidden gems and miss out on the magic—not to mention overlook that perfect meal or souvenir!
You'll learn all about:
GET YOUR PASSPORT IN ORDER—THE "WORLD" AWAITS!
Chapter 1: World Showcase Pavilions
Chapter 2: Mexico Pavilion
Chapter 3: Norway Pavilion
Chapter 4: China Pavilion
Chapter 5: Germany Pavilion
Chapter 6: Italy Pavilion
Chapter 7: American Adventure Pavilion
Chapter 8: Japan Pavilion
Chapter 9: Morocco Pavilion
Chapter 10: France Pavilion
Chapter 11: United Kingdom Pavilion
Chapter 12: Canada Pavilion
Epcot stands for Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow. Walt Disney’s dream was that it would be a living futuristic community. He planned for EPCOT to be home to about 20,000 people. The residents would travel from one end of the circular city to the other in monorail-type vehicles. The city would focus on new technologies and would always be changing and improving. Walt Disney died on December 15, 1966, but the dream of EPCOT didn’t pass with him. The second Walt Disney World theme park opened on October 1, 1982 as Epcot Center. The name was eventually changed to Epcot.
The Epcot of today is a theme park with two different sections. The first is Future World, where you’ll find most of the park’s rides. Future World lets you explore technological advances both realized and yet to be.
While Future World does offer a variety of dining options, the focus of this book will be on the dining experiences offered in the second section of Epcot, known as World Showcase. It is a living museum of sorts. Since the World’s Fair was a highlight of Walt Disney’s career, it is fitting that a living version of it is a large part of Epcot.
Each person will walk out of World Showcase with something different. Some people enjoy the unique shopping and the chance to purchase items from all over the world. Others love World Showcase because of the authentic foods that are served in the many restaurants. History enthusiasts will enjoy walking down streets made to feel like they are a world away. Nature lovers will want to spend time in the beautiful gardens. All that and so much more is available in World Showcase.
Often, guests assume that there is nothing for children in World Showcase. That could not be further from the truth. Kids can try new foods, meet princesses, make a craft, ride a boat, learn how others live by meeting cast members from the host countries, and watch live shows. If that isn’t enough, they can also “save the world”. World Showcase is both fun and educational. Just don’t tell your kids that they are learning something.
It is a small world after all. World Showcase helps guests to realize that. You’ll discover that there are differences between nations, but that there are also more similarities than you knew. Don’t hurry through World Showcase. Take your time and learn about the countries that are represented. Try something new to eat, and pick up a souvenir for back home that you never would have bought otherwise. Take in the charm of all 11 countries. You won’t be disappointed.
A good time to start exploring World Showcase is right when it opens for the day (usually 11:00am, or two hours after Future World opens). That’s when it’s least crowded, as most other guests are still in line for Test Track or Soarin’. If you can, enter through the International Gateway entrance at the back of the park. You’ll then be able to explore either France or the United Kingdom with few people around.
Another suggestion for seeing World Showcase when it’s less crowded is to make a breakfast reservation at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall in Norway. You’ll enjoy an all-you-can-eat feast, meet some princesses, and have the opportunity to see the pavilion before it’s open to other guests.
If you’re staying at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel, take advantage of evening Extra Magic Hours when they are offered at Epcot. Most of the guests will leave after IllumiNations, and you’ll be able to better explore your favorite country after dark.
World Showcase is a great place to take a break in the middle of your vacation. Take a seat in one of the many gardens and people watch for a little while. You’ll be surrounded by the architecture, sounds, and smells of another country while you relax and recharge. You might even forget that you’re in a theme park. Chances are, that’s what Walt Disney would have wanted.
Rick Killingsworth visited the Magic Kingdom in 1971 for the first Christmas parade in their history. At nine years old, he was bitten by the Disney Bug. He can still remember the sights, the smells, and the sounds. It truly was magical. It would be twenty years before he could afford to take his young family back to “The World”. It was the vacation of a lifetime, and they have been fortunate to go hundreds of times since. His daughters, now grown, still tear up when they see the castle (as does he).
Cassie Novak is a lifelong Disney fan. She had the pleasure of visiting Disneyland as a young child and has been hooked ever since. She enjoyed watching Walt Disney on television when her enthusiasm was matched by her father’s and the family drove all night from Ohio to experience the opening of Magic Kingdom and then again for the opening of EPCOT. Cassie and her husband visited both Disneyland and Walt Disney World over 35 times before moving to central Florida. Cassie still loves touring the parks, trying new Disney food, and offering information to others to help them plan their own magical vacation. Cassie reports regularly on DisneyDining.com.
Each World Showcase pavilion has its own unique historical and architectural details—if you know where to look for them.
The Norway Pavilion invites you into a town square. Around the square you will see the architectural styles of Bergen and Oslo that serve as shop fronts: the bakery Kringla Bekeri og Kafe, Restaurant Akershus, and a Stave Church. You will find yourself in a Viking village from the 10th century. There are a few small trees inside the square and beautiful flowers both at the front of Akershus on the Promenade and on the grass roof of the bakery.
The Akershus Royal Banquet Hall is located inside a building that represents a castle called Akershus Fortress from the 13th century. The original was intended to defend the town of Oslo. Disney Imagineers included gun turrets, just like those on the original castle. It was built with natural stone and areas with smooth surfaces, and steeples. During construction of stone buildings in the era, it was customary to add iron elements to provide more stability, as stone tended to shift. The iron elements held the vertical walls in position. The Disney addition of iron elements is for appearance only. One area of the restaurant inside is like a village cottage interior, while the largest dining area feels like a cathedral. There are colorful banners, large chandeliers with candlelight, and over-sized arched windows that let in plenty of natural light. Large stone archways lead guests into more dining spaces, and wood-beamed ceilings adorn the rooms.
Disney Imagineers based the pavilion’s Stave Church on the historic Stave churches of Norway, particularly the Gol Stave Church, which is dated at 1212. The Disney version is a smaller, but accurate reproduction. The exhibit that formerly inhabited this church, Vikings: Conquerors of the Seas, was overlooked by many guests, who didn’t realize it was there. The Viking exhibit was filled with authentic weapons, historical artifacts, and life-like Viking figures of Erik the Red, Olaf II, and Rognvald (the Viking who invaded France). There is now a display that reflects the beauty of Norway and its people that inspired the story behind the movie Frozen. You will find musical instruments and other artifacts, examples of folk-wear from different regions, and more.
The wooden Viking statue outside the church is the Patron Saint of Norway, King Olaf II. He was the first effective King of Norway. Saint Olaf ll is represented by an axe in Norway’s coat of arms. The feast day of Olsok is celebrated on July 29 in his honor. It is appropriate that he was placed in front of the church as he worked for 12 years to expand Christianity in Norway, which was a leading factor in his canonization. Many more churches were built in his honor in England, Sweden, and Rome. Olaf ll is responsible for the building of 1000 Stave churches, beginning in 1050AD. The Norwegians used their excellent carving skills, previously shown in shipbuilding, to decorate the new churches.Dragon motifs, finials, and decorative carvings appear in both. The doorways are especially beautiful. Only 28 of these churches remain today.
RunDisney fans won’t want to miss the statue of Greta Waitz, a former world record-holder and Norwegian marathon runner. Her statue is just outside the patio area. Waitz won nine New York City Marathons, more than any other runner in history, and set the world record in her first race there in 1978. Waitz also won a gold medal in the 1983 World Championship in Helsinki and a silver medal in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.
A replica Viking ship served as a playground when the Norway Pavilion opened. Its remnants can be seen tucked at the edge of the woods beside the pavilion. A covered patio is at the exit of Kringla Bakeri Og Kafe. Look up to see the grass sod roof, complete with seasonal flowers. This type of structure is popular in the Setesdal Valley in southern Norway. The villagers use sod to hold down their roofs as well as for insulation, since the temperatures in the mountainous area can be windy and cold. The Setesdal Valley is known for silversmiths and musical traditions. It was an important location for iron production during the Viking age.
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No other Disney guidebook goes into such detail about the one thing we all do so much of, in the parks: shopping! Here's just some of what you'll find (and can buy) in the Germany Pavilion.
Werther’s Original Caramel shop, Karamell-Küche, is the first shop on your left as you enter the pavilion. When Epcot opened, it was called Glas und Porzellan and carried Hummel and Goebel items. It was one of only eight stores worldwide to carry all of the Hummel collection. In 2010, it was repurposed into the popular Karamell-Küche, where you can purchase freshly made caramel corn, caramel apples, and a huge variety of caramels and caramel-covered items and cupcakes. There is also an assortment of pre-packaged caramel candies and caramel corn, as well as cold drinks. If you want to share a caramel apple, ask a cast member to cut it and box it for you.
Two of the more popular fresh items are:
Next to Karamell-Küche is Die Weihnachts Ecke, which replaced a porcelain shop in 1989. Here you will find a variety of Christmas trees and decorations. Inside are the famous Pickle and Mushroom Trees, both with signs that explain the meaning behind this German tradition. There are beautiful handmade nutcrackers available as well as sets of themed glass tree ornaments. Many of the ornaments are also found in the Days of Christmas shop in Downtown Disney. During the holidays, they sell Advent Calendars with German chocolates inside. You will also find German gingerbread, Bahlsen cookies, and delicious German chocolates and sweets, such as:
The next shop is Stein Haus, which carries a wide variety of German steins and wine glasses. They are made of porcelain, pewter, and glass. Also popular here are t-shirts with German sayings about beer, modern-day beer glasses (the type of glasses that you wear), and funny hats. After Stein Haus is Weinkeller. Schmitt Sohne are your host here and you’ll be introduced to their line of wines. You can try them out at the bar or at small bistro tables. During the holidays, they sell a traditional hot spiced wine.
Continued in "Epcot's World Showcase"!