If you didn’t already know, I am a huge EPCOT fan. Even though I’ve always thought of it as the perfect Day Three park, it is actually one of my favorites. You might have caught an article of mine a few weeks back tackling a question I’ve been asked hundreds of times, Is EPCOT Boring? If you read that one, you would know my answer is a resounding no.
This week, I wanted to look a little more closely at a specific section of EPCOT that, if done right, can be the most fantastic experience you’ve not yet had at Disney. It’s World Showcase, and it’s not only useful for drinking around the world and the Frozen Ever After attraction. Here are a few avoidable mistakes you might be making, depriving yourself of the complete World Showcase experience.
Rushing Between Attractions, Not Experiencing Individual Pavillions
You wouldn’t be alone if you were tempted to treat EPCOT just like any other park, but the beauty in this place is actually found in the points of difference between it and the other three main parks that make up Walt Disney World. I know many people who focus on attractions, paying little attention to pavilions that don’t have a ride to offer; this is where the magic can get lost. Experiencing each pavilion the right way is a multi-sensory experience that pushes past what you can take in while rushing through to your next ride queue.
When you are making your plan for the day, don’t highlight these areas based on the attraction they offer. Instead, allow as much time as you need to enjoy every aspect of the pavilion as a whole. Allow it to transport you to its origin and give you a little glimpse into another way of life.
Eating Meals Instead of Shared Snacks
This one is an easy mistake to make, especially if you are dining at one of the table service restaurants during your EPCOT day. Some of the best food on offer in World Showcase is located in the small kiosks and hole-in-the-wall counter service locations throughout the pavilions. To get the most out of each region, skip the table service meal where you only get to enjoy one cuisine and instead invest in a few of the more authentic delicacies from each country, sharing one item between two or more people and allowing you to try so many more fabulous treats.
Imagine this: instead of sitting down to one heavy, tiring meal that leaves you feeling full and like you need a nap, try taste-testing the best of Disney’s international cuisine offerings, enjoying every morsel as you peruse the area. I’m talking about Pork Egg Rolls and Oolong Tea in China, Affogato Espresso Gelato in Italy, a jumbo pretzel and a shared beer in Germany, fish & chips with a spot of English tea in the UK, Tacos de Barbacoa and a Clásica on the Rocks in Mexico, Lefse and frozen coffee in Norway, sushi and udon in Japan, galettes and cider in France, grilled kebabs and Moroccan bread in Morocco; you get the idea. Savoring each bite, one at a time, why wouldn’t you bring all this amazing food into your day instead of just one? They might not all hit the authenticity mark, but it is a wonderful opportunity to try new things.
Not Appreciating the Architecture and Design of each Pavilion
Don’t be fooled into thinking that the ambiance of World Showcase can only be found indoors. In fact, in my experience, I’ve found that the culture is often best captured in their outdoor setting. The architecture of each pavilion has been painstakingly agonized over, with accents and colors true to the lands each originates from.
Take a moment to notice the different shapes and angles used to recreate some of this amazing design, with each element carefully placed to help you feel transported around the globe. Be sure to take notice of the performance times for entertainment in each pavilion as well. The feeling of each land is enhanced when you can watch street performers and listen to the colorful music as it echos up the walls of the surrounding buildings. Watch the Voices of Liberty in America at 12 pm, 1 pm, and 2 pm, or Sergio, Master Juggler and Mime, in Italy at 11:50 am, 12:35 pm, and 1:20 pm. Enjoy Latin American Folk music in Mexico or Ancient Japanese drumming in Japan.
Navigating Clockwise with the Rest of the Guests
Have you ever stopped and asked your friends which way they enter World Showcase? Do they go clockwise from Mexico, or do they start counter-clockwise and start at Canada? Surprisingly, the vast majority of people use the first route, visiting the Mexico pavilion, as a starting point. I, too, did this for many years until one day, we decided to mix things up and head on through Canada first. Believe me; you won’t look back.
I find that by moving in the opposite direction, you avoid many of the crowds earlier on, and if you aren’t rushing to the standby line for Frozen Ever After or Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, you get to spend a lot more time exploring the little shops and alleyways in peace.
Not Taking Advantage of Meet & Greets, Shows, and Art Galleries
When we plan our Disney days, we picture them filled with rides and an electric atmosphere but often overlook some of the different experiences that EPCOT has to offer. EPCOT is a prime example of this as it plays host to many additional World Showcase attractions that don’t include a ride vehicle. For instance, this area of the park is a fantastic place to meet characters, which can help keep the younger ones excited when moving through what could be considered a more mature setting. Meet Jasmine in Morocco, Mulan in China, Donald Duck in Mexico, Snow White in Germany, Belle in France, Alice in the United Kingdom, and of course, Anna and Elsa in Norway.
Each pavilion also showcases a glimpse into local culture through music, performance, and art. Many of the countries have their own art gallery displaying local works; some, like the Mexico Folk Art Gallery, are inspired by films like Disney Pixar’s Coco. House of the Whispering Willows in the China pavilion takes you inside the Shanghai Disney resort for an in-depth look at how the magic of Disney has been developed to represent the Chinese community and culture for an all-new Disney experience. You can even enjoy Kawaii, Japan’s “cute” culture, in the Bijutsu-kan Gallery.
If you couldn’t tell, I would easily be able to spend a whole day in World Showcase by itself!
What are your favorite things hidden away in World Showcase that others wouldn’t know about? Has there been a movie, performance, or gallery that has surprised you in a good way? Be sure to let me know which side you begin your World Showcase experience from as well; is it Mexico or Canada?
Zoë Wood is a travel writer from Sydney, Australia. Since her first visit to Disneyland at the age of 6, she has spent her years frequently visiting Disney Parks and traveling around the world.
Join Zoë as she lets you in on all the tips, tricks, anecdotes, and embarrassments that arise from her family adventures.