I love both Disneyland in California and Walt Disney World in Florida, but when I visit the west coast version, I really miss being able to go to Epcot. Epcot is one of the two original parks at Disney World and was conceived as an “Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow”. Today it is described as a sort of permanent World Fair and while there are some that don’t care for it’s educational aspects, I’ve always loved it.
The park is divided into two different, and not quite complementary areas. Future World is sort of a hodge podge of tame rides and quasi-educational pavilions. There’s a dry ground ride about the seas and a boat ride about the land, a bunch of interactive educational activities, each featuring a prominent corporate sponsor, a sort of train ride through a bunch of historical dioramas and a few other similar attractions. I’m guessing I’m not really selling the place to you right now, am I? My young kids enjoyed Future World well enough, but I don’t think I’d go out of my way to go there if that was all there was to Epcot. This part of the park really feels like it’s overdue for some major updating.
Where Epcot really shines, though, is the World Showcase. This part of the park is a series of eleven pavilions, each based on a different country, ringing a large lake in the middle of the park. You can start at one end and make a loop around, learning about each one and enjoying some great art, food and shopping. The pavilions are staffed by young people from each country and most will happily tell you about their homeland and love it when visitors take the time to ask questions. And while there’s no denying the pavilions are fake, they are really good fakes with great attention to detail and lots of special touches. The United Kingdom pavilion features a real little English garden and the Morocco pavilion has lovely fountains with intricate tile work.The live entertainment is also excellent with a live performance going on almost every minute of the day in one pavilion or another; you could stay all day and still not see it all.
But where the World Showcase really stands head and shoulders above anywhere else at Disney World is the food. Each pavilion has multiple restaurants and food stands and you can chose from eating in a German beer hall, an Italian pizzeria, an English pub or a formal French restaurant. The table service meals look excellent, especially for theme park fare, but since this was a solo trip with just me and the kids I didn’t think fine dining would be a good idea this time. It seemed like a waste to have a fancy meal without my husband along to enjoy it and the kids just don’t appreciate good food, at least they don’t appreciate it enough to make it worth the money. But I really wanted a chance to enjoy the wide range of international foods that the World Showcase had to offer.
The solution? Skip the meals, focus on snacks! I decided to divide the World Showcase in half and on each of our two days there I’d spend $5-$10 on snacks and small bites at each pavilion. That way we’d get lots of variety and we’d keep moving as we filled up along the way. Overall, it was a great way to explore the park and we had a lot of fun doing it.
On day one we started on the left side of the lake in Canada, one of the few pavilions that doesn’t have a counter service restaurant. I had hoped to find some maple flavoured treats or similar Canadian goodies, but I was a bit disappointed and we had to settle for splitting a donut to start. Tasty, but didn’t really say “Canada” to me.
From there we continued on to the United Kingdom where I decided we should have something that could actually be classified as lunch at some point in the day. The obvious choice was fish and chips from the little takeaway shop along the water. We got two big pieces of fish which made a nice light meal for myself and the kids and enjoyed watching the birds trying to sneak in and grab the crumbs as we ate at tables along the waterfront.
From there we moved on to France, where we were spoiled for choice. There were kiosks selling ice cream and crepes along the waterfront, but we decided to go down the little cobblestone lane to the back of the pavilion where a large bakery offered all kinds of fancy treats. I gave up trying to decide and just let each of the kids pick out a dessert for themselves. They were both rich enough that there was plenty left over for me.
From there we headed to one of my favourite pavilions, Morocco. Most of the pavilions are fairly Euro-centric so Morocco feels very different and exotic. There is a large open market area with rugs and shiny metal ware and fancy clothing and it just feels fun to explore. I had planned to maybe try the falafal or chicken shawarma here but we were starting to feel the effect of all our snacking and we just settled for a slice of baklava that we shared as we wandered around.
We finished the day in the Japan pavilion with a serving of Kaki-gori, a shaved ice snack with flavoured syrup similar to the shave ice they sell in Hawaii. We chose the rainbow option and enjoyed the snack while sitting in the sun and watching the Japanese drummers perform. All in all, it was a very satisfactory end to our first Epcot Day.
For Day Two we started off on the other side of the lake at the Mexico Pavilion. We had started off a bit later this time and were feeling hungry, so we ordered the snack sized empanadas de queso and an order of churros with caramel dip. It was a bit cooler that day and both were warm and satisfying and gave us a bit of an energy boost at the start of our day.
From there we went on to Norway, which they might as well just get it over with and rename the “Frozen” pavilion, and stopped in at the rather strangely named Kringla Bakeri og Kafe. I didn’t want to get to fancy and risk a repeat of the previous day’s sugar rush, so we just shared an order of “school bread”, a sort of half sweet bun with custard filling and coconut on top. The kids really seemed to like it, but it wasn’t a huge hit for me. Oh well, you can’t win them all.
From Frozen land we moved on to China. I’ve never been a huge fan of Chinese sweets so I decided to get a main course this time. It turned out that the sweet and sour chicken children’s meal at the counter service restaurant was just the right amount of food for a tasty, if not particularly authentic, Chinese snack as we checked out the pavilion.
After China we went to Germany, where we had enjoyed a fantastic meal at the Biergarten restaurant on our last trip to Epcot in 2013. This time we went to the Werthers caramel shop and the kids picked out an enormous caramel and chocolate topped Rice Krispie square for a treat. It was about the size of a brick and would have been more than enough but to top it off one of the ladies who was pouring out the candies came by with a couple of caramel dipped marshmallows and handed one to each of the kids as we waited in line to pay. So with their tummies full of sugar, I decided to tuck the treat into my bag to enjoy in the hotel room that night.
From there we went to Italy, but when the kids showed zero interest in trying the gelato I decided we were all snacked out for the day and the Italy and United States pavilions would have to wait for another trip. Overall, we had a great time trying out the different snacks in each country and it was a lot of fun to be able to say “yes” all day when the kids asked for a treat. We probably would have given a nutritionist a heart attack with our diet for the day, but theme park food is always bad for you, so if you’re going to eat poorly, why not do it with an international theme? We’ll just have to remember to finish the loop on our next trip to Epcot!