Have you ever thought about touring each EPCOT pavilion in your own little global adventure?
What is EPCOT anyway?
EPCOT stands for Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow. Sounds pretty epic, right? I agree!
Believe it or not, EPCOT was based off of Walt Disney’s vision of a utopian city for all things futuristic and wonderful.
While Walt Disney’s dream to create EPCOT was based off the idea that actual citizens could inhabit and enjoy the fruits of an imaginative community that was always on the cutting edge of technology, that did not exactly come into fruition.
But, like most things where Walt Disney is concerned, the dream still lived on.
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The Journey to EPCOT
Before we go on our own Epcot pavilion global trek, let’s go through how my favorite theme park came to be.
In the 1970s, park executives of Magic Kingdom quickly realized that the park’s popularity warranted the construction of another theme park.
When it came time to brainstorm ideas, the team went back to Walt Disney’s utopian “city of tomorrow” concept, but it wasn’t without its obstacles.
While Disney hoped to open EPCOT in 1979, the date had to be pushed back due to lack of funding.
Although Disney had hoped that countries around the world would be willing to bid and/or put up money for their countries to be included, this wasn’t true. Therefore, Disney had to seek sponsors in order to make the World Showcase a reality.
These sponsors were companies like Coca-Cola, American Express, and international restaurant groups, who put up the money in exchange for advertisement and product placement in the park.
Of all the eleven countries that were eventually installed in the park, Morocco is the only one that was 100% funded by their own government.
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Nevertheless, by 1982, Walt Disney’s dream became a reality as the EPCOT center opened with astounding popularity. Guests were instantly drawn to this park for multiple reasons.
Not only could they enjoy Disney level customer service accompanied by futuristic attractions, but they could even experience different cultures and feel like world travelers through eleven different countries.
All for the price of just one theme park ticket!
It astounded guests then and it continues to impress tens of millions of guests each and every year.
Planning Out Your EPCOT Visit
So now that you know why you MUST visit EPCOT during your Orlando theme park experience, you’re probably wondering, “But how should I plan my day? How can I fit in everything I want to do?”
Amazing questions! I’m here to help you!
As you may or may not know, at Disney World Parks and Resorts, if you stay on property, meaning at one of the official Disney hotels, you do get the perk of “Extra Magic Hours.”
Extra Magic Hours refer to times when resort guests *only* are allowed to enjoy the parks.
What exactly does this mean?
Well, more specifically, Extra Magic Hours (sometimes referred to in online blogs as EMH) differ day to day in each park.
Typically for EPCOT, on Tuesdays there are EMH from 9 p.m. – 11p.m., and on Thursdays 8 a.m. – 9 a.m. (however, these are always subject to change, so be sure to check the park hours ahead of time to plan your visit here. )
What this would mean is that if you were a “typical” park-goer who was not staying in the Disney resort, EPCOT would be open to you from 9 a.m. – 9 p.m.
On Tuesdays you would be allowed to remain in the park until 11 p.m., but you would not be allowed to go on any rides or attractions after 9 p.m. as Cast Members will scan your band to see if you are EMH eligible prior to letting you enter the queue.
Additionally, for the Thursday example, if you weren’t staying at a Disney resort you would not be able to enter EPCOT until 9 a.m., whereas those who were resort guests could get in at 8 a.m.
With all of that being said, EPCOT is also unique in that certain sections of the park open at different times. While Future World (the front half of the park, encompassing the world famous “Globe”) opens at park open, the “World Showcase” does not.
Typically, the eleven distinct countries that will be broken down for you do not start operating until two hours after park open, or 11 a.m.
This means you can arrive at EPCOT at 9 a.m. for park open, enjoy all the attractions Future World has to offer for the first two hours such as:
- Test Track
- Disney and Pixar Short Film Festival
- Journey into the Imagination with Figment
- Living with the Land
- The Seas with Nemo and Friends
- Turtle Talk with Crush
- Spaceship Earth
Then, right at 11 a.m., you can begin walking around the world!
As you read below you can figure out what attractions you’d like to hit up first and better yet, what country speaks to you for lunch, dinner, and snack time!
Visiting the Epcot Pavilions in World Showcase
So now that you have an understanding that EPCOT is broken down into two main areas: Future World, and the World Showcase, let’s dive a little deeper into the latter. Or, as some call it, your round-trip ticket around the world.
And so, without further ado, here are the 11 countries you’ll find in the EPCOT World Showcase:
Quick Side Note: The order they are presented in are the order you’ll actually find them in the park.
This is because the countries are laid out in a circular fashion around a lake, The World Showcase Lagoon.
Therefore, if you entered EPCOT from the main front entrance, got to the World Showcase, and took a left, this is the order in which you’d encounter the countries.
Additionally, you have the option to take a boat straight across the lagoon if you’d prefer to start right in the middle of the World Showcase experience.
Mexico Epcot Pavilion
We’re happy to start off with one of the crowd favorites: Mexico!
Rides and Attractions:
In this EPCOT pavilion, you will find one small boat attraction inside of the Mayan temple.
Although it has been rumored that this attraction will be completely redone and rethought, at the moment it’s home to a slow-moving “Gran Fiesta Tour with the Three Caballeros” boat ride where you get to follow Donald and his two caballero friends throughout popular Mexican landmarks.
Inside of the temple, you’ll find the San Angel Inn, a sit-down restaurant overlooking the water where the Three Caballeros ride takes place.
If you’re looking for sit down Mexican cuisine, this will be your one and only option in Mexico, so be sure to make reservations ahead of time using the My Disney Experience App or website.
If you were hoping for a “grab and go” option, Mexico has those too, located outside of the Mayan Temple at La Cantina de San Angel.
Here you’ll find quick service stands offering little bites like frozen margaritas, nachos, empanadas, and Mexican salads.
While the food options in Mexico don’t not quite match that of the other countries in the World Showcase, you certainly can’t go wrong with the frozen margaritas!
You’ll also enjoy other dining locations such as La Cava del Tequila and La Hacienda de Angel.
In addition to the “outdoor market” style shopping available inside the temple, there are also a couple more, albiet limited, stands outside as well.
Inside the Mayan temple you’ll find wares such as sombreros, pinatas, handbags, crosses, and other home decor designed in traditional Mexican style.
Additionally, there is also jewelry, tiaras, and crystal figures in the “La Princesa de Cristal“ shop, or as they’re known in their Disney Springs and Magic Kingdom locations, the Arribas Brothers shop.
Arguably, Mexico is the best country pavilion for a completely immersive cultural experience. Because much of this pavilion is located inside, within a Mayan temple to be exact, it certainly feels all encompassing.
As you enter inside the Mayan temple, you’ll see a small exhibit of art and artifacts from Mexico.
However, the truly impressive part is when you step completely inside. The space is dimly lit, giving the feeling that it’s always nighttime or twilight.
The walls replicate traditional pueblo-style housing and in the center are small stands selling traditional Mexican wares, making it feel like a rather authentic outdoor Mexican marketplace.
Outside of the temple, you’ll oftentimes find an energetic mariachi band that gives this pavilion an exciting energy.
Additionally, this is where fan favorite “Mexico Donald” hangs out. Donned in a sombrero and sarape, you can catch Mexico Donald just past the temple on the left-hand side meeting and greeting guests.
Now let’s head to the land of mystery and seafaring adventure: Norway!
Rides and Attractions:
Of course, in recent years, the biggest draw to Norway is the Frozen Ever After ride. Which, by the way, you should definitely reserve a FastPass for or get on line as early as possible if you like rides with cutting edge technology and a bit of a thrill factor!
In addition to experiencing Frozen through this ride, you can also meet Ana and Elsa in this EPCOT pavilion, who now meet and greet guests in their Frozen 2 attire.
When it comes to dining in Norway, you have two options: a sit-down princess character buffet, and a quick service bakery.
Akershus Royal Banquet Hall is the name of the princess character buffet, where typical Norwegian food such as cured meats, Scandinavian seafood, and imported cheeses are served.
While the menu differs at meal times, this is definitely not the best character dining option for the picky eater, as the menu definitely achieves its goal of sticking to traditional Norwegian food.
The Kringla Bakeri og Kafe on the other hand is arguably the best bakery in EPCT, with freshly made breads and pastries; the most popular being the school bread!
The most notable gift shop in Norway is at the exit of the Frozen ride, although you can also enter the shop without riding too.
The gift shop is named “Fjording Shop” and stocks all things Frozen, and even a couple traditional Norwegian wares like as Viking hats.
Just a few steps away from the Frozen Ever After ride you’ll find a self-guided walk through exhibit of Vikings and their history inside the stave church.
A cute little stop if you need a break from the heat or the crowds, or genuinely enjoy learning about history.
China Epcot Pavilion
Let’s move on to this powerful empire filled with history and majesty.
Rides and Attractions:
While there are no official “rides” in the China pavilion, you will find a 360-degree movie experience that details the culture and history of China.
Additionally, if you’re big into character meet and greets, I’d be failing you if I didn’t inform you that this is pretty much the only place on Disney property you can meet Mulan.
While you’ll want to check exactly what times of the day she does meet and greets via the My Disney World Experience App or the traditional paper map at the front of the park, you can find her next to the pagoda temple.
In China you will find both a quick service and sit-down option. The Nine Dragons restaurant is considered to be “gourmet Chinese with a twist.”
So, if quality Chinese food is a favorite of yours, we highly recommend this restaurant- and booking a reservation in advance!
However, if you’re looking for a cheaper/quicker option, feel free to enjoy the Lotus Blossom Café just behind the restaurant. The Lotus Blossom Café offers covered outdoor seating and more Americanized Chinese food options such as egg rolls, pot stickers, and orange chicken.
Just as in the other Epcot pavilions, you’ll find culture relevant souvenirs in the Chinese pavilion including: silk robes, parasols, tea sets, and porcelain housewares.
The indoor House of Good Fortune gift shop is much larger than what can be found inside of other countries and offers what feels like a truly culturally immersive experience.
There is also an outdoor souvenir stand with fewer options that are more child-oriented known as “Good Fortune Gifts” in front of the pavilion’s main pagoda.
If you are able to align your day with a performance of the Dragon Legend Acrobats, we definitely recommend that you do. A team of highly skilled acrobats tumble and create astounding formations by stacking on top of one another.
The show is short and has more of a casual feel, with no official seating or theater. You can even grab a margarita from Mexico, a piece of school bread from Norway, and enjoy both your snacks while being in awe of these immensely talented acrobats.
Let’s now head through the storybook towns of Germany at Epcot.
Rides and Attractions:
While Germany has less to offer in terms of rides and attractions, it’s still a great area of the park to visit if not just to grab some traditional German snacks or peruse their many completely culturally immersive shops.
With that beings said, you can still meet and greet with Snow White in front of the wishing well and enjoy the miniature train and village setup on the edge of the pavilion furthest form the World Showcase Lagoon.
The variety of food options is truly where Germany shines in the EPCOT pavilion lineup.
From a stand that sells giant pretzels bigger than your own head, to the sit down Biergarten Restaurant complete with a buffet and a band playing traditional German folk music, to the quick service Sommerfest restaurant, you truly can’t go wrong with any of the food options offered in this country.
Additionally, if you have a strong sweet tooth, I encourage you to explore the various shops which sell classic German candies and sweet treats…but more on that below!
With eight different stores to choose from, Germany certainly won’t let you down in terms of window and souvenir shopping.
Perhaps the most notable shops in this pavilion are Die Weihnachts Ecke– where it’s always Christmas, the Stein Haus– where you can get an assortment of traditional German drink wares, and my personal favorite Karamell-Kuche or the caramel kitchen.
Here you can get freshly made caramel popcorn, candy apples, and other amazingly decadent treats.
Additionally, you’ll find a complete section dedicated to Werther’s candies, if you’ve been wanting an oversized tin of caramel candies in your life.
The best way to experience this country is by walking through all the stores. EPCOT has done a great job making these stores feel authentic and true to the country’s cultures and additionally, each country is staffed by cast members who were born there!
It doesn’t get more culturally relevant than actual talking to the locals from that country!
Now let’s travel through the beautiful country of Italy.
Rides and Attractions:
While Italy has no official rides or attractions, be sure to enjoy all the beautiful architecture this pavilion has to offer. Popular photo spots include the Neptune Fountain and the Doge’s Palace based off the one in Venice.
Tutto Italia Ristorante is the picturesque sit-down dining option for dining in Italy. World renown chef Joachim Splichal created the menu and it seems to please with 4 stars.
The menu boasts multiple classic Italian options such as caprese, calamari, paninis, lasagna, and more. The dessert menu also shouldn’t be passed up, complete with gelato, cannolis, and tiramisu.
If you are hoping for a quicker and less expensive bite to eat, then we would recommend Via Napoli Ristorante, with a menu curated by the same chef and three brick ovens to cook your pizza to perfection.
And of course, this wouldn’t be a full expansive EPCOT overview if we didn’t tell you about Tutto Gusto, the wine cellar that also serves pasta and meat entrees.
You’ll find four separate shops in this EPCOT pavilion which sell such culturally relevant items as Venetian masks, aprons, and cookware.
Most notable, is the II Bell Cristallo shop, which sells higher ticket items such as Murano glass and fine bags and clothing, in the spirit of Italy’s love for high end fashion.
A whistling, juggling clown and a team of flag throwers are the two pop up entertainment options that come periodically throughout the day in this pavilion.
While both are amusing and impressive, they are certainly not anything you need to plan your day around and are more so intended to be “unexpected pleasant surprises” if you do happen to stumble upon them during a set.
The American Adventure (The United States)
As soon as you enter the World Showcase and look across the lagoon, you’ll see this pavilion as it’s meant to be the central point of EPCOT.
Rides and Attractions:
The red brick building with fountains outside was inspired by American colonial architecture, and inside of it is where the main attractions and entertainment offerings for this EPCOT pavilion take place.
Most notably, inside there is a theater which presents a walkthrough of American history plus a show called The American Adventure presented by animatronics of Mark Twain and Benjamin Franklin.
In the American pavilion you’ll find a quick service food location called the “Regal Eagle Smokehouse,” which serves barbecue. This dining location is recently remodeled- so let us know how you enjoy it if you choose to check it out!
Additionally, as you walk towards the Japan pavilion, you’ll see a funnel cake stand on your left-hand side, one of my personal favorite sweet treat stops in the park!
To the right side of The American Adventure building, you’ll find “Heritage Manor Gifts.” Here you’ll find American-themed Disney apparel, jewelry, and home decor.
Probably one of the best entertainment experiences in EPCOT is the Voices of Liberty.
This acapella group does an astounding job of rearranging and performing classic American songs under the dome of the American Adventure building to get the most entrancing, rich sound.
They are typically scheduled right before theater seating opens for The American Adventure attraction, making it easy to build this must-see/hear entertainment offering into your day.
Additionally, across the way at the America Gardens Theater, you’ll find an outdoor concert style venue that hosts more entertainment options throughout the year such as the Candlelight Processional, Broadway guests during the Festival of the Arts, and select bands during the Food and Wine Festival.
Japan Epcot Pavilion
Let’s now tour one of the most majestic countries in the world, Japan!
Rides and Attractions:
The Bijutsu-kan or self-guided exhibition is the only true attraction in Japan. While it is small, it is quite amusing as it explores “Kawaii Life” or the “Culture of Cute” that so many Japanese citizens live by.
In this exhibition you’ll find such recognizable faces as Pikachu and Hello Kitty and you’ll learn the importance of these types of fandoms for the people of Japan.
By far the best food option in Japan, if not in EPCOT in general is Teppan Edo, where your food is cooked right in front of you! You’ll find this eatery right above the amazing Mitsukoshi Japanese department store.
I recommend you get a reservation ahead of time, especially if teppanyaki-style rice, chicken, shrimp, vegetables, or scallops are calling your name!
Other quicker and cheaper dining options in this EPCOT pavilion include Tokyo Dining for sushi, Katsura Grill for tempura and other quick eats, Garden House for sake, and last but certainly not least Kabuki Cafe for amazing shaved ice!
Don’t miss the NEW restaurant in Japan called Takumi Tei!
The Mitsukoshi Department Store is most definitely worth a visit, if only just to marvel at Japanese products and culture.
Some of the highlights of this store include an oyster tank where you can pick your own pearl to create a custom piece of jewelry from and a wall display of Japanese snacks that will satisfy your sweet or savory tooth!
Occasionally, you would’ve found the Matsuriza, a team of traditional Japanese drummers. However, they are no longer available at Epcot at this time.
Where this pavilion really shines is more so with the broad selection of shopping and food.
Let’s now head to north Africa’s gem, Morocco!
Rides and Attractions:
While there are no official rides in Morocco, this is one of two locations on Disney property where you can meet Jasmine and Aladdin together. So, make sure to bring your autograph book and your smile if you’re up for a royal photo-op!
Restaurant Marrakesh, the full sit-down restaurant experience in this pavilion, was designed by Moroccan artisans sent by King Hassan II.
So, you know when you eat here, you’re not only getting a fulfilling foodie experience, but also an accurate, aesthetically pleasing one as well!
The Spice Road Table, with outdoor seating overlooking the water, is another sit down restaurant option, including menu items such as hummus, lamb sliders, and steak.
And finally, the Tangerine Cafe is your go-to quick service Mediterranean food option in this pavilion.
In the spirit of outdoor Moroccan bazaars, you’ll find multiple outdoor shopping stands full of souvenirs such as handmade baskets, ceramics, rugs, lanterns, and traditional Moroccan clothing, jewelry, and shoes.
Oftentimes you’ll find a band playing traditional Moroccan music accompanied by a belly dancer in order to enliven the atmosphere.
France Epcot Pavilion
Let’s travel to a land of wonder, beauty and charm, France!
Rides and Attractions:
“Impressions de France” is the main attraction in the back of the French pavilion. It is essentially an 18-minute film describing the history of France and guiding you through important landmarks.
Additionally, you can meet Princess Aurora, aka Sleeping Beauty, in the Garden Gazebo of this EPCOT pavilion.
Note: The Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure ride is coming soon to Epcot and will be located in the France Pavilion. You can learn about the full Epcot renovation happening here.
Les Chefs de France is often considered to be one of the best restaurants inside the Disney Parks, with a menu that boasts seared salmon, duck breast, and escargots.
If you hope to dine at this restaurant, which some say is the basis of some inspiration for Ratatouille, definitely make a reservation ahead of time!
Additionally, be sure to check out the amazing desserts available at these two quick service eateries: Les Halles Boulangerie-Patisserie, L’Artisan des Glaces, and Les Creperie de France. Amazing pastries, ice-creams, and crepes await!
As many know Paris, France to be the fashion capital of the world, the designers of the France pavilion certainly took this to heart when selecting which shops and products should be included in their pavilion of EPCOT.
From genuine French perfume to high end couture fashion, this might be the shopping area you want to blow all your vacation spend money at!
The Serveur Amusant which was a balancing chair and climbing show that occurred multiple times a day in this EPCOT pavilion was a crowd favorite.
However, it was cancelled at the start of the 2020 crisis event!
United Kingdom Pavilion
Let’s travel to another country filled with tales of adventure and mystery, the United Kingdom!
Rides and Attractions:
Check your up to date Disney sources for more specific times and details; however, in this pavilion you can meet Alice (from Alice in Wonderland), Mary Poppins, and/or Winnie the Pooh.
Because all three characters use the same set location, make sure you’ve got the timing right in order to meet the exact character you want!
The Rose & Crown Pub and Dining Room is a lively restaurant choice that’s sure to brighten up your theme park day.
With a live piano player, seating both indoors and outdoors, an expansive drink menu, and UK favorites like shepherd pie and corned beef and cabbage, this pub might be the right dining choice for you!
Or, if quick service fish and chips are more your style, be sure to swing by the Yorkshire County Fish Shop stand for tasty fried fish that won’t break the bank.
The shopping options in this EPCOT pavilion are so astounding. From a toy store to a tea store to a historical research center that can sell you merchandise with your family’s last name and/or Coat of Arms.
You won’t regret taking the time to window shop and peruse this pavilion.
If you walk into the United Kingdom pavilion and think you hear live music, you’re right!
Also, don’t forget to get some pictures with the famous red phone booths that’ll make it look like you really did go to London!
Canada Pavilion at Epcot
Rides and Attractions:
Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara are the narrators of this EPCOT pavilion’s main attraction, “Canada Far and Wide in Circle-Vision 360,” a film depicting Canadian life.
This attraction is presented in 360-degree circle vision for a truly immersive experience that takes you through the nature, the people and the beauty of this country.
For a more upscale in-park dining experience, try out Le Cellier Steakhouse. While the prices are high, the food is well worth it and perhaps some of the best on Disney property.
So, be sure to make a reservation and budget ahead of time if you hope to try out the amazing steak and seafood delicacies served here.
Or, if you just want a quick taste of what Canada has to offer, you can stop by the freestanding popcorn cart at the front of the pavilion for popcorn and/or beer.
A traditional indoor store, known as “Northwest Mercantile” as well as the outdoor “Wood Cart” are your two shopping options for Canada.
While you can find souvenirs such as Christmas ornaments, NHL products, and maple syrup in the mercantile, more wine-themed options and products available for engraving can be found at The Wood Cart.
Don’t forget to visit the Trading Post. This quaint shop is for the young at heart and is now serving more than just Canadian sweet treats and souvenirs.
You can now indulge yourself in Apple Ice Wine and different beers from Canada.
Hidden far back in this EPCOT pavilion is a mini-replica of Niagara Falls. Definitely an awesome hidden gem to go and visit, especially if have you some time to kill before the next “Canada Far and Wide” showing.
Overall, if you plan to go through each EPCOT pavilion, you’re in for a fun-filled day!
If you’re a thrill seeker, the Future World section of the park has some great rides for you. If you’re someone who prefers to enjoy the atmosphere of the theme park, then it truly doesn’t get better than the World Showcase.
From unique cultural experiences to highly rated food options, there is truly something in EPCOT for everybody to enjoy.
Thanks for reading and I can’t wait to hear about your EPCOT experience soon!
Until next time, Happy Park Hopping Hipsters!