By Renee Castro
Finding the perfect location to travel or vacation takes a lot of time, planning and sometimes even cash. The months leading up to your perfect vacation can be crucial, punching in numbers for flights, finding a hotel that is affordable (but also above 3.5 stars) and waiting for the approval of your requested vacation days.
Until you hear someone mention in passing that you can travel the world in less than a day’s time. What, you ask? Disney World, they say.
Your brow furrows and you brush off the thought of Mickey Mouse and hundreds of children.
But, then you give it a second thought. And you realize, World Showcase is your answer.
At just a little less than a two hour drive from Gainesville, lies 11 countries surrounding a lagoon in Walt Disney World’s Epcot, and making up the renown World Showcase.
You breathe a sigh of relief, you absolutely can travel the world in 12 hours, maybe even less.
And so did we! However, during our “around the world” adventure, we decided to sit out on America. Since we were interested in seeing the world, we figured we’d spend our time appreciating the culture and architecture of a country we didn’t already know and love!
Welcome to Mexico! The Mexico pavilion at Epcot is known for resembling a Mesoamerican pyramid, but as you pass the entrance door you are fully immersed in a Mexican adventure. The dim lighting and small marketplace area are true to the Mexican culture. Throughout the marketplace, you can buy authentic Mexican goodies like Oaxacan wood carvings, foods and figurines designed by Mexican artists, all imported from Mexico.
Right next to the Mexican pavilion is Norway. Home to Arendelle, (for our “Frozen” lovers) and full of beautiful Norwegian-inspired architecture, 4 styles to be exact. Throughout the Norway pavilion, you can see a replica of the Stave church as well as different shops and restaurants inspired by Norway. The Norwegian bakery, Kringla Bakeri og Kafe features an assortment of Norwegian pastries and a few hot lunch items. Traditional pastries like school bread, trail horn and Kringla can all be found at this stop.
Ni hao and welcome to China! After a quick viewing of “Reflections of China,” be sure to roam the streets of the China pavilion and learn about the detailed culture. The Jeweled Dragon Acrobats bring the beauty of gymnastics and chinese culture right to the center of the China pavilion. While shopping for a Chinese kimono or marveling at the array of Chinese tea options, be sure to try out the Chinese hand-crafted artisan cotton candy, a delight and an Instagram staple at the same time!
Here in Germany the Biergarten restaurant celebrates Oktoberfest everyday, and the German- inspired foods and drinks are an absolute must-try. The German pavilion is built to look like a German town from different time periods and regions of the country, and in the center is a statue of St. George and the Dragon. While in Germany, be sure to stop in and have a grapefruit beer and an extra large German pretzel. If you’re feeling extra hungry, be sure to try an authentic bratwurst.
Head to the next country and experience la dolce vita in the beautiful Italy pavilion. Visit the replica of the Trevi Fountain in the plaza while sipping on a bellini or an Italian margarita. Also in the plaza, you can experience Florentine and Rome through buildings and architecture. The pavilion is also home to the replicas of St. Mark’s Campanile, the Columns of San Marco and San Teodoro as well as the Trevi Fountain. Make sure to munch on Italian style pizza and a cannoli to complete your mini vacation to Italy.
The most notable thing on your trip to Japan, aside from the Pagoda, will be the Torii of Itsukushima Shrine. Right through the center you can see the Epcot ball and the showcase lagoon, an equal parts beauty and picture spot. Once you venture into Japan, it’s almost as if culture is pouring through the rocks and mini waterfalls spilling through the greenery. The Mitsukoshi department store sells traditional Japanese items like clothing, books and more. Treat yourself to a Japanese mochi and the traditional Matsuriza Taiko drummers. For a complete Japansese adventure, have some sake, visit Teppan Edo for a teppanyaki experience or have some sushi while overlooking the beautiful bonsai trees.
If you love baklava, henna and all things curry, then we are sure you’ll be excited to roam the “streets” of Morocco. The pavilion is made to look like a Moroccan city, down to the small shops in the back and the exquisite patterns embedded on the floor and walls of any given room. In Morocco, you can find the Chellah, Necropolis, the Koutoubia, Minaret and Bab Boujeloud. If you’re looking for Moroccan cuisine, visit Restaurant Marrakesh to indulge on the savory lamb dishes and some couscous.
The France pavilion is so quaint, you almost feel like you are quite literally in a Parisienne neighborhood, especially with the Eiffel Tower nestled in the distance. When you’re not tasting the stars in a glass of champagne, get a caricature and then stroll through the small shops and eateries that encompass the France pavilion. View a visual tour of France in the “Impressions de France,” film and then enjoy a croque monsieur and a french macaron to finish.
You’ve almost made it around the world…showcase at this point and you’re finally in the UK! Made to look like a British village, the UK is deep in culture from a hedge maze, to fish and chips and UK popular drinks like Guinness, Boddingtons, Stella Artois and whiskey! After you visit the Rose and Crown pub to enjoy your fried fish, wander over to the Toy Soldier to buy some toys and memorabilia that is associated with the UK. You can bring home goods without having to pass it through customs!
The last country on the list, the Canada pavilion is home to one of the most prestigious restaurants in all of Disney World, Le Cellier Steakhouse. In true Canadian fashion, it is known for seafood, steaks and the most popular Canadian wines and beer. Standing out in the Canada pavilion are the numerous performances singing in both English and French, with a few songs by popular Canadian artists, Canadian country and folk music. The Canada pavilion is also home to the native totem poles and a store with authentic maple syrup.
After touring the World Showcase, it was evident that each country’s architecture, layout and stores are meticulously planned and inspired by each culture. From cast members who are native to each country, to food, entertainment and educational films inspired by the country, it’s incredible to see how much you can learn about a specific place without actually having to be there. Not only are the names of the restaurants and shops in the native language to each country, the authenticity of the menu items and taste of food is almost as exquisite as it is native to its culture. If you have a love for travel and only a day’s time to see the world, make your way over to World Showcase and experience the globe through your own eyes.