Article and Pictures by Florida Diva
Yes, I know there are 11 pavilions at world showcase, but honestly it seems a bit silly to include the American Pavilion. I mean, after all, if you’re at Epcot, you’re already in the U.S. So, for the purposes of this article, it has been left out. Each country was scored in 3 categories. Atmosphere, culture and overall display with each category maxing out at 5 shooting stars.
10. France. Oui, oui. Set to resemble Paris in the spring, this pavilion does look inviting as you cross the bridge (Over The English Channel) from the UK towards France. Flowers, quaint shops and the Eiffel Tower in the distance all make you feel like you’re strolling down the streets of Paris…until you get to the end. Then, it just stops. There’s no way to get to the scale model of the Eiffel Tower and if you enter the building at the end of the street you get to sit and wait inside a…I don’t know what. (Seriously, I have no idea what this room is supposed to represent, and the only way you’ll still know you’re in France is because of the gargoyle that’s crouched on a pedestal. And that’s only if you connect it to The Hunchback of Notre Dame). But alas, this insanely boring room is the waiting area for the Impressions de France film. Unfortunately, we got so bored sitting in this stuffy in appearance enclosure, that we left after 5 minutes and went into some of the shops instead. This didn’t go well either. The perfume shop was so overwhelming with a mix of scents that I immediately made my way back out the door into the street façade where I gave up on the experience altogether and headed for the border. I gave it a total of 2 shooting stars; one for atmosphere and one for culture and none for overall display.
9. Germany. Well its picturesque, but that’s about it. Looking like a a scene right out of a fairy-tale, the little village envelopes you in the sights and sounds of Oktoberfest. The many shops sell everything from chocolate steins to Bavarian crystal and of course beer and sausage abound. The little miniature landscape that stars an intricate train systems will delight young and old, but really you can only find this sweet display entertaining for so long. Back out towards the lake and rounding the bend towards the right you’ll find Snow White’s wishing well, and if you time it right; Snow White herself. While the Germany pavilion is very romantic and enticing , it doesn’t take long to overdose on the sweetness of this display. This blitzkrieg on the senses earned 2 shooting stars for atmosphere, 2 shooting stars for culture and one star for overall display simply because it didn’t make me want to stay for long.
8. Italy. Surprised that it’s so low on the list? Me too actually. I really did expect so much more from this pavilion. Where’s the show in a Coliseum style theater? (Even a tourism promo movie would do). Where’s the leaning tower of Pisa? And for the love of Mickey…why is there no tour of Italy attraction that has you seated in a Gondola while you leave the canals of Venice to explore the rest of this historic country? Sure the replica Trevi Fountain is spectacular and is actually where one of my favorite pictures of my boys was taken but, gelato and the romantic atmosphere of this pavilion at night can only take it so far up the countdown ladder. Bottom line; someone missed the boat on a HUGE opportunity to secure this pavilion the top spot, hands down. It garners 3 shooting stars for atmosphere, 2 for culture (mostly because of the stunning hand-painted Venetian masks that are on display and available for sale in one of the shops), and 2 for overall display.
7. Norway. This pavilion has a very similar vibe to Germany, just with more wood. There’s definitely something mysterious about the display, but it’s a little broody for me.The things that ranked this pavilion higher were the often overlooked mini museum towards the entrance and the attraction Maelstrom. This boat ride takes you through the history and legends of Norway and brings you full circle through the oil rig platforms that dot the Norwegian Sea. You’re deposited in a beautiful seaside town and the exit takes you through a small theater that gives you a glimpse into life in Norway. ***PLEASE if you’re not interested in the film have the courtesy to walk along the side of the theater and pass through the back so you don’t disturb those that wish to see it by walking rudely in front of the screen.*** Another highlight is the shop that offers trinkets from Norway and a trip to this slice of Europe just isn’t complete without a picture with one of the trolls on display. This dark and rugged country scored 2 shooting stars for atmosphere, 3 for culture and 3 for overall display.
6/5. We have a tie for the next spots on our list., so in no particular order…
Canada. This pavilion does a great job of showing the diversity of this country, and I should know, I live there. From the beautiful gardens that highlight the lush islands of the BC coast, up through the historic heart of the country with the majestic stone buildings, to the back where you hike down into the canyon that represents the rugged Rocky Mountains, it’s been well done. The 360 degree movie, O’ Canada covers anything that wouldn’t fit in the outdoor display and the shops offer all the best of Canadian tradition and culture, from totem poles to maple syrup. Whoever designed the pavilion made sure to include a nod to our continued ties to Britain by including an English phone booth. How better to keep in touch with the Queen and let her know all’s well in the largest country in the British Commonwealth? Canada got 3 shooting stars for atmosphere, 3 for culture (a couple of Mounties would have put this score higher and a few tee pees with native ceremonial dancers could have been presented well here too.) For overall display, it received 3 shooting stars.
Mexico finishes off this tie. Considering that Mexico is a country full of good weather, I was surprised to find that this pavilion was set entirely indoors. Although the display is housed in a replica Aztec pyramid, I thought more use could have been made of Florida’s tropical surroundings to set off the pavilion. Once inside though, you find yourself in the heart of little Mexican village, but its dark…all…the…time. Why? Mexico is known around the world as being a sunny destination for travelers. Yes, the darker lighting gives the restaurant a nicer atmosphere, but Mexico is so much more than dimly lit restaurants with Mariachi bands. What about the flamenco dancers? How about the burros with colorful blankets that sit patiently while people get their pictures taken with them? What about the friendly tour guides, iguanas that roam the gardens or the lush jungles that offer incredible eco-tours? What does bump this pavilion up the list is the marketplace. In the center of the pyramid you find an abundance of stands that sell all the best of all things Mexico. Handmade toys, beautiful paper flowers, marachas, ponchos, sombreros, stunning cotton dresses and tequila of course. Along with one of the most popular restaurants on Disney property, the Mexico pavilion also offers the Grand Fiesta Tour featuring the 3 caballeros as your guides. You take a leisurely boat ride along the coast of Mexico while you listen to traditional Mexican music and search for Donald duck. A final plus to the only indoor pavilion at World Showcase, is that it does offer a nice break from the heat in the afternoon. Mexico was awarded 3 shooting stars for atmosphere, 3 for culture and 3 for overall display. Aye Karumba!
4. China. Now its getting tough to tighten up the race. China screams culture before you even enter the pavilion. With it’s giant gate and pagodas looming in the distance, its hard to mistake what country you’ve just come across. Beautiful carvings and manicured gardens line the pathways that lead back towards the pagodas all while melodic Chinese music surrounds you. One of the buildings houses replicas of the terracotta soldiers that were discovered in the 1970’s by remote Chinese farmers. This army of clay warriors dates back to about 20 BC and is believed to have been created to guard the tomb of an ancient Chinese Emperor. The other buildings house souvenir shops and authentic Chinese restaurants. The grounds themselves offer many traditional Chinese Statues of lions and dragons, gardens full of bamboo and a show featuring Chinese Acrobats. If you’ve never had the chance to see this cultural display of talent, be sure to catch one of the shows. Their daring and lyrical performance will have you spellbound and leave you in awe. This pavilion scored 3 shooting stars for atmosphere, 4 for culture and 3 for overall display. Its one of the few that will make you feel like you were fortunate enough to visit a foreign country.
3. Japan. Wow! There’s something very dignified and reserved about this pavilion, much like the Japanese people themselves. The koi ponds, sculptured shrubbery, breathtaking display of artwork, an abundance of souvenirs and even the dining experience is all a display of their culture. You can select an oyster and watch as your pearl is retrieved from it, you can witness an ancient tradition played out on Matsuriza drums or even shop for your favorite anime character. The only thing that could make this pavilion better would be section devoted to the vibrant metropolis that is Tokyo. Japan gets 3 shooting stars for atmosphere, 4 for culture and 4 for overall display.
2. England. Well isn’t this just a jolly good show? With The Rose and Crown situated right at the edge of the water it really helps to immerse you in England in an almost 360 degree way. The centuries old side streets with stone front shops makes you feel like you’re wandering through an English country town. The stores interiors are full of grandeur with wooden staircases, dark wood floors and classic wood framed windows that look back out onto the street. The best that England has to offer is sold here, and of course there’s a tea shop too. You can find the jersey to many of the world famous football teams like Manchester United, have a pint at the Rose and Crown or even visit with the sweetest Disney Character of all time; Winnie The Pooh, right in Christopher Robin’s bedroom! So what else is there besides the fish and chips, suits of armor, mini hedge maze and bobby hats? There’s history everywhere, from the Shakespearean cottage, to a replica of King Henry’s Court. Fine china to English sweets and of course those iconic phone booths. So why is this not number one? There are no palace guards, no Tower of London where you can browse the Queens jewels , there’s no London Bridge and there’s no Prince William. Still, this showcase of history earned 4 shooting stars for atmosphere, 4 for culture and 4 for overall display.
And the number one pavilion at Epcot’s World Showcase is….
- Morocco. As I mentioned in my overview article of this pavilion, Morocco has the most detailed architecture that was done by actual trades people from Morocco. No detail was left untouched right down to the tiniest of tiles and hinges on doors. Ornate lanterns hang high above you as you walk through archways and turn down narrow streets. Men sit in the shade dressed in traditional Moroccan clothing that’s brightly adorned with intricate embroidery. Belly dancers and musicians entertain you as you dine in the Sultan’s Palace and you half expect to be startled by the grunt of a camel at any moment. The spectacular goods for sale in the marketplace highlight pride and craftsmanship and the hot Florida sun helps to finish off the illusion that you’re in an ancient city in the middle of the desert. Morockin’ does an amazing job of demonstrating exotic instruments and style with a modern flare that makes it almost impossible to resist dancing to. As with anything though; nothing is perfect, and I have to say that an attraction that gave you more of what life is like in Morocco would have made this pavilion the crème de la crème. A simulated sandstorm, a peak into a nomad camp, an encounter with a cobra or even a ride on the fabled flying carpets would have been the icing on the cake. But none the less, I still gave this pavilion 5 shooting stars for atmosphere, 4 for culture and 4 for overall display.
Now I’m sure there are those of you out there who will say I got it completely wrong and I’d love to hear your thoughts about which pavilion you’d put in the number one spot…let me have it!