Published May 31, 2012
Have you ever wanted to travel the world without leaving home?
Epcot's World Showcase in Orlando, Fla. is your passport to Disney World's enchanting recreation of 11 magnificent countries, without getting on a plane.
Each country (they include Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, Italy, U.S., Japan, Morocco, France, U.K. and Canada) is represented by a separate pavilion, teeming with restaurants, shops and attractions.
Kimberly Button, author of the app, "The Disney Activity Guide," says that the World Showcase experience is about enjoying the details of each showcase: "It's the experience of feeling like you're in a different world without the hassles of travel."
Each "land" is next to the other, but the experiences are very different and you never get the sense that you're in two places at once. Cast Members, through the Cultural Representative Program, come from the country you're visiting and live and work at the resort for a year. They're always eager to talk about their homeland, and its a wonderful chance to practice your foreign language skills or discuss what their country is really like.
And what's visiting a foreign land without tasting its cuisine. Countries have a selection of restaurants that offer you a chance to try a different local food.
This is one of the more unplugged parts of Disney World where there are fewer rides and thrill-seeking attractions. World Showcase opens at 11:00am and can easily be worked in your visit to Epcot. Click here for more.
There're so much information to know and exciting highlights to share, we decided to break it into parts. Below is a look at what Mexico, Norway, China, Germany and Italy have to offer visitors.
After you enter the park's main entrance near Spaceship Earth and walk through Future World, you will stumble upon the World Showcase. If you start by walking clockwise around the World Showcase Lagoon, the first country you will find is Mexico.
The perpetually-twilight indoor Mexican pavilion is modeled after a historic Aztec Temple, dedicated to the Mesoamerican deity Quetzalcoatl in Teotihuacan, Mexico. Inside you will enjoy a peaceful boat ride through a shady lagoon on the Gran Fiesta Tour, admire Oaxacan woodcarvings and dine on authentic cuisine at La Hacienda De San Angel, San Angel Inn or La Cava del Tequila.
Next door, you can travel back to the Viking Age at the Norway pavilion, modeled after a Scandinavian village square. The pavilion includes a variety of Norwegian architectural styles, as demonstrated by a Stave church and Akershus Royal Banquet Hall.
The centerpiece of the pavilion is Maelstrom, an exciting log chute where you embark on a tempestuous voyage aboard a Viking ship, as you seek to escape from meddlesome trolls and find safer waters.
Pass under the traditional Paifang Gate to see China's tranquil gardens and beautiful reflecting pools.
Lou Mongello, host of WDW Radio, said that the best part of the pavilion is the highly symbolic architecture, such as the details of the Hall of Prayer.
The flagship building is a replica of the Temple of Heaven in Beijing. Inside you can learn about China's history at "Reflections of China," a 360-degree film with glimpses of the Great Wall of China and the Forbidden City. The House of the Whispering Willows houses a replica of the excavation in Xi'an and two restaurants -- Nine Dragons Restaurant and Lotus Blossom Cafe -- serve heavenly Chinese fare.
Although this pavilion's buildings represent numerous periods and places, they predominantly feature the romanticism of the fairytale Bavarian architecture many associate with Disney.
With its 16th-century styled cobblestone plaza -- replete with a clock tower and Saint George/dragon fountain -- the Germany pavilion has shops that sell authentic wares like steins (Volkskunst), toys (Der Teddybar) and jewelery (Kunstarbeit in Kristall). Follow the oom-pah music into the Biergarten Restaurant, where it's Oktoberfest all year round.
The Italian pavilion feels like a Venetian painting that has come alive with gondolas, barber poles and a gorgeous promenade styled after St. Mark's Square. Admire the craftsmanship of the enchanting 83-foot version of St. Mark's Campanile (the famous bell tower) and the replica of Doge's Palace (the Gothic landmark).
Italy is renowned for its cuisine, which you can appreciate at two first-class restaurants -- Delizie Italiane and La Bottega Italiana -- before heading to La Bottega Italiana and Delizie Italiane for delectable sweets.