Epcot is an incredible park. While yes, many aspects of Future World have lost their luster or applicability, the attractions, the food and drinks, and the beauty of the World Showcase still remain top notch. When you walk through the World Showcase you are not just sampling a taste of their cuisine, but for a few minutes you visually enter that country. I know that everyone has their favorite pavilions, whether it be Germany for their beer or France for their macarons, but have you ever stopped to just appreciate how beautiful each pavilion is? Here are my top 5 most beautiful Epcot Pavilions:
The China Pavilion sits between the Norwegian and the German Pavilions and is hard to miss! Themed to resemble an ancient Chinese city, the entrance is marked by a large, ornate ceremonial gate modeled after the Temple of Heaven in Beijing. The intricacy of the cravings, as well as the peaceful beauty of the gardens, make this is a perfect spot to take a breather!
Immediately adjacent to the China Pavilion is Germany. Centered around a statute of St. George slaying a dragon, the pavilion is themed primarily as the fairy tale villages found in the Bavarian region. The pavilion is a popular one for the restaurants and beer, and so it can become crowded during peak dining times.
While this is not my favorite pavilion for dining (I find Restaurant Marrakesh to be seriously lacking in flavor), I do find this pavilion to be enticingly beautiful, especially at night. The fountains combined with terra cotta tiles and intricate mosaic work, make this one of my favorite pavilions to just walk through and enjoy the beauty.
The Italy Pavilion is a must do for any guest! Whether you are grabbing a pizza or just a glass of prosecco, the Italy Pavilion is truly transporting! Designed to replicate St. Mark's Square, the intricate beauty of the pink and white "Doge's Palace" and the "Fontana de Nettuno" make this an area I could just sit and relax all day!
And to round out my top 5 is Canada. For me the beauty of this pavilion really lies in two distinct areas. The first are the beautiful gardens that lead up to the entrance of Le Cellier. The gardens are meant to replicate the Butchart Gardens in Vicotoria. And the second is the majestic Rocky Mountains and waterfalls located in the back of the Pavilion.
As always, I'd love to hear what you think? Are you drawn to one pavilion more than the others? Share your photos!
Maybe its the upcoming holidays, or just that Disney Depression is setting in, but I am seriously missing the mixologists at Disney World. The beverage offerings all throughout Disney World seem to be an ever-expanding foray into unique and delicious. No place is this more evident than at Epcot. A park almost as famous for its alcohol (and its consumption) as its attractions. But unless you are intent on drinking at every pavilion in the World Showcase, you will likely want to selective choose your drinks to optimize both their value but their deliciousness. In that mind, here are our time 5 adult drinks in Epcot!
1. Avocado Margarita from the Mexico Pavillion
2. Schofferhofer Pink Grapefruit Hefeweizen
3. Prosecco from the Italy Pavillion
4. Frozen Kirin from the Japan Pavilion
5. Grand Marnier Slush from the France Pavillion
Since November is National Aviation Month, I thought what better chance to share our latest experience with Jock Lindsay's Hangar Bar. For those of you unfamiliar with Jock Lindsay (and don't worry, I think most people are!), Jock Lindsay is a character from Raiders of the Lost Ark, the first in the Indiana Jones series. Jock was Indiana Jones' laid back pilot. But for most of us, if you remembered him from that, is where his story ended. Disney gave Jock an new life, err past, and themed an aviation bar to perfection. Take a look:
Located at Disney Springs next to the Boathouse, the location is an easy one to grab a quick drink or sit and relax.
Inside the Hangar is a well curated gem! The theming is entirely set around a globe-trotting, adventure-seeking pilot's vintage aviation collection. The walls are filled with maps, photos, and memorabilia from Jock's imagined life. There are a number of seating options which I like as you can choose where to sit depending on if you're there for a drink, some food, or just in search of a water view. But did I mention the Diver Bell? You can cozy around a small table inside a large, rustic Diver Bell. Definitely one of the cooler seating areas I've ever seen!
While the vintage, aviation ambiance is pretty neat, the food and drink options stand up to the test. First, the menu itself is a unique creation. It is multiple layers of not just the food and drinks offered, but of Jock's backstory and where his travels took him. Its worth a read, honestly.
On our latest trip we tried the Mac's Pork Belly Sliders and the Chimichurri Fries. Both were quite good. Now, I will say that since I truly love Pork Belly and can tell when it properly cooked or not, the sliders were not perfect pork belly. But if you're going to slather sauce, and cabbage on top of it, you wouldn't want perfect pork belly. So this dish, while not perfect, was really good and very filling! Our other choice was the Chimichurri Fries. These were so hard to stop eating! I cannot recommend these enough!
To drink I went for the Bedtime Story, a mix of Mandarin Vodka, Ginger Liqueur, Hibiscus Syrup, Lemon Juice and Ice Tea. It was delicious! And the Hibiscus Flower on top is actually edible. While not that great tasting, that was a cool touch.
Honestly, this was a surprise LOVE for me. While I enjoy finding new lounges on Disney Property (And this one is kid friendly!) usually I am never as awestruck by a spot. Jock Lindsay's Hangar Bar was cool, interesting and well themed! Does Jock Lindsay’s Hangar Bar look like a place you’d visit?
If your eyes immediately roll when you hear Spaceship Earth referred to as a Golf Ball, you are not alone! Spaceship Earth, besides being the central focal structure of Epcot, is also a nice fun ride through the past. Yet, so many guests miss this classic attraction. Maybe they are just super pumped for Soarin' or Test Track. Maybe they are heading to the World Showcase or Frozen. Maybe you are one of them? Even if you are one of those that head straight pass "the big golf ball" or just love it like we do, here are a few of our favorite scenes from the ride!
Spaceship Earth (AKA The Big Golf Ball)
The Romans Constructed The First "Super Highway"
"Call It The First Back Up System"
The First Computers Were As Big As A House!
Our Spaceship Earth
Are you a fan of Spaceship Earth? Or haven't tried it yet? It really is a fun slow moving ride through time! And don't forget, if you can read this blog, thank the Phoenicians!
Its very clear that in the past few years food has become such an integral part of the Disney experience. From the ever-growing Food and Wine Festival at Epcot to the rotating menus at the other parks, Disney and Great Food are becoming synonymous. Then you get to Hollywood Studios...While the food here is not bad by any means, this park has been very neglected by the Disney/Food Revolution. Because of this it can be difficult to find great food here. There are signs that this is beginning to change with the addition of Baseline, the charcuterie focused tap room. However, if you want to make sure you continue to eat really great food even at Hollywood Studios, you better check out our 4 top recommendations for where to eat at Hollywood Studios:
1. Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant
First up is Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant. It can be very difficult to get a reservation here, but it is worth the struggle! First off, the theming is spot on fun. Once through the door you emerge "outside" at the Drive-In. Some people are seated in picnic style tables and others in cars. While you are dining, you get to enjoy throw back black and white sci-fi movies on the big screen.
The food is also delicious here. Nothing gourmet or truly inventive, but just very good. I highly recommend the onion rings, burgers, and a milkshake.
Sci-Fi Dine-In is my number 1 recommendation because the food is good and the atmosphere is great!
2. 50's Prime Time Cafe
50's Prime Time Cafe is another great choice for a sit down meal because the food again is solidly good and the atmosphere is fun. Imagine walking into your grandmother's kitchen back in the 50s with the same level of detail in the theming to truly transport you. The waitresses will admonish you for putting your elbows on the table and not eating your vegetables, but its all in the fun of the place!
The food here, while maybe not as good as Sci-Fi Dine-In, is solidly good. We've had both the friend chicken and the meatloaf and had zero problems finishing our meal! This is also a great place to pick up a milkshake! Their signature one is Peanut Butter and Jelly!
3. The Hollywood Brown Derby
The Hollywood Brown Derby is a bit more upscale than our other choices and so where is gets bonus points for the inventive menu, it lacks the fun in the theming. Designed after the original Brown Derby, a restaurant made famous in the heyday of old Hollywood, this has an authentic feel to it, but just isn't very fun. So if you have kids with you, I might skip this one for that reason and the price tag!
The menu offers an incredible array of beef, duck, and seafood dishes. The food here is more appealing to the foodie in me, but service can be slow. Be sure you are ready for a long leisurely lunch. For some it is an oasis from the heat and crowds.
4. Hollywood & Vine
OK, so just a disclaimer: The food at Hollywood & Vine is nothing spectacular. Its a Disney World buffet. It could be worse, but it could be a whole lot better! But what has me even including Hollywood & Vine in the top place I would eat is purely because my young children love it. This is where pre-schoolers and younger tots can meet their favorite Disney Junior friends such as Princess Sofia and Doc McStuffins during the day, and seasonally can meet Minnie and Mickey in seasonal costumes at night.
Again, the food here is nothing exciting, but its a great place to sit and take a break if you have those young ones in tow, and I will say the dessert spread is pretty fantastic!
What about Quick Service?
If you are not looking for a table service restaurant and just want something quick before you head to your next fast pass, then there are a few quick service spots that will fill you up, but in general do nothing for me in terms of food. However, I feel I would be remiss in not mentioning them.
The first is Min and Bill's Dockside Diner. It features hot dogs, cheese nachos and pulled pork sandwiches. The real draw here for me is the rotating featured cocktail. When I was there last it was a Kahlua and Cream Milkshake! Yum!
Updated: Newest Spots to Grab a Bite!
Since originally writing this article back in 2017, I have gotten to try both of the two newest quick service offerings at Hollywood Studios: Baseline and Woody's Lunch Box. While adding more dining options is certainly a plus for Hollywood Studios, I don't know that I would rank either as being better than the ones listed above. But they are new and well themed. So I thought I would give them a quick review below!
Baseline Tap House: Since visiting Baseline back in February 2018, I have written a full review you can check out here. For a quick recap: Baseline is a small counter service "tap house" that serves several types of beer a long with a few small plates of food. I really hesitate to include this as a dining option as the food choices are extremely limited. But they are tasty! I greatly enjoyed the charcuterie and cheese plate with the Ace Space Bloody Orange Hard Cider. We will definitely eat here again (but probably not with the kids...)
In our Animal Kingdom 101 post, I mention the Kilimanjaro Safaris as one of the best attractions at Animal Kingdom. While not a fast paced roller coaster like Expedition Everest or as technologically amazing as Flight of Passage, Kilimanjaro Safari remains my top attraction in the park. While these other rides are equally as fun and exciting, there is just nothing that compares to the thrill of reality that you are in fact driving through the actual habitat with some of the earth's most majestic animals. Take a look below at why I love Kilimanjaro Safaris!
Once you enter the attraction line and meander through the wait area, you will board a large transport "bus" that seats several per row. The transport bus is open-sided for maximum views of the animals and the landscapes.
A few things about the ride itself: This is an actual bus/jeep contraption. There are no rails and no set path it must follow. The driver, not only is your tour guide helping you spot and identify the animals, but they are also the actual driver who controls the speed and path of the vehicle. So I do recommend having your camera on a sport motion or other high shutter speed setting to make sure you get the pictures you want, because the driver does have to keep the vehicle moving.
But why do I love this ride? Because it never disappoints! You can see antelopes, baboons, lions, hippos, crocodiles, cheetahs, zebras, and so many other animals walking freely about. While Disney has used hidden measures to protect the wildlife and you, they are very well hidden. You feel like you really are out on the savannah with the lion pride, because you ARE out there with that lion pride. That reality is simply hard to compete with.
One last tip: I recommend heading directly to the Safari early in the morning. That is feeding time and the animals are much more lively. As the day heats up, the number of animals you may see will decrease. That said, I've done the Safari at mid-day and its still amazing. Take a look at our favorite photos from the Safari over the years!
Located near the Kilamanjaro Safaris is a "hidden" area of the Animal Kingdom, Raffiki's Planet Watch. I consider it hidden because it is only accessibly by train and is tucked away out of view. Most visitors walk right by it without giving it a second glance. In fact, it was only recently when my sons became interested in the Wilderness Explorers Activity that we ever ventured there ourselves. While this area features no rides or major attractions, it does have three areas of interest: The Wildlife Express Train, The Petting Zoo, Conservation Station, and a few Characters.
The Wildlife Express Train
As I mentioned, the only way to see Raffiki's Planet Watch is to board The Wildlife Express Train. While the train itself is smooth and a quick 5 minute ride, it does provide some very interested backstage views of some of the nighttime living quarters of the Elephants, Cheetahs, and Warthogs.
Once you exit the train you will follow an outdoor discovery path that leads to the Planet Watch. Along the way are several small monkeys and a spot for earning a Wilderness Explorer Badge.
The Petting Zoo
Outside the main Planet Watch Building is a small petting zoo. Here kids can get up close with a few barn yard type animals: sheep, goats, bigs, and a cow is usually also present. There is also a conveniently located hand washing station there as well.
If your kids, or just you, love to meet characters (and really who doesn't?), then Rafiki's Planet Watch is home to both Rafiki and to Doc McStuffins. We have also bumped into Tarzan in here a few times during colder weather...
Overall, Rafiki's Planet Watch is an interesting area to see some animals up close and perhaps even view a veterinary procedure on one of the Safari inhabitants. You can meet some characters or just stroll through the exhibits. If you or anyone in your party is interested in animals and/or conservation, I recommend checking it out. It might not be a stop you make every trip to the Animal Kingdom, but certainly worth checking out once or twice!
Tara is a Disney-obsessed Mom of two active boys!