Continuing on our way around the world our next stop is smack dab in the center of the World, both literally and figuratively.
United States of America
The United States pavilion, actually named “American Adventure Pavilion,” is number six no matter which way you walk around. Well, it’s actually the seventh stop if you are going clockwise from Mexico because of the Outpost but that technically isn’t a country pavilion so we won’t count it.
Some of the best view of Spaceship Earth can be captured from the pavilion. Because of this, I opted not to take any pictures. Well, that and my level of professionalism.
On our recent trip we didn’t do anything in America. We didn’t stop to eat. We didn’t stop to see the Voice of Liberty or The Spirit of America Fife and Drum Corps. We didn’t stop to watch the The American Adventure. I’m still undecided as to which show is better between The American Adventure and the Hall of Presidents in Liberty Square in Magic Kingdom. Both are great if you love America, which I do. Both are great if you love animatronics, which I do. Unfortunately, a lot of people find them “boring” and “a waste of time.” I would ask them in response if they are “unpatriotic” or a “communist” or “hate their country.”
The pavilion itself is actually quite nice and has a very large air-conditioned area, which is always a plus in Florida. The large fountain out front is usually where you can find the Fife and Drum Corps performing multiple times a day. The pavilion also has the America Gardens Theater which hosts a bevy of events throughout the year including the Candlelight Processional during Christmas time, which Ashley and I are excited to see when we go this coming Christmas (it’s the first Christmas visit for either one of us so you could say we are a bit exited). As usual there is plenty of shopping and mini-American flags for sale in case you want to strap them to your rented scooter all Uncle Sam style.
The food choices leave a lot to be desired though. There is only one place to eat in America and it is quick service which, don’t get me wrong, is great because it’s cheaper and fast but the quality and selection is pretty terrible. They have the generic, American hamburgers, hotdogs and chicken nuggets. I think it would be nice to see some regional food thrown in there. Maybe something from New England or the South or West Coat or Midwest or whatever. There are a lot of foods that come from different areas of America that could be showcased here but Disney seems to be ignoring that. I love me some cheeseburgers and chicken nuggets but I also like some Southern BBQ or fried chicken even.
As far as attractions go I am going to count The American Adventure as our first hit. I am aware that there are shows or exhibits in some of the countries we have already passed (Canada, France and Japan to be specific) but this really is an attraction. The shows in Canada and France top out at like 15 minutes and the exhibit in Japan is an exhibit which means you have to walk around which means it’s not an attraction (official Disney thinking here).
Leaving America behind we find ourselves in Italy. Once again, Italy was one of the countries I nor Ashley had ever really explored. We were planning on eating at Via Napoli during our trip but went to Le Cellier for a second time instead. The pizza at Via Napoli does look heavenly though. It’s on the list of Disney restaurants to eat at.
If I were to sum up Italy in one word it would be disappointing. I guess I don’t know what I expected but it’s really just a bunch of restaurants and a little shopping. The architecture is amazing as is the case with most World Showcase pavilions but if you aren’t planning on eating or buying very expensive Italian goods while visiting, there isn’t much to see. The bountiful restaurants do look appetizing though.
Tutto Gusto and Tutto Italia both seem to have amazing detail and food choices but they aren’t something Ashley or I are interested in. We are simple Midwestern folk and neither of us enjoy wine – except for Kung Fu Girl Riesling, that stuff is delicious and we actually had some at Artist Point – so the wine cellar (Gusto) and restaurant (Italia) focusing on wine and fine Italian foods aren’t our thing. Although we did go to Carrabba’s for our birthday dinner recently and that was yummy, much better than Olive Garden.
Back on track…the shopping in Italia is, well, Italian shopping. There are a lot of expensive, smelly things. For some reason, the entire time we were walking around the shops in Italy I kept running the “I don’t see why I need a stylist when I shop so much I can speak Italian” line from Kanye West’s “Champion” through my head. There was a lot of Ferrari merchandise there too: Ferrari shirts, shoes, pants, socks, cologne, key chains – no actual Ferrari’s though.
There are absolutely no attractions in Italy. I mean nothing. If you don’t eat, shop or meander around the pavilion there is nothing else to do; 1 for 7 isn’t bad if you are playing a double-header though.
Next up is Germany, home of pretzels and beer. I don’t have any specific reason why but I really like this pavilion. Maybe it’s the beer, which was a host of firsts for me: first beer in Germany, first beer in EPCOT, first Oktoberfest style beer. Maybe it’s the awesome shops: pickle tree anyone? Maybe it’s the Karamell Kuche: chocolate and caramel covered pineapple shank. Whatever it may be there is a lot to do and eat in Germany.
We didn’t eat in any of the actual restaurants in Germany but we used a hefty portion of our snack credits at the Karamell Kuche (I don’t know how this is actually pronounced. We decided to go with car-mel kooch.). Ashley had recently discovered chocolate with sea salt before our trip so she was all over the salt covered snacks here. I’m a big fan of pineapple so I jumped at the opportunity to get chocolate and caramel covered pineapple. Unfortunately, I let it sit in the mini-fridge in our room for a couple of days so it was a little soggy by the time I got around to eating it (Side note: This was the definite draw back to the dining plan. Having a dessert with every meal plus snacks meant we ended up eating half or none of a lot of things we had really wanted to try and let them sit in our fridge the entire trip).
EDIT: After looking at pictures and reviews brought to my attention by my lovely wife it looks like we missed out on some serious fun and good eats at Biergarten.
Our Mini-Drink Around the World Tour continued (and basically ended) in Germany with a hefty Altenmunster Oktoberfest. The $8.50 price point was a bit steep but I’m worth it. Ashley kindly declined the opportunity to enjoy the beer with me as I cautiously sipped it through the rest of World Showcase; I didn’t realize how hard it was to walk, navigate through the oblivious vacationers and drink a beer at the same time.
You probably guessed it, no attractions in Germany. Our batting average is dangerously low at .125. Hey, it could possibly win a starting spot on a few major league teams, give it a chance.
Not to be a racist, American a-hole but from the outside the China and Japan pavilions look similar. Although, if I think about it, a lot of the European countries looks similar too. Maybe I’m not such a big a-hole. In case you can’t tell the difference let me give you a simple tip: China has gold/yellow roofs (or is it rooves?), Japan has blue.
China was about on par with Italy for me. We toured it extensively but it just didn’t hit the spot. I’d rank it towards the bottom as far as countries go. ALTHOUGH, we didn’t see Reflections of China – which I am counting as an attraction because I hear it is quite the show – so that could potentially alter my opinion in the future. Also, I hear and read that the dining options in China are quite good.
Nine Dragons Restaurant and the Lotus Blossom Cafe look delectable on paper so I’m sure at some point during one of our future Disney trips we will stop and eat in China. We officially ended our Mini-Drink Around the World Tour in China with the Tipsy Ducks in Love. We had read about it on disneyfoodblog.com so we (mostly Ashley) were excited to try it out. I don’t like coffee and I’m not a huge fan of bourbon so I was quite skeptical. Ashley was much more optimistic. Surprisingly the first taste was very good. The coffee and bourbon tastes were masked by sugar, lots and lots of sugar. Then, we stirred it. BIG MISTAKE. As soon as we stirred the drink it became an alcoholic’s dream. The bourbon taste was so strong we only took a few more sips and ended up throwing 2/3 of it away, which was very disturbing to me for two reason: we wasted money and, more importantly, we wasted (expensive) alcohol. If you like lots of bourbon and coffee I say go for it. Otherwise, have a beer in Germany.
The shopping is probably the best part of the pavilion (except, possibly, the show and dining; I guess I shouldn’t form an opinion if I haven’t done half of what is offered to me). There is plenty of it and lots of authentic (I think…it looked authentic) merchandise.
At least our batting average is up to a respectable .222 (2-9). That would definitely win a starting spot on at least half of major league teams.
Norway is essentially all about Vikings. There are Viking restaurants, Viking gift shops and a Viking boat ride. In fact, the Vikings are so intimidating they scared me into not taking only a few pictures of a walkway to the bathrooms.
I’m always so focused on riding Maelstrom that I neglect most of the pavilion. I don’t remember much in the way of shopping except for the gift shop you exit into from Maelstrom. They actually have a lot of really nice things in that gift shop that I would buy it I were rich; lots of outerwear type stuff. And a few polar bears, I really like polar bears.
There is a character dining spot in Norway at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall. The characters are good (princesses mostly) but the food isn’t our preferred cuisine. Although, eating breakfast here is the only way to get into EPCOT early, before everybody else, so you could take some nice photographs with nobody else in the background. There is also a Viking quick service spot on the end closest to Mexico. They serve leg of lamb, dragon and potatoes. Actually, I don’t know what they serve but the restaurant is close to the restrooms, which there aren’t nearly enough of in World Showcase if you ask me.
An interesting thing we found in Norway is the guide-animal potty area right by the restrooms in Norway. I had never seen this before but found it very convenient for those with guide animals. I also found a similar spot in Tomorrowland at Magic Kingdom.
Maelstrom, our FIRST REAL RIDE, is getting a bit dated but if very fun. It is similar to Pirates of the Caribbean, “it’s a small world” and Gran Fiesta Tour in Mexico: You board a boat and ride around. There is also a little drop equivalent to the one on Pirates of the Caribbean. You see a lot of trolls and nasty things and almost float right out of the building at one point – as the boat turns around right before the drop there is a large hole in the exterior wall of the ride and you can see the Norway pavilion. The ride isn’t anything special but we always go on it because, let’s be honest, there aren’t a ton of rides in World Showcase or EPCOT as a whole so you have to cherish the opportunity while you have it. Also, I love the little fishing town you walk through as your disembark from the boat and head back out to World Showcase. It looks so real you feel like you are actually in Norway.
Batting .300 at this point so we are nearing Hall of Fame status.
Our last country is one of my favorites. Of all of the restaurants at Disney we could go to on the Dining Plan I gave Ashley two restaurants I HAD to go to: Sci-Fi Dine-In and San Angel Inn, all the rest of our meals could be chosen by her. All the years walking into Mexico to go on Gran Fiesta Tour got my hopes up for this restaurant. The atmosphere inside the Mexico pavilion is fantastic. The perpetual darkness that blankets the inside is so awesome. The mercado feel also adds a nice touch.
We actually had some good luck shopping waiting for our lunch reservation. We bought a few small food items that I enjoyed but Ashley wasn’t a fan of. We passed on the ponchos (Mexican ponchos, not rain ponchos) as the temperature outside was in the lower 90s so we didn’t think the extra layer would be necessary.
After being told to come back to the podium a couple of times because “they weren’t open yet” – even though there were families already seated – we eventually were seated right next to the volcano. It was everything I could ask for: eating at San Angel Inn, in perpetual darkness, with my new bride (and a celebrity Disney blogger), sitting by the volcano. I ordered the Traditional Mexican Lunch which came with tortilla soup as an appetizer, chicken enchiladas with green sauce and crema bavaria. The tortilla soup was delicious and was actually served with the dry ingredients in the bowl and the server poured the hot broth over it. The enchiladas were only alright; I didn’t think they had much taste to be honest. They certainly weren’t bad but I don’t think I would come back for them. Ashley also got the chicken enchiladas but with a white sauce instead of green. She ordered the caramel ice cream for dessert which was actually very tasty. Our friend got some sort of pork dish that was better than the enchiladas in my opinion. My dessert was meh and overall I wasn’t actually that impressed with the place. The atmosphere is a hard 10 but the food is probably only a 6 or so. Until we try a lot more restaurants or unless my family really wants to go here I don’t see us going back for a while.
After our “Dine with a celebrity Disney blogger” meal (He only charged $125 so it wasn’t bad…I’m joking) we rode on Gran Fiesta Tour with him. The ride is exactly like “it’s a small world” but just the Mexico part. They have updated it a little with computerized screens and such but according to our informative friend it is one of (maybe the only, I can’t remember) the only rides at Disney that hasn’t been changed since it was built.
EDIT: My mother informed me that is used to be named “El Rio de Tiempo.” So much for the “celebrity” blogger status…
After our ride ended we disembarked, said our goodbyes to Mexico and strolled clockwise around World Showcase as our acquaintance did his thing and took pictures of menu changes around World Showcase. Ashley almost died of heat exhaustion but luckily we left just in time and took the 5-minute bus ride back to the French Quarter where, as was the case with most afternoons, we took a big, fat nap knowing that we finished the day batting 4 for 11 (.364) in the attraction department and were most likely first ballot Hall of Famers.
I wasn’t going to write anything about this but figured I would include a little something. As far as I can tell, the Outpost is African themed and is simply a spot to get a beverage or do some shopping. They actually had these cool necklaces made out of old park maps rolled very tightly. I can’t remember the price but it wasn’t outrageous. It is located between Germany and China.
Next up will probably be Hollywood Studios but don’t bet on it. The only thing that is for sure about this blog is that the pictures are barely sufficient and the writing is always questionable. There will be more pictures though. For some reason I decided not to take a bunch of pictures around World Showcase, which is definitely not indicative of our trip since I have close to 1,000 total pictures.