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The second half of Epcot, which generally opens roughly two or so hours after the first half opens though this has been subject to change in a variety of ways, the World Showcase is arguably the most popular section of the park itself. For those who want to tour the world in a single afternoon, I’m afraid you will not find such here because frankly speaking, it is almost impossible to see the entirety of the World Showcase without going at absurd speeds. While not everyone major country is located here, those that are do not fail to delight guests in some fashion or another.

MEXICO
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The only self-contained pavilion in the World Showcase, Mexico’s entrance plays host to a gallery of artwork called “Animales Fantásticos,” which in itself features a lot of sculptured pieces of animal carvings that, frankly, are rather astonishing to behold. Beyond the gallery lies the interior of Mexico which features its sole ride, The Grand Fiesta Tour starring the Three Caballeros. The ride, like a majority of other attractions scattered across the World Showcase, is primarily an advertisement ride of sorts for its respected country but is still a nice relaxing boat ride away from the oppressive Florida sun and offers quite a few unique sights of Mexico.

The shops located in Mexico are little stands that offer a variety of gifts from clothing, to musical instruments, to animal wood carvings. Its primary restaurant, San Angel Inn Restaurante, overlooks the lagoon of the ride with a stunning backdrop of another ancient temple and is actually the sibling restaurant to another of the same name that has been in operation in Mexico since 1692. As of this post, the only character to meet in Mexico is Donald Duck in his Three Caballeros attire.

NORWAY
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Designed to look like a quaint Norwegian village complete with a highly detailed Stave church, Norway’s architecture is based on four distinct styles found in its native land: Setesdal, Bergen, Oslo, and Ålesund. The primary restaurant Akershus features a hot and cold buffet alongside character dining with various Disney Princesses and, like in Mexico, is a sibling to another of its same name in Norway. The shops in Norway are decorated with large wooden trolls, and I do mean actual trolls not like those seen in Frozen, and sell a lot of clothing, candy, and statuettes of ancient Norse gods and trolls.

Its ride, formerly known as Maelstrom, has been revamped into Frozen Ever After where guests go through a quick tour of Arendelle from the humble castle to the troll knoll to Elsa’s illustrious ice palace. This ride has one of the most advanced animatronics I have ever seen and, had I not known otherwise, I’d have thought that Elsa and Anna were being portrayed by actual people. Speaking of the queen and princess, they, and on ocassion Olaf and some vikings, can be found here. More specifically for the royal duo at the Royal Sommerhaus.

CHINA
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China… ah, now here’s a pavilion that never fails to draw my breath away. From the replica of the Temple of Heaven, which hosts the entrance to its sole attraction of Reflections of China, a circular 360° film exploring China’s history and amazing scenery, it holds a museum containing several Chinese artifacts including recreations of the Terracotta Army. The shops in China sell a variety of items including parasols, puppets, housewares, tea sets, wall prints, silk robes, porcelain goods, just to name a few. I personally enjoy perusing through the items that feature the Chinese Zodiac.

The China pavilion hosts two places to dine, the Nine Dragons restaurant that features full-service gourmet food and the counter-service Lotus Blossom Cafe that serves the more commonly recognized American-Chinese cuisine. Not going to lie, the egg rolls at the Lotus Blossom Cafe are to die for. Mushu, Mulan in her various guises, and Shang from the film Mulan can be found here.

GERMANY
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Germany, my ancestral home, at least on my mother’s side of the family, is a pavilion that caters to the old and the young alike though with two entirely different ways. For adults, Germany hosts the Biergarten, a buffet restaurant that celebrates Oktoberfest all year round and features Schnitzel, strudel, and actual German beer, or so my grandfather would always attest. It hosts live entertainment and the drinks are served in one liter steins.

The shops at Germany sell a variety of German goods, including dolls, cuckoo clocks, those little animal figurines that are always so ridiculously detailed/expensive, and stein glasses of all sorts. There’s even a store dedicated to selling Christmas merchandise.

As of this post, there is no ride to be found in Germany though it was priginally intend to host a boat ride along the Rhine river that was to focus on German folklore similar to Norway’s, now former, Maelstrom, the planned attraction failed when  funding was not met and the space has since been made into a storage facility for floats, workshop, and cast member rehearsal space. Snow White and her seven dwarf friends can all be found here.

ITALY
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Featuring Venetian, Florentine, and Roman architecture, Italy hosts a recreation of St. Mark’s Campanile bell tower and a replica of the Doge’s Palace alongside other hallmarks of Italian artwork and architecture. Musicians, clowns, and acting troupes often appear at the central piazza throughout the day and its shops are most notable in their wares of candy, wine, imported ceramics, and blown glass.

Much like Germany, Ital was intended to host its share of attractions. One was to be a gondola dark ride and the other an exploration of Roman ruins. It wasn’t until 2010 with the addition of the Via Napoli restaurant that Italy’s empty space was at last filled. Speaking of the food, when they say its authentic Neapolitan cuisine, they mean it. The water used to make the dough for the pizzas are imported all the way from Pennsylvania and the ovens are all wood burning ones to pay tribute to the three still active volcanoes in Italty. In point of fact, each of these three ovens are sculpted to possess the face of the god that their corresponding volcano is named for. Geppetto, Pinocchio, and Jiminy Cricket have been known to make appearances here.

THE AMERICAN ADVENTURE
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So named for its sole attraction, the American Adventure is a lone building, much like Mexico, designed in the Colonial style of architecture. The lobby is a massive square room that has an oval shaped area in the middle for the Voices of Liberty, an eight member a cappella , to perform. The lobby area also hosts various historical pieces of American history such as the different versions of the American flag, paintings of life, and quotations from many famous American figures.

The attraction itself is an animatronic showing of American history across the years and is hosted, primarily, by Benjamin Franklin and Mark Twain. The attraction’s biggest winning moment though is in its song “Golden Dream” that features a series of clips from American history and many historical moments or figures that are recognized almost instantly by all who watch it. The Liberty Inn restaurant features the classical American fast foods of burgers, hotdogs, and other such assortments while the Heritage Manor Gifts features a lot of trinkets that pertain to American history in some manner. There are no set characters for America and those that appear are random at best though it has been noted that Mickey, Donald, and Goofy, dressed in their patriotic finest, do make an appearance on the Fourth of July.

JAPAN
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Hands down my favorite of the country pavilions, and one that my wallet tends to dread the most, the Japan pavilion features an actual torii, pagoda (as seen above), and a replica of a Japanese castle that frequently hosts a variety of displays of Japanese culture, most recently anime.

While it does not host an actual attraction, there has been many that have been considered. One such attraction was an indoor roller coaster akin to the Matterhorn Bobsleds of Disneyland, which since has become the Expedition Everest attraction in the Animal Kingdom theme park. Another was to feature, and I kid you not, freaking Godzilla. Why, oh why, that did not come to fruition, I will forever lament…

Still there are two chief sources of entertainment to be found in Japan. The first, Matsuriza, is a live performance of Taiko drummers and traditional storytellers at the pagoda. The second, Miyuki, is so named for the candy artist Miyuki whose craft involves shaping very soft, but also very hot dough, into intricate shapes and designs. To date, there are only fifteen people who are considered masters of this craft and Miyuki is the only woman amongst them.

The Mitsukoshi department store rightfully earns its name and is one of two existing stores in all of America. Its wares include clothing, bonsai trees, jewelry, books, manga and anime items, and all manner of toys simplistic and complex. For any fan of Japan, this is your store but be warned, all that you’ll find in your wallet afterwards is a gaping hole. As of this post, no Disney characters can be found in Japan though rumors abound of a certain hero team possibly making an appearance in the future…

MOROCCO
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Designed to look like an atypical Moroccan city, the Morocco pavilion is the only pavilion in the World Showcase to have the country’s government aid in its design. No joke, King Hassan II himself sent Moroccan artisans to design and create the many mosaics found in this pavilion and because of the Islamic beliefs on the content of art, these mosaics contain no representations of people in them.

The Fes House is designed to represent the typical Moroccan home and many live plants, including citrus trees, date palms, and olive trees, can be found here. The restaurants here also serve the traditional Moroccan fare including roast lamb, and the shops specialize in rugs, leather goods, and traditional clothing. Aladdin and Jasmine can both be found here.

FRANCE
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Designed to look like a Parisian neighborhood not far from the illustrious Eiffel Tower, France hosts the sole attraction “Impressions de France” which is a film that shows that beauty that is France though I make a fair warning, while the sights are a thing to see the musical score of this film can be a bit too relaxing to keep one awake throughout the show.

The shops in France are most notable in selling perfumes and other goods that can only be found in the country itself and the cuisine… oh man, if you thought the buffet in Germany was a belt buster, you have not seen the delicious delights that is French cuisine, most notably in its deserts. As of this post, Belle and the Beast from Beauty and the Beast, Princess Aurora from Sleeping Beauty, Esmeralda from The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and surprisingly Marie from The Aristocats have been known to make appearances here.

UNITED KINGDOM
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Designed to look like the atypical British village, the United Kingdom plays hosts to the band British Revolution who perform many famous rock covers from such bands as the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, and the Rolling Stones, just to name a few. Its primary restaurant, the Rose & Crown Pub is everything its name might imply and has had the recent addition of bangers and mash, as well as fish and chips added to its menu.

The shops at the United Kingdom feature a lot of varying merchandise such as teas, toys, books, and clothing, most notably those pertaining to the Beatles, Paddington Bear, Doctor Who, and more besides. There is one store in particular that features a lot of fine art statues of dragons that took all of my will power not to buy out. Well that and the fact that the Japan pavilion had long since emptied me of coin and bills. There’s even a store dedicated to the research and history behind one’s last name that, admittedly, doesn’t do much for those whose ancestry did not make a home on such soil.

Characters from Alice in Wonderland, most notably Alice and the White Rabbit, as well as Mary Poppins and Winnie the Pooh make frequent appearances here throughout the day.

CANADA
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Like France and China, Canada features a film, aptly named O Canada!, that showcases the Canadian landscape. Admittedly, there was a bit of a scuffle to Canada’s history as, originally, Disney had wanted the Canadian government’s backing for this pavilion but they refused on grounds of how Canada was likely to be portrayed, with the stereotypical lumberjacks and all. Still, it has a fine place to dine in Le Cellier Steakhouse and its shops feature a lot of NHL merchandise alongside Christmas, plush toys, fine wines, and yes, delicious Canadian maple syrup. For reasons that I’ve yet to discover, only the animal characters from Pocahontas and Brother Bear can be found here on occasion.

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