IllumiNations Post Show: A World Showcase Stroll

Okay, so this isn’t really a post about the post-show to IllumiNations, but as I was listening to the “Evening at Epcot” music, I started thinking about how there are few experiences we enjoy more at Walt Disney World than strolling around World Showcase at night. In particular, we really like wandering around World Showcase after IllumiNations, when the park is closing and the crowds have cleared out.

World Showcase’s countries are inherently romantic, and there’s something special about being there late listening to the peaceful background music, walking hand-in-hand with someone you love through those beautiful environments, while few other guests are around. This is by far our number one World Showcase experience.

That may seem crazy since it’s not something you’ll find on a park map and isn’t really a “thing” at all, anyone who has ever done this probably understands. For us, Walt Disney World is about the little moments during which we enjoy the place and the presence of one another, and walking through World Showcase after IllumiNations is typically one of those little moments for us.

Since the restaurants in World Showcase make dining reservations until park closing and it takes some guests over an hour after park closing to finish their meals, you have some time to linger and slowly make your way out of the park. In fact, the best way to enjoy this tranquil walk through World Showcase at the end of the night is to make an 8:55 p.m. Advance Dining Reservation for a restaurant deep in World Showcase. By the time you’re done with your meal, you’re pretty much guaranteed one of these enjoyable walks out. Our top recommendation for this is Tokyo Dining, where you can enjoy a great view of IllumiNations, too, and is basically in the “middle” World Showcase, allowing you to see the most countries possible on your way out.

We understand that this late night stroll is not going to be possible for everyone for various reasons. Fortunately, while World Showcase is light on actual rides, it’s a great place to just experience, and actually has quite a lot to offer. This post definitely isn’t meant to be a definitive guide to Epcot’s World Showcase. Since we already have a Guide to Epcot Attractions, we’ll instead focus on some of the little things that many guests miss that we like most about World Showcase and random tips for having your own excellent evening in Epcot.

Let’s start out in Mexico and make a stop in each World Showcase country as we embark on our own (virtual) evening in Epcot. Hopefully you can apply some of these tips to your own World Showcase visit. Oh, and this post is best read while playing that “Evening at Epcot” music in the background…

Even if you’re not “Drinking Around the World,” Mexico is a good place to stop for a drink. The best in World Showcase, in fact. (Maybe that’s why we always go towards Mexico, rather than Canada, first!) Not all booze served at the Mexico pavilion is created equal. Avoid the sugary and diluted pre-made, machine margaritas outside. The place to go is La Cava del Tequila, which is a small-capacity bar inside the pavilion. La Cava serves a variety of inventive drinks, and is highly recommended.

The Norway pavilion includes a replica of the Stave Church, inside of which is a small exhibit that weaves together the culture and history of Norway with the film Frozen. This is a really well done exhibit and will likely appeal to both kids and adults. It gave me a greater appreciation of the effort that went into the film. Plus, it’s conveniently located next to Kringla Bakeri og Kafe, one of the best bakeries at Walt Disney World!

Several pavilions are a lot deeper than they appear, in the literal sense. They actually have a lot of area far from the World Showcase promenade that most guests miss. The first of these is China, with cool areas to explore beyond the Temple of Heaven. This area (pictured above) includes shopping, plus interesting building facades with second story balconies. Make sure to head back here to look at the architecture.

Germany is quite possibly the most popular country in the World Showcase, and it’s arguably the most superficial. A German boy and a girl come out of the clock tower at the top of the house, but the real draw here is the train set off to the side of the pavilion. This has a ton of little details, and receives seasonal flourishes such as Christmas decorations and topiaries for Flower & Garden Festival.

The Italy pavilion is another pretty pavilion with some realistic architecture and stunning replications, but what I like about Italy the most is actually near the waterfront. There are a couple of bridges plus gondolas and other details in the water. This area, known as the Italy Isola, offers one of the best views of IllumiNations in Epcot. Many times, it’s used for private dessert parties, and if that’s the case, go just to the left of the party–the view is still very good.

The American Adventure has a nice gallery in its waiting area, but our main tip here concerns beer. For a long time, Epcot completely ignored the great microbrews and craft beer highlights of the United States, instead offering the crumby major brands. (Sorry if you’re a Bud Light fan–I like McDonald’s, but even I would be pretty saddened if it were presented as a highlight of America’s culinary offerings.) That recently changed, when Block & Hans: Purveyors of Fine American Ale opened. Granted, they only have a handful of beers right now, but it’s a good start. Our recommendation: Bell’s Oberon (brewed near my childhood hometown!).

The Mitsukoshi department store and the pagoda are the big draws in Japan, but we think the most interesting aspects of Japan are deeper in the pavilion. If you go past the pagoda on the paths in this area, there are interesting details, lamps, and even fish. The very back of the pavilion (in the building pictured above) is the art gallery “Spirited Beasts: From Ancient Stories to Anime Stars,” which is a great and oft-overlooked display showcasing a range of Japanese art.

Morocco has the most depth of any pavilion in the World Showcase. There are tons of nooks to explore, and it’s really fun to window shop even if you have no intent of buying anything–everything from the ceilings to the light mixtures to even the goods sold is all gorgeous. Our favorite place here is the open air atrium that’s across from Tangierine Cafe. So pretty, and so peaceful. Get a family photo at the fountain here!

We indicated at the beginning that this post wasn’t going to focus on attractions and entertainment that we’ve covered elsewhere, but…we’re going to make an exception here (and beat a dead horse). Our favorite thing to do here is see Impressions de France. It’s such a beautiful, moving film, and one that is far too often overlooked. It has a cool gallery in the lobby featuring “The Spitting Gargoyle.”

Christmas in World Showcase's United Kingdom at Epcot doesn't involve an abundance of decorations, but the decorations that are out are charming, well done, and add a definite festive touch for the holiday season! More comprehensive Disney Christmas information:

As you approach the United Kingdom from France/International Gateway, you’ll first come across a little archway surrounded and covered by plants. This is the entrance to a little garden that curls around behind the pavilion (and back to where the British Revolution plays). This garden is simply gorgeous, and usually is pretty empty. Spend some time back here and then head into the tea shop.

Oh, Canada. Canada is best known for Le Cellier, which we feel is a bit of an overrated restaurant. The pavilion in general, though, is a bit underrated. There’s actually a lot to see in Canada, and if you start on the left heading up the stairs to the gift shop and curl around to the right past the Hotel du Canada (the big building in the middle of the above photo), you’ll head past an interesting street front area, then down around a beautiful waterfall and through a beautiful garden, back out to the other side.

That concludes our tranquil night walk around the World Showcase. Although viewing photos and reading text can’t match the real thing, hopefully you enjoyed the tour!

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Your Thoughts…

Have you ever taken a late night stroll in the World Showcase after IllumiNations? What are your favorite things to do in the World Showcase? We love hearing from you, so please share your thoughts and any questions you have in the comments!

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