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: http://www.disneytouristblog.com/disney-world-christmas-ultimate-guide/

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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32 Responses to “IllumiNations Post Show: A World Showcase Stroll”

  1. Ashley says:

    I love this post, thank you for sharing! My husband and I absolutely loved walking through the World Showcase at night when we were there for our honeymoon in September. I wish I had known the tip about staying after Illuminations, I can’t wait to do this when we go back!

  2. Amanda says:

    I couldn’t agree more with the sentiments from this post! The World Showcase is my husband and my favorite place to be in Disney regardless of time of day, but especially at night. We love staying at the Boardwalk so we have quick and easy access to the Showcase. We never feel as we have to “do” a lot while there, but very much enjoy just walking around and taking it all in. I think we may be biased though since we had our wedding reception on the Isola in Italy! Love keeping up with all of your TRs!

  3. Brendan says:

    Great article. An evening stroll around a World Showcase after a nice dinner has become a tradition for us, and can be the perfect way to cap off a trip.

    How did you get these great pictures of the empty pavilions?

  4. Tyler Bliss says:

    Just got back yesterday from a Disney Cruise and WDW vacation and did precisely what is explained above! There is truly nothing like walking through the World Showcase, or any section of a Disney Park for that matter, after most of the other guests have left. As you know it’s the prime time for picture taking and is so peaceful and relaxing. A must do if you can swing it!

  5. Sean says:

    experienced this just a few weeks ago, it really is a hidden gem that a lot of people probably dont think of because the first thought after the last firework of illuminations is typically “how can we beat all these people to the bus stop?!”

    we were even able to stand by japan and watch most of “wishes” from over the buildings. really was an excellent way to end the evening (and the last night of our trip!). great tip!

    • Tom Bricker says:

      In our experience, one of the biggest mistakes people can make at Walt Disney World is trying to leave right at park closing if they are staying on property. Long lines for buses, backed up traffic, and more crowds.

      Staying gives you an incredible, tranquil experience and–quite often–a private bus back to your hotel!

  6. Nita E. says:

    This post is spot on – we’ve enjoyed the stroll a few times. Actually, two separate occasions after a late dinner at Teppan Edo. So peaceful.

  7. Adrienne says:

    I totally agree with the sentiments in this post. Well, I’m much more partial to Germany that your are and, as a Texan, I’m not as as enchanted with Mexico. We’ll be taking this exact stroll on my birthday-three weeks from today. I can’t wait!

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Just out of curiosity, what do you enjoy about Germany? A lot of people enjoy it more than me, so I’m genuinely curious! :)

      • Adrienne says:

        I have an emotional attachment from my first visit to Disney World-just a little less than two years ago. My family and I had lunch at the Biergarten on a rainy, virtually empty day in World Showcase. The memories of my daughter and niece dancing to the band are probably warmed a little by the Altenmunster Oktoberfest drafts, but it was one of the highlights of an amazing first time at Epcot, which is now my favorite Disney park.

  8. Mark says:

    Hi,

    Are any of the bars etc in World Showcase open later than the park, or is it just the restaurants? Just thinking that after a late dinner, it might be nice to grab a tequila in Mexico before leaving the park.

    Regards

    Mark

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Since La Cava is in a pavilion that physically closes at park closing, I don’t think you can get inside there if you’re not there before park closing. Other places, like Rose & Crown might be, though.

      • Don Livingston says:

        When I was at Illuminations in April, I walked to Rose & Crown and the bartender served me a drink although they were not open. She did this because the place was still packed. You can try it but it’s probably hit or miss depending on how crowded the place is at close.

  9. YES! We LOVE World Showcase, and that late night amble out, no matter how tired you are, is worth it. We often make it our “last night in the park” activity (if not every night :-)).

  10. I really love the model railway in world showcase. I love looking for new surprises I didn’t see last time. World showcase is amazing at night.I have taken many a stroll with my partner through world showcase. As I live in the UK, it is funny walking into the UK in Florida – totally surreal haha!I love sitting at Rose and Crown patio at night having a drink without the bad weather I get in the actual UK haha! Your photographs are spectacular and really capture the beauty of World Showcase at night.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Thanks for the kind words about the photos. Being from the UK, how do you feel about Rose & Crown’s authenticity? Just curious!

  11. Stephen says:

    We are staying at an Epcot area resort, and planning to have a FP+ for Illuminations. Any chance we could walk the long way around to the International Gateway, or would we pretty much just have to go thru Canada/UK and exit?

    • Tom Bricker says:

      You have about a 95% chance of being able to do this. Unless there’s a private event or Cast Members are really trying to push people out quickly, which is almost never the case at Epcot. A restaurant like Monsieur Paul takes ADRs until 8:55 pm, and it can take people 1-2 hours to eat there, so you typically have plenty of time. Have fun! :)

  12. MarkWDW85 says:

    Nothing to add except I absolutely agree, and (as always) gorgeous photos. I’ve said for a long time now that my favorite time and place in WDW – and possibly *any* Disney park for that matter – is World Showcase right before and after IllumiNations. The ambiance just can’t be beat, and it’s probably my biggest “must do” every trip. World Showcase at night is just one of those perfect immersive thematic experiences where everything just “clicks” at a level that’s rarely duplicated.

  13. Kevin Bastos says:

    Great post. Absolutely in our plans for next month. A few questions. First – I’ve seen photographers out and about in front of Epcot towards closing. Any photographers out and about World Showcase in the evening? Night pics are difficult w/o the tripod – and especially to take of self – or passing a camera to another person. Next – the night we are planning to visit is an EMH night? Know if crowds are still ‘lower?’ And finally – what’s your hometown? I grew up in Portage – so have a special place in my heart for Bell’s – and Oberon, especially. Did you notice that the website lists Oberon as from Napa, CA? (Shakes head in shame)

  14. Becky says:

    I LOVED seeing this post! My husband and I took our four children to Disney World for 8 days in October ’13. Two of them were celebrating their birthdays, on seperate days. Our last night in Disney was my oldest daughter’s 7th birthday. We spent a perfect day at EPCOT and watched Illuminations. After, we did as you said and finished our tour of the countries and walked around the lake taking our time and soaking in all the memories of our vacation. It was pure Disney magic and really helped to imbed those memories in my mind. Glad someone else shared the sentiment.

  15. Kevin says:

    The hour-long Illuminations track is one of my favorites to listen to while cooking and eating. My daughter asked me what the words were during the African-sounding post-show. My google-fu has failed me in uncoering anything. Is there any chance that you know?

  16. Kayla says:

    This post proves there are things to be discovered after all our trips – I had no idea about this area of Japan you described! Hopefully I’ll remember to check it out next time we’re there.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      There are so many small areas in World Showcase that are easy to overlook. It seems we’re always discovering something new!

  17. Christine says:

    How do you think this peaceful stroll will change with the new After Hours Wind Down that was just announced? I can see why they are doing it, and I think it could be nice.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      I’ve been a couple of times since the Wind Down, and nothing is changed by it. Security does not check to see if you’re participating in the Wind Down. Actually, they now allow you to linger longer as a result of guests in the Wind Down staying until 11pm!

  18. Amanda says:

    This looks too good to be true? Or maybe I am too much of a rule follower. You really can walk the entire World Showcase AFTER Illuminations even if you don’t have a dinner reservation? I don’t like fireworks, so I usually leave before them. I never knew what I was missing. My fiance and I are planning an anniversary trip in November (it’s his first trip) and he is looking forward to Epcot-WS the most. This “after hours” experience would be so magical.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      It’s true–no one cares. If you really are still concerned, look into the “Epcot Wind Down,” which is a new drinking event taking place after hours.

  19. Celine says:

    This sounds like a great ending to a day at Epcot and I would love to be able to do this. We are staying off-site however, and I’m wondering if we will still be able to get back to our car in the parking lot if we do this. Do you have any info about this?

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