Epcot – Our favorite (free!) things

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I’ve heard people say they enjoy the food in World Showcase, but besides that, they think it’s just a bunch of shops. On first blush, it does seem like the place is packed full of merchandise and not much else, but given some time and a mildly adventurous spirit, you’ll find some incredible hidden gems while exploring the countries.

Add this to the long list of free live entertainment that is available all day long in different locations around World Showcase and you can see how it is easy to spend a few days in this park and still not experience it all.

Here’s a list of our favorite shows and other lesser-known places to explore in each of the countries. Everything listed here is free (except for that expensive park ticket you already bought!):

Mexico

Three Caballeros Ride – Similar to It’s a Small World, but on a much smaller scale. Cute and fun.

Watching the Glass Blower work in the shop just outside Three Caballeros Ride (there is also a glass blower in the German pavilion).

Live Entertainment: Mariachi Cobre – Traditional Mexican Mariachi band.

Viva Mexico – Live traditional music and dance.

Norway

Maelstrom, a short and fun ride similar in tone to Pirates of the Caribbean.

If for some reason you’d like to see a really dated movie about Norway (think 1970’s facial hair on the guys), but you don’t want to ride the ride, ask one of the CM’s if you can go in the exit door and watch the film. It’s just a regular film that you sit down on uncomfortable chairs for. Really, it’s not that bad, it’s sort of funny because of what the people are wearing – very “mod” 1970’s!

The first large building you see as you enter the Norway section is the Stave Church, inside is a small museum with some neat old weapons and information on Vikings. Small and cool enough that even young boys will enjoy it.

Troll photo op. Inside the gift shop as you exit Maelstrom.

China

360-View Movie – even if you aren’t going to see the movie, walk into The Temple of Heaven and look up – the ceiling is awesome!

Xi-An Tomb Warriors – a smaller scale recreation of those incredible clay warriors, each with a different face. The horses are my favorites.

The dancing waters bowl – I’m such a dweeb for this thing. They move this around frequently, but you will find it somewhere in one of the two China gift shops. Rubbing the handles with lightly wetted palms of your hands in a slow and gentle back and forth motion (hands moving in opposite directions) will create a harmonic in the bowl and cause the water inside to dance and the bowl itself to “sing”. Very cool if you can make it happen, very frustrating if you can’t!

Live Entertainment: Jeweled Dragon Acrobats – very well-done show featuring different acrobatic acts.

Germany

Clock in the outdoor central square does its thing at the hour – not super exciting, but there ya go.

The trains. I love seeing the real lizards hang out on the buildings looking like Godzilla taking over a Bavarian Village.

Italy

Nada – well, except the Ducati shirts, which probably don’t excite many people. The shops in here all have an overly heavy perfume smell to me, so I don’t spend too much time wandering. Your results may vary.

Live Entertainment: Sergio – Juggling act with audience participation.

The Ziti Sisters – Live comedy with audience participation.

America

The awesome American Adventure show with animatronics that look nearly real to me, and that Mike has never successfully stayed awake through (very comfy seats here). Of note, the show does cover the Civil War, and has a song that talks about two sons going to war on opposite sides, one dies and one comes home. On the screen there are a few black and white photos shown for a few seconds each of battlefields, not gory, but you see human bodies if you’re paying close attention.

If you choose to not see American Adventure, still be sure to try and catch the Voices of Liberty singing group, they are wonderful, and the acoustics of that room are amazing.

There is a small but very interesting collection of historic artifacts covering everything from some of the first Edison movie cameras to items that went to the moon on the Apollo missions. Enter the building and look for an open archway to the right to access the displays.

Live Entertainment: Voices of Liberty (see above).

Spirit of America Fife and Drum – 15 minute show that will either make you proud to be an American, or a bit embarrassed.

Japan

The store here is a miniature version of Japan’s largest department store chain, and definitely worth a look. Don’t miss all checking out the weird candy and other foods sold here.

Bijutsu-kan – Currently a beautiful and captivating display of artwork that shows how Japan’s ancient fairytale beasts are now used in Anime. Just outside this building are my two very favorite big huge sentinel horses flanking the fake drawbridge.

Live Entertainment: Matsuriza – Japanese Taiko Drummers.

Miyuki – An artist in sweet stuff, Miyuki creates beautiful sculptures from candy.

Morocco

Hidden beauty everywhere here. Directly across from Tangierine cafe (looking across towards the fountain) is a door that you are welcome to open. Inside is a cool display of jewelry and ancient weapons. The building’s craftsmanship alone is worth a look. Next to this room is a tiled and quiet area called the Fes House.

Continue on around the back side of Tangierine Cafe and explore. The shops are well positioned and neatly designed, easily making you feel like you’re visiting a real market place.

Live Entertainment: MoRockin – Arabic rhythms and instruments with a modern flair, also includes some belly dancing and audience participation.

France

Impressions de France. Some people say Disney got the idea for Soarin’ from this movie. I can believe it. Gorgeous, simply gorgeous. All set to a score of classical music. I swear, some sections of this film feel like they have wings.

Live Entertainment: Serveur Amusant –  Incredible acrobatic balancing act involving a waiter and chairs.

United Kingdom

Walk through the back section of the formal garden, it’s really pretty. Also, walk inside and see if Pooh is hanging out in his special place inside Christopher Robin’s room – even if he’s not there, take a look at the room it’s so nicely detailed (including some real antique toys!). Continue into the other sections of the shops and be sure to look up – this area is designed like a castle and has some very neat details which most people don’t notice. Many of the things hanging on the walls or sitting on shelves are actual antiques.

Live Entertainment: British Revolution – Live Music with a focus on Brit-Rock from the 60’s to the 80’s. World Showcase Players – Live improv play with plenty of audience participation.

Canada

360-view movie – O Canada!. Really fun, with Martin Short. If you decide to skip the movie, at least walk to the very back of this country, walk down the stairs and check out the cool rock formations and waterfall in the hidden grotto. Very cool – literally!

Live Entertainment: Off Kilter – Rock with a Canadian flair, bagpipes, and kilts.

This is just a short list of our favorites, but I know you’ll find your own special things while you’re there. Do not be afraid to wander and explore. Go around nooks and crannies, if a door doesn’t say “Cast Members Only” and it’s unlocked, it’s meant to be opened by you. Look up often when you’re inside the stores – most of the cool and original antiques and other neat things are high up out of reach but within easy view.

Live Entertainment Schedules

Entertainment and character greet schedules change depending on the season, how busy it is, and other factors. The best resource for current schedules is http://www.wdwent.com/schedule.htm this is updated weekly (Disney doesn’t release schedules sooner than that).

Interested in a low-cost Disney World vacation?

Okay, we agree, low-cost is relative. How about a less expensive Disney vacation? That’s probably more realistic.

We’ve updated and revised our popular guide “Disney World On The Cheap”. It’s available here on the site, just click the link above.

If you’ve ever considered a Disney World vacation, but after initially checking it out decided the price was simply too steep, this guide will give you the tools to make magic happen – 10 days for $1,000 a person, including airfare and food.

Although the vacation will still cost, the guide is free.