When there are so many exciting attractions at Disney’s theme parks, we are usually rushing from one to another to pack as much fun into a day as possible. Sometimes that hurried schedule means we miss some of the best parts of the parks. At Epcot there are lots of nooks and crannies to explore, so slowing down (especially after you do the big attractions) is good advice. The details of Disney’s parks are what sets them apart from others, and there is so much to see, do, and eat at Epcot. Here are 10 things you may have missed if you’ve only been doing the main attractions:
10. Scavenger Hunts
I think many people know about these, but I’m not sure how many people stop to actually do them. The scavenger hunts that are associated with Epcot’s seasonal festivals like Flower & Garden or Food & Wine are some of my family’s favorite activities. While you can purchase the hunt and get the prize immediately, I recommend taking the time to actually search out and find each location. It leads you down paths you may not normally take, it can be a challenge, and some of the end up with some learning opportunities as well. Whether it is Spike the Bee in the Spring, Figment for Festival of the Arts, Chip and Dale for the Holidays, Remy during Food & Wine or Easter Eggs . . . they are all fun (& have some neat prizes).
9. Disney/Pixar Shorts
Have you ever wandered up to the theater behind Journey Into Imagination with Figment? There you will find a 4D movie experience that highlights the short, animated features from Disney Animation Studios & Pixar. We LOVE these, they are a must-do for our family. For one, you can get off your feet in an air-conditioned theater—a nice reprieve given all the walking required at Epcot. There are normally 3 different films featured in each showing, and they have changed over time. Each one is enhanced with in-theater effects similar to the 4D effects at Philharmagic or Muppets. The seats move, there are lighting effects . . . all immersing you more into the animated world on the screen. If you haven’t seen these, I highly recommend adding it to your next Epcot day.
8. American Heritage Gallery
Inside the lobby rotunda of the American Adventure is a fantastic gallery filled with history from our great nation. The American Heritage Gallery features changing exhibits that explore various topics in American history and culture. I really appreciate this gallery because they take different viewpoints into account when presenting the exhibits. In the Gallery exhibits have including many topics like “Creating Tradition: Innovation and Change in American Indian Art” with Native American art and artifacts. It is beautiful and informative. In the lobby itself you’ll find an exhibit on American Jazz music inspired by the Pixar film Soul. The Soul of Jazz: An American Adventure features instruments and music from key African American musicians and the history of Jazz in America. You can also interact with it through the Play Disney app.
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7. L’Artisan des Glaces
Tucked into the backstreets of France is L’Artisan des Glaces. There is a bit of hype about this place, but it often gets overshadowed by its sister on the Promenade, the one that sells the Grey Goose Citron Lemonade Slush and the Grand Marnier Slush. And, when the upcoming Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure and adjacent La Creparie de Paris open I am sure it will be all the buzz. L’Artisan des Glaces offers a variety of frozen treats including an Ice Cream Martini, Ice Cream Macarons, Croque Glace (a scoop of ice cream and a sauce pressed warm in a homemade brioche—yes please), and or course scoops. Flavors include the traditional chocolate or vanilla along with more specialty flavors like cinnamon caramel apple or coconut white chocolate. Sorbets are also offered.
6. The Manatees
I love manatees. During the hustle and bustle of wanting to experience the “rides” we often forget that many of the Future World pavilions have so much more for us to see. The Seas Pavilion is a key example. With its many viewing windows into the massive aquarium there are plenty of spots to relax and watch the aquatic animals swim by. My favorite part of the aquarium exhibits is the manatee area. Often you will see these amazing marine mammals eating, and sometimes there are Cast Members working with them. There is underwater and above water viewing. Take some time to enjoy these gentle creatures.
Do I have your attention? In the Norway pavilion the Imagineers constructed an authentic replica of a Stave church. Did you know you can go into it? Yes—you can! And inside you will find a great exhibit on Norse mythology: “Gods of the Vikings.” You’ll learn the legends behind Thor, Freya, Odin and Loki, and their importance to the Vikings. There are also Viking artifacts on display. This is a great look behind the stories and into the culture of the Scandinavia.
4. The BEST Strawberry Shortcake
I am a fan of Strawberry Shortcake. Yes, the dolls I had as a child that smelled like sweet strawberries, but also the dessert. It is one of my favorites. At Epcot you can find a delicious version of Strawberry Shortcake at Sunshine Seasons in the Land pavilion. Whether you are enjoying lunch at Sunshine Season (which I highly recommend for the variety & quality of the food), or just need an afternoon snack, you don’t want to miss this fantastic Strawberry Shortcake treat, I think it is worth a special trip.
3. The Epcot Experience
While it is off the main path at Epcot, the Odyssey building nestled between Test Track and Mexico houses somethings you don’t want to miss. Inside you’ll find some food (depending on the Festival you’ll find some tasty treats), but inside an enclosed space you’ll find “Disney Imagineering Presents The Epcot Experience.” If you missed this, you will want to wander over to check it out. Not only is it exciting to preview what will be coming to Epcot in the future, the multi-media presentation is very well done and interesting. Although some of these experiences have been modified due to the COVID-19 closures and slowdowns, many of the new attractions are still on track—like Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure opening October 1, 2021 and Guardians of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind.
2. All of the historical details
As you tour World Showcase take a few minutes to look up and down, notice the details you may have missed before. In every pavilion the Imagineers went into painstaking detail to recreate historical and cultural features to make the recreated facades feel as authentic as possible. For instance, along the water in China you will find several large, unique rocks. Ancient Chinese culture placed importance on unusual rock formations as a means for contemplation bringing serenity. In the center of the German pavilion you’ll find the statue of St. George slaying a dragon, similar statues are common throughout Bavaria. In Italy Disney’s designers created a faux marble to duplicate that found in the Doges Palace in Venice which is the model for the architecture of the pavilion. Canada’s pavilion celebrates the varied cultures and history of our neighbors to the north like the large Totem Pole and native carvings. The entire Morrocco pavilion is filled with amazing details. These are just a few of the many examples in World Showcase.
While they are really highlighted during the International Festival of the Arts at Epcot during January & February, you can find artists and artisans working at many times during the year. There are a few locations where Glass Blowing can be found (in & around Germany, in Mexico). You’ll sometimes find someone carving jewelry or glassware. One of my favorites are the wood carvers in the Outpost area. I always think it is fun to stop and watch them (sometimes it is mesmerizing). Plus it is always more meaningful to buy a souvenir or a piece of art that you’ve seen created.
What are some hidden gems in Epcot that you enjoy so we don’t miss them?