If you are planning a trip to the Magic Kingdom and you love food and travel, be sure to include a day at EPCOT. It's one of our favorite parks at Disney World and there is so much to do, eat, and see!
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Planning a trip to Orlando can be overwhelming since there is so much do to and so many different parks to go to between the Disney theme parks and Universal Studios. But Epcot is easily one of our favorite places to take our kids. A large portion of the park is the World Showcase with pavilions representing 11 countries. These countries are Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, Italy, United States, Japan, Morocco, France, United Kingdom, and Canada.
Each "country" has restaurants or food kiosks where you can try different foods from that region and many of the workers are from their respective countries and speak the languages. You essentially walk "around the world" visiting each of the countries!
No, it's not the same as really traveling to each country and it's definitely a Disney-fied version of things, but it's still a great way to get a taste of what each place might be like and you might just find yourself inspired to book plane tickets to an exotic land as a result!
Walk Around the World Showcase Lagoon
The different countries represented at Epcot are arranged around a lagoon in the middle of the park. The lagoon is used for special events, nighttime spectaculars, and performances, such as the "IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth" nightly fireworks show.
The amount of time it takes to walk around the World Showcase entirely depends on you and how long you decide to spend exploring each "country". We walked it a couple of times during the day because it feels different toward evening after the sun starts to set and it's fun to see it both ways.
We loved each of the countries but these were some of our favorites where we spent more time than others.
Located halfway around the World Showcase Lagoon, the Morocco Pavilion at Epcot's World Showcase is designed to evoke the atmosphere and architecture of traditional Moroccan cities like Casablanca, Fez and Marrakesh. Like Morocco itself, this pavilion is known for its intricate and detailed mosaics, tile work, and traditional Moroccan designs with ornate patterns and vibrant colors.
The Morocco pavilion has shops and marketplaces where guests can buy handmade crafts, textiles, jewelry, and ceramics. The pavilion aims to capture the bustling and vibrant atmosphere of a Moroccan bazaar.
Where to Eat
We picked up an assortment of Moroccan pastries from the Oasis Sips & Sweets. We are huge fans of baklava so it's not surprise that these were some of our favorite treats we enjoyed all day. They have items like pistachio baklava and almond crescent cookies, but the semolina-orange basbousa cake, the flogeres, and the almond briwat were some new favorites that I want to try to recreate at home now.
Later we wandered over to the Tangierine Cafe for delicious lamb kefta and chermoula chicken kabobs, along with the stone-baked Moroccan bread with hummus, chermoula, and zhoug dips.
We weren't able to try the Restaurant Marrakesh, which was closed on this visit (and as of early 2024 there doesn't seem to be a reopening date), or the Spice Road Table (get reservations ahead, if possible!).
Other Morocco Pavilion highlights include the Gallery of Arts & History, live musical entertainment with traditional Moroccan music, and Aladdin and Jasmine's storytelling and meet & greets.
One of the first (or last, depending on which side you start from) lands you come to is the Norway Pavilion. It got me dreaming of Nordic fjiords and wooden stave churches in the lands of my ancestors!
I ended up buying a coat in one of the Norway shops because we went to Epcot at the end of December and I definitely did not pack warmly enough and was freezing the whole time. Thank goodness for Norwegians and their quality cold-weather gear!
Where to Eat
We spent a lot of our stomach capital sampling every pastry delight at the Kringla Bakeri og Kafe, which meant we weren't able to try as much in other countries, but it was worth it. They have traditional Norwegian specialties like kringla sweet pretzels covered in sliced almonds, sweet lefse flatbread (honestly, this one was disappointing for us) or the famous school bread with custard and coconut.
The big winners for me though were the rice cream (a sweet rice pudding with a fresh strawberry sauce - so good!) and the Verden's Beste Kake (World's Best Cake) which is a vanilla sponge cake with pastry cream and a vanilla-almond meringue on top. And Paul said he is still dreaming about their apple cake with caramel sauce (not pictured).
For seated dining with actual food (as opposed to just snacks that we stuffed ourselves with from the bakery), you can make reservations for the Akershus Banquet Hall, which is perfect for your princess-obsessed kids. It has fantastic Scandanavian favorites for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, including Norwegian meatballs (not very different from our favorite Swedish meatballs), grilled salmon, and mashed potatoes & gravy.
Other World Showcase Pavilions
We had a blast listening to a German band in the Germany pavilion while enjoying all kinds of caramel delights, including this oatmeal caramel apple cookie and caramel corn.
Rose (our youngest) obsessed over all things Kawaii ("cute") in the Japan pavilion. She is determined that we need to visit Japan for our next big family trip. The girls got teriyaki and Japanese chicken curry at Katsura Grill.
The Chinese pavilion had the most beautiful gardens, we enjoyed listening to a story teller sharing folk stories in the Italy pavilion, and we rocked out to the live band playing U2 cover songs in the United Kingdom pavilion. We wanted to eat ALL THE THINGS in the France pavilion but decided against it because 1. we were really full by that point, and 2. I bake a lot so we are already pretty familiar with many French desserts like crepes, fruit tarts, cream puffs, chocolate mousse, and macarons.
Honestly, it feels like there is something for everyone and just so much to explore and see and do! And I haven't even mentioned the rides yet!
Rides at Epcot
Epcot doesn't have as many rides as some of the other theme parks in Orlando, but the ones it has are still really great and different from the rides at other parks with a more experiential approach, instead of being geared toward thrill-seekers.
My personal favorite ride was actually the Spaceship Earth ride that is inside the Epcot sphere. It's a slow-moving ride that takes you through the history of communication and feels slightly hokey but in the best way. It felt old-school Disney but I really enjoyed it even if the kids thought it was kind of a yawner.
I had to opt for the milder version of Mission: SPACE, which is a simulator ride where you are in a space ship going on a mission to Mars or orbiting the earth. Even the most basic version left me feeling slightly queasy, so take the precautions seriously if you, like me, are prone to motion sickness on simulator rides.
The kids liked Test Track best, but that's unsurprising since they are total thrill-seekers and love a good roller coaster that has some speed. It's a lot like Radiator Springs Racers at California Adventure, if you are familiar with that park.
The last ride we did was the Frozen Ever After ride in the Norway Pavilion, which was a cute "Frozen"-themed boat ride. We all loved it and thought it was really well done, but the line gets long so you might want to have the Genie+ Pass to use on it.
We didn't make it on Remy's Ratatouille Adventure in the France Pavilion or the new Guardians of the Galaxy ride, unfortunately. Both had extremely long (3+ hour) lines and we couldn't even get passes with our Genie+ pass for them. But it gives us something to go back for next time!
Keep in mind that sometimes the rides are closed for one reason or another, and there are more rides than the ones that I have mentioned here, so be sure to check the Disney World app for the latest info and news on things like wait times.
Is the Genie+ Pass Worth It?
After dealing with all the regular lines the day before at Universal Studios, we caved and decided to pay the extra money for the Genie+ pass at Epcot and we were glad we did it.
The Genie+ service allows guests to access the Lightning Lane for certain attractions, which can help reduce wait times. But knowing whether the Genie+ pass is worth the money depends on your preferences, priorities, and the overall crowd levels during your visit.
Epcot doesn't have as many rides to use Genie+ as other parks do, which is good and bad. On the one hand, if you are at Epcot mostly to enjoy the World Showcase pavilions and eat your way around the world rather than go on rides with long lines, then the Genie+ pass might not be necessary at all!
However, if the attractions you really want to experience typically have long wait times, then Genie+ could definitely be beneficial and improve your experience in the park.
Also, keep crowd levels in mind and the time of year you are there. If you are visiting during a busy time, Genie+ can be a valuable tool to minimize wait times and make the most of your day. On less crowded days, the standard queues might be manageable without the convenience of Genie+.
Bonus Highlight: Gideon's Bakehouse at Disney Springs
There is one last highlight that I would be remiss if I didn't mention, which is Gideon's Bakehouse at Disney Springs. If you haven't heard of Gideon's Bakehouse, they make incredible, HUGE cookies that are absolutely loaded with chocolate chips and other mix-ins. They really are some of the best store-bought cookies I have had anywhere and on par with NYC cookies like the Levain Bakery chocolate chip cookies. And the store itself is an experience. It's steampunk and gothic vibes are so original and unique - I totally love it in there.
It's a whole ordeal and I wish there was a better way, but I've been to Gideon's a couple of times on different trips and talked to friends about their experiences at Gideon's and we all went through the same situation. The only time the line is shorter is if you can go first thing in the morning.
It's worth it though! At least, if you are a cookie-lover, like me. Each customer is only allowed to purchase 6 cookies, although if you are lucky enough to be there at the right time, there have 1 hour each day when they bring out hot cookies and you can get a cookie sundae with a scoop of ice cream on one of their hot, gooey chocolate chip cookies in addition to the 6 cookies you are allowed to take away. Trust me, you want to get the hot cookie sundae if you are lucky enough to be there during that window. It's only happened to me once, but it was awesome.
Gideon's changes out their cookie flavors on a regular basis, although there are some staple flavors that are almost always there. My personal favorites are their Pistachio Toffee Chocolate Chip cookie and the Cookies and Cream cookie. Both are just so, so good. Even three and four days later they still tasted delicious when I finished them off.
I also really quite liked the Peanut Butter Crunch cookie and this was my first time trying the Banana Bread Chocolate Chip cookie. Both were excellent.
If you can't go to Gideon's and want to try some copycat Gideon's Bakehouse recipes, my friend Rebecca has some really good looking recipes for a Gideon's inspired coffee cake cookie, chocolate peanut butter swirl cookie, and Frankenstein cookie.
And that was our Epcot experience! Now it's your turn! I would love to hear from you what you love about Epcot and if you have any tips to share with other readers who are planning their Epcot trip. Please leave a comment below and let me know if there is anything I missed that should be included in this guide!