The 1.3-mile path circling the World Showcase Lagoon is home to 11 pavilions created in the idealized image of their home countries—get your picture taken in front of a miniature Eiffel Tower (it’ll look real through the lens), or at the Doge’s Palace in Venice. The pavilions were built more to elicit an emotional response and not to truly replicate. Disney is diligent about the upkeep of this area, but it neglects development—the last “country” to open was Norway back in 1988, and without joint participation by foreign tourism offices, there are unlikely to be more. There also seems to be an emphasis on countries that Americans already know, and neither South America nor Australasia is represented at all. But World Showcase does have some of the most original restaurants in Disney World, and the shops are stocked with crafts and national products (you can buy real Chinese tea in China and sweaters in Norway), although the variety is slipping. It’s also the only area in Epcot in which alcoholic beverages are sold.
There is far more fascinating stuff to do in World Showcase than the free Disney map lets on. Pocket it and let your curiosity guide you. You should, though, keep the day’s Times Guide firmly in hand. The pavilions are crawling with unexpected musical and dance performances conducted by natives of each country. Seeing them makes a day richer and squeezes value from your ticket. Rush and you’ll miss a lot. I suggest going clockwise around the lagoon mostly because the only two rides in World Showcase will come quickly on the left; if you go counterclockwise, you’ll reach them after they accrue lines. After midafternoon, it won’t matter.
Tip: Anything purchased in World Showcase can be sent to the Package Pickup at the front of Future World; allow 3 hours for delivery (it’s not refrigerated, so chocolate melts). On some days—it depends how busy things are—two ferry routes cross the lagoon. One leaves near Germany and one from Morocco, and both land near the top of Future World. You will not save time using them; they’re merely a pleasant way to get off your feet.
Eat, Drink & Be Merry: In the autumn, Epcot's International Food & Wine Festival adds dozens booths to the park's 1 1/3-mile World Showcase promenade. Here's your chance to walk off some calories while you sip and savor the cuisine and beverages of several of the world's cultures. On the food front, the appetizer-size temptations might include burgundy escargot, seared alligator medallions, green mussels, shrimp on the barbie, octopus on purple potato salad, chicken sa cha, and much more. You can also sample wine and beer from more than 100 wineries and breweries. Tickets for the dinner-and-concert series, select wine tastings, and specialty dining experiences (some offered at Disney's signature resort restaurants) run from $45 to $450 including tip, but you can cruise the festival for standard park admission. Call tel. 407/939-3378 for details, or go to www.disneyworld.com.