Walt Disney World Educational? Of Course it is!

September 11, 2011 at 8:45 pm | Posted in Disney Travel Planning, Education, Epcot, Vacation, Walt Disney World Resort, World Showcase | Leave a comment
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This is one of my most favorite posts, first published in August 2009. With school getting underway, I thought it was an appropriate time to repost! Enjoy!

Can Walt Disney World be considered an educational trip? Many parents wonder if taking thier kids out of school to go to Walt Disney World is the right thing to do. I, myself, am planning on taking my second-grade daughter out of school for a week in November to go to the World.  Why did we come to that decision? Number one, we can take advantage of cooler weather and smaller crowds, and number two, we’re making the trip to Walt Disney World educational! There are so many educational aspects at WDW. It’s teeming with history, geography, culture, science, math, economics, science and more! Let’s take a look at how YOU can make your Walt Disney World trip educational at anytime of year!

Epcot World Showcase: Children can explore the different cultures of the world in the 11 various World Showcase Pavilions of Canada, United Kingdom, France, Morocco, Italy, Germany, Japan, China, Norway, Mexico, and America. Your child will be able to learn about the architecture, languages, diet and dress of each country. They will also be able to talk to the cast members in each country. The World Showcase cast members are actually from the country in whose pavilion they work! They can learn about the flags, learn to say hello in each language, learn capitals and more!

American History: Children can learn all about the U.S. Presidents by witnessing the The Hall of Presidents presentation at the Magic Kingdom. This show highlights every U.S. President from George Washington to current President Barack Obama. The show focuses on the role of slavery in America and tells how early leaders debated slavery from the Constitutional Convention to the Lincoln-Douglas debates.  They can witness the American Adventure Show in the American pavilion in Epcot and learn about the beginnings of the United States of America. This show combines film footage and Audio-Animatronics of dozens of historic figures and is as moving as it is educational. Listen to Ben Franklin and Mark Twain tell the story of America, beginning with the Pilgrims and going through World War II. Children will see George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Will Rogers and Rosie the Riveter.

Epcot Future World: Children can learn about science by exploring Mission:Space. Your child will have the chance to see and feel Family_On_Test_Trackwhat it would be like to travel by rocket to Mars. Children can experience the Universe of Energy exhibit which teaches about fossil fuels energy and conservation. The Circle of Life show in The Land Pavilion teaches about environmental protection. The Innoventions Pavilion allows children to participate in hands-on activities showcasing interesting innovations and new technologies. The Living with the Land ride is an indoor boat ride through greenhouses full of plants and aquaculture tanks. Many of the plants that you see growing are used in the Garden Grill. The Seas with Nemo and Friends teach children about aquatic life and offers many exhibits for children to take part in. Children can view marine exhibits complete with dolphins and manatees. Spaceship Earth is a slow-moving ride in the “big golf ball” (as children call it) that uses Animatronics to teach about the history of communication. Test Track (pictured, left) lets children take part in a GM test vehicle as they zip around an indoor-outdoor track, learning what tests cars have to go through before they can be sold to the public. Throughout Future World, there are numerous learning activities for children of all ages!

Disney’s Animal Kingdom- What better place to learn about nature and conservation? This 110-acre theme park, the largest Disney theme animal kingdom safari park, features an African savanna and safari, up-close encounters with animals of all kinds as well as a Conservation Station, where  children can learn about conservation efforts being made across the world as well as Disney’s part in those efforts. Disney’s Animal Kingdom’s zoological operations are respected worldwide, but Disney keeps them fully hidden from its guests by man-made hills, rivers and rocks. Scientists are breeding endangered species, and on-site researchers are there studying animal behaviors. DAK is a member of the AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums). Disney wants you to see the “real” world of animals, however, and not a zoo. Observation windows at Conservation Station let you look in on medical procedures on animals while veterinarians explain what is going on. Other windows display researchers studying elephant vocalizations and tracking a sea turtle off of the Florida coast. Kids can learn more about the park’s primates and other animals with remote animal-cams. Children can listen to hear thunder and insects, they can “speak” with Dr. Jane Goodall or George Schaller of the Tibet Wildlife Reserve. They can view a film on endangered species and get a closer look at various animals when the Cast Members bring out animals for closer viewing.

Economics: Children have the opportunity to learn about economics as well by managing his/her own spending money. Children are able to make budget decisions on how to spend their money. They can also work with saving at the hands-on at The Great Piggy Bank Adventure. T. Rowe Price worked with Disney to create this interactive game to teach families the importance of financial planning. You can do the game as a single or up to 3 people can compete on a team. There are a number of stations where you start the game.  There are plenty of cast members to help you along the way.

Art: Children can learn about art, animation and the history of film at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Map Navigation: Allow your children to navigate throughout the theme parks and the Walt Disney World Resort by usingMagic_Kingdom_Map_wkey the    numerous maps that are available. Children can use the key to figure out where the nearest dining or shopping establishments are or where their favorite ride is and how to get there from where they are.

Mathematics: One of the best ways for children to learn math is by wait times! You can ask children how long a 30-minute wait time is (i.e. is it one quarter of an hour, one half an hour, etc).  Which attraction has the longer wait time? It really is up to you!

The Walt Disney World Resort is a wonderful and educational experience, and the best part is, the children are having so much fun, they don’t even realize that they are learning! Disney truly makes learning fun for everyone!

If you are going to take your children out of school for a WDW trip, make sure and get their assignments ahead of time, and try and complete them BEFORE you go on your trip. And have your child keep a journal of their trip so they can practice their writing. My daughter loves to write about what she did during the day and what her favorite attraction and ride was that day.

For more information on the great educational aspects of Walt Disney World, contact Magical Mousecapades now!

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Top Ten Reasons to go to Walt Disney World in 2011!

January 5, 2011 at 3:32 pm | Posted in Disney Travel, Disney Travel Planning, Disney's Hollywood Studios, Epcot, Italy, Magic Kingdom, Main Street, Mexico, Uncategorized, Walt Disney World Resort, World Showcase | 1 Comment
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2011 will be a wonderful year to go to Walt Disney World (as if anyone REALLY needs an excuse to go to WDW)! There are so many wonderful things to do and see and experience! Here is a quick list of the top ten reasons you need to go to WDW this year!

  1. Let the Memories Begin– Disney’s new promotional campaign focuses on the memories made at the Disney parks. I know we all have them. And if we don’t, we will soon! This campaign allows us to see other’s magical memories and to share some of our own! Do you remember your 1st trip to WDW? Or what about your child’s? This campaign makes me smile simply because it is real. Those are real experiences and real reactions. And who knows? Maybe one of YOUR memories will wind up on one of Disney’s commercials or print ads. And maybe even displayed on Cinderella’s castle. For more information on this new campaign, click here.
  2. Walt Disney World’s 40th Anniversary– Come celebrate WDW’s 40th birthday at the Most Magical Place on Earth! Join in at all the parades, the rides, the shows… Come and see what has made Walt Disney World a must-see travel destination!
  3. Meet the Characters from Tangled– Did your little princess or prince love Rapunzel or Flynn Rider? Well, did you know you can meet them at the Magic Kingdom? That’s right! The beautiful princess and her prince now have their own Meet and Greet area in Fairytale Garden, near the castle side entrance to Fantasyland. Come to this new interactive Play and Greet!
  4. Duffy– So this may not be the MAIN reason, to go to Walt Disney World, but it’s a pretty fun thing to do while you’re here! For years, Duffy has been a popular character at Tokyo Disneyland. In October 2010, he arrived at Epcot for his own Meet and Greet! Duffy, for those of you who are wondering who I am talking about, is Mickey’s teddy bear. He’s a soft, cuddly bear with a “Hidden Mickey” on his face and paws. And of course, the Duffy merchandise abounds! You can get a seasonal Duffy bear, a HUGE Duffy bear, or a plain Duffy that you can dress anyway you want in one of the many Duffy outfits that are available.
  5. Two New Epcot Eateries– Via Napoli opened this past August in the Italy pavilion. This authentic Neapolitan pizzeria features wood-burning ovens and serves wonderful pizza, salads, sandwiches and more. La Hacienda de San Angel is an indoor-outdoor restaurant right on the lagoon that features authentic Mexican dishes. This is the first of Disney’s new concept dining establishments that acts as a quick service eatery for lunch and a table service eatery for dinner.
  6. Disney Channel Rocks– This new street show at Disney’s Hollywood Studios replaces the old High School Musical street performance. This new high energy show features songs that your tweens and teens will know all too well (and most parents will know them all too well, too). You’ll hear tunes from Hannah Montana, Sonny With a Chance, Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam, Shake it Up!, JONAS LA, Starstruck and more.  Some guests will even be invited on stage to dance!
  7. Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival– This fall-time event usually lasts from the beginning of October through the middle of November. You’ll be able to enjoy food and drinks from around the World. Besides the usual 11 pavilions, you will find food and wine kiosks from other countries as well such as Ireland, Belgium and South Korea, along with several others. You’ll also be able to enjoy regional entertainment. You can also take in the Eat to the Beat concert series, which highlights performers from years past! For more information on the Food and Wine Festival, click here.
  8. Epcot’s International Flower and Garden Festival– This event runs from March 2, 2011 through May 15, 2011 and showcases a colorful display of flowers, gardens, topiaries, entertainment and more. During the festival, you will find special entertainers from the 1960’s and 1970’s at the America Gardens Theatre during the Flower Power Concert Series. For more information on the Flower and Garden Festival, click here.
  9. Star Tours– This full-motion flight simulator is currently closed while it is being renovated and being made into a 3D attraction. BUT it will open in 2011 with all new 3D imagery, and any Star Wars fans in your family will be thrilled! New journeys and exciting destinations await. In the meantime, guests can enjoy shopping at Tatooian Traders and can watch (and maybe participate) in Jedi Training Academy, right by the attraction.
  10. The Feeling of Being a Kid Again– Many people go to WDW for their kids. But those of us who go more often know that the fun and excitement is not just for kids. The second I walk into Magic Kingdom, I revert to a kid again. I get more excited than my kids when I see the characters, and I cry when I see the castle for the first and last time of each trip. I remember growing up at Walt Disney World and watching it change through the years. I laugh and squeal on the rides, and I am just as excited as the kids to get a Mickey Bar! Plan that Disney trip in 2011, but don’t just do it for your kids- do it for you, too!

For more information or for a free no-obligation quote, contact us at www.magicalmousecapades.com!

The Countries of World Showcase-Part 5: Italy

June 14, 2010 at 1:46 am | Posted in Disney Travel, Disney Travel Planning, Epcot, Italy, Italy, World Showcase | Leave a comment
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Ciao, and welcome to Italy! We are on the 5th stop of our trip around World Showcase. Italy is a beautiful pavilion, filled with the beautiful architecture of Venice. Stroll the Italian piazza and take in the eateries, the shops, the jugglers, music and more. The attention to detail in this pavilion is stunning. You’ll find it in the bridges, gondolas, colorful barber poles, the Neptune fountain in the central Plaza de Teatro, and a stunning 83-foot version of the bell tower, Campanile of St. Mark’s Square. The detail is so great in the Tower, there is even an angel atop the tower covered in real gold leaf. The scaled-down campanile was sculpted on model of the original, right down to the curls on the back of the head. Other statues in the relatively small pavilion, including the sea God, Neptune, are similarly exact.

The Italy pavilion even has an island, like Venice. The seawall is stained with “age” plus there are moorings that look like barber poles with Venetian-like gondolas tied to them. St. Mark the Evangelist is also remembered along with the lion that is the saint’s companion and Venice’s guardian. He can be seen atop two massive columns that flank the arched footbridge that connects the island to the mainland. The only deviation from Venetian reality is the alteration of the site of Doge’s Palace in reference to the real St. Mark’s square.

Italy is a horticultural-lover’s dream. On the island, you will find Kumquat trees, citrus plants typical of the Mediterranean. There are also a couple of olive trees originally located in Sacramento, California. The trees were transported to Orlando on a flat-bed truck. They actually arrived smaller than they were when they left California. As they were in Arizona, border inspectors mandated they be trimmed to the 10-foot length required by state law. They were actually shorned en route. The scars from their traumatic travel remain. The darker bark you see would be from the original and the lighter bark you see would be the new growth. You will also find in the pavilion tall column-like trees that are called Italian cypresses.

Shopping in the Italian pavilion is reminiscent of real-life Italy. At Enoteca Castello, located at the edge of the piaza, you will find red and white Italian wines, chocolate, espresso, cookbooks, and decorative bottle toppers. At Il Bel Cristallo, you will find an abundance of sports-themed apparel and accessories plus purses, wallets, bags, scarves, ties, fragrances, and jewelry. One of my favorite World Showcase shops is La Bottega Italiana. This beautiful little shop is an eclectic blend of decorative ceramics and glassware along with handcrafted Venetian masks, ranging in price from $30 to $500.

Dining in the Italy pavilion is pretty limited, but there is more coming! The table-service restaurant in Italy is called Tutto Italia. This is one of the most popular restaurants in Epcot. Recently, they expanded the outdoor seating area, which makes for one of the best people-watching spot in all of Epcot. Tutto Italia serves traditional appetizers like fried calamari, fresh mozzarella with tomatoes and basil and Caesar salad. Entrees include fresh pastas, fish, pork, chicken, and paninis at lunch. New on the horizon is Via Napoli, an authentic Italian-style pizzeria! This new restaurant is set to open in 2010. The menu will feature several Neapolitan pizzas, such as pizza bianca, quattro stagioni, piccante, and traditional Margherita pizza. Famed Pizzaiolo Charlie Restivo will serve as the restaurant’s executive chef.  The water at Via Napoli will even be calibrated specially to the pH found in Naples to make for an even more authentic pizza experience. For more on Via Napoli, go to Disney Food Blog.

While one of the smaller pavilions, Italy is among the more authentic and a true delight. Take your time while exploring, and take in the sights, sounds and smells. And make sure while you are there, you search for Sergio, the Italian clown juggler!

The Italy pavilion, with the author's daughter in the corner.

The Countries of World Showcase- Part 4: Germany

May 24, 2010 at 8:00 pm | Posted in Biergarten, Disney Travel, Disney Travel Planning, Epcot, Germany, Walt Disney World Resort, World Showcase | 1 Comment
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Guten Tag, and welcome to Germany! This is our fourth installment of our trip around Epcot’s World Showcase! Today, we are visiting the beautiful and quaint Germany pavilion. This 16th-century picture-perfect village is dominated by a fountain depicting St. George’s victory over the dragon while on a pilgrimage the Middle East. Monuments to St. George, the patron saint of soldiers, are common throughout Bavaria. An animated glockenspiel (like the one in Munich) comes to life every hour above the platz (plaza), complete with Hummel figurines and a melody composed especially for Epcot. In the Germany pavilion, you can enjoy a beer, indulge in bratwurst and other types of sausage or stroll through one of the magnificent shops! Kids can also meet one of their favorite princesses, Snow White along with the Prince and Dopey near Snow White’s wishing well.

Germany’s architecture is simply beautiful and was inspired by Bavaria and the Rhine region of Germany. The buildings are not precise replicas of buildings in Germany. Instead, the Imagineers of the pavilion adapted German structures to fit the need and scale of the World Showcase. The facade of the art and book shop was inspired by the Kaufhaus, which is a 16th century merchants hall located in Freiburg in the Black Forest. The high wall that serves as the backdrop for Germany was inspired by Eltz Castle, located on the Mosel River and the Stahleck Castle on the Rhine.

Hungry? Then Germany is the perfect place to be! Biergarten celebrates Oktoberfest every day! Here you can enjoy Oktoberfest Musikanten show, a 6-person musical group that performs traditional Bavarian music with singing, dancing, and yodeling while partaking in a delicious meal of sausages, red cabbage, sauerkraut, spaetzle and schnitzel. The Biergarten restaurant reflects the 16th century town of Rothenberg. This lively restaurant is an indoor German courtyard, and it serves lunch and dinner. Seating is at long communal tables so everyone can be part of the Oktoberfest celebration. Ready for dessert (as I always am)? Biergarten offers up tasty Bavarian cheesecake, freshly baked apple strudel and more! Raise a stein of German beer or a glass of Rhine wine or other drink selection, and say “Prost” as you enjoy the food, entertainment and company! Biergarten is on the Disney Dining Plan! Make sure and make your Advanced Dining Reservations.

Do you want to experience quick German food? Then you will enjoy Sommerfest, Germany’s quick-service restaurant. Sommerfest serves up bratwurst, frankfurters,  cake and strudel. Of course, you can also enjoy a German beer! If you’re just in the mood for a traditional German beer, you can head over to Bierline, which is a walk-up cart serving beer, wine and pretzels.

Shopping is fun for both adults and kids in Germany. The shops interconnect on both side of the cobblestoned central platz. Das Kaufhaus stocks a nice selection of Adidas sportswear. Volkskunst’s walls are covered with Schneider cuckoo clocks, and the shelves are stocked with limited edition steins and glassware. Der Teddybar features Engel-Puppen dolls and Steiff plush toys. You will also find the Kidcot stop at the back of the store. Kunstarbeit in Kristall has beautiful Swarovski pins, glassware and Arribas Brothers collectibles. Look for the $37,500 replica of Cinderella’s castle, made out of 20,000 Swarovski crystals. You will find 300 varieties of German wines at Weinkeller. You can also take advantage of wine tasting opportunities. Head over to Sussigkeiten for imported sweets and fresh-baked goods such as fudge and cookies. Do you love Christmas? Then you don’t want to miss Die Weihnachts Ecke where you can find Christmas ornaments and handmade nutcrackers. Glas und Porzellan showcases Goebel and Hummel glass and porcelain objects. Sometimes you can even find a German artist painting the delicate M.I. Hummels there!

Food and shopping are the true attractions in the Germany pavilion. You also will find a 1930’s miniature train village. This village was originally created for the Epcot Food and Wine Festival, but they kept it around due to the popularity. The village is complete with a castle, farmhouse, monastery and a wee commuter railroad!

When EPCOT Center was being planned, one of the planned attractions was a boat ride that would take guests past mini-recreations of famous German tourist spots, like the Black Forest and Cologne Cathedral. The building that was to house the attraction was eventually completed, but budget overruns forced Disney Imagineers to cancel the project. This building still stands today behind the scenes. It is empty and is mainly used as a rehearsal space for the various high school bands that sometimes perform at Epcot.

Germany is a beautiful and fun pavilion! Have a beer and a pretzel and stroll through the shops as you take in the atmosphere!

The Countries of World Showcase- Part 3: China

May 11, 2010 at 3:38 am | Posted in China, Disney Travel, Disney Travel Planning, Epcot, Walt Disney World Resort, World Showcase | 2 Comments
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 你好 (Nǐ hǎo) and hello from China! World Showcase’s China pavilion is our 3rd stop as we travel around the “World”. China is a beautiful, serene pavilion in which you can enjoy a beautiful 360 CircleVision 360 movie, witness thousands of full-size terra cotta soldiers and horses from a lost tomb that date back 2000 years or enjoy a delicious Chinese meal at Nine Dragons Restaurant or a quick meal at Lotus Blossom Cafe. 

 

The focal point of the Chinese pavilion is the Temple of Heaven. The three-tiered, circular Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest is a one-half scale reproduction of its counterpark inside the Temple of Heaven complex near Beijing. Many of the architectural details have significance to the Chinese. Inside the hall, you will find 12 columns. These columns represent the 12 months of the year and the 12-year cycle of the Chinese calendar. Near the center of the room, you will find four columns representing the four seasons. These columns support a beam that represents Earth and is topped by a round beam signifying Heaven. Outside of the Temple, you may find Mulan and Mushu. Inside, the temple, you will see the best of Disney’s Circle Vision 360 movies called Reflections of China. This 13-minute film is a remarkable film presentation  that takes you on a breathtaking visual journey across this amazing country. You will journey from Beijing to Shanghai, from inner Mongolia to the Forbidden City, from the distant lands of the Hunan province to the Great Wall, discovering all the brilliant facets of this Land of Many Faces. The host portrays 8th-century Chinese poet Li Bai.  

Reflections of China is shown on the half-hour. While you are waiting, you can take in the Land of Many Faces Gallery. You can also gaze 

at Tomb Warriors: Guardian Spirits of Ancient China in the House of the Whispering Willows Gallery. These are pint-sized replicas of the life-sized tomb warriors found in the 22-square-mile tomb of China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang; and cases displaying archaeological tools and photos. Much like the real army, the model soldiers all have distinct characteristics and realistic features. 

You can then be entertained by the Dragon Legend Acrobats. These are a fantastic troupe of children, typically 9-12 years old. These children are absolutely amazing and perform daily. They are a must-see! Inside the Temple of Heaven, you can listen to the beautiful harp-like music of Si Xian. Si Xian is the name of the harp-like music played on the Chinese zheng, an instrument resembling a table zither. This beautiful instrument was created more than 2000 years ago during the Qin dynasty. It is used as both a court instrument and a folk instrument , and it is now a member of the Asian zither family and is a very popular instrument. Si Xian plays at different times throughout the day. 

Knell Studio Works

Knell Studio Works

Ready to shop?  Then head over to Yong Feng Shangdian department store. This unique shop carries apparel, furniture, fountains, food, housewares and jewelry. You can also find fun panda items as well as kid items. Kids love the brightly colored parasols in which they can get their names written on them in the Chinese language. Kids can also locate the Kidcot stop towards the back of the pavilion. They also may come across Mulan and Mushu! 

Hungry? Then head over to Nine Dragons. Nine Dragons serves several different types of meals, many of which are perfect for sharing, including several Dim Sum favorites such as Shrimp and Chicken Egg Rolls served with plum-chili and ginger-soy sauces, General Tso’s Chicken Dumplings, and the Appetizer Trio, a sampler of cucumber salad, spicy beef and fragrant chicken. This restaurant was extensively renovated in 2008 and is a mixture of modernism and tradition. Chinese food is always best when served family style so make sure you order a number of dishes and share! Advanced Dining Reservations are recommended for Nine Dragons. 

Need something quick? Then head to Lotus Blossom Cafe! This quick-service restaurant serves up stir-fry, eggrolls, and a daily special. 

All in all, you will find a serene, peaceful and reflective area in China. The culture and the lands of China permeate throughout the pavilion. Find a seat and watch the people stroll along the lagoon! Enjoy and goodbye – 再见 (Zàijiàn). 

Amy at http://www.flickr.com/photos/teruterubouzu/

This post is part of the Disney Blog Carnival, go there to read more great posts like this!

The Countries of World Showcase: Part 2- Norway

April 27, 2010 at 1:54 pm | Posted in Disney Travel, Disney Travel Planning, Epcot, Norway, Walt Disney World Resort, World Showcase | Leave a comment
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Heisann and God Dag! Welcome to Norway! This is our 2nd stop in our trip around the World- World Showcase, that is! Epcot’s Norway will transport you to Scandinavia, old and new. Here you step back into the land of the Vikings! Epcot’s Norway contains a beautiful village square with traditional Norwegian architectural elements such as stone and wood designed to represent the Norwegian towns and cities of Bergen, Oslo, Alesund and Setesdahl. 

Norway is one of the two World Showcase pavilions with an actual ride. Here you can enjoy Maelstrom, but remember to look out for trolls. After you take your boat ride, you can dine on traditional Norwegian fare and with princesses at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall or enjoy a wonderful Kringla Sweet Pretzel at Kringla Bakeri og Cafe. Then stroll through the Stave Church and see “Vikings: Conquerors of the Seas”, which is a collection of authentic Norse weapons and artifacts. Shopping aficionados will love the fragrances, candy, hand-knit woolens, trolls, glass, pewter and more that can be found in Norway.

Maelstrom is Norway’s main attraction and is themed to Norway’s rich seafaring heritage. This is a FastPass attraction, but unless you are there at one of the busiest times, you shouldn’t have to wait more than 10-15 minutes. Maelstrom uses a 16-passenger boat to transport you through a 10th century Viking village and forest where trolls wind up casting a spell on your boat. After the curse is placed on the boat and trolls commandeer your ship, you will start going backwards before you reach a waterfall, where your boat will change course and turn around. After the waterfall, you go through a storm and arrive in a quaint Norwegian village. When you exit the boat, you will be in a holding area which will ultimately open in a small theatre that shows “The Spirit of Norway”,  a film on life in Norway. The film shows the daydreams of a young Norwegian boy. He examines an old Viking ship and imagines all types of successful Norwegians, which portray the film’s point- “The Spirit of Norway is in its people”. When the show is over, you exit into the store where you can don your viking horns and have your picture taken with the giant troll!

After your Maelstrom adventure, you can head over to Akershus Royal Banquet Hall, where you can dine with princesses for breakfast, lunch or dinner for ‘Princess Storybook Dining’. A word of advice- make sure you make your Advanced Dining Reservations! When you enter Akershus, you will have your photo taken with a princess (it was Belle the last time I was there). The photo package will be brought to you during your meal, and it is included with your meal. Akershus is patterned after its namesake castle, located in Oslo, Norway. You will meet five Disney princesses such as Alice, Ariel, Aurora, Belle, Cinderella, Esmerelda, Jasmine, Mary Poppins, or Mulan will come and visit you during your meal for photographs and autographs (princesses subject to change during each meal).  Breakfast is a Norwegian-style meal with an American feel, such as scrambled eggs, bacon, potato casserole and more. Lunch and dinner begin with a Taste of Norway assortment of cold meats and cheeses as well as various salads. From there, you order your main course. You can try lamb stew and kjottkake or stick to more traditional items such as different types of chicken. And don’t worry, Akershus is still a Disney restaurant and knows what kids like- hot dogs, pasta, pizza and grilled chicken.

For a sweet treat, stop by Kringla Bakeri og Kafe. This is a great pastry shop that serves breakfast or desserts. One of my favorites is the sweet pretzels- a must in my opinion. Use your Disney Dining Plan snack credits here!

There is one main store, The Puffin’s Roost, in Norway. This store runs the gamut. Here you can find Norwegian apparel such as pricey Dale of Norway woolen items, Christmas ornaments, toys, Geir Ness perfume, puffin stuffed animals, plastic trolls, Donald Duck vikings and silly plastic Viking helmets, some with braids and some with horns. You can also find the Norway Kidcot station here.  And don’t forget before you leave, to get your picture taken with the Giant Troll!

You can stroll through the old Stave Church Gallery to see Vikings: Conquerors of the Sea. This display shows a life-size Rognvald the Raider, a Viking who invaded and colonized France as well as Erik the Red, and King Olaf as well as a detailed scale model of a 9th century Viking ship. You can also see authentic swords, arrows and axe blades, some of which date back more than 1,000 years.  The Stave Churches (or Stavkirke) were built by Norwegians beginning in the year 1050. Norwegians knew woodworking the best so when St. Olaf brought Christianity to Norway, they turned to what they knew best and began building the churches  and blended Christian symbols and Viking images. Other wooden churches were built throughout Europe, but only ones in Norway remain. Out of the 1000 Norwegian Stave Churches built, only 28 remain.

Make sure you observe the four different types of architecture while strolling through Norway. Setesdal style, with grassy roofs and thick logs, projects a rough woods look in The Puffin’s Roost and Kringla Bakeri og Kafe. Bergen style, captured here in the Fjording Shop, is marked by gabled windows on close-set wooden buildings. Oslo style is marked by the surrounding walls of the Akershus Castle. Alesund style is typified by the white stucco and stone-trimmed information building where you find the entrance to the Maelstrom.

Norway is a beautiful part of World Showcase. There are many intricacies that you need to search for, and you can also find some Hidden Mickeys, for those of you who are Hidden Mickey fans! Enjoy Norway!

The Countries of World Showcase- Part 1: Mexico

April 19, 2010 at 2:50 pm | Posted in Disney Travel, Disney Travel Planning, Epcot, Mexico, Walt Disney World Resort, World Showcase | 4 Comments
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I find the countries of World Showcase to be fascinating. I love strolling through each country, learning about the history and culture and speaking to the cast members who originate from these countries.

This is the 1st blog post in a series. Travel around World Showcase with us as we explore each country’s pavilion. First up is MEXICO!

Hola y Bienvenidos a Mexico! We’re beginning our tour around World Showcase by going counter-clockwise! You begin your journey into Mexico by entering a tall pyramid modeled after an actual Aztec Temple of Quetzalcoatl at Teotihuacan, Mexico. Quetzalcoatl was traditionally known as the god of the morning and evening star.  Later he became known as the patron of priests, inventor of books and of the calendar and as the symbol of death and resurrection. He himself is depicted along Disney’s priests’ steps.  Inside you will find a huge gallery of cultural artifacts from different periods of Mexican history. From there, you will enter into an outdoor” colonial Mexican plaza, Plaza de los Amigos, where it is always twilight! Listen to the festive music, enjoy a drink in La Cava del Tequila or sit down for a delicious traditional meal in San Angel Inn.

Located in the back of the Plaza, you will find a smoking volcano and a Grand Mayan pyramid that rises above an indoor lagoon. There are colorful carts and shops offering all sorts of Mexican wares: Mexican jewelry, Kahlua, pottery, clothing and leather goods. There’s usually a strolling mariachi band, Mariachi Cobre, so you can partake in the sounds of Mexico as well. Kids can purchase their World Showcase passports here as well as enjoy the Kidcot Funstop, where they can color a mask and then add on to the mask in each country of World Showcase.

One of the more relaxing rides in Epcot is located in the Mexican pavilion- the Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros. This ride is an update of the old El Rio Del Tiempo attraction and is usually a walk-on attraction, and while it’s not very exciting, it is entertaining and also serves as a great place to get off of your feet and cool off! It features Donald Duck, Jose Carioca and Panchito from Disney’s 1944 animated film “The Three Caballeros.”  The storyline has trouble-maker Donald disappearing en route to the Three Caballeros performance in Mexico City. The other caballeros go in search throughout Mexico for their friend! You can enjoy all sorts of Mexican scenery throughout the ride, even “fireworks”! You begin the ride in Mexico’s 1st century, sailing through a rainforest before you enter a Mayan pyramid and sailing into a temple. You will experience a Day of the Dead celebration and pass by Acapulco’s famous cliffs before you finally make it to Mexico City, where the Three Caballeros can finally perform!

Outside of the pavilion (to the right-hand side if you are facing the pavilion), you will find Donald Duck, dressed in his Mexican finest. He is there frequently throughout the day! Make sure that the kids have their autograph books ready and that you have your camera ready!

San Angel Inn is Mexico’s table-service restaurant. This restaurant overlooks the plaza and the boat ride, and it is very romantic as it appears you are dining in a moonlit courtyard. In the “distance”,  you will hear a rumbling volcano. The food is delicious and traditional. You can enjoy tortilla soup and a mouth-watering steak as well as churros and flan for dessert. San Angel Inn is open for lunch and dinner, and the Disney Dining Plan is accepted here. Reservations are recommended.

La Cava del Tequila is the newest (and one of the most fun) additions to Epcot. Opening in 2009, La Cava is a refreshing change to the Mexican pavilion and it celebrates the history and heritage of tequila. You can enjoy 70 different types of tequila (those over age 21) as well as margaritas and tapas-style appetizers. The resident “tequila ambassador” will educate guests on the history of tequila. Be prepared as La Cava is very popular, and it only seats 46!

Currently closed until fall 2010 for refurbishment, La Cantina de San Angel is great for a quick bite. You can enjoy nachos, tacos, churros, frozen margaritas and more. Once this establishment opens this fall, it will showcase a new type of dining experience at Epcot. You will find it to be a quick-service dining location at lunch and a table-service restaurant at dinner. This will greatly expand the number of people able to dine in the Mexican pavilion, and it will offer both indoor and outdoor seating. Find quick-service Mexican food at Taqueria Del Lago on the promenade.

Make sure you also take a look at Animales Fantasticos, Spirits in Wood: ” – In villages surrounding the city of Oaxaca, Mexico, artisans create fantastic wood carvings of animals, humans, and beasts. Their work is prized for the way they freely mix reality with magic. This modern folk art is also unique for the way it blends traditional with contemporary themes. In just a few short decades, Oaxacan woodcarving has become recognized as an important expression of how ancient cultures interact with a modern world.”

“Oaxacan parents tell stories to their children about fantasy animals that live in the nearby forests. Most of these magical creatures are mis-chief makers and the children are warned to stay clear of them. Today, these fantasy animals have emerged from the woods. They have been set free by the artisans who captured them in the branches of the trees. These brightly colored animals have traveled far from their home in Southwest Mexico, but bring with them their legendary playfulness.” (Quotes from the display, October 2001)

Shopping is a delight in the Mexican pavilion. You can bring home kids favorites such as sombreros, maracas and paper flowers. You can also find silver jewelry, as Mexico is well-known for its quality silver. You can find traditional pottery, glassware and decorative gifts as well leather goods, clothing, tequila, blankets and more.

Have a great time strolling through the land of Mexico! Adios!

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