As a kid, Epcot was right at the bottom of my ‘awesome theme parks I want to visit’ list. There was nothing about a park that focused on innovation and learning that remotely appealed to the ten year old me, I didn’t want to be cultured in the world showcase – I wanted to eat sweets and go on fast rides. I still do! However, when my parents did take me I was suprised that I actually enjoyed myself, that’s Disney for you - but let’s be honest, to a ten year old it wasn’t a patch on the Magic Kingdom.
Returning as an ‘adult’ was a whole different experience, there is no dispute in my mind that this is one park that is a millions times more fun for a 20something than for parents and their children…
A Twenty-Something’s Must-Do’s at: EPCOT
In each Disneyworld park there are the big rides that you have to check out and Epcot is certainly no exception. Soarin’ and Test track are not only incredible rides, but the ‘story’ behind them is so much more innovative than other big rides I have been on.
However, if you want to really ‘do’ Epcot in true 20-something style, let me introduce you to the… WORLD SHOWCASE PUB CRAWL – a pub crawl to rival any that came before. This isn’t just about travelling around different pubs, you’re going to be travelling the world! We tried to start at the beginning and work our way around, but things start getting a little hazy half-way through (I wonder why), especially when you intend to go back to a certain country for your evening meal – so by no means follow my patchwork quilt of an order, go with the flow, have a good look around – you’re on your holidays after all!
Disclaimer: I take no responsibility if your pub crawl results in any of the following:
Getting ‘deep’ with strangers
Being escorted from the premisis
Although Canada has a great steakhouse, at lunchtime we didn’t fancy a proper restaurant (plus I don’t actually eat meat and didn’t fancy ending up with some sort of oversized, baked mushroom) and - with all due respect - the O’ Canada ride wasn’t something I was AT ALL interested in going on, so we quickly moved on to start the fun. Where better to start the pub crawl than in the midst of a drinking culture of somewhere you know…
You can’t get much more English than sitting in a pub beer garden with fish and chips and a pint – plus this was the first time since arriving in America that I ordered chips and wasn’t disappointed to receive a bag of crisps instead of the carb fix I needed – note to self, learn: chips are crisps, fries are chips and no one will have a clue what you mean when you start talking about bubble and squeak.
I loved how quaint they had made the UK look – sometimes it takes a complete stereotype of your country to realise how ENGLISH England really is. Have a mooch round the cobbled streets or the shops selling The Beatles merchandise and Cadbury’s Curly Wurly’s (for up to $10 by the way, a bit ridiculous when I pay 20p – about 25 cents – for my Curly Wurly fix from the newsagents on the corner) with a pint – actually I’d probably recommend a half if you’re serious about making it home - of lager. It’s easy to get caught up in the English pub atmosphere, get carried away and stay for another few drinks… on a pub crawl this is always BAD IDEA! So in true British style… keep calm and carry on!
If you’re peckish you should definitely stop by the Boulangerie Patisserie, tucked behind the Chefs de France restaurant (apparently also very nice – if you like French food. Which I don’t.) The Pont des Arts footbridge is meant to be reminiscent of the Seine waterfront – a perfect place to enjoy a glass of wine…
…as my Nan always says, ’beer then wine, you’ll be fine’… (followed of course by ‘NEVER wine then beer…it turns you queer’ - apparently when you hit 80 you’re allowed to sound as homophobic as you want without anyone saying anything.)
There’s a selection of really lovely wines for you connoisseurs out there, as well as the cheap, cat-piss crap that I’m a little more accustomed too.
Let your hair down and enjoy some of the great street entertainment; mimes climbing stacks of chairs, acrobats and magicians – you never know what you might see, this is France after all!
If you’re looking to get that perfect photo of yourself looking awkward wearing a fez, this is definitely the place to do it!
While enjoying your delicious Sangria, one of my personal favourite drinks of all time, you can listen to authentic Moroccan drums, watch your boyfriend get hypnotised by the beautiful belly dancers or, at certain times, marvel at the incredible acrobatics of the Houzali Troupe. I especially enjoyed this one because of my love for Disney’s Aladdin – nothing screams ‘tourist’ more than a white girl wandering the Agrabah-esque marketplace, drinking sangria through a bendy straw and wearing a fez!
The Japanese section of the world is certainly the biggest for shopping.
Now remember, at this point you’ve already had a few drinks, so ridiculous trinketts will start to seem like amazing, antiques roadshow-worthy finds. Therefore, it’s crucial that someone trustworthy has control over the money at this point, or you may find yourself travelling home with a tamagotchi or a bright green Buddha statue that will “go PERFECTLY in the flat”.
It won’t. It looks shit.
With authentic Japanese bamboo plants and monkey puzzle trees, the garden makes a lovely place to enjoy some sake or plum wine. I have only ever dared to try the sushi that comes packaged from Tesco, but for those of you who are braver than me (and fancy a bit of karaoke) I’ve heard great things about Japan’s restaurant, Teppan Edo.
With less things to see and do than the other countries, The American Pavilion is the perfect place to really sit and relax and enjoy the calm before the storm. In true 4th July style there are vendors at the ready to supply the beer and hot dogs so you can sit and enjoy the red, white and blue scenery – from the flags to the flowers. For any American’s, if you really want to feel really patriotic, check out the American Adventure before you head off - not something I dared to try, as sitting quietly through a movie about Chrisopher Columbus is a virtually impossible task 5 drinks down the line.
As I have said before, I have always felt that there’s something so romantic about Italy, and Disney’s depiction of it is no disappointment. Between the 83 foot bell tower in (an authentic replica of the original campanile in St. Mark’s Square) the quaint shops selling Venetian masks and the moored gondolas; this was definitely one of my favourite places to explore with a glass of sparkling rose – adding a touch of class to the day before things start to get really messy! Plus, if you’re like me and LOVE Italian food, there’s certainly no shortage with two authentic restaurants to choose from. Although we didn’t eat there, it is definitely something I’d do when I return.
If you want to buy a dinosaur puppet for your little brother for $50 that he’ll never play with, you’ve hit the jackpot here.
This, similar to the Japanese area, has beautiful bamboo groves ponds and a waterfall which provide, not only a perfect getaway from the crowds but somewhere to enjoy your second glass of plum wine – it doesn’t matter if you didn’t actually like your first, by this time your tastebuds will be so drunk they won’t even notice! It’s also a great place to watch the Dragon Legend acrobats; seriously, these little girls are absolutely incredible (if not a little Chucky-like) and a definite must see in Epcot!
One of my bucket list items is to drink Margaritas in Mexico – this is about as close as I’ve got to checking it off. As soon as you enter the Aztec-styled pyramid you are greeted by a colourful Mexican marketplace at twilight, selling everything from Mexican food to jewellery. I would have loved to have eaten with a backdrop of a smoking volcano and the grand Mayan pyramid at the San Angel Inn – of course my annoying pickyness with food meant I didn’t, but fingers crossed some day soon I’ll have got over myself and be able to dine here!
You can also ride the ‘Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros’, which if you have ever stayed in the All Star Music Resort, you will know as the three annoying statues in the middle of the pool that sprayed you with freezing water as a bunch of ten year old pushed you off your lilo. Between trying on oversized sombreros, and Jon seriously asking why ‘the sugar around the rim of the margarita glass tastes weird’, Mexico was definitely one of my favourite and funniest stops on our pub crawl!
After a whole day in the sunshine and too many drinks it was definitely time to stumble somewhere for tea – and where better than the Oktoberfest themed Biergarten Restaurant in Germany? After buying far too much Kinder chocolate and a completely unnecessary Pinocchio figurine in the quaint Christmas wonderland styled shops (that was lost by the time we got back to the hotel), we sat down. With huge 2 pint Stein to share which, of course we neither needed nor finished. With long benches and Oktoberfest styled entertainment, you find yourself sat with other families, making this is definitely one of the most social and fun restaurants in Epcot. Of course sitting with another, completely sober, couple after you’ve spent the day drinking is always a recipe for disaster. After an awkward argument in which I (wrongly) argued the difference between Jiminiy Cricket and Lemony Snickett, followed by an even more awkward conversation about sausages, we shut up and settled down to our (amazing) all-you-can-buffet, vowing to never talk to anyone ever again.
As we headed back, unable to eat or drink any more we came across Norway – earlier in the day someone had given us ‘Maelstrom’ fast pass tickets… we had no interest in going on this unknown ride but gave it a go. I don’t know whether it was the tipsy-ness, the fullness or the heat but this was one of the funniest rides I have ever been on in my entire life.
Sitting in a long boat you travel to the Viking days of Norway, until you hear a booming voice announce something along the lines of “There are those who see the spirit of Norway as just a land of TROLLS” (cue trolls appearing out of nowhere) “But it is much more” – to which you see a giant polar bear and a few puffins surrounded by flashing lights – It was like being on some sort of LSD fuelled hallucinogenic trip. Before you have time to try and get your head around what is going on you’re hurried off the boat into a gift shop where you can by endless figurines of trolls (and puffins). Brilliant!
IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth
Finally there is no better way to end the day in Epcot than watching a spectacular fireworks display… and as always Disney certainly won’t let you down! Of course, we have to remember by this time you have been drinking all day, eaten yourself into an oblivion and experienced the Maelstrom… so of course, I couldn’t just act like a normal person. No instead, as the show ended, I burst inot tears and started applauding. As mothers dragged their kids away from the ‘crazy girl’, we stayed and watched the final fireworks fade out - The show is breathtaking and really the perfect ending to a memorable day!