Hi, my name is Kat and I’m a Walt Disney World Resort tour addict! I simply cannot get enough of the inside information and history surrounding my most favorite place on earth. Epcot’s DestiNations Discovered Tour, which explores all of the countries featured in the incredible World Showcase, was the latest to scratch my tour itch. This five hour walking tour took us through, and often behind, each and every pavilion where we were treated to history and lore surrounding the construction, architecture and operations of each of these micro countries. While this tour usually is comprised of a small group, it was a private tour for us, so we enjoyed having the full attention of our outstanding tour guide. The tour began with us standing in the center of the Lotus Flower emblem on the ground between the Fountain of Nations and the walkway to the World Showcase, getting to know a little bit about each other and what to expect. By the time we reached the Mexican pavilion, our first nation discovered of the tour, we felt as if we made a new friend. That’s a great tour guide!
Before I go any further, I would like to advise anyone embarking on an early morning tour (prior to park opening) at Epcot, should already have had something to eat and drink. There are no provisions available inside the park until the park officially opens. There is however an open Joffrey’s Coffee booth located outside the turnstiles, which thankfully we visited. The others who were supposed to join us on the tour had not and due to their hunger and lack of options for sustenance, decided to cancel. They wrongly assumed the Fountainview Cafe would be serving. The complimentary bottled water provided with the tour just wasn’t going to cut it for them. So consider yourself warned. Early morning tour=bring a granola bar.
On to the tour…no worries, no spoilers! As I mentioned, our first stop was Mexico which happens to be my favorite of all the World Showcase pavilions. Never in all of my twenty something visits have I ever been one of the only three people inside the pyramid! We were able to take all the time we wanted exploring the indoor marketplace (no shopping though) while we learned some history behind a few props and then we went, gasp, backstage! The insider information we learned here was that there are two sets of doors leading to backstage and one set must be closed completely before the others can be opened lest a guest get a peek behind the scenes. Pretty neat factoid!
After venturing backstage, we emerged back on set in the Norway pavilion right near the restrooms. By that point I had downed my complimentary bottle of water and needed to visit the ladies room. I also needed to check-in to my Southwest flight for the following morning so I was glad to be back on stage as no phones are allowed behind the scenes. I had never been in this restroom before. It’s cuteness rivals the Tangled theme area in the Magic Kingdom! And seriously, when do you EVER see a Disney bathroom empty? I had to take a photo!
In Norway, we learned about the architecture, horticulture, historical and cultural references strewn throughout the pavilion. We took a walk inside the Nors Kultur museum, inside the Stave Church, that highlights artifacts (some dating back to the 1200s) and replicas of items commonly found in old world Norway. While they have re-imagined this museum to include “Frozen” references, it was extremely interesting and certainly worth a visit while touring this pavilion. We even learned the name of this stoic Viking King. Hint: your favorite Summer loving Snowman shares the same name!
Next, we made our way to the visually stunning China pavilion. The focal point here is the Temple of Heaven, which is a replica about half the size of the actual temple in Beijing. On either side of the stairs leading up to the temple is a marble relief depicting 5 clawed dragons. This indicates this was a temple of an emperor. There is so much history and culture to be discovered at this pavilion, it’s a shame it is often passed by. One very fun fact we learned and were able to test out, is that this temple has unique acoustics. During a crowded day you wouldn’t really be able to notice, however, with just the three of us inside, we learned that one could literally whisper on one side of the temple and a person on the opposite side could hear them crystal clear! Lesson of the day: Only say nice things in the temple!
On to the sort of confused African Outpost area, where we learned why that space is not yet occupied by a country. Politics! But perhaps the greatest thing about this next phase of the tour was that we went backstage again and saw where and learned how they set up for Illuminations: Reflections of Earth. No photos allowed, but really very neat to experience. At this point in the tour the sun was getting high and the temps with it. Be sure you have sun protection as it’s only halfway through.
Our next stop around the lagoon was the German pavilion. So much to learn here, but I promised no spoilers so I’ll just leave you with this fact we learned: shops in Germans towns very often depicted artwork of what type of items were sold inside because many of the locals and passers by were illiterate and could not understand the written descriptions. Of course I used the Christmas Shop as my example. 🙂
We also learned that “The Romantic Road” isn’t necessary for lovers. If I could have I would have gotten a huge pretzel here, but alas, we hadn’t yet reached 11:00am. This was another bathroom break spot in case anyone is interested. Since it was just the two of us on this tour, we could have taken a break whenever we wanted, but this is a scheduled stop normally.
To round off Part I of this two part blog, we find ourselves in Italy. Admittedly, I love Italian food, but was never really WOWED by this pavilion. Sure it’s pretty, and Via Napoli offers a great bang for your Disney dining buck, but in terms of “must linger here” factor, it rates low on the scale. I will tell you that after the DestiNations Discovered tour, I have a newfound appreciation for all the imagineers set out to and have accomplished with this pavilion. It ambitiously encompasses three distinct areas of the country (Venice, Florance and Rome) and has many stories to tell. Unfortunately it takes a tour like this to bring those to light and provide guests with the rich background and inspiration behind each structure and detail. Perhaps my favorite history lesson here was the story of the Bell Tower of St. Mark and it’s tumultuous history with lightening strikes and reconstructions. However, the replica of the 14th century Doge’s Palace (the pink and white extraordinary structure) is absolutely magnificent and I probably photographed it from every angle. When the park is crowded with guests, it really is difficult to appreciate all this to the fullest extent.
In Part II we will visit the American Adventure, Japan, Morocco, France, UK (have lunch), Canada and I’ll tell you (vaguely) about THREE surprises at the end of the tour! So what do you think so far, would this tour be something you might be interested in? At current, the cost is $109 per person but it includes a sit down lunch and 5 hours of guided discovery. Theme park admission is required.