If someone asks you, “What comes to mind when you think of the World Showcase in EPCOT?” what’s your answer? A favorite place to eat? A fave shop? A preferred resting spot while enjoying a refreshing beverage?
Of course there are all these things, plus great attractions like Frozen Ever After, the Gran Fiesta Tour, and Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure. But tucked among them are the hidden gems of the World are the galleries or “mini-museums” featuring cultural exhibits from different nations.
Last updated/republished May 29, 2023
A friend of mine pointed out that these are more than just places to walk through while waiting in line or heading in to eat. They offer the chance to learn a little without feeling overwhelmed (like you can at your local museum where there’s just so much to take in at once). Here, the information appears in smaller displays and digestible bits – without being mere infotainment.
And it’s not second-rate stuff! Another friend of mine, who taught junior high once told me: “The museums in Epcot are wonderful. Some artifacts are on loan from actual museums…I used to do a scavenger hunt for my students when we would come down for a week. In some of the quests, the students had to interact with one of the Cast Members to find out more about the items on display. One of my favorites was the letter to George Washington from the King of Morocco. He congratulated Washington on our independence and therefore, it’s believed Morocco was one of our first allies. The letter is a replica of course, but it’s displayed on a wall right near the restaurant.”
How many times have you visited the Morocco pavilion and walked right past that particular item without noticing it or being aware of its significance? Let’s head out today on a tour around the World and see what else we can learn!
Before we begin our tour, a few basics.
Walking around World Showcase clockwise, the eleven countries represented are Mexico, Norway, China, Germany, Italy, America, Japan, Morocco, France, United Kingdom, and Canada. Seven have galleries; four (Italy, Germany, UK, and Canada) do not.)
I made up a little sentence to help me remember all of the pavilions going clockwise, using the first letter of each country: “Mickey Never Calls Goofy Immature, And Joyfully Minnie Fixes Ugly Cookies.” Sure, you can use the free Guide Map to EPCOT – but be aware that the map makes no mention of any of these galleries! Seems odd to me, but it’s true.
The Mexico Pavilion is home to the Mexico Folk Art Gallery, Remember ME! La Celebración del Dia de Muertos celebrates the Day of the Dead holiday. Located right where you enter, it features traditional art by both Mexican and Mexican American artists. You’ll notice nods to the Pixar movie “Coco” as well as items on loan from museums illustrating the history of the celebration. Take time to admire and enjoy the intricately crafted “papel picado” (“perforated or pecked paper”), sugar skulls, and paper sculptures, too.
Norway is the next stop
Head to the Stave Church Gallery in Norway next, since it’s right next door. Consider yourself a savvy WDW tourist if you’re among those who know you can actually walk inside this church! It’s a smaller-scale replica of the 12th century Stave Church (originally from Gol, now relocated to the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History in Oslo, Norway). Inside, the Gods of the Vikings exhibit features authentic Viking artifacts and information about Odin, Thor, Loki, Freya, and more.
On to China…
At the China Pavilion, the House of the Whispering Willows Gallery gives you a look at the Shanghai Disney Resort. On display are drawings, photos, and artwork of the 6 different themed lands, the two hotels, and “Disneytown,” the district for shopping, dining, and more. It’s a great opportunity to learn how Imagineers melded true Disney and authentic Chinese touches to create an experience that remains true to both.
Then to America…
The American Heritage Gallery in The American Adventure is currently home to Creating Tradition: Innovation and Change in American Indian Art. This is one of my favorites, where works by contemporary Native artists are displayed. You’ll also find artifacts from the past that demonstrate the influence ancestral craftsmanship has on modern generations.
Jump over to Japan…
The Bijutsu-kan Gallery in the Japan Pavilion currently houses the exhibit, Kawaii: Japan’s Cute Culture. (Kawaii means “lovable” or “cute.”) Perhaps the most succinct explanation was given by the artist Sebastian Masuda, the “father of kawaii culture,” who said, “The meaning of kawaii is that personal cosmos filled with the collection of things one madly loves.” The most widely recognized and well-known representative of kawaii to Americans is Hello Kitty.
This gallery is also a great air-conditioned place to pause a while if you’re in need of a rest. There are plenty of benches, and a sense of peace and tranquility prevails here.
Move along to Morocco…
In the Morocco Pavilion, you’ll find The Gallery of Arts and History. There are two exhibits to enjoy. The Berbers – Thriving in the Sahara is an exhibit that explores the story of Morocco’s indigenous people .“Race against the Sun: Ancient Technique to Modern Competition,” shines a spotlight on two contemporary extreme racing events: “Marathon of the Sands” and “Rally of the Gazelles”.
Finish up in France.
The last gallery is in France where The Palais du Cinéma features an exhibit called Tale As Old As Time: French Storytelling on Stage and Screen. Six gallery cases hold a collection of costumes, music, art, and more, including a glass slipper from the live-action “Cinderella” film and Belle’s costume from the live-action “Beauty and the Beast.” Also on display are items on loan from productions by the Orlando Ballet, Opera Orlando, and The Garden Theatre.
So when someone tells you EPCOT is just a bunch of shops and places to eat, you can set the record straight! (And point out that they won’t find any of these on the Guide Map!) Now that you’re in the know, I encourage you to take time to stroll, linger and enjoy the information these mini-museums have to offer.
How many of these mini-museums have you visited? Which is your favorite? Let us know in the comments!
Originally published June 14, 2021