When you think of World Showcase at Epcot you probably think of several different things. You probably think of the diverse restaurants featuring food from around the world. You probably think of the rides, films, and shows that give us a glimpse into different countries. Many of you probably think of the drinks and all the ways to drink around the world. However, one thing I bet you don’t think of right away are the cultural exhibits. Several pavilions have museum areas tucked away (or some right in the open) that are often overlooked. These exhibits feature artwork and artifacts that portray each country’s unique culture and heritage and are definitely worth checking out.
Mexico is one of the pavilions that puts the exhibit right in front of your face. Taking up most of the entrance of the pyramid, you actually have to walk through this area to get to the ride, restaurant, bar, and shopping inside, yet many don’t stop to look. La Vida Antigua or Life in Ancient Mexico presents a look at the iconic Mesoamerican cultures, like the Mayans and Aztecs, that shaped what Mexico is today. There are displays featuring artwork, tools, games, and calendars of these ancient civilizations. There is even a giant Aztec calendar in the middle of the room that allows you to see much of the detail often missed in photographs. My favorite part of this exhibit is the description of the “ball game” played throughout ancient Mesoamerica that seems to be a forerunner to racquetball. Although this area can be crowded with guests going in and out of the pyramid, I haven’t had any issues being able to stop along the walls and look at everything without being too much in the way.
For the longest time I thought the big Stave Church at the entrance to the Norway pavilion was just for show and I had no idea you could actually go in, much less that there was a museum inside! The Vikings: Conquerors of the Seas is a look at three of the most well known Viking leaders: King Olaf, Rögnvald the Raider, and Erik the Red. Each leader is depicted in their own historically accurate vignette and accompanied by other ancient artifacts from the time that they lived. I love the detail on each of the figures. Their clothes and weapons were all made and styled based on what archaeologists and historical documents have shown to be accurate for their time period. There is also a beautifully detailed scale model of a Viking ship in the center of the room. Unlike the Mexico, very few people come into the Stave Church and it is always cool and peaceful, making it a great place to look around and take a bit of a break.
In the room next to the lobby of the “Reflections of China” Film you will find Tomb Warriors: Guardian Sprits of Ancient China. The Terracotta Warriors from the tomb of China’s First Emperor represent the largest archeological find in the world. These warriors are recreated in a large display in the exhibit. There are also several displays explaining the history of the figures and detailing the excavation site and procedures. While this area can get crowded with people waiting for the film, it is a fascinating peek into ancient Chinese civilization as well as modern excavation techinques.
At the very back of the Japan pavilion, in a building on the left hand side, you will find Spirited Beasts: From Ancient Stories to Anime Stars. Japanese culture is full of mythological creatures and mysterious beings. Here guests can see artwork depicting many of these characters and see how they have evolved into pop culture through anime and manga. It is so fascinating to see the way ancient stories and the lessons they teach are still relevant today and are still being told without too many changes to the original. This is a must-see for any fans of mythological creatures or anime and is appealing to all age groups.
Morocco is home to my favorite of all Epcot’s cultural exhibits. Moroccan Style: The Art of Personal Adornment is ignored by almost all guests. It is located in the entrance of the pavilion on the left hand side. Despite being right at the front, it is easy to miss if you aren’t looking for it. The building seems to just be a façade that most aren’t aware you can enter. Moroccan culture has always heavily featured personal adornment. Jewelry, henna tattoos, colorful clothing…they have lots of style. But these adornments weren’t just decoration, they also told stories. This exhibit shows off the styles and pieces used in Morocco throughout the years and explains the meanings behind it all. I have spent a great deal of time in this museum reading everything and looking around and I am almost always the only person in the room.
World Showcase exists to help us learn about and understand other cultures from around the world. These exhibits are what World Showcase is all about. Next time you are in Epcot be sure to check some (or all!) of these out.
Have you spent any time looking at these exhibits? Would you like to? Would you like to see more of these? Let us know!