Mexico at Epcot: a Photo Tourby Donald and Bonnie Fink, contributing writer
In this photo tour, we're stopping at the Mexico pavilion in Epcot's World Showcase. Mexico is the first country you encounter if you turn left after entering World Showcase from the Epcot main entrance. It's marked by an impressive pre-Columbian pyramid surrounded by a Yucatan jungle. You can see the pyramid from all around World Showcase Lagoon. This pyramid is so well-placed that a small control room sits on top and is used to control the nightly fireworks show, "Illuminations, Reflections of Earth." Of course, you cannot see the control room from the ground.
As you first arrive in Mexico—assuming that you're coming from Future World—you'll see La Cantina on the right. Newly refurbished in 2010, this outdoor Mexican-style, quick-service venue gives you a great taste of Mexico in just a few minutes.
La Cantina offers an opportunity to grab a quick meal, snack in the form of a churro, or even a margarita.
While wait times for food can be long at any Disney park during peak tourist times, there are several queues at La Cantina to help with the congestion. It's the usual Disney configuration too, where you're greeted by a person at the register who takes your order, then you proceed to the window for your food.
When the remodel was completed in 2010, Disney added undercover seating at La Cantina. There are two areas that offer shade. It's great for summer heat and provides cover from the rain. Tables are a combination of bench-style seating and backed chairs.
It's tempting to just walk through Mexico, but the real pavilion is on the left inside the tall pyramid. As you enter, you see reproductions of Mayan, Aztec, and Toltec artifacts, including the reproduction of an Aztec calendar pictured above. It's thought that this stone is not an actual calendar but is more of a religious artifact. It seems to make references to time, hence the name "Calendar Stone." The real calendar stone—from which this stone was reproduced—is on display in the Museo Nacional de Antropologia (National Anthropology Museum) in Mexico City.
As you walk past the entry, you enter the main cavern in the pyramid. It appears to be a vibrant and lively Mexican village, complete with vendor carts full of handcrafted items. There are also shops full of Mexican merchandise, from clothing to jewelry.
There are wood carvings painted with bright colors in the Mexican tradition. Many of these items are made by artisans in the pavilion. You can stop and watch them work.
Near the San Angel Inn restaurant, the tequila bar La Cava del Tequila offers nearly 20 different tequilas. Its lounge doesn't appear to be large from the outside but can seat 53 people. Food reviewers have named this bar as among the top tequila bars in the U.S. For the non-alcohol drinking people, La Cava del Tequila offers a strawberry and coconut smoothie.
If we were to name a highlight to the offerings inside the pyramid at the Mexican pavilion, it would have to be the San Angel Inn. This restaurant is modeled after a 17th century hacienda, in a romantic setting of perpetual evening. There's a river skirting the restaurant area where boats from the ride Gran Fiesta Tour float peacefully by as you enjoy your meal next to a volcano and pyramid.
Themed after the 1944 Disney movie, The Three Caballeros involve Panchito—a Mexican rooster—and Jose Cariosa—a Brazilian parrot—as they search for Donald Duck. They travel throughout scenes of Mexico's tourist hot spots in search of their elusive friend. Will they find him? The ride is good for all ages. Several times during the day you can find Donald Duck outside near the margarita bar signing autographs.
Where is Donald Duck? The Gran Fiesta Tour is inspired by the 1944 Disney Movie, "The Three Caballeros," where two friends, Panchito and Jose, travel through Mexico's tourist destinations in search of Donald Duck. Photo by Donald Fink.
La Hacienda de San Angel is relatively new to the Mexican pavilion at Epcot. Completed in 2010, this upscale facility offers fine classic Mexican cuisine. Like most restaurants on Disney property, a reservation is helpful. During times when the parks are busy, it's difficult to get seated without one.
We recently had dinner here. It was on Valentine's day and yes, we had a reservation. If you follow any of the Disney food blogs, you'll see that there is an on-going discussion about where the best pot roast can be found. While we've never seen La Hacienda de San Angel mentioned, and we think they're missing a great opportunity. For our dinner, we each had braised short ribs (which is really pot roast) with potato puree and chili de arbol sauce. On the side was rice and black beans. For dessert, we had mousse de chocolate. Our vote for best pot roast at Disney is here, at La Hacienda de San Angel.
Mexico is serious about its tequila. At the Mexico pavilion, there are no less than five places where you can enjoy a margarita, including this margarita stand located on the left as you leave Mexico headed toward Norway.
The mariachi band at Mexico is called Mariachi Cobre. The band was originally inspired by a band in Tucson, Arizona, called Los Changuitos Feos. In 1971, several of the Los Changuitos Feos band members formed a new band called Mariachi Cobre. They began appearing at Epcot in 1982, and today, eight of the former members of Los Changuitos Feos are still playing playing. Mariachi Cobre has worked with many other entertainers in the music business, including Linda Ronstadt, Julio Iglesias, and Vicki Carr, to name a few.
When visiting Epcot, it's easy to miss most of Mexico. At least for us it's normal to just walk through without a thought of going inside the pyramid. We will usually stop and listen to the mariachi band if they're playing, but we forget that we can walk through the pyramid and enjoy the shops, cooling off in the summer, or warming up in the winter.
For whatever reason, it's easy to forget that this pavilion has far more to offer than is readily apparent. It's worth a conscious effort to stop and spend some time.