Canada: A Photo Tourby Donald and Bonnie Fink, contributing writer
If you venture into World Showcase at Epcot from Futureworld and turn right, the very first country you'll encounter is Canada. It has essentially two entrances, one through the archway that announces Le Cellier—the steakhouse in the pavilion—and a stairway and ramp that leads the way to the shopping area, the Northwest Mercantile and the Trading Post. There's a short film called O Canada that plays throughout the day and describes life in Canada, narrated by one of Canada's actors, Martin Short. The song, Canada ("You're a Lifetime Journey") was re-recorded for the film by Eva Avila, winner of the fourth season of Canadian Idol (2006).
The Victoria Gardens at Canada are patterned after the famous Butchart Gardens in British Columbia, near the city of Victoria. We've read that these gardens require more labor to maintain than any other display at Epcot, and one look is all it takes to see why. Although there's a current lapse in the entertainment line-up, the Mills Stage just outside of Canada along the walkway to the United Kingdom has been a staple of Epcot entertainment, with the Celtic rock band Off Kilter, until they left in 2014. Since then, entertainment has been in a state of flux, but no doubt Disney will work through this sparse period.
So on with our Photo Tour of Canada. We'll start with a look at Victoria Gardens, then move around to see what's here.
If you were to follow signs to Le Cellier Steakhouse in Canada, you would first pass through Victoria Gardens. This area of the Canada Pavilion is designed to imitate Butchart Gardens in British Columbia, near Victoria, on Vancouver Island. Photo by Donald Fink.
Streams flow into ponds, and the views of Victoria Gardens are available from just about every angle in the Canada Pavilion. This view is from near the Hotel du Canada area behind the Northwest Mercantile. Photo by Bonnie Fink.
The beauty of Victoria Gardens in Epcot's Canada Pavilion is almost self-explanatory. It may be the only area in Epcot that doesn't get more flowers during the annual Flower and Garden Festival, and doesn't need them to compete with the rest of the show. Photo by Donald Fink.
O Canada! - The Film
The short film, O Canada, runs about fourteen minutes in a circular vision theater. It projects 360 degrees around the theater while guests stand in the center to view the presentation. It describes Canada as accurately as you might expect in the small amount of time. To be honest, it has inspired us to travel to Canada. Or rather, the first film inspired us. By the time the current version of the film was introduced, we had made several visits to our friends up north.
The current film was introduced at Epcot in 2007 after many years of lobbying from the Canadian Tourism Commission. Apparently they received complaints over the years that the film prior to 2007 offered a somewhat dated representation of Canadian life. We can't speak to that. We're not Canadians. We found both films to be inspiring and worth viewing.
There are stands to lean on in the theater because the 360 degree presentation gives you a sense of motion. We're not all that sensitive to motions, but we still have to hang on from time to time. We have a friend who is extremely susceptible to motion sickness, and while he can view this show, he sometimes has to close his eyes.
Le Cellier is the restaurant at Canada. It's probably the best steakhouse on Disney Property, but of course, opinions might vary. This sign announcing Le Cellier is also the main entrance to Victoria Gardens, the gardens representing Buchart Gardens on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Photo by Bonnie Fink.
The dining room inside Le Cellier is warm and inviting. We've had dinner here a few times over the years, usually in association with a preferred seating package at the Candlelight Processional around the Christmas season. To finish off your meal, there's a chocolate mousse dessert that's worth mentioning. You won't find it on the menu unless you're looking at the children's version. Still, it's worth asking about if you like chocolate mousse and feel like a more whimsical desert. Photo by Donald Fink.
If you're Canadian, you might see a resemblance here. This building is called Hotel du Canada. It's inspired by the iconic Chateau Laurier in Ottawa, Ontario. It's worth making your way back here to see these buildings and their architecture. As you cross the bridge shown here in the lower left of the image, turn back and see a grand view of Victoria Gardens. After passing the hotel building, you can take in a sweeping view of the waterfalls representing the Canadian Rockies before making your way down the stairs to see O Canada! Photo by Bonnie Fink.
These English stone houses sit across the street from the Hotel du Canada, behind the Northwest Trading Post. They represent some of the homes you can find on Prince Edward Island, in Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick in eastern Canada. Photo by Bonnie Fink.
Representing the Rocky Mountains as they carve north through Canada's western coast, this waterfall is probably one of the tallest in Florida. You can view it from a tall vantage point if you pass by Hotel du Canada, or you can see it from below if you walk through the canyon to see O Canada. Photo by Donald Fink.
Jakeman's seems to be regarded as the best tasting maple syrup in Canada, and considering that Canadians probably know a thing or two about maple syrup, that goes a long way with us. Just be careful when you're packing that bottle of instant goo in your suitcase for the trip home. We might suggest leaving it unopened and placed inside a sealed bag, in the very middle of your suitcase. And remember, if you're flying, you can't take that much liquid through TSA. Photo by Bonnie Fink.
At this vending cart in Canada, you can enjoy popcorn and whiskey at the same time. And yes, we're poking fun at this combination, but think about it. Disney wouldn't sell it if we weren't buying it. Photo by bonnie Fink.
Here's the classic English Red Telephone Box. Actually, we've seen these phone booths a few times while visiting Canada, so it's not too far out. For the phone booth buffs out there, we believe this is a K6 model, which, if it were an actual telephone box, would have been one of only 19,000 booths produced in the period around 1935. Photo by Bonnie Fink.
From near the Northwest Mercantile and Trading Post, you can see the Hotel du Canada building. Its forced perspective construction makes it appear to be seven stories tall when it's closer to three. In the foreground, you can see a totem carved by Alaskan artist David Boxley. Photo by Donald Fink.
The Trading Post is part of the Northwest Mercantile and Trading Post at the Canada Pavilion in Epcot. This is, of course, a merchandise store that specializes in items from around Canada. It's worth a stop in just to see some of the unique things from Canada. The totem pole to the left is called Raven Totem. It was carved by David Boxley, a Native American from Alaska. Photo by Bonnie Fink.
All three totems at Canada were carved by David Boxley, a Native American artist living in Alaska. Mr. Boxley is from the Tsimshian tribe (also spelled Chimmesyan) who are found all along the northwest coast of America, including Alaska and Canada. Mr. Boxley left his career as a high school teacher in 1986 to concentrate on Tsimshian art, culture, and tradition. He learned much of what he knows about carving totems from studying museum displays.
The first totem is depicted above and is called Raven. It was first displayed at Epcot in 1998. There were two other totems installed at the time that were made from fiberglass. In January of 2017, the fiberglass totems were replaced with new totems also carved by Mr. Boxley. One is called Eagle, and the other is called Whale. Both are depicted below.
The Eagle totem is another David Boxley creation. It tells a story about how a young boy found an eagle tangled in some netting on a beach, and released him. Later, when the boy's tribe was plagued by hunger, the boy finds Eagle, again on the beach, but this time he has food to repay the boy for his act of kindness years before. Photo by Donald Fink.
The Raven Totem in the distance here is located just outside the Trading Post at the Canada pavilion in Epcot. It tells a story about how Raven tricked Sky Chief into releasing Sun, Moon, and Stars from a chest. This totem was carved by Alaskan artist David Boxley and was officially placed here at Epcot in 1998. Photo by Donald Fink.
This is a photo op sitting outside Canada along the walkway around World Showcase. It's popular because it's fun. The designs remind us of much of the artful masks we've seen by Native American tribes from the northwest. Photo by Bonnie Fink.
Entertainment at Canada has, for years, been daily performances of Off Kilter, a rock band that specialized in Canadian folk, infused with Celtic charm, and laced with heavy rock and roll. We have several of their CDs. In 2014, Off Kilter left Disney and were replaced by a Canadian inspired lumberjack show. Truthfully, not many folks we encountered were all that impressed with the lumberjacks, especially the Canadians who visited Epcot. The lumberjacks left in 2015, and entertainment has been in a state of flux since then. There have been a few bands performing from time to time, and some of them were pretty good.
Last year, there was a Celtic Rock band called Bodh'ahtan who performed over two twenty day periods, with another band called Alberta Bound filling in between these periods. Both are entertaining and talented bands. During the Christmas holidays, a group called The Holiday Voyageurs has been performing, but we have no information about whether they'll be back. Our information tells us that Bodh'ahtan was offered a six month contract to perform daily at the Mills Stage, but they declined, citing that they didn't want to be away from their families that long.
Currently, the Mills Stage at Canada sits empty, but this can't be a permanent situation. The stage is too centrally located to be ignored.
We've enjoyed Canada over the years. As a country in Epcot, it's probably understated somewhat because it's mainly about Canada and all that great country has to offer, with less emphasis on the other attractions that seem to bring people to the promenade around World Showcase. We do enjoy Le Cellier from time to time, but truthfully, it's expensive enough that we need to pace our visits. And there isn't a quick service food location or a bar anywhere in the country. Victoria Gardens are great if you need a taste of Butchart Gardens or the Flower and Garden Festival, and the film O Canada is fun to watch.
Too often though, we see folks simply passing Canada by on their way to other countries, so next time you're here at Epcot, take a few minutes and stop by Canada. You can't go wrong.