My Disney Top 5 - Things to See in Epcot's Canada Pavilionby Chris Barry, contributing writer
It was August 2017 when I began this encyclopedic trek around Epcot's World Showcase, counting down my Top 5 things to see in each of the 11 pavilions. Six months later, we've come full circle and made it from one side of World Showcase Lagoon to the other. We started in Mexico and today we've, at long last, come to the end in Canada.
As I said at the beginning of this journey (and as I've said many times over the many years I've been writing about Walt Disney World), Epcot is so incredibly unique and holds such a special place in my heart. Its roots stretch back to Walt Disney's extensive involvement with the 1964-65 New York World's Fair. The days of those grand World's Fairs seem to be, unfortunately, over. Here in New York, I frequently drive by the fairgrounds in Flushing Meadow Park, home of the 1939 and 1964-65 World's Fairs. I wasn't born until 1968, so I missed the last great New York fair and I often wonder what it must have been like to have that amazing event happening just minutes away from my childhood home in Queens. I have family members and friends that remember it well and fondly.
The closest thing we have to a World's Fair nowadays is Epcot in Walt Disney World. It harkens back to that notion that people want to be enthralled by technology, by exploration, and by having their eyes opened to the diverse cultures of the world. That feeling is overwhelmingly prevalent when I stroll through Epcot, and I imagine I'm not alone. That feeling only gets stronger as I make my way into World Showcase.
The Canada pavilion is a wonder to behold. It may be the prettiest pavilion of them all, and that's saying something. Let's take a closer look with my Top 5 things to see in Epcot's Canada pavilion.
5 – The Totems
Walt Disney was, as we all know, a master storyteller. So, it's befitting that totem poles have always been a main feature of the Canada pavilion. After all, totems are simply another way of a culture passing down stories from one generation to the next. The first totems in Canada were inspired by the Aboriginal Canadians of the Pacific Northwest, and built by Disney's Imagineers.
The Eagle totem 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.
In the late 1990s, Disney erected a much more authentic totem carved by Tsimshian artist David Boxley. Carved out of wood, the totems were created right there on site and guests could watch the artist at work as he was carving. I'm sorry I missed that.
Disney has since added another two wooden totem poles and together with the mask wall, they offer guests an authentic taste of Native Canadian storytelling, art, and culture. Check them all out the next time you're there.
4 – Northwest Mercantile & The Trading Post
For a guy who was born and raised in Queens, I spent an awful lot of time in the mountains, mostly in Vermont. We're a skiing family and I've always had an affinity for log homes, timber frames, and that rustic feeling that only an old wood structure can elicit. It's no surprise then, that I always find myself lingering in these shops in the Canada pavilion.
I always feel like I just walked into an old ski lodge when I hit the entrance to either Northwest Mercantile or The Trading Post and as I do, I feel right at home. The totem pole and native art themes continue on the walls and throughout the store. The merchandise and gifts are fun and interesting. I don't even have to buy anything; I just like walking inside and being there.
3 –O Canada!
This is still the only film in all of World Showcase that I have actually seen. Sad to say, but I've never seen Reflections of China, nor have I ever taken in Impressions de France, nor did I ever manage to convince anyone to stay and sit through the old Spirit of Norway film before Frozen took over. I'm not sure why. But, that's how it stands today.
O Canada is the sole Epcot film that I have seen and it's really quite enjoyable. I'm not crazy about standing the entire time, but the imagery is stunning, and Martin Short is a fun narrator. It's also exceptionally cool how a Circle-Vision 360° film like O Canada can make you feel like you are actually in motion. Some people find it slightly nauseating. I find it a lot of fun.
2 – The Waterfalls
There's an aspect of the Imagineers' incredible artistic abilities that I think gets frequently overlooked, and that's the rockwork. Think about it. I don't walk through the Canada pavilion and cynically say, "I'm in Central Florida, there are no rocks and waterfalls like this anywhere near here!" When I walk through the Canada pavilion, the rushing sound of the stream near those towering waterfalls makes me feel like I'm actually in the mountains.
The Imagineering crew that handle the rockwork throughout Walt Disney World are brilliant and the Canada pavilion is a shining example of their exquisite work.
1 – The Victoria Gardens
I've written a lot in this series about the gardens of World Showcase. I placed gardens in my number one slots in China and Japan, and number three in France. The tea garden in the United Kingdom placed second on that list. I even listed the sod roof in Norway and train garden in Germany among my five favorite things in those pavilions. Disney horticulture does an outstanding job throughout World Showcase, but they consistently outdo themselves in the stunning Victoria Gardens of Canada.
Even though I started on the opposite side for this series, my best advice for approaching World Showcase is to head out of Epcot's Future World and hang a right at the lagoon to begin your journey. That way, the first thing you officially see when you hit the countries is the Victoria Gardens in Canada. I'm always blown away by just how expansive they are. It's the largest garden on the lagoon.
The pathway is so inviting, it just begs you to enter through the gates and get lost in its beauty. It's a pretty amazing sight, and one that I never tire of. Take your time here, stroll by the pond, admire the flowers, look for rabbits, and then slowly make your way back towards the aforementioned rocks, streams, and waterfalls. It's a masterpiece of horticultural design, and one of the most beautiful spots on Disney property.
As I write this I can see the comments brewing. How can he run through a list of the best of the Canada pavilion and not mention Le Cellier Steakhouse? The awful truth is, of course, I have yet to eat at Le Cellier. I've heard about the legendary cheddar cheese soup, the poutine, and the awesome buttery steaks, but the simple fact is, I can't get into the darn place. We have never been the family that books our meals six months out, and we're ok with that. One of the downfalls of this method is that popular dining spots like Le Cellier and 'Ohana at the Polynesian keep escaping us. So, it can't be on my list if I haven't actually eaten there. That's fair and honest journalism.
Le Cellier aside, the rest of the Canada pavilion is really a treasure, and definitely worth a lot of your precious Walt Disney World time. It's a beautiful, tranquil place much like the nation itself. There's much more to it than expensive steaks and Martin Short. Make sure to take your time and explore Canada on your next visit. She never disappoints this writer and she won't disappoint you either.
And that ends our tour around World Showcase. I'm sad to see it go. I covered so much and yet there's still so much that I didn't get to mention. I'm well aware that magical is perhaps an overused term when we Disney writers express how we feel about Walt Disney World, but when it comes to World Showcase, it's challenging to come up with a more appropriate adjective. World Showcase is magical. There's nothing like it anywhere in the world. It's a celebration of different cultures and when I'm there, there's no place else I'd rather be.
Thanks for taking this journey around World Showcase Lagoon with me. As always, I want to hear what you have to say. Click on the link below and tell me your thoughts on the Canada pavilion and I'll see you next time when we leave Epcot and head towards a different Walt Disney World park for another Disney Top 5.