While most visitors have the rides and attractions on their mind when visiting any Walt Disney World park, I recently visited Epcot for the sole purpose of finding my “Kodak Moments.”
The Epcot Flower and Garden Festival is always a hit for photographers but Epcot has fabulous photo opportunities year round – combining the two is a photographer’s nirvana. Here are some of my favorite photographic areas:
The Stave Church is the main landmark at the Norway pavilion. Stave churches were built in Norway upon a stone foundation so that wooden posts would never come in contact with the ground and therefore not rot. This allowed the structures to endure over 800 years.
The Stave Churches and the natural beauty of Norway inspired the production team of Disney’s blockbuster Frozen and translated in the imaginary Kingdom of Arendelle, the home of Anna and Elsa. The Stave Church at Epcot now has an exhibit called “Creating the World of Frozen,” much of it however is about Norway itself, and shows side-by-side comparisons with film concept art.
As Maelstrom is being replaced by a Frozen ride there are good chances that Disney will also add a meet and greet for Anna and Elsa in the future.
The Norway pavilion opened in 1988 and was dedicated by King Harald V of Norway (then Crown Prince). The ceremony was broadcast live to Norway. For years the Norwegian government sponsored the pavilion but it currently no longer does so.
The half-sized replica of the Temple of Heaven at the China Pavilion is one of my favorite photo ops. It is home to Reflections of China, a 14 minute film about the history and people of China. The original Temple of Heaven is in Beijing and together with the Forbidden City, an amazing example of the architecture of the Ming Dynasty. Built in 1420, the Temple of Heaven was a sacred place where emperors held religious ceremonies.
Epcot’s Temple of Heaven is a beautifully executed replica and opened in October of 1982. In addition to Reflections of China, it hosts changing exhibits on Chinese culture. The acoustics inside the dome are incredible and guests can hear whispering from all around the room. Stylish gardens and ponds surround the building. Throughout the day Mulan is available for a meet and greet.
The Torii Gate at the Japan Pavilion is beautiful from sunrise till dusk and a fabulous background during IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth. Night photography is tricky and I prefer the sunset when there is just the right mixture of sunlight and clouds over World Showcase Lagoon.
A Torii gate is a traditional Japanese gate commonly found at the entrance of a Shinto shrine. The Torii gate symbolizes the transition from the profane to the sacred. Epcot’s Torii Gate is said to be based upon the Torri Gate found in the Hiroshima Bay at Itsukushima where it stands in the sea about 500 feet from the shrine.
The Japan Pavilion is one of the original Epcot Pavilions and opened in October of 1982. It is home to Teppan Edo, a teppanyaki restaurant where chefs prepare stir-fried foods at the guests tables. Also, don’t miss Matsuriza, the traditional Taiko drummers performing daily at the pagoda.
The Italian Pavilion has a lot of great possibilities for photographers as the architecture is among the most realistic in all of World Showcase. The Dodge Palace and the St. Mark’s bell tower are replicas of iconic buildings of Venice and the Neptune Fountain reminiscent of Rome’s Trevi Fountain.
Via Napoli Ristorante e Pizzeria serves the best pizza in entire Kingdom of the Mouse. New and not to be missed is the energetic flag throwing group Sbandieratori Di Sansepolcro.
The best shots are when there are no guests around – but when does that ever happen? My advice is to go there as soon the park opens. Also try the waterfront view with the gondolas.
The Canadian Pavilion is very difficult to photograph because of the sheer size of the totem and the very fact that the pavilion is in a somewhat elevated location up a flight of stairs. Just like with the Italian pavilion it is rarely without any guests and another good candidate to shoot as soon as the park opens.
My absolute favorite is the Morocco Pavilion, yet most visitors don’t explore this pavilion. The Fez House shows guests the typical Moroccan house with beautiful stuccoed archways and pretty courtyards. The Minaret is a replica of the Koutoubia Minaret of Marrakesh.
It is the only pavilion in which the country’s government aided in the design and King Hassan II sent Moroccan artisans to design and create the mosaics because the government of Morocco sponsors the pavilion. It is the only government to do so as corporations sponsor all other pavilions in World Showcase. Complying with the Islamic religious beliefs on the content of art, the mosaics contain no representations of people. Due to the religious significance of the buildings the lights on the pavilion do not light up during IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth.
Last year Disney contracted with B’net Al Houwariyate a renowned Moroccan music and dance group. The musician and dancers take guests on a journey of Moroccan folk music. Performances are in front of the pavilion on select days, check the entertainment schedule Times Guide.
At the full-service Restaurant Marrakesh guests can dine while enjoying traditional music and belly dancing. In a bazaar, Jasmine and Aladdin are available for photos and autographs. Across the street from the main pavilion Spice Road Table serves up tasty tapas-style Mediterranean dishes and excellent views of IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth.
However my favorite time at Epcot is at sunset because it is just beautiful. I love seeing the sun setting over World Showcase Lagoon and once in a while I get my perfect Kodak moment.
If you enjoyed Epcot Kodak Moments let us know. Share your Kodak Moments with me and stay tuned for more Kodak Moments from all Disney parks.
Liliane Opsomer is the coauthor of the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World with Kids and a photographer to The Color Companion: The Unofficial Guide.
She is passionate about travel, Disney, fairies, hobbits and all things magical. Some of her favorite destinations are Orlando, Anaheim, Middle Earth, Belgium, Sydney, Dresden, Patagonia and Hawaii. Liliane lives in Birmingham, Alabama and visits the parks several times a year.