When people think of a trip to Walt Disney World in Florida, they may picture scenes of happy families touring the Magic Kingdom. Junior is carried on Dad’s shoulders, both wearing Mickey Mouse ears. Sis and Cinderella embrace in matching dresses, while Mom snaps a proud picture. Or at least that is what the marketing department would have one believe.
A different scene unfolds daily at next-door Epcot. Instead of skipping from ride-to-ride, guests stagger from drink-to-drink. The past time is unofficially referred to as “drinking around the world” and it involves the liver-killing challenge of downing an alcoholic beverage from each pavilion along the World Showcase. Themed after different places around the globe, each stop offers a taste of the national booze of choice — from beer to wine to sake to tequila and beyond.
What started out as an underground challenge for alcoholic, Disney-fanatics has caught on in popularity. For some it’s a group effort, complete with official team t-shirts. The logistics are dizzying. There are eleven stops on the tour. The booze starts flowing at noon and ends at park closing at 9 p.m. That’s just over a drink an hour, which leaves little time for sobering up, or even stopping to rest.
For the uninitiated and un-inebriated, here are some tips for accomplishing the challenge. Next week, I’ll be back with a list of top picks at each stop.
TOP 10 TIPS FOR DRINKING AROUND THE WORLD
1. Epcot is divided into two distinct areas. Future World opens in the morning, allowing guests the opportunity to check out themed-pavilions with attractions that mix education with some light thrills. Notorious is Mission Space, a simulator that places guests in a NASA style centrifuge to simulate space travel g-forces. It’s reputation for turning even the most hardened stomachs lead to a toned-down version. Experience it before drinking — if nothing else but to grab one of the complimentary barf bags for later use on the tipsy tour.
2. The World Showcase portion of Epcot opens at 11:00 a.m., with the restaurants and refreshment kiosks starting service at noon. It’s best to get an early start to stay ahead of the crowds and maximize drinking time. The Showcase makes a giant loop around a large central lagoon. There are two options for touring, either starting at Mexico and traveling clockwise, or Canada, and working counter-clockwise.
3. Start in Mexico. The La Cava del Tequila is a dimly-lit, watering-hole located within a replica of an Aztec temple. Upon opening, the lines quickly build to Space Mountain proportions. Thirsty guests wait for a chance to sample the long tequila list or drink one of the creative margaritas. If you’re going to shoot tequila, it’s a bit easier at the start of nine hour drinking-spree, then at the tail end.
4. Know where the restrooms are. Generally there are large restrooms that are easy to find at every other pavilion in order to drain a busting bladder or sloshed stomach. In an emergency though, the counter-service eateries will usually have a smaller restroom available tucked away inside.
5. If you missed grabbing a souvenir barf bag from Mission Space, consider a viking helmet from Norway. It’s true they are inauthentic as a talking mouse, but they’re fun and can hold a belly-full if you can’t make it to a restroom. For drinkers who can hold their booze and want something to take home, there are plenty of choices. Beer steins can be found in Germany, wine glasses in Italy, and pint glasses in the UK, among other choices.
6. Know your limits. This isn’t amateur hour. If you’re a New Year’s Eve only drinker, consider a modified tour that won’t leave you puking in a fountain and being escorted to Disney jail. There are pavilions that are easily missed. Morocco doesn’t have a huge drinking culture, and the options aren’t that great. If you aren’t a wine drinker, consider skipping either Italy or France. Dedicated beer drinkers may find little exciting about the offerings at the American and Canadian pavilions. Even Disney magic can’t make a Bud Light or a Molson drinkable.
7. Speaking of skippable, the Outpost doesn’t count. Disney’s original concept for the World Showcase included a pavilion themed after Equatorial Africa. While the plans were shelved, there is a small nod to Africa located between Germany and China called the Refreshment Outpost. It’s not an official pavilion, and while it does include alcoholic beverages, they are a only a random mix of Bud Light, Yuengling, and a house brew called Safari Amber.
8. End at the Rose & Crown Pub in England. On a clockwise loop, Canada is the actual last stop, but the evening entertainment at the Rose & Crown is not to be beat. On most nights, the Hat Lady hammers on an old bar piano cranking out rollicking traditional pub tunes and the occasional drunken-version of Do-Re-Mi. After nine-hours of drinking it’s the perfect atmosphere. Grab a pint of Boddington’s Pub Ale and sing (or slur) along.
9. Travel off-season. The challenge is easier to accomplish when temperatures and crowds are lower. The fall leading up to Thanksgiving, and between New Year’s and Spring Break, are excellent touring times. During the summer, the beaming Florida sun can be brutal on a beer-filled stomach. Off-season also offers some rate reductions on the Disney resort hotels.
10. Stay on-site at Disney. Epcot is sprawling, and even without drinking, it earns its reputation as standing for Every Person Comes Out Tired. Drinking around the World, can render the most bar-hardened, shaky in the legs. A drunk driving accident doesn’t make for a magical vacation. For resort guests, Disney reports provides free transportation to and from Epcot. Plus, departing on a gentle boat ride or an expedient monorail is a lot more fun than a dingy taxi from your local dive bar.
HARDCORE MODE! If you’re booze-hardened barfly that easily drinks around the world without so much as a belch, there is a pro-track. The fall brings the Epcot Food & Wine festival and the drinking options quadruple. Small kiosks and beer tents featuring regional foods and beverages from a multitude of other nations are temporarily erected around World Showcase lagoon. Hitting them all is a Mount Everest effort, which few have the guts (and tolerance) for.
Have a tip of your own? Share it in the comments. Tune in next time as we go in depth, highlighting the “must drinks” at each stop on the tipsy tour. Mousekecheers!