The Stocking Stuffed “Around the World”
Finding Holiday Treasures at Epcot
Epcot’s World Showcase inspires guests to make their own “around the world” adventures by visiting eleven countries around its lagoon. Adults enjoy eating and drinking “around the world,” particularly during one of the popular festivals, such as Epcot’s International Festival of the Holidays featuring holiday foods and entertainment in each country. Kids go “around the world” to get their Epcot passport stamped by cast members from each country. They also get to save the world with Phineas and Ferb in the interactive scavenger hunt Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure.
So, with Christmas fast approaching, we decided to make our own quest. We chose to go “around the world” in search of stocking stuffers to solve the age-old problem of what to get Dad for Christmas.
My dad is the adventurous type and a bit of a foodie. He’s sophisticated, yet practical, and has a great sense of humor. So, we set out in search of snacks, useful items, and a few laughs that could fit in a stocking (and a suitcase). Shoppers beware; Epcot has candies, chocolates, fashion, fragrances, artwork, toys, and collectibles from each nation. You could get happily lost. Here are some highlights of our adventure, followed by our final selections for Dad.
One of the best parts of shopping in World Showcase was meeting the cast members because they are visiting from their host countries and love to interact with guests in a cultural exchange. We met the kind and humorous Helene in Norway. She volunteered to take our photo in front of the giant troll statue inside The Puffin’s Roost and chatted with us about her culture as we shopped.
That’s when we found out that Norway had much more than Frozen souvenirs, from signature Geir Ness fragrances to knits, trolls, and chocolates. We noticed a design collection that reminded us of Dad and checked it out. The Marius company designed a pattern in 1953 that has since become the most knitted pattern in Norway. According to the tag, it symbolizes “the Norwegians’ passions for the outdoors and their love of the Norwegian nature.” Rugged like Patagonia and iconic like Burberry, the Marius print has a sophisticated craftsman appeal on products like sweaters, hats, and notebooks. We selected a metal Marius print thermos for Dad to take his coffee on the run.
Another perk of shopping in World Showcase is wandering through each land, taking in the scenery. The United Kingdom has streets lined with quaint shops and garden paths that evoke both a British country village a borough in London. The indoor “open-air” marketplace in Mexico is lit with starlight and lanterns with merchandise carts and artisans working around the plaza fountain. The most fun place to actually get lost was in the exotic alleyways of the Moroccan bazaar, with beautiful fabrics, leather goods, carpets, and even oil lamps amid brass wares. [As a disclaimer, we did not test any carpets or rub any lamps on this particular adventure.] From the shelves of Turkish delight, dried fruit, and spices, we chose Turkish coffee, as well as aromatherapy of frankincense and myrrh. It is Christmas, after all!
Shopping in World Showcase was also surprising for its authenticity. T-shirts and keychains are available like in any theme park, but Epcot tries to give guests a true taste of global cultures and traditions. The Mitsukoshi Department Store in Japan, for example, is part of an international retail chain that began in 1673 as a kimono shop. Featuring jewelers prying pearls from oysters as you watch, traditional and modern fashions, skin care, footwear, tech gadgets, artwork, housewares, and trendy products from anime and Japan’s “cute” culture, Kawaii: Mitsukoshi really does have something for everyone. After listening to the Matsuriza drummers outside, we wandered through the giant store before selecting reflexology stress balls and a ceramic origami incense holder with fresh sandalwood.
All in all, it was a really fun trip. I’m not often much of a shopper, but when you add in the spirit of discovery and adventure that is Epcot, there’s really no room for stress in your Christmas shopping – except, of course, if you’re deciding which snacks and candies to taste-test first.
So, here are our worldwide finds (with shop names in parentheses). What do you think?
1. Mexico (Plaza De Los Amigos): candies, ceramics, and hand-painted Oaxacan animals. We chose El Azteca Garampi Rico – candy covered peanuts.
2. Norway (The Puffin’s Roost): chocolate, knitwear, trolls, Geir Ness cologne, cookies
We chose a Marius print travel thermos for a stylish morning commute coffee.
3. China (House of Good Fortune): solar lucky cats, Rubix Cube variations, tiger balm, tea, official Shanghai Disneyland souvenirs
We chose, Bear Kid Okra Chips for cool packaging artwork on a strange snack.
4. Germany (Karamell-Kuche): personalized glassware, chocolates, mustard, pretzel mix
We chose Werther’s Original Signature Caramel Corn because the store smelled too tasty!
5. Italy (La Bottega Italiana): olive oil, cologne, Topolino gear (Mickey’s name in Italian)
We chose Lavazza Oro Ground Coffee to go with the Norwegian travel thermos.
6. The American Adventure (Heritage Manor): caps, shirts, tin signs, magnets, mason jars all themed to each state with Disney artwork in a vintage style
We chose a 50 States postcard for the card since we couldn’t pick between TX, MI, and FL.
7. Japan (Mitsukoshi Department Store): anime, tech gear, Pocky, fresh pearls, sportswear
We chose wooden reflexology stress balls and a ceramic origami swan incense holder.
8. Morocco (Marrakesh Arts and Crafts): brass, leather, Turkish delight
We chose Turkish coffee & Frankincense and Myrrh incense.
9. France (La Mode Francais): Maxim chocolates, mini canvas prints of Paris, Cendrillion gear
We chose Barnier Fraise (strawberry) lollipop because we need more candy.
10. United Kingdom (Crown and Crest): Family crest items, football club gear, Guinness toffee
We chose golf balls from The Old Course at St. Andrew Links for our sophisticated sportsman.
11. Canada (Northwest Mercantile Trade Post): maple candy, hockey fan gear, leather goods
We chose Jakeman’s Maple Syrup for a better breakfast and couldn’t help but grab a bar of Sasquatch Sweat soap. It also comes in Moose Spit.
BONUS: Future World (Mission: Space Cargo Bay): Astronaut Freeze-Dried Ice Cream Sandwich
Chad is another one of our travel agents! His favorite character is Jiminiy Cricket!