The centerpiece of EPCOT’s World Showcase is the United States Pavilion. Opening with the park in 1989, the United States Pavilion consists of a decent barbecue place (the horribly named Regal Eagle), a pre-show gallery of rotating exhibits on American history (the American Heritage Gallery), and a patriotic show called The American Adventure.
The American Adventure, a mixed-media and audio-animatronic theater presentation on US history, demonstrates how good Disney theater presentations can be, but it’s not without its shortcomings. Housed in a single large, imposing brick structure reminiscent of Colonial Philadelphia, the 29-minute show is a stirring, albeit sanitized, rendition of American history, narrated by an animatronic Mark Twain (who carries a burning cigar) and Benjamin Franklin. Behind a stage, almost half the size of a football field, is a 72-foot rear-projection screen on which motion picture images are interwoven with onstage action.
An additional 35 audio-animatronic figures showcase landmark events such as the landing of the Mayflower, the Boston Tea Party, the winter at Valley Forge, the penning of the Declaration of Independence, the Civil War, and the Great Depression.
The American Adventure’s scale is both its strength and its weakness: It takes a lot of time and money to mount a presentation this big, which explains why no new stage scenes have been added or updated since the show opened more than 40 years ago. In the meantime, our understanding of America’s history and its role in the world has evolved. Still, the show hasn’t kept pace: Topics such as racism, gender equality, labor relations, and the environment are treated as solved problems instead of the ongoing challenges they are. The production arouses patriotic emotion in some viewers but drowsiness in others.
The American Adventure’s ratings have fallen steadily in young adult and teen demographics, and younger kids have never liked it that much. We know it’ll be expensive and time-consuming—and that Disney will get criticized no matter how it’s done—but it’s time to update this attraction.
The American Adventure is (still) Disney’s best patriotic attraction, but it isn’t hard to get into: Because of the theater’s large capacity, it’s highly unusual not to be admitted to the next performance. The attraction took Disney Imagineers five years to complete.
The Voices of Liberty is a skilled and popular eight-member a capella group that performs all-American and Disney classics either inside the United States Pavilion or at the America Gardens Theatre stage opposite the pavilion—all age groups from teens on up give their performances high ratings.
The annual highlight at the United States Pavilion is the not-to-be-missed Candlelight Processional featuring an auditioned mass choir, including the Voices of Liberty, and celebrity guests, such as Neil Patrick Harris and Whoopi Goldberg, narrating the story of Christmas. The performance is held at the America Gardens Theater, an outdoor amphitheater that welcomes concerts and singers throughout the year.
Other exciting performances occur during spring’s EPCOT International Flower & Garden Festival (Garden Rocks) and fall’s EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival (Eat to the Beat).
The United States Pavilion does not have a sit-down restaurant, but there are several quick-service locations. Block & Hans serves Mickey-shaped pretzels with cheese sauce and several American ales. The Fife & Drum Tavern features popcorn and hot dogs but is most famous for its giant turkey legs.
The most extensive menu is available at Regal Eagle Smokehouse. You can choose barbecue chicken, burgers, ribs, and brisket; sides such as baked beans, coleslaw, and macaroni and cheese; and various beers. This quick-service restaurant also serves kids’ meals and desserts (banana pudding, watermelon, and s’mores brownies). The Regal Eagle Smokehouse also has an outdoor bar that serves beer, wine, and cocktails.
Last but not least, you can satisfy your sweet tooth at the Funnel Cake Stand, serving funnel cakes topped with sugar, chocolate sauce, or a chunk of vanilla ice cream.
There is only one store at the United States Pavilion, Art of Disney. Located right next to the entrance of The American Adventure, the shop features Disney prints and figurines.