Have you ever been to Norway? I haven’t and, honestly, I never had an interest in the country until the movie Frozen came out. True story! It just seems too cold and, if you know me at all, I’m not a huge fan of cold temperatures anymore (yes, the cold DOES bother me in every way). In the past, we have explored the Norway Pavilion at Epcot with the boys while on vacation. However, it has never really been a favorite for anybody. Well, just recently, Hubby and I took the opportunity to dig deeper into the Norway Pavilion during our Dating Around World Showcase series. We never realized how much we underestimated this little section of Epcot. Are you ready for a closer look?
Disclaimer: All expenses for this evening were paid by me. This post was not requested, nor compensated for its publication.
So – there we were. It was date night…and we weren’t really that hungry. The table service restaurant in Norway just didn’t quite pique Hubby’s interest and I wasn’t going to push him into making reservations. After all, it’s a character meal with Disney Princesses. Yeah – I think you understand why now. So, we planned out this date night a little differently. Let’s see how this goes.
First Things First – Date Change
After spending weeks racing to dining reservations on Friday nights, praying feverishly that we would get there in time, we thought we would try a move to Saturdays. In all honesty, it made sense. We ended up being quite a bit more relaxed going into it this time.
We arrived at Epcot late afternoon. The crowds weren’t terrible and the heat wasn’t all that bad. We strolled into the park casually, which allowed us the opportunity to catch something we might not have if we had been racing by. As we passed Spaceship Earth on the right, we saw a sign standing in front of the Art of Disney Gallery stating that one of the Thomas Kinkade Legacy Artists was on the premises signing art work. Well – we both love Kinkade paintings, so we decided to pop inside to gather some intel.
Well – it’s not like we had dining reservations to make, right?
Art of Disney Gallery
I don’t know if you have ever been inside the gallery, but the art work in there is breathtaking. I have always wanted to own a piece of Disney art and almost picked one up during the Festival of Fine Arts this past January ~ but didn’t.
Upon questioning some wonderful Cast Members, we found that the artist was on a small break and would return around 6 PM. That gave the two of us ample time to go explore our country and stop by on our way out of the park.
So, onward to World Showcase we marched ~ hand in hand.
Norway is the second pavilion to the left when entering World Showcase from the bridge connecting it with Future World. The exhibit is split into two sections, divided by a huge Stave church that sits right on the edge of the main walkway. On the northern side of the pavilion, there is an adorable store (The Wandering Reindeer), a set of restrooms and an opportunity to visit with Anna and Elsa.
On the other side of the church, Guests can find the Akershus restaurant (character dining with various Disney princesses) and the Frozen Ever After Ride. There is a bakery (Kringla Bakeri Og Kafe) located in this section, as well, but it has been closed for what appears to be renovations. The bakery menu is still listed on the My Disney Experience app and offers a few sandwiches, tons of pastries and baked goods, as well as a salad and fruit cup option. Goodness – I hope it opens back up soon!!
Since we hadn’t worked up any kind of an appetite yet, we ventured through The Wandering Reindeer and found adorable children’s t-shirts, dolls and other stuffed toys featuring the Frozen favorites. Sorry – no hats for Hubby to try on in this pavilion!! We did both love the sled that literally sat in the middle of the room. It was covered with stuffed Olafs and Svens (I really wanted to take a Sven home – he is sooo cute).
Frozen Ever After
From there, we decided to check the wait time on the Frozen Ever After attraction. Yes – we were THAT crazy. We knew we were taking a HUGE risk, but I wasn’t able to secure a FastPass in time and it looked like the crowds were down just a tad. Sooo – it was worth a shot.
Sure enough – 45 minutes! We decided to give it a go!!!
If you haven’t been on Frozen Ever After, this is the attraction that replaced the classic Maelstrom, which closed in October 2014. Since opening day on June 21, 2016, this attraction has been a favorite for littles ever since. It was designed to commemorate the anniversary of when Anna saved her sister, Elsa, with an unselfish act of true love.
As you move through the queue, Guests stroll through the Arendelle village and even take a quick walk through Wanderin’ Oaken’s Trading Post and Sauna. If you’re lucky, you may find Oaken peering through the sauna window to say hi as Guests pass by.
The queue ultimately leads Guests to a boat launch that takes them on a magical journey featuring Olaf, the Trolls, Anna, Kristoff, Elsa, Marshmallow and the Snowgies. The entire ride is surrounded by everyone’s favorite Frozen tunes (right, Dads?) and takes you through a winter wonderland of spectacular animation and technology.
While the track and boats are the same ones used in the old attraction, what is new is the use of digitally mapped media on the faces of the animatronics. It’s the same technology used on Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at Magic Kingdom (and a few other places). It allows for guests to see more expression on the faces of their favorite characters.
Time to Browse
Once our journey through Arendelle was over, we took the time to explore the interconnected shops along the perimeter. In these shops, Guests can find clothing, perfumes, candy and small figures of Norse gods. Of course, one cannot forget the iconic troll seen in so many Epcot vacation pictures. I remember taking several of these myself as the boys were growing up – you know, back when they were all over the idea of participating in goofy shots.
On the way to grab something to eat, we ventured through the medieval wooden Stave church that fronts the entire exhibit. Ironically, the entire church, representative of the christian faith, is home to the legends of Odin, Thor, Loki and Freya. Now, I have a houseful of Marvel fans. When we find something that highlights the Norse gods, it is imperative to check it out.
We took the time to read the plaques, study the artifacts and connect the dots ~ some of which still do not make sense to me. I’m not sure it does to Hubby either, but I’m not the one telling you this (wink, wink).
Another walk down memory lane here. Hubby has loved this particular church structure since he first saw it in 2007. It was always one of his “must-see” exhibits whenever we would visit Epcot on family vacations.
Okay, okay….Let’s eat…or more accurately, “La oss spise!“
We already knew what we were going to eat at Midnattssol (the little outdoor kitchen found in the pavilion), though I will admit we tossed back the idea of sharing the Viking Dog (who has tried this? Anyone?? Your thoughts?). Knowing full well that we would regret it within the hour, we settled on our initial choice, the Norwegian Club Sandwich.
I have loved this sandwich since I tried it a few months ago. It has ham, turkey, bacon, Jarlsberg and Muenster cheese with fresh tomatoes, sliced red onion and a Lingonberry mayonnaise ~ all served on Toasted Multigrain Bread (wait – our bread was supposed to be toasted?). The sandwich is HUGE and definitely too much for me to handle – even too much for the big guy to handle!! It is honestly one of the best values in Epcot! So – we split it in half and shared. That also left room in case we wanted something later.
By that point, we had explored nearly everything we could in the Norway Pavilion – except one. We had yet to meet with her Royal Highness and her adorably energetic sister ~ Queen Elsa and Princess Anna!!
At the north side of the pavilion, there is an entrance to the left that takes you into the “warmth” of a cozy cabin. Here, we waited for just a few minutes before having the opportunity to chit chat with the sisters about the weather, Olaf’s condition now that it’s summer, snowball fights and more. Both royal sisters were as sweet as could be and extremely interactive with Hubby and me. We even snagged some adorable PhotoPass pictures that I can access thanks to having Memory Maker!!
I don’t know what it is, though. Every time I get in front of a character for a meet-and-greet – I freeze. Oh, look at that. I didn’t even mean to make a pun. That was ice…I mean nice.
Yes – one of these date nights, we will stay for Illuminations: Reflections of Earth, but we really wanted to go back and meet up with the artist at the Art of Disney Gallery. So, we said good-bye to Norway and made our way back to Future World.
But not without making a pitstop in Mexico……
Seeing as we only had a quick bite to eat, we decided to take a small detour back to Mexico and grab a margarita for the journey back to the entrance. We both enjoyed a Fiesta Frozen Margarita, which had a combination of lime, strawberry and mango. It was good – but next time, I think it will be just the strawberry for me. Hubby was all over the combination!
But Where’s the Cast Member Highlight?
This go round, we didn’t have the opportunity to speak directly with an actual Cast Member working at Walt Disney World. However, we think we found the next best thing. You tell us….
We made it back to the gallery without suffering jet lag (it is quite a trip from Norway to the entrance of Epcot). Fortunately, the artist on site was in and already signing paintings for Guests. Hubby and I looked at each – stared for just a brief second and then decided this was the time to make a quick purchase and get into line.
Both Hubby and I have been looking to purchase a Disney Kinkade for some time, but the “right time” just never seemed to arrive. This seemed to fit the bill perfectly and Hubby was all about making his “girlfriend” smile that night with a special gift.
We both agreed upon the piece. One made the purchase, while the other stood in line. The canvas painting itself was $50, but DVC members and Annual Passholders do receive a discount (bonus!!).
ETA (07/19/18): The above mentioned discount was given because the canvas painting was a part of the gallery stock. When artists bring in their own work, the discount cannot be applied. Just found this out and wanted to pass that info along to you.
The artist visiting Walt Disney World that day was Dirk Wunderlich, a Thomas Kinkade Studios Legacy Artist. He is responsible for incorporating many of the Disney characters into the Kinkade paintings, but also has a few pieces he has completed on his own.
Meeting Mr. Wunderlich
When our turn came about, we were already aware of the kind of gentleman Mr. Wunderlich was. He was kind, understanding, patient and very personable. We watched him as he interacted with the children in the group ahead of us with such gentleness. He also had a sense of humor and a smile that was contagious.
Not only was he signing the purchased artwork, he was also adding a personal touch. He asked each Guest if they had a favorite character they would like him to drawn on the back next to his signature. Okay – seriously…..who is going to turn that down?
Hubby let me choose and I chose Tinker Bell. I figured if I already had Mickey and Minnie on the front, let’s add my next favorite Disney character to the back.
The time we spent with Mr. Wunderlich was fascinating. He shared with us his very close connection with Thomas Kinkade and the family, as well as how devastated everyone was when such talent was lost. He kept the conversation going by asking us questions, as well, and we just had a fabulous time chatting the next fifteen to twenty minutes away.
Once his portion was done on the back, we took a few pictures to capture the moment. He was such a great sport and so cordial. No one walked away without a hug (unless you didn’t want one, I’m sure) and it just felt like the perfect way to end that evening.
Thanks, Mr. Wunderlich for adding some extra pixie dust to our already magical evening together!
Wrapping up the Night
The stars were out and there were smiles on our faces. We had explored another country and met a legendary artist. We had tremendous conversation, shared a fabulous sandwich and met Anna and Elsa during the course of the evening. All in all, another date night ending in success.
Next week, we take a stroll around Germany ~ a country I have actually visited in real life!! Not to mention, we both have very strong German ancestry!! So, stay tuned and, until next time….
Sees senere (See you later)!
Fortsett å lage minner (Keep making memories)!
Don’t miss out! Catch up by reading the other Dating Around World Showcase posts!
BONUS: Did you know that there is a Frozen Ever After Dessert Party at Epcot World Showcase? You can watch Illuminations: Reflections of Earth by water-side while feasting on decadent desserts. After the fireworks are done, attendees take a special after hours ride on the Frozen Ever After attraction. For more information, click here.
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