Well, everyone, I did it. I completed the Epcot Festivals “Grand Slam.” I know that’s not really a thing, but it felt like an accomplishment to me, so just go with me here. I visited the Epcot International Festival of the Arts earlier this month, and it was a perfect way to jump start my Disney new year. This is a complete guide to Epcot International Festival of the Arts.
Complete Guide to Epcot International Festival of the Arts
First and foremost, let’s talk about what the festival is. If you’ve ever been to any of the other Epcot festivals, you will find the format for the one very similar. There are booths, or outdoor kitchens, set up in almost every World Showcase country as well as some other locations. These kitchens have all of the amazing food and drink offerings you’ll find at the festival. Additionally, there is a big focus on live art. We saw artists drawing, painting, singing, and playing instruments. If you or a loved one are really into the arts, this festival is the one for you.
What to See
As with all the other festivals, there is a ton to see. There is no shortage of activities to do, whether it’s watching a Broadway star’s performance or seeing an artist bring Peter Pan to life on the sidewalk with chalk. One of my favorite things to do was walk around and see artists drawing and painting. I could have stood there all day watching them create art.
Additionally, there are some incredible Broadway stars performing beloved Disney music three times a night, every night of the festival! Here’s the line up for this year:
- January 17: Kissy Simmons & Alton Fitzgerald White
- January 18-19: Heidi Blickenstaff & Gavin Lee
- January 20-21: Kissy Simmons & Alton Fitzgerald White
- January 22-23: Heidi Blickenstaff & Gavin Lee
- January 24: Kissy Simmons & Alton Fitzgerald White
- January 25: Kissy Simmons, Heidi Blickenstaff, Alton Fitzgerald White & Gavin Lee
- January 26: Kara Lindsey & Kevin Massey
- January 27: Liana Hunt & Adam Jacobs
- January 28-29: Kara Lindsey & Kevin Massey
- January 30-31: Liana Hunt & Adam Jacobs
- February 1-2: Kara Lindsey & Kevin Massey
- February 3-4: Liana Hunt & Adam Jacobs
- February 5-6: Kara Lindsey & Kevin Massey
- February 7-8: Liana Hunt & Adam Jacobs
- February 9: Kara Lindsay, Kevin Massey, Liana Hunt & Adam Jacobs
- February 10: Ashley Brown & Josh Strickland
- February 11: Syndee Winters & Michael James Scott
- February 12-13: Ashley Brown & Josh Strickland
- February 14-17: Syndee Winters & Michael James Scott
- February 18-19: Ashley Brown & Josh Strickland
- February 20-21: Syndee Winters & Michael James Scott
- February 22-23: Ashley Brown & Josh Strickland
- February 24: Ashley Brown, Josh Strickland, Syndee Winters, & Michael James Scott
There are three shows each night at 5:30pm, 6:45pm, and 8pm in the American Gardens Theater.
What to Do
Among the many things to see, there is also a lot to do. Activities abound for adults and children alike. All of the following are included with park admission:
- Expression Section: From 11am-5pm participate in a paint-by-numbers mural in the Showcase Plaza.
- Photo Ops: Put yourself into classic works of art. We had a lot of fun being silly and doing this free activity!
- Family Play Zone: One of our family favorites! A play space perfect for kids featuring characters from “Ralph Breaks the Internet” located right outside of Mouse Gear before you get to Test Track.
- Animation Academy: Learn to draw from a real Disney artist! This free event fills up rather quickly, so make sure you check the times guide and get in line early for the sessions each day.
- Chalk Art: Also outside of Mouse Gear, and next to the Family Play Zone, is a huge area for kids to draw with chalk. Who doesn’t love to play with chalk and decorate the ground?
Other activities are included for additional fees if you’re looking for a little something extra. “Figment’s Brush with the Masters” is exactly like the other scavenger hunts during festivals. Look for Figment in each World Showcase pavilion, put your sticker on your map, and once it’s filled up return to the Showcase Plaza stores for your prize. The prize this year looked like a notebook or coloring book of sorts, and we have plenty of those, so we opted out (no kids were with us on this trip).
What to Eat
Finally, on to the important stuff: the food! With over 15 festival kitchens, it might seem overwhelming to try it all. Great news! You don’t have to. We didn’t try every single thing, but my husband and I did manage to try a lot. Here’s what we thought was best:
- His favorite: The Deconstructed BLT from Deconstructed Dish. It came with crispy pork belly, tomato jam, and a soft poached egg. Find it on the right at you enter the Showcase Plaza.
- My favorite: Lobster Chips with lobster bisque cheese sauce, pickled jalapenos, and a citrus cream. Find it at Refreshment Port before Canada and across from Deconstructed dish.
- Mosaic Canteen in Morocco was a pleasant surprise for delicious eats. We enjoyed the Spiced Beef with pine nuts and dried cherries, hummus, and pita chips. All of the flavors combined together were amazing!
- There were two options for scallops, a favorite of my husband, and he decided to try the ones at El Artista Hambriento (The Hungry Artist).I chose the slow-braised pork marinated in ancho chili paste. It was served on a circle of fried corn dough (a little bland) with black beans, queso Oaxaca, crema Mexicana, and salsa verde. It was every bit as good as it sounds in print!
- Pop Eats!, right across from the Mexico has the delicious Pop’t Art pastry that makes for great Instagram photos (bonus points that it actually tastes good too)!
- Finally, The Painted Panda in China had a dish called Dragon and Phoenix. Spicy sauteed shrimp with spinach noodles were both flavorful and not actually too spicy.
NEW this Year: Wonderful Walk of Colorful Cuisine
While updating this post for 2020, I read up on what’s new for this year’s festival. Just like the Festival of the Holidays Cookie Stroll, there is now a “stroll” for Festival of the Arts.
According to the Disney website: Purchase any 5 menu items from the Wonderful Walk of Colorful Cuisine locations and be sure to collect a stamp to commemorate the occasion! Bring your Festival Passport—featuring your 5 new stamps—to Decadent Delights for a colorful culinary prize offered exclusively at the Festival.
Guests do not have to complete the “walk” in one visit, either. The festival ends this year on February 24, 2020. As long as guests bring their completed passport to the Festival Center by February 24, the “colorful prize” can still be picked up!
What to Drink (or Not Drink)
Two locations had our favorite drinks of the season. Block and Hans in the American Pavilion serves a Ciderboys Grand Mimosa Apple Orange Hard Cider. It is a refreshing drink that was regular sized, not sample sized like a lot of the drinks at the festival kitchens. It wasn’t overly sweet, and it had a smooth finish.
Cuisine Classique, the German festival kitchen, offers “A Play on Rosé” flight that includes a rosé hard cider, rosé ale, and Frosé, which is just frozen rosé. We liked everything but the rosé ale. One drink that everyone raved about, but disappointed us, was the Kung Fu Punch from The Painted Panda. It was just too sweet and not blended very well.
What to Wear to the Festival
Lastly, what should you wear to the festival? After all, it is in the early months of the year. Orlando, does in fact, get somewhat chilly. I would highly, highly recommend layers. We were comfortably warm during the day, but when the sun went down, the air temperatures went down considerably.
Even though it is winter, you’ll want to get in on the bright, cheery colors of the festival. Pinks, yellows, purples, and greens are all welcome sights, especially during the doldrums of winter. However you come, come prepared to have fun and maybe learn a thing or two while you’re at it.