Epcot’s International Festival of the Arts.
One of the things we didn’t have any previous knowledge about was the fact that Epcot hosts four festivals every year. You could, potentially, visit Epcot at different times of year and have very different experiences each time.
Epcot is one of four amazing parks in Walt Disney World. It tends to be a polarizing park… it’s usually a “love it” or “hate it” response. When we went to Walt Disney World for the first time in 2016, we didn’t think we would like it and only planned to be there for one day. In reality, it was the exact opposite of what I was expecting… it was vibrant, and current, and fun, and the best part of all… there was SO. MUCH. GOOD. FOOD. To read about our first impressions of Epcot, check out our post here.
The four festivals are:
Festival of the Arts (Jan 17th – Feb 24th 2020)
Flower & Garden Festival (Mar 4th – Jun 1st 2020)
Food & Wine Festival (Aug 29th – Nov 23rd 2020)
Festival of the Holidays (Nov 29th – Dec 30th 2020)
Festival of the Arts celebrates the visual, culinary, and performing arts from around the world. To be honest, if I had to pick a festival before going to it, it’s one that I was the least excited about in theory, having experienced the Flower & Garden Festival in 2016. Truthfully I think that’s just because it’s lesser known than Food & Wine (the busiest, typically) and it’s not Christmas.
My husband and I had the GREAT privilege of celebrating our 15th wedding anniversary at WDW last February (for the rundown of that Kid Free Trip, check out all of our “firsts” here.) While we were there it was the Festival of the Arts, and while I was excited to go to Epcot (let’s be honest, I was VERY excited), I wasn’t too sure about this festival.
Well, I’m here to say, it was absolutely INCREDIBLE! There were so many unexpected details… we got there early to peek in, and there was a display right at the front of Epcot (Pro Tip: If you want a picture here, get to the park about an hour earlier than opening). One good thing about this festival is that it’s not typically as busy as the other festivals. Beside the display you could pick up the Festival Passport book which explains all of the special things you can experience during the festival. You can get Festival Stickers at each destination to add to your passport (super fun to keep the kids engaged).
There are some things in Epcot that aren’t affected by the Festival… Spaceship Earth, The Seas (w/ Nemo and friends), Imagination! (w/ Figment), The Land (w/ Soarin’), Test Track and Mission: Space. So we knocked off those rides first thing in the morning, in order to spend the rest of the day exploring the festival. To read about our strategies for our day in Epcot, and how we managed to ride every attraction once (and the two best attractions twice… Soarin’ and Test Track) click here.
Note that some of the Festival offerings aren’t available for the whole day… you’ll find everything you need specifically in the booklet, as well as on the official website. Make the effort to go early as you will experience smaller lines and shorter wait times; for everything from the meet and greets to the seminars to the food vendors.
Artful Photo Ops
Right off the bat there was a photo op. We didn’t have PhotoPass this time around, so we had the Cast Member take a photo with my cell phone. Throughout the World Showcase there were other places for photo ops where you could “step into” famous paintings.
Pop Up Art Booths at Festival Markets
There were quite a few of these sprinkled around the park (according to last years Festival Passport, over 50 visiting artists in 25 markets). By the main photo op before the entrance to the World Showcase, there was a booth dedicated to the Thomas Kinkade Disney prints; and as many as we’ve seen before, there were more offered here than we knew existed.
In that same entrance area were the Living Statues, and they were HILARIOUS! We managed to have no line here as well, so we spent some extra time… one statue even stole Dan’s water bottle out of his bag while our picture was being taken! There are three pedestals where they stand, and you can line up to get your photo taken.
Expression Section: A Paint By Number Mural
The paint by numbers wall was a real highlight. They gave each person a paintbrush and asked you to paint five squares that corresponded with your paint number. It was really incredible to be a part of something so large. My understanding is they change out the board quite often because so many people are in the park that it gets completed after a couple of days! If you get there right away you shouldn’t have to wait in a long line.
Figment’s Brush With the Masters
We didn’t read the booklet very well because there were a few things that took us by surprise, and this was one of them. In Morocco we saw a framed picture of Figment, and thought it was really cool… then at the next pavilion we saw another one. We asked a Cast Member and they explained that it was called “Figment’s Brush with the Masters Scavenger Hunt”. You purchase a booklet, find all of the 11 paintings (one in each pavilion), and get a prize at the end (a cute paint bucket with a surprise inside). The map this year looks like a palette to go with the Brush with the Masters theme.
Hidden Disney Characters
All around the World Showcase we noticed Disney characters “painted” into our surroundings. In reality, they were vinyl stickers; but still so fun! This was actually one of our favourite parts… we ended up walking around the World Showcase a total of three times, and we saw new ones everywhere we went! This sort of “Disney detail” is what keeps us coming back to the parks over and over.
Disney on Broadway Concert Series
The fact that they don’t charge more for this festival is beyond me. That you can be in a Disney Park and hear some of the artists from Broadway perform live is just mind-blowing. When we were there we saw Ashley Brown (from Beauty and the Beast on Broadway) and Josh Strickland (from Tarzan on Broadway). You can sit down and enjoy the whole show, or do what we did which was hang around the pavilions that were close and grab something to eat and enjoy listening for as long as you want. Performances are at 5:30 PM, 6:45 PM and 8:00 PM daily (January 17 to February 24, 2020).
The schedule for artists in 2020 is:
Kissy Simmons and Alton Fitzgerald White: Jan 17th, 20th, 21st and 24th
Heidi Blickenstaff and Gavin Lee: Jan 18th, 19th, 22nd and 23rd
Heidi Blickenstaff, Gavin Lee, Kissy Simmons, Alton Fitzgerald White: Jan 25th
Kara Lindsay and Kevin Massey: Jan 26th, 28th and 29th; Feb 1st, 2nd, 5th and 6th
Liana Hunt and Adam Jacobs: Jan 27th, 30th and 31st; Feb 3rd, 4th, 7th and 8th
Liana Hunt, Adam Jacobs, Kara Lindsay and Kevin Massey: Feb 9th
Ashley Brown and Josh Strickland: Feb 10th, 12th, 13th, 18th, 19th, 22nd and 23rd
Michael James Scott and Syndee Winters: Feb 11th, 14th, 15th, 16th, 17th, 20th and 21st
Ashley Brown, Michael James Scott, Josh Strickland and Syndee Winters: Feb 24th
For more info, visit the official website.
Artist Workshops and Seminars
Inside the Odyssey Festival Showplace (located between Test Track and World Showcase, and easy to miss) are a few food stops (more about that later). There is also a place to engage with artists in fun seminars and worships, as well as shop some merch.
We didn’t participate in any of these, but we knew Danielle would be all over this. Certainly there is something about being an Annual Passholder or local to the park so that you could experience these things without taking time out of your day for attractions and other things.
Examples of workshops are: Learning basics of art, Animation academy where you learn to draw a Disney character with a real Disney artist (limited availability), and Art that has influenced Disney history.
Special Character Meet and Greets
In some of the pavilions there were meet and greets specific to the Festival of the Arts… and there were stations with Art Easels set up where you could meet them.
Culinary Works of Art at Food Studios
I saved the best for last (in my opinion). Located in more than 15 places around the World Showcase was small plates made with artistic flair and a delicious Disney twist. They are delicious, but because of the special nature, can be expensive, and are very small. They run from $6.00-9.00, so they can definitely add up (especially if you add a drink).
Your booklet will lay out each and every food and drink stop special to the festival. And then on top of Festival food, every pavilion has quick service and table service restaurants. Additionally, the ones in Future Word. Basically, it’s impossible to be hungry in Epcot… but also, if you are on a tight budget, this is where you could be in trouble.
Looking at last year’s menu and this year’s menu, it does look as though some of the things we tried last year are back again! This is very exciting news.
Some of what we tried:
– Sushi Donut (Goshiki in Japan): Donut-shaped Sushi featuring Salmon, Tuna, Shrimp, Avocado and Masago accented with Citrus-soy Gelée and Wasabi on the side
– Roasted Candied Beet Salad with Goat Cheese Fritters (Italy)
– Trio of Savory Croissant Doughnuts: Whipped Boursin® Garlic & Fine Herbs Cheese with Fresh Herbs; Chicken Salad with Shaved Fennel and Fresh Herbs; and Spicy Tuna with Wasabi and Seaweed Salad (The Painter’s Palate)
– Deconstructed BLT (The Deconstructed Dish)