One of the many reasons to go to Walt Disney World are the festivals. Disney festivals started in the mid nineties and have become a huge draw, especially over the last couple of years.
The festivals burst on the scene to bolster attendance during the off season. However, the term “off-season” has a loose definition, now. Walt Disney World tourism has become more of a year round thing and that is due in part to the success of these Disney World festivals. Guests loved them so much that annual festivals are taking place now at Disneyland Resort on the west coast as well. If you are interested in the Walt Disney World festivals and want to know more about them, then here is a quick overview to get you started.
Epcot is the Center Disney World Festivals
Walt Disney World hosts four annual festivals and all of them are held at Epcot. The first festival was the International Flower and Garden Festival which started in Spring of 1994. The following year the International Food and Wine Festival kicked off in the Fall. This festival in particular became hugely popular. The international part is important. The festivals primarily revolve around the World Showcase pavilions of Epcot, but the entire experience is multicultural driven as well. It’s a small world, after all!
Nowadays, Disney has four International Festivals at Epcot every year. International Festival of the Holidays takes over almost immediately following the end of the International Food and Wine Festival. Right around the corner at the beginning of the new year, the International Festival of the Arts takes the stage. These festivals feature new food in the form of small plates, snacks and desserts, that can be purchased in mobile kitchens around the park called marketplaces. Often these are accompanied by a wine, cocktail or craft beer to complement the flavors.
Epcot Festival Marketplaces have regular positions throughout the park, around World Showcase and in select locations of Future World. Although Future World opens at 9:00am, the marketplaces do not start serving food until World Showcase opens at 11:00.
In addition to the marketplaces, each festival offers a concert series and a variety of workshops and seminars. These demonstrations and participatory events engage guests in the Festival Center, which is located in the back of Future World East. The concerts are held at the American Gardens Theater in the back of the World Showcase. While the festivals, all bare these similarities, each is different and unique.
International Festival of the Arts
This festival puts art as the focus. Culinary art is only one art form on display. Food artists prepare dishes inspired by famous art periods and styles. Guests take art based workshops where they just might make their own memento to take home. Performing Arts are highlighted at the American Gardens Theater. In addition to the marketplaces are booths where artists and studios display and sell Disney inspired art.
During this event they have special activities just for kids:
International Flower and Garden Festival
This festival celebrates horticulture and gardening. Elaborate topiaries spring up around the park and there are educational opportunities involving caring for the land and how to cultivate a garden. Because it is international you will see different types of gardens in the World Showcase.
This is my favorite time to take a child to Epcot. When my kids were younger Epcot was the hardest park for us. During the flower and garden festival they set up playgrounds around the World Showcase. We could see a little here and there and then they could play at the playground.
International Food and Wine Festival
The most popular of all the festivals, Food and Wine, strongly emphasizes preparation of elevated food and complimenting the flavors by pairing dishes with a specific beverage. Even the table service restaurants around Epcot create special menus in celebration, and some even hold special cooking demonstrations with the meals. You might even manage to catch a celebrity chef in action or live music!
I highly recommend trying out one of the restaurants for a food and wine pairing for one of your meals or taking a cooking class.
This event can get a little expensive. If you wine and dine all the way around the World Showcase having a drink here or there or just one bite in each country you will spend quite a bit of money.
Each day the event starts at 9 A.M. so plan to eat breakfast a la carte at one of the 40+ concession stands.
Plan to try the items you most want to try first, because you are going to get full. There’s simply no way to try everything which is also why you will want to try only one of each item.
International Festival of the Holidays
Celebrating Christmas around the world is the theme for the Festival of the Holidays. Marketplaces serve traditional holiday foods from many countries. Each of the 11 countries represented shows off their special way of celebrating. Epcot also celebrates Santa Claus in his many forms in countries around the World Showcase.
Whatever you do, do not miss the Candlelight Processional and the special Peace on Earth addition to Illuminations fireworks show.
Have you been to any of these special Disney World festivals at Epcot? If you have I would love to hear about your favorite thing you ate or favorite thing you did during the festival. Leave a comment below!