The Epcot International Festival of the Arts is the newest celebration to join the lineup of Walt Disney World special events at Epcot. The granddaddy of them all is the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. The fall event is so popular, Disney uses it as a template for three other annual events: the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival, which is held in the spring; the Epcot International Festival of the Holidays, which runs in the late fall and through the holidays; and the Epcot International Festival of the Arts, which kicks off each year in January and extends through February.
As with Epcot’s other festivals, food plays a central role. There aren’t as many booths available as there are during the Food & Wine Festival, but the culinary arts are well-represented by creative dishes and beverages that visitors can sample at the event. The performing arts are featured with entertainment staged throughout the park, and the visual arts—with an emphasis on Disney-inspired art—get a nod as well.
Guests coming to the annual Festival of the Arts will find the crowds and the weather generally agreeable at Walt Disney World. Following the busy holiday season (the single busiest time of the year at Disney World is the period between Christmas and New Year’s) and preceding the onslaught of visitors that flock to the parks around Easter, attendance is relatively light in the heart of winter. Disney World’s ticket prices and room rates are typically lower than during peak seasons as well, and the resort often has special deals and discounted packages available. It can get a bit nippy in January and February, especially at night, but average daytime temperatures are in the around 70 degrees F (21 degrees C)—and there's virtually no humidity.
History of the Festival
Epcot held its first Festival of the Arts in 2017. It was developed relatively quickly and likely conceived as a way to plug one of the last remaining off-season periods at the resort with a special event to entice visitors. In its first couple of years, the festival was held only on weekends. It has since been expanded to seven days a week. In 2020, the festival will last from Jan. 17 to Feb. 24.
With a nearly year-round schedule of festivals, Disney built a 12,000-square-foot kitchen facility in 2017 at Epcot. Instead of trying to share space with the park’s existing restaurant kitchens, the dedicated festival facility is able to focus on and accommodate the marketplaces.
Things to Do at Epcot’s International Festival of the Arts
There are booths set up throughout the park, which Disney refers to as “marketplaces,” that serve up small portions of savory and sweet dishes as well as a variety of wines and other beverages. Whether it’s charcuterie, cookies that resemble an artist’s palette, or a colorful drink, the items all have an artistic flair to fit the theme.
Artists at the festival display their work in makeshift galleries and can be seen plying their craft. Much of the artwork focuses on Mickey Mouse, the parks, and the rest of the Disney oeuvre. There are also interactive workshops (which require a separate fee) and seminars (which are complimentary) conducted by accomplished artists. For Instagrammable shots, there are oversized works of art set up throughout the park at which visitors can pose themselves.
Of course, there are plenty of opportunities to buy stuff. In addition to the artists’ pop-up galleries, there is festival merch available such as mugs, T-shirts, and posters.
During the festival, special performances can be enjoyed around the park. International acts are presented in Epcot‘s World Showcase. You can also see acrobats, marching bands, choral singers, and a variety of other presentations.
One of the highlights of Epcot’s International Festival of the Arts is the Disney on Broadway concert series. Each year, the park features Broadway-caliber performers belting out tunes from Disney movies such as "Frozen," "Aladdin," "The Lion King," and "The Little Mermaid." The shows are presented in the America Gardens Theater across from the America Pavilion.
Tickets, Tips, and Tricks
- The festival is included with general admission to Epcot. Special events, such as the artist workshops, require additional fees.
- Prices at the food marketplaces range from $4 to $8 per item.
- Check the Disney on Broadway Concert Series schedule and try to plan your festival visit to coincide with one of your favorite performers or Disney movies. It could be a memorable and unique way to have dinner and a show.
- Speaking of the festival’s Broadway presentations, demand for some of the shows could make it difficult to get decent seats. Consider purchasing a Disney on Broadway Concert Series dining package. It includes a meal at one of Epcot’s restaurants along with guaranteed admission (in premium seats) to a performance.
- Make paying for your food from the market places easier by using a MagicBand, part of Disney World’s My Disney Experience program.
- Local Floridians who are Disney World passholders tend to check out the event on weekends. If you want to avoid crowds, consider going on weekdays instead.
- Looking for more great things to eat? Check out our guide to the best restaurants at Disney World.
- Once you've finished at the Festival you'll likely want to spend more time at Disney world. Find out the 10 best things to do at Disney World, including the resort’s top rides and shows.