Hold onto your black berets because Epcot’s International Festival of the Arts is back, and we’ve got some Unofficial advice for enjoying Walt Disney World’s newest annual festival.
Even though it’s only in its third year, the Epcot International Festival of the Arts has quickly become one of our favorite highlights on Walt Disney World’s event calendar. During the Festival of the Arts, you’ll find fantistic decorations and delicious foods, just like at Epcot’s popular Food & Wine or Flower & Garden events—but with the benefit of smaller crowds and cooler weather.
We attended the opening day of the 2019 Epcot International Festival of the Arts on January 18th and came back with some first-hand suggestions for exploring the event, which continues daily through February 25th. So grab your palate and your palette, and keep these Unofficial Tips in mind when you “Van Gogh” to the park!
1. Pick Up Your Passport
As soon as you enter Epcot, you’ll probably want to get a photo with the fabulous Figment foliage display at the front of the park. But don’t get distracted and forget to pick up your free Festival of the Arts passport. Much like the passports available at other Epcot festivals, it contains a complete rundown on all the eats and entertainment available around the event. More importantly, it includes two pages of purple stickers that you can use to keep track of which Festival kiosks you’ve visited.
Similar to other Epcot events, the Festival of the Arts has a big focus on eating and drinking your way around World Showcase. The good news is that, even though there are fewer total food offerings than during the fall and spring festivals, queues at the Arts Festival’s kiosks tend to be somewhat shorter, even on the weekends.
However, the lighter crowds are offset by the longer time it takes to prepare many of the featured dishes. That’s because many offerings are assembled à la minute as they are ordered, instead of being plated assembly-line style ahead of time. That means that, while you may wait a few more minutes before you munch, you’ll get to enjoy watching the elaborate multi-step preparation that goes into these too-pretty-to-eat dishes.
So be patient once you’ve ordered, and don’t be shy about talking to the chefs while they work on your platter because they’re proud to share details about their delicious work!
3. Take Time to Talk with an Artist
Speaking of speaking, one of the best things about Epcot’s Festival of the Arts is the opportunity to meet and interact with actual Disney artists, who are on hand daily to share their creations.
On the first day of this year’s festival, we had the good fortune to run into Ashley Taylor, an Orlando-based designer best known for her work with Ashley Eckstein’s Her Universe.
The artists around the park are happy to autograph any paintings or prints you might purchase. But even if you don’t buy anything, be sure to stop by and tell them how much you admire their efforts.
At Epcot, not only can you look at art, but you can also become a part of it! Look out for clever photo opportunities erected around the park, which re-create famous paintings—with you and your family as the star subjects. Remember, digital downloads from all Disney PhotoPass pictures are included free with Gold-level and higher Annual Passes.
Longtime Walt Disney World visitors may fondly remember the Animation Academy classes that used to be held at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Disney Quest (and are still available at Disney California Adventure). The popular drawing lessons return every afternoon during Epcot’s Festival of the Arts, and the best part is that they are free!
Animation Academy classes are held at the newly refurbished Odyssey festival center, found between Test Track and the Mexico pavilion. Other educational seminars held during the festival require advance registration and payment, but Animation Academy is included with park admission. The catch is that space for each class is limited, and seats are assigned on a first come, first served basis. Check the daily entertainment schedule for class times, and be sure to arrive at least 30 minutes before the session you want to attend.
6. Catch a Concert at No Extra Cost
Epcot’s other annual festivals feature musical performances from cover bands and legacy musicans, but the Festival of the Arts boasts concerts headlined by some of today’s biggest Broadway stars. Internationally known performers like Kerry Butler, Kevin Massey, Ashley Brown, and Gavin Lee belt out tunes from Mickey’s best-loved musicals during the Disney on Broadway concerts, which have expanded for 2019 from weekend-only to daily performances.
Epcot’s restaurants are offering fixed-price dining packages, which combine a meal at a park restaurant with reserved seating for a show. But with more concert dates than ever before, there’s no need to spend extra money in order to enjoy the show. We stepped into the standby queue only minutes before the first performance of the festival, and despite the line stretching all the way from the America Gardens Theatre to the Italy pavilion, we secured stellar seats with plenty of space to spare. Worst case, you can almost always snag standing-room viewing behind the theater’s back row of benches, even after the show starts.
One of the easily overlooked elements that makes Epcot’s arts festival so much fun is the hidden character artwork you can seek out around the park. Much like the Easter egg scavenger hunts held in the spring, there’s a Figment-themed “I spy” game that you can get in on for only $6, which buys you a map for marking the locations of canvases incorporating the mischevious purple dragon into classic images. Complete the whole map and you can collect a Figment coloring book, but the paintings are fun to hunt for, even if you don’t pay to play.
In addition, Disney’s artists have added new hidden character portraits to the architecture around World Showcase, just in time for the festival. Have fun trying to find all the animated friends who have recently taken up residence on the walls!
8. Save Some Money for Merchandise
With so many delicious things to taste, it’s easy to run low on cash before you make it halfway around the park, but you’ll want to save some money for one of the unique souveniers available only at this event.
Obviously, a piece of original artwork will make an ideal memento, but if you like to wear your memories home, we suggest stopping by Enemy Ink in the Odyssey facility. This Orlando-based silk screening company will let you create a customized T-shirt, featuring your choice of colors and characters, and then print it for your while you watch. If you’re an Annual Passholder, be sure to ask about the exclusive designs available just for you, and take advantage of the 20% discount. Be aware that there can be a long line to get shirts early in the day; stop by an hour or two before closing for quicker service.
Finally, if you haven’t already gotten your fill of Figment from your day at the Festival, stop by the Mouse Gear store before you go home. In addition to a new wave of Figment-purple clothing and hats for purchase, Annual Passholders will find free Figment car magnets that can be picked during your first visit.
For more information about all the annual festivals at Epcot, read The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2019.
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