Walt Disney World has announced details and dates for the 2023 EPCOT International Festival of the Arts, which will be a global celebration of the visual, culinary, and performing arts. In this post, we’ll share dates & details, why it’s our favorite event of the year at Epcot, and our preliminary crowd predictions for January and February 2023 at Walt Disney World.
For those unfamiliar with it, the EPCOT International Festival of the Arts is the newest special event of the year, even though it’s not really new anymore (2023 will be its seventh year). After years of flying under the radar, EPCOT’s Festival of the Arts finally came into its own this year–fueled largely by Figment.
While the popularity of that popcorn bucket caught us by surprise, we were fully expecting it to be a busier winter at Walt Disney World. Nevertheless, we were very pleased that this year’s Festival of the Arts was so busy. In the past, we implored more tourists to plan trips for it, because it was far superior to the EPCOT Food & Wine Festival.
As is probably clear from our effusive praise over the years, Festival of the Arts is our favorite event of the year at EPCOT. It’s not even a close call, either. It cherrypicks the best elements of Flower & Garden and Food & Wine, while also adding elements that are much more interesting and substantive. Most importantly, Festival of the Arts is imbued with the spirit of the original EPCOT Center, and offers an atmosphere, sense of life, and is permeated with the characteristic creativity and curiosity of EPCOT Center.
Before we get carried away with hyping up the 2023 EPCOT International Festival of the Arts, you should probably be cognizant of crowds. Not to take too much of a victory lap, but our predictions about crowd levels for each of the last two winters have been accurate. So either 2023 will see that hot streak end–very well possible as crowd calendars become more and more difficult to get right–or continue. Either way, it was (or will be) a good run!
The following year, we predicted that those crowds would not materialize due to the likelihood of a winter wave of COVID keeping people away. That would be coupled with a lack of international travel, conventions, youth events at the ESPN Wide World of Sports, and runDisney offerings. That prediction ended up being accurate.
Last year, we predicted the opposite for the same reasons: international travel, runDisney, conventions, and youth sporting events would all be back. On top of that, there were domestic guests who delayed visits from the first three months of Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary due to the Delta variant or face mask rules.
Again, that was accurate. After a surprisingly slow October through mid-November (and even a holiday season that wasn’t as busy in normal in terms of attendance, even when ‘feels like’ crowds begged to differ), January and February caught a lot of people by surprise with how bad they were.
For January and February 2023, we’re expecting something between the two extremes. That might seem like a cop out, but that’s my honest assessment. With that said, if you want a “sexier” prediction, and I were forced to bet on crowds being bad or good at this point–with no “in between” option or additional nuance–I’d choose good.
At least, I’d choose good for the bulk of the dates of the 2023 EPCOT International Festival of the Arts. To that point, our expectation is that January 9, 2023 through February 17, 2023 will be among the least busy dates of the year (minus the MLK holiday weekend).
To be sure, it won’t be “dead” or off-season by historical standards, but it should be the best time to visit since mid-August through September of this year. Just keep in mind that contemporary crowds are worse than historic ones–so if you’re one of the people who found this early fall to be “too crowded,” you will undoubtedly feel the same way about those Winter 2023 dates.
There are several reasons for this, from the strength of the dollar dampening international travel to demand dropping off at the tail end of Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary Celebration and an exhaustion of “revenge travel.” There are also underlying economic conditions, and higher prices finally taking their toll.
Conversely, conventions, special events, runDisney events, and snowbirds fleeing to Florida will still be factors that prevent crowds from truly bottoming out and there being a pronounced winter off-season. Finally, COVID waves no longer have a material impact on crowds, so whatever happens this holiday season will likely be a non-factor.
In short, January 9, 2023 through February 17, 2023 should be good dates to visit by current standards–but if you’re comparing them to Winter 2017 or earlier, you’re in for a rude awakening.
In short, we still recommend planning a winter Walt Disney World trip during that date range and around Festival of the Arts. While February has fallen on our 2022-2023 Best and Worst Months to Visit Walt Disney World, that’s driven in large part by Presidents’ Day. That weekend and the week that follow are still very much to be avoided (they will be bad again!), but the dates between Marathon Weekend and that should largely be pretty good.
The weather tends to be fantastic, there’s a more laid back vibe to the parks, and it can be enjoyable even if attendance is elevated. There are so many good reasons to visit in January and February that we’d recommend strategically picking one of the better weeks (see our January 2023 Crowd Calendar or February 2023 Crowd Calendar) and going. Regardless of what happens with wait times and crowd levels, it’ll be a good time!
Anyway, that’s our normal “pitch” for a visit in January or February to enjoy the 2023 EPCOT International Festival of the Arts.
Here’s what we know about what’s returning for next year’s Festival of the Arts at Epcot, which is set to begin on January 13, 2023 and run until February 20, 2023:
Culinary delights from 16 Food Studios around World Showcase
The Wonderful Walk of Colorful Cuisine — a fun food stroll featuring five delicious sweet and savory treats
Chalk artists turning walkways into stunning landscapes and portraits
Disney on Broadway Concert Series – performed nightly
Photo ops where you can step into famous artwork
A paint-by-number mural
Figment’s Brush with the Masters scavenger hunt
Performance and visual artists
Special festival merchandise
In other news, the EPCOT Festival culinary team is putting the finishing touches on two new Food Studios:
Moderne Food Studio – Located near Test Track presented by Chevrolet, will feature new mouthwatering avant-garde menu items.
Figment’s Inspiration Station at the Odyssey: Art, Food, and Little Sparks of Magic – This new food studio promises to deliver treats and beverages bursting with vibrant colors and flavors. It also sets the table for another hugely popular Figment food & beverage merchandise release in a larger venue. My guess is that Disney will do a sipper this time, but maybe they’ll rehash the popcorn bucket. “You can’t top pigs with pigs” …unless the pig is joined by Dreamfinder! (Can you imagine the Dreamcatcher as a popcorn bucket? Fans would lose our collective minds.)
These are just preliminary, partial details. Walt Disney World has indicated it will release more info on the 2023 EPCOT International Festival of the Arts in the weeks and months to come.
Ultimately, we’re pretty satisfied with the tentative lineup for the 2023 EPCOT International Festival of the Arts. This year’s event was really good, just like the year before it, the year before that, and so on. It seems like the team behind the event is really going to leverage the “Figment Factor” even more, which will hopefully have some fun and imagination results.
Ongoing construction at the front of the park still throws a monkey wrench into some of the entertainment, and there’s still insufficient event space so the interactive panels are unlikely to return, but it still should be a solid event with a significant slate of stuff to do, eat, buy, and observe. As always, we’re really excited for EPCOT’s 2023 Festival of the Arts!
Did you attend EPCOT International Festival of the Arts in any of its first few years? Stand in a multi-hour line this year for a Figment popcorn bucket? Are you excited to experience the 2023 EPCOT International Festival of the Arts or will you be sitting this one out? Excited that there’s going to be a dedicated Figment Food Studio and (probably) another piece of highly-hyped merchandise? Think any of the other demonstrations or seminars will return? Any tips you want to share to make the most of the experience? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!