EPCOT’s International Festival of the Arts runs from January 13 until February 20, 2023 at Walt Disney World. This guide offers info, tips, food recommendations, and our must-see highlights of this annual winter special event. (Updated October 27, 2022.)
For those unfamiliar with it, the Epcot International Festival of the Arts is the “newest” special event of the year, which will be in its seventh year come 2023. (Time flies when you’re having fun–I still remember when the inaugural event was announced!) Festival of the Arts is also the least-popular of Epcot’s events, and doesn’t draw nearly as many tourists as the long-running Food & Wine Festival. This is partly because it occurs in winter, but it also doesn’t seem to draw quite as many locals, either.
Walt Disney World has dubbed this event the “ultimate celebration of world-class food, amazing visual art, and live entertainment.” We agree. EPCOT’s Festival of the Arts is our favorite event of the year, and we love chatting with artists, watching the performers, and eating our way around the 13 booths, and enjoying some of the art on display. Trying the new food, seeing artists exhibit their work, and participating in the interactive offerings at the event is always a good time.
After being blown away by the inaugural event, and while some of the specifics have changed in the last few years, our impression remains the same: Epcot’s Festival of the Arts is our #1 seasonal event of the year at Epcot.
In this post, we’ll cover some of the reasons why we love it, and why we recommend experiencing it for yourself in January or February! Let’s start with what’s been announced thus far for the 2023 Epcot International Festival of the Arts…
Here’s what we know about what’s returning for the 2023 Festival of the Arts at Epcot:
Culinary delights from 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
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
Disney on Broadway Concert Series
However, the big news is that Figment is going to play an even bigger in the 2023 EPCOT Festival of the Arts…
Well, it appears that’ll be the case again, as Walt Disney World has announced Figment’s Inspiration Station at the Odyssey: Art, Food, and Little Sparks of Magic at the 2023 EPCOT Festival of the Arts. This area 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.
With that out of the way, let’s offer a bit of background. The Epcot International Festival of the Arts is a special event celebrating the visual, culinary, and performing arts from around the world. The event includes Food Studios (naturally!) and an array of entertainment options.
The first thing you need to know is that there’s a lot to see and do at the Epcot International Festival of the Arts, but the vast majority of the entertainment is not continuously running. Quite the converse, in fact.
While there is virtually always something occurring throughout the park between park opening and 5 p.m., many of the live performers are only out a few times per day, and some of their sets are fairly short.
Because of this, it’s absolutely essential that you consult a times guide or entertainment schedule for the day your visiting, and plan around the entertainment that is the most “rare.” Alternatively, if you have a surplus of time, you might want to take a slow approach, just meandering around World Showcase and stumbling upon art as you stroll. We really enjoy that sense of “discovery.”
The Food Studios, exhibits, and interactive art opportunities can be slotted in whenever, so fit those into your schedule when you have down time, but plan around the live entertainment.
You won’t be able experience all of Epcot and Festival of the Arts in a single day. Accordingly, we advise spending two days at Epcot during Festival of the Arts: both weekdays.
Weekends at Epcot are busy during Festival of the Arts, primarily due to strong word of mouth about the event among locals, who work during the week. As with every other Epcot festival, weekdays are far less busy.
The last two winters have been a veritable crowd roller coaster at Walt Disney World. Two years ago, attendance was down considerably, making Walt Disney World’s visitor numbers disproportionately locals who visit Friday through Sunday. This year was a totally different story, with pent-up demand playing out in full force and pretty much every day being jam-packed.
Let’s turn to the Food Studios. For many guests, these will be the highlight of the event, offering marketplace snack options in venues similar to those found during the Epcot Food & Wine Festival. We thought the food was generally really presented exceptionally well, and tasted very good at last year’s event.
We sampled most of the menus at the Epcot International Festival of the Arts, and were surprised that most portions were relatively hearty and value for money was fairly solid. In both cases, better than the Food & Wine Festival, but not as good of value as a regular counter service meal.
While the food is very good and some portions are generous, it’s also on the expensive side–even more than Food & Wine Festival. This makes it a tough sell if you’re paying out of pocket–especially since this event does not revolve around food.
Ultimately, you could skip the food entirely and still have an awesome time at the event. This is sentiment you might not read elsewhere, but keep in mind that a lot of the interest around Epcot’s festivals revolves around food; this is also how Disney monetizes the events.
So of course it makes sense for Walt Disney World and other blogs to hype up the food…even if it’s far from the highlight of Epcot’s Festival of the Arts. Aside from the snacking, Epcot’s International Festival of the Arts offers Walt Disney World guests the ability to peruse artwork by Disney artists in galleries.
Additionally, there are live artists creating artwork in Epcot. It’s really interesting to watch them; we were so captivated by one of the artists that we watched him complete an entire Mickey Mouse painting, which he did in ‘unison’ with music.
Other artists will be painting landscape scenes throughout World Showcase. Additionally, chalk artists will reproduce classic works on park sidewalks, Epcot Living Statues will do roaming art, and guest performance artists will create live art with the wave of a paintbrush.
Interactive guest art is another one of our favorite aspects of Festival of the Arts. We have had a chance to help complete several different murals, including the one pictured below.
It’s also a really fun experience in the moment, and satisfying once you see the finished product a few days later, knowing I helped make that!
There’s also more structured entertainment for the Epcot International Festival of the Arts. For 2023, the Disney on Broadway concert series will once again return.
Concert dates and details have yet to be released–same goes for dining packages. We expect that info to be released in late December or early January, shortly before the 2023 event begins.
Ultimately, Epcot International Festival of the Arts has proven itself to be something different. Food and drinks are the lowest priority here, and there is so much “other stuff” that it’s hard to view this as a thinly-veiled way to sell high margin stuff. When you consider how much all of the artists and entertainers likely cost, the cynicism melts away.
To the contrary, the Epcot Festival of the Arts is a true enhancement to Epcot. It cherrypicks the elements of Flower & Garden and Food & Wine that we like best, and enhances the park in an organic way that feels like it recaptures a bit of the original spirit of EPCOT Center. The event’s ambiance makes it even more enjoyable to just wander around Epcot, and there are strong educational and entertainment components.
With 6 years under the event’s belt, we’re confident that Epcot’s International Festival of the Arts has found its footing. While we hope that it continues to evolve and expand, 2023 probably won’t be the year for that, as EPCOT is (still!) in the midst of a massive construction project to transform Future World into three new neighborhoods (technically, this change already occurred–but you can’t tell from the maze of construction walls!).
Regardless, Disney continues to deliver on the Epcot International Festival of the Arts, which is why it has been our favorite festival for 6 years running. That might be hard to believe given the barrage of coverage that Food & Wine receives, and given that this is the shortest and newest event, but if we could only choose one to attend, this would be it. Despite the surprise spike in crowds last year, we would highly recommend this event–and this time of year–to anyone considering when to visit Walt Disney World in 2023.
Have you attended EPCOT’s International Festival of the Arts in any of its past years? Are you excited to experience the 2023 Festival of the Arts? 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!