2023 EPCOT Festival of the Arts Guide
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 January 13, 2023.)
For those unfamiliar with it, the Epcot International Festival of the Arts is the “newest” special event of the year, which is 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 new for the 2023 Epcot International Festival of the Arts–the big news is that Figment is playing an even bigger in the 2023 EPCOT Festival of the Arts…
The 2023 EPCOT Festival of the Arts is getting more imaginative, with Figment’s Inspiration Station: Art, Food, and Little Sparks of Magic. With this, Figment essentially takes over the Odyssey events center, which was previously the EPCOT Experience preview center (and has also functioned as a festival center for past events.
Figment’s Inspiration Station at the Odyssey includes nods and restored pieces from the original Journey Into Imagination at EPCOT Center, circa 1982. Figment’s Inspiration Station features an original Figment Audio Animatronics figure, mural inspired by the ride’s load area, the original background music, and projections from the attraction. There’s also inspiration drawn from the original upstairs ImageWorks, with original pin tables and a rainbow corridor-esque aesthetic in Figment’s Inspiration Station.
Additionally, the Figment Premium Popcorn Bucket makes its return, but this year with a new EPCOT 40th Anniversary strap. Last year, Festival of the Arts was dominated by headlines that EPCOT’s Longest Line Is For Figment Popcorn Buckets. It took a while, but Walt Disney World eventually solved that problem by streamlining the process with Mobile Order.
Thankfully, Mobile Order is once again the solution to that particular problem. Simply look for EPCOT Souvenir Release and select a return timeslot, starting at 11 am. Limit 2 per person.
Figment’s Inspiration Station doubles as a food and merchandise booth, serving the Pop’t Art, Rainbow Cake, and a variety of other snacks and drinks, including a number of different beers. (Strikes me as sorta odd for Figment’s booth to serve alcohol, but whatever.)
In addition to the popcorn bucket at Figment’s Inspiration Station, you can also bring home the brand-new Fruity Fig Bar Figment Disney Munchling. This limited-edition Disney Munchling features the sweet smell of berries and can be found both at the merchandise locations at the festival and on shopDisney.
The Figment fun continues when the sun goes down at the 2023 EPCOT Festival of the Arts.
Over at Spaceship Earth, a new Beacons of Magic light show features Figment. This technicolor tribute features music that’ll bring one little spark your imagination, along with a spectacle of dazzling light. This combines Journey into Imagination and Muppets by also utilizing “Rainbow Connection” in what might be the most inspired and imaginative version of the excellent EPCOT Beacons of Magic yet.
With what’s new for 2023 out of the way, let’s offer a bit of background on the basics of the event that are consistent from year-to-year. 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.
As discussed in our Crowd Predictions for 2023 Epcot Festival of the Arts, we are forecasting something in-between for Winter 2023. Fortunately, the dates encompassed by the 2023 EPCOT Festival of the Arts should be among the best of the year. For more info, refer to that–or consult our January 2023 Crowd Calendar and February 2023 Crowd Calendar for Walt Disney World for specific best and worst dates to visit.
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.
As we note in our Food Studio Guide to the 2023 Epcot International Festival of the Arts, the “culinary arts” are the least important component of the event. We have several specific snack recommendations there, but none are essential to enjoying the event.
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.
If you do opt for the foodie elements of the festival, the Wonderful Walk of Colorful Cuisine is a fun way to do it. Set out on a tasty trek around the 2023 EPCOT Festival of the Arts and purchase 7 vibrant dishes—and be rewarded with one technicolor treat to enjoy at the end of your journey.
Use your Festival Passport as your guide to look for specially notated menu items, then track your progress by collecting a stamp after each purchase. Once you’ve enjoyed at least 5 of the 7 dishes—and collected the corresponding stamps—bring your stamped Festival Passport to the Deco Delights food studio to receive a complimentary Artist Palette Cookie.
With that said, 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!
For kids of all ages, one of the highlights is Figment’s Brush with the Masters Scavenger Hunt. Mischievous Figment has re-imagined what famous paintings might look like if he were part of the artwork, and hidden one in each country around World Showcase–see if you can find them all. The paintings are cleverly done, and a good way to introduce kids to art history.
It’s also just a lot of fun to search for the Figment-infused art. If you want, you can purchase maps for ~$10 each at the main gift shops (Port of Entry, Creations Shop, World Traveler Shop, etc.) and play the game–being rewarded with a Figment keepsake once you find them all. However, you can also just look for them for a sense of fun and satisfaction–that’s usually what we do!
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. This features three shows each evening headlined by Broadway stars performing beloved songs from more than 25 years of award-winning stage productions.
Here’s the Disney on Broadway concert lineup for the 2023 EPCOT Festival of the Arts:
Kara Lindsay (Newsies) and Kevin Massey (Tarzan)
- January 13, 2023
- January 15-16, 2023
- January 19-20, 2023
Arielle Jacobs (Aladdin) and Adam Jacobs (Aladdin)
- January 14, 2023
- January 17-18, 2023
- January 21-22, 2023
Patti Murin (Frozen) and Robert Creighton (The Little Mermaid)
- January 23, 2023
- January 25-26, 2023
- January 29-30, 2023
- February 2-3, 2023
Mandy Gonzalez (Aida) and L. Steven Taylor (The Lion King)
- January 24, 2023
- January 27-28, 2023
- January 31 through February 1, 2023
- February 4-5, 2023
Ashley Brown (Mary Poppins) and Michael James Scott (Aladdin)
- February 6, 2023
- February 8-9, 2023
- February 12-13, 2023
- February 16-17, 2023
Kissy Simmons (The Lion King) and Josh Strickland (Tarzan)
- February 7, 2023
- February 10-11, 2023
- February 14-15, 2023
- February 18-19, 2023
On February 20, 2023 the Disney on Broadway Concert Series features an extended finale featuring Ashley Brown, Josh Strickland, Kissy Simmons, and Michael James Scott. In past years, this extended finale has been the highlight–do not miss it if you’re in EPCOT that evening!
Disney on Broadway Dining Packages are also available, but we typically do NOT recommend these (except for maybe the extended finale on February 20, 2023). We’ve seen Disney on Broadway concerts countless times and never once had an issue getting seats. I guess if you absolutely need a prime view, it’s not a bad option–but it strikes us as a waste of money. To each their own, though.
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 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!). However, Figment’s Inspiration Station should be a good addition for which fans will go crazy.
Disney continues to deliver on the Epcot International Festival of the Arts, which is why it has been our favorite festival since it started several years ago. 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.
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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!
This is my favorite festival! I’m so bummed we’re missing it by a few days on both ends this year! We just did Marathon Weekend and we’re back for the Princess Half (and NOT willing to arrive any earlier that week than we have to).
Six of those gold squares on top of the imagination pavilion in the mural are mine 🙂
Does location need to be turned on and you need to be in the park for the merch virtual queue to show on the app?
No. I just checked my phone and I’m here at home in California and it showed up. At the time I checked it was 11:30am in Orlando and soonest return time was 7:20pm. So mobile order early!