Epcot Pre-Festival Update: January 2019
We’re back to “Diet Epcot” during the week leading up to Festival of the Arts, one of Walt Disney World’s newest and best special events. In this update, we’ll take a look at the kiosks going up around the park, construction, new merchandise, and other stuff.
As a quick refresher, there are currently several projects under construction at Epcot. The “big” attractions are the Guardians of the Galaxy hybrid coaster being built in the old Universe of Energy space and Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure trackless dark ride in France.
Work is also underway on the Space Restaurant in Future World, Disney Skyliner gondola transportation at International Gateway, new Signature Restaurant in the Japan pavilion, and infrastructure for the nighttime spectacular that will debut in 2020 after Epcot Forever.
Despite all of this work—with more to come—Epcot doesn’t feel like an active construction zone. Walls are a relatively uncommon sight, and that will probably remain the case throughout the first half of the year, as it’s now seeming less likely that the Central Spine project will commence in the near future.
Let’s start this update outside Epcot, with a look at a beautiful winter sunset over Crescent Lake:
Inside the park, this didn’t look nearly as impressive, especially up towards the front of the park.
Not that it’s germane to the topic of this post, but I’ve found Crescent Lake is one of the best areas of Walt Disney World for sunrises and sunsets.
Let’s start with a look at the booths up for the Epcot International Festival of the Arts:
The booths for the Epcot International Festival of the Arts are ready to go…in large part because they’re all just Festival of the Holidays booths with the signage swapped out (and many of those were Food & Wine Festival booths prior to the holiday event).
On the topic of Epcot’s Festival of the Arts, are booth by booth reviews akin to what we’ve done for other festivals of interest? We’re still on the fence about how we’re going to approach this event–despite it being our favorite Epcot festival of the year, it’s (by far) the one with the least reader interest.
Rather than emphasizing the food, which we think is hardly essential to enjoying the event, we might make a point of doing posts about the entertainment and artistic components, with only ‘best of’ and ‘worst of’ lists for food.
This is ultimately just us thinking out loud a bit, but we would be receptive to feedback about elements of the event that might be of interest to readers.
Excavator work is being done on an island in World Showcase Lagoon between the Japan and Morocco pavilions.
It’s unclear why this is being done, but it’s a safe bet that it relates to the permanent IllumiNations replacement (not Epcot Forever!).
That work is a recent development as of the last couple of weeks, but the work pictured directly above has been ongoing throughout the last couple of months.
In addition to this, there’s also an area cleared backstage behind the Africa Outpost that we’re assuming also relates to this. It’s too early to say definitively what purpose that area serves, but the word on our mind is drones. We’ll see if that ends up being accurate.
Progress on the Signature Restaurant in Japan.
We’ve said about all we have to say about the Guardians of the Galaxy construction for the moment, but here are some new photos:
The Guardians of the Galaxy ride is still over 2 years away, and we’re soon going to get to the point where there’s no visible progress to discuss, save for whatever’s happening with the old Universe of Energy facade.
We’re assuming that soon enough, that’ll be re-enclosed, and we won’t have much to talk about there, either.
Here’s one of the Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure show-building looking pretty much the same as it did last month.
There was actually quite a bit more progress back by International Gateway, but I was racing around trying to get sunset photos and didn’t even think to stop for a quick shot, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.
Even when there’s little else to discuss, we can always count on a new window display at the Art of Disney store in Future World.
This one is for Mickey’s 90th birthday celebration. While it seems like this whole Mickey shindig is being done after the fact because no one had a better idea for a 2019 promotion, we’re still glad it’s happening. Minnie and Mickey Mouse are instrumental to Disney’s legacy, and they’ve been historically underrepresented in the parks. Beyond that, seeing all of the Minnie and Mickey art and designs is cool.
There’s a lot of new merchandise for Mickey’s 90th, and it seems like new items are appearing by the day.
Merchandise is another topic we’re debating posting about more. The big hurdle is that, to be honest, we often have zero clue what’s new and what’s not. We’re also apprehensive about doing short posts with ~100 words and only a few photos with one product line.
So rather than covering items right as they’re released, we’d probably do a merchandise round-up with things that may or may not be new. Add to that some relevant (or not) commentary for a more substantive, but potentially untimely, post. (Does this potentially sound like something you’d enjoy reading/looking at?)
Although a photo of the wait time for Spaceship Earth may not be the best way to illustrate, off-season has returned to Epcot. We’re expecting a spike in crowds once Festival of the Arts starts, but not so much in wait times.
Overall, it’s a great time to visit Epcot. With the cooler temperatures, lower crowds, and Festival of the Arts, this is unquestionably the best time of year in the park. As much as we love both “Diet Epcot” and Christmas in the park, we’ve really been looking forward to this January-February stretch. We’ll probably come up with some excuses for more updates from Epcot these next couple of months, so stay tuned for that!
Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help. For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!
Any feedback on the merchandise and food booth questions asked above? Excited for the start of the 2019 Epcot International Festival of the Arts? Thoughts on the prep work being done for the IllumiNations replacement? What about Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure, the Guardians of the Galaxy coaster, Disney Skyliner, or other Epcot projects? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!
Tom, my sister and I love your blog! We will be attending Festival of the Arts this year on its very last day and we a both very excited (incidentally, we were also at Epcot the same day as you and Sarah in early December 2018 and were on the lookout for you guys the whole day. Obviously, we never saw you, you would have remembered us fangirling like teenagers over you!) Anyhow, we would love to know more about what the festival has to offer outside of food, but something like a top five/bottom five food items would be invaluable as well. And let me just say thank you so much for your heart and dedication to us, your fans. You are such a charismatic, sincere, and delightful writer!
There are other merchandise review pages, and I’ve seen a moderate amount of arts food reviews in the past, so I expect there will be more (though multiple opinions are always nice). What I haven’t seen, and what I’ve been looking for as we’re going there in a few weeks, is a thorough review of the non-food, non-merchandise offerings. Right now my plan is basically, “pick up the paper schedule they say is at the entrance and then hope you hit the fun stuff,” but my animation-loving husband and I would sure like to know more than “there’s fancy food and Broadway songs, with miles of copy on each, and oh yeah there’s something about visual arts as well.”
I definitely am interested to hear your reviews of food items at the booths this year. Maybe if you just review the new ones? I can always read last year’s posts for your thoughts on returning items. I’m heading to WDW Feb 2-6 specifically to visit Festival of the Arts, and it’s based on y’all’s previous reviews of the festival raving about it! 😀
Please do posts on festival of the arts. I am highly interested and thought your posts last time around were great.
I saw that both you and Josh over at EasyWDW are contemplating the lengthy booth-by-booth menu reviews. I understand it’s a lot of food and high costs for your guys, but just wanted to say that your efforts do not go unnoticed. I usually make a spreadsheet of every item at the festivals by booth and then go through and mark off the things that you and Easy recommend, (and usually cross out everything in Italy thanks to his write-ups)
LOVE LOVE LOVE Festival of the Arts! It is a joyous event in every respect. I lucked into it the first year, not even realizing it was happening until I arrived (and then rearranged all my park plans to be able to spend more time in Epcot than originally scheduled, for the festival). Then I had to return the second year!
I personally prefer best-of/worst-of lists to the booth-by-booth articles. I also love merchandise updates! Especially from the international parks, but even updates from Disneyland and WDW are great to see. Thanks for all you and Sarah do!
I would like to know more about the festival of the arts in general, so whatever you’ve got is of interest to me. I know very little about it as far as Epcot festivals go, and any and all information and reviews, I welcome.
I am fine with slightly-belated posts about merchandise, because I like to see what’s there more so than I want at-the-minute updates for purchasing reasons (because the odds are good I won’t get there soon enough to purchase whatever it is anyway).
Tom and Sarah,
I just love your blog! We are going to Disney next week for my 42nd birthday and I can’t wait to enjoy the Festival of the Arts. I would like to know what you think of the special food for the festival or tips and tricks. I know I am excited about the AP merchandise and discounts for the festival. I finally have a FP for Frozen and I can’t wait!
Have you done the pirate interactive scavenger hunt at Magic? We have not and plan to next week. Would you say it is worth it for 2 adults with no children?
Thank you for keeping us all posted on what is going on in all the lands near and far!
My 3 cousins and I (all over 50) did the pirate scavenger hunt at MK last April on our annual girls trip and had a ball! Definitely do it if you have the time, it took us about 2-3 hours to do ALL of them but only about 1/2 to do one.
Thanks so much Sonjya! It just sounds like fun. Thank you for reassuring that it will not be a waste of time. Yo-Ho! Yo-Ho!
Thank you Sonjya! It sounds like such a fun thing to try. I appreciate you reassuring me that it will not be a waste of time. Yo-Ho! Yo-Ho!
Please do the booth reviews for the arts festival. I read them for food and wine before we went and they were very helpful! We will be there next week and would love to know what food to eat!
I love the item-by-item food reviews, especially comparing yours to Josh/Easywdw to get different opinions. Will be there for The Festival of the Arts 1/21-24 and am very excited!
I honestly don’t know much about FOTA and would like to know more about the ‘Arts’ aspect of it having gone to art school, working in the industry and LOVING Epcot. We are going this November for the Food and Wine festival (another of my favorite things) so it would be nice to think about planning another trip sometime for this one. So, yes, more arts focused would be great!
I don’t think you need to try to turn into easywdw with booth-by-booth food reviews and merchandise updates. I realize we’re well past the point of this being a blog about your travel experiences to WDW, but I think articles presented in that light are still the most enjoyable reading.
Agree 100% 🙂
“I realize we’re well past the point of this being a blog about your travel experiences to WDW…”
Why is that though? News can be found anywhere, and there are plenty of local bloggers in Orlando who provide that sort of content on a daily basis. For me, Tom’s super-engaging writing style is his brand, and that writing has always been best exemplified within the site’s Trip Reports and detailed reviews.
I personally prefer a Best and Worst post for the festivals food, especially if a detailed review of every booth would mean fewer posts about other more interesting stuff.
I we are looking forward to our first trip to Festival if the Arts this year! Honestly, those early reviews caught my eye and I’ve been trying to get to the Festival ever since. I’m busy working on my food strategy, so any tips on that would be greatly appreciated. Also, if you could comment on anything that’s vastly different from previous years, that would be very helpful.
I’m interested in a FOTA food review. I plan on being there for opening weekend after the marathon next year, and as an alleged chef, I am interested in what they will have. Hopefully that Mondrian almond cake will be there. I am a huge fan of frangipane, and would assume it’s flavor is similar.
I, personally, am not as interested in merchandise posts. While it is nice to have a general idea of what is available, I feel a better use of that updating time could be put towards updating some of the older dining reviews. An idea of how restaurants’ current menus stack up would be more helpful to me as a trip planner than the latest merchandise to hit the parks.
Thank you as always for all the time and effort you put into these posts.
Our family loves the Festival of the Arts. You’re spot on about it being the best festival and the best time of the year to visit Epcot. I’d love to see your take on the entertainment and artistic offerings that are available.
My family went the first year to the festival, and we’re headed back for a long weekend a reprieve from the bitter cold in about 10 days. So, I’d love to learn more about the activities being offered.
If you have an opportunity to see Heidi Blickenstaff perform at the Festival, you really should. I’ve seen her perform several times and she’s unbelievably good. Hope she times out with your schedule!
Agreed! I scheduled my FOTA trip around seeing her and Gavin Lee together. I have loved them both on Broadway.
I would love an entertainment focused and best/worst of food post from Festival of the Arts! I get overwhelmed keeping up with what I might like/dislike of the food items when there is a new post for each country. It might be more easily digested (pun intended) in a best/worst of post. We’re hopeful that February vacation (for non-Massachusetts folks, the third week in February) will become our yearly trip, along with a Christmas time trip, as we’ve found it to be the best weather, crowd and overall experience-wise. We will be there the last weekend in January this winter, so we’re curious to see how that compares to February vacation week.