In large part, Epcot International Festival of the Holidays is a continuation of Food & Wine, and is Walt Disney World’s Christmas “foodie event.” We’ve bought and eaten every single snack and dessert at the 2018 event, and will share everything you need to know, including which Holiday Kitchens to try and which to avoid, and much more!
For starters, this post focuses solely on the culinary element of the event. Unlike Food & Wine, the Epcot International Festival of the Holidays is not primarily about the cuisine. In fact, up until a couple of years ago when it was rebranded from Holidays Around the World at Epcot to its current name, this yuletide offering was mainly about the Storytellers, Candlelight Processional, and IllumiNations: Peace on Earth. At that point, only a handful of holiday snacks were sold at counter service restaurants.
Even this year you could spend an entire day in Epcot just enjoying the holiday entertainment without ever purchasing a snack (and we will do exactly that later in the season…well, maybe just one Yule Log). If you’re interested in knowing what not to miss in terms of the Christmas and holiday free offerings, read our Epcot International Festival of the Holidays Tips & Strategy post.
This year, the Epcot International Festival of the Holidays at Walt Disney World runs from November 18 until December 30, 2018. The Holiday Kitchens are all located in World Showcase, and these food booths open each day from noon until 8 p.m., which gives you just enough time to stock up on Yule Logs before camping out to view the farewell season of Illuminations with the Peace on Earth holiday tag…
As noted, we’ve tried every food item at the 2018 Epcot International Festival of the Holidays (save for one cookie that was sold out). More importantly, we actually waited in line and purchased “real” versions of all these items, meaning that what you’ll find in our reviews is not simply “ideal” stock photos provided from Walt Disney World of what this food can look like when it’s perfectly-plated with a generous portion.
Anyone who has ever attended an Epcot festival can attest to the fact that there’s a huge difference between what the official stock photos look like and what is served to actual guests. It’s probably also safe to assume there’s a difference in taste between the free food provided at media events, and what we paid to buy.
We’ll start with our booth rankings (ordered from best to worst), and then offer some commentary:
Each one of those links above opens a new window with our full review of each Holiday Kitchen. We would strongly encourage you to read those rather than just blindly follow these rankings, as there are bad items at the good kitchens and good items at a few of the bad kitchens.
The only exception to this is Yukon. Just order everything on the menu there–it’s all fantastic.
It probably goes without saying for Epcot regulars, but in case you’re new to the Epcot ‘Festival Scene’, almost everything at the Holiday Kitchens is overpriced. This is not just by real world standards, but by “normal” Walt Disney World standards. You’re unquestionably paying a premium for the festival experience, which is a fun one, to be sure.
This is of no concern if you’re on the Disney Dining Plan and are simply burning snack credits on these items. You’ve already paid a set amount for your credits (or received them via Free Dining), so it makes no difference whether you use the Disney Dining Plan credits on a bottle of water or an $8 bowl of fondue. In fact, you should want to use credits on the pricier options!
However, if you’re paying out of pocket, we think a reality check is in order. These portions are generally small and pricey. There are a few exceptions to this “rule,” and it’s very important (we think) to buy these items first as “stomach filler” before grazing around World Showcase. We’ve identified these as ‘good value’ options in each of our reviews.
Starting with the good value items as stomach filler is great strategy. This will make you far less likely to ‘casually’ drop $100/person as you slowly taste your way through World Showcase. You might laugh at the idea of spending over $100 in a day on snacks, but it is far easier than you might think if you’re not paying attention.
We obviously spent way more than that to taste and review all this stuff (don’t bring it up–I’d prefer not to think about it), but on other days when we’ve gone ‘just for fun’ we’ve been surprised by just how much we spent. (Learn from our mistakes!)
Speaking of stomach filler, two of the best options for this are at Taste Track and Refreshment Port. This is something of a reprise from Food & Wine, when the same was true of these two locations.
Not only are they filling, but these snack kiosks have a couple of our favorite items of the event: the Turkey Poutine at Refreshment Port and the Eggnog Croissant Donut. That photo of the poutine may not look all that appetizing, but it tastes exceptional!
In terms of other strategy, here are some quick hits…
Order Turkey: There are 3 turkey dishes at the Epcot International Festival of the Holidays, and they’re all very good.
Yule Log Overload: This festival features approximately 37 different varieties of Yule Log (slight exaggeration). The best options are at Yukon, Le Marche De Noel, and the Boulangerie Patisserie Les Halles bakery in France.
Egg-ceptional Desserts: I liked or loved every single egg nog dessert (not drink) option we tried. Others in our group were far less enthusiastic about most of these choices, but they were admittedly not egg nog fans.
Skip the Holiday Cookie Stroll: Unless you’re doing it solely for fun, pass on these cookies. Yes, they’re all cheap and you get a “free” one at the end, but nothing here is better or more interesting than what you could get at Publix.
Comfort Foods Are Best: We love the ambitious ‘foodie’ dishes at Epcot’s festivals, but by and large, this event does comfort foods and variations thereof best. There are certainly exceptions, but generally the more daring items often fall flat or are bland.
That’s a wrap on our food coverage from the 2018 Epcot International Festival of the Holidays. We’ll return throughout the event for updates here and there, but this post coupled with our individual booth reviews cover pretty much everything you need to know in terms of what to buy and what to avoid.
We’d again stress that you don’t need to purchase anything to have a great time at Epcot this Christmas season. If you choose to do eat your way around World Showcase (or just have a few desserts!), hopefully our resources help you make wise decisions so you don’t waste any money or Disney Dining Plan snack credits!
Do you have any favorite snacks from Epcot International Festival of the Holidays? Do you plan on completing the “Yule Log Challenge” by eating every single Yule Log in the same day? What are you looking forward to trying at the Holiday Kitchen food booths? Any questions? Hearing from you is half the fun, so please share your thoughts in the comments!