Tom’s Top 7: Tips for 2019 Epcot Arts Festival
We’ve said it before, but we’ll say it again: Epcot’s International Festival of the Arts is the best fest of the year at Walt Disney World. Better than Food & Wine, Flower & Garden, and even the Holidays! In this post, we’ll cover some of the must-see highlights and offer tips for having an ideal day during “Artful Epcot.”
Probably the biggest tip for an ideal day at Epcot this time of year is to add another Epcot day to your itinerary. The easiest way to do this is by stretching our 1-Day Epcot Itinerary into two days, with rope drop one day dedicated to Test Track and Soarin’ and Frozen Ever After the other day. After doing a couple other attractions, most of the Festival of the Arts offerings should be underway.
While you could spend the entire rest of the day doing Festival of the Arts entertainment, we’d recommend picking a couple of World Showcase films to break up the day, get inside, and off your feet. We’ve spent multiple full days doing Festival of the Arts stuff–there’s really no shortage of ways to enjoy the festivities, but being outside and on your feet all day might get tiring.
Anyway, here are the things we enjoy doing most during the Epcot International Festival of the Arts…
7. Disney on Broadway Concert Series – The various Epcot ‘concert series’ have never really been our thing. In fact, I can’t remember the last time we got seats and watched one of those all the way through. We really enjoy the pageantry of Candlelight Processional, but that’s really its own thing–unlike the concerts.
Disney on Broadway is obviously a concert series, but it’s also very different. Not only do you hear great performances from Broadway performers from Disney shows, but you also get to hear some of their experiences in famed roles. It’s really fascinating–and makes us want to see these shows even more. Our only “complaint” is that each concert seems like it’s over right when it’s getting started, but we’d probably be left wanting more even if they were 120 minutes long.
6. Talk to Artists – One of the coolest aspects of Festival of the Arts is how approachable so many well-known Disney artists are during the event. People whose work you’ve undoubtedly seen on the Disney Parks Blog, in books, or for sale in Art of Disney.
Typically, these artists are in booths that feature their artwork on weekends for signings and to chat with fans. It’s a great opportunity to select a work of art to buy, and there’s something at pretty much every price point. Whatever you buy during the event will undoubtedly have more meaning than any other souvenir you buy during your trip, and getting the chance to talk to the person who created it is really cool.
5. Get Something Figment – I have a love-hate relationship with how Walt Disney World has been featuring Figment on special event merchandise for Epcot the last few years. I love that the character is getting his due, and hope this resurgence in popularity could mean good things for the future of Journey into Imagination. I hate that right now, Figment is basically just a glorified mascot used for making festival merchandise more marketable to long-time fans.
Finally, with Festival of the Arts, it’s a logical and perfect fit for Figment to serve as ‘ambassador.’ The original Journey into Imagination featured several scenes about the arts, and a lot of the merchandise featuring the character is great. Better than the regular merchandise is art on display in booths around World Showcase. Or don’t spend a dime, and instead pick up the free Figment magnet if you’re an Annual Passholder!
4. Participate! – Whether it be Animation Academy, helping to complete the retro-inspired EPCOT murals in World Showplace, or doing a hands-on seminar, there are a lot of ways to get involved in the fun.
This is a nice change of pace from the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, where the most common way to “participate” is by stuffing your face. At Festival of the Arts, “participate” can mean that, but it can also mean getting creative and learning something new about the arts.
3. Do the Free Seminars – These half-hour seminars are held daily at Odyssey Festival Showplace and are included with Epcot admission. For the most part, these are either passive lectures that inform you about the artistic process involved in bringing something Disney does to life, or are hands-on seminars that give you the chance to learn a new skill.
The range of topics is pretty wide–everything from watermelon carving to props and set decorating for Walt Disney Imagineering to cosmetology application techniques. Seating is first come first served, which isn’t an issue for low-demand seminars, but for the popular ones (anything presented by an Imagineer or popular artist) plan to arrive early.
We have a few of these on our agenda, and after we do those, I hope to write a ‘report’ on our experiences. It probably won’t be helpful for anyone attending this year’s Festival of the Arts…but it is coming (assuming we don’t get shut out of the seminars).
2. Browse with No Agenda – Most days we go to Epcot for Festival of the Arts, we don’t even consult the schedule and just do laps of World Showcase. There’s so much going on that you can stumble upon, and we’ve found that some of our favorite offerings have been surprise discoveries.
This is a huge reason we love the event so much–it embodies the sense of wonder, imagination, and creative vision upon which the park was founded back in 1982. It’s truly an ‘edutainment’ offering, and one that screams EPCOT Center. With fewer and fewer vestiges of that park each year, that’s a rare feeling and one we love savoring.
1. Skip the Food – Putting “nothing” at #1 might seem like an odd move, but it bears emphasizing and underscoring as much as possible–eating is not essential to enjoying Festival of the Arts. This is especially the case after we’ve focused so heavily on the booths in our Food Guide to the 2019 Epcot International Festival of the Arts.
Again, Festival of the Arts is not simply Food & Wine: Part IV. This is the most substantive event of the year at Epcot, and you can have a blast without buying a thing. With that said, there are some really fun, photogenic, and inventive dishes at Festival of the Arts, but you can think of the Food Studios as basically just ways to subsidize the other costs of the event.
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Do you have any favorite things to do during Epcot’s International Festival of the Arts? Any least favorite activities? Do you recommend skipping the food in favor of more substantive (and free!) offerings? What are you looking forward to trying at Festival of the Arts? Any questions? Hearing from you is half the fun, so please share your thoughts in the comments!
I took my very talented daughter (15 years old) to this festival to get up close and personal with the Disney creative process. And, YES, we did. We really loved this festival. While the food isn’t the draw, it’s very good and looks beautiful! I believe we had one “real” meal while there and instead snacked our way through Epcot. Definitely plan on more than one day. Between the art and artists, free programs, Broadway series and any rides, you’ll need the time.
One thing Tom didn’t mention was the paid programs. For my daughter, who is interested in an art career, these were so valuable. For $40, she got an hour workshop with a Disney artist who discussed their craft, education, and experience with Disney. The bonus was that you could stand in line and talk to them after! My daughter did 4 and all of the artists were gracious, helpful and I saw some even giving emails for resumes! One of the cast members saw how interested she was and gave her a free session. That’s the Disney I love.
Another bonus–the weather! In mid-February, we had sunny and 70’s–perfect. I wouldn’t recommend President’s Day weekend (we went then because school was out), but pick another day in February–maybe the week before? The cast members said it was slow the week and weekend before.
When do you recommend going to Festival of the Arts? Toward the beginning of when it’s offered or toward the end?
Hopefully this helps your planning for next year! Our February weather was lovely–but be sure to plan 2 or 3 days at Epcot to make sure it doesn’t rain. President’s Day weekend was very crowded, so I wouldn’t recommend. Cast Members indicated the week/weekend before was better.
This was a really fun festival; Tom’s word “interactive” was spot on. But, don’t skip the food. 🙂 It was really good and so pretty! My teenage daughter took a picture of everything we ate!
My husband and I took our first trip to Disney last week and were at Epcot Sunday and it POURED rain all day. Due to this hardly any of the extra stuff for the festival was happening and it was difficult to enjoy what was. Epcot was the park I was most looking forward too. Guess we will just have to make it back soon!
Hello! I love your posts and can hardly wait to read your latest discussion about Disney!
My cousin and I are planning a trip to the Festival of Arts next February. We were curious about the Concert series. Do the performers follow the same program throughout the Festival or do the performers vary the performances?
Once again, thank you for your outstanding articles!
Do they still have “hidden” Figments in famous art pieces throughout the World Showcase? That was one of my favorite random finds a couple years ago. I agree that food is nonessential to this festival as there are so many awesome other things!
Last year, I made a beautiful marbelized scarf in one of the booths. It was a bit pricey, but a lot of fun. There were other hands-on things to do. At a cost, of course.
I’m usually a stalker for all of these posts but I soak them all in and they have helped me tremendously. This was my first Art Festival and it was so much fun. Painting the wall, looking at the art, even when I can’t afford it (the animal rockers were amazing!), and I loved the artful food. Yes it was pricey but I chatted with the chefs who were proud of their creations, and i loved the pretty desserts. Fun posing in the frames, the most fun was talking to an artist and him personalizing the print. My husband couldn’t care less about any of it, but I enjoyed this very much.
We loved the paint by number mural!
#6 – Yes! Talking to the artists, learning background into the piece and how they did it (if it’s not a normal painting). Then the discussion with the wife (do you want it? where we gonna put it? we’ll find somewhere….) Getting the piece personalized by the artist (they are more than willing!) and we even take a photo with the artist holding the art.
The “sidewalk art” is also fun – 2 years ago there was a drawing of a gondola that looked flat as a board put the sign said take a picture … that’s what made it look 3-D!
The food is an afterthought ….