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.
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!