Epcot is unique among the Walt Disney World parks in that it hosts numerous festivals through out the year. And these events are included as part of your park ticket. That's right - special events that have no additional charge! Ok, to be fair there are some offerings as part of the festivals that do have additional charges, but you can visit and enjoy the festivals without paying an extra penny. When deciding when to visit Walt Disney World, we absolutely take into account what will be on at Epcot - so we're offering this summary to help you with your own decision.
Disney announces exact dates in the months running up to the festivals, but we've included rough timeframes here.
Epcot Festivals: International Festival of the Arts
This is Epcot's newest festival - it launched in 2017. And it quickly became one of our favourites. It celebrates art in many of its forms - music, culinary and of course, artworks. And it does this in some really fun ways. There are extra large reproductions of famous works of art that you can pose in, and with. Concerts featuring some of the Disney Broadway shows. Art projects where you can contribute to giant murals.
There are also art seminars - some complimentary, others will have an additional charge. Artwork is for sale throughout International Showcase, featuring Disney in fun and creative ways - which is fun to look through even if you're not purchasing. Artists are available to talk to and watch. There are artistic performances throughout the festival, from bands to dancers. And - our personal favourite - food studios, featuring snacks and small plates with an artistic twist. If you're on a dining plan, many of these count as a snack credit and are a fantastic use of these.
The International Festival of the Arts runs at the beginning of the year - usually for roughly a month from January to February. This is a great time to visit, for crowd levels and much cooler temperatures - and we throughly recommend the International Festival of the Arts.
Epcot Festivals: Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival
Running from March to the beginning of June, the Flower and Garden Festival adds a touch of spring to the parks. It's primary feature is amazing topiaries, shaped to all things Disney, located around the entirety of Epcot. These really are incredible and we love spotting them.
There are also displays around Epcot, including butterflys and bamboo, tea and water gardens among many others. You'll find outdoor kitchens and dining (we do love any Epcot food booth!) And a 'Garden rocks' concert series, featuring live music.
We're not keen gardeners ourselves and while it is pretty to look at, we wouldn't make a point of visiting while the Flower and Garden Festival is on. Although weather wise it is a great time to go - hot without being blisteringly so. But if flowers and gardens are your thing, it is expertly done and you'll really enjoy this addition to Epcot.
Epcot Festivals: Epcot International Food & Wine Festival
Ooh, do we love the dining options at Epcot during the Food & Wine festival. Located throughout both World Showcase and Future World, you'll find food booths dedicated to countries from all around the world - bringing you an even wider selection of cuisines than already offered in Epcot. In 2019 there will be 30 marketplace booths, dedicated to all things food and wine. In addition there are food and wine seminars, workshops and celebrity chefs. Exact offerings change each year, but there is always something for the kids too - playground, scavenger hunts and dance parties are all examples. And as with each of the festivals there is a concert series - Eat to the Beat. Obviously the food and wine options are the main attraction. We tend not to book restaurants for our Epcot days so we can buy as many items as possible from the marketplace booths. Once again, many of these count as a Disney snack credit and are an excellent use of these.
Epcot Festivals: Epcot International Festival of the Holidays
This one is a recent-ish addition in that Disney have taken something that they have done for years and re-branded it to be a Festival like the rest. For many years they hosted 'Holidays Around the World' at Epcot, where they showcased Christmas and the festive period in the Epcot countries. All of the Disney parks are decorated for the holiday period to differing levels, and this was Epcot's offering. In 2016, they added food booths to this, and rebranded to the International Festival of the Holidays. The highlight of Epcot's festival is the Candlelight Processional - hosted by a celebrity narrator, and telling the Christmas Story. The video below has Neil Patrick Harris as the narrator (most famous for playing Barney in How I Met Your Mother).
There is also a stage in Future World, featuring performances throughout the day, from carols to jazz. And in every country are Holiday Storytellers, sharing holiday traditions from their countries.
The festival runs from end of November to end of December. As long as you get your timing right (Christmas week is extremely busy), the holiday season is an amazing time to visit - and this really isn't restricted to Epcot, but it certainly contributes to the additional magic.
When planning your trip to Walt Disney World, it really is worth seeing if you can coincide with one of the Epcot festivals - they just give you that little extra. And while pretty similar, they are great in different ways. These festivals are actually fairly popular with locals and annual pass holders - many of which visit at weekends, so try and plan your Epcot days on Monday to Thursday, if you can, as it will be less busy.
Epcot International Festival of the Holidays is our first choice of Epcot festivals, not least because it is just one of some really amazing Christmas additions across Walt Disney World. But visiting at that time of year isn't for everyone. Funnily enough, despite our love of food at Disney, the Festival of the Arts is our second favourite festival at Epcot, beating Food & Wine into third place. It offers a wide selection of culinary options, in addition to some really fun activities and photo opportunities. It seems to take itself slightly less seriously than Food & Wine, but still offers some excellent food and entertainment. But we're sure you'll enjoy any of the Epcot festivals, if you can time your trip to coincide with one of them.