The Epcot International Festival of the Arts is the newest of its annual celebrations. It takes place during January and February each year and celebrates art in all its forms. With fantastic live entertainment, special photo ops, a chance to chip in painting a mural, and loads of Disney art for sale, it’s absolutely worth a visit. And of course, no Epcot festival would be complete without some delicious food. Keep on reading for all the tips and info you need to plan a visit to the International Festival of the Arts.
What to eat at the Festival of the Arts
I’m going to start with the food because that was honestly my favorite part of the festival. The Festival of the Arts food is designed to celebrate culinary arts and focuses on presentation and blends of flavors. And boy does it succeed. Some of the options we tried even exceeded Food and Wine offerings in terms of flavor. You can also get your festival passport stamped if you buy certain menu items that are marked as part of the Wonderful Walk of Color. Once you try all five, you can return it for a special treat. We skipped this because most of the designated menu items didn’t appeal to us all that much and we wanted to spend our money (and stomach space) for the stuff we were actually drooling over.
My top three must eat Festival of the Arts food and drink offerings:
Sopes de barbacoa
This is from the El Artista Hambriento stand near the Mexico pavilion. This is the best festival entrée I’ve had out of all the ones I’ve attended. We liked it so much that we were thinking about doubling back for another one later in the evening. The beans and barbacoa were absolutely perfect. You’ll want to find a table or somewhere to set this one down to eat it though because it was a little tricky to cut through the whole thing.
Painter’s palette cake
While most of the Festival food was located in the World Showcase area kiosks, this adorable peanut butter cake was served at Sunshine Seasons in The Land pavilion. The presentation was gorgeous (as you’d expect for Festival of the Arts) and the flavor actually lived up to the visuals. I frequently find myself disappointed in some of the beautifully-decorated cupcakes on property, but this mini cake had the perfect mix of cake and light, fluffy peanut butter flavor. We literally scarfed this down in seconds and I would’ve absolutely gone back for more if we’d had time.
Frozen French Martini
I have a major sweet tooth so I was super into this frozen drink from the French festival kiosk (L’Art du Cuisine Francaise). We were pretty cold by the time we made it around to France, but both still wanted to try it and I’m glad we did. It’s pricy at $14, but I’ve paid more for drinks at Disney that I’ve enjoyed a lot less. The best way I can describe its flavor is that it tastes a bit like strawberry Starburst. Give it a sample and let me know if you agree.
Other Festival of the Arts food items
There are tons of options and it would cost a small fortune to try all of them. You’ll find lots of wines and beers along the way in addition to plenty of other foods and desserts. Here are a few that we tried, but this is just a small sampling of what’s offered and availability will vary year to year.
PB&J funnel cake sandwich
This was another option that sounded so good that we went for it even though we were pretty cold at the time. It’s a funnel cake sandwich with peanut butter ice cream, marshmallow filling, and raspberry glaze from regular funnel cake stand outside the American Adventure. As we were waiting for it, I joked that it was like someone heard I was coming and decided to make a treat just for me. It was indeed delicious, but ended up being overshadowed by the colorful painter’s palette cake mainly because I just didn’t love the combination of ice cream with the funnel cake texture.
Sushi is just about the one thing I won’t eat, so I skipped this one and my friend enjoyed it alone. She rated it mediocre and didn’t really like that it was somewhat warm. She also said it was a little bland and even the sauces didn’t have much flavor. It gets and A+ for Instagramability, but not so much for actual taste.
Prosecco mousse dessert
This grown-up dessert from the L’Arte di Mangiare kiosk near Italy sounded so unique I waited around for 10 minutes for them to restock from the main kitchen. It’s made with Rossini prosecco (you can also order a vodka rossini at the same stand, so be sure to specify that you want the dessert) and topped with strawberry sauce. I was not impressed initially because my first bite just scooped up the strawberry sauce and part of the dollop of whipped cream so I thought it was pretty lacking in flavor, but once I actually got into the boozy mousse I liked it a lot more. It’s not terribly sweet, but it has a lovely subtle hint of the prosecco.
White chocolate Figment puzzle
This was easily the most fun menu option from the festival, but it missed the top three because at the end of the day it’s just some white chocolate and frosting, a combination of which even I found overpoweringly sweet. It’s the kind of think kids would love though and it was super fun to play with. The dessert is served on a cardboard artist palette. You get three puzzle pieces (they really do fit together!) featuring Figment, three cups of colored frosting, a cup of M&Ms, a cup of sprinkles, and a paintbrush. You can sit down and use your creative skills to paint your little puzzle – licking the brush to clean it when switching colors is totally encouraged! – and then you get to eat it when you’re all done. It came from the Decadent Delights kiosk near the new Starbucks location at the transition from Future World to World Showcase.
Festival of the Arts activities
There’s plenty more to do than wander around grazing on food, so check out these special activities exclusive to Festival of the Arts.
Paint by numbers mural
This was high on our list of things to try out at the festival and it did not disappoint. At the entrance to the mural area, a Cast Member hands you a paint cup and a foam brush. The paint cup has a number on top of it and you just have to find those numbers on the giant canvas and paint six of the squares with it. Mine was hard to find and there weren’t many spots for the light green, but we eventually found an area with a cluster. It’s relatively easy to do the squares because your brush is conveniently the same height/width as them. Just watch out for paint on the ground because people do drip. I had to crouch down to paint mine and realized too late that my skirt was sitting atop a bunch of (thankfully dried) paint drips from other guests, which could’ve been very bad.
Once you finish your squares, you can head out the exit and dump your paint cup. A Cast Member there gave us each a postcard and had us mark the back sides with the paint colors we used. Pro tip: Use as little paint as possible for this because you’re stuck carrying it until it dries. I put mine on way too thick because I had to be cute and make K instead of just a little dab of paint and was still fanning it fifteen minutes later.
Note that the paint by numbers mural closes at 5:00 during the festival, so make sure to hit it earlier in the day.
Famous painting photos
At several locations around the park, you’ll find special giant works of art that you can step into for a photo. I love these because most of the main subjects have been removed so you get to take their places. Some of them had PhotoPass photographers stationed at them, but others didn’t and we had to take turns snapping each other’s pictures. Disney’s website says that PhotoPass is available at all of them except Mexico, but we only found a photographer at one. Worth noting – the lighting for them is not good after dark, so if you want to pose for art photos, try to make it through them during daylight.
My favorite was the Mona Lisa near the Italy pavilion because my long brown hair makes it easy to step into the frame for that one. It was also paired with The Scream. Italy also had The Birth of Venus nearby. The American Adventure pavilion has Washington Crossing the Delaware. France has The Luncheon of the Boating Party. Mexico has a Frida Kahlo photo op, but Disney’s site specifically says that no PhotoPass is available there for some reason. The UK pavilion has a giant Peter Pan storybook you can pose it. The friend I was with declined to have me pose as a sultry mermaid to her Peter Pan though. We also found the Van Goghs pictured above near the mural.
Animation Academy drawing classes
Located in the America Gardens theater, these animation classes take place twice daily during the festival. You’ll learn how to draw a Disney character from one of the artists. I miss having this opportunity at Hollywood Studios, so it’s a nice addition to the festival.
Figment’s Brush with the Masters scavenger hunt
This activity is pay-to-play since you have to purchase the scavenger hunt map, but it’s only a few bucks and the whole family can participate together. Once you get your map, you need to find Figment hiding in famous works of art throughout the World Showcase pavilions. Place a sticker marking each country as you find it and once you’ve completed all of them, you can return the map for a prize.
There are several stations set up around World Showcase where you can make or design your own art or souvenirs. Options include customizing a Festival of the Arts shirt that gets screen printed right on the spot and making your own spin art to take home. The Glaskunst kiosk in front of the German pavilion even had opportunities to make your own glass art by arranging colored pieces into your own special design.
Special workshops at Festival of the Arts
Paint with a Disney artist
One of the more unique (and pricy) offerings with Festival of the Arts is the opportunity to sign up for a workshop painting with a Disney artist. Offered on select days during the festival, you can register for special painting workshops in the park. These are located either in World Showcase or in the Seas pavilion. At $259/person, they aren’t cheap, but they do last 4.5 hours and include either a continental breakfast or refreshments depending on the time of day, and you do get to paint your own canvas.
These are definitely on the more affordable end of the spectrum at $45/person. You can choose different options such as painting a Disney character, sketching, 3D paper art, and making a flip book. The workshops are offered on weekends throughout the festival. Check out the schedule here.
Festival of the Arts entertainment
Disney on Broadway
This series of special shows at the America Gardens theater features Broadway stars singing familiar songs from the Disney stage shows. We saw Kara Lindsay and Kevin Massey who are known for starring in Newsies and Tarzan respectively. They also happen to be married in real life and did several songs together. I definitely need to check out Newsies now as it was somehow left out of our very Disney-centric VHS collection when I was growing up. You’ll find three performances each evening throughout the festival. You can also purchase a dining package that guarantees you a spot at the show, though we found the theater half empty on a Saturday night, so the crowds don’t seem as crazy as they are for things like the Candlelight Processional. Each performer has their own set list, performing songs suited to their voice and style, so the shows will vary throughout the festival. Check the schedule here.
Art Defying Gravity
This acrobatic show takes place four times daily in Showcase Plaza throughout the festival. The acrobats will amaze you with their strength and flexibility as they perform feats that make me sore just thinking about.
Epcot living statues
One of the fun, more subtle entertainment offerings at the festival is the living statues. They’re located near the Future World Joffrey’s Coffee location, right in front of the current Mouse Gear store and soon-to-be Guardians of the Galaxy ride. They’re dressed to represent different different themes like motion and space and will pull silly antics as you pose for photos with them.
Festival of the Arts merchandise
As with all Epcot festivals, there’s a slew of Festival of the Arts merchandise for sale. To my great joy, it’s very Figment-centric, with spirit jerseys, sequin ears, and a whole bunch of other items you can buy with his likeness on them. You can find these items in Mouse Gear as well as in several of the tents set up around World Showcase for the festival.
Festival of the Arts Figment souvenirs
The Festival of the Arts merchandise is very Figment oriented, which is delightful for this purple dragon-loving blogger. You can get your classic t-shirts with the Figment Paint Co., and no special Disney event would be complete without a corresponding spirit jersey in this day and age. The purple sequined Minnie ears were gorgeous, and if I hadn’t already been wearing Figment ears I would’ve been tempted to buy them.
You can also get super cute Figment mugs with silicone toppers, which look great, but I haven’t been able to think of a scenario in which I’d actually use. There are large Figment tumblers and silicone straws. I picked up the set of straws to keep in my suitcase when I travel since it went along with my 2020 travel goals to be more environmentally friendly when I’m on the road.
Disney art for sale
As you stroll around World Showcase, you’ll find tons of tents selling Disney artwork. Subjects include almost every Disney character imaginable, Disney parks attractions, and Star Wars (this tent was absolutely slammed with people, probably because of the Baby Yoda canvas outside – we checked and couldn’t dig up a litho print of this one though, which was probably for the best because we’d flown Spirit with no bags). It ranges in price depending on the artist, size, and format you choose, but even though we definitely weren’t buying it was fun to browse.
Things for kids to do at the International Festival of the Arts
Several of the activities mentioned above are great for kids, but there are also a couple things targeted just for little ones. Future World West has an area where kids can make their own chalk drawings from 10:00-4:00 daily during the festival. This is subject to weather, as chalk drawings in the rain aren’t much fun, but it’s a great way to take a breather. The Green Landing play zone features Wall-E and Eve, and is another great spot for kids to blow off some energy.
In addition to these, check out the other great kid options covered above:
- Paint by Numbers mural
- Figment’s Brush with the Masters scavenger hunt
- Kid-friendly snack options labeled at festival kiosks – that Figment white chocolate puzzle would be fantastic for kids!
- Animation Academy drawing classes
- Living statues for photo ops
- Art photo ops (particularly the Peter Pan one near the UK pavilion)
Practical information for attending the Festival of the Arts
When to go
The Festival of the Arts runs for approximately six weeks during January and February, slotting in nicely between the Festival of the Holidays and the Flower and Garden Festival. Weekends will be busier, particularly for the Princess Half Marathon (February 23, 2020), as will the February weeks when some schools have breaks, but this is generally a slower time of year overall. Unless you want to attend one of the special workshops that are only offered on weekends, I’d plan a weekday visit if possible.
Festival of the Arts admission
With the exception of the paid workshops and scavenger hunt, the Festival of the Arts is included with your Epcot admission. You can buy a one-day/one-park ticket starting at $109. If you’re spending more days, check out my favorite discount site, Undercover Tourist, which (unlike some sketchy online stores) is an official Disney ticket partner so the tickets are legit. I used them pretty much exclusively for my tickets until I decided to get my annual pass.
Festival of the Arts strategy
Here are a few tips I’d recommend to make the most of your visit to Festival of the Arts:
- Book your FastPasses in the morning. Currently, the majority of Epcot’s FastPass+ selections are located in Future World. This area of the park typically opens at 9, while most of World Showcase doesn’t open until 11. Try to book your FastPasses as early as you can so that you don’t have to run back and forth between World Showcase and Future World to use them. Epcot is huge and you will wear yourself out and waste a lot of time otherwise.
- Skip dining reservations. Epcot is the one park I almost always book a table service meal at, but for festivals I like to enjoy the kiosks. Many of the dishes only appear at the festival for one year and don’t return so you might as well enjoy the limited time offerings.
- Use dining plan snack credits – There were multiple food items at the kiosks that counted as Disney Dining Plan snack credits that cost more than $9. That is a phenomenal use of snack credits and gives you way more bang for your buck than buying a bottle of pop will. If you’re on the Dining Plan, shop around and see just how far your credits can go.
- Pick up a festival guide when you start. This will help you scope out what the different kiosks are offering so that you don’t miss out on something delicious. If you really want to prepare ahead of time, check out the menus online, but even though I had done that, I forgot almost everything outside of “something with barbacoa and a champagne mousse dessert” when I got to the park. The guidebook has every kiosk food as well as a list of all the activities you can enjoy.
- Get a free cookie if you purchase and get stamps for certain entrees. We were going to try for this, but when we looked at the 5 food items we were required to purchase we weren’t that impressed so we stuck to the foods we actually wanted to try. But if you’re into them, go for it. You’re probably going to buy at least five things anyway, so you might as well get a free cookie out of it.
- Don’t forget to drink water. I was so full of food and sugar that even water didn’t sound appealing by the end of the night, but with all the walking you’re doing you’ll definitely want to stay hydrated.
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