Oh, the color!! It’s everywhere at Epcot this winter. For the second year in a row, Epcot is showing its full appreciation for the culinary, performing and visual arts. From January 12th through February 19th, Guests visiting Walt Disney World can stroll through exhibits filled with exquisite paintings and décor, visit food kitchens showcasing delicious delights, enjoy spectacular entertainment on stage and pavement and sharpen their own skills through various seminars and workshops.
For those unfamiliar, the Epcot International Festival of the Arts ran its maiden run last year in 2017 and it was a huge success with Guests, much like its cousins the International Flower & Garden and International Food & Wine Festivals, so it was no surprise to many that the celebration would make a return to the park the following year. I was fortunate enough to have visited the event in 2017 for half a day with a friend and thoroughly enjoyed taste-testing the creatively designed dishes and exploring the tremendous talent on canvas and pavement alike. I’m glad it’s back for another season.
So – what is there to explore at the Epcot International Festival of the Arts? What makes it different than its “cousins”? Well, while I honestly and certainly won’t be able to do it any justice here (because seeing it is simply the best way to experience it), let me see if I can give you a quick synopsis of what there is to appreciate.
An In-“Tents” Amount of Paintings!
Scattered throughout World Showcase are small exhibits showing off iconic and originally inspired pieces of Disney art. This is the one piece that truly separates this particular Festival from its counterparts. Guests have the opportunity to not only take an up close look at the exquisite designs and masterful talent, but may have the pixie dusted chance to rub elbows or chat with the actual artists themselves as some of them work passionately on a piece right there on the Promenade.
Should you find a piece you just can’t live without, you can purchase and take home a copy of an artist’s rendering as a token souvenir from your trip. From Classic Disney characters and scenes from the Star Wars saga to picturesque landscapes and wood art, there is so much talent and beauty on display. (I can’t wait to go purchase the piece I’ve been eyeing since I saw it on Day One!)
Learn from the best!
One of the things I love and find rather special about these seasonal events at Walt Disney World is that Disney puts tremendous effort into providing unique and immersive experiences for the Guest.
During the course of the Festival, Guests can attend any variety of chats, seminars and workshops (some complimentary, others for a small fee) where they can either learn how to draw their favorite character, understand how to better use the camera on their iPhone or find the motivation to pursue their own dreams after listening to an inspirational story from one of many Disney artists / professionals.
From Pavement to Broadway
It’s no secret that the performing arts are a critical part of the Disney heartbeat and there is no shortage of spectacular talent on display at the Festival this year.
For example, while strolling through Future World on our way between there and World showcase, we found a trio of acrobats on the stage near the center fountain performing feats of strength and pliability (third gentleman no shown in picture).
Over near where the new Guardians of the Galaxy attraction is under construction (in Future World), we found chalk artists sprawled out on the sidewalk working on their masterpieces. Just around the corner from them is a plethora of children’s renderings decorating the pavement, as well.
Of course, I would be remiss if I forgot to mention the musical talent that visits Epcot during the Festival. Disney never fails to bring the best of the best to entertain its Guests. During the Festival of the Arts, an array of Broadway stars visit the stage of the American Gardens Theater. Each evening, they sing some of our favorite Disney Broadway tunes. This year’s talent includes performers such as Kevin Massey (Tarzan in Tarzan on Broadway), Jenn Gambatese (Jane in Tarzan on Broadway), Kara Lindsay (Katherine in Newsies!) and Alton Fitzerald White (King Mufasa in The Lion King). Who would you love to see on stage?
Edible Art is Served!!!
I’m not going to lie. This is likely the primary reason my hubby and son are so amenable to visiting the Festival of the Arts with me. They are all about the food and finding out what new edible creations are being offered.
To give you a small sampling of what we found, here are some pics of what we have tried so far (description assistance from the Festival of the Arts Passport):
- Deconstructed Reuben ~ with shredded corned beef, Thousand Island dressing, pickled red cabbage and a rye curl.
- Deconstructed BLT ~ Crispy pork belly, tomato jam and soft poached egg.
- Chebbakia ~ Hand-twisted srips of fried dough coated with honey, rosewater and sesame seeds (pictured above, left)
- Sformato di Melanzane e Pomodori, Mazzarella Fior di Latte ~ Tomato and eggplant terrine, Fior di Latte Mozzarella (pictured below)
- Tacos Puerco ~ Two corn tortillas with slow-roasted pork shoulder, marinated in ancho paste and served with sweet plantain puree garnished with pea tendrils (pictured above, middle).
- S’mores Tart ~ House-smoked buttermilk chocolate cake with chocolate mousse, toasted marshmallow meringue, graham cracker dust and malted milk chocolate sauce (pictured above, right).
- Trio of Savory Croissant Doughnuts ~ Whipped Boursin Garlic & Fine Herbs cheese with fresh herbs, chicken salad with shaved fennel and fresh herbs, spicy tuna with wasabi and seaweed salad (pictured below).
- Gallery Bites: A Trio of Hors d’Ouevres ~ Chilled shrimp with cucumber cream cheese on a crostini, traditional deviled egg with candied bacon, crispy truffled risotto ball with stone-ground mustard (pictured above).
Likes and Dislikes
My least favorite? The tomato and eggplant sampling. One bite was too salty and the next too bland. Having both in the same plate just didn’t appeal to me very much. It was a cold plate, too, which I both didn’t anticipate or appreciate at the time. The likelihood is that I won’t be trying this again. Its plating was attractive, though.
My favorite? Hands down the Trio of Savory Croissant Doughnuts! I could eat that plate after plate. The chicken salad was so savory and the garlic and herb cream cheese had just enough punch to make me smile. Though this was the first time I had raw tuna (I know, hard to believe), I actually enjoyed it and would agree to have it again (though I’m not sure if I could do much more than the portion provided in this option).
*FOOD ALLERGY NOTES:
While there is possible there are Festival food kitchens that can accommodate certain dietary restrictions, we personally do not take that chance with our son’s severe, life-threatening food allergies. When we attend these kinds of events at Epcot, we simply try to create our own specialty dishes at home for our son and then take them with us so that he can enjoy them while we enjoy our own samplings. To keep him from feeling left out, he plays a tremendous part in selecting and preparing those foods by studying the Passport and coming up with similar options.
**UPDATED FOOD ALLERGY NOTE:
I wanted to make sure you were aware of any updates to the above statement. Later on in the year, we did have the opportunity to connect with Disney Chefs to see how someone with food allergies could enjoy any of the Epcot outdoor kitchens during the various festivals. Check out my post where I speak with a Disney Chef directly and when we actually experienced success at a festival!!
While we have explored a great deal of the festival already, I’m eager to get back and enjoy some more. There are still savory treats I crave to taste and seminars I’d like to attend. Of course, I never even touched on the event merchandise being offered. Nor did I discuss the unique photo opportunities located around the park.
TIP: Being an Annual Pass Holder has its perks in that I have access to all the photos taken by PhotoPass Photographers while in the Parks. I just have to download them from the My Disney Experience app a short while after the photo is taken.
So, if you have a Walt Disney World vacation planned between now and February 19th, or if you live locally and have the opportunity to jump over to Epcot, be sure to visit the Festival of the Arts and then share with me here below or on Facebook (Footprints in Pixie Dust by T.M. Brown) what you tried, what you saw and what made you smile.
Until the next steps are taken ~ T
PS ~ Don’t forget to pick up your Passport! This will help you navigate your way around the Festival and know what entertainment there is to see. It will also enable you to document the foods you have tried.
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