Ok, I’ll admit it. At the first announcement, the Epcot International Festival of the Arts didn’t seem like it would be that great. Even as the menu was announced my interest in the festival remained as muted as the tones of Picasso’s dark period. Alas, on opening day my Twitter feed flooded with photos and remarks about the creativity and fun found throughout the festival. Suddenly my interest sprang to life.
In its inaugural year, the Epcot International Festival of the Arts is offered Fridays through Mondays January 13 – February 20, 2017. Six weeks may seem like a substantial run, but when you consider the Epcot International Food and Wine festival runs for 16 weeks this year, this seems like a mini featurette. While the Festival of the Arts is not brimming with all the frills and frivolity of the Food and Wine, and the Flower and Garden festivals, there is still a lot to enjoy and if you’re not careful you might miss some of the offerings. So, before you head out the door this weekend here’s our Epcot Art Festival Tips.
Epcot Art Festival Tip #1: Grab the guides
Even if you are an Epcot pro, you’ll need to grab three pieces of collateral: the Times Guide, World Showcase Gallery Guide, and the Festival Passport. The Times Guide is always a good idea no matter if you visit during a festival or not because there is so much incredible live entertainment in Epcot. For the Arts Festival the inside of the Times Guides lists the schedule of the seminars, art workshops, entertainment at the fountain stage, visiting artists’ schedule, and the special festival entertainment offered in Japan.
The World Showcase Gallery Guide can potentially be a guide to disappointment because it lists some of the items of interests found in six of the galleries that are open year-round in some of the World Showcase pavilions. Admittedly I was in such a weekend haze that I didn’t quite realize the guide was for the existing year-round galleries.
In a moment of embarassment I pointed out the TRON Lightcycle Maquette listed on the guide to my boyfriend; when we neared the China Pavilion we found the gallery and realized it was the year-round exhibit “Inside Shanghai Disney Resort.” (Yes, I realize it says as much in the guide itself – clearly the two cups of coffee we each had that morning still hadn’t taken effect). Still, it is nice that these oft-overlooked exhibits may start to get more attention now.
The Festival Passport is a must have. Not only does it list every food and beverage offering of the festival, it acts as a great souvenir. Plus, it lists every single activity offered during the festival, though the specific times are not listed, which is where the Times Guide comes in handy.
Epcot Art Festival Tip #2: Chow down at the Food Studios
It just wouldn’t be a festival at Epcot without food and beverage booths to tempt our palates and our wallets. The Painter’s Palate at the Odyssey Festival showplace is a great place to start. The Trio of Savory Croissant Donuts ($9.50) paired with the Neopolitan Beer Flights ($9.00) is a good way to wake up your palate while sharing with friends or family. I really enjoyed taking one sip of each beer, one right after the other in order: 3 Daughters Queens Court Strawberry Blonde Nitro, Breckenridge Nitro Vanilla Porter, and Young’s Double Chocolate Stout.
Other hits during our visit included the BLT ($6.50) and Cobb Salad ($7.50) from the E=AT2 booth, near Mexico pavilion. I also enjoyed the Classic Sidecar with Chocolate Twist ($9.50) from the Masterpiece Kitchen near Canada Pavilion. You can view the full menu here and better yet, read over the hits and misses of the food & beverage offerings.
It is also important to note that many of the year-round snack kiosks are offering one or two festival specific snacks or drinks. These are listed in the Festival Passport.
Epcot Art Festival Tip #2.5: There may be lines as you wait to dine
The food and beverage at this festival is elevated in many ways compared to the other festivals’ food and beverage. The plating and presentation is much more artistic and aesthetically pleasing. Instagrammers rejoice! Each plate is photo ready! This also means that it takes longer for these little masterpieces to be ready for their close up, resulting in long lines and slow delivery times. But most everything is worth the wait.
Epcot Art Festival Tip #3: Sign up for Seminars
Art Workshops are once each day Friday – Monday at 11:00 AM in the Odyssey Festival Center. Each day is a different topic such as Floral Arranging or Gesture Drawing Class. These workshops cost $39.00, Annual Passholders and Disney Vacation Club members receive a discount. In addition to these workshops there are two seminars each day at 1:30 PM and 4:00 PM, also offered in the Odyssey Festival Center. These are complementary. You’ll need to check in at the Festival Center desk inside the Odyssey building about an hour and a half before the seminar is scheduled to begin. You’ll then need to line up around 15 – 30 minutes before the seminar for seating.
Epcot Art Festival Tip #4: Get into the art!
Epcot has some of the most Photopass Photographers of any Disney theme park and they’re out in full force at this festival. There are multiple photo opportunities throughout the park, just for the festival, but the runaway hits are the three spots around World Showcase where you can actually become part of some of the most recognizable paintings from around the world. There are Photopass Photographers at the ready at each of these spots, and most will gladly snap a pic using your phone as well.
Epcot Art Festival Tip #5: Meet the artists
Art festivals are held in cities throughout the country, usually in the Fall and Spring. Perhaps you’ve been to a few either in your hometown or when visiting somewhere new. One of the fun things about art festivals is talking with the artists and crafts people as they display and sell their work.
At Epcot’s festival you get the pleasure of engaging with artists throughout World Showcase as they display their work. Many are Disney favorites while others are newcomers. These artists will gladly sign any work of theirs that you purchase at their tent as well. I loved watching many of these artists create new work before our very eyes along the Showcase promenade.
Epcot Art Festival Tip #6: Character meet and greet spots get artsy
Though a small touch, there is a nice addition to many of the World Showcase character meet and greet locations. Easels with a piece of character artwork stand proudly adding a nice artistic element to these greeting spots. They make for a great festival-specific visual moment, especially in guest photos with these characters. During my visit I noticed Donald Duck in Mexico, Snow White in Germany, and Alice in the United Kingdom pavilion each have their own easel.
Epcot Art Festival Tip #7: Check out the murals
At the edge of Future World, along the walkway behind Club Cool and across from the Imagination Pavilion, a large panoramic mural is painted throughout the day. The artist works tirelessly to bring the work of art to life. This mural features elements that celebrate enjoying the world around us, a sentiment that fits very well inside Epcot.
Guests can also get in on the action with a “paint by numbers” mural at the beginning of World Showcase, just before the Canada Pavilion. Guests wait to pick up a small container of paint that corresponds with a specific number on the mural and fill in the matching numbered squares.
It is quite popular and can result in a little bit of a line, though it looked like it was worth it. I wish I had participated during my visit. The goal is the mural will be completed by the end of each weekend and then reset for each weekend after.
Epcot Art Festival Tip #8: Reserve your seat for Disney Broadway show
This is one piece of advice I wish I had given to myself for my own visit. Annual Passholders and Disney Vacation Club members were sent an email with a link to register for reserved seating for the Disney on Broadway show happening each night of the festival. It sounds like this show is a must-hear for any fans of Broadway or Disney music, of course. During my visit guests began to line up for this show an hour and a half before the first performance at 5:30 PM. If you are able to sign up in advance I’d recommend doing so.
Epcot Art Festival Tip #9: Check out all things Figment
Disney quickly learned that Figment sells! And ever since they learned that lesson they’ve gladly featured him on various merchandise, and enjoyed those lovely revenue figures. At this year’s inaugural festival they’ve created some beautiful items that feature that royal purple pigmented dragon.
The Figment topiary located behind Spaceship Earth is an adorable sight, and also a recreation of a topiary found at the Imagination Pavilion back in the 1980’s. Figment also gets his own scavenger hunt, that has been quite the hit already, even if it is $6.99 to participate (though you do get your choice of one of four fun Figment magnets).
Don’t forget to stroll through the Herb Ryman and Mary Blair galleries located inside the Odyssey Festival Showplace. Even the mildest of Disney fans are sure to swoon over these galleries. You can also learn to draw a Disney character in the Animation Academy, an activity that was once a guest favorite at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The Animation Academy is located inside Innoventions East and runs intermittently 9:15 AM – 6:16 PM.
Now is also a great time to visit the Art of Disney store located near the front of Epcot, just behind Spaceship Earth. Even though this store is open all year, there are a few additions brought in for the festival, and it makes a good way to start or wrap up your day of fun at the Epcot International Festival of the Arts.
Lastly, slow down and look around. There quite a few visual delights throughout the festival. Don’t let the temptation of the food and beverage Food Studios take your attention away from the many other ways to enjoy the beauty of this artful festival.