Ultimate Epcot Festivals Guide – Calendar, FAQs & Tips
The Epcot festivals are among the most popular special events at Disney World. In fact, between the delicious themed dishes and drinks on offer at the food and beverage booths, exciting entertainment, fun activities and unique decorations, some people actually plan their entire Walt Disney World vacation around them. And not only are they a hit with tourists, but they’re beloved by Central Florida locals, too.
If you haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing one of these seasonal Epcot events yet, knowing which one to go to and how to tackle it can be a little overwhelming, to say the least. Luckily, we’ve had the chance to explore them all. So, no matter if you’re heading on a Walt Disney World trip in the next few months and there happens to be an Epcot festival happening or you’re planning a future Disney vacation around a specific seasonal celebration, this Epcot festival guide will give you a crash course on everything you need to know about these fun events. Let’s get started!
Epcot Festival Guides
Looking for more detailed information about one Epcot festival in particular? You’re in luck! We have comprehensive guides (and foodie guides, too!) for each of these special Epcot events. Just follow the links below:
With the debut of the Festival of the Arts in 2017, there are now four different seasonal Epcot festivals available throughout the year. In fact, there are actually very few days when there isn’t an Epcot festival happening. Here are all of the Epcot festival dates for 2023 and the anticipated event schedule for 2024 (note that the 2024 dates are only educated guesses based on past years):
Epcot Festival Dates 2023
Festival of the Arts – Friday, January 13 to Monday, February 20
Flower and Garden Festival – Wednesday, March 1 to Wednesday, July 5
Food and Wine Festival – Thursday, July 27 to Saturday, November 18
Festival of the Holidays – Friday, November 25 to Saturday, December 30
Epcot Festival Dates 2024 (TBD)
Festival of the Arts – Friday, January 12 to Monday, February 19 (subject to change)
Flower and Garden Festival – Friday, March 1 to Friday, July 5 (subject to change)
Food and Wine Festival – Thursday, July 25 to Saturday, November 16 (subject to change)
Festival of the Holidays – Thursday, November 28 to Monday, December 30 (subject to change)
Epcot Festivals: What Are They & What to Expect
No matter if you’re headed to Epcot for the Festival of the Arts, Flower and Garden Festival, Food and Wine Festival or Festival of the Holidays, each of these seasonal celebrations have a few things in common. Here’s everything you can expect at all the festivals at Epcot, regardless of the event:
Epcot Food and Beverage Booths As Far As the Eye Can See
Don’t let the names fool you! You won’t just find booths peddling tasty bites and beverages at the Epcot Food and Wine Festival. Each of the Epcot festivals has its own specially named food booths that cook up unique, limited-time items inspired by both the overall celebration in general and a more specific, festival-related theme. There are also a few permanent snack stands that join the party with their own festival specialties. The vast majority of the booths are located around World Showcase, although there are a few peppered around Future World in World Nature, World Celebration and World Discovery. In other words, they’re the perfect excuse to do some eating and drinking around the world. Paralyzed by all of the options? Don’t worry—Disney has your back with themed food strolls geared toward what’s on offer at each festival.
Headliner Show in the Evenings at America Gardens Theatre
Along with all the yummy things to enjoy, each Epcot festival also boasts a feature show that takes place a few times each evening at America Gardens Theatre in the American Adventure Pavilion. While live music is a defining feature, these headlining entertainment offerings can vary considerably from festival to festival. Think big-name bands or, in the case of Festival of the Holidays’ Candlelight Processional, a retelling of the Christmas story with a celebrity narrator, orchestra and cast-member choir. Seating to these performances is limited, and guests have been known to wait in line for hours for a good view. Dining packages are available for guaranteed seating.
Other Unique Activities & Entertainment
In addition to the concert at American Gardens Theatre, each of these seasonal Epcot events offers a range of unique festival activities that take inspiration from the overall theme of the celebration. These can be anything from free drawing classes and collaborative paint-by-numbers walls to cultural storytellers relaying tales of holiday traditions, pricey cooking classes or a butterfly house. Each festival also has a themed scavenger hunt. Although you need to pay to participate, once you’ve completed the activity—searching for specific items around World Showcase and then matching their location on a map with stickers—you can show it to a cast member for a small prize (typically a small sweet or souvenir).
Just like other seasonal celebrations at Walt Disney World, like in the months leading up to fall and, ultimately, Halloween and during the winter holidays, the Epcot festivals see the park get all dressed up for the event with themed decorations. This is especially true during the Epcot Flower & Garden Festival, which blooms to life with vibrant, Disney character-inspired topiaries, and the Festival of the Holidays, which decks the halls of World Showcase and beyond with the culturally inspired trimmings and trappings of the holiday season.
Limited-Time Festival Merchandise
Each Epcot event brings with it an assortment of limited-time festival merchandise inspired by the celebration’s theme for that year. Souvenir offerings at the various festival markets run the gamut from apparel like spirit jerseys and Mickey ears to home goods. Some of the available festival merchandise is even designed for use at the event itself like little trays to carry around your dishes and drinks.
Admission Is Included (Extras Are Not)
For those of you wondering if access to these Epcot festivals is free, you’re in luck! You don’t need to pay anything (unless you want to) to experience any of the seasonal celebrations. Entrance to all the festivals at Epcot is included with your park ticket. However, your valid theme park admission only covers certain festival offerings, like the featured show at America Gardens Theatre, select activities and access to the food and beverage booths. If you actually want to try some of the snacks and sips that are available, or you want to participate in certain festival activities, that will come at an additional cost. While prices for dishes and drinks range from around $5 to $10 per serving, for-purchase activities and entertainment offerings can vary greatly, from around $10 for the scavenger hunt to $100 and up for more exclusive events.
Crowds, Crowds and More Crowds
That’s right—the Epcot festivals are BUSY. These events are incredibly popular with tourists and locals alike. As a result, things can get pretty packed around World Showcase Lagoon. Expect it to be especially crowded on the weekends and, to a lesser extent, in the evenings during the weekdays.
Get to Know the Epcot Festivals: Which Seasonal Event Is Right for You
Can’t decide which Epcot festival to plan your Walt Disney World vacation around? Here’s a brief overview of what each of these seasonal celebrations has to offer.
Epcot International Festival of the Arts
Started in 2017, the Festival of the Arts is the newest special soiree to join the ranks of Epcot’s beloved seasonal events. Although it’s the youngest Epcot festival of the bunch, we’re going to go out on a limb and say it’s also our favorite. In general, the Festival of the Arts is an homage to all things artsy, using the culinary, visual and performing arts as its muses.
Sadly, the Festival of the Arts also happens to be one of Epcot’s shortest festivals. Short but oh-so-sweet, it typically only runs from mid-January through mid-to-late February. As a result, it also boasts what could be the best weather of any Epcot event. So, if you do happen to be visiting Walt Disney World during that time, then you’ll definitely want to plan at least a day here to experience everything on offer.
Aside from the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival, the Festival of the Arts is easily one of the park’s most colorful seasonal celebrations, with a whole rainbow of things to see and do. Highlights at the Epcot International Festival of the Arts include:
Disney on Broadway Concert Series – Showstopping musical performances by Disney on Broadway’s biggest stars
Food Studios – Artfully plated snacks and sips with creative, colorful flair that shine a spotlight on Disney’s culinary arts team
The Wonderful Walk of Colorful Cuisine – Food stroll featuring a selection of oversaturated bites
Artistry in Action – Live musical, acrobatic and visual arts performances
Art galleries – Displays of artwork available to purchase and peruse, as well as the opportunity to meet the artists
Figment’s Brush with the Masters – Scavenger hunt featuring Figment the purple dragon from Journey Into Imagination With Figment
Animation Academy – Step-by-step art lessons for artists of all skill levels led by Disney artists
Artsy Photo Ops – Backdrops that allow you to step into some of history’s most recognizable masterpieces
Chalk Artists – Ephemeral sidewalk galleries located on World Showcase Plaza bridge
Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival
The fairy godmother of Epcot festivals, the Flower and Garden Festival is the park’s longest-running seasonal celebration and has been springing to life since 1994. As you can probably tell from the name, the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival is a riot of vibrant blooms, with fresh, seasonally inspired snacks and sips and green thumb-worthy activities to match. In fact, we can’t think of a more beautiful time to visit Epcot than during the Flower and Garden Festival. It truly is a stunning time to explore the park.
One of Epcot’s longest festivals, this springtime event takes over the park for around four whole months, running from the beginning of March through early July. Naturally, the weather really starts to heat up towards the end. So, if possible, try to plan your trip for earlier in the season to take advantage of the balmier temperatures.
Taking inspiration from the beauty and bounty of Mother Nature, the Epcot Flower & Garden Festival offers a greenhouse full of colorful blooms, fresh flavors and springy activities. Highlights include:
Garden Rocks Concert Series – Live concerts by some world-renowned old-school acts
Outdoor Kitchens – Garden-fresh fare featuring the flavors of the season
Garden Graze – Food stroll starring a selection of plant-based items
Disney Topiaries – Living sculptures of beloved Disney characters
Global Gardens and Exhibits – Dazzling displays lovingly tended by the Disney horticulture team, like a Shakespeare Garden, English Tea Garden, China Zodiac Garden and more
Spike’s Pollen-Nation Exploration – Scavenger hunt featuring Spike the Bee
Butterfly House – A walkthrough exhibit featuring different types of butterflies in various life stages
Epcot International Food & Wine Festival
Another heavy hitter when it comes to Epcot’s seasonal celebrations, the Epcot Food and Wine Festival has basically been a hit ever since it hit the scene back in 1996. Easily the most popular festival Epcot has to offer (because who doesn’t love food and boozy beverages?), the Epcot Food and Wine Festival has basically set the standard for the park’s other special events. In fact, not only are many of the event’s original food booths still operating, but some of the initial dishes are still on the menu, too, like the pierogis from Poland, apple strudel from Germany and, of course, Canada’s insanely popular cheddar cheese soup. And while cooking demonstrations have been nixed the past few years due to the pandemic, even national treasure and culinary icon Julia Child was a guest chef back in 1997.
Similar to the other O.G. Epcot festival, Flower and Garden, the Epcot Food & Wine Festival is one of the park’s marathon festivals. Running from around mid-to-late July until the middle of November, there are plenty of opportunities for foodies of all ages to sample the many delightful dishes and drinks on offer. That said, since the Epcot Food and Wine Festival does start in July, we recommend visiting later on in the event, if possible, to avoid the hot summer days and the high chance of hurricanes.
As you might imagine, guests planning to visit Disney World during the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival can enjoy a smorgasbord of globally inspired eats. However, you’ll also find a veritable buffet of other gastronomically themed activities. Highlights include:
Eat to the Beat Concert Series – Live concerts by big-name acts from the ’80s, ’90s and 2000s
Global Marketplaces – Cross-cultural selection of international cuisines
Emile’s Fromage Montage – Food stroll featuring all things cheese
Remy’s Ratatouille Hide & Squeak – Scavenger hunt starring Chef Remy from Ratatouille
Pluto’s Pumpkin Pursuit – Limited-time scavenger hunt with Disney character-inspired pumpkins
Culinary Demonstrations and Drink Seminars (Past Years) – Learn how to cook with the best of them during these chef-led experiences
Epcot International Festival of the Holidays
It’s no secret that the winter holidays are among our favorite times to go to Disney World, and Epcot’s International Festival of the Holidays only makes us love that festive time of the year even more. Originally known as Holidays Around the World, this Epcot celebration first got its start back in 1996 before being rebranded as the International Festival of the Holidays in 2016. With its cozy food and beverage offerings, merry decorations, yuletide activities with a cultural twist and the ever-popular Candlelight Processional, this is another Epcot festival that we wish lasted a little bit longer.
Unfortunately, similar to the Festival of the Arts, the International Festival of the Holidays is woefully short, lasting just about a month and running from late November through the end of December. On the bright side, you won’t have to worry about unbearably hot and rainy days. In fact, you may even want to pack a sweater in case the night gets chilly. How festive!
Have you ever wondered how different cultures across the globe celebrate Christmas or other winter holidays? Well, here’s your chance. This jolly holiday celebration offers a whole sleighful of festive activities that are sure to put you in a merry mood.
Candlelight Processional – Joyful retelling of the Christmas story with a rotating cast of celebrity narrators, a massed cast-member choir and a 50-piece orchestra
Holiday Kitchens – Festive dishes inspired by culinary traditions from around the world
Holiday Cookie Stroll – Food stroll featuring a freshly baked selection of everyone’s favorite winter treat
Holiday Storytellers – Short performances about how different cultures celebrate their respective holiday traditions
Olaf’s Holiday Tradition Expedition – Scavenger hunt featuring Olaf the Snowman from Frozen
Merry Ride Makeovers – Select attractions undergo a festive transformation, like twinkle lights in Living With the Land and a Christmas-y soundtrack for Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind
Tips to Make the Most of Your Epcot Festival Experience
Ready to plan your festival visit to Disney World? Here are some tips and tricks to make sure you have a stress-free, fun-filled experience.
Go During the Weekdays If Possible
Given the popularity of the Epcot festivals with Orlando locals, the weekends tend to be incredibly busy. As a result, if you can, we highly recommend you visit during the weekdays to try and avoid the crowds as much as possible. Not only will this help you accomplish more, but it will also save you the potential headache that comes with fighting the masses.
Look at the Food Booth Menus Before You Arrive
There are a TON of dishes and drinks to choose from no matter which Epcot festival you decide to go to. Rather than wasting precious time walking around trying to figure out what you want on the fly, assess the situation beforehand by checking out the menus prior to your arrival.
Pick Up a Map and Festival Passport On the Way In
Epcot is a massive theme park, and it can be difficult to figure out where a specific food booth or attraction is. By that same token, it can also be tricky to keep track of all the items you want to try or have tried throughout the day. Grabbing a map and a Festival Passport as you enter the park can save you a bunch of time and hassle. Not to mention, the Festival Passport is also essential if you want to participate in one of the food strolls, as you will need to get stamps certifying that you’ve sampled something to earn your sweet reward at the end.
Sample More Items By Sharing Your Snacks (and the Price)
We don’t know about you, but we like trying as many things as possible when going to a festival at Epcot. However, if you aren’t careful, you can end up breaking both your belt and your budget. By sharing different dishes and drinks on your to-do list, as well as the cost, with other members of your party, you have more space in your stomach (and wallet) to enjoy more items.
Be Prepared to Eat on a Trashcan
This is more of a forewarning than a tip, but we’re hoping to set expectations now so that you aren’t caught off guard in the moment. Although Epcot has an abundance of festival booths, it is woefully lacking in table space. While you will find a good number of standing tables to huddle around and benches to sit on, these can fill up, particularly on busier days. As a result, you may find yourself stuck using the top of a trashcan as a makeshift table. It ain’t pretty, but it will work in a pinch.
Visit Food and Beverage Booths Earlier in the Day
Similar to how the festival weekends can get crazy busy, evenings also tend to be particularly crowded, even during the middle of the week. This is due to the popularity of the events with Orlando locals. So, we suggest that you get a head start on all of your eating and drinking around the world by visiting food booths early on in the day. However, be aware that they don’t follow regular park hours. Whether Food Studios, Outdoor Kitchens, Global Marketplaces or Holiday Kitchens, these Epcot festival food booths typically open around 10:30 or 11:00 AM and remain open until closing time.
Upgrade Your Experience with the Dining Package
For those who want a great seat to the main event of the night, whether that’s a concert or the Candlelight Processional, you may want to consider booking one of the festival dining packages. In addition to a full-course meal at one of the participating restaurants, you also received guaranteed seating. As a result, you won’t have to spend hours in line waiting to claim a good spot. Just be aware that you will still need to show up early, however, to secure one of the best seats in the house.
No matter if you’re imbibing in some alcohol or just sticking to food, remember that balance is key when heading to any of the Epcot festivals. Between the heavy crowds, hot temperatures, long lines and tons of bites and beverages to enjoy, it can be easy to get burnt out or overindulge if you aren’t careful. Make sure you take some breaks throughout your day so that you don’t run out of steam early. While we love taking active breaks by checking out one of the shows or rides, especially if there’s A/C involved or going for a leisurely stroll through the World Showcase pavilions. You can even go back to your hotel room for a nap or some pool time if you’re staying at one of the Disney World hotels in the Epcot Resort Area.
Don’t Miss the Activities
As tempting as it might be to focus only on the tasty stuff and neglect everything else, don’t. In our opinion, some of the best parts of the festivals are all of the other activities that are available, especially for those traveling with kids. After all, they are what set Disney World events apart from other food festivals. They’re also a great way to help balance out your day.
Make a Budget and Stick to It
Although most of the offerings at the festival booths tend to fall within the $5 to $10 range, the cost of all those snacks and sips can creep up quickly if you aren’t careful. So, figure out your food budget before you arrive. Then, once you arrive, consider getting one of the wearable gift cards to help you stay on track.
Skip the Restaurant Reservations
Aside from its four festivals, Epcot is known for its tantalizing variety of fantastic sit-down restaurants. Sadly, a festival is not the time to enjoy one. Although there will likely be more dining reservations available, we think that it makes more sense to graze throughout the day and make one big meal out of all the bites and beverages you enjoy from the booths. After all, that’s kind of why you’re there in the first place.
Well, folks, that brings our guide to the four Epcot festivals to an end. Have you had a chance to check out one (or all) of these special Disney World events? Which one is your favorite? Let us know in the comments! Then, find out how you can make more room in your food budget with our discount tickets to the Disney World theme parks.