I hope you’re hungry, because if you’re not now you will be by the end of this scrumptious article. Let’s begin by noting that any of Disney World’s EPCOT Festivals are worth visiting, whether it’s the Festival of the Arts, the Food and Wine Festival, the Festival of the Holidays, or the Flower and Garden Festival. They all offer something truly unique and beautiful, and Disney has found an outstanding recipe to implement these festivals with their World Showcase to create something uniquely cultural and mesmerizing.
This article is our contribution to both explain what the Festival is, while also providing a real life experience to help you plan your own trip. Make sure you bring an empty tummy, and while you’re here, be sure to visit our pages on some of the other tasty locations to try across the country!
- Hops n Guac, Huntsville, Alabama
- Mother Road Market, Tulsa, Oklahoma
- Hattie B’s, Nashville, Tennessee
- Our Local Eats page!
What Is the Festival of the Arts?
The EPCOT Festival of the Arts, specifically, is Disney’s late-winter, early-spring embrace of everything beautiful in the world, from a variety of art to garden sculptures and enticing food, all from a variety of countries. EPCOT comes alive with the gorgeous plants and flowers that begin to bloom early in the warm, Orlando climate. The entire park is encapsulated in the most wonderful aromas of dishes from across the World Showcase, and eclectic art is displayed for sale from all over.
It’s worth mentioning that EPCOT’s World Showcase is already one of the most authentic cultural experiences you can find outside of the respective country that each location represents. Sure, the United States is full of China Towns, Japanese restaurants, Mexican culture, and plenty of other “Americanized” institutions, but these eleven countries in EPCOT represent the food, art, and even architecture symbolic of those cultures at their very core. The Festival of the Arts takes this one step further by offering even more culinary options that aren’t normally available in the showcase. They even have some pop-up options for countries not represented, like Colombia for Disney’s newer movie Encanto!
Our EPCOT Festival of the Arts Experience!
I could sit here and write a million different versions of how the EPCOT Festival of the Arts is unique and exciting, but ultimately we want to provide an in-depth look into how our own experience played out. This way, should you decide to visit in the upcoming spring, you can pick and choose the various activities in which you personally want to partake! We’ll start with the few rides we rode; EPCOT is still a theme park, after all, and then dive into the wonder of the World Showcase.
Our journey started, as does most, at the main EPCOT landmark: Spaceship Earth. Many lovingly refer to this ride simply as the EPCOT Ball. Spaceship Earth is a hallmark of the park and one of the rides that should be required upon entry, simply because of its history and ease of ride for just about any age group. It takes you through the history of humanity and the various ways in which we, as a species, communicate with each other. Plus, at 16 minutes, it’s a relatively long, educational ride.
After emerging from the darkness of the ball, we worked our way further into the park towards the World Showcase. It was still early, but that didn’t stop the various food aromas from wafting through the park and inviting everyone towards the various countries. We were greeted by the various garden sculptures of Mickey Mouse, Disney’s logo, and tons of other characters as we meandered along EPCOT’s pathways, but our plan was always to visit the rides we wanted first so we could then spend the rest of the day exploring the World Showcase.
Pin Trading and Exploring the Rides
I was able to stop in and do a few pin trades (it’s my guilty pleasure at Disney!), and this was actually the first time we’d been since before COVID. Nowadays, the pin trades are done via a small stand at different locations in the parks. You walk up to the stand, take a look at the various pins, and hand the Disney cast member one of yours while taking the one you fancy. Prior to the pandemic, however, it was a bit more personal (and fun) because various cast members throughout the parks and Disney Springs simply had them on their lanyards, like most folks, and you would take a look at what that particular person had available.
We then proceeded past the new (being built at the time) Guardians of the Galaxy ride and made a loop back to “The Seas with Nemo” and “The Land.” The Seas is a wonderful building containing the Nemo ride, various other activities, and a smorgasbord of aquariums. You can see a variety of aquatic life as you enter and exit the main ride, and the whole location is definitely one of the highlights for children.
Perfect Location for a Quick Break and the Last Rides
The Land is home to “Soarin‘” and “Living With The Land,” along with a restaurant and plenty more activities that focus on the planet we live on and what we folks can do to heal this wonderful, green rock. Specifically, Living With The Land is one of our favorite rides at EPCOT, not because it’s an outstanding thrill ride, but because it is perhaps the most tangible ride that Disney offers. It brings you through a working set of greenhouses displaying a variety of horticulture techniques via boat, which admittedly doesn’t sound super enticing at face value, but it’s incredibly interesting (plus it’s a great way to cool off!). The food that’s being grown and harvested there (including fish) is served in the nearby restaurant.
Our last ride before entering the cultures and countries of the showcase was Journey Into Imagination With Figment. I’ll preface everything by saying this: young kids will enjoy the ride. For our purposes it was our least favorite, by far, but at a 5 minute wait it was one of those we felt obligated to try. Furthermore, it served as a great jump-off point as we then dove into what we were truly there for: The Festival of the Arts.
Our Adventure Through the EPCOT Festival of the Arts!
From the Imagination ride, we then entered the World Showcase just before noon going counter-clockwise along the lake. For those who haven’t been, eleven country pavilions all sit around the very body of water where one of Disney’s closing light and firework shows happens at night. If you plan on trying to really engage at each country, you’ll definitely want the majority of the day to explore. Our very first experience was Canada before moving along to the United Kingdom.
Canada and the United Kingdom
Canada was a bit light on food, but the art they had was outstanding. They focus on the historical potions of Canada’s Native American population, which stands out distinctly from some other countries. The United Kingdom’s food and drink offerings, however, were a different story. The UK is always a lively location, and should be one of the main stops at the showcase. It’s chock full of shops that offer everything from soccer/football kit to family crests and princess dresses. The mainstay is the pub, though. You can head in and get a full meal or stop off at the bar and grab a drink or a flight of UK beer. Just outside the pub are gorgeous seating areas along the lake, just beware of the overly friendly birds!
France and Morocco – Two Distinct EPCOT Flavors
We then proceeded further along the lake to France and Morocco. France was another hotspot with one of their Festival of the Arts food offerings being a brie bread bowl. The art of France was also rather eclectic, and the whole pavilion was probably one of the most populated ones in the showcase. If you enjoy wine, this is a location you have to visit, whether it’s to buy bottles or drink in the restaurants.
Morocco was a highlight stop for us. France was so busy and we just weren’t feeling the food there at the time, but Morocco screamed for us to hang out a while. The smells of Moroccan food were intoxicating, as the spices they use are so distinct and wonderful. We took a moment to actually sit down and eat at the Spice Road Table, trying lamb kefta, spiced chicken, and tiropitakia. And more beer!
Japan and The American Adventure – Center of EPCOT
If Morocco was a highlight stop, Japan is perhaps the gem of the World Showcase. We love Japanese culture and asian food in general, and Japan did not disappoint. The first location we hit was the Festival of the Art’s pop-up cart where I was able to get a personalized wooden cup full of sake. Meanwhile, the talented Matsuriza drummers performed at the base of one of the Japanese towers, and the dazzling colors and disciplined horticulture of Japan were on full display.
We made it a point to pop in the Teppan Edo and Tokyo Dining restaurant to snag some outstanding sushi (some spicy salmon, crunch roll, and sashimi). Finally, we hiked through the massive Mitsukoshi store. Mitsukoshi is an extravagant shop that runs along the bottom floor of the entire Japan pavilion. It contains a variety of goods, mementos, snacks, and other items indicative of Japanese culture. You can purchase bottles of sake, Pocky, beautiful traditional kimonos, Buddhist figures, and a variety of pop culture items like Pokemon plushes, Mario figures, and Dragonball keepsakes.
We then moved onward to the American Adventure pavilion. America is the centermost locale on the showcase and is simply a celebration of all things United States. Admittedly, the restaurants there all offer food you’ve likely had before but it’s an outstanding spot to sit, relax, and enjoy a comfort meal while overlooking the whole lagoon. Don’t take our lack of activity there as a reason to skip this pavilion, though! It’s totally worth checking out, but we had a ton of other experiences and food awaiting in the next few countries.
Italy and Germany – A Pair of EPCOT centerpieces
The next two stops along the showcase were Italy and Germany. Both of these countries offer a huge variety of both food and shopping, and of course beer and wine are two of the tasty staples. Germany offers a wonderful Christmas store along with a great selection of beer steins. Italy, on the other hand, has a classy wine-cellar themed restaurant surrounded by a tall bell tower and beautiful Italian fountains.
We had to take a moment to indulge in some legit German brats and a tasty, tart grapefruit witbier. The beer even came in a neat souvenir stein, and the brats themselves were incredibly delicious. We also took a moment to dream about some of the Italian wines on display. Rest assured they have offerings for anyone from a day drinker to a true sommelier, with price points to match. Also, Italy’s pavilion is gorgeous and they have many different spots to take some extraordinary photos, for all you social media lovers!
China and Norway
The last few stops along the showcase are the massive China pavilion, the mythological Norway section, and the indoor Mexico temple. China offers some of the most beautiful horticulture and garden sculptures, as well as a neat Circle-360 film called Reflections of China. It’s essentially a large room you enter with screens fully encircling the walls. The show takes you along the Great Wall of China and explores Chinese culture. Like Japan, China has a very large shop and some extravagantly detailed restaurants. We were able to stop in at the Festival of the Arts booth, though, and grab some amazing Char Siu Pork Buns, which are essentially doughy bread buns filled with meat and topped with a tasty sauce.
We then moved onward to one of my favorite pavilions, Norway. Norway focuses on the Viking culture and history of the north regions, and explores mythological figures like Thor, Freyja, and Odin. The buildings are shaped like longhouses and one such building is dedicated to a bit of education about Norse mythology. This is also where you can head into a royal banquet hall to feast like a king, and Anna and Elsa from Frozen may make an appearance!
Mexico – The Indoor Gem of EPCOT
The last country along the showcase (or first, if you go the opposite direction) is Mexico. Mexico is unique in that it’s primarily located indoors, specifically within a large Mayan temple. Don’t get it twisted, though, the entire pavilion is still a wonder to behold, but you’ll spend the lion’s share of time indoors. This makes it a great, albeit busy, spot during one of those Orlando afternoon rainstorms.
The food you’ll find in Mexico is second to none. We snagged an order each of their Festival of the Art’s carne asada and huarache verde, and they were both absolutely phenomenal. We also spent time checking out the folk art gallery before taking a quick ride on the Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros. This particular ride is inspired by the old The Three Caballero’s movie, and stars Donald Duck as you take a trip through various Mexican locales. It’s a wonderful, colorful ride that’s very fitting for both kids and adults.
The Mexico pavilion also pays immense homage to Mexico’s Día de los Muertos. Sugar skulls and various traditional garb adorn the inside of the Mayan temple. One store sells a variety of beautiful jewelry and another offers many different kinds of tequila and tequila-based drinks. But all the while, the Day of the Dead decorations serve as a stark reminder to one of Mexico’s most important holidays.
The Festival of the Arts is perhaps one of the best times to visit Epcot if you’re a foodie. Yes, they have the Food and Wine Festival where the food is obviously a huge focus, but the treats in which you can indulge at this particular festival have a distinct cultural flair. If you travel like we did, our goal was to try small amount of food from as many countries as we wanted, and we were successful. If you decide to mainly eat from the festival popups and not the main restaurants in each country, you can expect to spend an extra $30-$100 per person depending on how much food you desire. In our case, we would often buy one plate and share the meal just to get a taste of each flavor.
After we’d explored the countries and ate all the food we could muster, we had to end the night taking in Epcot’s grand finale show, Harmonious. Harmonious is a water fountain and firework show that celebrates Disney music, and it hits on some of the most famous songs in Disney’s history. Like all of the park’s finales, expect a hail of fireworks as it’s wrapping up!
We truly hope this guide/recount of our own adventures can help you with your own decisions for your own visit when the next Festival of the Arts comes around. We had an outstanding time, and we’re sure you will, as well!