Yesterday I visited Epcot for the opening day of the inaugural Festival of the Arts. This is a brand new event running on six consecutive weekends (Friday through Monday) from January 13th to February 20th featuring seminars, concerts, art showcases, new food options, and more. I spent the whole day at the park, trying (and failing!) to experience everything the festival has to offer, and I can’t wait to tell you guys about what I loved, what I didn’t love – and what I thought was so awesome, I’m going back to see it again tomorrow!
With the name being Festival of the Arts, you would assume that this would be the main focus of the event, and to some extent, it is. There are a number of seminars covering a wide variety of mediums going on over the course of the event; these include classes on animation, truffle making, floral arranging, jewelry making, and mixology. The seminars cost $39 per person, and seats are limited so be sure to book ahead if you think you might be interested. To book a class, call 407-WDW-PLAY, and for a full list of the seminars available, go to the official Festival of the Arts website. I looked in on one of the classes taking place today, and it looked fantastic, although I wish there were just a few classes aimed more at a younger audience so the kids could get involved.
Outside of the seminars, there was plenty of other art to look at and interact with. Festival galleries were spread out around World Showcase, featuring both Disney and non-Disney artists, showcasing a wide variety of talents. There was also an amazing interactive mural being created in the World Showcase Plaza that we had a great time being part of. Guests are assigned a number, a pot of paint, and a paintbrush, and then instructed to paint five squares (only five!) with their number on – kind of like paint by numbers! There was a line to participate in this throughout the day so it seems very popular, and I can’t wait to see the finished product when it’s complete.
I did think that, since the galleries were in the World Showcase, that it would have been a good opportunity to display artists or traditional artwork from those countries. It was nice that some of the artists were there so you could talk to them; some were even creating masterpieces as you walked by. I really enjoyed the interactive nature of this part of the festival.
One of the art seminars being offered
Let’s face it: this was really why I was there. Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival in the fall always used to be the only place where the portable food kiosks popped up everywhere to offer new culinary delights, and then the Flower and Garden Festival in the spring got in on the action. For the last couple of holiday seasons, there have also been food kiosks as part of the Holidays Around the World celebration, and I was starting to wonder if maybe Disney had kind of overdone the food kiosk thing by this point. I saw the menus for the Festival of the Arts when they were released last week, and I thought the food sounded amazing and more importantly, it sounded like all of the items were brand new.
I am happy to say that the food at the festival was fabulous! I planned to sample two or three items, and I’m vaguely ashamed to say that I tried seven different dishes in the space of about eight hours. There wasn’t anything I didn’t enjoy, although out of all of them, the Pop’t Art from The Painter’s Palate was the only thing I struggled to finish (it was very sweet!) My favorite items were a tie between the Trio of Croissant Donuts from The Painter’s Palate, and the BLT from E=AT, both of which not only looked good, but tasted fantastic. In keeping with the art theme, the food was beautifully presented, and although I did find this sometimes meant that the food took longer to prepare, I really liked how much care went into the presentation on each dish. One of the most creative dishes was also one of the simplest ideas. It was a jumbo chocolate chip cookie (when I saw jumbo, I mean it – this thing was the size of the whole plate!) with a hole cut out to resemble an artist’s palate. Four different colors of icing were then added to create the illusion of paint, and it was served with a knife so you could mix the colors together and ‘paint’ the cookie. My 4-year old had a field day with this, and if you’re visiting the festival with kids, I’d definitely recommend getting one (they can be found at a variety of the food kiosks.)
Overall, I can honestly say that I thought the food was better tasting and more creative than what we’ve seen at the Food and Wine Festival in recent years, so this gets a big thumbs up from me.
The Trio of Croissant Donuts from The Painter’s Palate (so yummy!)
As with any Disney special event, there was some new merchandise released, this time featuring the festival’s mascot, Figment. I’ve always loved Figment, and I love that he’s getting some attention outside of his ride (which I’m not the biggest fan of!) The merchandise includes things like t-shirts (including an exclusive Annual Passholder shirt), hats, mugs, travel mugs, and bags. I thought all of it was cute, but I especially liked the mug, which is now at home in my kitchen! I also thought the Annual Passholder shirt was really cute, so if you have an annual pass, definitely ask to see the shirt. The only thing I think they could have added was a sweater of some sort. The festival is held in January and February and, even though this is Florida, there are going to be days when it gets really cold out. Yesterday was wet and chilly all day, and if there had been a sweater offered, I totally would have bought it. Hopefully in future years, this will be something they include.
The ceramic and travel mugs available
One of the things I was most excited about for the festival were the concerts featuring Broadway stars. I love musicals of all kinds, but I admit that I have a real soft spot for Disney musicals. With that in mind, I was thrilled when Disney announced that they would have concerts featuring stars performing songs from Disney musicals such as Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, and Tarzan. The first weekend featured Ashley Brown, who originated the role of Mary Poppins on Broadway, and Josh Strickland, who originated the role of Tarzan on Broadway. They both performed various songs, not only from their musicals, but from other Disney musicals as well. Not surprisingly for stars who are used to performing live, they put on an amazing show, and everyone I spoke to after the concert raved about how good they were. I watched the show from the rear of the theater while trying to rock a sleepy baby and keep a 4-year old still when he just wanted to dance, so I’m excited to go back and see the concert again tomorrow night alone so I can fully pay attention!
There are three shows a night (at 5.30pm, 6.45pm, and 8pm) and the performers will change over the course of the festival. There is also a dinner package available at a variety of Epcot restaurants, and this has reserved seating for the 8pm show only. For a list of performers and more information on the dinner package, go to the official Festival of the Arts website.
Ashley Brown performing Part of Your World from The Little Mermaid on Broadway
Overall, I think this festival is a great addition to Epcot, and something I would highly recommend experiencing if you visit Walt Disney World while it is going on. January and February don’t typically have a lot going on at Walt Disney World, and it’s actually really nice to be able to experience a special event while crowds are a little lower, and temperatures are mostly very comfortable. I really hope this is an event Disney continues to put on long into the future.