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Concept art for new Epcot festival pavilion

4 festivals set to turn Epcot into a foodie fantasyland in 2020

Foodies can travel around the culinary globe at Disney’s Epcot festivals.

In 2020, they will be able to eat and drink their way through four popular events ringing the mile-long promenade of the World Showcase Lagoon, as well as enjoying a new Epcot festival pavilion.

By Brady MacDonald

brady macdonald
Brady MacDonald

A new Epcot festival pavilion will serve as the headquarters for these seasonal events and for live entertainment. The pavilion’s rooftop garden will also be ideal for watching Epcot’s nighttime spectaculars over the World Showcase Lagoon.

Epcot festivals feature in every season of the park. Guests can enjoy the Festival of the Arts in the winter and the International Flower & Garden Festival in late winter and spring. Then the park hosts the International Food & Wine Festival in late summer and autumn. Finally, it is home to the International Festival of the Holidays in autumn and winter.

The seasonal Epcot festivals stretch along the edge of the 40-acre lagoon where the park’s World Showcase celebrates the cultures of nations and regions around the globe.

The Epcot Festival pavilion

“It really is going to be an iconic structure,” Epcot general manager Melissa Valiquette says of the new Epcot festival pavilion. “Guests can really look forward to this as almost a secondary icon in our park.”

New epcot festival pavilion viewed from dreamers point
Concept art for the new Epcot festival pavilion

“When you come to Epcot, you’re going to get great food. When you go to Japan, the food is made by the Japanese and it’s served in Japanese style. The same is true in every one of our countries and in our marketplaces. It’s authentic, it’s credible, it’s been created and developed by people who really know these foods.”

The Epcot festivals team updates each event annually based on visitor feedback. About 20 per cent of the kiosk menus change every year for each festival. The most popular foods, bands and activities from past events are brought back each year.

Four Epcot festivals coming in 2020.

Epcot International Festival of the Arts

Melissa Valiquette epcot festivals team
Melissa Valiquette

The Epcot International Festival of the Arts showcases the visual, culinary and performing arts. It runs from 17 January to 24 February 2020.

“It is a young and growing festival, but every year we have great new content and really amazing artists from all over the world,” Valiquette says. “It’s really a beautiful festival and it’s becoming a fast favourite for a lot of our guests.”

The Disney on Broadway concert series anchors the festival’s entertainment lineup.

“We bring in Broadway artists who have been in Disney shows over the years and they do this beautiful celebration of songs of Disney shows on Broadway.

The Disney on Broadway concert series offers daily performances with music from Broadway shows like “Newsies,” “The Little Mermaid,” “The Lion King,” “Aladdin,” “Mary Poppins” and “Tarzan.”

The lineup features Broadway stars from Disney musicals, including Alton Fitzgerald White (Mufasa), Adam Jacobs (Aladdin), Ashley Brown (Mary Poppins) and Josh Strickland (Tarzan). Throughout Epcot, Disney chefs add an artistic flair reflective of the festival theme to food and drinks on the kiosk menus.

Highlights include:

  • The Deconstructed Dish – Deconstructed versions of a Reuben sandwich, BLT and strawberry cheesecake
  • Pop Eats – Modern art-inspired dishes like the tri-coloured layered frangipane cake
  • Cuisine Classique – Hearty fare includes beef short ribs and braised ratatouille

Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival

The Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival runs from 4 March to 1 June 2020. This is the oldest of the Epcot festivals.

children at Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival
The Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival 2019 (Chloe Rice, Disney Parks)

“It is truly the most beautiful time in our park,” Valiquette says. “Our horticulture team works so hard. They plant every one of those flower beds at least two times during the festival because we change seasons in the middle of the festival.”

The gardens are the true star of the spring festival. Over 30 million blooms come alive in the park.

Daniel Contreras, Disney Sous Chef
Daniel Contreras

More than 70 Disney-themed topiaries will dot the festival. Past highlights have included Buzz Lightyear and Woody, Lightning McQueen and Mater and Captain Hook and Peter Pan. Bands that have announced plans to play the 2020 Garden Rocks concert series include the Pointer Sisters and Herman’s Hermits.

More than a dozen outdoor kitchen kiosks offer themed food and drink throughout the festival. “We’re still working on the menus,” Disney sous chef Daniel Contreras says. “They are almost set. There are a few new items that we are working on.”

Popular food kiosks in past years have included the Honey Bee-Stro and Smokehouse Barbecue and Brew. Disney has not yet announced the food kiosk lineup for the 2020 flower festival.

“The foods for the festival are inspired by Mother Nature,” Valiquette says. “They’re organic, fresh and lighter.”

Epcot International Food & Wine Festival

Late summer and autumn bring the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. While Disney has yet to announce dates for the 2020 event, it typically runs from late August to mid-November. This popular festival is one of the park’s biggest draws and will include events at the new Epcot festival pavilion.

Five different cast members represent different country's food at Epcot International Food and Wine Festival
Five different cast members represent different country’s food at Epcot International Food and Wine Festival, 2018

“This is probably the most popular festival among our guests. It’s a busy time of year,” Valiquette says. “Our guests tend to come back time and time again. There are many guests who I’ll see in the park more than once a week. That’s the beauty of this festival.”

The festival boasts 35 marketplace food booths with over 150 menu items. “We’re always trying to innovate,” Contreras said. “We work with what’s trending.”

Foodie favourites

Every year brings a lineup of new menu items alongside the return of untouchable dishes like the New England Lobster Roll at the Hops & Barley booth.

“There’s a lot of guest favourites and you cannot play with them because the guests are going to come after us and say, ‘Hey, why did you take it away?’” Contreras says. “We’ve learned from experience that even if they’ve been on the menu for 25 years, the guests come here just to have the items.”

Epcot International Food and Wine Festival 2018 Entrance Signage

“We might tweak it, we might enhance it, but the lesson is we listen to the guests and we want to make sure we serve what they like.”

Past festivals have featured booths with cuisines from Ireland, Spain, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Brazil, Belgium, India, Greece, Hawaii and the Caribbean.

Culinary events during the festival include appearances by guest chefs, culinary demonstrations, cooking seminars and winemaker dinners. The Eat to the Beat concert series features live bands playing pop, R&B and country music.

Disney has not yet announced the kiosk menus or musical lineup for the 2020 Food and Wine Festival.

Epcot International Festival of the Holidays

The new Epcot festival pavilion will also host events for The Epcot International Festival of the Holidays. This returns in late autumn and early winter along the World Showcase Lagoon. Disney has yet to announce dates for the 2020 festival. However, the event typically runs from mid-November through the end of December.

“It’s such a beautiful time in our park,” Valiquette says. “Not only do Santa and Mrs Claus come to visit, but you can hear storytellers all around World Showcase telling the stories of the holidays in their native lands.”

Epcot International Festival of the Holidays Dancer with Mariachi band
Epcot International Festival of the Holidays Dancer with Mariachi band

The festival celebrates winter holiday traditions from cultures around the world with festive foods, live music and seasonal decorations.

Food kiosks offer a menu lineup that always includes plenty of gingerbread cookies, hot cocoa and eggnog. One of the most popular new food kiosks is L’Chaim Holiday Kitchen, which serves comfort foods enjoyed during Hanukkah.

Got a sweet tooth? The Holiday Cookie Stroll lets you snack on tasty treats as you travel throughout the festival.

On select nights, the popular Candlelight Processional features a choir, orchestra and celebrity host narrating the story of Christmas. Past narrators have included Neil Patrick Harris, Pat Sajak and Cal Ripken Jr. Disney has not yet announced the kiosk menus or Candlelight narrators for the 2020 winter holiday festival.

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brady mcdonald

Brady MacDonald

Brady MacDonald is a freelance writer based in California. He wrote the Funland theme park blog for the Los Angeles Times for a decade. His work has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, New York Newsday, Philadelphia Inquirer, Seattle Times, Orlando Sentinel and Orange County Register.

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