Each new year begins with a celebration of all things arts & culture at EPCOT's International Festival of the Arts at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida. This year is no exception as EPCOT also celebrates the opening of new common areas and gardens along with showcasing expertly-crafted culinary delights, artists painting while you watch, and artistic installations around the park you can interact with and even use to create art yourself! Walt Disney World Resort invited me and Chris to enjoy a day exploring the festival. Here's what we experienced!
This annual festival is a favorite among locals and visitors alike. We started the day with a visit to the new statue celebrating Walt Disney himself. In an area named "Dreamer's Point", a new bronze statue of Walt Disney seated behind Spaceship Earth captures Walt in mid-dream as he looks out over an interpretation of his most ambitious idea, the Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow (EPCOT).
Once we had our dreams in sight, it was time to check out some of the culinary surprises that the chefs at Walt Disney World have come up with! This festival always hosts the most creative food items and pairings that you might not expect but will always enjoy. Since this is EPCOT's most unconventional festival, we ate unconventionally as well starting with a dessert option at "The Deconstructed Dish". This food studio offers a Deconstructed BLT and the item we tried: a Deconstructed Key Lime Pie! This delightful dish was made with flexible key lime curd, key lime mousse, graham cracker cake and meringue.
It was DELICIOUS! Key Lime anything is always a winner in my book, and this was no exception. I mean, just look at that presentation! And not to be outdone by the leading dessert, we had to wash it down with the only acceptable option at the International Festival of the Arts: a Figment-themed Grape Smoothie topped with freeze-dried Skittles and whipped cream. A true taste of the rainbow! It even comes in a collectible cup featuring Figment, the venerable mascot of the EPCOT "Journey Into Imagination" pavilion. This drink was located within "Figment's Inspiration Station at The Odyssey", which is also where you can purchase a limited-edition Figment-themed Premium Popcorn Bucket (it lights up)!
As creative as we wanted to be, we couldn't just have a desserts-only experience. I mean, we could have, but we wanted to be mostly responsible haha. Just a short stroll from The Odyssey we found ourselves at El Artista Hambriento near the Mexico Pavilion in EPCOT's World Showcase. The Carne Asada was the stand-out dish with chipotle-marinated beef sirloin, grilled queso fresco plus a unique queso fresco foam and chicharron dust. It was melt-in-your-mouth delicious!
As we were finishing up our Carne Asada, we were beckoned by the siren-esque sound of Dua Lipa's "Houdini" blasting in the distance. I had to find the source of such a high honor, and it didn't take long to find an artist dancing to the beats while actively painting an image of Mickey Mouse as Steamboat Willie in front of the World Showcase Lagoon. This artist was having a BLAST dancing around with each brush stroke. Be sure to see him in action on our PRIDE Radio Instagram Story Highlight.
Next up, we wanted something a bit more substantial...and having attended this festival in the past, we knew right where to go next: POP EATS! Located near the dancing artist, Pop Eats has the hands-down most delectable grilled cheese sandwich in the world. It's savory and full of flavor. Complete with a can of tomato soup, the grilled cheese sandwich we got was stuffed with pimento cheese, bacon, and fried green tomato! I could have SO MANY of these.
If you eat nothing else at this festival, be sure to get this! It's so satisfying and perfect on a cool Florida afternoon like we had during our visit. Right around the corner from Pop Eats, you'll come across Gourmet Landscapes located within the Canada pavilion. Here, we picked up one of the dishes highlighted in EPCOT's "Wonderful Walk of Colorful Cuisine". That program allows you to choose 5 different entrees throughout the park for an opportunity to pick up a festival-exclusive treat once you've "collected" 5 stamps representing the meals. This pavilion's dish was the Verjus-roasted Beets... and they were worth the trip! Full of goat cheese, petite lettuce, blackberry gastrique and spice pecans, this creative dish is some of the best that Canada has to offer your palate!
We also had to try the Wild Mushroom Risotto with truffle shavings and a zinfandel reduction ... and it didn't disappoint! Everything we tried was full of flavor and quite hefty portions! It's impossible to leave this Festival without finding something to eat that might change your life. OK, maybe that's a slight exaggeration... but seriously that grilled cheese is so mmmmmmmmmm.
Now, the Festival Of The Arts isn't just about food, but it's also about the performing arts! We had the chance to see the debut peformance of the Disney On Broadway Concert Series at the America Gardens Theater, located in front of The American Experience pavilion in World Showcase. And as an extra special treat, the debut performing team was the first all-female pairing in this show: Caissie Levy & Patti Murin, the original Elsa & Anna from Disney Frozen on Broadway!!
This concert series highlights various Disney Broadway stars throughout the run of the Festival singing songs from the most popular Disney Broadway shows like Tarzan, Aladdin, and of course, Frozen. Caissie Levy dropped an absolutely show-stopping performance of "Let It Go" that I've included a snippet of you to see. If you ever have the chance to see her perform, do it!! We still have chills.
We wish we had more time to try the creative Food Studios throughout the park, but that just means we'll have to go back for more! The EPCOT International Festival of the Arts runs daily through February 19, 2024. Thanks again to Walt Disney World for inviting us out to enjoy a day in the park!