Epcot is always the last of the four Walt Disney World theme parks to get dressed up for the holidays. That is because the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival is so popular, and Disney wants to make sure that as many people as possible are able to enjoy it. There will be holiday touches such as the Christmas Tree and other decorations in the park, but the full celebration doesn’t begin until the start of the Epcot International Festival of the Holidays around Thanksgiving.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the full Festival of the Holidays is not taking place this year. There is no Candlelight Processional and no international storytellers around World Showcase. That doesn’t mean that there is no festival at all. Disney has given us the Taste of Epcot International Festival of the Holidays. On December 1, I was part of a hosted media group invited to learn more about this year’s festival. As an Annual Passholder, it wasn’t my first time at the festival since it started, and it won’t be my last. Even with the modifications, I love the Festival of the Holidays.
Pick up a Festival Passport when you enter the park. (If you don’t want a physical passport, there’s a virtual version on the My Disney Experience App.) With it, you can learn all about the Holiday Kitchens.
These are located throughout World Showcase, and they feature snack-sized versions of holiday foods and beverages that you don’t normally find at Epcot. Items that are gluten/wheat friendly or plant-based are clearly marked in the passport. There are two new Holiday Kitchens this year. Mele Kalikimaka is located in Showcase Plaza, near Travelers Café. It features Hawaiian inspired dishes. Holiday Hearth is inside World ShowPlace Events Pavilion. If you have a sweet tooth make this your first stop! You’ll find Christmas goodies that taste too good to put out for Santa, including beverages with or without alcohol.
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Speaking of World ShowPlace Events Pavilion, this is a must-stop while at Epcot this holiday season. There are some fun picture opportunities that you and your family will love. In addition to Holiday Hearth, two other Holiday Kitchens, Festival Favorites and Prost!, are located inside. There is a pop-up store selling all kinds of festival merchandise. The Gingerbread Capital City is located in World ShowPlace this year.
This is also where you will find some of the live entertainment. The Piano Lady (the Rose & Crown Pub Musician) or another pianist might be playing holiday tunes in the back of the building. This year JOYFUL! A Celebration of the Season performs inside, there are several shows each day. Their high-energy show is sure to have you singing and clapping along! You can find the times on the My Disney Experience App. If you aren’t sure where the World ShowPlace Events Pavilion is located, it’s between the Canada and the United Kingdom Pavilions. It’s the building that is way in the back.
There is one more reason why you will want to have a Festival Passport. The Holiday Cookie Stroll has returned this year. Purchase five cookies and have your passport stamped in each location. Once you have all five stamps, head to Holiday Sweets and Treats in Showcase Plaza and you can pick up a sixth cookie for free!
If you can’t eat six cookies in one sitting, Disney has you covered. Purchase the Holiday Cookie Stroll cookie jar. It features Chip ‘n Dale, and it’s as adorable as you might expect. Last year they ran out of the jars just a few days into the festival. I spoke to Will from merchandise, and he told me that they are trying to avoid that problem this year. He still advises people to buy it sooner rather than later, but they have made some adjustments and hope they won’t run out as quickly this time. He also suggested that people buy the May Your Holiday Be Nutty & Bright ornament as soon as they can. It also features the mischievous chipmunks, and he said that those are already selling quickly.
The scavenger hunt has a different theme this year. For 2020 it is Olaf who you’ll be looking for. With Olaf’s Holiday Tradition Expedition you’ll purchase a map and then look for everyone’s favorite snowman around World Showcase. Fill up your map with the provided stickers, then turn it in for a prize. This year you have your choice of one of three different Frozen themed cups. Kids love the scavenger hunts, and adults do as well. I saw plenty of adults without kids in tow, looking to see where Olaf was hiding.
The Voices of Liberty have moved into the America Gardens Theater. Their holiday show, Voices of the Season, takes place several times a day. The show rotates with Las Posadas with Mariachi Cobre. For the holiday season the JAMMitors have moved to the Mill Stage in Canada.
Character Cavalcades at Epcot can be a little bit tricky. Instead of doing an entire loop around World Showcase at once, it is broken up. There are several starting and stopping points, which can make them hard to catch. For the Festival of the Holidays, Santa has been added to the cavalcades. There are festive touches for the other characters as well. Santa will be around only through December 24. He has other things that he needs to do after that.
While some things are missed, the Taste of Epcot International Festival of the Holidays is still a wonderful time. There’s delicious food, fantastic entertainment, and plenty of holiday cheer for all ages. The festival runs daily through December 30. It is included with your theme park admission.