Holiday magic is in the air all over Walt Disney World, and Epcot is no exception. The park calls its celebration the “Epcot Festival of the Holidays’, and the festivities are only around for a designated number of weeks in November and December. There’s so much to hear, see, and taste and never enough time, so what should you tackle first? Here’s my list of must-dos at the holiday happenings at Epcot this season:
1. Holiday Kitchens
Instead of rushing to make a dinner reservation, enjoy an international meal of delicious menu items at the Holiday Kitchens. Like the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival, each pavilion in the World Showcase features specialty food kiosks. Geared to holiday dishes, it’s impossible to not try at least of few of the mouthwatering options. I recommend the Cavatappi ai Quattro Formaggi baked cheese pasta dish from the Tuscany Holiday Kitchen, Baked Four-Cheese Pasta, the Celebration Barbecue Pork with Steamed Rice at the Shanghai Holiday Kitchen, and the Maple Bûche de Noël (maple mousse in gingerbread cake with cranberry sauce and pecans) from the Yukon Holiday Kitchen. While some favorites are on the menus every year, there are also new offerings to tempt your taste buds too. Try the marinated beef with sweet plantains at the Feast of the Three Kings stand and the Black Forest roulade at the Bavaria Holiday Kitchen.
2. Festive Drinks
A trip through the Epcot’s World Showcase wouldn’t be complete without an adult beverage or two! Like other Epcot festivals, special drinks are offered at the kiosks. My favorites this holiday season include the spiced rum punch slush in the France pavilion, the Andalusian Poinsettia Cocktail in Morocco (orange liqueur, sparkling wine, and cranberry juice), and the non-alcoholic Tropical Eggnog from the Feast of the Three Kings kiosk.
3. Cookies and Milk
The sweet treats available for sale around the World Showcase are irresistible. As part of the new Cookie Stroll, try five select holiday cookies during your adventures in Epcot and have your Festival Passport stamped for each one. Next, find the Holiday Sweets and Treats booth and show the evidence of your sweet tooth to claim a free cookie and a cold glass of milk!
4. Sounds of the Season
I love walking around the parks and hearing my favorite holiday tunes. It’s even better to stop at the Future World Fountain Stage to enjoy the vocal group Joyful, an ensemble featuring Gospel and R&B harmonies. American Music Machine also performs during the holidays, entertaining guests with a cappella versions of favorite holiday songs. Head back to the American Adventure pavilion in the World Showcase to listen to Voices of Liberty’s beautiful melodies. During the Epcot Festival of the Holidays the group swaps their traditional patriotic songs with Christmas music.
5. Christmas Shopping
A special event at Epcot isn’t complete without special merchandise for sale. Check out MouseGear for Festival t-shirts and pins featuring Chip & Dale, as well as other unique Christmas items.
6. Scavenger Hunt
Are you up for an adventure? Purchase a Chip & Dale Christmas Tree Spree map and be on the lookout for Chip & Dale gathering ornaments around the park. Add a sticker to your map for every discovery, and then redeem the completed map for a fun surprise!
7. Christmas around the World
Sometimes the best way to enjoy Epcot during the holidays is to just stroll around the World Showcase and listen to the storytellers as they entertain guests with how Christmas is celebrated in their country. My favorites include the La Befana in Italy, Father Christmas in the United Kingdom, and Fiesta de Navidad in Mexico. The American Adventure pavilion incorporates Santa Claus, Hanukah, and Kwanza in its holiday festivities. Pick up a Times Guide for entertainment schedules.
8. German Festivities
I love all of the holiday traditions represented in the World Showcase pavilions, but Germany is especially delightful. Christmas comes alive at Die Weihnachts Ecke, attracting shoppers with wooden nutcrackers in all sizes and authentic wooden and glass blown ornaments. While you’re there, it’s impossible to resist the intoxicating caramel scents wafting in from the Karamelll-Kuche next door. Outdoors, a small Christmas Market is set up, resembling the traditional attractions in German cities.
9. Candlelight Processional
A fan favorite every year, the Candlelight Processional features celebrities narrating the traditional story of Christmas, accompanied by a world-class orchestra and choir. The show begins in late November and is tremendously popular. It’s highly recommended to reserve a dining package for breakfast, lunch or dinner at select World Showcase restaurants, which ensures a reserved seat at the show.
10. Holiday Illuminations
Watching Illuminations: Reflections of Earth is a perfect way to end a day at Epcot, and an awe-inspiring festive touch is added to the finale of the fireworks extravaganza during the holiday season. Illuminations is ending its 20-year run in 2018, so this is the perfect time to view the stunning light and music spectacular.