The History of Festivals at Epcot

By
Cortney Tarell
Food and Wine Festival

Walt Disney World’s Epcot first opened in 1982 as Walt Disney World's second park. At the time, it was meant to represent Walt Disney’s idea of the perfect city of the future. These days, Epcot has become known for something completely different. In recent years, Epcot has gone from being a park with a few festivals throughout the year, to a park that almost always has a festival running. It is even often called the “festival park”. 

The history of festivals at Epcot actually begins in Disney Springs (then called The Walt Disney World Village) in 1981. That’s when the Walt Disney World Village Wine Festival was introduced. It was a yearly celebration that featured local winemakers, but didn’t really include food. It was moved to Epcot after the success of the Flower and Garden Festival and is one of the most popular festivals for visitors and locals alike. 

Today, there are 4 festivals throughout the year that take place at Epcot. All of the festivals are extremely popular and are very focused on the food and drinks. 

 

The Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival

Debut: 1994 (April 29 - June 5, 1994)

Epcot Flower and Garden Festival

The Flower and Garden festival kicked off in Epcot in 1994. It ran for 38 days and was meant as a celebration of Disney’s character-themed topiary arrangements. People came to the festival to admire the meticulously curated gardens that could be found all around the park. There was a larger focus on exhibits, gardening education, showcasing topiaries, and entertainment for both children and adults. The Outdoor Kitchens that are a big part of the festival now were not part of its origin. 

Current Dates:  The Flower and Garden Festival at Epcot has become a favorite over the years and in 2021, the festival dates were extended to provide a greater opportunity for more visitors to share in the experience. The festival begins end of Feb or beginning of March and runs through end of June or beginning of July. (March 2 - July 4, 2022)

 

Epcot International Food & Wine Festival

Debut: 1981 at Disney Springs, 1996 at Epcot (September 28 - October 27, 1996)

Food and Wine Festival

The wine festival moved to Epcot and became the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival in 1996, at the time running from September 28 through October 27 during one of the park’s slow seasons to attract more guests. It featured 25 booths including many that still exist today. Some food items, including Canada’s cheddar cheese soup, Poland’s pierogis, and Germany’s Apple Strudel, have never left the menu. The festival only grew from there. Just one year later in 1997, famed chef Julia Child was a guest. The success of the Food and Wine Festival is what inspired Disney to continue expanding festivals at Epcot and led it to become the festival park. All of the festivals today are heavily focused on food from around the world because that is what makes the Food and Wine festival so beloved and keeps people coming back year after year.

Current Dates: Due to the popularity of this festival, the dates were extended and now run from mid-July through mid-November. (July 14 - November 19, 2022)

 

The Epcot International Festival of the Holidays

Debut: 1996 (Premiered November 29, 1996)

Epcot Festival of the Holidays

Later in 1996, Epcot launched the Holidays Around the World celebration, anchored by the Candlelight Processional. Candlelight had been moved from Magic Kingdom to Epcot in 1994. The Holidays Around the World celebration started out small in 1996, with some food and beverage offerings as well as holiday entertainment from around the world. In 2016, the name of the event was changed to the Epcot International Festival of the Holidays.

Current Dates: November 26 - December 30, 2021

 

The Epcot International Festival of the Arts

Debut: 2017 (January 13 - February 20, 2017)

Epcot Festival of the Arts

The last festival to debut was the International Festival of the Arts in 2017. This event was launched to fill the gap between the holiday fest and the Flower and Garden fest. It takes place for a few weeks at the beginning of the year to celebrate the culinary, visual, and performing arts. Though it is the newest festival, it has quickly become one of the most well-loved.

There used to be a gap in the summer between the Flower & Garden and Food & Wine Festivals as well, but since 2020, those two festivals have been extended. Now there is only a few weeks out of the year when Epcot is without some kind of celebration. Most of the festival booths remain permanently set up in the park so they can undergo a quick change in theming during the in between times. So now you will most likely be able to attend a festival whenever you visit.

Current Dates: The dates haven't changed much since this is a newer festival. Typically mid-January through 3rd week in February. (January 14 - February 21, 2022)