By Jeffrey Epstein
It’s beginning to look a lot like… the 2020 Taste of EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays presented by AdventHealth. The annual EPCOT event is back with some updates for the season through December 31. There are character cavalcades, holly jolly attraction enhancements, musical delights, exclusive merchandise, and, of course, mouth-watering treats from savory to sweet and everything in-between. We have all the details, and a few tips from the pros, to ensure you have a most wonderful time while being safe as possible during this unprecedented period.
A Festival with Character
Rounding pathways of World Showcase, a trio of cavalcades “pop up” to surprise and delight guests. Keep an eye out for the “Mickey and Friends Holiday World Tour” featuring Mickey, Minnie, and the gang. Queen Anna and Elsa are sure to please with their “Frozen Holiday Promenade.” And of course, Santa Claus pays a visit to make sure you’ve been nice. D23 Members are never naughty, right?
And there are more characters to be discovered in new ways for guests. “It’s important in these times to be strategic but also magical,” explains Disney Parks Live Entertainment’s Tom Vazzana . “Everything we thought about had to work within our safety guidelines, and that challenged us to get really creative. Some guests are saying they are seeing more characters than they ever have before because they’re so present out in the park.” He notes how Winnie the Pooh or Joy from Inside Out might now be spotted in the lawn between Journey into Imagination and The Land pavilion. “What a great photo we were never able to do before! While you can’t approach them physically, they’re much more accessible to guests.”
Music to Our Ears
Musical performances are key to any EPCOT festival, and the new enhanced health and safety guidelines presented an opportunity to reimagine some of the harmonious offerings. “There’s been a renaissance, in my opinion, of how we do things,” Vazzana notes.
Head over to the America Gardens Theatre to check out the Voices of Liberty – Voices of the Season. The breathtaking a cappella group has returned to EPCOT and is sure to stun with their rendition of holiday music; their catalogue of favorite songs includes “Joy to the World,” “Hanukkah, Oh Hanukkah,” and “Let There Be Peace on Earth.” “We’ve developed two new sets for them for the holidays,” reveals Vazzana, who notes that guests should all feel comfortable sitting in the Theatre to experience the show. “The show director and our safety team went out and found the right spacing and the right distancing, and we are able present theater to our guests that is rarely about to happen right now. ”
Also in the Theatre, don’t miss the incredibly talented Mariachi Cobre performing Las Posadas, a celebration of Mexican holiday traditions. “Normally you’d visit the Mexico pavilion to experience them but now they are featured at the America Gardens Theatre,” Vazzana points out. “I think that’s something to be proud of, too; with our focus on inclusivity, we are showcasing more diverse talent—from Mariachi Cobre to JOYFUL! ”
Speaking of JOYFUL!, make sure you visit the Festival headquarters inside the World Showplace pavilion to see their show, A Celebration of the Season, a selection of dazzling holiday music from gospel to R&B. Their high-energy performance and soaring vocals will have you dancing as you dine. Also in World Showplace, pianist Carol Stein tickles the ivories (and soothes the soul) with her rapturous renditions of holiday classics. Plus, the JAMMitors are bringing their percussive talents to the Canada pavilion . Complete details and times are available on the My Disney Experience app.
Attraction Holiday Touches
Don’t miss a cruise on Living with the Land to experience Merry & Bright Nights, when twinkling lights illuminate this beloved attraction. From oversized ornaments and “sandy” snowmen to Mickey topiaries topped with Santa hats, there’s a delight around every corner. And of course, everyone loves a festive holiday sweater, and Figment is wearing not one but two on Journey into Imagination!
But It’s All About the Food
No EPCOT festival is complete without a delectable assortment of treats to eat, and the chefs do not disappoint. Dozens of new and favorite items are looking forward to meeting your tastebuds this season. We asked Chef Kevin what were his three can’t-miss items…
Beef Bourguignon (Yukon Holiday Kitchen, Canada): “The Beef Bourguignon out of Yukon Holiday Kitchen is a super-hearty dish, very flavorful, paring with the Chateau des Charmes merlot is perfect for me, so you get the bold merlot and then the red wine notes from the braised beef.”
Lomi Lomi Salmon (Mele Kalikimaka, Showcase Pavilion near Traveler’s Café): “I love the Lomi Lomi from Mele Kalikimaka; it’s a really light and refreshing dish. It’s something a little different for us, but I think it’s a huge success.”
Blackened Bass, White Cheddar Grits, and Okra (Festival Favorites, World Showplace Events Pavilion): “I’m a Southern boy so the blackened bass with the grits and the okra tomato stew is another one of my go-tos.”
EPCOT’s general manager of operations, Kartika Rodriguez, also wants to make sure you don’t miss the Gingerbread Milkshake (also in World Showplace at the Holiday Hearth) and “Don’t forget the Cookie Stroll!” she says of the new way to experience pure bliss. Guests who purchase five of the delightful holiday treats (may we suggest the Salted Caramel Spaceship Earth Cookie and the Gingerbread Cookie, both available in World Showplace) receive a sixth, bonus Minnie Peppermint Cookie for free. “The cookies are fantastic. I’m a
sweets person so the holidays are all about desserts for me,” Rodriguez says.
We also may have ventured ’round World Showcase a few times—just for research, of course—and found a few other favorites we might suggest including the Tamal de Pollo (a rich chipotle chicken tamale from Las Posadas Holiday Kitchen, Mexico), Cheese Fondue in a Bread Bowl (you really can’t go wrong with this dish from the Bavaria Holiday Kitchen, German), Slow-Roasted Turkey (with stuffing and the trimmings, it’s like having the best of Thanksgiving all over again at American Holiday Table, The American Adventure), Holiday Pot Pie (a delicious plant-based delight with a fluffy crust also from American Holiday Table), Grilled Lamb Kefta Kebab and Grapes (which has a spicy kick to it at the Sapphire Holiday Kitchen, Morocco), and the Smoked Salmon Potato Latke (a festival favorite has returned to L’Chaim! Holiday Kitchen, between Morocco and France).
Merchandise and More
Throughout EPCOT, Chip and Dale can be found on adorable ornaments, comfy T-shirts, and more. Plus, each country in World Showcase has unique collectibles that are sure to make the season bright, including a cookie jar (perfect to store any extras from your Cookie Stroll!).
To go to the next level of magic and merriment, try Olaf’s Holiday Tradition Expedition, a hunt through World Showcase to see how our favorite Frozen snowman is learning about new ways to celebrate the season (and when you complete the expedition, you win one of three Frozen-themed tumblers)! Purchase your expedition map at Mouse Gear, Disney Traders, or World Traveler at International Gateway to start your search.
And inside World Showplace there are many festive photo spots, including one with Frozen’s Olaf and Marshmallow, as well as an incredible gingerbread replica of the United States Capitol Building made with a whopping 165 pounds of gingerbread!
For more details, visit the Disney Parks Blog and keep up-to-date on the My Disney Experience app.
Seasons Eatings! Er, Greetings!