Epcot has, over the last two decades, been putting more and more effort into festivals. The Flower Garden Festival, which started in 1993 (I had to look that up and was shocked that it was the first one!) happens every spring and the Food and Wine Festival, which started in 1995, happens every fall with the Festival of the Holidays/ Holidays around the World carrying us through the Christmas season. Last year, though, Disney started up a new festival to bridge the winter gap- the Festival of the Arts and guys, I’ll say it right now, it is without a doubt my FAVORITE Epcot festival!
The biggest reason that I’m such an immediate and huge fan of the festival is that is strikes an incredible balance of all that Epcot festivals have to offer- food, displays, showcases, entertainment- in a way that brings the best of everything to Epcot. We’ll get to the food part (because it’s me and you know food is going to be essential haha) in a bit but first I wanted to talk about some of the other incredible things the Festival of the Arts has.
All throughout World Showcase are interactive displays. Our favorite was the paint by numbers mural- cast members give you one of the 14 or 15 colors and a paintbrush and tell you to paint in 7 squares. You go out, find your number, and paint those. When the mural is full they’ll put a new one out to keep it going all season. It’s so much fun and they give you a post card of what the final piece will look like at the end. Also- it’s FREE!
They also have interactive photo-ops around world showcase of famous paintings like Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus in Italy, Munch’s The Scream in Norway, and Leutze’s Washington Crossing the Delaware in America (yes they matched up the origin of the art with a World Showcase Country!). We didn’t get a chance to do any of these on our first day but we watched some of them and they looked so fun!
The festival, of course, has TONS of art. Every country has booths set up where Disney art is displayed and available for purchase- the artists themselves make appearances at different points in the festival too so you can talk to them and they’ll sign your piece! The art is INCREDIBLE, I’m the kind of person who has to see everything twice before making a decision but I am well underway making a dream list of all the pieces I love!
Additionally they have workshops and live demonstrations with free craft and drawing seminars as well as more in depth paid experiences. Overall there is just an overwhelming amount of things to see and do at the Festival, I know all Epcot festivals incorporate these types of experiences to some degree but there’s something special about the collection of activities Disney has curated here. You really, truly feel like you’re in an art festival (because you are haha) with opportunities to learn and try new things in the most fun way possible!
Alright, I know we’re all here for the food so let’s get to the tasty bits! Like other Epcot festivals, the Festival of the Arts comes with a Festival book/passport that labels gluten free and vegetarian items… aannnddd like other festivals this book isn’t entirely accurate meaning that there are options available beyond what’s labeled in the book whether through a missed label or through simple modifications (also worth noting the book NEVER labels ANY drinks so don’t rely on it to tell you about those).
This year there are four dishes marked Gluten Free in the book- the Seared Corvina with braised Ratatouille and Lemon-Thyme Beurre Blanc in Germany, the Pan-seared Scallop with Chorizo, Roasted Red Pepper Coulis and Parmesan Crisp in America, as well as the two decorative Chocolate Paintings in the Festival Showplace (they’re pure painted chocolate, I don’t really count these as dishes because I wouldn’t really chow down on these gorgeous easels), and both the Sous Vide Chicken Roulade and Shrimp Ceviche from Pop Eats! in the Showcase Plaza. I initially was nervous that 3 of the 4 dishes were seafood and none were desserts but the festival happily surprised me.
First off, I have to start by saying the Corvina with the Beurre Blanc was without a doubt the best dish we tried at the festival. It was really the sauce that made it so amazing, I could have eaten it with a spoon (and will probably ask for extra next time haha!) but the fish was also perfectly cooked and the ratatouille was great too. I know a lot of people aren’t super into fish but whether or not you have a gluten allergy I’d really encourage everyone to try this, it was phenomenally good!
Next up is the second marked gluten free dish we tried, the seared scallop with parmesan crisp. This was very good as well and I’m a sucker for parmesan crisps haha. The scallop was pretty well cooked and everything together tasted great, we were very happy with this one.
And finally the last marked-in-the-book-as-safe dish we tried was the shrimp ceviche from Pop Eats. I really liked this, the lime foam on top was great and the crunchy peppers were a good contrast to the shrimp however I thought this dish, although it was good, would be truly excellent with some avocado in the mix to give it that creaminess (also I’m obsessed with avocado but it really would have been great here!).
The last savory dish we tried was the Deconstructed BLT at the Deconstructed Dish. This item is not marked as gluten free but when I asked they said it was only because of a crumble they put on top and they could easily and safely just leave that off so I could enjoy it. They were so kind and happy to help me be able to enjoy this dish and enjoy it I did! We loved it! The egg was perfectly poached and the tomato jam was excellent. I still prefer regular bacon to pork belly but overall it was a great dish!
On the sweet side, also not marked GF in the book, we tried the Coconut Panda Rice Cake. When we asked if it was safe they said the only reason it wasn’t marked as gluten free is because the coconut they use doesn’t come from a dedicated gluten free facility (it was the same as the Frushi at the Flower and Garden Festival). Use your judgement here for the severity of your intolerance/allergy but that was fine with me so I got it. This was a very cute dish and tasted okay but REALLY needed some kind of sauce because it was a bit bland and dry. If it had had a strawberry sauce or something like that with it then it would have been excellent but as is it just wasn’t enough in our group’s opinion- but the cute factor kind of made up for that!
We also tried the sipping chocolate trio in America. This was probably the only dish we really weren’t fans of. The chocolate was so thick and so rich it was nearly solid, we each took a sip and knew we would be sugar-sick if we had more than that. If you have a larger group willing to share or a really strong tolerance for sweet it did taste good but it was a lot.
On to drinks! As I mentioned, drinks are never labeled for gluten safety (which is not to say they all are safe, a bunch are not because they’re either beer lol or topped or mixed with gluten containing ingredients so always ask first), but many are just fine. We tried two drinks, the 10 year aged port from Decadent Delights and the Frozé in France.
The aged port was delicious, I love sweet wines and this was wonderfully syrupy and sweet but still rich. At $10.50 it was not cheap (I joked that I was paying ten bucks for three drops haha), but it was very good!
The Frozé is possibly my new favorite Epcot festival drink (I know, I know, the La Vie En Rose at Flower Garden is wonderful too and it’s not fair to play favorites with French slushy drinks). It was a mix of Rose wine (SO GOOD), vodka, and peach puree, ugh, delicious!
We also really liked the Scarlet Blossom in China which was mango wine, strawberry syrup, and ginger ale. This one was a lot lighter than most of the other drinks and SO refreshing! Definitely getting this one again especially if the weather (finally) warms up!
When we went back the second time I took the $12 plunge to try the Amaretto Bellini in Italy which had Amaretto, Peach Puree, and Proseco. It was sweet but not too sweet and overall very good but at that price I probably won’t get it again this year, I’m glad I tried it though because the Amaretto was quite unique and tasty!
I thought it would be worth mentioning some other info we found out too. You know I’m a HUGE HUGE HUGE advocate of always asking if something can be made gluten free or why it’s not gluten free because, like the deconstructed BLT, sometimes you find real gems. We asked about a few other items so I wanted to fill you guys in…
- At the Deconstructed Dish they should be able to make both the other dishes, the deconstructed Reuben and the deconstructed Strawberry Cheesecake gluten friendly by excluding the gluten containing item- you will want to ask for a glove change though as they are handling the gluten containing items in the preparation of the dish.
- At Decadent Delights the white chocolate and purple sweet potato mousse comes on a cake (not mentioned in the item description) so that’s a no-go haha
- Nothing at Italy is safe, the descriptions sounded potential but the Salmon Roulade is wrapped in a pastry and the Tomato and Eggplant Terrine comes layered with a couscous-like grain
- In Canada I asked about the Wild Mushroom Risotto (come on, it has truffle shavings!) and was told that it’s “the rice” that makes it unsafe. I really don’t know what that means but they said to come back at a less busy time (aka before the booth opens cause Canada is always slammed) and they could call a chef to show me the package. I fully intend on doing this because it sounded so good so I’ll keep you all updated!
And finally a last word on drinks- there were SO MANY that sounded amazing that we didn’t get to yet! I don’t have a very high sugar tolerance OR alcohol tolerance haha so trying two drinks was my limit for the day. I will definitely be working through more of these and others as the festival goes on so I’ll update you guys on that too!
Oh and side note, David tried these three not gluten free dishes. His favorite dish of the day was actually the Almond Frangipane Cake (with raspberry jam and chocolate) not only for how delicious he said it was but also for the price- at just $4.25 he said it was as good if not better than the expensive desserts and that it’s the dish he’s most likely to get again!
He got the artist cookie available at many booths around the showcase which he said was surprisingly good, Chelsea added that her’s was cinnamon-y in a good but unexpected way and they both liked playing with the frosting! David also got the S’mores Tart from Decadent Delight and really enjoyed it, the sauce around the plate he said was the best part and he especially liked the crunchy meringue. He also appreciated that it wasn’t overly sweet but was still sweet enough.
Whew! Okay I know that was a lot but I really hope this helps as you’re going into this year’s festival with some ideas of what to expect! We had an absolute blast and have to thank our friends Chelsea and Dylan for tasting and exploring around the World with us! All four of us just can’t wait to go back! I would love to hear about your experiences at the Festival of the Arts too so if you go this year tell me your thoughts in the comments!