Starting in 1996, Epcot’s celebration during the winter holidays was known as Holidays Around the World. In 2016 Holiday Kitchens were added; since then, it’s been called the Epcot International Festival of the Holidays. In past years the festival included storytellers at each pavilion. These talented performers would do live shows multiple times daily, telling stories of the way the December holidays are celebrated in their countries. Another guest favorite from years gone by is the Candlelight Processional, in which guest narrators told the story of Christmas, backed by a huge choir. This year at the Taste of EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays, there are no storytellers and no Candlelight Processional, but that doesn’t mean there is nothing to enjoy at Epcot, far from it!
In 2020 guests can partake in a number of activities as they make their way around World Showcase. This year’s festival started on Nov. 27 and ends Dec. 31, 2020. It runs from park opening to closing and includes multiple decorations, character cavalcades, music, and many types of cuisine. The food booths are known as Holiday Kitchens during this Festival.
Along with “real” food, the booths include many goodies and interesting drinks, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. A fun option that many guests enjoy is the cookie stroll in which guests make use of a special (free) passport. The passport lists all the Holiday Kitchens, as well as a place for keeping track of your cookie stroll. Each time a guest buys a cookie that is included in the stroll (the cookies included are all at different Holiday Kitchens), they get a stamp on their passport. Get all five stamps, and you get a free cookie at the Sweets & Treats Holiday Kitchen—specifically a Minnie Peppermint Cookie!
While we are on the subject of sweets, I have to mention an awesome addition to this year’s festival. EPCOT pastry chefs have concocted a Gingerbread Capital City!
It’s not available for guests to eat, but it’s fascinating to see. This can be found in World Showplace, the building set back off the main path between the U.K. and Canada.
The amazing display includes a number of well-known buildings from Washington D.C. Included are the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, Martin Luther King Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, and the U.S. Capitol building. Interspersed among the creation are hidden (and some not so hidden) Mickeys, as well as other beloved Disney characters.
Additionally, World Showplace has quite a number of Holiday Kitchens, lots of pretty decorations, an area where you can buy Festival/Holiday merchandise, and a very cool (pun intended) display from Frozen.
Back to the Holiday Kitchens! For those who have never been to a Food Festival at Epcot, you should be aware that the portions served are snack sizes. It’s necessary to eat at a minimum of 3 booths for most people to have enough to feel full.
Prices vary from $3 to $9 for most food items, with an average price being about $6. Some Alcoholic beverages cost over $10; beer and hard cider are less pricey.
There are a total of 17 Holiday Kitchens. Two are new this year, “Holiday Hearth” and “Mele Kalikimaka.” Holiday Hearth features a virtual plethora of sweets: Red Velvet Mini Bundt Cake with Cream Cheese Icing, Holiday Fruit Cake, Chocolate Mickey Tart, and Mouse Crunch. Additionally, this booth has a number of interesting beverage choices: Gingerbread Milkshake, Hot Cocoa, Gingerbread Milkshake with Whipped Cream Vodka, and Hot Cocoa with Peppermint Schnapps.
The other new booth, Mele Kalikimaka, definitely is influenced by Hawaiian Cuisine. Here guests will find Kālua Pork with Okinawa Purple Sweet Potatoes and Mango Salad, Lomi Lomi Salmon with Tomatoes, Onions, Salmon Roe, Yuzu Mayonnaise, and Yucca Chips, and Haupia: Hawaiian Coconut Pudding with Candied Macadamia Nuts and Coconut. Drinks include Melon Breeze with Spiced Rum, Pineapple Wine, and Kona Golden Ale.
It would take a long time to list all the Holiday Kitchens and what they offer; hence this blog just mentioning specifics of the new ones. If you are interested in seeing more about the booths and offerings, please click here: https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/dining/epcot/holiday-kitchens/.
My daughter and I went together. Our personal favorites were the mini red velvet bundt cake with cream cheese from the Holiday Hearth, the Buche de Noel aux Trois Chocolates (technically not at a holiday kitchen, but it was special for the festival, found at Les Halles Boulangerie Patisserie, towards the back of the French Pavilion), Pastrami on Rye from L’Chaim (stand-alone booth near Morocco), Turkey Dinner in America, and the Chirashi Sushi Tree in the Shi Wasu Kitchen by Japan. As an aside, guests cannot stroll and eat or drink at this time; it is mandatory to be stationary when doing either.
Other fun at this year’s Taste of EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays:
- World Showcase has beautiful decorations in many outdoor locations, as well as in many shops.
- Listen for the music, and you might get lucky and run into a holiday cavalcade! We were fortunate enough to see Santa and his elves when we visited; they were traveling around World Showcase, waving to guests as they passed by.
- This is not just during the Festival; it can happen any time, but keep your eyes out for random character appearances. We were walking by the U.K. when suddenly and without fanfare, Mary Poppins appeared in the garden area. Guests could interact with her from afar, my daughter and I had a nice conversation with Mary.
- The America Gardens Theater, on the water in the American pavilion, has live holiday music. The a cappella group, The Voices of Liberty sing carols, and they rotate about every half hour with the Mariachi Band usually found in Mexico—who, when we saw them, ended the show with Feliz Navidad. There are two large signs with showtimes posted on either side of the theater. Since guests are seated at a distance from the performers (who are on a stage), and seating is done in a way to distance guests from one another, this is one of the few instances currently where showtimes are announced in advance.
- In Canada, you can see the JAMMitors doing a great drum show and telling corny jokes.
This group has been a staple at Epcot for over 30 years.
- There’s Olaf’s Holiday Expedition Scavenger Hunt, where guests can search for misplaced Holiday items Olaf has left around World Showcase. Guests keep track using a map and stickers, which can be purchased at a number of merchandise locations for $7.95. When guests return the map, they receive a plastic cup decorated with Olaf.
- Joyful! an energetic gospel group perform in the World Showplace, switching off with a solo piano player.
So as you can clearly see, A Taste of EPCOT International Festival of the Holidays has plenty to keep guests occupied. Everyone we saw seemed to be enjoying themselves. My daughter and I had a lot of fun seeing the musical acts, and we were pleased with the food from the Holiday Kitchens. Seeing Santa riding by was a highlight for us both, as it was unexpected. It’s always great making memories at Walt Disney World, and this was no exception.