We visited Epcot yesterday for the kickoff of Epcot International Festival of the Holidays! Formerly called Epcot Holidays Around the World (for about 20 years until 2016), Epcot International Festival of the Holidays does change some each year, and offers a variety of entertainment, more specialty foods than ever, fun merchandise, the longtime favorite Candlelight Processional show and more. We will be at the event twice more early this week and I’m looking forward to seeing the Candlelight Processional, which has been a holiday tradition of mine since the mid-90s. Epcot International Festival of the Holidays is a short festival, just about a month this year and ends December 30th, 2019.
Here are my 10 tips on what to see and do! We will have more photos and video to add this coming week.
1 – Book a Candlelight Processional Dining Package – Up until now, I haven’t as often recommended this – but after seeing the very long standby line for the first show yesterday, I think it is almost a must-do now if you have your heart set on it. The Candlelight Processional is a beautiful telling of the Christmas story that includes scripture readings by a celebrity narrator and features a mass choir and a 50-piece live orchestra. There are three showings each night in the American Gardens Theater. The show gets more popular every year and while some shows will be more busy (Neil Patrick Harris especially) than others, if you are on a vacation I would recommend getting the package. As a local, I can visit anytime.
Candlelight Processional is my favorite holiday show!
2 – Ride Living with the Land both day and for Merry & Bright Nights – Living with the Land has offered holiday decorations for a number of years, but this year there are extra lights and a promoted name – Living with the Land: Merry & Bright Nights. I recommend visiting during the day as well to see some of the decorations in the greenhouses more easily. I never need my arm twisted to ride, this is my favorite ride at Epcot.
3 – Shop for unique festival (and other holiday) merchandise – There is a nice selection of merchandise this year, I love that Chip and Dale are so prevelant (the spirit jersey is especially fun). But my favorite place to shop is actually in World Showcase and there is more Christmas and holiday merchandise than ever. Germany has a very nice selection of Disney themed World Showcase Germany pavilion Christmas merchandise this year (it has been very popular too) and I found some lovely greeting cards in the Japan pavilion yesterday. Save some time to peruse the shops around World Showcase, there are items there that can be hard to find anywhere else.
4 – Try special festival food and drink – Because it was a long day for us yesterday, we actually ate at a table service restaurant (Chefs de France) and then I purchased gingerbread ice cream – only available for Epcot International Festival of the Holidays – for dessert in the France pavilion. On a shorter day, we are more likely to peruse the booths and snack “around the world”. I also recommend visiting the booths early in the day on a weekday – it can be a lot less busy.
5 – View Holiday Storytellers around World Showcase – Each country celebrates the holidays with a storyteller – it used to be each country had a Santa or similar figure/s to talk about the holidays and it is still the case in many countries. But through the last few years, the offering has changed to where there are Chinese Lion Dancers in China and musical performances in several locations. The definition of “storytelling” has been expanded, mostly for the better. And there are still traditional Santa storytellers, including in France (Père Noël) and the U.K. (Father Christmas). We will be sharing some of the storytellers throughout the season.
Père Noël in France
Also, Santa and Mrs. Claus do meet in the America pavilion!
6 – View The Voices of Liberty and visit the Washington D.C. Capitol with Washington Monument gingerbread display – Check the times guide for the Voices of Liberty as Dickens Carolers (they are an amazing group), and arrive a little early to visit the U.S. Capitol with Washington Monument gingerbread display. This is the 6th year for the Washington D.C. display and it keeps getting bigger. There is not only the Lincoln Memorial but what looks like the Jefferson Memorial this year as well. It is always a little different each year and includes hidden Mickeys to find!
Voices of Liberty
U.S. Capitol in gingerbread with Washington Monument
7 – Save time for Chip & Dale’s Christmas Tree Spree scavenger hunt – For a nominal fee ($6.99 plus tax), guests can purchase the scavenger hunt and also will receive a prize. We haven’t done it yet this year but hopefully will have a chance to review it once we do. I always enjoy the Epcot scavenger hunts!
Chip & Dale’s Christmas Tree Spree
8 – Meet Belle in her “Enchanted Christmas” dress – Belle meets in her holiday dress only during Epcot International Festival of the Holidays!
9 – Participate in the Holiday Cookie Stroll – We haven’t done this one yet for 2019 (we will this week), but Disney says of it, Grab your Festival Passport and travel through the World Showcase to find the 5 official cookie stroll locations. Each stop will offer a delicious dessert for purchase and a stamp for your Festival Passport. Once you’ve collected 5 stamps, bring your Passport to the Sweets & Treats Holiday Kitchen to receive a complimentary Santa Mickey Sugar Cookie!
Holiday Cookie Stroll sign
10 – Visit the Walt Disney World BoardWalk and take a ride on the Disney Skyliner – The Epcot International Gateway allows for quick access to the resorts around Crescent Lake. Disney’s Yacht Club Resort features its 20th annual Gingerbread Carousel; Disney’s Yacht Club Resort has its yearly train display; and Disney’s BoardWalk Resort offers a gingerbread display as well. If you keep walking, you can enjoy the lifesize Santa display inside the Walt Disney World Swan Hotel. And right at the International Gateway is the Disney Skyliner and you can take it to several resorts as well as Disney’s Hollywood Studios! It is a nice way to break up the day, especially if you are at Epcot from morning through close.
11 – If you are a Walt Disney World Annual Passholder, pick up your Chip and Dale magnets – These are adorable and worth the wait in line (which you will find near the Electric Umbrella).
Chip and Dale Passholder magnets
Of course there is more to see – check out the character topiaries dressed in holiday outfits on the way to World Showcase and enjoy holiday decorations around the park including at the Germany train display. We will be talking about Epcot International Festival of the Holidays in our next Mousesteps Weekly YouTube Show and will post that in the article!
And remember to pick up your Festival Passport and guidemap!