The EPCOT Taste of International Festival of the Holidays began today, and, as you might expect, there are a few changes with this year’s festival. And, thankfully, some of the biggest aspects of the annual event have remained the same. Let’s go over some of the details!
First things first: we have the return of paper Festival Passports. I can’t tell you how happy these little paper booklets make me each year. I keep them from festival to festival, and love how easy they make it to look back and see the changes that have happened over the years. This year’s passport has less pages, and, if you love those little stickers in the middle of the book, it’ll be good for you to know that the stickers have not been included in the passport this year. #thanks2020
Nonetheless, the passport lists all of the Holiday Kitchens and details where you’ll find what. It’s an invaluable resource, and, if you’re coming to the festival, I suggest you grab two. If you’re like me, you’ll invariably lose one along the way.
Secondly, and this is something that we’ve seen at the attractions over the past few months: physical distancing makes lines look incredibly long. I know, I know; you and I both know that the lines will look long, but when you’re there in the heat of things (literally, because it’s Florida), you might let yourself pass by that food item that you would’ve loved had you hopped in line. Try waiting in a line or two, and see for yourself. Yes, some booths, like Canada’s Yukon Holiday or Germany’s Bavaria Holiday Kitchen, will always have longer lines, but others appear longer than they actually are.
Third, stop in the World Showplace event pavilion. This interior event space is normally used for special events and behind-the-scenes happenings, but is open this year (and was during Taste of Food & Wine Festival as well) to guests. Inside the pavilion, you’ll find several uber-cute photo ops, three Holiday Kitchens, a fantastic merchandise location, the stage on which Joyful! will perform, and tables galore. And air conditioning. We can’t leave that out.
For us EPCOT geeks, having the chance to stop by the World Showplace is a great thing. It was fun to see guests taking advantage of the intricately detailed photo backdrops.
The Gingerbread Capital City display has moved from the American Adventure pavilion to the World Showplace this year. And what is normally a beautiful display got an upgrade. Big time. The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial has been added to this year’s display, and the chefs really went all out. It’s just gorgeous, and it sparkles under the lights. The chefs should be incredibly proud of their hard work. As someone from the D.C. area, I enjoyed the attention to detail and love that went into recreating some of the city’s iconic buildings and memorials.
The merchandise offerings were plentiful, and if you’re a Guerlain fan, there’s a kiosk set up in the back of the merch location. The Guerlain rep also shared with me that Plume et Palette, located in the France pavilion, will reopen in January. More spots reopening is a very good thing, n’est pas?
Olaf has replaced Chip n’ Dale. Olaf ’s Holiday Tradition Expedition Scavenger Hunt will have you running all over the World Showcase hunting for that summer-loving snowman. The chipmunk duo hosted their Christmas Tree Spree for years; it was nice of them to hand the reins over to Olaf. Maps and stickers for the hunt can be purchased at select merchandise locations, and guests can choose from three different plastic cups at the end of the hunt.
Lastly, try something new. Or something new to you. I tried three new items today at the Tuscany Holiday Kitchen in Italy, and it was fun! Yes, I have my favorites (Chocolate Crinkle Cookie, I’m coming for you), but it was great to stop and give something different a whirl, too.
The Sacchetti all Boscaiola ($9.50) was so very good. In fact, if you stop by, please get it and then let me know what you thought, okay? Little “purses” of delicate pasta are filled with a combination of four cheeses, sweet sausage, caramelized onions, pancetta, and Cremini mushrooms. And lovely pancetta was sprinkled on top. Dear me. This was gooood. Picture carbonara, plussed up.
I also had the Cannoli Siciliani ($5.25), which was a nice, light bite. Well, two bites, to be exact. The sweet ricotta filling was really nice, and very cold, which was a welcomed thing on a hot afternoon. The crunchy cannoli shell tasted like a waffle cone dipped in a lovely, sweet chocolate. Yum.
All in all, yes, there are changes. This is 2020, so we’ve become accustomed at this point to the fact that things will just sometimes need to change a bit, right? The Holiday Storytellers aren’t along for the ride this year, but we sure hope they make their eventual return in years to come. Cavalcades have replaced the meet and greets you might have experienced in the past (don’t miss the Mickey’s Happy Holidays Cavalcade; it’s the cutest thing going), but it’s a delight when the music swells and someone magical parades by. But along with the changes, some things are gloriously the same: food, fun, and holiday touches are around every corner.
What’s your favorite part of the Festival of the Holidays? Please let me know in the comments below so that I can add something new to my list to experience!