Festivals. Concerts. Food. Events are some of the biggest reasons to visit the Walt Disney World Resort. While Disney World has been very effective at hosting during off-peak times to draw in crowds. Many of them have become very popular. They are a reason to visit in and of themselves!
Walt Disney World Marathon
The Annual Walt Disney World Marathon is one of the most popular races in the United States and has actually become the largest combined running event in the country. It takes place the first full weekend in January. It features a half marathon on Saturday and then a full marathon through the four Disney parks on Sunday. Other highlights include Goofy’s Race-and-a-Half Challenge, Family Fun Run 5K and Kids’ Races.
Other RunDisney Events:
Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend February 24-26
Star Wars Half Marathon: April 20 – 23
Wine and Dine Half Marathon November 2-5
Participation: Registered Event
Impact: Possible heavy resort bookings by marathon participants and early morning traffic impact on race day.
EPCOT Festival of the Arts
(Weekends January 13- February 20th)
The Inaugural Festival of the Arts took place in January 2017 and featured six weekends celebrating visual, culinary and performing arts. There were galleries from Disney legends Mary Blair and Herb Ryman, current artists Joe Kaminski and Costa Alavezos and new art revealed each week. There were street artists, interactive exhibits and interactive workshops. Disney Theatrical also featured a showcase of music from your favorite Disney Broadway shows performed by Broadway talent including: Ashley Brown, Josh Strickland, Kerry Butler, Kevin Massey, Kissy Simmons and Alton Fitzgerald. The culinary arts were represented by Food Studios which offered menus filled with food that was as beautiful as it was delicious
Participation: Open to public (theme park admission required)
Impact: Extra crowds at Epcot, especially throughout World Showcase, mostly on weekends.
Atlanta Braves Spring Training
(February 25- March 29,2017)
The Atlanta Braves return to the ESPN Wide World of Sports for their annial spring training. Fans have the opportunity to meet the players, favorite Disney characters and participate in other fun events.
Participation: Tickets available for Purchase
Location: ESPN Wide World of Sports
EPCOT International Flower and Garden Festival
(March 1- May 29,2017)
The 24th Annual EPCOT International Flower and Garden Festival kicks off in the beginning of March. Each spring the horticulturalists design over 100 topiaries fo your favorite characters and spread them throughout the park. Outdoor kitchens produce menus highlighting produce grown nearby. The Festival Center offers a variety of gardening seminars and DIY workshops featuring some of your favorite HGTV personalities. There is also activities for kids and the Garden Rocks concert series. 2017 will feature Jon Secada, Dennis DeYoung, The Pointer Sisters, Simple Plan, Plain White Ts and many more.
Participation: Free with Park Admission
Impact: Possible extra crowds at EPCOT. Especially on weekends.
Star Wars: Galactic Nights
(April 14, 2017)
*New for 2017* This new hard-ticket Star Wars-themed event will include a variety of activities for the whole family. This movie-premiere-style party will “celebrate 40 years of the Greatest Saga Ever Told.” There will be live entertainment, park-wide scavenger hunt, and character meet and greet.
Participation: Ticket required ($129/adult $124/child)
Location: Disney’s Hollywood Studios
Impact: Not Known
Sounds Like Summer Concert Series
All summer long you can dance to classic rock n’ roll hits under the skies of the open-air America Gardens Theater at Epcot. This summer concert series features a lineup of cover bands performing timeless tunes.
There are three shows nightly at 5:30 pm, 6:45 pm and 8:00 pm
Participation: Included in Park Admission
EPCOT Food & Wine Festival
(August 31- November 13, 2017)
EPCOT Food & Wine Festival is deservedly Disney’s most popular event. The event features 25 International Marketplace Kiosks around the World Showcase. Each year they bring back old favorites and introduce new cuisines. They wine and beer pairings showcase over 100 breweries/wineries from around the world. Last year it expanded to the resorts with special culinary events.
Workshops and Seminars take place in the Festival Center with demonstrations and tastings on Wine, Cheese, Mixology, Chocolate and much more. Celebrity Chefs also make an appearance with Robert Irvine, Cat Cora, Norman Van Aken, Elizabeth Falkner, Buddy Valastro and Jamie Deen appearing most years.
There are also daily concerts (at 5:30, 6:45 and 8:00) in the America Gardens Theatre with the ‘Eat to the Beat’ concert series. Last year Tiffany, Sugar Ray, Wilson Phillips and Hanson were among the performers. Dining Packages are also available.
Participation: Included in Park Admission (Some Seminars and Special Events require tickets)
Impact: World Showcase attracts extra crowds, they are heavier at night and extremely busy on weekends. May cause some traffic congestion. EPCOT area resorts will be very strict about parking. Some EPCOT venues may be restricted for ticketed events.
Night of Joy
(September 8-9, 2017)
An annual celebration featuring contemporary Christian Music Performers
Participation: Ticketed Event Open to Public.
Location: ESPN Wide World of Sports
Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party
(Select Nights Sept- Oct)
A family friendly Halloween Extravaganza held in the Magic Kingdom select nights mid-September through Halloween. The park closes to the general public and is open to ticketed guests only from 7pm to midnight. (Your ticket will admit you to the park as early as 4pm.) The party includes trick or treating, fortune tellers, rare character meet and greets and dance parties. The Boo to You Halloween parade features your favorite villians, characters in their halloween costumes, pirates, gravediggers and dancing ghosts. The Hocus Pocus Villian Spectacular brings the Sanderson Sisters and Disney villians together to create a potion to cast a spell on party-goers. The Happy Hallowishes Fireworks is one of the best Fireworks of the year. Get in the spirit and dress up as your favorite character. Seeing everyone in costume is part of the fun! I get asked all the time if the party is worth the ticket cost… my answer is ABSOLUTELY!
Participation: Ticketed Event Open to the Public
Location: Magic Kingdom
Impact: Early Closings affect Park Attendance.
Holiday Happenings & Events
(November – December)
Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party
Mickey throws a great party- like the Halloween party in the fall, Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party is a special ticketed event that takes place select nights from 7pm to midnight. Enjoy hot chocolate, cookies as you walk through the snow on Main Street! Mickey’s Most Merriest Celebration Castle Stage Show, Once Upon a Christmastime Parade, and Holiday Wishes Fireworks are spectacles not to be missed.
The Christmas story is told by a mass choir, 50 piece live orchestra, and a celebrity narrator. The performance is a moving and breathtaking way to remember what the season is all about. Dining Packages are also available. Celebrity Narrators for 2017 have not yet been announced but perennial favorites include Edward James Olmos, Jodi Benson, Whoopi Goldberg and Neil Patrick Harris.
Holidays Around the World
Holidays Around The World takes place each winter in Epcot’s World Showcase. Storytellers from many of the countries, such as Father Christmas at the United Kingdom pavilion, recounted holiday customs from their respective countries. Marketplaces feature traditional holiday food and beverages. Guests could also have their picture made with Santa and Mrs. Claus at the American Adventure Pavilion. There are also displays on Hannukah and Kwanzaa traditions.
Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! Holiday Spectacular
New for 2016, Jingle Bell, Jingle BAM! was a nighttime holiday spectacular in Disney’s Hollywood Studios that took place above and around the Chinese Theater.
Featuring the characters from Prep and Landing the show also includes memorable holiday moments from Disney films including Mickey’s Christmas Carol, Beauty and the Beast, Pluto’s Christmas Tree, Bambi, Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmasand more. This show combines state-of-the-art projections, fireworks, special effects and Christmas music to create a dazzling, one-of-a-kind holiday experience for guests – capped by a special message from Santa himself.
Holidays at Disney Springs
Holidays at Disney Springs is a new special event that offers live entertainment, festive decor, fun photo ops and the opportunity to meet Santa. There are holiday carolers, Toy Soldier stilt walkers and street performers and a holiday dance party.
Last year’s holiday decorations included the Disney Springs’ Christmas Trail, a trail of trees decorated and themed as Disney characters. Disney Springs Marketplace was transformed into a winter wonderland with snow fall, toy soldiers and more. Holidays at Disney Springs is free to attend.
“Starbright Holidays – An Intel Collaboration” ran November 20- January 8 at 7:00 pm and 8:30 pm. This unique show features 300 show drones illuminating the night sky accompanied by an original Disney arrangement of classic holiday songs recorded by a full orchestra.
Christmastime at the Disney Resorts
Christmas decorations in the Magic Kingdom usually begin going up around the first of November, with the resorts and other parks being completed by the day after Thanksgiving.
Among the especially amazing decorations are the edible holiday displays whipped up by pastry chefs throughout Walt Disney World Resort. Beach Club Resort usually has a fully detailed, life-sized gingerbread carousel in the lobby. The lobby of Yacht Club Resort has had displays such as a miniature New England-style train racing through a sugary rock mountain surrounded by a candy-coated model village. The lobby of BoardWalk Resort always has an amazing gingerbread display, and the Contemporary Resort has had a 17-foot gingerbread Christmas tree!
The biggest edible production is a gingerbread house at Grand Floridian Resort that is large enough that it doubles as a real bake shop. Demonstrations of how to decorate a gingerbread house take place in front of the bake shop six days a week.