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Orlando Theme Park Festivals Worth Planning a Vacation For

There's a festival for every vacation style — from family-friendly holiday fun to Halloween thrills and everything in between

The Vacationeer
Family of four walking into Orlando theme park, Florida.

Arguably the best time to visit Orlando is when Walt Disney World® and Universal Orlando Resort™ transform to bring art, music, food, flowers, frights and more to the forefront in various seasonal festivals. 

Looking for cheese tastings and chef tutorials? Head to the Epcot® International Food & Wine Festival. Maybe marquee musical acts are more your taste? Rock out at Universal Orlando's Mardi Gras.

No matter which festival you choose, consider staying at one of Hilton Grand Vacations' four Orlando resorts to top off your vacation. When you need a break from the festivals, enjoy outdoor swimming pools complete with waterslides, cabanas and splash pads, children's activities and amenities, fitness centers, tennis and more right outside your door. 

Vacation ownership ensures a guaranteed home away from home, no matter what hot festival or event comes to town. All that's left is to pick a fest.

Overhead shot of brightly colored artistic culinary confection.   

Walt Disney World's Epcot® International Festival of the Arts

When: January to February

Visual, performing and culinary crafts come alive at the Epcot International Festival of the Arts. During the annual event, acrobats, living statues and performance artists take to Epcot's streets.

Meanwhile, visual artists put on painting shows, Disney characters pose for portraits and galleries spotlight jewelry makers, photographers, chalk artists and more.

Guests can also hone their painting, sketching, crafting and animation skills in workshops with Disney artists or step into famous masterpieces — like Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa — for Insta-worthy snapshots. Kids can grab a brush and collaborate on a giant paint-by-numbers mural, create their own chalk art or attend an Animation Academy. Plus, food imitates art at "Food Studios" Around the World Showcase, and a Wonderful Walk of Colorful Cuisine invites guests to sample vibrant bites from around the globe.

Universal Orlando's Mardi Gras

Rock musican performing for the crowd at a concert.    

When: February to April

The weekend marquee concerts by big-name headlining musical acts might draw the crowds to Universal Orlando's Mardi Gras — but the real stars are the nightly parades. Imagine outlandish costumes, mega floats, street performers and beads aplenty, all inspired by an annual theme.

Lucky guests can join a virtual queue on The Official Universal Orlando Resort app for a chance to ride a parade float in real life, and kids can catch the action unobstructed at the Little Jester's Parade Viewing Area. Throw in Cajun food — including jambalaya and beignets in the French Quarter Courtyard and ticketed crawfish boils and dessert parties — plus nightly New Orleans bands to make the festival Orlando's wildest winter soiree.

Walt Disney World's Epcot® International Flower & Garden Festival

Beautiful different color flowers planted to create a flower design.   

When: March to May

Walt Disney World blooms in a burst of flowers and fantasy at the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival. More than 50 Disney character topiaries line the theme park, alongside interactive gardens ranging from bamboo, Bonsai and butterflies to floating flower beds, a tea terrace and a health trail for kids. 

Guests can book special tours of the English Tea Garden (complete with tea tastings), The Land Pavilion's four greenhouses or Gardens of the World around the World Showcase.

Children's play patios, outdoor kitchens and a Garden Rocks Concert Series fills the days and nights with flowery fun.

Walt Disney World's Epcot® International Food & Wine Festival

When: July to November

Woman tasting tapas-style small plates with champagne.    
Eat your way around the world with dozens of kiosks serving tapas-sized bites from Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, North and South America during the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. Master chefs and beverage presenters host pairing events where guests can sip and savor snacks; industry pros lead live culinary demonstrations; and the Sunday Brunch series brings celebrity chefs from TV to you.

Want to sharpen your skills? Partake in cake-decorating classes, cheese tastings and beverage seminars for foodies, gourmets and gourmands alike. 

Insider tip: The Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon Weekend in November offers runners and registered guests exclusive access to the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival with an after-hours post-race party.

Universal Orlando's Halloween Horror Nights

Spooky scene inside an eerily lit room and a floating sheet.    

When: Select nights September and October

How scary is Universal Orlando's specially ticketed Halloween Horror Nights?

Organizers warn it's "too intense" for children under 13. In September and October, Universal Studios Orlando transforms into a terror town with multiple world-class haunted houses, plus on-street scare zones populated by zombies and other creatures of the night. 

Feed your fear with on-theme food and drinks, too. There's a reason the event has repeatedly won "Best Halloween Event" worldwide from Amusement Today. It's not for the faint of heart.

Walt Disney World's Epcot® International Festival of The Holidays

When: November to December

Overhead shot of beautifully decorated holiday cookies.    
'Tis the season to be jolly at Walt Disney World as Epcot decks the halls for the holidays. Hollywood stars shine at the Candlelight Processional, where a celebrity narrator tells the tale of Christmas, backed by a 50-piece orchestra and full choir.

Holiday Kitchens feature seasonal recipes from around the globe and the Holiday Cookie Stroll offers various mini desserts for purchase around the World Showcase. While you're walking in a winter wonderland, Disney characters, festive decor and costumed entertainers bring global holiday traditions to life.

Holidays at Universal Orlando™

When: November to January

The resort-wide Holidays at Universal Orlando transforms theme parks into seasonal sensations.

Christmas at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter™ brings lights and magic to Hogsmeade™ at Universal's Islands of Adventure™ and Diagon Alley™ in Universal Studios Florida. Other seasonal, in-park entertainment includes Universal's Holiday Parade featuring Macy's and live performances of Dr. Seuss's “The Grinch" in The Grinchmas™ Who-liday Spectacular.

Read "There’s More to Walt Disney World Than Rides — Here are the Best Restaurants to Treat Your Taste buds, According to a Local" for more Orlando vacation inspiration. 



The Vacationeer

The Vacationeer is a collective of Hilton Grand Vacations storytellers whose goal is to inspire travelers to go further. We're always on the lookout for new destinations to explore, useful travel tips, and unique ideas to help you plan the most memorable vacations possible.

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