We have rounded the bend on our Florida-style winter (knock on wood) and have entered the festival season at Orlando’s theme parks, with big, extended to-dos at Universal Studios, SeaWorld Orlando and Disney’s Magic Kingdom.
Each fest has its own attention-getting emphasis, but food is a unifying string between the three. They’re all also included with regular park admission, though you’ll be paying for all the munchies.
Here’s a glance at the Seven Seas Food Festival at SeaWorld, Universal’s Mardi Gras and Epcot International Festival of the Arts.
Where and when: SeaWorld Orlando, Friday through May 7. The park says “select dates,” but it’s mostly a Thursday-Sunday schedule, plus Feb. 20 for Presidents Day.
What’s on the menu: The festival features 24 culinary marketplaces, although some of them only sell liquid assets (aka bars). Some of the new-to-event solids include crispy Brussels sprouts (All-American Market), Prince Edward Island shrimp fritters (North Atlantic Market), deep-fried dumplings (Asian Market) and tostada de barbacoa (Mexican Market). Full menus and market maps are available at SeaWorldOrlando.com.
What else is happening: The concert series kicks off this weekend with En Vogue on Saturday and REO Speedwagon on Sunday. Showtime is 7 p.m. both nights at Bayside Stadium.
What’s intriguing: A new coaster-inspired cocktail is named for the upcoming Pipeline ride that opens this spring. The drink’s ingredients include gin, vodka, rum, peach schnapps, orange juice, pineapple and grenadine. It’s available at the Coaster Cocktails Market near Sea Lion and Otter Stadium.
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Where and when: Universal Studios, Saturday through April 16
What’s on the menu: So far, there’s not been a reveal on all the menu items, but the theme is international, according to Universal Orlando’s website. Visitors will “sample flavors from the bayou to Brazil and beyond.” That will include mofongo flight a la Puerto Rico, Indonesian black coconut rice pudding with mango and crawfish boil out of New Orleans.
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What else is happening: The (almost) nightly parade carries a “Mythical Realms of Mardi Gras” theme (think unicorns). Step-off times range from 6:15 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. The first concert of the event is Saturday featuring Patti LaBelle.
What’s intriguing: Visitors can attempt to make a reservation for bead-tossing positions on the parade floats via the Virtual Line option on Universal’s app. They could also try the new “float ride and dine experience” that includes a meal at Finnegan’s or Lombard’s in the park or at Cowfish or NBC Sports Grill at CityWalk, plus a float spot that same night. That’s $84.99, but there’s a lot of fine print for either way. Go to UniversalOrlando.com for details.
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Where and when: Walt Disney World’s Epcot, daily through Feb. 20
What’s on the menu: Disney says there are 50 new food items at the festival, which has been running since Jan. 13. Among the fresh dishes: rainbow katsu sando (at Goshiki kiosk), compressed watermelon tataki (Moderne), hummingbird cake (Artist’s Table) and Silk Road hard lemonade (vodka, lavender-coconut syrup, lemonade from the Painted Panda).
What else is happening: Several hands-on activities, including the massive mural and Animation Station, browsing through art displays, and the thrice-nightly Disney on Broadway concerts (It’s Mandy Gonzalez from “Aida” and L. Steven Taylor from “The Lion King” on Saturday and Sunday).
What’s intriguing: Musicians are set up on the World Showcase Plaza, including Don Black (saxophone), Victor Espinola (harp), Nicholas Marks (guitar) and didgeridoo player Dominic Gaudious.
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