There’s no wrong time to visit Orlando. In the coldest months of the year, when much of the country is under a blanket of snow and ice, our average daily high temperatures are still above 70 degrees. And even in the summer, when average daily highs are in the 90s, there’s enough air conditioning and theme park splash zones to keep you cool. We’ve talked about the best times to visit Orlando in terms of crowds, but it’s also worth talking about the big festivals that are annual draws. The holiday period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day is one of my favorite times to visit the parks, due to the all-out holiday theming (including Christmas parties and parades!), but that doesn’t exactly count as a festival, does it? So without further ado, here are five annual celebrations in which you’ll find your favorite places offering a little something special.
Epcot International Food and Wine Festival
My favorite festival of the year, this multi-week annual event, which typically runs from mid-September through early November, offers so much that you could come every day without getting tired. More than two dozen international marketplaces—each offering moderately priced small food and drinks—surround the World Showcase Lagoon, while daily events such as wine seminars, cooking demonstrations and free concerts—from bands such as Sister Hazel, Sugar Ray, Hanson, Boyz II Men and more—entertain you. I go at least a dozen times each fall.
Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival
This one is also a favorite among Disney guests. Typically running from mid-March to early May, this Epcot festival features themed flower and garden exhibits and displays, topiaries galore, food booths offering garden-based delights, and a fabulous free concert series including bands from the ‘60s, ‘70s, and beyond. Past musical guests have included my old friend Chubby Checker, Herman’s Hermits, the Village People, and the Grass Roots.
Halloween Horror Nights
On the opposite end of the festival spectrum, find Universal Studios’ enormously popular Halloween Horror Nights, an annual scare-tacular taking place select nights from mid-September through Halloween weekend. Themed haunted houses—there were eight in 2014—will thrill and chill you, and most of the major rides are open too. People come from all around the world just to experience this nighttime event.
Star Wars Weekends
Typically running Friday through Sunday from mid-May through mid-June, this event at Disney’s Hollywood Studios draws Star Wars fans from all around the galaxy. You’ll meet Star Wars characters and celebrities in live shows, presentations, autograph sessions and more. In 2014, Mark Hamill, who portrayed Luke Skywalker in the original film series, even made an appearance!
Florida Film Festival
Granted, this may not draw you to Orlando unless you’re already a major film buff. But if your vacation plans include an April stay in the Sunshine State, count yourself lucky; this stellar film festival, which takes place in mid-April, offers an intimate look at up-and-coming films, as well as an opportunity to interact with well-known actors and directors.