Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival at Disney World runs September 14 through November 14. 2016. This post covers our tips, recommendations, and other assorted advice for making the most of the Food & Wine Festival. This year’s Food & Wine Festival at Epcot will be the longest ever, and during the event guests can eat and drink their way around the World Showcase and parts of Future World. The Epcot International Food & Wine Festival is one of the most popular events at Walt Disney World, and we’ll cover why in this post.
Although this article will provide tips for the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, there are a lot of things we recommend doing in the fall. Read our Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and our When to Visit Walt Disney World posts to get an idea of what else to do this time of year. Fall is the perfect time to visit Walt Disney World! Well, my personal “perfect” time of year is Christmas (nothing beats Christmas at Walt Disney World for me!), but fall is a close second.
We’ve been to Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival many times, spending more money on snacks than we care to think about. While Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival can be a pricey event, it can also be fun, and it doesn’t have to be expensive if you have the right approach.
If you’re looking for what’s new for the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival or what our recommend plan of attack is for the festival? Well, you’ve come to the right place. Here’s our preview of what’s new, what we recommend doing, and strategy for keeping your sanity at the 2016 Epcot Food & Wine Festival!
World Showcase Snack Marketplaces
For most Walt Disney World guests, the Epcot Food & Wine Festival is these marketplaces. They are the little snack kiosks added throughout World Showcase with snack size portions available for purchase. While this is just one element of Food & Wine Festival, it’s the only element that most guests experience.
The two notable additions for Epcot Food & Wine Festival’s 20th Anniversary are the Cheese Studio and Wine Studio marketplaces, where premium wines will be on tap (yes, wine on tap) and cheeses will be served on an “artist’s palette” as part of a wine-and-cheese pairing. These will be located in the larger “Artistry of Wine & Cheese” area.
Last year, the marketplaces spilled out into Future World, at the new “Next Eats” area near the Epcot Character Spot. Here there will be the Sustainable Chew and the Chew Lab marketplaces, which will sell dishes inspired by “The Chew” co-hosts…which I assume is some TV show I’ve never heard of? These were a big hit last year, so we expect them to return (and then some) for 2016.
Exact booths have not yet been announced for 2016, but here’s the full list from last year:
- Brewer’s Collection
- Desserts & Champagne
- Dominican Republic
- Farm Fresh
- Hops & Barley
- Intermissions Cafe
- New Zealand
- Puerto Rico
- Refreshment Outpost(s)
- South Korea
Expect these to be pretty much the same this year, with a few changes. All of these booths are great, but really, what would be awesome is if the Japan booth just totally dominated the festival and featured all of the Tokyo Disneyland Snacks and Tokyo DisneySea Snacks. Seriously, take a look at the insane(ly awesome) snacks in those posts. It would be glorious. WHO IS WITH ME?!
Food & Wine Festival Booths Strategy
Strategy for snacks? Seems like overkill, right? Not at all. While the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival is a fun way to sample (mostly) good foods, it’s also insanely popular and expensive (I would say overpriced, but “popular and overpriced” seems like a bit of a contradiction).
By midday, some Food & Wine Festival booths have lengthy lines for ordering and pickup. By late-afternoon, World Showcase is a sea of sweaty humanity with some booth lines having wait times exceeding those for attractions. Add to this little shade and some slightly inebriated guests, and it can be an unpleasant mix. By evening, some areas of World Showcase feel like a mild frat party, with lines being quite lengthy, especially on weekends.
First, you can find the full menus for these booths on the Walt Disney World Food & Wine Festival page. We highly recommend reading these menus before your trip. Study them, learn them, master then. Knowing what you plan to try before you go is great so you don’t wander aimlessly or end up getting things that aren’t what you want most on impulse.
You will also want to read our “Top Snack Picks” post which has our recommendations of what to get and what not to get, plus photos of the actual food. These two things are really helpful resources for planning what you might want to try before you visit. You may even want to type up a list of potential items to try and their locations in the park.
Below are some tips to make your festival experience more pleasant…
Go on a weekday – You’ll want to go on a weekday to avoid the party atmosphere. Weekends are when local college students (who apparently have disposable incomes?) descend upon Epcot, and turn the place into a veritable frat party. I love frat parties just as much as the next guy, but there is a time and a place for frat parties. Namely, at a frat house when you’re in college. Not in family-oriented theme parks. Your opinion of Food & Wine Festival could differ dramatically based on whether you go on a weekday or weekend.
Go early in the day – Slightly before Food and Wine starts, you should be lining up for your first kiosk. Lines are far shorter earlier in the day, but just as important is that it isn’t quite as hot at 11 am as it is at 2 pm. There is very little shade at the booths. If you’ve ever waited in line 30 minutes for some wine and creme brulee in France while sweating through your shirt, you know what I’m talking about.
AC Break – During the hottest part of the day, taking a break from the activities in World Showcase and going to the in-door and air-conditioned Festival Welcome Center is a good idea. General tips for surviving a hot day at Walt Disney World also apply here. You can get free cups of water from any counter service restaurant, you want to hit places with air-conditioning (I’ll put in a plug for the underrated Impressions de France here, which has an especially moving score after a drink or two!), and you want to pace yourself when eating and drinking. We expand upon these tips in our Drinking Around the World Showcase article–the idea is the same here.
There’s probably more strategy than this, like a scientific approach to which direction around World Showcase you should go, the ideal moment to purchase items for maximum freshness, etc., but this is a solid plan of attack. After your second or third drink from one of the kiosks, you’ll be so oblivious to what’s going on that standing in line for snacks may not even bother you. Just remember: friends don’t let friends do Captain EO! 😉
Food & Wine Festival Events
In addition to the booths at the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, there are a lot of events. Some of these are regular things like seminars that are offered in the Festival Welcome Center on a daily basis, and are easily accessible to the average guest.
Other offerings are premium special events (the use of both ‘premium’ and ‘special’ is basically Disneyspeak for ‘super-duper expensive.’) that are relatively unknown to the average guest and often sell out far in advance. We aren’t really fans of super-duper expensive stuff, but we are fans of words like free and low-cost.
Here’s a look at what Food & Wine Festival has in store for these events…
No-Cost Seminars – Although most Epcot Food & Wine Festival seminars became upcharge events out of necessity a few years ago (thanks to locals who camped out for hours before them!), there still are a few free seminars during the Epcot Food & Wine Festival. More seminars are held on weekends; check the daily schedule for more info.
Other events include tastings and various sponsor-driven events throughout World Showcase and in the old Wonders of Life pavilion (the “Festival Welcome Center”).
Low-Cost Seminars – The low-cost seminars are our favorite aspect of the Epcot Food & Wine Festival. At $15 each, they offer a lot more than the free seminars, and a lot of times the samples you receive at these seminars are a better value than what you’d receive if you simply went around to booths and ordered items. In addition to the samples, you receive some basic background information and some entertaining presentations.
These seminars, in general, definitely are not geared to the same level of foodie audience as the special event meals, nor are the samples of the same caliber, but you get what you pay for. We have done several of these, and they generally offer the best value at the Epcot Food & Wine Festival. These low-cost seminars offer a good primer to the topic covered, plus pretty good samples. We plan on reviewing more of these seminars this year, but for now check out our older seminar review to get an idea of what to expect.
Premium Special Events – The Epcot Food & Wine Festival features a number of special events, many of which are quite pricey. Like, over $100 per person in price as the starting price. Reviews for these events are often prefaced with “despite the cost, we enjoyed it…” (or something along those lines), so if there’s one that strikes you as being interesting and you have disposable income, consider giving it a try.
Personally, these don’t interest me at all. While I would consider myself somewhat of a foodie and I’m sure the dishes prepared at them are excellent, it seems to me that you’re paying a significant premium over what something comparable would cost in the real world. I think there’s not just the standard Disney premium here, but also scarcity pricing, in that many of these events are extremely small, and Disney knows there are enough guests with significant disposable incomes who won’t balk at high prices to fill the events. That’s just my take, and again, it’s an outsider perspective, as I’ve never done any of these.
I have never purchased any Food & Wine Festival merchandise, but that is all about to change this year, as the 20th Anniversary stuff features nods to the history of Epcot (and EPCOT Center!), with Figment featured prominently
. Big kudos to the merchandise team this year, as I think some of these designs are great. I can’t wait to see what else they have (although my wallet is fearing that).
– Only one runDisney event will be offered during the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival this year, as the Tower of Terror 10-Miler
is no more. The “official” race of the Epcot Food & Wine Festival is the Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon.
Eat to the Beat! Concerts – The Eat to the Beat concert series is presented nightly at the American Gardens Theater across from the American Adventure in Epcot’s World Showcase. No, you’re not going to find current big-name artists like ZZ Top or whatever the kids are listening to these days, but it’s a free concert in Epcot. You can’t really complain!
Summary & Conclusion
If you like food, the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival should be a lot of fun for you. You don’t need to be a foodie to enjoy it, as there’s really something for everyone. I’ll level with you: Food & Wine Festival used to be our favorite event of the year at Walt Disney World, but rising prices, long lines, and being around too many wasted college students put such a damper on it last time we went that we skipped it altogether last year.
We are returning this year, and are determined to follow our own advice better this time, picking weekdays with mild weather forecasts to go, and doing it early in the morning. Part of our poor experience last time was our own fault, but the point I’m trying to underscore here is just how important it is to have a plan. Food & Wine Festival can be a great event and you don’t have to break the bank doing it, but it can also be expensive, crowded, hot, and unpleasant. Planning makes all the difference in the experience you have.
If you take away nothing else from this post, remember that. Additionally, there’s a ton to do. Even if you went to Epcot every day of Food & Wine Festival, you couldn’t experience it all (but you would go broke trying!). We mention cost here a lot, and for good reason: you can spend a ridiculous amount of money without really trying. Just grazing the various booths for an afternoon can set you back a lot of money.
This isn’t meant to scare you away from the Food & Wine Festival. It can be a tremendous amount of fun if you plan ahead, avoid the hordes of people on the weekend, and get lucky with mild weather. It’s the second best time of the year at Epcot, after the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival, in my opinion. World Showcase feels like an actually living, breathing World Showcase during the festival, with a culinary focus.
Planning a Walt Disney World trip? If you’re interested in learning more about hotels, our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page is a good place to start. For where to eat, try out our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews page. If you want to save money on tickets or determine which type you should get, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at unconventional things you should take on your trip. Once you arrive at the parks, our Walt Disney World “Ride Guides” are great for determining what to do and when to do it.
For overviews of all of these topics and so much more, the best place to start is our comprehensive Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide to make the most of your experience!
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Have you done the Epcot Food & Wine Festival at Walt Disney World? What did you think? Ever had any negative experiences? Have any tips of your own to share? If you have any questions or thoughts to share, please post them in the comments. We love hearing from readers!