Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival at Disney World runs September 25 through November 16, 2015. This post covers our tips, recommendations, and other assorted advice for making the most of the Food & Wine Festival. During this culinary celebration, guests can taste (and drink!) around Epcot’s World Showcase. The Epcot International Food & Wine Festival is one of our favorite events at Walt Disney World, and is one reason why we love visiting Walt Disney World during the fall.
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; make sure to read our Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, the Tower of Terror 10-Miler runDisney event, and our When to Visit Walt Disney World posts to get an idea of what else to do this time of year. As you may know, 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 for each of the last several years, 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 an a ton of fun, and it doesn’t have to be expensive if you have the right approach (we’ll cover how to save money at the Epcot Food & Wine Festival further down this post).
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 Epcot Food & Wine Festival! Keep in mind that not all details are yet known about the 2015 Epcot Food & Wine Festival, and some info will not be released until around July or August 2015, so check back later for more precise info.
World Showcase Snack Booths
For most Walt Disney World guests, the Epcot Food & Wine Festival is these booths. 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 a majority of guests experience. Let’s take a look at what’s new and returning in terms of these booths.
New Marketplace Booths – It seems that each year the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival gets bigger, and this year is no exception. The two notable additions are:
- Patagonia Marketplace – No, this isn’t a booth where yuppies can purchase trendy outdoor gear. Rather, it will offer cuisine from Argentina and Chile, including Sustainable Roasted Verlasso Salmon, Quinoa Salad, and Arugula Chimichurri, plus two Chilean wines and more! My tip: stay away from anything quinoa. (That’s just good life advice generally.)
- Farm Fresh Marketplace – This technically new kiosk sounds to us like it’s just a renaming of the Florida Local Marketplace, with a modified menu. The Bacon and Eggs is what’s being touted here, but expect a bunch of other local, farmish type things. There will also be some craft beers.
Here is the full list of Epcot International Food & Wine Festival Booths. Note that the 2015 Epcot Food & Wine Festival booths are not yet known:
- Brewer’s Collection
- Craft Beers
- Desserts & Champagne
- Farm Fresh
- Intermissions Cafe
- New Zealand
- Puerto Rico
- South Korea
- Additional locations (mostly just regular kiosks in World Showcase that might have a special item or two).
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? Well, partly yes and partly no. 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 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 (especially for booze-oriented kiosks) being quite lengthy. So no, no a little bit of strategy is not overkill for Epcot Food & Wine Festival grazing.
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. 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.
The reason you should read these before you go and develop a loose plan of attack is because lines at booths can be long, and with so many options, it’s quite easy for indecision to occur. Then, you’ll find yourself wandering aimlessly in the sweltering heat, not really sure which snacks might be worth your precious vacation budget or snack credits. This has happened to us…more than once…and it’s not a pleasant experience. Seriously, plan ahead a bit.
Second, go on a weekday. You’ll want to go on a weekday to avoid the frat 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 former frat 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. If you are looking for the high end frat party experience in a theme park, by all means, go on a weekend afternoon or evening. Sure beats the experience of Busch Light and beirut (beer pong) in a dank basement like I had in college!
Finally, go early in the day. Ideally, right before World Showcase opens 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. Besides stray umbrellas here and there, 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.
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 for the shortest lines, the ideal moment to purchase the Dessert Trio for maximum freshness, and stuff like that, but we think that’s getting a little too serious about developing a 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, so we have never done a premium special event. We are fans of words like free and low-cost, so we have done plenty of those seminars. 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. Back to the Basics, Meet & Greets, and the Cranberry Bog are the big ones here, but that’s not an exhaustive list.
Expect more seminars to be held on select weekends; in the past these have featured television personalities from HGTV, but we’re not sure if that’s the case this year. 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 although they have nearly doubled in cost since we started doing them, they still 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. Of course they are not on par with the premium special events below, but they are a fraction of the cost. 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. (Something tells me that Paula Dean will not be there this year, though. 😉 ) Like, over $100 per person in price as the starting price. These range dramatically in price, but expect to shell out a bit for some of the higher end ones. Reviews for these events are generally positive, so if there’s one that strikes you as being interesting, consider giving it a try. Here are some of the more popular special events:
- Dining Through the Decades: Walt Disney Tribute – Disney bills this as meals inspired by Walt Disney’s favorite foods, paired with wines. From what I’ve read, Walt Disney’s favorite food was chili, so I’m betting that this will be liberal with the inspired by language.
- Culinary Boot Camp – The newest special event, this sounds basically like a reality TV show where a celebrity chef whips your cooking into shape in a 2 hour event. We will only go if the chef promises to scream at us.
- Food for Thought – A celebrity chef ‘takes a trip down memory lane’ with stories from their personal journey as a chef, and accompanying food. Plus tips and other stuff. We will only go if we can hear Anthony Bourdain talk about…well, anything.
- Sunday Mornings with… – Brunch with acclaimed pastry or dessert chefs from around the country. Focus is on baked goods and desserts, plus a wine toast. This is on the cheaper end of the spectrum for these special events, and based on the flimsy premise, it looks like there’s a reason for that…
- Party for the Senses – Tasting event parties featuring pre-eminent chefs preparing delicious samples, 50+ wines and beers, and live entertainment. The Party for the Senses reviews are all over the place; given that and the cost, this is not something we would do.
- Parisian Breakfast – Les Chefs de France hosts breakfast and a welcoming Mimosa on Saturdays. Features authentic pastries and juices. Inexpensive relative to other special events, but still a pretty expensive breakfast. Chances are, if this weren’t a limited time special event, they wouldn’t be able to charge this much for it.
- “3D” Disney’s Dessert Discovery – Illuminations dessert party with booze and a 3D (thanks to the booze! ;)) viewing of Illuminations. We’ve never done this event, but if the Illuminations 3D glasses are anything like the Osborne Lights 3D glasses, they’re nothing special.
- Signature Dining “Culinary Adventures” – Chefs at just about every Signature (and other) Walt Disney World restaurants host visiting celebrity chefs to prepare very inspired and special meals while the chef(s) explain the menu rationale and preparation techniques. These meals are expensive, but we have heard almost universally glowing reviews for these meals. If they are in your budget (which probably means you don’t really have a ceiling on your budget) we say go for it.
- Cheese Seminars – Cheese experts talk about cheese as you eat cheese. (Hosted by Mickey Mouse and Remy?)
- Pairing Meals – Restaurants around World Showcase offer food and beverage meal pairings. Popular meals include the Tequila Luncheon in La Hacienda de San Angel, and the Italian Food & Wine Pairings in Via Napoli. Dozens of other such meals are offered.
- Wine Schools – A wine expert provides samples and explains the flavors, culture, and process behind the wine.
This list just scratches the surface on everything that is offered. For a comprehensive list of the Premium Special Events along with reviews and additional information, check out Walt Disney World’s list of different special events
. You can also find pricing, dates, and booking details there.
Don’t feel bad if you don’t do any of these special events. Most guests do not (we never have) and there’s still plenty to do at Food & Wine Festival. These events have always felt like very limited capacity offerings that are at price points more reflective of their limited capacity and exclusivity than their actual, reasonable value. In our experience, any time there is something “Disney” that is a special event with low capacity, the sky is pretty much the limit on prices that can be charged since there are so many Disney fans, and to enough of these fans, money is no issue…so the cost doesn’t really matter to them. That’s just my take, though.
– Two runDisney events will be offered during the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. The first, is the Tower of Terror 10-miler. The second is the “official” race of the Epcot Food & Wine Festival, the Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon. As you know if you saw our Disney Fitness post
, we ran in the Tower of Terror 10-miler in its inaugural year. It was a ton of fun, but the course wasn’t that exciting. (You can read our full Tower of Terror 10-Miler Review
for more info.)
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. The concert lineup is pretty strong this year, containing a mix of artists that are currently somewhat-popular and artists that were once quite popular. No, you’re not going to find current big-name artists like One Direction 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.
It’s also important to remember that there’s a lot to do and the park can be very crowded and hot on weekends. 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.
The heat, cost, and weekend party atmosphere are all potential downsides. For these reasons alone, we believe it is imperative that you have a plan. You don’t need to map out every step and every drink, but going in with some clue as to what you want to do and how much you will likely spend is a good idea.
With that said, Food & Wine Festival is a tremendous amount of fun, and it’s the absolute best time of the year at Epcot. During Food & Wine Festival, World Showcase takes on a wholly new life, and feels like an actually living, breathing World Showcase. Don’t get me wrong, Epcot is always fun, but it has a lot more life during Food & Wine Festival. We have spent entire days during Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival not doing any attractions, just enjoying the offerings. We look forward to doing that again this year, and trying a lot of new things!
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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!