Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival at Disney World runs September through November 2015. 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!
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:
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?!
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!
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. 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:
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!
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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If you are planning a Walt Disney World trip, make sure to also read our comprehensive Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide to make the most of your experience!
For more information about dining at Walt Disney World, check out our Walt Disney Dining Resources Page.
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!