Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival at Disney World begins on September 28, 2012 and ends November 12, 2012. 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. Between Food & Wine Festival, Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, special events and fan meets, and great weather, it seems fall is the perfect time to visit Walt Disney World. My favorite time is Christmas (since I love Christmas!), but fall is a close second.
In 2011, we had an absolute blast on our Walt Disney World 40th anniversary and Epcot Food & Wine Festival trip, and we expect to have just as much fun during our Epcot 30th anniversary, Tower of Terror 10-miler, and Epcot Food & Wine Festival trip. If anything, we might have a fun overdose. But this page isn’t about convincing you to visit Walt Disney World in the fall, it’s a 2012 Epcot Food & Wine Festival Preview, so I better get back on track…
So what’s new at this fall-favorite event for 2012? Well, besides the obligatory price increases (C’mon, this is Disney, after all!), there are actually a number of new offerings being brought to the table this year. Here’s our preview of what’s new and what fan-favorites are returning!
World Showcase 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:
Terra Vegan Marketplace – For our non-carnivorous readers, the Terra Marketplace will offer all-vegan menu items including Trick’n Chick’n Curry with Basmati Rice and Chili Colorado with House-Made Chips and Cashew Cheese.
Florida Local Marketplace – I know what you’re thinking… “when did Florida become a country?!” To be fair, Disney abandoned the country concept for the Food & Wine Festival booths long ago, but it’s still fun to joke about the famed countries of “Cheese” and “Desserts & Champagne.” The Florida Booth will offer regional favorites, such as Florida Shrimp Ceviche with Fire Roasted Vegetables, Fried Plantains and Cilantro. It will not, thankfully, be serving grilled manatee.
Returning Marketplace Booths – We’re happy to hear that some of our favorite booths are returning, and that many of our Top Snack Picks from 2011 (don’t check out this list if you haven’t eaten lunch yet!) are also returning! On the one hand, this is exciting because it gives us tested favorites to sample again. On the other hand, it makes it more difficult to sample the new options! Here are some of our favorite booths that are returning:
Premium Special Events – The 2012 Epcot Food & Wine Festival features a number of special events, many of which are quite pricey. 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 shot! Here are some of the more popular special events:
Party for the Senses – (Oct. 6, 13, 20, 27, Nov. 3; $145/person) – Tasting event parties featuring pre-eminent chefs preparing delicious samples, 50+ wines and beers, and live entertainment.
VIP Chef Tours – (Wednesdays, 10:30 am – 1pm; $90/person) – Festival chefs will host a walking-and-tasting tours of World Showcase with stops at various marketplaces. Tours offer taste-tests of 5 marketplace food dishes and 5 beverages (beer, wines, cocktails) as chefs share their culinary wisdom.
“3D” Disney’s Dessert Discovery – (select dates; $55/person) – 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” – (dates and pricing vary by restaurant) – 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 for serious foodies, we’ve heard that they’re well worth the price.
Pairing Meals – (dates and pricing vary by restaurant) – 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 – (Sundays; $135/person) – 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 DisneyFoodBlog.com’s list of 2012 Epcot Food & Wine Festival Special Events.
Low-Cost Seminars – The low-cost seminars are our favorite aspect of the Epcot Food & Wine Festival. At only $11-14 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 feel that for $11-14, these seminars offer the best value at the 2012 Epcot Food & Wine Festival. If you’re financially well-off and aren’t too worried about cost, I’d consider looking to the Premium Special Events instead of these, but these low-cost seminars offer a great intersection of price and substance, I feel. 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.
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 2012 Epcot Food & Wine Festival.
HGTV seminars are held on select weekends and feature television personalities from HGTV that focus on home entertaining. My impression was that HGTV only had programming focused on buying, selling, flipping, etc. houses, so I’m not really sure how this ties into Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival, but hey, it’s free! 😉
Other events include tastings and various sponsor-driven events throughout World Showcase and in the old Wonders of Life pavilion (the “Festival Welcome Center”).
runDisney Races – Two runDisney events will be offered during the 2012 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. The first, on September 29, 2012 is the Tower of Terror 10-miler. The second, on November 10, 2012, is the “official” race of the 2012 Epcot Food & Wine Festival, the Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon. As you know if you saw our Disney Fitness post, we’ll be running in the Tower of Terror 10-miler. A scary race for us, indeed (and that has nothing to do with the Tower of Terror theming!).
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 LMFAO (I had to pause a second to think of a current big name artist–I listen to mostly classic rock, so even the Eat to the Beat performers are “new” to me!), but it’s a free concert in Epcot. You can’t really complain!
September 28-30 – Night Ranger
October 1-3 – Sugar Ray
October 4-7 – STARSHIP starring Mickey Thomas
October 8-10 – Boyz II Men
October 11-12 – Smash Mouth
October 13-14 – Javier Colon (former “The Voice” winner)
October 15-17 – Air Supply
October 18-19 – Gin Blossoms
October 20-21 – Survivor
October 22-23 – Hanson
October 24-25 – The Pointer Sisters
October 26-28 – Sister Hazel
October 29-31 – Billy Ocean
November 1 -2 – 38 Special
November 3-4 – Howard Jones LIVE
November 5-6 – Blues Traveler
November 7-8 – Dennis DeYoung, (Styx)
November 9-12 – Big Bad Voodoo Daddy
If you’re going solely by our relatively modest list here, the 2012 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival might not seem like a big deal. Trust us, it is. Especially if you like food. Even if you went to Epcot every day of Food & Wine Festival, you couldn’t experience it all (but you would go broke trying!). While I joke about cost, Food & Wine Festival does offer a lot of bang for your buck…but it also is very expensive. Just grazing the various booths for an afternoon can set you back a lot of money. So plan accordingly.
That said, it’s 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!
Speaking of our experiences at Food & Wine Festival, if there are any particular aspects of Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival you’d like to see covered in more detail, or questions you have, please leave them in the comments. We are Food & Wine Festival vets, but honestly, I’ve punted on a lot of the aspects of coverage here to DisneyFoodBlog.com because AJ and her team do a much better job than we could ever do covering this stuff. That said, we still have plenty of opinions of various aspects of the Food & Wine Festival, so if you have questions, let us know!
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