The 2018 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival is now underway at Walt Disney World! We were on hand for the opening day of the event, and ate our way around World Showcase and Future World, stopping at every Global Marketplace and trying nearly everything on the menus.
We’ll be updating our Ultimate Guide to the 2018 Epcot Food & Wine Festival and Global Marketplace Menus & Food Photos for Epcot Food & Wine Festival posts over the weekend after we’ve done a few more things the next couple of days. For now, we wanted to drop in with a preliminary report from the front line of the event.
I’ll be honest: the Epcot Food & Wine Festival is my least favorite of the Epcot festivals. I still enjoy it, but there’s far less substance to this event, and way more of the event is predicated upon spending money on undersized and overpriced food and alcohol. You’ll see way more coverage about Food & Wine than any of the other festivals because there’s more reader interest (and in the internet era, that’s becoming something of a self-fulfilling prophecy as sites like this one hype up Food & Wine), but I’d take the Epcot International Festival of the Arts any day over Food & Wine. That’s my personal favorite.
Nevertheless, the fall foodie festival is still fun if you know how to approach it. The 2018 Epcot Food & Wine Festival retains a lot of the same standout items that have been added to Global Marketplace menus in the last few years, but doesn’t really build upon those with a robust slate of new offerings in World Showcase. To be sure, there are some good new things around World Showcase, but the best items there are returning favorites.
The biggest surprise was that most of the highlights of the 2018 Epcot Food & Wine Festival for me weren’t the standalone country booths around World Showcase, but the permanent snack spots that had specialty items for the event.
For example, the Maple Bacon Funnel Cake near American Adventure was shockingly good, as were the croissant doughnuts at Taste Track.
The Pancake Milkshake was also a winner, as was one variety of new poutine. These are all items I’d consider “fun” rather than ambitious culinary creations, but these humble treats nonetheless steal the show to some degree.
Other booths that were hits were not much of a surprise. The entire Next Eats area remains solid, with Flavors from Fire once again being the highlight of the event. Everything we tried at Islands of the Caribbean was good, as well.
On the other hand, booths that have been consistently poor over the years remained that way. We spent $27 ordering all of the food items from the Italy pavilion, and that money would’ve been better spent ordering an entree at literally any restaurant at Walt Disney World.
Price-wise, this year’s event is on par with the last couple of years. In other words, expensive. A couple could easily drop $100 grazing around Food & Wine all day and still leave the park hungry.
Unless you’re visiting for Free Dining and plan on using snack credits, the prices can be intimidating. Having a plan before arriving at Epcot so you don’t spend too much is a smart move.
If you compare prices from 5 years ago to today, you’ll notice a huge increase, but compare this year’s prices to last year’s and there’s almost no difference. In fact, a handful of items are slightly cheaper than last year.
Still, this is hardly a blue light special on the food, and prices are still out of control. Of course, this is true pretty much across the board for Walt Disney World. We’ve commented on this before, but it’ll be interesting to see whether these pricing trends can continue unabated if consumer confidence falters or there’s an economic downturn.
The Festival Center is once again in the old Wonders of Life pavilion, which could soon be the new ??? pavilion. (Well, “soon” as in 2022 or 2023, but still.)
I didn’t see any signs of work going on in there, and the Festival Center is more or less the same idea it has been in previous years. The main difference this year is the addition of Shimmering Sips and Craft Drafts, which are options for mimosas and beer.
Another offering here is the coffee film, which is a relaxing way to get off your feet for a bit.
Merchandise is pretty typical, with a mix of designs that feature Mickey, Figment, and Remy. I can’t say anything stood out to me as a must-have (although I do like the above mug and another shirt).
Generally, I think merchandise has been a strong point of the event for a few years. It’s whimsical yet tasteful, and there are some clever designs.
The prizes this year for Remy’s Hide and Squeak scavenger hunt are lenticular character cups, which are pretty cool.
I remember having cups like this as a kid and loving them. The Figment one above might be my favorite piece of merchandise from the entire event!
We’ve done opening day of Epcot International Food & Wine Festival a few times now, and it has come to be something about which I have mixed feelings. That shouldn’t be the case, as gorging myself at Walt Disney World is pretty much a dream scenario.
I absolutely love Food & Wine Festival in early November when the weather is cool and it’s a joy to be outdoors in Florida. ‘Rope dropping’ global marketplace booths at 11 a.m. and eating around World Showcase non-stop until the sun goes down in August is another story entirely.
With that in mind, I made some personal changes to my approach for the 2018 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival that made it considerably more enjoyable this year. Some of these are immaterial to you, but not all of them, so I’m going to share what I did differently this year.
For the last several years, I’ve carried my entire camera bag and tripod to the event, which collectively weighs close to 30 pounds. Obviously, neither a tripod nor are 5 different lenses not necessary to photograph food. However, I’ve always brought them just in case there was an incredible sunset that I’d want to waddle around and photograph after stuffing myself at the booths.
This year, I took the infinitely more sensible approach of just carrying my Sony a7 III with the Rokinon 35mm f/2.8 lens attached, and no camera bag or tripod. I’m not even exaggerating when I say that today alone justified my decision to purchase a lightweight mirrorless camera. It was like walking through Epcot on clouds as compared to my usual set-up. I felt on top of the world.
Although your backpack probably doesn’t weigh 30 pounds, not carrying a bag (period) this time of year at Walt Disney World is incredibly liberating. If you can find a way to leave it behind, I’d highly recommend doing so. Even if that means wearing cargo shorts or a fanny pack (they’re coming back into style!), go for it.
In addition, make sure to come armed with a Frogg Togg Chilly Pad, which we recommend everyone take to Walt Disney World in our Ultimate Disney Packing Guide. I also wore a Dry-Ex polo that I bought on clearance from UNIQLO (it’s like Nike Dri-Fit, but a fraction of the cost–I should’ve bought like 20 of them).
Breathable, quick-dry clothing like this is great. On a normal summer day at Walt Disney World, my shirt gets soaked with back sweat and I smell like Krumm from Aaahh!!! Real Monsters by the end of the day. I probably still didn’t smell like roses at the end of Food & Wine’s opening day, but I felt so much better.
All in all, these changes made the experience of doing the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival all-day in August much more comfortable.
This anecdote is pertinent, I think, because it’s important to underscore just how hot and humid Florida is this time of year, and also because until you’ve experienced Food & Wine, you might not realize how much of the event occurs outdoors in uncovered shade.
Most planning resources focus on the snacks you want to try and how fun you’ll have snacking around World Showcase, and that’s helpful advice. In August or September, it’s just as important to come prepared for being outdoors for extended amounts of time in potentially oppressive weather, or you won’t be able to handle being outside long enough to do much of the fun snacking.
The point is that November is always going to be a better time to visit Walt Disney World weather-wise than September, but if you plan accordingly, and the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival can be fun no matter when you do it.
Ultimately, this is just the opening act of the 2018 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, but we’d say things are off to a good start. We still have a lot more to experience during the event, and will have several future posts about the festivities. From today alone, I have literally 300+ unedited food photos, and after the next couple of days I’ll have even more…so stay tuned for a lot of Food & Wine coverage in the coming weeks. For now, we hope this post has offered you a good prime to Epcot’s 2018 Food & Wine Festival!
For Walt Disney World trip planning tips and comprehensive advice, make sure to read our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide and related articles. Also make sure to read our other Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews and Disney Dining Plan Resources.
Anything you’re excited to try at the 2018 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival? What do you think of the lineup of Global Marketplaces? Special or premium events you’re doing during Food & Wine? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing your feedback–even when you disagree with us–is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!