The free refreshment lounge is back for the 2023 EPCOT Food & Wine Festival! This “secret” spot is a great guest hideaway for escaping the heat and crowds at Walt Disney World, relaxing and recharging with free food & drinks and air-conditioning. This post takes a look inside and how to access the temporary venue in World Showcase. (Updated September 3, 2023.)
This marks the third consecutive year that there’s been a free lounge in EPCOT during the Food & Wine Festival. During the first year, it was truly a hidden gem. Even after writing a post to hype it up, we seldom saw more than a dozen people in the entire space. That was despite the lounge very much “hiding” in plain sight, right next to the Frozen Ever After queue.
Last year, the lounge had to relocate from Norway, as its former home in the medieval castle was being reclaimed by Akershus Royal Banquet Hall. It moved to a true secret spot, hidden gem, hole in the wall, under-the-radar escape, etc–literally in the most tucked away location in all of World Showcase at EPCOT.
In so doing, the Florida Blue Lounge–now located in the Restaurant Marrakesh–became much more popular. We’d expect that to be true once again during the 2023 EPCOT Food & Wine Festival. Word has definitely gotten out since that first year, and it also probably helps that Walt Disney World is much busier than it was back in Fall 2021 (literally the slowest stretch of the last 3 years due to the Delta variant and reinstated face mask rules).
If you’re unfamiliar with the location of the Florida Blue Lounge, it’s deep in the Morocco pavilion down a dead-end corridor–this area is only home to Restaurant Marrakesh. Pre-closure, Restaurant Marrakesh was not particularly popular. This was likely in part due to its more exotic cuisine, but location played a bigger role. Due to that, there was routinely a Cast Member in the front courtyard of Morocco beaconing guests back, showing menus and touting the (underrated) restaurant.
When EPCOT reopened, Restaurant Marrakesh remained closed. This was hardly surprising–it previously ranked up there with Planet Hollywood as being among the easiest ADRs at Walt Disney World. (Unlike Planet Hollywood, Restaurant Marrakesh served edible food–a key distinction.)
Even after the third party operating participant exited the Morocco pavilion and turned over operations to Disney, the restaurant remained closed. Again, unsurprising. There’s definitely enough demand to justify opening Restaurant Marrakesh at this point, but there are still staffing shortages…especially for face characters. But the future of Restaurant Agrabah is a different story for a different day!
With that said, let’s take a look around the Florida Blue Lounge.
The Morocco pavilion was based on designs found in the cities of Casablanca, Rabat, Fez, and Marrakesh. (We’ll bet you can’t guess which city inspired this particular restaurant.) Like many Moroccan cities, the pavilion is divided into new and old cities, demarcated by the Bab Bou Jeloud (“Blue”) Gate.
Restaurant Marrakesh lies beyond the Blue Gate, and largely maintains its opening day appearance with ornate design and stunning details. Morocco is a country of “timeless wonders” with ancient mosques, synagogues, souks, churches, and kasbahs where the art and architecture have been designed and refined over centuries.
This is evident inside Restaurant Marrakesh/Florida Blue Lounge. The setting is truly transportive, feeling worlds away from a contemporary theme park in Florida. From tile work to the tea dispensers to the ceilings and (especially) the light fixtures, Restaurant Marrakesh is an opulent exemplar of old world Morocco–and old school Imagineering aesthetic sensibilities.
Unfortunately, you don’t get the full experience from visiting the Florida Blue Lounge. During an actual meal at Restaurant Marrakesh, you’d enjoy music from a two-piece combo performing traditional songs and a belly dancer showing off her talents and beckoning kids to join her on the dance floor.
Then there’s the cuisine. Restaurant Marrakesh served up a variety of complex but approachable dishes, with a wide variety of spices and herbs producing authentic Moroccan dishes with nuance, but not necessarily intense flavor or spice. To the contrary, one of my favorite dishes here was the roasted lamb shank, which was fall off the bone tender. Even Signature Restaurants couldn’t compete with this.
Oh, and Restaurant Marrakesh was significantly cheaper than other restaurants. Due to its lack of popularity, the location frequently offered lunch specials or large samplers that were a bargain by Walt Disney World standards.
Now let’s cover the highlights of the free Florida Blue Lounge in the Morocco pavilion.
For the 2023 EPCOT Food & Wine Festival, the lounge should have stations with self-service tap water, Moroccan mint tea, and cold brew coffee, as well as Pure Green and AHA bottled beverages upon request. Sadly, there was no snack cart on any of our visits to the lounge last year, so we’re guessing that’s a thing of the past. (The previous year, they have pre-packaged treats!)
On a positive note, there were added activities last year: Henna tattoos in the early afternoon, followed by live watercolor postcard painting in the late afternoon. These free activities were fun…but we would preferred the yogurt and carrots. The lounge literally just opened for 2023, so it remains to be seen what’s offered this year–we’ll have another update soon!
This year, the Florida Blue Lounge is now open for the 2023 EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival. It’ll be open through November 18, 2023 from 12 pm until 6 pm daily.
Eligibility is always a tricky topic when it comes to the Florida Blue Lounge. Officially, according to both Walt Disney World and the insurance company, this lounge is open to “Florida Blue Members and their Guests.” Does that mean you have to be accompanied by a Florida Blue Member, or are guests permitted on their own? Nobody really knows.
In previous years, anyone has been admitted to the Florida Blue Lounge who registers for the Guest Pass. You can do that at this link. As you can see from the screenshot above, nowhere does it ask you to enter info about your health insurance company.
Below is the Guest Pass itself, which also says nothing about being required to show your Florida Blue insurance card or anything aside from the Guest Pass. Again, you can obtain that without being a Florida Blue Member.
Over the course of the last 2 years, we have visited the Florida Blue Lounge at least a dozen times. Not once have we had to show anything other than the Guest Pass, which is consistent with what the Guest Pass itself says.
However, we’ve had several commenters in both of the last two years who were denied access to the Florida Blue Lounge. I guess we’ve been very luck–or some readers have been very unlucky (or maybe a bit of both).
Point being, this is a YMMV thing if you’re not a Florida Blue Member, and dependent upon whoever is standing guard at the lounge entrance. Hopefully Walt Disney World and/or Florida Blue get on the same page this year, and it’s clear whether access is for those with Florida Blue insurance or guests as well. I don’t know how this remains so ambiguous after three years, but it is what it is.
Suffice to say, don’t book a trip to Walt Disney World solely because you want to get some free cold brew. The lounge might change policies, deny you entry, etc.
In addition to the refreshments and activities, Florida Blue Lounge guests also enjoyed VIP seating for Eat to the Beat Concert Series last year. No word yet on whether that’s returning for the 2023 EPCOT Food & Wine Festival.
As covered in our Guide to the Eat to the Beat Concert Series, buying the dining package for reserved seating is not really necessary–these concerts are not nearly as popular as Candlelight Processional. With that said, it will get you a better view closer to the stage. So that’s a plus.
Ultimately, we’re looking forward to taking advantage of the Florida Blue Lounge at Walt Disney World yet again…assuming we don’t get shut out by having different health insurance…and wanted to give you an early heads up about its return.
Beyond the free refreshments and activities, what we really love about the Florida Blue Lounge is the setting. It’s an exemplar of old school EPCOT Center and Imagineering at the height of its game–a criminally underrated World Showcase restaurant that even many diehard Walt Disney World fans have never seen. It really is a great spot to rest, recharge, and relax. Plus, it’s not every day that you get something truly free at Walt Disney World!
Did you take advantage of the Florida Blue Lounge in EPCOT last year? Have any issues gaining entrance into the location with the Guest Pass? Will you be visiting this free temporary refreshment spot on an upcoming visit to Walt Disney World in 2023? Excited about the opportunity to experience the design and details of Restaurant Marrakesh? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? 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!