Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival is an annual event, usually run from the last week of September through the first week of November. In addition to the eleven country themed pavilions permanently featured in Epcot’s World Showcase, kiosks featuring food and drink from various other countries are set up throughout the park. Guests can sample small plates and drinks from around the world and can attend other affiliated events such as wine seminars and cooking demos.
Every other year my mom and I plan a long mother/daughter weekend and head down to Florida for the event. After three years of attending the festival, and over seven trips to Disney parks, the one thing I’ve learned is that you need a game plan, especially for a special event.
My first tip for really getting everything out of the Food and Wine Festival is to spend two full days at Epcot. There’s already so much to experience without the Food and Wine Festival; when you add all of the extra kiosks, it’s just impossible to experience all of it without the second day. If two full days isn’t an option, consider the park-hopper to get in an extra few hours. The lines are shortest in the morning, but since Epcot is open until at least 9:00 pm daily and has so many dining options, it’s a great night-time destination as well. It’s really a matter of prioritizing and deciding if you want shorter lines or a longer day altogether. Speaking of times to go, do everything in your power to avoid Columbus Day weekend when scheduling your trip, especially if you’re traveling with adults only.
Seasoned Disney goers know that Disney vacations are all about planning, planning, and more planning. With the “My Disney Experience” App, reservations for fast passes, rides, and event seminars can be made in advance. Since lines can get long and dining reservations book up fast, making these ASAP is key to getting the most out of Epcot. Plan your Food and Wine Festival stops around these reservations, making sure to be smart about how much you’re eating before going on a ride and saving space for dinner if you’re dining at a restaurant.
Each year, Disney publishes an event “passport” featuring a breakdown of the items you can get at each “country” and spots for cute little stamps. Getting as many samples as possible can become addicting; with about 40 extra “countries,” the potential to over-eat/drink is very real. Try to pace yourself. My mom and I get one thing per stand and we share everything. It’s very rare that we’ll sample more than one item at the same stand, including drinks. Even though samples are small, the food is mostly heavy and you get full fast. When it comes to alcohol, it can add up quickly if you’re not careful, especially in the Florida heat. Make sure you drink lots of water, as well. Buy a water bottle at one of the kiosks, and refill it throughout the day at the water fountains. Enjoy one or two drinks throughout your sampling, and save some of the heavier stuff for later on in the evening, after the sun’s gone down and you’ve finished going on rides. At the end of the night, my mom and I love to share a brewer’s sample collection or grab a glass or Prosecco while we watch the fireworks.
Be adventurous when it comes to trying new things. It’s sort of my pet peeve to see guests at the International Food and Wine Festival sampling the same old foods you get at home, like ravioli and mac and cheese. Some of the most exciting dishes I’ve tried have been African butter chicken, Belgian potato leek waffles, Brazilian escondidinho (layered meat pie with yucca), Chinese green tea ice cream, Dominican yucca souffle, Moroccan kefta, Patagonian beef skewers, South Korean lettuce wraps…isn’t the point of experiencing something international to actually experience that culture’s food? This event is a great chance to try something you otherwise wouldn’t, since the samples are small, and discover something you could really enjoy. Disney also introduces new kiosks annually, and sometimes replaces ones that have been in the rotation for a few years, so there’s always something new to try.
Other than the kiosks, which trust me, can take at least two full days to complete, the International Food and Wine Festival hosts some exciting programs. Their Eat to the Beat concert series is free, and always has an exciting line-up. 2015 featured Chaka Khan, Rick Springfield, and Boyz II Men, just to name a few. There are about three shows a day, usually at 5:30, 6:45, and 8pm. Lines can get pretty long, though, so if you’re planning on attending, factor in your wait time.
One of my favorite parts of the festival are the wine seminars. For about $15, per person, you can attend an hour long seminar and wine tasting. They’re held in the Festival Center (which is air conditioned!) about three times a day. We’ve done Seminars on both Chilean and California wines, learned a great deal at each one, and got to sample a few great wines that I still buy now. One day I’ll try their food and wine pairing seminars or cooking demonstrations!
No matter how many times I go, being in Disney never gets old for me. The International Food and Wine Festival is my favorite time to go, since they’res so much added to what is already such a magical place. If you haven’t been to Disney during this wonderful event, definitely add it to your bucket list!