With Fall (or late Summer these days) comes the return of Epcot’s ever-popular Food & Wine Festival. Like any visit to World Showcase, the Food & Wine Festival is a tremendously fun and TASTY way to have a multi-cultural experience as you eat your way “around the world”. In addition to the normal 11 country pavilions represented at EPCOT, there are also many other booths brought in for the festival featuring cuisine from all corners of the globe. Of course, WDWNT.com will have exhaustive coverage of the festival starting on August 30th, so stay tuned! In the meantime, here are some tips that might be useful to know in advance.
Go With A Plan
As with any trip to Disney World, it’s best to go with a plan in mind. There are SO many amazing food options at the Food & Wine Festival that it’s actually a bit overwhelming. But with a little research, you can narrow down your options and come up with a plan for how you’d like to taste your way around the world. You can find a full list of foods and drinks by country/cuisine here.
Know When To Go
The 2018 Food & Wine Festival will run from August 30th to November 12th. And judging by crowd levels, these are 6 weeks that many Disney enthusiasts don’t let pass them by. From my experience, it’s easily more crowded during an EPCOT festival than even some of the busiest summer days. But don’t let that scare you away from joining in on the fun! Just know how to avoid the crowds as much as possible.
Your best bets are to attend on weekdays (Monday through Thursday) and in the early afternoon. Food stations normally open at 11AM, sometimes even as early as 10:30AM, so be sure to get there before the lunch-time rush. Many local Floridians will also join the masses on weekends and it’s best to visit other Disney parks Friday-Sunday if possible. Finally, holidays are also especially busy and it’s recommended that you avoid EPCOT on these days (Labor Day, Columbus Day, and Veteran’s Day). One last detail to keep in mind is that food stations close based on normal World Showcase hours and will not remain open during Extra Magic Hour evenings.
The Food & Wine Festival is many things, but cheap is not one of them! And with all those yummy sounding snacks, it’s incredibly easy to blow through your wallet in no time at all. One way to keep yourself to a happy budget is to go cashless with pre-loaded gift cards. Festival-specific gift cards can be found in merchandise stores throughout Epcot and can be loaded with your desired amount of at least $15. Simply scan your card to pay for food and reload as often as you’d like.
If you’re a serious foodie, a second option is to buy a $250 limited release Festival Gift Card. Not only will that buy you a great spread of delicious foods, but you’ll also receive a special lanyard and medallion to add to your collection of Disney souvenirs.
A final cashless option for dining around the world is to use regular Disney gift cards that can be purchased online or in stores wherever gift cards are sold.
Exchange Disney Dining Plan Credits
Aside from using gift cards for convenience or budgeting (or both), another way to pay for all the mouth-watering snacks at the Food & Wine Festival is to exchange your Disney Dining Plan snack credits. For guests who have purchased the Dining Plan as part of their Disney World vacation, you can use your snack credits for most menu items found throughout the booths at the World Showcase. Do keep in mind, however, that there are a few “top shelf” items, such as some wines, that are not available for exchange.
One of the best and easiest ways to enjoy as many of the delicious foods at the festival is to SHARE! Before you buy any food, select a booth where there are several things you’d like to taste. Once you’re there, order all that you’d like and share it with family or friends (or fellow bloggers). For fun, you can even hold a vote at each booth to see which menu item was the favorite.
Free Drinks at Coca Cola Club Cool
Mixed with the Florida sun, all that snacking will make you pretty thirsty! And of course you’ll want to try some of the unique beverages just the same as all the foods, but there IS another option once you’d like to give your wallet a break. Thanks to Coca Cola’s Club Cool in Future World, one way to wet your whistle without spending additional money is to sample their complimentary drinks from around the world. Guests can step inside out of the heat and enjoy this variety of Coke products totally free of charge. Can’t go wrong with that!
Although it’s fun to see all the new booths set up around the World Showcase, they do take up a lot of space! With so many people around and all the added food stations, it really doesn’t leave much room for dining areas. This isn’t always a problem since snacks are mostly, well, snack size, but if you plan to share or make it more of a meal experience, you’ll want to find a place to sit and preferably out of the heat. One great place to go is the Festival Center. Guests can not only find tables and chairs set up for a more relaxed dining experience, but you’ll also find additional shopping, demonstrations, and food. The mimosa booth in particular is getting a lot of hype already.
The golden-domed Festival Center can be found just beside the Test Track in Future World and has been revamped this year with family-friendly activities in particular. One of the more exciting offerings in the Festival Center will be a FREE junior chef pancake cooking class sponsored by Krusteaz. We’re all considered kids at Disney World, right?
Have I mentioned that there’s an overwhelming amount of food options at the festival? Not that having all those options isn’t nice, but it’s so hard to choose what you want the most without weighing yourself down too much. Just accept the fact that you won’t be able to get to everything you want in one day. If possible, plan to visit EPCOT more than once and pace out all that goodness over multiple days. Your gut (and the toilet) will thank you later.
Demonstrations, Classes, Activities, & MORE!
The Food & Wine Festival is more than just about the food and wine… kind of. In addition to being able to try all the great multi-cultural cuisines, Epcot also wants to keep you entertained and engaged. Take advantage of all the exclusive demonstrations, classes, celebrity chef events, concerts, and more! These activities take your visit to Epcot and really elevate it to something uniquely special. Do be aware that some of these offerings will cost extra on top of your park ticket, but many of them are also free. Learn more about the classes, activities, and demonstrations here. My favorite free activities include the Festival Passport and Remy’s Ratatouille Hide ‘n’ Squeak Scavenger Hunt. The Eat to the Beat Concert Series is also very popular. And be especially sure not to miss out on the new Skittles’ candy sushi station from 3:30-5:30 daily in the Land Pavilion (candy sushi! Say what?!).
Although these are my 9 top suggestions for taking a bite out of EPCOT’s Food & Wine Festival, I’m sure there are other great ideas as well. What recommendations do you have to share?