How to get the most out of Epcot's International Food & Wine Festival
The Epcot International Food & Wine Festival is one of Disney World's most popular annual events. Now in its 24th season, the festival has grown every year and is a chance for visitors to sample foods from around the world. There are so many different foods to try, it's simply impossible to try everything. Trust me; I've tried! You can, however, get the best of the festival's offerings with our top tips. Best of all, the kids can have as much fun as you do.
What is the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival?
The Epcot International Food & Wine Festival takes place every fall. The 2019 festival is the longest ever, running 87 days. In addition to Epcot's everyday attractions, more than 40 stalls offer treats from all over the globe. The festival also features unique and interactive activities and stage shows that change daily.
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When is it?
The 2019 dates for the festival are Aug. 29–Nov. 23. I went in September, which offers off-peak prices for both Disney tickets and hotel stays. On the other hand, September weather is variable, so be prepared for a rainy day at Disney World.
Be sure to consult Disney's website for the daily calendar and sign up for those events that interest you. Special events, some of which are free with reservation, include food and wine pairings, celebrity chef encounters and a kid-friendly lesson on making candy sushi.
How much does it cost?
The Epcot Food & Wine Festival is not a ticketed event like Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party. Your regular park admission ticket includes festival access.
You can save on Disney tickets by using a third-party vendor such as Undercover Tourist. Purchases from ticket brokers like Undercover Tourist code as travel, while tickets purchased directly from Disney do not — unless they are part of a larger vacation package that also includes a hotel stay.
TPG has a helpful rundown of many ways to use your points to cover the cost of Disney World tickets.
Tips to enjoy the festival
I've been to the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival many times and here are some of my best tips to maximize your limited time there.
Don't make Disney restaurant reservations
Most times I recommend making restaurant reservations, especially at Epcot. However, during the festival you're much better off snacking your way through the day instead of splurging on a big meal. If you're doing the festival right, you won't have room for dinner anyway.
For the same reason, I don't typically recommend the Disney Dining Plan during the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. You can redeem a meal for three snack credits, but most times you'll come out ahead by paying a la carte as the individual items are usually well under $10 each.
Only order one of whatever you want to try
I highly recommend going to the festival with a group. Otherwise, you'll be stuffed before you get to your second booth. I went with two friends on a kid-free trip and we sampled 25 items in a day, which amounted to a late breakfast, lunch and dinner. We enjoyed so much by only getting one of whatever we wanted to try. Most times, a taste was enough to satisfy.
Check out the rat race
Remy's Ratatouille Hide & Squeak is a fun scavenger hunt that takes you throughout the festival. At $6.99, it's an inexpensive and fun way to keep the kids entertained. Who am I kidding? I had fun doing it too. Best of all, you turn in your completed map for a souvenir prize at the end. Pro Tip: You don't have to complete the challenge to get the "prize" if you want to save the stickers for later. (Yes, some of us love saving these mementos intact while others prefer to give the stickers to the kids during an arts and crafts session once back at home.)
Don't miss the concerts
A highlight of the Food & Wine Festival is the rotating free concert schedule. The list of performers reads like a soft-rock station's playlist: the best of the '70s, '80s and '90s. Acts range from Grace Jones to Taylor Dayne to Kenny G to Everclear and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, and you may have a strong preference among the acts available during your visit. Each band plays for two or three days, so you might even get to see two if you plan your trip correctly.
Our food favorites
With 40 booths and hundreds of food samples, it's hard to choose just one favorite. I won't say I've sampled every single dish but have tried a fair representation and here are my "do-not-misses." I'll do this like a beauty pageant and award honorary mention ribbons first. They go to the pao de queijo (cheese bread) from Brazil, chimichurri steak from Flavors with Fire and the kailua pork slider from Hawaii.
The "get your own" prize is awarded to the banana almond soft-serve sundae from Shimmering Sips. The "ice cream" made from almond milk is creamy while still being light and the berry mix on top sets it off perfectly. This one is good for all ages.
My other favorite may be for more sophisticated palettes: the chocolate picante from Flavors with Fire. This one mixes mole and pepper flavors into a chocolate mousse with a mango compote and is absolutely divine.
The only real food flop I found was in Ireland: the beer cheese dip with soda bread. The cheese dip tasted like it was reconstituted from dried Velveeta. Hard pass.
The flight prize goes to a new contender: "Appleseed Orchard." It's hidden behind Canada, where the "O' Canada!" movie used to be shown. The booth doesn't sell any food besides popcorn, so I'd pick up a snack elsewhere and bring it to this booth because it's in an air-conditioned theater with lots of standing tables. The cider sampler was substantial without being overwhelming. I especially enjoyed the Ciderboys Lemon Cello flavor, but I'd try any of them again. At $9.75, it felt like a solid value.
My only festival drink disappointment was Le Passion Martini Slush from France. At more than $10, it tasted like a Slurpee and contained about as much liquor as an eyedropper. The $4 to $6 wine and beer pours and $9–12 flights were a much better value.
There's still time to visit this year's Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, running until November 23. If you are feeling up to it, you could double it up with an evening spent at Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party, or on the final few days of the festival, you could even tack on an early-season experience of Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party.
Arm yourself with these tips, grab a few friends or family members and hit the theme park to satisfy your culinary cravings. If you've been to the festival before, what are your secret tips to make the most out of the event?
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