It has begun. Food and Wine Festival, Epcot’s most popular event, is off and running for a brand new season of fun and feasting. This Festival brings in a lot of visitors and locals. So like all things at Disney World, planning ahead will help you get the most out of it.
I’m going to cover all the things you need to know to have a great visit to the Food and Wine Festival. But first, some general info if you’re new to this event:
- Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival is included with your general park ticket and doesn’t require additional money.
- It runs from August 30-November 12th 2018.
- It’s open every day but most of the food booths don’t open until 11 am each day.
- It includes special booths set up around the park that offer seasonal food and beverage options, unique festival merchandise, concerts, and food demonstrations and classes.
- Some of the classes and specialty dining options are additional money to book, and some are free.
- The food and beverage options for the Food and Wine Festival are generally tasting sizes, designed to allow you to try multiple foods from many different booths as you tour Epcot. They are priced, on average, around $5-8 dollars each.
Before You Go:
Choosing a Day and Time to Avoid Long Lines
This event is extremely popular both with tourists and locals. So anticipate some extra crowds. Think of it like visiting the hottest new restaurant in your city. In general, Friday and Saturday nights are the busiest. Concert nights and the first and last weekends of the festival will also be slammed with people.
Some people really enjoy the busy weekends with the press of people and the party vibe. But if you’re not a fan of crowds, or you’ll be navigating through the park with strollers or scooters (which is so difficult when it’s very crowded) then try to visit other times.
In general, weekdays are the least crowded. If you need to go on a weekend, Sunday is better than Saturday, and evenings are always the busiest. This is because most people start in Epcot’s Future World (the front of the park) and do some rides and then save the Festival for the evenings. So if you can go earlier in the day you’ll really avoid lines. The festival booths open each day at 11 am. So try to visit sometime before 2/3 in the afternoon and save the rides and attractions of Epcot for the evening.
Check the Concert Schedule to See a Show
Disney always pairs the Epcot Food and Wine Festival with a concert series called “Eat to the Beat”. The concerts are all FREE and included with your park admission. The concert location is in America (pretty much the farthest from the park entrance), so try to plan your walk around the Showcase accordingly. It’s not exactly quick to get from one end of the lagoon to the other. Your feet will thank you.
Each group plays two different days and there are three shows each night at 5:30, 6:45, and 8:00 pm. The shows are short, usually only 30-40 minutes long, so each performer plays their most well-known hits. There are some incredibly fun acts filled with tons of throwback jams (“End of the Road”, anyone?).
A few of my personal favorites:
- September 10 to 11: Postmodern Jukebox
- September 24 to 26: Sugar Ray
- October 13 to 14: Smash Mouth
- October 15 to 16: 98 Degrees (New this year!)
- November 5 to 7: Boyz II Men
- November 10 to 12: Big Bad Voodoo Daddy
Popular concerts can sometimes fill up, but unless you’re super picky about having a close seat you can almost always grab a spot shortly before performance time. If you know you want a spot in the first few rows then arrive 60-90 minutes early.
The 8 pm concert time is usually the least crowded. Smash Mouth and Boyz II Men seem to particularly draw some of the largest crowds. See the full list of the concerts here.
Book any Special Events
Most of the Food and Wine Festival is free, but they do offer a few special things that cost extra. Are they worth it? Well, if you’re a typical family vacationing at Disney World for a week or so, I’d say to skip these and just enjoy the regular festival things that you’ve already paid for. It’s hard to fit everything into one vacation.
However, if you are a big time foodie, you love Food Network and live for seeing cooking demonstrations and celebrity chefs, or you’re a wine connoisseur who would love to taste and try wine and cheese pairings, then you should definitely check into some of the offerings and see if any are happening while you’re here and if they require advance booking.
Set Up Your Transportation
Drinking around the world has become quite popular lately. And there is such a huge selection of amazing drinks at the Epcot Food and Wine Festival that no matter what you like, you’ll find tons of delicious options.
It’s a good idea to think ahead in your planning and set up a way to get home so you don’t have to worry about driving. Uber and Lyft passengers get dropped right at the front of the Epcot parking lot; no tram rides for you my friend.
If you’re staying onsite at a Disney resort, Minnie Vans are a great option as well, if you don’t want to deal with busses or other types of Disney transport.
It’s so easy to grab a ride so there’s really no reason to be hitting the road when you shouldn’t. And also, a small note for my Cast Member pals who work in character entertainment: if you’re super tipsy, it might be a good idea to avoid visiting the characters. They have the worst experiences during the Festival. And nobody needs to see someone in a drunken stupor trying to feel up Snow White. Don’t be that guy. (And before you ask, yes that was a real thing I saw. Not pretty, let me tell you.)
While You’re There: Must Do’s at the Food and Wine Festival
Grab a Passport and Head to the Festival Center
Grab a festival passport at the entrance. They’re free and will have all the details of everything happening at the Festival, including all the food booths. Anytime Epcot has a Festival there’s always a hub for all the events and info. For Food and Wine, they use the old Wonders of Life building behind Universe of Energy (RIP Ellen. Guess I should say where Universe of Energy used to be.) If you signed up for any special ticket events (see above for info on these) these will probably be held here.
The center is also a great place to see the merchandise, check out the Passholder specials, buy wine by the glass and purchase wines to bring home. This is also where you’ll get any Passholder freebies like the Magnet or the cutting board. (see below for details) Some of these things can be seen as you walk around the Festival but this building is air-conditioned. (Important since the first month or so of this “Fall” Festival will still feel very much like summer.) So I prefer to stop by here, see everything at once, and then just focus on the food booths when I’m walking World Showcase.
Set a Budget
When you’re traveling from country to country and sampling anything that looks good, it may not seem like things are too expensive. On average, you’ll pay around $5-8 for an item, which isn’t bad. However, these purchases add up quick! If you’re not careful you can spend far more money on snacks and drinks than you intended.
To help with this, there are two options I recommend:
- Only use cash for buying food and drinks at the kiosks. Get cash out before you start and when it’s gone, you’re done.
- Make use of the Disney Food and Wine Festival prepaid gift cards. They come with a convenient wrist strap so your hands are free and you’re not digging in your bag for your money. Load the card with whatever amount you want to spend, starting as low as $15. The cards are available at the Festival Center I mentioned above, so grab one when you stop by.
Start with the Newest Booths Near Future World
Since the festival has grown so much they’ve gradually crept outside of World Showcase and into Future World a bit. The first booths begin just past Club Cool on your right after you pass the Fountain area. Head that way to see the first booths. This is also where they tend to put most of the newest offerings that change each year and aren’t representing a specific country. The location of these booths along the rose garden paths that connect to the Imagination Pavilion makes them easy to miss if you’re heading straight for World Showcase. Technically this area is known as Future World West.
Check out this awesome map from Disney Food Blog with the exact locations for all the Food and Wine booths this year! Zoom it and screen shot this so you’ll have it on your phone when you’re there.
Check out the Merchandise
Located throughout the festival, you’ll find some in Mouse Gear, but I like to visit the shop that’s just to the right as you enter World Showcase. (Near the Hawaii food booth.) Notice the Disney Dooney and Bourke bags, if you’re into those. There are lots of exclusive Disney pins, glassware, aprons, tees and ears, as well as tons of other stuff. There’s also a super cute poster if you want to check that out. Here are few of my favs:
Things for Little Ones
Scavenger Hunt: There’s a Remy scavenger hunt game that’s lots of fun and can occupy little ones when going through the Festival. You pick up your maps at several locations (including that store I mentioned just as you enter World Showcase). Look for this sign where they sell them.
You’ll be looking for Remy in each area, and you place a sticker once you’ve found him. When it’s finished, (or before, you don’t have to finish them all) hand in your map at any of the purchase locations for a special Remy cup. You can choose one of four different designs.
Wreck it Ralph Playground: Located near Test Track, we finally have a great little spot for little ones to work out some energy. It’s shaded with benches around for parents. Word is this playground will be permanent even after the Festival.
Ok Disney. Stepping up their game with new Passholder Perks. I see you. And I approve.
This year for Food and Wine we are getting two freebies. First up is this super cute Chef Mickey magnet that I just love. This will be available for pick up in the Festival center. Bring your pass card and your ID.
The second is this crazy cute mini cheese board. Seriously, I’d buy this. This freebie is more of a “frequent visitor” type gift. You get the board after your fourth visit to the festival. The visits are tracked automatically when you scan and enter so you don’t need to worry about that. Once you enter for the fourth time you can pick this up also at the Festival Center.
They will also have Passholder specific merchandise as usual. What is different this year is they’re releasing them in phases over the course of the Festival. I think this is a great idea since it may mean some of the items stay available for those visiting the Festival in later weeks and not sold out like it would be if everything came out in the beginning. The release dates for new items are August 30th (opening day) September 20th, and October 18th.
Also new this year is what they’re calling “Thank You Thursdays”. On the above release dates, Passholders will be able to shop these new items an hour before the park opens, 8 am- 9 am.
And lastly, they will be offering Passholders reserved seating for the concerts through the month of September (the last half of the Festival it apparently won’t be offered).
To get the reserved seats you go to the American Gardens building, (next to where the Voices of Liberty perform) and pick up a wristband. They only have a limited number of these, so if you’re arriving closer to the concert time it’s unlikely they’ll have any left. But if you come in the morning or early afternoon you can grab one that will give you a reserved seating area.
Family Dance Party
Only happening on Friday and Saturday nights, Disney Du Jour Dance Party will be at Fountain View Stage. A different pairing of Disney characters stops by each weekend, including Remy and Emile from Disney Pixar’s “Ratatouille,” Nick Wilde and Judy Hopps from “Zootopia,” Lilo and Stitch or classic favorites such as Chip ‘n Dale or Clarabelle Cow and Horace Horsecollar! And every Disney Du Jour Dance Party will have a special concert appearance by an up-and-coming artist from Radio Disney.
I haven’t had a chance to check this out yet, but sounds cute! A great way for people to get some character interaction with some pretty rare characters.
Best Food and Drinks at Food and Wine Festival
Now, finally, we get to the actual food. And wine. Or other beverages of choice.
Now, let me say this first. Epcot has some amazing food. You can enjoy some of the best food at Disney World and most of it is available year round. So unless you visit Epcot pretty regularly, don’t just limit yourself to the Food and Wine booths.
But, having said that, let’s talk about some of my top picks. These are the things that will please most people and the things that I personally would buy more than once throughout the Festival. These are listed in order if you travel this way: Start at the Festival center, Head to Taste Track, then hit the new booths in Future World west, then start World Showcase heading right towards Canada.
Shimmering Sips: Inside the Festival Center you’ll find the Mimosa Bar. While many of these are good, my top pick is the Fromosa. Frozone Mimosa is sweet and yummy.
Taste Track: Three different cronuts are here, they’re Croissant Donuts and they are so yummy. Buttery, flaky with different frostings. I loved the hazelnut which is basically Nutella with raspberries. So good. I ate the whole thing and I’m not even sorry about it.
Active Eats: Loaded Mac n Cheese is always a winner. The bacon is smokey and the peppers add a little kick.
Canada: Every year this filet is in my top 5. Don’t miss it. The Cheddar Cheese soup and the Mushroom Filet are fan favorites and if they ever stop having them there will be riots.
Well, maybe not riots.
But I’ll be really bummed and forced to eat at Le Cellier and spend way more money to eat these.
Japan: Chicken Teriyaki Bun- this baby is goo dsized and filled with chicken and veggies in a sweet teriyaki sauce. So good! And for $5.50 it’s one I’ll be getting often.
Hops & Barley (America): Returning favorites are back this year, Lobster Roll and Warm Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting. I recommend getting both of these, as they’re quite good together. Grab them before you head to one of the concerts and enjoy it while you listen.
I’ll be back over the next week and trying more options. If I have any others that I feel deserve to be on the Must-Get list I will add them here. I don’t try to cover every item offered, as others do so, and the feedback I get from most of you is that you’d like to just see the BEST stuff that I really loved. For information on every food item available, you can check out Disney Food Blog.