Get ready to party- it’s Food and Wine Festival time guys! Fall is one of the best times to visit Disney World and a big part of that is the popularity of this Festival. We are using the term “Fall” somewhat loosely since Disney seems to be moving these events earlier each year. Now it’s starting two weeks earlier than last year- August 31st thru November 13th.
I did a live tour of some of the 2017 Festival on my Facebook page. Check out the replay below and if you’re not already, follow me on Facebook to catch my weekly Live Streams.
There are lots of sites that break down every detail. But as I’ve said before it can be information overload. Here’s what you need to know to plan a great visit.
Best Times to Visit Food and Wine Festival
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 weekdays and earlier in the day.
Also, October 1st is the official 35th anniversary of Epcot. This day will be busy but will also likely have some special events and possibly merchandise to commemorate it.
Before You Go
- Check out the Concerts: Disney always pairs the Food and Wine Festival with a concert series called Eat to the Beat. They concerts are all free, they’re in the big outside amphitheater in America (exactly halfway around the lagoon). Each group plays two different days and there’s three shows each night at 5:30, 6:45, and 8:00pm. Shows are short, usually only 30-40 minutes long.*Keep in mind the location in America and 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.Popular concerts can 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 really good spot then come about 60-90 minutes early to line up.Or, you can choose the Eat to the Beat Dining Package which means includes a meal at one of the Epcot restaurants in the package and you’ll get a reserved seating area that’s close to the stage. It’s just a section and not a reserved seat, so you still need to get there before it starts. Personally, unless the concert is really a big deal to you I don’t think the packages are worth the price. You can usually just eat at the restaurant for less money and grab a seat for the concert on your own. Here’s the link for info on the Dining packages.For the full concert list you can click here.
- Book any special Festival Events: There’s a ton of special events for the Festival and if you’re a foodie or really enjoy cooking you’ll definitely want to check them out. Some are simply demonstrations by various Disney chefs and they’re only $17 to see, or cooking classes like cake decorating for $50. There’s also lots of celebrity chefs who do meet and greets and book signings. Some are full on events like the popular Party for Senses. These can run between $170-300 a person. Disney is so confusing with their info on these, I really suggest you go to Disney Food Blog for much more in-depth coverage of each event. Demonstrations, classes and special ticket parties all should be booked ahead for a sure spot. Some fill up fast. Book these in advance by calling Disney. Doesn’t look like online booking is an option at this point. Disney’s official site here.
Tips for Touring the Food and Wine Festival
- Grab a Festival Passport: When you first enter they’ll have a special display at the entrance and you can grab a Photopass picture on your way in. You’ll want to make sure and get the Food and Wine Festival passport. They’re usually with the park maps. They have everything in there; every booth, food, drink, concerts, etc. There are spots to check off the things you try if you enjoy that, and want to keep track for multiple visits.
- Stop by the Festival Center: Anytime Epcot has a Festival there’s always a hub for all the events and info. For Food and Wine they use the old Horizon 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 all the merchandise in one spot, check out the Passholder specials, buy wine by the glass and purchase wines to bring home.Some of these things can be seen as you walk around the Festival but this building is rarely crowded, inside and 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.
- Start with the newest booths near Future World: Since the festival has grown so much (this year there’s 35 booths!) they’ve gradually creeped 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. They maybe collections like food from the Caribbean, or food from The Chew (who partners with the Festival and hosts their show live each year).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.
- Set a budget: When you’re traveling from country to country and sampling anything that looks good, it doesn’t seem like things are too expensive. On average, you’ll pay around $5-9 for an item. However, these add up quick! If you’re not careful you can spend far more money that you wanted to on these snacks and drinks and may wish you’d spent that money on a nice sit down meal instead. To help with this, there’s two things I recommend. The first is just use cash for buying food and drinks at the kiosks. Get it before you start and when it’s gone, you’re done. The other is to make use of Disney’s prepaid gift cards which come with a convenient wrist strap so your hands are free. Load the card with whatever amount you want to spend, starting as low as $15.
- Set Up Your Transportation: Drinking around the world has become quite popular lately. As fun as it can be, I’ve seen a lot of extremely drunk people wandering Epcot during the Festival season. Just think ahead in your planning and set up a way home so you don’t have to worry about that. Of course if you’re staying on Disney property, you can use their transportation. You can also try Uber or the new Disney taxis, Minnie Vans. With so many choices there’s 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, don’t try visiting the characters. They have the worst experiences during the Festival. And no child needs to see a drunk 40-year-old man 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.)
What to Eat and Drink
I’ll have my Top 10 picks from this year’s festival the first weekend it opens. Stay tuned! In the meantime, you can check out the video tour I made last year for the 2016 Food and Wine Festival. Aside from a few new kiosks, all the info is still relevant.
I really liked doing the video, but it took a while to make, and I just get better results from posting the text and photos on my site. So no video this year. If you follow me on Instagram or Snapchat, I’ll be posting lots of in-park video updates on there.