Author: Pirate Diva
My favorite time of year to visit EPCOT is in the fall. Why, you ask? The EPCOT Food and Wine Festival, of course! My family and I have been to the festival five times and have truly enjoyed every visit. We’ve always taken my niece, beginning when she was 3. Many people avoid taking their children, most likely due to the larger than normal amounts of alcohol consumed during the festival, although we’ve never noticed that guests were any rowdier than usual. We consider it a great opportunity to introduce my niece to new foods. Like many kids, she’s a rather picky eater. As a result, any time we can get her to try something new, it’s a reason to celebrate. We also see the festival as an educational opportunity. The World Showcase is always a great way to learn a little more about other countries, and there are even more countries represented during the Food and Wine Festival.
Every year, the Food and Wine Festival has booths representing several different countries not normally found at EPCOT. They also have a special area highlighting either a region, or a specific food. The first time we went, they had the Pearville Fair. It was a great booth, set up to look like a state fair with fun house mirrors, a gallery where you could learn more about different pear varieties, coloring pages and pear coins for the kids, and a fruit stand with several fantastic varieties of pears for sale. It was a lot of fun, and we spent quite a bit of time playing with the mirrors. My niece was only three at the time, but she enjoyed trying the pears as well as many of the desserts at the different booths.
During our next trip, the special booth was Oklahoma. It was an absolutely fantastic display, with many different buildings and photo walls representing the many cultural influences within the state. There was a teepee where children could listen to Native American stories and color pictures, an arts and crafts area, and even a chuck wagon. Oklahoma Ambassadors were on hand to tell visitors more about the history and culture of Oklahoma. They even had Native American dancers who performed dances from several different tribes. That year, my niece’s favorite booths were Ireland and the Mouse Catch. She absolutely adores cheese, so the cheese plate from Ireland with the Dubliner cheese, brown bread with Kerrygold butter, and chutney was her favorite. When we got home, she begged us for more Dubliner cheese. We bought about 1 pound a month for the next six months!
For our third trip, the special area was Louisiana. We loved the photo area with the giant pots filled with crawfish and tabasco peppers. They also had a stage that looked like a riverboat decorated in Mardi Gras colors, a tabasco pepper garden, Angeline’s Acadian cottage and a Creole Kitchen. There were very informative signs near each display that explained their importance in Louisiana history and culture. A map of Louisiana described regional foods, and you could pick up several recipes for great meals like Jambalaya and Gumbo. It was a great way to introduce my niece to the culture and music of Louisiana, not to mention the food. This was also the first year that we convinced my niece to try some foods that weren’t cheese. It helped that they were something new to all of us, and we mostly stuck to desserts and variations on the familiar for my niece.
Our last trip to the Food and Wine Festival was in 2012. This was also our first year of home-school, so we didn’t have to worry about taking her out of school. However, we really wanted to stress the educational opportunities. We talked about each of the countries as we visited their booth to sample the foods as well as get a stamp in our passports. This was the first time we’d seen the passports, and I have to say, it really added to the fun. Not only could we choose what we wanted to try before arriving at each booth, but we could also keep track of what we liked and what we didn’t. My niece ended up trying something at nearly every booth. We went to EPCOT twice during our trip, so we had a chance to revisit a few of our favorites. And the cranberry bog was very interesting The representatives from Ocean Spray tossed us a few cranberries so that we could see what fresh cranberries looked like, and shared a few fun facts about cranberries. My niece thought they were really cool and wanted to save them, so she ended up carrying them around in her pocket all day. They also gave out free packs of Craisins at their booth.
In all, I think the Food and Wine Festival can be a great place for kids. It is both educational and fun and a great chance to introduce new foods to picky eaters. The dates for this years festival are September 27 – November 11.
Amy, the Pirate Diva, also shares her Disney obsession on the Disney at Heart blog.