The Food and Wine Festival at Epcot is probably my favorite “event” at Walt Disney World. Although the festival started in the summer this year (August 30), the fall season generally means slightly cooler or at least more bearable temperatures, especially in the evenings. And the Festival also brings with it a slew of culinary demonstrations, wine seminars, special ticketed events, concerts, and, perhaps most importantly, food and wine tastings from 35 different kiosks around the World Showcase.
Yes, it can be a bit overwhelming. But with a little bit of planning, you can have an enjoyable day exploring world cuisine and maybe taste something new or learn a thing or two.
Do a Little Research
You’re on vacation, but it will definitely pay dividends if you do even the tiniest bit of research beforehand. Be sure to visit the Festival’s website, which will show you all of the various events that will be going on during your visit. It is also worth it to check out a listing of all the different tastes that are available at the kiosks. While the festival site does list all the kiosks and their menus, I find it much more worthwhile to check out a site like the Disney Food Blog, where you can find a full listing of the menu items plus photos and their prices (which are missing from the Disney site).
Know Before You Go
We used the menu listing to plan out which tastes we wanted to try, and which were good candidates for Disney Dining Plan (DDP) snack credits. Credits can be used at most booths, so it pays to know where you will get the biggest bang for your credit, so to speak. (For the record, the most expensive snack we found was the New England Lobster Roll at Hops & Barley near the American Pavilion: it costs $8.00)
Don’t be Overcome by Events
There are dozens and dozens of events: everything from celebrity cooking demos to cheese seminars to scavenger hunts. This year, for the first time there are events outside of Epcot at various resorts such as the Contemporary, the Grand Floridian, and the Polynesian. And there are quite a few specialty dining opportunities at Epcot restaurants including the French Family Meal Traditions at Monsieur Paul, Japanese Craft Beer Tasting at the Katsura Grill, and a four course Mexican Tequila Lunch at La Hacienda de San Angel.
Some of these events can be booked ahead of time directly on the website, but many others require a phone call to Disney at (407) 939-3378. If you’re in the park itself, you can go to the Festival Welcome Center (located in the old Wonders of Life Pavilion). I have had good luck getting same day tickets to events by going to the Welcome Center first thing in the morning. I’m not positive that Disney keeps tickets back for same day sale, but I do know that one of the tastings we went to last year showed as sold out on the website but by going there first thing that morning, we were able to obtain tickets.
Food and Wine on a Budget
Yes, the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival can definitely get pricey. The ticketed Party for the Senses, for example, runs anywhere from $179 all the way up to $329 per person. But not everything breaks the bank.
The free Eat to the Beat concerts, for example, feature a lineup of bands from many different decades and genres. There are three performances per evening, and while you can purchase dining packages that will give you reserved seating, you can also line up for standby seating or do like we did, enjoy a beverage while standing at the back of the American Gardens Theater.
The Festival Center also hosts free Back to Basics sessions each weekend that teach new techniques and shortcuts. And there are daily book signings, wine bottle signings, and meet and greets with authors and food and wine industry personalities. Many of the cooking demos and beverage seminars are also held inside the Festival Center, and you can easily stand at the back and watch for free.
The Center is also home to the Chocolate Experience: From Bean to the Bar hosted by Ghiradelli Chocolate company. Here you can view amazing chocolate sculptures created by Disney resort chefs, learn about chocolate making, and get a free sample.
The beverage seminars, while not free, can offer good value since they are $17 and typically include an informative talk by the winery/brewery as well as tastings. Our Tattinger champagne tasting, for instance, was definitely worth the price since we enjoyed three tastings (generally priced at more than $10 each) and learned a lot about champagne production.
If you are going to be trying the more expensive tastes and mixed drinks, you might want to purchase the Tasting Sampler, available at the Festival Welcome Center and at various kiosks around the World Showcase. It gives you 8 “credentials,” or coupons, good for food and beverage items of your choice (although there are some exclusions, such as tasting flights and champagne).
The Sampler costs $65 plus tax, but includes a lanyard and a limited-release festival pin. This makes the most sense if you use it for drinks that cost $8.66 and up, and there are quite a few that do.
Another way to stay on budget at the Festival is to purchase a mini gift card that you can wear as a wristlet and load it with however much you want to spend.
With these tips, hopefully you can maximize your time at the International Food and Wine Festival while enjoying all this great event has to offer.
Ready to plan your perfect trip to Walt Disney World including Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival? Contact Patricia at All 4 Dreams Travel, the Official Travel Agent here at Tips for the Disney Diva today!