Now in its 23rd year, Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival is, in my personal opinion, the best time to visit Disney’s third oldest theme park. Beginning in 1995, the Food & Wine Festival features expertly created tasting dishes and international wines from various countries around the world.
Epcot is perfectly designed for this type of event, with its own global marketplace featuring 11 countries set up around a central lagoon inside the park. During the Festival, Epcot adds additional countries to its regular lineup with unique tasting options and drinks at each. While the weekends are often the more crowded time to visit, they also offer the most events and activities. The Festival hosts culinary demonstrations, live performances, celebrity chefs, food seminars, and special dining offerings, most of which are scheduled for weekends.
While in Orlando for a work conference, I planned a visit to Epcot to attend this year’s Festival. It’s been on my travel list for a while now and I was excited for the opportunity to attend this year. My time, though limited, was maximized by devising a plan to prioritize the Festival’s offerings. Unfortunately none of the Festivals’ unique food or beverage selections are included in your ticket to the park. The food generally ranges from $4-$8 and drinks averaged about $6 each.
First stop? The Festival Center set off to the left side of the park, upon entering, near Test Track. While passing by Test Track, I noticed a surprisingly short line so I jumped on the ride first before finding the Festival Center. No regrets!
Upon arriving at the Center, I was immediately struck by the feeling of being thrown back in time. The carpets, decor, and dull colors of the space felt depressing and in desperate need of an upgrade. The room is set up as a loop with a wine shop, guest relations, demonstration stages, and a mimosa bar. My visit fell on a Wednesday so much of the space was empty; I quickly grabbed a glass of bubbly and left. One major perk here – you can take your drinks to go! Hooray!
The remainder of my plan revolved around “tasting the world”. The Festival Guide included dish and drink descriptions which made it easier to plan out where to stop and what to order. Several of the countries offered wine flights; each stop offering 3 food tasting options and 3 drink choices.
Each of the unique Festival offerings are distinguishable by a menu and images of the dishes propped up on the path. This is an important note since Epcot permanently features several of these countries in their World Showcase and it would be a shame to eat from their standard shacks rather than sampling the special Fest offerings.
As I made my way “around the world”, I found myself struggling to decide between all the dishes. Not a bad problem to have, I realize. The tastings were small yet delicious and kept me wanting more. Well done, Disney, well done. I focused my attention on the Global Marketplace for food and beverages but the options did not end here. Throughout the park, the Festival included several more intriguing offerings such as a wine and cheese pairing tent and a chocolate station. With more time and a larger stomach, I would have certainly sampled more!
Epcot lights up magnificently at night and has earned international fame for its epic firework displays. If you can make it until the park closes, I would highly recommend it. The Food & Wine Festival is awesome and, even without it, Epcot still has a few treasures up its sleeve. Happy Festival-ing, friends!