Of all the Disney Parks, Epcot seems to be the adult playground of the bunch, especially with special events like the Food and Wine Festival offered in the Fall, and other events targeted towards a more “grown-up” audience than their magical counterparts. The Food and Wine Festival was a lot more fun than I expected it to be when we went, but I wish there were some things I knew before going. If you’re heading to the Festival, or planning a trip to Disney soon, I’ve got the 10 things you need to know before heading that way.
Before you go:
This may be obvious to some, but not everyone is aware of Florida’s wishy-washy weather. Plan for a little bit of anything, sweltering heat, wind, rain, sunshine, clouds. It’s better to be prepared for an afternoon shower or super sunny day than to trust what the weatherman says. Even if the forecast says 20% chance of rain, the scattered storm or two can pop up out of nowhere. Likewise, many times the forecast will say overcast all day, only to have a couple puffy clouds in the sky. Pack your sunscreen, sun glasses, and a raincoat if you want one. Better to be prepared than not!
Better than Sunday Brunch
I know we all love a good Sunday Brunch or a wild Saturday night, and it’s tempting to want to add Epcot to your weekend plans, but if you want to avoid the crowds, shoot for the weekdays. Libbie and I visited on a Wednesday, and we had barely any waits for both rides and the festival booths. During the weekend, I imagine it is far more crowded, with Floridians taking a quick weekend trip and people off of work. The longest wait we saw for any ride was an hour in the middle of the day (there was a single rider line with a 20 minute wait though!) Definitely try and plan your trip for a weekday if possible!
Consider On-Property Accommodations
To get the most that the Food and Wine Festival has to offer, consider staying in Orlando, or on Disney Property. If not, you will have to consider the drive back and organize a designated driver if you’re participating in the wine and cocktails offered. One huge benefit of staying on property is their public transportation options, including the monorail that runs right into Epcot! They also have a bus system that can bring you anywhere on Disney property, including the other parks! If you decide not to stay in Orlando, please drink responsibility and don’t drink and drive!
We're Open !
Epcot itself opens around 8 or 9 AM, depending on the day you go (hours vary, check their site for the most up to date schedule). It’s great to get there early, but there’s something important to know - the World Showcase area does not open until around 11 AM. That’s the area where the Food and Wine Festival happens, where you can “drink around the world.” If you get to the park early anticipating being able to have an early morning Mimosa, just know that you will not have access to that area until later. We arrived around 9 AM, and took advantage of the two hours we had to ride the rides in the Future World/front half of the park. I’d highly recommend trying to grab a fast pass for Soarin’ and Test Track if you can! After you’ve finished with the rides, you can make your way over to the World Showcase around 11 to start your festivities.
Did it for the 'Gram
Part of the reason people love the parks is for their photo appeal, everyone loves a good Insta shot! Epcot is no exception, and there are tons of photo opportunities in this park! Every detail is thought of, and the cocktails and food make photos super cute too! Definitely keep your eyes peeled for unique photo spots, there’s tons hidden in little corners that make your pictures super unique!
Have a Budget
No, I don’t mean create a spreadsheet or plan out months in advance. Disney has thought up this awesome way to keep track of what you’re spending and limit yourself at the parks. If you go to the gift shop, ask for one of the wristband gift cards! These cards are worn around your wrist and can be loaded with money to use at any of the Disney parks (not just the festival spots!) This was a great way for Libbie and I to track out spending and limit ourselves to a set budget. We each loaded $125 on our cards, and didn’t even end up spending all of that! Since we were only there for one day, we had to find other things to spend our money on at the end of the night (cue Disney shaped snacks)! I’d definitely recommend loading money onto a card, our rule was once we’ve spent what’s on the card, that’s it. No more spending no matter what it was! Definitely do that right when you get into the park, don’t hesitate or you will end up spending more than what you wanted to!
It's the Small Things
No seriously, the festival booths are actually small! If you’ve ever been to Epcot before and done the “drink around the world” thing, this is very similar, but with far more “countries.” The permanent bars and restaurants are still present, of course, but they add a ton of extra booths for the festival specialties It’s easy to confuse them if you’re not paying attention. The participating festival locations will be listed in your passport, and will have a little menu outside with the Food and Wine Festival logo on it. Don’t get confused by paying more than festival prices. For example, if you’re going to the Mexico pavilion, the cantina inside is NOT a part of the festival. This is reflected in the prices and the fact that it is not listed in your passport! The Mexico booth that is participating is outside of the pyramid, with the menu and passport options!
You can eat a LOT
Trust me when I say you can try food and drink from nearly every participating country’s booth. The reason for this is the portion sizes! They’re smaller than most people (and myself) expect! With the smaller portion sizes for both drinks and food, you are able to try a lot more variety without filling up from one place. Some of you may be wondering, what about the astronomical Disney prices??? Well you’re in luck - the prices are actually reduced with the smaller portions. Like I mentioned before, we set aside $100 to spend, and didn’t come close to it. It is definitely doable to try many different things without breaking the bank, and I highly recommend it! It’s a neat opportunity to try foods either inspired by or traditional recipes from the country that is being represented without the hefty price of a plane ticket.
Don't Eat Meat?
Me either - don’t worry! There are actually plenty of vegetarian friendly options! I was expecting to have to forego most of the foods, but was pleasantly surprised to see that nearly all the booths offer some sort of vegetarian option. They’re easy to pick out too - on your passport or on the menus outside the booths, they are marked with a little green “V.” Even if you aren’t vegetarian, definitely give them a shot! One of my favorites was a curry from the India booth and it was absolutely delicious for both vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike!
Buy the Flight
Don’t worry, I’m not talking about the plane ticket. Consider purchasing the wine or beer flights offered rather than the single glass. They are a bit smaller than the one glass, but you get 3 of them for only a few dollars more. I ended up purchasing a couple flights just to have the opportunity to try a variety of different wines rather than just the one. Personally, I think it adds to the experience of learning about foods and flavors from other countries!
While it’s not getting stamps in your actual passport, the Epcot Food and Wine Festival is definitely something to consider for a weekend trip or a vacation to Orlando! Libbie and I had a blast running around the park and getting to try so many different things! I’d definitely recommend wearing something comfortable and planning to spend nearly the whole day at Epcot, it’ll definitely make it worth it!
Have you been to the Food and Wine Festival before? What tips did I miss?