I’ve been contacted by a lot of folks asking what my plan is for touring the 2010 Epcot Food and Wine Festival as well as what the best touring strategies might be for particular situations. I figured that covering it all in a blog post might be helpful to those planning their F&W trips — and for those who don’t need any help, it might still be fun to read!
In this post, we’ll discuss Touring Strategies for Solos and Groups of Adults, Ideas for Touring the Festival as a Family, and AJ’s Picks — basically the stuff I would do if I had a limitless bank account! 😉
Before we begin, here are the resources you’ll need to know what I’m talking about:
1. Check out the Festival Guide and Map here.
2. Our 2010 Epcot Food and Wine Festival Index Page has links to all of the major areas of the festival, so feel free to peruse and get your bearings.
Here we go!
If You’re Touring the Food and Wine Festival Solo or With a Small Group of Adults…
There’s nothing like touring the incredible Food and Wine Festival with close friends or on a solo expedition! If you’re headed in as an adult(s)-only group, here’s a suggested itinerary for a day at the Festival:
Rope Drop: Get a Ticket To Ride
Head into Epcot when it opens and jump on a few of your favorite rides while the queues are still manageable. The Food and Wine Festival doesn’t head into full swing until after the World Showcase opens at 11am and none of the special events begin before 10am, so you’ll have some time to get your Future World on before “digging in” to the Festival.
If there isn’t anything you’d like to ride, head over to the Festival Center (usually located in the Wonders of Life Pavilion in Future World) to browse the bookshop, check out the wines for sale, look at the day’s schedule, and pick up your souvenirs!
11am: Start “Eating Around the World.”
While there are a few Special Events that begin before 11am, if you only have one day to enjoy the festival, I’d suggest hitting the International Marketplace Booths as soon as they open so that you can beat the crowds. To me, these booths are the core of the festival as they offer guests the opportunity to enjoy international flavors and dozens of dishes. It’s the best bang for the buck in my opinion.
Tip: Check out the menus before you go — you only have so much stomach space, so be sure you’re sampling the things at the top of your list!
Early Afternoon: Back to School!
Consider heading to one of the low-cost seminars or demonstrations that happen in the Festival Center. Culinary and Wine Demonstrations range from $8 to $13 and offer a surprisingly in-depth overview of several topics, which could include specific wines and vineyards, particular dishes from some of your favorite restaurants, and more. Samples are always included in the price! (Cost $)
If “free” fits better into your budget, there are plenty of options to attend Authentic Taste Seminars, Cookbook author signings and seminars, and more — completely free with Epcot admission. Also, check out the schedules each day to find out when to participate in many of the free seminars taking place around the World Showcase! They’ll be woven into and around the International Marketplace Booths, so keep a look-out! (Cost FREE)
And if that doesn’t suit your fancy, book ahead to attend one of the French Regional Lunches, Tequila or Grand Marnier seminars, or another special event. While these cost a bit more to attend, you’re sure to have an incredible experience. I was lucky enough to attend the first ever tequila tasting seminar last year and can highly recommend it. (Cost $$ – $$$)
Late Afternoon: Dine in Style
If you’re not too full from the day’s activities, consider attending a food and wine pairing or a signature dinner. These are all book-ahead special events, but they come highly recommended. I attended a delicious Morocco food and wine pairing last year that didn’t break the bank, but still offered me an opportunity to learn as well as sample some good food and wine. (Cost $$ – $$$)
Prefer more touring and sampling to a table-service meal? Head back to the Epcot International Marketplace Booths! (Cost $)
If you’re in WDW on October 8th or 9th, consider heading over to the Disney World Swan and Dolphin resorts — they’re holding their first annual Food and Wine Classic and there will be plenty to sample there as well!
Evening: Be a Party Animal
Even the evenings offer a lot of options at the Food and Wine Festival. Want to experience the best of the best? Book attendance to the Party for the Senses, a highlight event occurring on Saturdays that combines the best of the festival — food, wine, entertainment — and lets you sample it without limits. (Cost $$$)
If this is beyond your price range, consider the brand new Disney’s Dessert Discovery event, where you’ll have the chance to indulge your sweetest senses and enjoy Illuminations at the same time. (Cost $)
If music is more your thing (or you’re just plain full, which is also possible), head to the Eat to the Beat concerts. These are free and offered several times each night at the America Gardens theater in World Showcase. (Cost FREE)
If you’re touring solo and only want to explore the Food and Wine Festival, check out this guest blog I did for SoloFriendly.com. It will give you some good ideas for events and activities you might enjoy.
If You’re Traveling As A Family With Kids…
While most parents and grandparents think that bringing the kids to Disney World in October means missing out on the Food and Wine Festival, I think there are lots of ways to enjoy the festival as a family without anyone feeling left out!
International Booths and Marketplace Passports
There are lots of ways to make the International Marketplace Booths fun for kids while you’re touring the festival:
- Look through the booth menus as a family, then have each member choose one booth to visit. Order one of everything at the booth and sample the International flavors together! (Mom and Dad can split the alcoholic drinks.)
- Pick up a Marketplace Passport at the Festival Center. This brand new addition to the Food and Wine Festival for 2010 offers a fun way to keep track of the booths you’ve visited, and the kids can be in charge of making sure they get a passport stamp from each booth!
- Many times, the countries located around the World Showcase will have International Program cast members working in the Marketplace Booths. Have the kids create Cast Member Appreciation cards welcoming them to the U.S. that say “Hello” or “Welcome” in the cast members’ native language.
The Epcot Food and Wine Festival always has a few interactive food exhibits that are fun and educational at the same time (it’s like real EPCOT Center stuff!). Whether they’re focused on pears, honey, or even ice cream, they’re fun to visit and explore. Keep an eye on the Festival Guide when you arrive to see what’s available.
KidCot Fun Stops
For the smaller kids, the KidCot Fun Stops throughout the World Showcase are a fun way to pass the time and learn about the countries. Mom and Dad can snack around the World while the kiddos are enmeshed in arts and crafts! 😉
I must admit, this is one of my favorite things to do in Epcot. The Kim Possible Adventure is a fun mystery/spy game that is played via “Kimmunicators” (a.k.a. old cell phones) throughout the World Showcase. Stop by and get a fastpass for the Adventure, then Mom and Dad can snack around the booths while the kids are rushing from country to country to save the world!
A lot of folks asked me specifically what my touring strategy looks like for the festival, so I figure I’ll throw it out there and see if you guys have any suggestions or comments for how I can make it better!
We don’t have unlimited resources or time, unfortunately, so we can’t go to everything. 🙁 Because we did several of the special events last year, my focus this year is on exploring each and every International Marketplace Booth and filling up my Marketplace Passport, hitting several of the smaller seminars (really looking forward to when they’re finally announced!), grooving to the Eat to the Beat concerts (Oh, how I WISH I was there to see Howard Jones!), and hopefully attending a cheese seminar!
If I did have unlimited resources and time, however, I would surely be at the First Bites Opening Reception, the Celebrating Family and Friends in the Kitchen seminars with Cat Cora and Andrew Zimmern, the Warren Brown and Gale Gand Sweet Sunday events, the 3D Disney’s Dessert Discovery, one of the Alsace French Regional Lunches, and the Paradiso 37, Jiko, Flying Fish, and Victoria & Albert’s signature dinners! 😉 Oh, and Party for the Senses(es).
SO! What are YOU doing?