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2010 Epcot Food and Wine Festival: Touring Strategies

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:

Tokyo, Japan Booth

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!

Marrakesh Booth Food

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 $)

Prum Wine Seminar 2010

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 $$ – $$$)

Shish Kabob at Marrakesh Food and Wine Pairing

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 $)

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy Performing at Eat to the Beat

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!

Close up of a Stamp at the Desserts and Champagne Booth

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.

Marketplace Discovery Passport Details and Examples

Interactive Exhibits
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! ;-)

Kim Possible!!
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!

AJ’s Picks

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!

Culinary Demonstration in Festival Center

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?

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21 Comments

  1. Kelly says:

    We’re mainly doing the booths, but we have Party for the Senses scheduled for the first one of the Festival! It’s our first time doing it, but my parent’s have done it before. We’ll also look at the low cost seminars/demonstrations and like you, waiting (not so) patiently for them to be announced! This will be my 4th year in a row going! So excited!

  2. Cody says:

    WOW! Great Tips AJ with brilliant breakdowns of what to do, and when… I do go along with your suggestion to do the Marketplaces as early as possible, because if you wait till even around 12:30-1pm they begin to get BUSY, and you have to wait a long time for some of them… (cough.. cough.. CANADA)

  3. Brenda says:

    This will be our 6th year, so we’ve had a chance to try many special events previously at better price points. We are attending a couple of Frunches at Bistro – in our experience they have always been well worth the cost. And we also plan to attend the Swolphin’s F&W event this year – that sound like it has great potential! Otherwise, we will spend our days wandering around the World Showcase snacking and drinking until it’s time for a nap at the pool. Less than seven weeks to go and we can’t wait!!

  4. Beth says:

    Last year we just did the booths, so this year we’re trying some of the events. We’ve scheduled the French Regional Lunch for 10/1 and Sweet Sundays for 10/3. And we already had ADRs for Le Cellier on 10/2, so it’s going to be a food filed three days!

  5. Dana says:

    We booked a last minute trip last year for Halloween and it was a happy coincidence that we got to do the Food and Wine Festival—and just when I thought Epcot couldn’t get any better than the Flower and Garden Festival….

    We’re looking to go back this October just for the F&W because it was so awesome! I love the passport idea that they’ll have this year. My fiance tried the “Beer tour” and he got a passport last year for that, and I was jealous!

    I second the Kim Possible game—we’re in our 20′s/30′s and LOVED doing the game, don’t be afraid to try it even if you have no kids!

    My tips for the F&W festival:
    If you can, book the QS dining during your stay—you get 2 snack credits a day per person, and you can use the snack credits on most of the festival booths (And some of them turn out to be a better deal than most snacks because they are priced at $4 or more, where as most snacks on the DP are under $4)

    Stop at the Festival Center (usually in the Wonders of Life building) and get one of the reloadable gift cards that come on a springy bracelet. It makes hopping from booth to booth easy—you don’t have to worry about taking out cash/credit card (and you can keep track of how much you’ve spent–eeeek!)

    Last—eat at off hours, and try to avoid Epcot after dark—World Showcase gets PACKED! I agree with eating early before the booths get crowded. Besides waiting in long lines, its easier to trip over the hoards of people walking around the countries, and it’s next to impossible to find a spot to sit and enjoy your food. We enjoyed ourselves more in the early afternoon than at night.

    Mmmm….now you’re making me crave a sheppards pie in Ireland and Pretzel and Cheese….

  6. Alissa says:

    We are looking forward to our first visit. I am lucky in that my kids are adventurous eaters and are looking forward to this *almost* as much as I am. We are planning 2 days at Epcot and will do the Kim Possible adventure. Any different suggestions for a 2 day touring plan? Still won’t be able to do expensive seminars and such. Thought about doing 1/2 Future World and 1/2 World Showcase one day and the other the next. Thanks.

  7. Ro says:

    If you do any of the seminars or pairings that include food, you may want to skip that ADR for lunch or dinner. I find I’m so full, there’s no need for dinner and usually opt for a snack later in the evening from a kiosk or at a CS. And add another vote for staying away later in the evening. Going during the week is even better as it’s less crowded then. Tour other parks on the weekends instead.

  8. Tim Sampson says:

    We’ve been attending the F&W Festival for years and attending the Party for the Senses for about five years, except last year (stupid recession!). We usually spend at least two days at the Festival and hit all the marketplace booths, usually with my brother and sister-in-law so we can all share. Have enjoyed doing the Party for many years, but heard from my brother and others that last year’s Party was not so good based on previous years…chintzy food, the “cage” in the middle with seats if you pay more, and less entertainment made it a less than stellar event. Based on this year’s description, they might have gone back to the older formula that seemed to work better. We’ve also done Sweet Sundays, Winemaker’s Dinners, seminars and various other special and free events at the Festival over the years. It’s almost always a very fun and educational time. Have met celebrity chefs but have most enjoyed meeting the winemakers who also seem like they enjoy being there.

  9. Tim Sampson says:

    Forgot to say this tip: if you can at all avoid it, do not go on the last weekend. It’s a madhouse. Even the last two weekends are something that should be avoided. Done that twice, very unpleasant, will be going in mid-October this year.

  10. AJ says:

    Kelly — Can’t wait to hear your review of the Party for the Senses!

    Cody — Yep! I plan to hit the booths at 11am more than once :-)

    Brenda — I can’t wait either. If you remember, I’d love to hear about your experiences this year at the Frunches.

    Beth — We’re eating at Le Cellier on the 2nd, too, I think! Maybe I’ll see you there! Also, we’ll miss you at the WDW Foodie Fest on the 3rd!

    Dana — I LOVE your tips! That’s a great one about the quick service dining plan!

    Alissa — If your kids are looking forward to trying new foods, set aside two meals to eat around the World Showcase. There are going to be dozens of new things to try! I can’t wait to hear how it turns out!

    Ro — Great points! Thank you for the extra tips! The F&W Festival is getting worse and worse during the weekends, isn’t it?

    Tim — I love chatting with the winemakers and vintners. My experience has been great on that side as well. Agreed that with bringing cirque back, they might be putting a bit more effort into the parties this year. Fingers crossed for those attending!

  11. Galloping Gourmand says:

    Feeling a little off today or I would say more than just thanks. As it is though, thanks for these!

  12. AJ says:

    Hope you feel better soon, GG! If you have any specific questions about your day at the Festival, feel free to email me!

  13. Josh says:

    I’ve been seeing so much information come out from the Disney Food Blog in the past months about the Food and Wine festival. This really clears up exactly what it is, just a festival to have a good time and enjoy a different variety of foods.

    Unfortunately, I’m not going to be going (partially because I’m not old enough to drink and that seems like the main part of the experience), but to all of you going have a very safe and fun time!

    Le Cellier sounds like a wonderful dinner as well AJ, make sure to get some pictures. ;-)

  14. Jami says:

    “grooving to the Eat to the Beat concerts (Oh, how I WISH I was there to see Howard Jones!)”

    I’ll be missing the Foodie Fest. :-( But I’ll take pictures of the Howard Jones concert for ya! ;-)

    Last year we only got 1 day at the festival. This year we are planning on breaking it up over 2-3 days (we’ll be there 5). We are thinking about breaking the World Showcase up by themes….not sure of the themes yet. We are also going to do more of the low cost demos. Being an AP holder, that lil discount on the demos helps us to enjoy a few extra. We also go with a small group (this year 5 adults) and all pitch in on a gift card. The items we purchase and share are paid for with the gift card. Evey one gets a bite and a sip without breaking the bank….or your stomach. (NOTE: this only works for people who are adventurous enough to share your food/drink) ;)

  15. Wendy says:

    A small tip, but one that has proved really valuable for us –

    If you’re interested in eating at more than one of the booths in the area, split up. Have different members of your party get samples at different booths, then meet each other to enjoy the food. Not only does that help you keep ahead of the crowd if you start early, you’ll spend less time waiting in lines and more time sharing wonderful food together!

  16. Jen says:

    These are some great tips!! We are going back (we were just there in March!) for the F&W festival on Oct 9th -14th!! Can’t wait!!

    I agree with the crowd situation. we were there last year during the same week and meandered through all (and I really mean ALL!!) of the booths on a weekday, when we went back on the Saturday to relax and nibble the lines were out of control!! I would definitely suggest a weekday trip if you can swing it!

    Also, I am not sure if it is the same this year, but we stayed in the World Showcase for extra magic hours thinking we would walk around and have some drinks and snacks after Illuminations, but to our disappointment the International booths closed down!! (just thought that would be a good thing to keep in mind if you are a planner! ;)

  17. I really look forward to the F&W as a “refresher” course for the foods I haven’t dealt with in SOOOOO long. I just wish some of the Disney chefs would actually be on hand to talk as well.

    Also, kind of a tip – To help with the large amounts of food that you’ll be taking in, try to follow a sort of, “diet” while in the park. Remembering that the proteins will be a little easier to take in larger doses, where the carbs will fill you up quickly. So, maybe you could stagger the different food groups in your favor.

  18. KerriK says:

    make sure you go straight to guest services for your Birthday Celebration Button!!! I had a friend that wore hers during the food and wine festival and when we were in Italy, they all sang a happy birthday song to her in Italian! definitely a moment you dont want to miss :)

  19. Great post, AJ! I’ll be heading down semi-solo so I’ll be grazing and ‘Eating Around the World’ either by myself or with a few friends I pick up along the way. I didn’t book any ADRs or additional F&W events due to time constraints…but I’m positive I won’t go hungry with all those booth options! :)

  20. Karen says:

    I’m thinking of attending one of the low cost demos but will have the kids. Is it possible to bring them and would they be at the same cost? Or is this just a bad idea overall?

  21. AJ says:

    Karen — The only notation I’ve seen about age is that folks have to be over 21 to drink alcohol. I imagine it’s OK for kids to get tickets, but I’m not positive. :-(

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