It’s nearly here: the Epcot Food and Wine Festival kicks off shortly and we are counting down the days!
Before long, we’ll all be traipsing about Epcot, noshing on old favorites and new finds.
And with more marketplace booths joining the ranks every year, there is always something to be excited about.
But planning is key, especially as the festival continues to grow. And we’re here to help!
We’ve been around the festival block a time or two, 😉 so I’m happy to share with you some of Disney Food Blog’s Top Tips for making this the best Epcot Food and Wine Festival yet! Let’s dig in!
1. Know Before You Go
The Epcot Food and Wine Festival has become massive, both in terms of timeframe and offerings. Every year, it gets longer, and more booths are introduced. This pretty much guarantees that if you show up expecting to wing it, you’re gonna miss some stuff. So planning has gotta be your starting point.
Spend some time looking at the menus, and determine your must eat and must drink lists. Give special attention to this exercise if you have particular preferences or sensitivities as Disney labels items that are gluten free and vegetarian. (For all of this year’s gluten free offerings, check out our list of GF menu items here.)
Also, give some thought to where you might escape the heat for a bit. Craft Beers, located in The Odyssey, offers a nice respite from the sun. Besides, it’s a great place to grab a cold one. In World Showcase, duck into Mitsukoshi Department Store in Japan for a breather, or take in the Voices of Liberty for a break.
2. Visit During the Down Times
Because of the festival’s popularity, avoiding crowds has become a little more challenging. But there are still plenty of times that lines are shorter and crowds are thinner. You just have to give it a little forethought.
Avoid both opening and closing weekends. Typically crowds swell during both extremes. Likewise, plan your visits for the middle of the week. The Epcot Food and Wine Festival is as much a destination for locals as it is for out of town guests, and weekends are predictably times when the guest count increases. Finally, avoid holiday weekends like Labor Day, Columbus Day, and Veteran’s Day.
Aim for early in the day — booths typically open at 11:00AM — weekdays, once the festival is well underway.
3. Get a Festival Passport
Since Festival Passports debuted several years back, we’ve become big fans! Not only are the passports a great way to keep track of what you’ve tried, but they make super cute mementos of the festival.
If you’re not familiar with them, Festival Passports are the little booklets that you can pick up at Festival Center and at registers throughout Epcot (especially in World Showcase).
The passport lists the menus of each booth as well as other festival details, such as the Eat to the Beat concert schedule and festival merchandise. Use the stickers that are included to mark all of the booths you visit to help you keep track!
4. Try New Things
We know — we’re right there with you. It just wouldn’t be a festival without favorites like the Empanada at Patagonia, that Chocolate Pudding at Ireland, or a Crème Brûlée in France — we don’t care WHAT the flavor is.
But you guys — you gotta try all the things! The NEW things! We’re talking dishes like Smoked Corned Beef with Warm Crispy Potatoes, Pickled Onions and Blonde Ale Beer Fondue from Flavors From Fire.
Wash it down with festival exclusive Schöfferhofer Hefeweizen Pomegranate Beer!
Find it at Brewer’s Collection.
You can see our full list of must-eats at the festival here!
5. Use a Wristlet Gift Card or MagicBand
There are lots of ways to budget for the festival, but getting a gift card is among the easiest. Just load the gift card with a predetermined amount of money and go. When you’re out of money, you’re finished with Food and Wine Festival fun.
But in addition to being a great way to budget, Disney’s mini giftcards come on little bracelets, which makes it super convenient to use at the booths. Rather than digging through your bag at every stop for a card or cash, it’s easy to pay with the little wearable giftcard.
Want to celebrate life and splurge a little? Check out the Commemorative Epcot Food and Wine Gift Card. It comes with a souvenir lanyard and medallion, and can be yours when you load it with a minimum of $200. And let’s be honest: it’s really not hard to spend that much. So why not?
Of course, MagicBands are another simple, convenient way to pay. Just watch those expenses. They can creep up on you. 🙂
6. Or Purchase the Sampler Package
For years, guests have asked for an all inclusive festival ticket, an opportunity to pay a set price and sample as much as you’d like. (Think of events like the Swan and Dolphin Food and Wine Classic.) While this food and wine fantasy has never come to pass, Disney does offer a Sampler Package.
For a flat price, guests purchase a card with eight allotments, which allows them to visit the booths of their choice.
While the options are fairly wide open, there are a few restrictions. The good news is that they’re printed right on the card, so there’s no guess work involved.
The upside is that you can come out ahead if you choose your items wisely.
Because we love to try All. The. Things. — this is one of our favorite tips. Share, share, and share some more. It’s a great way to maximize the number of dishes that you have the chance to try.
Here’s my personal TIP: head to the booths with family or a group of friends, and plan to share everything. Then, at the end of the day or the next day, go back for a full serving (or two!) of your favorites!
8. Be There for More Than One Day
Sure, you could do the Epcot Food and Wine Festival in a day — even less, if you have only a morning or an afternoon. We give you strategies for short visits in our DFB Guide to the Epcot Food and Wine Festival E-Book. But honestly, if you can, I recommend that you plan for more than one day.
There is a lot of food and drink to enjoy. And in my opinion, the best way to actually enjoy it is to space it out over the course of a few days. That way you can take in a few booths, alternate them with some attractions, and maybe even a few Special Events.
The exploration of food and drink should be more of a marathon than a sprint.
9. Drink Plenty of Water
This is a biggie, and something that is super easy to neglect because you don’t plan ahead, don’t want to spend money, or both. But you need to hydrate for lots of reasons.
First of all, it’s gonna be hot. Don’t let the calendar fool you, folks. Especially during the early days of the festival, it’ll be summertime. Sip on water throughout the day to prevent heat exhaustion.
But add to the heat that you’ll probably be imbibing a few drinks. Alcohol is a notorious dehydrator, so plan now to drink at least a cup of water between cocktails or servings of beer and wine.
To accomplish this in the least expensive way possible, bring your own. We love these collapsible water bottles that don’t take up a lot of space in your bag. And remember that counter service locations will give you free cups of ice water. And for those of you who don’t mind tap water, make liberal use of those water fountains.
10. Bring a Tray
Yes, yes, and YES!! Have you ever gotten to a festival marketplace booth, ordered everything, and then tried to get it from the counter to a suitable eating spot without spilling everything? It’s not an easy task.
That’s why we here at DFB are big believers in bringing your own tray. Sure, you can get one of the cute little food plates that they sell at the Festival Center and other merch spots, but it really doesn’t hold much.
Besides, plastic trays are super easy to come by. You can even order them ahead from and customize them. We think a DFB sticker is the PERFECT decoration. 😀
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Now we want to hear from you! What are your Top Tips for enjoying the Epcot Food and Wine Festival? Leave a comment and join in the conversation below!