It’s time to engage sight, sound, smell, and TASTE at the Party for the Senses!
Year after year, the Party for the Senses remains one of the most highly anticipated Special Events for the Epcot Food and Wine Festival. Boasting a huge variety of dishes created by Master Chefs and drinks along with live music and entertainment, the Party is a highlight of the season for many Festival guests.
The Party for the Senses takes place at the World Showplace Events Pavilion (between the UK and Canada Pavilions) from 7:30 to 10:00 pm on select Saturdays throughout the Festival. There are two more to go this year on October 21st and November 11th.
So get ready to PARTY, because we’re going inside!
Seating Options and Inclusions
When booking a Party for the Senses, you have a choice of three different seating levels for the event, and Epcot admission is required and not included. New for 2017, every level includes guaranteed seating (as opposed to walking around with your plate and glass all night, which was previously the case for General Admission).
Additionally, Party tickets holders also can enjoy Eat to the Beat Concert Series seating for the evening’s 5:30 and 6:45 pm shows.
At $329, the Wine View Lounge is the Top Category, offering a private reserved table in an exclusive area (closest to the stage), early entrance into the event at 7:15 pm, a specialty cocktail toast, an artisanal cheese station, and transportation to and from the Epcot Main Entrance in one of the new Disney World “Minnie Vans.”
Oh, that cheese station? Check out Gertrude, the Cow Cart! (???)
FYI, she’s also on wheels.
So, it’s entirely possible that you may pay for Wine View, which includes this exclusive cheese cart, only to miss it when you’re up visiting the food stations. Just an FYI.
Reserved Seating for $199 includes a reserved table for just your group on the main floor. Note that this is the ONLY difference between Reserved Seating and General Admission. Tier 2 no longer receives an extra 15 minutes at the beginning of the event.
Guaranteed Seating — or General Admission — is $179, though the seats may have an obstructed or distant view of the stage, and you will be seated with other guests outside of your group. (Table sizes throughout the room ranged from seating 2 to 24 guests.)
When you check in for the event, you receive a card with your table number (Cast Members are available to help you find your table, if needed). For our evening, going from the start of check-in to our table took about 15 minutes.
Each table has place settings that include a brochure, plate, and a wine glass per seat.
We’ll check out the brochure a little later, but the Party for the Senses Wine Glasses are emblazoned with the Epcot 35 Anniversary logo this year.
You’ll want to put these to use right away . You carry around your glass for the evening to have filled at the various Tasting Stations with the pairing suggestions. They are also a souvenir to keep (as we exited the Party, we received plastic bags to carry the glasses out of the park).
But while this is a fun souvenir, it’s a bad system for drinking throughout the night. When you pay this much for a ticket and, presumably, to drink good wine and several different beverages for which people have spent a lot of time getting the flavors just right, you don’t want to mix and match flavors by using the same glass over and over again. More on this later.
Atmosphere and Entertainment
The World Showplace Pavilion is essentially one huge room used for hosting various events throughout the year at Epcot. But the room gets “dressed up” for the party with unique lighting elements and a stage front and center featuring the evening’s entertainment (though we noticed that the ambient lighting was brighter, and therefore less dramatic, than in years past).
Femmes of Rock — an electric strings group — was the featured act for the evening.
The music — essentially rock and roll performed with strings — was upbeat and fun. There were also dancers to add more visual entertainment to the mix.
For moments when the band took a break, an MC and DJ provided pop and rock tunes, so the atmosphere was always alive with music for something of a club-like experience. Guests were even welcome to dance (though I didn’t really see the dance floor being used until close to the end of the night for the DJ’s last few songs).
Taken purely on its own, the music was good, and the Femmes of Rock were great.
But it is difficult not to compare the entertainment with previous years, which in the past has included acts from Cirque du Soleil. And even when the entertainment changed from Cirque in 2016, there was more of a variety present (for instance, last year’s Disney Springs-themed Party featured music and dancers from Raglan Road), which — frankly — I missed.
Another thing to note: the music was very, very loud (again, adding to the whole club vibe). If you were hoping to have an easy conversation with friends at your table, it was challenging. That said, entertainment can and does change throughout the Festival. The previous Party featured a jazz guitarist with a more mellow sound, so you can’t be certain of the general feel for your event until you get there.
As mentioned, this year was the first year when all Party guests received seating. This definitely had an impact on the space, making the room feel much “busier” than in years past. So, it’s a pro-and-con situation.
One the one hand, having a seat for everyone is terrific for obvious reasons. On the other, it contributed to my primary word to describe the general feel of the whole event: CROWDED.
And, of course, this had an effect on the food lines as well, which were likewise quite long. In particular, the lines for the meat items were wrapping around the tables for about the first hour; and the dessert lines were crazy for the last 30 minutes or so.
But that’s enough talk about food… let’s SEE it, already!
Eats and Drinks
The Tasting Stations, of course, are the highlight of the Party.
They are spaced throughout the room, and the table brochure I mentioned earlier maps out where you can locate the various items.
Luckily, that cryptic map does have a legend. Offerings can vary based on Chefs in attendance and their featured dishes, so take the items below as examples of what you may enjoy at a Party for the Senses (click the image below to enlarge).
A few favorites of the evening included this huge hit…
The Southern Chicken Pot Pie in a Brioche Conewich (!!!) is brought to you by Chef Jennifer Hill-Booker of Your Resident Gourmet in Lilburn, Georgia.
The Mediterranean Style Braised Mangalitsa Pork Belly by Chef Javier Pareja of Disney’s BoardWalk Inn was another standout.
The Pumpkin Fig Pierogi by Chef Norm Curka of the Grand Floridian was in keeping with the fall season.
“Donuts & Coffee” by Epcot’s Chef Noah French sounds simple enough, until you take in the Maple-Pecan Baked Donut with Espresso Cremeux.
Speaking of coffee…
Joffrey’s Coffee & Tea Company served up some caffeinated options, including Nitro Cold Brew.
Thankfully, no event is too fancy-schmancy for MICKEY Waffles!
These were incorporated into Chef Jennifer Bushman’s Verlasso Salmon and Waffles with maple syrup, onion glaze, and maple butter sauce.
Again, those were some of the highlights, but here’s just a few more glimpses to give you a… taste. Check out the Assorted Cheese table…
And don’t forget those suggested pairings!
Just don’t try so much that you forget to carry your souvenir wine glass on the way out!
Overall — Is it Worth The $$$$$?
Party for the senses has been a “maybe” for us in terms of value for many years now. Straight up: you’re laying down some serious bucks to attend… especially if you’re forking over the $329 for the Wine View Lounge (and at $179, General Admission is a pretty penny on its own). So, is it worth it?
Here are our takeaways based on this year’s Party.
There really is a LOT of food with several interesting and well-executed items (along with all the beverages) at this event. If you’re looking for a Festival splurge on a unique dining experience that includes a lot of variety in what you’re receiving, then I think the Party for the Senses could be worth it if — and this “IF” is quite important — you could actually get around to all or at least most of the food.
I mean, there were so many options to try — which in and of itself is a great feature of the Party — but with the crowds you had to rush REALLY quickly to attempt to try most of them. Which, in essence, defeats the purpose of having a seat for everybody. Many of the seats went unused throughout the evening, which I’m assuming was due to the time it took to get around to everything.
The variety and amount of food is central to this event, so I’m certainly not recommending fewer options. But I am saying there is definitely room for improvement.
Also, I would have liked to have the option to use a different glass for each drink. If I’m drinking a bold red and then switch to a sweet white, that could compromise the flavor if the glass isn’t washed in between servings. Also, if I didn’t want to finish a particular drink, it would have been helpful to have a way to get rid of that leftover drink before I refill the glass with something else. We saw guests washing out their glasses at the complimentary drinking water stations, and pouring old wine into coffee cups so that they could go refill their glasses with a new beverage. It’s just bad form for an event that costs so much to not at least offer a fresh glass when needed — or at least advertise the option of a fresh glass more obviously.
Personally, we would buy a general admission ticket for a date night, anniversary, or birthday celebration. But only if the lines are little less long and the room a little less crowded. And they fix that glass situation.
Here are some of our ideas on how this event could be improved, based on our 2017 experience:
- There either needs to be some sort of organized system so guests are sure to be able to try more things, or the duration of the event (currently 2.5 hours) should be lengthened to make it worthwhile.
- Though there are a couple of themed nights (such as Disney Springs Chefs and Disney Parks Chefs), guests are otherwise going in without knowing the featured chefs and dishes for the event. It might be helpful for Disney to provide a list for the event’s features so guests can decide which Party they’d prefer.
- Ditto for the entertainment. As it stands currently, you could get anywhere from club-style to mellow jazz, and it might be best to know in advance which vibe you’ll experience — again, for preference.
- Offer fresh glasses when needed, or make them more visible. It just looks bad to have people who paid over $300 washing out their glasses at glorified drinking fountains and pouring leftover wine into coffee cups.
- The top tier tickets need to have better perks. Currently, general admission is the only ticket we consider to be worth the cost to purchase. (Gertrude is great, but did you see the size of that cheese table that everyone has access to? It’s plenty.)
- Wine View Lounge would be MUCH more worth the cost if guests didn’t have to get up to get their own food, and wait in the subsequent lines. Perhaps consider introducing servers into the Wine View Lounge so that guests could stay seated throughout the evening and have their food brought to them.
- True, the above suggestion would take away the interaction with the chefs, so in that case, consider having separate lines for Wine View Lounge guests — like VIP lines at the airport — so they aren’t waiting in such long lines and would have more time to interact with the chefs.
Nosh or Not?
You may want to attend the Party for the Senses if:
- You want to try lots of unique and yummy food and drink items in one fell swoop at the Epcot Food and Wine Festival.
- You are a foodie who enjoys a party atmosphere, and the chance to greet several Chefs.
- You’re cool with attending on the General Admission level. Because now that everyone gets seating we have to say that the Wine View Lounge and the Reserved Seating levels don’t offer enough perks to justify the price at this point.
Based on our 2017 experience, you’ll want to skip if:
- You’re not a fan of crowds.
- You prefer to savor your food over rushing.
- You like knowing more of what you’re paying for prior to attending the event with regards to food and entertainment.
So, that’s our take. How about yours? If you attended a Party for the Senses this year, we’d really love to hear about your experience!
Want to read more about the Epcot Food and Wine Festival? We have ALL of the Details — including every food photo from the World Showcase Booths — on our Epcot Food and Wine Festival Page!
Is the Party for the Senses on your Must-Do list during the Epcot Food and Wine Festival? Please let us know with a comment!
Disclosure: In nearly all circumstances, Disney Food Blog writers and photographers pay full price for their own travel, hotel, food, beverage, and event tickets. We do this because it’s important to us as journalists to ensure not only that we give you unbiased opinions, but also that you can trust us to do so since we’re paying our own way. On rare occasions, when we are invited by Disney World to attend an event as media, and when we choose to accept that invitation, we will always make you, our readers, aware of that situation. Note that when we attend events as media we are 1) Not required to review that event on any of our channels, and 2) Not required to review that event favorably. You can always count on DFB to give you a 100% unbiased and honest review of any event that we attend, food that we eat, or beverage that we drink. You can see more in our Disclosure Policy. Thank you for reading. — AJ