The 2020 “Taste of Epcot International Food and Wine Festival” (the official name for this year’s modified Food and Wine Festival) is drawing to a close later this month. This modified festival features elements of the Food and Wine Festival as well as the Flower and Garden Festival, which was cut short by Disney World’s historic closures this past Spring.
We were thinking about all the unique aspects of this year’s Food and Wine Festival, and we realized that in some ways this is both the best AND the worst Food and Wine Festival of all time.
Reasons it’s the BEST
Low crowds = a basically empty festival
The limited capacity set by Disney World through the new Disney Park Pass reservation system has meant that most days look largely empty in Epcot.
Typically, the Food and Wine Festival draws in HUGE crowds, especially on weekends. Now, it almost resembles a ghost town!
This makes for a WAY more pleasant experience. Because of the lower crowds and the lower amount of booths this year, it’s way easier to try all the things you want to try! You could probably call this year a FOMO-free festival!
It lasted a LONG time!
This year’s festival started earlier than ever before, on July 15. When it was announced that the Food and Wine Festival would begin on Epcot’s reopening day, it was stated that the festival would last through the fall. The fest is now set to wrap on November 22nd. That’s 131 days of fest this year!
While we WISH the Food and Wine Festival was available to us 365 days a year, eventually it will come to a close. This will be Epcot’s longest-running festival ever. In a normal year, the Food and Wine Festival concludes mid-November prior to Thanksgiving.
It’s a blend of TWO festivals rolled into one!
Because this year’s Flower and Garden Festival only ran for less than two weeks before the parks closed, this year’s Food and Wine has included a few elements from Epcot’s spring festival. Some of the things that were incorporated include booths, menu items, merchandise, and even that Remy Topiary that made its debut this year!
Disney probably could have embraced the Flower and Garden Festival this fall even MORE in our opinion, but just the mere fact that we are able to relive some of the festival’s highlights has been a joy!
Click here to read about one of the returning booths (and the Orange Bird sipper!) from this year’s Flower and Garden Festival
There are more INDOOR booth options this year
The festival’s World Showplace, which is typically reserved for special events at Food and Wine like the Party For the Senses, has four indoor booths this year along with some tables and merch for sale!
This means that you have a nice air-conditioned escape from the heat. And the heat is one of the things we AREN’T fond of when it comes to Food and Wine Festival (more on that later!).
There are TWO beer sizes!
Beer lovers rejoice! While we miss the beer flights at the festival booths this year (although you can still get one in THIS location), it has been replaced by the return of the large pour! This is music to beer lovers’ ears!
The small pour is still around, meaning that guests still have the option to sample beers (or create your own flight). But, if there’s a beer you’re after at the festival, you can finally get a full-sized serving once again!
It’s nice to even HAVE a Food and Wine Festival!
We aren’t gonna lie, there were moments where we questioned whether or not Disney would even HAVE a Food and Wine Festival this year. So the simple fact that Epcot is hosting their annual festival is a HUGE plus for us!
We already know that we’ll see a slightly modified version of EPCOT’s Festival of the Holidays this year (just a few short days after Food and Wine wraps!), but only time will tell what’s going to happen with next year’s Festival of the Arts and next year’s Flower and Garden Festival, but at least for now we can still eat and drink our way through Food and Wine!
Reasons it’s the WORST
OK, OK so we gave you the good, but there’s certainly been a bit of bad as well.
Logistics and stress of conquering the festival during a pandemic
We’re in uncharted territory this year, and constantly having to think about hygiene may result in a less-than-pleasant experience for many. In the parks we feel like we’re constantly reaching for some sanitizer everywhere we go!
Disney even introduced new sanitary plastic utensil dispensers this year at Food and Wine as well as around the parks which, while not a BAD thing, just show how different this fest had to be to accommodate social distancing.
You also cannot eat on-the-go anymore, so it can be stressful trying to find a place to be stationary, remove your mask, and eat. Plus, it can be less than sanitary to keep removing your mask with your hands, put your mask back on, and repeat several times over as you visit all the festival booths. (Trust us, we’re eating a LOT at these fests, so our mask is going on and off a LOT as we stop at each booth to eat!)
Some may come to prefer this ‘slower’ style of enjoying your food, but many festival fans are accustomed to eating their food on the go while walking to the next booth. It’s a learning curve for sure!
There’s hardly any theming or added activities this year
“A Taste of Food and Wine” is a very bare-bones approach to the festival this year. While this shouldn’t be too surprising, it’s still a bit of a bummer when you find out that there’s not much to see and experience beyond the booths. There is no festival center, no Eat to the Beat Concert Series, no seminars, classes, etc.
This is an even BIGGER bummer when you remember that this year is the 25th anniversary of the Food and Wine Festival! Disney loves to celebrate milestones, and there is hardly ANYTHING happening to celebrate the festival’s big birthday! One thing that IS happening to commemorate the 25th anniversary is NEW FESTIVAL MERCH! Yep, you can FINALLY get your hands on some 2020 Food and Wine merchandise in Epcot, and many of the items feature a nod to the milestone birthday!
There are no unique poutines!
OK, hear us out on this one. Refreshment Port has our classic favorite if you’re hunting for the gravy and cheese covered goodness that is poutine. For a stretch of time, however, EPCOT was coming up with some FANTASTIC poutine options, and we always looked forward to trying these new dishes at the Food and Wine Festival!
We hope that these unique poutines return for future festivals. But in the meantime, we know we can still head to Refreshment Port, Le Cellier, and even The Daily Poutine in Disney Springs to get our poutine fix.
There’s not a lot of new eats in general
Come to think of it, there really aren’t many NEW food or drink items at this year’s Food and Wine Festival.
Smaller menus consisting of mostly returning items make for a not-so-exciting experience for those who prefer to try new things every year.
The Food & Wine fest was already starting earlier and earlier every year, and now bumping it an entire MONTH earlier in 2020 meant for a TON of the festival days taking place in the sweltering summer months.
It’s JUST NOW becoming more comfortable outside (just barely), but only towards the very tail end of the festival. It’s harder to enjoy frozen drinks and foods when they’re melting before you even taste them!! While there are more indoor food booths this year, the majority of the festival is still outdoors.
You can argue the pros and cons of any Food and Wine Festival, but this year is truly unique in the best and worst possible ways! Ultimately we’re just glad we have a Food and Wine Festival to enjoy after Disney World’s historic closures, and the low crowds give all of us the opportunity to try more food and beverages than ever before (even with those limited menus!).
Have you been to this year’s Food and Wine Festival yet? Share your experience in the comments!