If you’re visiting Disney World in the fall, you can count yourself lucky because that’s when Epcot hosts the International Food & Wine Festival! It’s a magical time of year when eating around the World Showcase becomes eating around the entirety of Epcot as food and beverage kiosks take over the park.
This year, the festival is 86 glorious days, running from August 29 to November 23, 2019. In addition to the usual food booths, there’s the Eat to the Beat concert series, festival specific merchandise everywhere you look, and special culinary demonstrations and seminars.
However, it’s the marketplace booths that are the main draw for us because there is little else we love more than indulging in the food at Disney. It can seem a tad overwhelming at first, so to help you out, we have a few of our tips to share for tackling the festival when you visit Epcot this season.
5 – Go On A Weekday
First and foremost, we recommend trying to avoid the Food & Wine Festival on a weekend. The festival is an incredibly popular destination not only for resort guests, but for the Florida locals as well. It can get incredibly busy, which means a crowded promenade around the World Showcase, and long lines at the marketplace booths.
Last year we visited Epcot on the second-to-last day of the festival, which happened to be a Sunday. Even though it was still a weekend, we decided to head to Epcot because it was the only day we could attend the festival on that particular trip. With the time crunch, we figured that going when we could would be better than not going at all (we weren’t about to miss out on all of that incredible food).
We tackled the booths as soon as they opened at 11am to avoid the rush and while we still had a great time going on a weekend, we did notice the park was incredibly busy that day as long lines began to form at each of the booths as well as for all of the attractions.
Ultimately, if you can avoid going on a weekend, try your best to do so. If you can only attend the festival on a weekend, go anyway, just know you may have to wait in some lines, and make the best of it – by indulging on more tasty bites at each booth.
4 – Look at the Menus Beforehand
We are definitely those Disney fans that read and re-read the menus for Disney restaurants long before we head out on our trip. We like to keep up-to-date on the menu changes, and we have a good time planning where to go and what we might order. We approach the Food & Wine Festival in the same way as our regular Disney dining.
The Disney Food Blog does a great job at covering what is available at the festival marketplace booths, and they even have photos if the descriptions of each dish aren’t enough to entice you. We recommend taking a look at their list of what the festival is offering this year before you head to Epcot or check out the official festival listings here. Their information is reliable, and easy to read through.
We don’t like spending much time at the festival trying to figure out what and where we might like to eat. The number of options can be overwhelming and I’m too worried I might miss something I would really love to try.
Ryan and I look at the menus together beforehand to eliminate the tasting plates that don’t appeal to us. We like to make a list of plates we absolutely must try and the ones that we might like to try. Of course, once we’re there, we might change our minds slightly, but we know which booths we can skip without worrying we’re missing out. Planning ahead also helps you make the most of your tour around the World Showcase. Knowing what booths you’d like to visit will prevent you from having to walk from Norway all the way over to Italy and then back to China, just because you’re not sure what you’d like to try.
3 – Budget
When looking at the tasting plates from the booths, eating at the festival can appear to be very affordable, but after having a 3-4 menu items, your budget can quickly get eaten up, literally!
The appetizer sized portions tend to cost between $4 and $8, and drinks can be anywhere from $3 to $10. You can see how a drink and plate from 3 booths can add up quickly. In the past we have used cash for the festival, so we don’t get a surprise when we get our credit card bill. We set our budget, or decide we’re only going to have 5 items, and stick to it (but realistically, we probably eat one or two more than we originally planned). The festival offers Food & Wine themed gift cards that you can wear around your wrist for easy access as you move between the booths. The gift cards are easily found and purchased throughout Epcot.
As Canadians, we can also load up gift cards either through the Disney Store, or anywhere Disney Gift Cards are sold. The currency is automatically converted when you use it in Walt Disney World and there is not foreign currency fee associated with using the cards.
Many items are also considered snack credits if you are on the Disney Dining Plan. If you see the Disney Dining Plan symbols next to the items on the menus, it’s fair game to use your snack credit, just make sure it’s a good value and use it for the higher priced items on your must-have list.
If you happen upon a booth where you’d like to try three different items, you can also trade in a quick-service meal credit for three snack items. The only caveat is that you have to redeem all three snacks at the same time, from the same counter, and of course they have to be considered snack items marked by the symbol. We have never done this before. For the two of us, there just hasn’t been a time when we’ve wanted three snack items all from the same counter, and we have found we get more value out of the dining plan by keeping the credit for a quick-service meal. However, depending on the number of people in your party, and the snack items you want, it could be worth it.
2 – Share
Ryan and I tend to share most of our Disney snacks, and the main reason behind this is that we can try even more snacks if we share! There are a few things we would never share, like a Dole Whip or School Bread – and after having the pierogi from the Poland booth last year at the festival, we will probably opt for our own this year. But typically, we like to share the items we get at the festival.
Even though they are small plates, a few bites are enough for us to enjoy each item, and it means we don’t fill up too quickly before trying everything on our list. Three to four dishes can start to feel like a full meal for some people, so sharing the plates helps you pace yourself. Plus, if you aren’t satisfied with just a couple bites, you can always go back for seconds!
1 – Use the Passport
At each booth or kiosk you can pick up a festival passport. It really does come in handy and is a nice little keepsake. It has a list of all the booths and menu items, and it’s a great tool for keeping track of the items you want to try, and you can mark off the places you’ve visited with the sticker included in the passport booklet. It’s a fun way to take in the whole festival experience and remember the dishes on your must-try list.
If we can be so bold as to make some recommendations, we highly recommend you visit some of our favourite marketplace booths. They are (in no particular order): the France booth, Brazil, Appleseed Orchard, Coastal Eats, Poland and of course the familiar flavours at the Canada booth.
We love visiting Epcot in the Fall, and the Food & Wine Festival is one of the main reasons why. We’re always looking for festival favourites, so please let us know what your must-have dishes (or drinks) are in the comments below so we can check them off our passports the next time we go.