Each year, from late September until early November, Epcot hosts the International Food and Wine Festival. This year marks the festival’s 20th Anniversary. As if Epcot wasn’t already a foodie’s paradise, this event raises the bar even higher.
Around Epcot’s World Showcase are over 30 marketplaces (kiosks) to sample a particular county’s cuisine and drinks. New this year is the addition of 2 new marketplaces in Future World too! Access to the marketplaces is included with your Epcot admission; however the food and beverages must be purchased. The portions are appetizer-sized and range from $4 to $8. This is one of Walt Disney World’s most popular events, and one of my favorites. Here is a list of what I am looking forward to this year.
1. Welcome Center
The welcome center is a shopper’s paradise featuring a wine shop, souvenirs, and a number of free events. There are also book and bottle signings. Stop into the welcome center for a list of free events!
2. Seminars and Demonstrations
The Epcot International Food and Wine Festival is more than just a tasting experience, it is educational as well. There are culinary demonstrations, mixology seminars, cheese seminars and much more! The seminars are too numerous to list here, but head over to the Walt Disney World Resort website for all the details (scroll down to “Seminars and Demonstrations”).
3. Try new things!
The small portion size and relatively low cost allows you to try things that you might not normally try. For example, in the past I have tried things such as a Kefta Pocket (Ground Seasoned Beef in a Pita Pocket) from Morocco, Escargot from France, and a Kimchi dog with spicy mustard sauce (hotdog with kimchi and spicy mustard) from South Korea. For the more adventurous palates, there is haggis at the Scotland marketplace, but I haven’t gotten up the nerve to try it!
4. Celebrity Chefs
Chefs from all over the world appear at the festival to share their expertise. Some examples Buddy Valestro from The Cake Boss, Robert Irvine from the Food Network, and Kevin Dundon from Walt Disney World Resort’s restaurant Raglan Road.
New to the festival this year is ABC’s hit show The Chew. Not only did some of the celebrity chefs participate in the seminars but the show was broadcast from Epcot!
Included with your Epcot admission is the Eat To The Beat Concert series. Popular bands of the 1980s and 1990s play their greatest hits in these concerts, which occur throughout the festival. The concerts are held three times nightly at the America Gardens Theater in the American Adventure Pavilion at Epcot. Last year I saw Boys II Men. They gave an incredible performance that had the audience up on their feet!
6. Snack Credits
If you have purchased one of the Disney Dining plans, all of the food offerings at the marketplaces can be purchased with a snack credit! As I mentioned, some of the choices can be up to $8, so it is a great value to use your snack credits for the food.
7. Chase Lounge
The Epcot International Food and Wine Festival is sponsored by Chase. Chase offers this perk to its members attending the festival. The lounge is located at the American Adventure Parlor on the 3rd floor of the American Adventure Pavilion. The lounge features air conditioning, free Coke beverages, and a place to sit and relax. The lounge is open 11am–9pm on Sunday through Thursday and 11am–10pm on select Friday and Saturdays. You must show your Chase card to gain access to the lounge.
8. New Features
Frequently, new features are added each year that keep the festival new and interesting! Most of these will have an extra fee associated with them so be sure to read the fine print when you make your reservation! This year there are a few new additions such as a Rockin Burger Block Party and Japan Craft Beer Tasting. Also this year is What’s Cooking With… where you can enjoy a meal with a celebrity chef. More details can be found on the Walt Disney World Resort website.
This is a brand new activity for the festival this year. It is probably geared more to children, but I am excited to give it a try. You purchase a scavenger hunt map, and then you must help Remy find the ingredients for his famous ratatouille. Once you complete the map you return it for a special prize!
10. Date Night
While the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival is one of my favorite events, I will admit that my kids do not share the same enthusiasm for it. Still being young, my kids are very interested in attractions and shows and basically not staying still. For me, the Food and Wine Festival is an opportunity to tour slowly and savor the atmosphere and tastes of the festival. Over the years I have found what the perfect solution is for us – the Children’s Activity Centers. My kids really enjoy visiting the Children’s Activity Centers throughout the Walt Disney World Property, as I have written about previously. For an adult outing at Epcot, we use the Activity Center called the Sandcastle Club at the Beach Club resort. It is a short walk out Epcot’s International Gateway to drop them off and get back to Epcot. An evening at the Food and Wine Festival is a great way to have some adult time while on vacation, and I can be confident that the kids are enjoying themselves as well.
In my opinion the International Food and Wine Festival is not to be missed! It is so much fun to sample the different cuisines and enjoy the special events. This year is lasts for seven weeks and I hope you have a chance to visit during this time.
*photos courtesy of Walt Disney World