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Eat and drink your way around the world! Epcot Food & Wine Festival 2018

Every fall Epcot hosts the International Food and Wine Festival. During this time, Epcot features food and beverages from 35 different countries at kiosks around the park. This year’s festival runs from August 30th- November 12th. These food booths offer a fun way to sample lots of small plates and drink samples instead of a sit-down meal. If you are on the Disney Dining plan the food plates all count as snack credits - and lots of people end up with Snack credits to burn at the end of their stay - this is a great use for these!

The Basics:

There are 35 booths spread out over all of Future World and the World Showcase. Each country with a permanent pavilion has a booth, but there are so many more! Epcot is a big park so it requires a lot of walking to try everything. Most booths feature two or three food items and specially drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) and/or beer and wine selections. The plates are small, and so are the glasses, so don’t be surprised! The booths are inspired by local cuisine, or a central theme. For example, when you visit the Greece booth you can try some Spanakopita, or, if you stop by Flavors from Fire you should definitely try the Charred Chimichurri Skirt Steak on a Smoked Corn Cake.

The Strategy:

If you are planning to attend, ARRIVE HUNGRY! Seriously, I started my first day with coffee and a granola bar at 7am, went to Hollywood Studios by 8am and I didn’t eat anything else until I arrived at Epcot at 1pm. And if you want to try a lot of things be willing to share, this way you can try a bite or two of even more dishes! Make a plan before you arrive and pick a few booths you want to try - you really can’t try them all in one trip (or even two) so choose wisely! After spending 2 afternoons there, I would suggest maybe staying in Future World once, then doing the World Showcase a different time.

Also, it can hot walking around Epcot! If you want to avoid crowds, the World Showcase has much lighter crowds the earlier you go, and try to avoid Friday and Saturday nights at all costs. This is when the locals stream in for a rowdy night “around the world”. If you are bringing the kids along the drinking themed princess shirts are clever, but their antics and language are really adult-only. Fortunately, when I was there from 1-4pm it was almost empty.

My favorite hack for the Festival is the trays they sell to hold the food “boats” they give you and your drink. I bought mine for $6.99 and using it meant I had a free hand to eat with a fork or take a sip of my drink, while still strolling around the park. There are high top tables scattered around the park, but they fill up quickly, and some people resort to perching their food on top of a garbage can- gross! I got a lot of jealous stares using my tray, and several people stopped to ask where I got it. Answer: the Festival Center near Test Track.

If you are on the Meal plan you can use it in a few ways during the festival. You can either buy individual food items or non-alcoholic drinks for a snack credit. This can be a good value for the snacks that are over $5. Another option is to use a Quick Serve credit. Each Quick serve credit is worth 3 snacks. The catch is that you need to use them all in one transaction. While you may not want all 3 items at one booth, there were many where we wanted to try two items. If you add on a water (you can never drink too much water at Disney) or a specialty drink for the kids you are all set. If you do this at a few booths this could be “lunch” for the whole family, but you got to try 8-10 different food items. And when these dishes can be $5-6 each, waters are $3 and specialty drinks can be $4-6 you are getting a pretty good value for your Quick Serve meal at $13-15. For comparison, a quick serve at the Magic Kingdom usually costs around $10-15, and I would argue this easily beat my Grilled Chicken Sandwich over at Cosmic Rays!

The Winners:

Every year there are some stand out winners and losers of the Festival. This year is no exception. The clear winners were:

  • Loaded Mac and Cheese from Active Eats (left)

  • The Guinness Baileys Shake in Ireland (below)

  • The Seared Scallops at Coastal Eats

  • Warm Irish Cheddar Cheese and Stout Dip with Irish Brown Bread in Ireland (below)

  • Phosphorescent Freeze at the Light Lab (Non-alcoholic specialty drink)

  • The Pancake Milkshake at Taste Track (and ANY of the Croissant Donuts!) the shake is really sweet, but kids will love it.

  • Kahlua Pork Slider in Hawaii

  • La Passion Martini Slush in France France is pretty famous for their Slushes (below)

Tips for Bringing Kids:

  1. Arrive early - the booths open at 11am!

  2. Pick up Remy’s Ratatouille Hide ‘n’ Squeak Scavenger Hunt! The kids look for hidden Remy’s around the World Showcase and get a prize once they have spotted them all! (They put stickers on the map and ALWAYS get the prize;)

  3. Eat to the Beat Concerts - while you kids have never heard of 98 Degrees or the Baha Men, they will probably still enjoy dancing to some live music. There is seating inside the Garden Rocks Amphitheater in the America Pavilion, but this often fills up. If you hang out anywhere nearby you can still enjoy the music - with room to dance!

  4. Kidcot - this is in Epcot all year long. You can purchase a passport and the kids meet with someone from each country to get their passports stamped, a personal message written to them in the local language, and there is an art activity.

  5. Walk into the pavilions - This seems obvious, but many people just stay on the walking path and never actually walk INTO the pavilions. There is regularly scheduled entertainment, from amazing acrobats in China to a fun drum show in Japan, to even some British invasion cover bands in UK. There are interesting gift shops (Japan has amazing candy!) and character meets in many of the countries. During Food and Wine the characters often have very short wait times because people are so focused on the food booths! Check out Jasmine in Morocco, Aurora in France or Alice in England. Check the MyDisneyExperience App for meeting times as they vary in each country!

The Verdict:

Epcot Food and Wine Festival can be a lot of fun, as long as you plan well and go on off peak times. It can also be an extremely hot time of year so I would recommend a trip in October or November. The "real feel" in mid-September was still 104 degrees at 6pm!) If you can only fit this in as a night time activity, it may feel a little claustrophobic, especially on a weekend. If you are going mid week and during the day I think it is a great time. On the other hand, now that Epcot has added food booths to the Festival of the Holidays, Festival of the Arts and the Flower and Garden Festival you can enjoy snacking around the world most of the year! So even if you can’t make this festival, there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy a unique evening at Epcot with less crowds.

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