Alex is a self-proclaimed Disney expert who enjoys expanding her culinary skills in her free time.
The EPCOT Food and Wine Festival
Anyone who is familiar with the EPCOT International Food and Wine Festival knows that it gets bigger each year. If there was one good thing about COVID, it's that Disney has elongated the duration the festival. It now starts earlier and extends into November. To put it in perspective, when this festival first started it was only in October. This means that more people can enjoy the festival, and with the extended duration it might not be as busy as it used to be.
The premise is simple. Each of the countries that are permanently present in the World Showcase feature foods and beverages from their country. In addition, other countries from around the world have representative booths scattered around the lagoon. In recent years, this has expanded to themed booths being set up as well. For example, there was an entire booth dedicated to mac and cheese in 2021.
Before COVID, the festival also was a great place to catch cooking demonstrations, live concerts, and take various culinary classes. There were a few concerts in 2021, but no demonstrations or classes. Hopefully, these will come back once things return to normal.
Make a Game Plan
Even without the classes and demonstrations, there is so much to try that it can be overwhelming. I cannot stress enough how important it is to make a game plan.
Once our dates were set, I started checking the festival's page regularly. In late spring they announce the booths and various other attractions for the festival; for 2021 they also announced which booths would open when, as they did not all open with the start of the festival. In mid-summer, they come out with menus and pricing.
The Disney Food Blog
I'm going to be honest with you. The Disney Food Blog will have the best content for this festival. They will start to make predictions about what will be a sure hit and what will be a flop as soon as the menus are released. Once the festival opens, they will have reviews posted and will continue to update their reviews for the duration of the festival.
They will have pictures and reviews of every food and drink within a week or two of the festival starting. Use this as a guide to help you figure out what you want to try, but keep in mind some people have different tastes and may not like something you will.
Set a Budget
If you are planning ahead of time, which you honestly should, you should start a budget for the festival. Let's be honest, Disney is expensive. You can easily spend hundreds of dollars at this festival before you even know it. Keep track of how much things are on your must-do list. You may find that just from looking at the menu alone that you want to tray several hundred dollars of food and drinks.
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If you find that you have $400 worth of things on your list but you really don't want to spend that much, you can figure out what you absolutely want to try. Keep in mind that you may get there and see that things have changed on the menu—it does happen—or that something on your list doesn't look as good as you thought it would be and you want to try something else.
Gift Cards and the Magic Band
One way that I found helped me stick to my budget was gift cards. I did pay for everything using my magic band, it is just so convenient. But, we brought gift cards to use to pay off the charges each night at our resort. The mydisneyexperience app has gotten better with keeping track of charges, you can see almost in real time how much you have spent.
We would make a stop at the concierge desk and just pay the balance with a gift card. This helped me to not overspend because I knew once the gift cards were gone, everything would be charged to the credit card.
Some people get the gift cards that attach to their wrists and just pay that way. But, for me the magic band is better since I don't have to worry about reloading.
Bring Your Own Trays
A Disney Magic Moment
You know that Disney Magic moment I mentioned earlier? When we got to Spain's booth we knew we would be trying the wine flight. Neither of us had tried Spanish wine and we had been looking forward to it. Well, the paella had been on my maybe list. We had already tried several other things that had been on the maybe list that day and I wasn't really sure if we had the budget to try the paella. We just ordered the wine flight.
While we were waiting, we were talking with the cast member working the counter. She was in the college program and loving life. We saw so many plates of the paella come out. I mentioned how amazing it looked and that I should've gotten it. She said it was one of her favorite dishes at the festival. We talked about how we both took several years of Spanish in high school and that for some reason paella and bullfighting were discussed every year. When my wine flight was ready, she handed me a plate of paella with it. She insisted that we try it.
In all my years of Disney, I've never been given anything for free. I know the cast members are allowed to do small things to 'make someone's day'. Well, she made our day. We tried it, and of course we loved it. We made sure to go back to her and thank her. She was so happy to have made our trip a little more magical. Oh, the wine was pretty darn good too.
A Festival to Remember
Did I show everything we tried? Not even close. While we were there, I made changes on the fly to my list. Some things were taken off entirely and new things put in their place. In all, I'd say we tried about 90% of what I had originally set out to try. I feel like it is important to note that we did this a bit better this time around.
Tips for Enjoying the Festival
- Planned in advance.
- Drink water every time you eat (having your own water bottle really helps with that)
- Don't try alcohol with every booth (this keeps costs down and allows you to try more things)
- Sampled the world!
There were some things that we had that we still talk about months later. The night we ended on margaritas was amazing. We were relaxed, comfortable, and enjoying the night. We had spent a good portion of the day eating and drinking but we didn't feel overly full or buzzed. We were content. It was lovely.
You Might Just Find Your New Favorite Meal!
I love the food and wine festival. For years I grew up wanting to try all the different foods, and then in my mid to late 20s, I developed a taste for wine and craft beers. It is a fantastic place to try things a bit outside your comfort zone. Who knows, maybe you'll find your new favorite meal.
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