Alex is a self-proclaimed Disney expert who enjoys expanding her culinary skills in her free time.
Let's Talk About the Festival
The EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival is an annual event that takes place for several months every year at Walt Disney World. This is one of the most popular events at the park; just let that sink in for a moment. There can be so many people!
The festival first started as a special event for the month of October, intended to encourage adults to visit the park at a time when children are traditionally in school. To say that this event is popular would be an understatement.
While the overall premise—different booths with food and wine offerings from countries all across the world—is the same each year, there are indeed some annual changes. The festival has evolved to have various drinks: mixed drinks, wine, beer, cider, and many non-alcoholic offerings. There are also special demonstrations for cooking, food and drink pairings, and the Eat to the Beat concert series.
The festival spans the entire area around the World Showcase Lagoon. If you are familiar with EPCOT then you'll know just how large of an area this is.
What's the Same Each Year?
So, there are some things that are the same each year. There will be a concert series. These concerts are free, but if you want to guarantee a seat (especially for the more popular performers) you'll need to have a dining reservation at one of the participating restaurants.
I'll let you in on a secret. Some of the booths offer the same thing each year. Like Canada. The food options at the Canada booth have been the fillet and beer cheese soup. The alcohol selection is what changes each year.
You can also get the full-size fillet and soup at Le Cellier all year round. I'll be honest, these two dishes are amazing and I do love them. However, if you know you are going to like the steak you may want to just have the full-size meal at Le Cellier and save your Food and Wine adventures for other options. Germany also offers the same food items each year with changing beer and wine.
France has been known to change up the menu, but it seems to revolve around a few familiar favorites. The escargot in particular tends to hang out for a few years, vanish, and then return. Australia has had the same meat dishes for the last two years but made a slight change to the dessert. What was the change? They added a layer of raspberry jam between the layers of cake.
Knowing what tends to hang around for a few years or just stays on the menu every year makes planning a little easier. If this is going to be the only time you ever get to enjoy the festival, which I get because Disney is pretty pricey, you know that these items stay on the menu because they are popular.
Eating Out of Your Comfort Zone
While the vast majority of the menu items at the festival appeal to the majority of the population, there are always a few offerings that seem to only be for the truly adventurous eaters. I previously mentioned escargot, while the dish is normal in France, here in the U.S., just saying it can yield a nails on chalkboard reaction from some people. The same with some of the menu items from Japan; in 2022 they have takoyaki, essentially a fried breaded octopus ball, on the menu. The reviews were mixed, you either loved it or you just didn't.
The EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival is a great place to try new things. If you want to take a chance and try something wild and crazy this is the place to do it. All the portions are small, well mostly, and the prices aren't that bad. This allows you to try a little of something crazy, like the takoyaki, that you might not normally try without having to invest in a full meal.
If you are going in a group it would be a lot of fun to get pictures or videos of reactions to various foods. Just think of how much fun it will be to look back and remember that time your friend (or mom, little sister, significant other, etc) tried the spam sushi at the Hawai'i booth and hated every second of it! It's like trying the coke samples at Club Cool, (though now you have to pay to try them at the World of Coke at Disney Springs).
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Once the menu comes out, typically about two months before the start of the festival, you can start planning. Just by reading the menu descriptions, you'll be able to get an idea of what you absolutely want to try, what you would like to try, and what you know you definitely do not want to try.
For example, I knew that in 2022 I would want to try everything at the Mexico booth just by reading the menu. Plus the fact the year before we tried everything and it was hands down the best booth at the festival. I also know by looking at the menu that I did not want to stop at Brew Wing. Why? I'm not a big fan of chicken wings, and I know that I most likely won't like these any better than what I can get at the sports bar back home, so I would rather save my money and stomach space for other things.
Having a budget in mind also helps. It can be very easy to blow a lot of money at this festival. However, we treat it as our meals for the time we are at EPCOT. We get a park hopper pass, spend part of a couple days at EPCOT for lunch or dinner, and then we have our entire EPCOT day where we enjoy the rest of the park but still do Food and Wine for meals. This allows us to save money, try more things, and not over eat.
Check the Menus!
If there is one tip I can relay it is to read the menus ahead of time. The first time we went we were so overwhelmed with options. We had glanced at the menus online before the trip but figured we'd get things figured out when we saw the food. The problem was everything looked so good that we wanted to try so many things and we ended up tipsy and really full before we even made it halfway around World Showcase. We also felt like we missed out on things we would have liked to try because we were simply too full to try.
The vast majority of the food dishes will need utensils to eat them. Sometimes the booths do run out of various utensils. Pair this with the fact that a lot of people want to go green and not use single-use plastics. Disney has started to make a festival spork. That's right, you can buy a utensil at the park.
However, I feel it looks a little cheap and it's still plastic. I like this Witwatia set because I can continue to reuse it at home, like when I get take out at work, without feeling like a child. There were other options on Amazon, but many of the sporks had a knife attached and I wasn't sure how Disney security would feel about that. I figured I'd just leave the knife out when I take it to the parks.
This is lightweight and I don't even notice it in my Disney bag. Its also super easy to clean. This little set makes me feel like I am doing my part by not using single-use plastics. Not to mention I love all the colors!
You need to drink more water. I'll say this again. You need to drink more water.
In general, most people do not drink enough water on a daily basis, but this is overly true at Disney Parks. You are walking, you are outside, and it is most likely hot. If you are even thinking of drinking alcohol you are already shooting yourself in the foot.
You can get water at any place that serves food, for free. This will most likely be tap water. Sometimes it will have ice. I strongly recommend bringing a water bottle with you. I fill mine with ice and water at the resort. The ice stays in my bottle all day, even in the sun. I constantly refill my water, either with the free water at any stand or at one of the many water fountains around the park. Disney has even started installing fountains just to refill water bottles! Yay for going green!
Of course, the more you hydrate the more familiar you will become with the location of every bathroom at the park. This is a good thing! You will feel better overall, and the bathrooms are inside and air-conditioned. So not only is drinking more water better for your health it'll get you a break from that intense Florida weather. Score!
If you are lucky enough to find yourself at EPCOT during the International Food & Wine Festival I hope that you have a great time. I hope you find something you love. I hope you try something you would've never tried before. But most of all, I hope that you make memories that will last a lifetime.
I have been blessed in that I've been twice and I'm going again in 2022. Each time has been an adventure. Each time I have many so many memories with my friends and family. I love looking back at all the pictures. I've tried to recreate a few of our favorite dishes at home.
Don't stress. Enjoy the experience!