By Jim Frye
Get ready for the biggest and best year yet—don’t miss a beat!
As Epcot turns 35, the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival kicks off its biggest and most expansive event ever. But don’t be intimidated—whether you’re a newbie or a longtime fan, we have all the tips you need to enjoy the 22nd year of what is believed to be the largest food and wine event in the world.
TIP 1: MAKE A PLAN
With 39 new marketplace dishes; 65 new cocktails, beers, wines, and ciders; 225 Eat to the Beat concerts featuring a record-setting 32 musical acts; and 75 days—the most ever!—from August 31 through November 13; this year’s festival is truly the biggest ever. And to commemorate Epcot’s 35th year, the event pays tribute by offering 35 global marketplaces. Our advice? Definitely make a plan. And the best way to do that is with the official Event Guide. Here, you’ll find information on the global marketplaces, the menus, the Eat to the Beat concerts, the Cheese Seminars, Culinary Demonstrations, Beverage Seminars, Book Signings, and other special events. With so much to do, a plan is your best bet. And as you enter the Park, pick up the Festival Guide—it’s an indispensable resource for planning your day.
TIP 2: TWO DAYS ARE BETTER THAN ONE
You can have a blast in a single day at the Festival, but if you REALLY want to sample all the scrumptious treats, you might need to break your walkable feast into two days. This is especially true if you plan to taste all the different wines and beers!
TIP 3: SAVE ROOM FOR YOUR ‘MUST-EATS’
Many people make the mistake of filling their bellies before coming to the Festival. No, no, no, no…. you’ll want to save as much room as possible. Pick up the Festival Guide and pick out your must-eat dishes. Make sure you budget your funds and your stomach space for those items. The same goes for the wines and beverages. That way you won’t miss those items you really wanted to taste.
TIP 4: HYDRATE OFTEN
The Florida sunshine can be exhausting all by itself, but mixing adult beverages into the mix requires some forethought. Drink lots and lots of water as you sample. Not only does it keep you hydrated and happy, but it’s good for you too!
TIP 5: TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE EVENTS
We can’t stress enough how cool these culinary events are! And there are so many—the hardest part is choosing. The Back to Basics sessions include presentations by Joffrey’s Coffee & Tea Company, the National Watermelon Promotion Board, American Heritage Chocolate, and more. Be part of the live audience when The Chew broadcasts episodes from Epcot October 4–6. Immerse yourself in the world of chocolate on a scrumptious tour of the sights, smells, and flavors of the world’s most famous flavor, hosted by Ghirardelli Chocolate Company. And pop the cork on a few new skills during a number of beverage seminars. To make reservations (which is highly recommended), call (407) 939-3378. And check out the Events Page for all the event information.
TIP 6: GO COUNTER-CLOCKWISE AROUND WORLD SHOWCASE
Most people (us included!) naturally move through the World Showcase clockwise. From the Festival Welcome Center, the crowd seems to flow left toward the Mexico Pavilion. To avoid the bulk of the crowds, go against the herd—head right! It might feel weird, but go counter-clockwise toward the Canada Pavilion. Of course, this works best if you arrive earlier in the day—once the nighttime dinner hours roll around, so do the majority of Festival-goers.
TIP 7: TO AVOID THE CROWDS, GO MID-WEEK AND MID-DAY
Let’s be honest—it’s hard to resist the romantic lighting and festival sounds of nighttime around the World Showcase Lagoon. Weekends are the most popular time for Annual Passholders, so naturally they attract larger crowds. But if you want to give yourself and your group a little more elbow room, you might consider going mid-week and earlier in the day. That will give you more time to enjoy your must-eat locations, not to mention easier access to the seminars and demonstrations.
TIP 8: GO WITH FRIENDS!
This might seem like a no-brainer, but go with friends—the more the merrier! Not only do friends and family make the Festival more fun, but they also make it easier to share food and beverages. It’s the easiest way to sample more of the foods and wines. Share. Laugh. Enjoy! The Epcot International Food & Wine Festival runs now through November 13.