Epcot’s International Food and Wine Festival is one of Walt Disney World’s most popular annual events. It’s Disney’s way of celebrating the diverse culinary traditions around the globe. Appropriately set around the World Showcase, guests can stroll amongst a trail of booths representing an abundance of countries. Each booth serves a handful of ethnic dishes and beverages to provide an international trip for the tastebuds.
In addition to the edible aspect, the festival has a few other features which contribute to its popularity. The “Eat to the Beat” concert series draws audiences every evening to its outdoor stage. The musical acts rotate every few days and feature music from the 70s through the 90s. Also, the Festival Welcome Center is a hub for event merchandise, educational seminars and culinary demonstrations. These, along with the renowned international smorgasbord, stand as the core of a fantastic event, but there is quite a bit more to know in terms of effectively canvasing it.
We have gathered some of the most frequent questions we are asked. The answers are provided to help shed a little more light for an informed and enhanced experience.
When is the Festival?
The Festival is traditionally held in the fall. This year the event is being held for a new record-high 53 days, starting on September 19 and ending on November 10.
Is the Festival included in the price of admission?
It is, and it isn’t. Guests are welcome to stroll through and observe the Festival for the price of admission, and the concerts held in The America Gardens Theater are free. However, in order to experience the Festival in the fullest sense, it will cost additional money. All of the food and beverage samples must be purchased. Also, the seminars carry a price tag as do the dining packages and premium experiences.
How much money should I expect to spend at the festival?
The prices of the premium experiences and dining packages can be learned when you call to book reservations for those “extras.” [Sidenote: Call 1-407-WDW-FEST to book these]. But in terms of strolling the World Showcase and sampling the cuisine, the price tag is less defined. Obviously, the more that you eat and drink, the more you will spend. Keeping this in mind, we have found that somewhere between $40-$60 per person is usually an adequate amount to get a fair variety of samples throughout the park.
Is it the same food every year?
There seem to be some countries with menus that act as staples, returning year after year. With that being said, the food is not the same every year. Sometimes the marketplaces will add and subtract items from their menus. Additionally, the festival has traditionally introduced food booths representing new countries each year, making each annual event slightly different than the one before.
Does the event accommodate special dietary needs?
In general, Disney puts forth a great effort to meet the needs of its digestively challenged guests. Consequently, each year they seem to make the Food and Wine Festival more inclusive as well. Returning for another year, vegans have an entire booth, Terra, to represent their dietary needs. Also, vegetarian and gluten-free options are available on the menus of 23 of the event’s 36 destination points as well. All of these dietary restricted items are listed in the Marketplace Discovery Passport so that you can be aware of options without waiting in a line to learn them. In terms of other dietary restrictions such as peanut allergies, it is best to stick with the sit-down restaurants where you can personally speak with a chef who will accommodate your requests.
Does the Festival have anything for children such as kid-friendly food?
If your child has adventurous tastes, then he or she will have countless options just as every adult guest does. There are not, however, any specifically designated “kid menus” at the event’s booths.
A fun activity for kids within in the World Showcase (available year round) are the Kidcot Stops where they can travel to each pavilion and get a stamp on a character cut-out that they are given. So while mom and dad are filling up their Marketplace Discovery Passport with stamps from the booths, the kids can collect international stamps as well in the Kidcot Stops.
Where can I eat the items once purchased?
This is possibly the most challenging aspect of Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival. There are a limited amount of table tops that line the path’s edge of World Showcase. Some of them offer seating (such as in the African Outpost area). The majority of them are standing tables. Either way, there just aren’t enough of them. You will find complete strangers sharing table space out of necessity. You will also see people using trash cans as table tops, and don’t be surprised if you find some people sitting on the ground and eating out of their laps in desperation.
It is probably wise to make sure that your hands can be free of whatever you brought into the park. Purses and packs should be carried by shoulder. Cell phones should have a pocket they can be stuffed into, and it’s best if cameras have a strap, allowing them to hang from your neck. Unless juggling is in your wheelhouse, it becomes quite a task to hold a plate, a drink, a fork, and a napkin along with a phone, a camera, and a miscellaneous bag. I’m not saying that it is impossible, but I am saying that it is challenging.
What is a Marketplace Discovery Passport, and where can I get one?
The Marketplace Discovery Passport is a rather fun and creative booklet that Disney designed for guests to keep track of their experience at the festival. Divided up by “destination” points, each booth is listed along with its menu items. When a guest purchases something from a booth, he or she receives a stamp in their passport to designate that it has been visited. It is fun to work your way around the World Showcase, collecting stamps in your passport to signify which countries you tasted.
The passport also lists information about the musical acts and showtimes for the “Eat to the Beat” concert series, the offerings at the Festival Welcome Center, and all the merchandise locations. It is a comprehensive guide for the event and worth grabbing at the beginning of your “travels.”
These passports can be found in most places that you will find the festival map, and those places are located throughout the World Showcase. It is common to see Cast Members standing near the lines of the booths, passing them out to guests in need. Just keep your eyes open. Most likely you will spot a pick-up location or someone distributing passports within a few minutes.
Is there a more convenient way to make my purchases than by pulling out my credit card each time?
For years now, the festival has given guests the option of purchasing a pre-paid gift card to wear around your wrist. The guest is able to put any specified dollar amount on the card, and due to it being worn on the wrist, the gift card is always easily accessible even when your hands are full. This wrist band is also a great way to prevent spending more than originally intended. Once the specified amount on the card is used up, no more purchases can be made. Of course there is the option to add more credit to the gift card and extend spending, but a conscious decision has to be made for this. There is no chance that you will accidentally overspend.
These gift cards can be purchased at many different places throughout Epcot. Look for them at the ticket booths, at any of the food booths, and at any festival merchandise location (designated in your Marketplace Discovery Passport).
Do the lines for the booths move quickly?
The lines for the booths move at an expected pace which is not incredibly fast but also not agonizingly slow. The greater challenge is the length of the line. The Food and Wine Festival is a wildly popular event as we have mentioned before. For that reason, each food kiosk can have lines that extend beyond their queues at times. Depending on crowd levels for your particular day, do not be surprised if you are standing in line for approximately 30 minutes per booth.
Is there preferred seating for the “Eat to the Beat” concert series?
Unless you have purchased a dining package, there is no preferred seating for the concert series. However, if a particular musical act draws an excessive crowd, Cast Members will begin to distribute wristbands to guests who show up early to get in line. This wristband allows the guest to leave the line and enjoy the park for a bit longer while guaranteeing them a seat for the show at a designated time.
The wristband distribution is not something that happens for every musical act, and Cast Members often don’t know if their distribution is a necessity until a few hours before showtime. For this reason, attaining one of these wristbands is not something to expect. Show up early to any show you want to see. If you are lucky, they may decide to distribute wristbands for that performance. If they don’t, at least you will still be able to get a seat by waiting in line.
I have heard about the Chase Lounge, but I don’t know what it is. Is this something that is accessible to everyone?
The Chase Lounge is only accessible to Chase credit and debit card holders, but it does allow each card holder to be accompanied by up to 9 guests. It is located on the third floor of the American Adventure Pavilion and provides a nice reprieve from the heat and the crowds outside. Offering comfortable seating and air-conditioning, those inside can enjoy a few complimentary perks to help them rally for more of the festival once they have rested. The perks include complimentary Coke products from Coca-Cola freestyle machines, a phone charging station, and even some video game entertainment (specifically, Disney Infinity). The lounge is open daily from 11am until the park closes.
I am considering doing Party for the Senses. What do I need to know?
Party for the Senses is one of the premium packages that can be purchased for a more exclusive experience at the Food and Wine Festival. It provides reserved seating for the “Eat to the Beat” concert of the evening. The concert is then followed by a rather elegant party within The World Showcase Pavilion. Featuring samples of international beverages and cuisine, the party also entertains with acts from the famous show, Cirque de Soleil.
The party can be experienced at 3 separate levels: General Admission ($149 per guest), Reserved Seating ($189 per guest), and Wine View Lounge ($299 per guest). Each level provides a more exclusive experience with an increase in price. General admission does not guarantee seating within the event. Reserved seating provides early entry as well as a reserved table on the event’s main floor. The Wine View Lounge experience offers early entry, a private table, premium bar access, and an artisanal cheese station. Each experience can be booked through your travel agent or by calling (407) 939-3378.
The event is “business casual” which means no shorts, but you will see people dressed in a wide range of formality. Some will be in jeans. Some will be in jackets. Some will be dressed very formally in gowns. Others will come in nice blouses and skirts. The primary key to dressing, though, will be to come in comfort. While it is a sophisticated event, you are still in a theme park. There will be a lot of standing and walking. Be sure that you are dressed in attire that lends itself to these activities, especially your footwear.
If there are any questions that you have that you feel should be on our FAQ list here, we’d love for you to post them in a comment below. Bon appetit!