The 2018 Epcot Food and Wine Festival is almost upon us. As I mentioned in our Food and Wine post from last year, having a game plan or strategy is crucial to making the best of the Fest.
The 2018 Epcot Food and Wine Festival begins August 30th, and runs through November 12th.
Going into the Food and Wine Festival without a plan of attack is like going to the mall, pulling the first thing you see off the rack, and buying it, without checking the size, or if something that suits you better is right around the corner.
With over 30 marketplaces, it can be overwhelming, not to mention needlessly expensive, unless some planning is done.
Disney Nerd Tip (DNT): Have a plan for conquering the Epcot Food and Wine Festival
Food and Wine Festival Basics
The Epcot Food and Wine Festival is 1 of 4 multi-week events at Epcot where food and beverages (alcoholic and non) are sold at little kiosks. Epcot calls these kiosks “marketplaces.” And each one is themed.
In the World Showcase the marketplaces are, unsurprisingly, country (or state – looking at you Hawaii) themed. The marketplaces are not limited to the pavilion countries, but rather represent a variety of cuisines from across the globe. In Future World, the marketplaces have more topical themes, such as cheese, chocolate, and of course, wine.
Each marketplace sells food and alcoholic beverages matching its theme. There are usually 2-4 food options, and 2-4 alcoholic options. Some marketplaces have non-alcoholic beverages as well.
The prices generally range from $3 at the low end to $12 at the high end (at least later year – we will update this page when the price list is released this year), not including select very high priced alcoholic beverages. Most selections are in the $5 to $8 range.
And many dishes are smaller than you’d expect. Hardly good values from a pure quantity perspective. But if value is all you care about, you probably wouldn’t be eating at Disney anyway.
DNT: Be prepared for sticker shock at how much you can spend at the Epcot Food and Wine Festival
Disney Dining Plan snack credits can be used for many of the food options. And if you have counter service credits, you can apply those for 3 food options, but they must be all at the same marketplace. (Yet another reason planning ahead is important).
Disney also sells gift cards for Food and Wine. They come as mini cards attached to a lanyard you can wear on your wrist. There is no fee for the cards, but you have to activate them with a minimum of $15 (at least that was the minimum in 2017).
A special gift card is also available for a minimum activation of $250; it comes with a neck lanyard, plastic sleeve and medallion. There is no fee for using these cards, but no savings either.
Note: As of today, the rumor has it the festival tasting sampler won’t be available this year. If the rumor is confirmed, we will update this post. Follow along on Twitter for more information as we get it. Until confirmed, we wanted to give you information on the convenient and money saving festival tasting sampler, that fingers crossed will be available this year.
The festival tasting sampler is a card that entitles you to 8 food or drink options at any of the Food and Wine Festival marketplaces (except certain very high-priced items).
When the numbers were crunched, 2017’s sampler came out to a cost of $8.61 a sample. This can offer more or less savings depending on what kinds of items you intend to get at the Festival.
As noted above, most of the food items are under $8. Don’t use the sampler for these items. However, there are many drinks and a few “luxury” food items that cost a bit more. If you intend to try those, the tasting sampler makes more sense.
One more thing to note, during 2017’s opening weekend the sampler could only be purchased a few places. I got mine at the open-air festival shops that line the promenade walking from Future World to the World Showcase (not to be confused with the 2 larger shops along the water in the World Showcase).
If you aren’t sure where to get them, ask a cast member (or a few). It took us several tries before someone could point us in the right direction. Hopefully that was just an opening weekend slip up.
DNT: Only use the Festival Tasting Sampler, if available, on high priced options.
Beyond the Marketplaces
The marketplaces are for many the main focus of a visit the Food and Wine Festival, but it’s not the only thing to enjoy during the festival.
Every night you can catch a throwback concert featuring the likes of Tiffany, Ever Clear, Smash Mouth, 98 Degrees, Kenny G, and Boys II Men. The 3 nightly Eat the Beat concerts are held in the America Gardens Theatre.
There are also seminars, tastings, workshops, and special meals available, some for an extra cost. These are held in the (air-conditioned) Festival Center.The popular ones can sell out. (Another reason planning ahead can be important). You can get more information and sign up here.
For kids, there is a scavenger hunt (with prizes), candy sushi making classes, Junior Chef Kitchen (on select Sundays), playground, and dance party. Many of these are new. Disney seems to be trying to emphasize that Food and Wine can be family friendly. But fair warning, the festival can get rowdy, especially on weekend nights.
Planning is Crucial for the Food and Wine Marketplaces
If your only goal of going to the Epcot Food and Wine Festival is to take in the atmosphere (nothing wrong with that), or money and/or stomach space is no issue, then planning is not necessary. However, for the rest of us, based on sheer number of options, some prep work is necessary to enjoy yourself and not waste money.
This is especially the case, if you intend to use the Dining Plan credits or the Tasting Sampler. But even those who return multiple times will need to do some planning, if only because of all the possibilities.
Advance planning doesn’t have to start weeks or months in advance. It is possible to do all your planning during the day of your visit.
Pick up a Festival Passport, and read the whole thing cover to cover to see what you want to try at the different marketplaces. The Passports are available at the entrances of Epcot, as well as throughout the different marketplaces.
One issue with this method is you don’t know what is actually good. Some options sound better on paper than they are in reality. As we’ve learned from experience.
DNT: Festival Passports, in addition to containing crucial information about the marketplaces, make great souvenirs
If you really want to get a sense of what is worth your hard-earned money (and let’s be honest Disney is already expensive enough without wasting money on bad food/drinks), I suggest starting before you get to Epcot.
My personal favorite place to start is the Disney Food Blog. They will have a rundown of every item available at the Food and Wine Festival. As of course does the official Disney website.
DNT: Check out the menu of everything available at Food and Wine before coming up with a game plan
Next I check out reviews. This website will soon have reviews for you to peruse. Reviews of this year’s food and drinks won’t be available until after the Festival begins, but there are loads of repeats from last year.
Personally, I like to look at a variety of websites. In addition to Disney Food Blog, I check out Disney Tourist Blog, easyWDW, and WDW News Today, among others. I don’t always agree with each and every review on a blog and, like many other things, it is good to get a variety of opinions. If one review says something is terrible, but others say it is great, you may want to give it a try.
DNT: Reading reviews before hitting Food and Wine is one way to make sure you don’t waste your money
Once I’ve checked a variety of reviews, I put together a list. My memory isn’t what it used to be, so I prefer to keep a list on my phone to reference once I get to the parks. This is an important part of prepping that people often overlook – bringing their research with them.
You can go the old-fashioned way and bring a notebook or folder, or use an app on your phone. Personally, I use Google Keep. As much as I love to keep things analog (I carry a notebook to the parks to take notes for this Blog), I go digital because it allows me to edit the list as I get more information (and try things myself).
DNT: Bring a list of what you want to try with you
I am by no means suggesting that reviews are the end all and be all of the Food and Wine Festival. They are just one part of planning. As I said above, the first step is to check out everything that is available.
And while reviews are helpful for avoiding the really terrible (like last year’s Light Lab), everyone’s taste is different and there are always things I have on my list to try that aren’t recommended by others.
DNT: Don’t rely on reviews alone, pick what you want to do by your own family’s preferences
Most Importantly – Have Fun
The most important part of the Epcot Food and Wine Festival, and I’d argue the most important part of Disney overall, is to have fun. Do what makes you happy.
While I recommend some advance prep, especially if you are only going to the Epcot Food and Wine Festival once, you should do whatever works best for you and your friends/family.
How do you prepare? What are your favorite Epcot Food and Wine Festival tips? Share your personal Food and Wine strategies with us all by leaving a comment below.
As always, if you have any questions, let me know by leaving a comment or sending me an email.