Making the Most of Your Weekend Trip to the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival
The 2021 Epcot International Food and Wine festival begins July 15 and I can't wait to go back!
I'm a big foodie who's traveled all around the country eating local cuisines so having tons of food options with an international flair all in one place at tapas style portions and prices makes one of the reasons Epcot is my favorite park to keep visiting! While the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival is my favorite because of the all the amazing topiaries, the Food and Wine Festival is specific to food and that speaks directly to the foodie in me. I won't pass up a chance to plan a three day getaway to enjoy all that the fest has to offer.
Now... me? I am an annual pass holder and DVC Member so I can enjoy the park throughout the year and not feel like I have to do everything in one day. It also gives me the opportunity to go solo to Disney, go on a weekend getaway with my hubby or take our grandkids or other family members with me. As a Michigander, who choose this? More on that in a different blog.
If you have not been to a Disney food festival, you need to know that there are a lot of food booths all around World Showcase and throughout the park. Each booth represents a different region with small plate sized food and drink options to choose from. Some plates are bigger than others and there is a variety to choose from for any discerning eater from vegan to vegetarian to no holds barre. Having a plan before you go is important or you many be waisting valuable time standing around in the park trying to figure out what to eat where, which foods are tasty enough and worth the calories, and how to get to all the dishes you want to try rather than the first ones you see. My eyes are always bigger than my stomach so I need to be well equipped with a plan in advance of my trip.
As a Disney Vacation Club (DVC) Member, and Michigander, I can't be a Floridian going any time I want trying a few dishes at a time, so I need to plan a few trips ahead with specific foods on my list that can't be missed. For that, not only are economical flights important, but knowing I can stay on property for ease of travel to and from the parks or at least at a good neighbor hotel which provides park transportation. With this post being post pandemic summer 2021, DisneyWorld is still requiring park reservations and hotels and some airlines are still allowing no fee flight changes and cancelations. It is easier right now to change your flight and hotel accommodations than ever before. It is not so easy to book a DVC Stay as the parks have really opened up and DVC Resorts are fill up quickly.
My suggestion is to look on the Disney Park Reservation app to see which weekends are available during the time of the festival first before checking which weekends offer the cheapest flights and hotel rates. This can take quite a bit of time so be patient and flexible with your weekend. As a Mickeygander, I typically fly out of Detroit Metro (DTW) through Delta. DTW is a Delta International hub and often the flights can be cheaper than flying out of a smaller airport and they offer direct flights to Orlando. For this trip I stayed at the Marriott Residence Inn Orlando which is a Disney Good Neighbor Hotel (pictured above). Good neighbor hotels offer free park transportation. Marriott and Disney have teamed up in that way with several of their hotels. Some offer free parking. This is great if you are a passholder or DVC member because you can park for free at the parks.
Once my park reservation is made and park ticket is bought (if not an annual passholder) and my flight and hotel accommodations are made, I can now research which foods I need to have on must eat list if I have not done so already. I write down my 'Eat it Cheat Sheet' and create a plan of action with my Disney Food Blog (DFB) map. These, take to the park with me. The DFB channel is like the holy grail of guidebooks for what is available to eat at the parks. Their website is where you can find a printable map. I like to print these two and save battery consumption on my phone. If I don't have a printed mapped out guide, I'm constantly looking on my phone and waisting juice.
How to figure out which food to eat?
The DFB, Molly on All Ears.net and Michael Kay are my go to Youtube food review sources to figure out what to eat during festivals and at restaurants. Plus, the DFB Guide is on top of all food menu changes, which seems daily sometimes.
AJ on the DFB Guide does not have as picky a palate as the others. AJ on DFB Guide is totally into plastic cheese 100% and sometimes you can't tell if she likes something or not. She will not rip the food but will tell you if an item should be on your must have list. She will say; "It's so so so good you guys." When she says that, you know it should be an item you might want to have on your list. Sometimes she will say an item is ok, or she just want' blown away, that is when you know it is probably not good and don't try it.
Molly on All Ears is a little pickier and does not like overly sweet treats and definitely doesn't like sweet drinks. Plus, you can tell when she really likes an item or not. Her eyes pop out of her head and get real wide. Her facial expressions clearly show she's in love with an item or not. She will say if it is overly sweet (which I like for desserts and not for drinks).
Michael Kay has spends more time describing menu items and what sort of taste you should expect. He doesn't do nearly as many reviews as the other two but I like how he describes the dishes and his excitement when something is really really tasty.
Others I follow: Paging Mr. Morrow. If you like beer, he is your guy. He has a real relaxed approach about him and takes you on his foodie adventure day (kind of like Michael Kay but much more relaxed). Tim Tracker is more into savory and gives honest reviews.
Check out who I subscribed to on my Youtube Channel for Disney food, rides and resort reviews.
Why Should You Create an Eating Plan of Action?
1. You can only eat so much. I don't care how big your eyes are. Your stomach is never as big. With over 30 booths including 8 new booths in 2021, it'd be great to try a must have dish or drink from every booth but let's be honest, that much food or drink will find you knocked out and back to your hotel room before you know it. Have a written list with you and as soon as you get to the park, get a festival book guide so you can mark off the food items you eat as you go along. The booklet is a fun way to explore the booths matching stickers to each of the destinations you visit.
2. This park is HUGE! Epcot is the third most visited park in America so there are lots of people which could mean lots of lines. World Showcase is a 1.2 miles walk which doesn't include your distance to get from you car, hotel, skyliner, etc. to world showcase. It is a lot of walking. Unless you want to be walking back and forth and putting some serious millage on your walking shoes, map out where your must eats are located and eat along your walk. DFB provides free maps on their site like the one in this pic. In my opinion, this is a must have item! Disney World's Passport lists all of the booths and items but does not provide a map. Without it, you have no idea where these booths are located throughout this massive park.
3. Know how you want to invest in your calories. This is important for me as I don't really want to be investing in a bigger wardrobe. Once I know which foods I want to try (including my favorites), I create a plan to eat those throughout the day while doing the attractions in between. If staying on property at a nearby Epcot resort like a Boardwalk resort or along the Disney Skyliner, I can have a nap during the day to give my stomach.... er... feet a rest before going back for more later. On this adventure, I stayed at the Disney Swan. Took the skyliner to my room for a nap and went back for more food and fireworks.
Three Day Weekend Itinerary if Doing One Day at Epcot:
Day One: Fly into Orlando and enjoy a day at the resort. If staying at a DVC Resort, there are tons of amenities offered and so many nods to Disney that you can't even do it all in one day. The down side is that check in time is 4 pm. If you're lucky you will get a call your room is ready earlier but it you are super unlucky, you may get a text way after. Plan for that by using this first day to explore the resort, use the pool and other amenities and relax. You'll put those feet to good use at Epcot. This is a great use of a pool day. Check out at a DVC resort is 11 am. They are strict about this!
Day Two: Epcot International Food & Wine Festival. Eat and Remy Hide and Squeak Scavenger Hunt!
From July 15 to November 20, 2021 you can enjoy the Epcot Food and Wine Festival. These are some of my favorites dishes:
Here is a list of this year's dishes to taste your way around the world: https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/dining/food-wine-marketplaces/
Visit the DFB site for pictures of most of these items to help you decide.
If you want to make the most of your day, take part in finding Remy located in hidden spots around World Showcase and the Global Marketplace. You can pick up your scavenger hunt map and stickers for a small fee at Port of Entry and World Traveler Gateway. There are 15 hidden locations. When you find Remy, match the sticker to the location on the map. Once complete, you will turn this in for a prize. Honestly, it doesn't have to be 100% accurate and no one is really checking it. You paid for it so you're going to get a prize anyway. But what is the fun in that?
All in all, make the most of your day. You paid for it so don't feel rushed. Epcot is open late on most days and have fun enjoying walking around and seeing all the coo things Epcot has to offer including special music during the fest. And long lines? Eat while you wait to make the most of your time.
Day Three: Explore other DVC properties and Disney Springs. The Disney Skyliner is a ride in and of itself. It can take you to several DVC resorts where you can explore their restaurants, bars, Disney nostalgia and amenities. For instance, at the Swan hotel your kids can spend hours running around at the playground. There's even a putt putt course across the street. At Rivieria your family can play a game of chess. At the boardwalk, you can ride the Friendship boats and watch street performers.
If you are an annual passholder, obviously more days will be in order and depending on when your flights are, you could do three days at the parks and really pack in all the fun. But be prepared to be exhausted and need a day or two more off of work. I like to try and plan my vacay so I have Friday off and come back to work Monday.
Deborah is a Disney aficionado who travels from her home in Michigan on weekend trips to Disney several times a year. She helps families, couples and solo travelers plan weekend trips to Disney and other U.S. destinations.
See Deborah's favorite dishes on her Instagram account. All pics are copyrighted and her own.