EPCOT’s International Food & Wine Festival is a fan-favorite event celebrating delicious cuisines from around the globe, spanning the course of several months, and including special events and entertainment as well as the numerous food and beverage booths. It is a really cool festival to experience, but it can also be overwhelming if you’ve never been before.
My husband and I visited Walt Disney World in early-mid September this year and were so excited because it would be our first time attending the Food & Wine Festival. We looked at all the menus ahead of time, decided some booths we wanted to prioritize, and thought we were prepared. Unfortunately, it turned out that we just didn’t know what we didn’t know.
We still had a great day, but some blunders were definitely made along the way. I hope this article will help you be more prepared and avoid some of the rookie mistakes we made during our first trip to the Food & Wine Festival, as well as some of the missteps we saw other attendees around us make. Here are some things to avoid at all costs:
Going on a Saturday
This was our biggest mistake by far. As devout TouringPlans followers, we checked the crowd calendar. We really did. The crowd level was predicted as a 1.
Unfortunately, the data for the calendar is based primarily around attraction wait times, and as a Food & Wine newbie, it never occurred to me to consider all the locals and bachelorette parties (so. many. bachelorette. parties.) that would visit EPCOT on the weekend just to enjoy the Festival.
So, yes, the wait times for rides were low. But the park was absolutely jam-packed with Festival goers. We were thrown completely off-guard and it took a while for me to adjust my mindset and just go with the flow.
We still had fun, and got to try 4 of the booths we were interested in, but I cannot, in good conscience, encourage anyone else to visit on a Saturday (or probably a Friday or Sunday, for that matter) regardless of what the crowd calendar says. If it is at all possible with your schedule, check out this Festival on a weekday. You’ll thank me later.
Not Looking at Menus in Advance
I can’t tell you how many people I saw clogging up the walkways scouring their Festival passport (a booklet listing all of the booths and menu items) or walking up to each booth individually to read over their offerings, clearly having done no research ahead of time.
It will save you a lot of time and headache to look over the menus before your trip, maybe read a trusted website’s reviews, and make a list of things you want to try. Then, when you arrive, you can have a little bit of a gameplan and won’t have to stress over figuring it all out on the spot.
Having Eyes Bigger Than Your Stomach
With over two dozen booths and hundreds of delicious items to choose from, it’s easy to want to try as much as you possibly can, especially if it’s your first visit. But it’s important to know your limitations too. There’s only so much you can eat in a day!
Keep that in mind when you’re doing your research, and try to prioritize just handful of items. If you’re still hungry, you can always get more! My husband and I shared five food items and three drinks throughout the morning and early afternoon and then still had enough room for dinner later that night.
There will always be more you wish you’d been able to sample, but I guess that’s how they keep people coming back!
Expecting to Get Ice Water at the Booths
We visited EPCOT at the tail end of our week at WDW. It was still incredibly hot and muggy, so we’d gotten accustomed to asking for a few cups of ice water at counter service locations throughout our day to help keep us hydrated.
Unfortunately, since the Food & Wine booths are not permanent dining locations, they do not have the ability to serve free tap water. So, keep in mind that you will either have to wait in line at another dining location just for water, pay for bottled water that is expensive and harmful to the environment, or find drinking fountains to refill at.
Bringing Your Whole Group in Line
If you are part of a group larger than two adults and you are paying all together, there is no reason why your entire party all has to get in line. I once saw a group of six grown adults go up to the same cashier together; the space was so tight and they took up so much room that no one could get around them to the other cashier or the food pick-up area. Why??
Give one person the entire order and the rest can look for a bench or table to claim. You can have one additional person stand near the food pick-up area to assist the first person if there is a lot to carry.
For families with strollers, the roped-off queues and payment areas are quite small with tight turns, so if you have multiple adults, have one wait with the stroller while the other one orders. I saw multiple parents attempt to get their double-wide strollers through the queues and it looked very stressful. If you don’t have to do it, just don’t.
Being Discouraged by a Long Line
The lines for most of the Festival booths will likely look pretty long. However, don’t let this discourage you from getting in line if it is something you had your heart set on. There were a few booths we almost skipped due to the length of the line, but I’m glad we didn’t, because we found that the lines actually moved fairly quickly.
Disney has their payment and pick-up system down to a science and they are pretty efficient at moving crowds through. Yes, you will have to wait, and a few of the most popular booths will have extremely long lines you may want to skip, but for the most part, it won’t be as long as you think.
Thinking You Can’t Visit the “Regulars”
A lot of people have the mindset that if they are going to Food & Wine, especially if it is their first time, then they should focus only on the booths and special offerings. However, EPCOT has so many amazing permanent dining options, that you shouldn’t feel like you can’t enjoy those as well.
I personally enjoy doing table service dinners as often as I can at WDW because I feel it’s a good chance to sit down and rest (in the AC) after a long day. So, after snacking at booths earlier in the day, my husband and I still had a nice, peaceful dinner at Tutto Italia Ristorante. It was the best of both worlds!
EPCOT’s Food & Wine Festival is incredibly popular, and with good reason! It is something every Disney fan should experience. Hopefully you can learn from my mistakes and avoid these seven blunders for an even more magical visit.
What mistakes have you made, or witnessed, at the Food & Wine Festival? Let us know in the comments!