Courtesy of Disney
Courtesy of Disney
Pack your appetite and your stretchy pants—it’s time for the annual Epcot International Food & Wine Festival.
For 87 days this fall, Walt Disney World resort’s Epcot becomes an absolute smorgasboard of international cuisine, hands-on cooking opportunities, and foodie-focused entertainment that packs a serious punch.
Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, running August 29 through November 19, 2019, will fill you with New England lobster rolls and pork belly tacos and pack your trip with food stalls, live shows, and Disney stars. From cooking seminars to an elegant feast at Party for the Senses, Epcot Food & Wine has it all. The Eat to the Beat concert series, where famous musicians play exclusive sets every night of the special event—is included with admission to Epcot, one of the four theme parks at Walt Disney World resort.
Disney has other festivals (yes, Walt Disney World resort is opening a Star Wars–themed land in Hollywood Studios the same day Food & Wine debuts), but this major foodie event is worth the hype.
This is much more than a Disney-fied food festival. Thirty kiosks, themed to different countries and concepts, populate Epcot’s World Showcase (where 11 pavilions representing as many countries present a taste of local culture) and spill out toward Future World, turning the theme park into an alfresco food hall. These global marketplace kitchens draw crowds and offer small bites at easy-to-swallow prices for repeat visits and varied tasting. Most sample-sized items, such as seafood stews and maple-bourbon cheesecakes, cost between $4 and $7.
With marketplace kitchens representing Epcot countries like France and Germany, as well as more far-flung locations, including Australia, Thailand, and the Swiss Alps, the worldwide flavors stretch beyond traditional fare at Walt Disney World resort’s theme parks.
Between the African piri piri shrimp, Brazilian cheese bread, and an array of drinks including frozen Caipirinhas, this special event brings the heat—and visitors. Despite new items and themed kiosks emerging each year, popular items with cult-like followings also return to Epcot International Food & Wine, with loaded bacon mac and cheese at the Active Eats stand and Canadian cheddar cheese soup among the fest’s best.
World Showcase also brings in hundreds of craft beers, global wines, and intriguing cocktails. Sip smoky mezcal margaritas and Caribbean white sangrias, or indulge in flights of mimosas and Belgian beers while walking from country to country. Or wander Future World and the park’s permanent dining locations for special menu items such as a Barbecue Bloody Mary with a smoked garlic sausage. There are plenty of kid-friendly and non-alcoholic indulgences at the International Food & Wine festival, too. Mango lassi, bubble tea, sippable frozen apple pie, and chocolate chai shakes provide welcome alternatives to the theme parks’ sodas and slushies.
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Epcot International Food & Wine’s beloved Eat to the Beat concert series is included with Epcot admission and it’s no small add-on. Musicians travel to Walt Disney World resort specifically for the festival, with three performances each day. Tiffany, Everclear, Sugar Ray, Taylor Dane, 98°, Kenny G, Hanson, and Boyz II Men will all perform during this year’s festival. Check the Walt Disney World resort website for the full lineup.
Because the Eat to the Beat concert series is free, it can get crowded—but there is one way to nab a seat without waiting in a long line. Purchase an Eat to the Beat dining package, available at 14 sit-down and buffet-style Epcot restaurants, and you’ll be guaranteed seating as you listen to songs like “I Think We’re Alone Now” or “End of the Road.”
At Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, there’s also plenty to do with the family members too young to use the stove. The Disney du Jour Dance Party brings a live DJ to Future World on each of the fest’s 87 days, with select weekend appearances and performances by Radio Disney artists and Disney celebs.
Remy’s Ratatouille Hide & Squeak brings kids on a scavenger hunt throughout the Walt Disney World theme park—purchase a map to play, and once you’ve matched Remy figurines hidden across World Showcase with their locational ingredient, turn it in for a special Ratatouille-themed souvenir.
During Candy Sushi classes, kids can wrap their own gummy sushi rolls. The culinary seminar, which offers hands-on lessons in filling crisped rice cereal rolls with gummy delights, is a fan favorite available for sweet tooths of all ages. Book in advance to save your place; Candy Sushi class is offered at 3:30 and 5:30 daily throughout the festival for a $10 surcharge.
A whole contingency of fans plan their annual visit to Walt Disney World resort around Epcot International Food & Wine Festival and not just for the delicious food and drinks. The fest features special events like cheese seminars, culinary demonstrations, and appearances by celebrity chefs, and though they’re not included with Epcot admission, there’s something for each price point.
One of the most popular, Sunday Brunch with the Chef, brings celebrity chefs like Carla Hall, Robert Irvine, Andrew Zimmern, and Cat Cora to Walt Disney World each Sunday during this Epcot festival. For $139 per person, you’ll enjoy delightful food while watching a TV-worthy culinary demonstration, toast with a glass of sparkling wine, and leave with a souvenir photo with that afternoon’s famed Sunday Brunch with the Chef guest.
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Learn the steps to make rice balls shaped like Disney characters or create fondant cupcakes shaped like puppies with the Mix It, Make It, Celebrate It! culinary demonstrations. These 75-minute seminars on select weekday afternoons will have you cooking ($45 per person). If you prefer making your own rye drinks, custom hot chocolate blends, or classic cocktails, there are dedicated wine, beer, and spirits Beverage Seminars as well, led by winemakers and master sommeliers with tastings of their favorite spirits and sips. These 45-minute experiences, offered on select afternoons, cost $19 per person.
Go beyond the Velveeta-like stuff that accompanies Mickey pretzels with Cheese Seminars, a collection of 90-minute instructionals led by professional fromagers, offering cheese pairings with craft beers and wines for $95 per person on select Saturday mornings. More interested in eating than in attending cheese seminars? Purchase five cheese dishes from Emile’s Fromage Montage selection—which includes warm raclette over baguette and a black pepper Boursin souffle—and receive a specialty cheesecake for free.
On select afternoons, 45-minute Delicious Duo culinary demonstrations offer lessons led by a master sommelier on pairing food and drinks, like seafood and wine or pastries and champagne, for $29 per person. (There are plenty of offerings for vegetarians and vegans too; check the itinerary for specifics.) And 45- minute Culinary Demonstrations, which are offered on Friday and Saturday afternoons throughout Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival, only cost $19 a person.
Covering everything from pastries to pork, these seminars are helmed by chefs from Cinderella’s Royal Table, Epcot’s Italy pavilion, and other locations across Walt Disney World in addition to culinary talent from restaurants around the country. There’s even a Disney connection with the October 4 seminar—it’s hosted by a chef from the renowned Nimb Hotel in Copenhagen’s Tivoli Gardens, a favorite of Walt Disney’s that’s said to have inspired Disneyland’s creation.
The most popular special event is Party for the Senses. Held on five nights during the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, this collection of 20 tasting stations is a culinary feast. Two levels of Party for the Senses tickets are offered—$229 Reserved Seating and $359 for Wine View Lounge—but guests at both tiers receive commemorative wine glasses, hear live music, and enjoy food from culinary talent from Walt Disney World resort and beyond.
Restaurants throughout Epcot’s World Showcase also offer their own special events and seated meals during the festival. A four-course tequila and mezcal lunch in the Mexico pavilion ($85 on weekdays) and three-course meals at Tokyo Dining ($160 per person, select Thursday afternoons in October and November) are available. French chefs will prepare their favorite meals from home for an exclusive meal at Monsieur Paul ($99, select afternoons in October and November). Keep an eye out for sweeter options, too, like a French pastry–packed brunch ($45 per person on select Saturdays) and afternoon indulgences of macarons and unlimited mimosas ($58 per person on select Saturday afternoons).
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