I went to Food and Wine for the first time last year. My sister and I were visiting my grandma in Tampa and decided to take the drive over. If you haven’t been to Disney for Food and Wine, I highly recommend it. It should be a bucket list item on any Disney fan’s list.
As the weeks go on, I’ll cover some of my favorite food and drinks from the Food and Wine Festival. For this week, let’s cover some tips and tricks to make the most of the festival.
I’m not gonna pretend to be an expert on the Food and Wine Festival after one year, however, I will use my experiences (and mistakes) to offer some guidance.
Avoid the Weekends
Not everyone has a choice. I’m not saying “don’t go” if you can only go on a weekend. However, it will be much more crowded on Fridays and Saturdays.
We went on a Friday and arrived very early. The crowds weren’t too bad. After we took a break and went back around 5pm, it was much more crowded and a totally different atmosphere. The booths had long lines of after-work guests, looking to enjoy a happy hour atmosphere. It certainly didn’t deter from our enjoyment, but it was literally and figuratively night and day between our earlier experience and the crowd from 5pm on.
Not only is Food and Wine very popular among Disney guests, but I think it’s a hot spot for locals on the weekend. Annual Passholders from the area are much more likely to head to EPCOT for a bite to eat and a few drinks while the event is being held. If you can, try and hit the most popular booths Monday through Thursday when it’s far less crowded.
Give Yourself At least Two Days
We only went for one day and we stuffed ourselves beyond belief. Can you do almost everything in one day? Absolutely. But you’ll be rolling back to the resort and left feeling stuffed to the gills.
If (when) we do the Food and Wine Festival again, we plan on going for two days. That’ll give us enough time to take in all the sights and smells of the festival and not feel the need to cram everything into one day. We found ourselves running booth to booth trying to sample all the offerings. By the end of the night we were extremely full and felt sick from eating so much. Stick to at least two days. That seems to be the sweet spot for length of time spent at the Food and Wine Festival. Anything longer and you’re spending too much money; anything shorter and you’re going into a food coma.
This isn’t so much a tip as much as a recommendation. You can easily stay at a Value or Moderate resort or even offsite and still enjoy the Food and Wine Festival. However, if you’re just there for the Food and Wine Festival, I’d try and stay close. We stayed at the Dolphin Hotel last year and being able to walk to and from the park made everything so much easier.
It happened to be extremely hot last year. We went the first weekend in November and the temperatures reached the 90s. That should have foreshadowed the weather we experienced during Christmas, but we never really learn our lesson. Anyway, after spending most of the morning and afternoon at the parks, it was way too hot. Walking in the heat on a full stomach is not a good combination, so we walked back to the hotel to go to the pool. It was nice to be able to swim, shower and change, then head back to the park all within two hours. I even snuck in a 15-minute nap. If we had to board a bus to and from, we’d probably miss out on a lot of park time.
The most popular resorts during Food and Wine are the Boardwalk, Beach and Yacht Club. If you don’t plan on using the Dining Plan, you can save money by booking the Swan or Dolphin. Another option is the Contemporary. All you have to do is board the monorail and transfer at the TTC.
Rent DVC Points
The weeks of the Food and Wine Festival is an immensely popular time for Walt Disney World. This can often lead to resorts booking up fast. It also means higher room rates. Renting DVC points is a cost effective way to stay at a Deluxe Resort.
It may be a bit too late for this year, but it’s worth looking into for 2017. The Boardwalk and Beach Club Villas will be the toughest to get, as they’re a short walk from EPCOT and obviously significantly cheaper than staying at the resort.
Buy a Gift Card
The first thing we did upon arriving at EPCOT was buy a gift card. Disney sells small Food and Wine themed gift cards that are attached to a bracelet. It’s much easier to wear it on your wrist than to have to reach into your pocket every time you wanna pay for something. It’s also a great way to budget your money. If you put $200 on your gift card, you’ll (probably) only spend $200, as opposed to using a credit card. Costs can really pile up as you go booth to booth.
Another option is to add your credit card to your Magic Band. Of course the downfall here is that costs can really pile up if you don’t pay attention. Before you know it, you have a $500 bill from one day at Food and Wine.
Hit the Most Popular Booths First
The first thing my sister and I did was head to the Farm Fresh booth and grab the mac and cheese. As one of the more popular booths at the festival, the lines usually get pretty long here. We made sure to hit most of the popular booths early on and save the less popular ones for later on.
Plan Your Booths Based on Your Tastes
While it’s important to plan your day based on the crowds, some people don’t want to eat mac and cheese before noon. Personally, my first meal has to be a breakfast-like food. I ate a croissant donut before heading to the booths. After checking the menus, my sister and I decided to save the Ireland, France and Hawaiian booth for after our break. We figured that the filet mignon at France would make a nice dinner and the tuna poke at Hawaii would be a light option for a full stomach.
Not only is sharing dishes a great way to save some money, but it will keep you from filling up too quickly. My sister and I listed everything that we wanted to try, then we correlated our lists. If it was a very small portion, we’d each got our own; we’d split the larger portions. Items like the Brazilian Cheesy bread, which features three pieces, was easy to split.
While on the topic, I can’t stress this enough: share the beer and cider flights. We started our journey at the Farm Fresh booth and each ordered the Cider Flight. We figured it’d be refreshing and that the ciders would be the size of a shot glass. We were wrong. The ciders were served in a plastic cocktail glass (around 4-6 ounces each.) We vowed from there on to share the flights, especially the beers which will quickly fill you up. It was nice sharing the flights and debating our favorites. She’d take the pumpkin and sweet beers while I’d stick to the dark lagers.
Try Something Different
The nice thing about the Food and Wine Festival is that there’s so many different options and such a large variety of food. Disney has really elevated its food lately. It has everything from loaded mac and cheese to haggis and escargot.
The servings are small enough and it’s relatively cheap enough that you can try something and not worry about wasting it if you don’t like it. Try something you’ve never had. Be adventurous. It doesn’t have to be as extreme as haggis. Last year I couldn’t bring myself to have haggis. I tried drinking a bit and talking myself into it, but it didn’t work. I did try a nitrogen infused chocolate truffle and a Berry Hibiscus drink. I know, it’s not “extreme” but it was something I’ve never had before.
Skip the Events
Disney does offer some cool events and seminars. From culinary demos, to beverage and cheese seminars, there’s certainly a ton to offer. If you have the time, I’d certainly check it out; but if you’ve only got a day or two to explore the Food and Wine Festival, spend it going booth to booth.
Skip the Rides
Again, if the length of your stay permits it, go ahead and book some FP+’s. We were only there for a day and were returning for Christmas (around a month and a half later.) We used a FP+ for Test Track and then decided to quash the rest of our FP+’s. It was eating up (no pun intended) too much valuable time. Skip the rides and spend your day sampling food. That’s what you’re visiting for, after all!
Check Out Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party
Just because you’re there for Food and Wine doesn’t mean you can’t parlay it into visiting other parks. Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and Very Merry Christmas Party usually take place on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sunday. We decided just to do one day, so while we were there on a Friday, we spent the entire day at the Food and Wine Festival. Had we stayed for two days, we would have done Food and Wine during the day on Friday, the party at night, and wrap up the Festival on Saturday.
If you plan on doing both the party and the Food and Wine Festival, The Contemporary would be an outstanding resort for your stay. Not only is it a walk from Magic Kingdom, but it’s a monorail transfer away from EPCOT.