With less than a week remaining before the start of Epcot’s 2011 Food and Wine festival, many Disney food fans are eagerly salivating thinking about their planned visit to the culinary cultural delights popping up around World Showcase.
The food and wine festival is a wonderful event, particularly for groups of guests who love to sample a wide variety of tastes from around the world, but it can also be a frustrating experience. There are many guests who love the tasty morsels sold by the booths, and numerous visitors actually plan their trips to the world to take advantage of the culinary event. New visitors (and old) can find themselves stymied by long lines, busy walkways, and rather than tasting their way around the world, they end up tasting one or two samples, melting in the Florida heat, and leaving disappointed.
Although there is no magical solution to Food and Wine Festival lines and crowds, there are a few things you can do to try to make your experience better:
- Go on a weekday if you can – Visiting crowds are swelled by local visitors on weekends. If you can attend the festival Monday – Thursday, you’re likely to find less overwhelming crowds waiting at the booths,
- Go early in the morning – Many guests replace dinner with the Food and Wine Festival goodies, and after a long day at another park, they’ll spend the evening wandering World Showcase sampling food and beverages. That plan has 2 problems. First, the lines at booths grow as the day goes on. Second, the number of inebriated guests increases as the day wanes. If you want to enjoy shorter food lines and fewer wine-laden guests, go earlier in the day, preferably starting when World Showcase opens.
- Beware of the heat – Although the northern regions of the nation may be comfortably into Fall by the Food and Wine Festival start date of Sept. 30, Florida is not. Heat indexes are still in the upper 90s, and although Epcot tries to provide benches and tables to Festival guests, space is limited. Be careful – you don’t want to find yourself nauseous from too many food and wine samples consumed under the blaring Florida sun. Be sure you stay hydrated, find some shade, or take the time for an air-conditioned break between booths.
2011 Food & Wine Festival Gift Card
Watch your budget – The small samples offered around the lake seem reasonably priced ($3-$7) compared to the larger portions in Epcot’s restaurants…but keep track of what you’re spending. Those small portion prices can add up in a hurry, particularly if you’re feeding more than one or if you’re indulging in alcoholic beverages. If keeping track of all that isn’t your strength, buy one of the Food and Wine Festival gift cards, load it with the amount you want to spend, and let it limit your indulgence.
- Know your menus – Don’t just wander from booth to booth – know which items you want to taste the most. Unless you can visit the festival multiple times, it’s unlikely that you’ll get to taste items from every booth. Instead, prioritize the items you want most, and get those first. Chances are, you’ll have a better experience and, depending on which booths you need to visit, you may find yourself staying ahead of the worst crowds working their way methodically inward from the edges of World Showcase.
- Divide and conquer – Splitting up your party to gather multiple samples is one of the smartest things you can do. Instead of everyone waiting in every line, send your party out to gather succulent items from multiple booths. Set a spot to convene with your tasty loot and share away. If you split up, you’ll be able to taste more items and waste much less time in lines.
- Split and save room – Samples may be small, but there are a lot of them. If you’re traveling with people you know, consider splitting the little portions among you so that everyone gets a taste. It will save time and stomach space. And, once you’ve found your favorites, you can always go back and get more!
- Bring a drink – Tasting all that food will make you thirsty in a hurry. Drink samples are small will add to your cost. Think about bringing water or another drink with you. You’ll save money (to spend on more samples).
- Do it again – If you can visit the Festival more than once, do so. Not only will you get frustrated with booth lines and Florida heat, you will get full as you work your way around the lake. The Food and Wine Festival experience is best in small doses. Come back several times if your vacation schedule allows it.
- Enjoy the journey – Remember, the Food and Wine festival is ultimately about great tastes and about food bringing people together. Take your time and enjoy the journey of tasting and discovery. Don’t get so caught up in checking booths/items off your “tried” list that you forget to enjoy the food and the company!