Once a year at Walt Disney World the stars seem to align. The combination of Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, Free Disney Dining offers, and the Epcot Food and Wine Festival all happen at once and are just a few of the reasons we venture to Orlando during the rainy season.
Since we’re crazy about Halloween we usually spend our pre-vacation time planning costumes, how to decorate our resort window, and our plan of attack for trick or treating, rides, character meet and greets, and parades and shows for the Halloween party.
The Epcot Food and Wine Festival should be no exception and although requires a little more planning if you’ll be with the kids, it can definitely be done! Plan to attend the festival Monday-Thursday if you want to avoid the bar-scene type atmosphere that we’ve noticed develop at the festival over the last few years. While I’m sure the weekend crowd is plenty of fun, its not the most “magical” scene your child may want to see while on their Disney vacation. Not to mention, crowds stumblin’ around the world and masses of strollers are not the greatest mix. Trust us. We’ve seen it plenty. And its not pretty.
Know that even if you have younger children that families and strollers are plentiful at this event! So while you may have to do some fancy maneuvering with the stroller or kid leash… you won’t be the only one.
Pre-Vacation we found the Food and Wine Festival 2016 Menu by countries on the Disney website to better prepare and plan what countries to visit. Planning this ahead of time allowed us to have a plan of attack and visit the countries and kiosks in order of location without losing a lot of time and wasting foot traffic.
Decide how to pay for the all the extra goodies: If you’re on the Disney Dining Plan chances are you will have snack credits. We spent the first few days of our vacation this year tackling the rides throughout the day which didn’t give us much time to eat snacks leaving us quite a few credits to use up by the time we got to our Epcot day. Know also that the food at the festival comes in a tasting size portion, though some samples are bigger than others and usually costs less than 5 bucks. The snacks that cost more are a great use of snack credits and can be found with the “DDP” symbol next to them. Easy! If you don’t have snack credits you have a couple options. You can save up your snack credits, pay cash OR grab an 8 Food and Beverage entitlement for $59 dollars or a 16 Food and Beverage Entitlement for $109 dollars per guest. These amounts are above the regular Epcot ticket price, but well worth it food wise as either could satisfy your meals for a full day. To get a more detailed breakdown of costs if you choose to pay cash you can check out the menu prices shared on the Disney Food Blog. Just stop at the Festival Center across from the Electric Umbrella near the entrance of Epcot to get your entitlements card and Festival Passport.
Grab the Food and Wine Festival Passport: For yourself and the kids this is found at the Festival Center or gift shops that flank the entrance of the Epcot World Showcase, this little passport book will bring you back to your days in the fourth grade! It comes with stickers to mark off each country you visit and little checklists for each country to mark off what you’ve done. A perfect free souvenir!
For Kid-Friendly foods just look for the Pear in the passport next to the food lists. You’ll also find gluten free and vegetarian markers throughout the passport as well to help you make good food choices.
Remy’s Ratatouille Hide & Squeak: This is one of our favorite passive games. Much like Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom, Hidden Mickey’s or Hidden Pascals you can do this on your own whenever you need a little non-ride or down time. Stop at the gift shop to pick up your Hide and Squeak map. It’s $8.95 per map-and once you’re finished playing the game you get to choose one of the limited edition Remy pins. (So you’re basically paying for the pin and getting the game for free).
Little Remy statues are hidden in every country. Some are very hard to find! Sometimes he’s on a building or in a garden and the game is great way to occupy the kids as you enter each country. This game gets a little harder to play as you hit dinner time because of the crowds so hide and squeak early if you hope to find every Remy.
Kidcot Fun Stops: A great way to introduce kids to other cultures and languages we do the Kidcot stops to break up the eating and shopping. Kidcot stops also tend to be located inside the country’s gift shop or in a shaded area so you can escape the sun, plus it’s another great free souvenir for the kiddies!
Agent P’s World Showcase Adventure: While it may not be your number one priority to save the world while trying to wine and dine your way around it, this game is a great way to keep antsy kids busy. Find the closest Agent P station, located throughout Epcot, and sign your child up to help Phineas and Ferb save the world. This game usually takes about 15 minutes to complete a mission and can be played on your own phone or a mobile device issued to your secret agent at the time of signing up. This is another one of Walt Disney World’s free interactive games throughout the parks and while it is not exclusive to the Epcot Food and Wine Festival, it is a great way to keep them from getting bored. We love this game and play it during the festival or not, sometimes you can make some pretty cool things happen!
Find fun non-alcoholic drinks: This is not as hard as it sounds! We’ll be sharing our fave drinks soon in a separate post soon, but for now you can just find the drinks in the passport labeled non-alcoholic. Favorites this year were the Soda Floats( Desserts and Champagne Showcase Plaza), The American Dream (America- Fife and Drum) and the Pumpkin Chai Tea and Caramel Shake ( Ireland). Yummy.
The Epcot World Showcase doesn’t open until 11am most days, so while some of the kiosks not behind the rope will be open, most of them won’t. You can make the most of your time by booking a character breakfast at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall. Make sure to let your server know if you plan to get in the Frozen Ever After Ride line as soon as breakfast is done- the line fills up fast and is best as an early morning fast pass if you can get it. We’ve seen this ride at 120 minute wait in the afternoons. You could also visit France for breakfast. The bakery is open and a perfect way to be near Belgium for the Belgian Waffles when the rope drops.
Take breaks with rides or shows. There are several shows including O’Canada and Impressions de France that are inside and can provide an escape from the heat or rain.
MEXICO: We adore the Gran Fiesta Tour boat ride and its a great escape from the heat, rain or chaos. There’s not usually much of a line and the longest we’ve ever waited for this was about 15 mins. The ride was updated this year with Three Caballeros animatronics and looks great. The faux open-air market in the Mexico pavilion is a fun way to shop for souvenirs or join the masses and have your pic taken while wearing a gigantic sombrero.
NORWAY: The Frozen Ever After ride is a must see if you’re up for waiting in the line (which we hear is kinda cool ) or have a fast pass. While we think Frozen Ever After is awesome and should be on the bucket list of every young(or young at heart) Frozen fan, if the lines are too long, keep in mind that the Royal Sommerhaus is now open for meet and greets with Anna and Queen Elsa. This is a fun line with what seems to be a usually pretty short wait! We waited around 15 mins and every time we passed by, this was no more than a 20 minute queue. You can also stop at the Kringla Bakeri Og Kafe for a cannoli-like dessert called the Trolls Horn. So delicious!
CHINA: Check out the Dragon Legend acrobats inside the China Pavilion and the new Shanghai Disneyland Exhibit, featuring cast costumes, concept art and a map of all the cool new lands at Shangahi Disneyland.
GERMANY: The miniature train and village near the Germany Pavilion gets updated each season and is a delight for the little ones. We can never turn down the call of the Werthers Original store, apparently the only store here in the U.S., whether its the caramel popcorn, apples or some other caramel treat by the time we get to Germany it’s usually time for a snack. The toy store in Germany also has clocks, bears and the Kidcot stop if you ( or the kiddies) need a break. Snow White is also stationed here next to her wishing well at select times.
ITALY: The street performer and gelato warrants a short stop at the Italian Pavilion though there is not too much to do here! We’ve been trying to dig deep into the Italian Pavilion to see what magic it holds but have come up empty so far so if you have any suggestions here let us know!
AMERICA: As Americans we’ll admit we’ve never seen the American Adventure, in truth we only stop at the America pavilion for one thing: The American Dream. The American Dream is a layer of strawberry slushy, a layer of vanilla soft serve ice cream and a layer of raspberry slushy. So delicious and only found at the Fife and Drum Tavern kiosk. The America pavilion also has a public style indoor eating space, so know that even if you aren’t eating here, its a great place to head for a break from the heat. We like getting a treat from another country and stopping here to enjoy it in the air conditioning.
JAPAN: We love the shopping here! The Cute Kawaii Japanese Culture is a joy for kids and grown ups alike! If you’re a millennial with little ones you’ll enjoy the dragon ball z, zelda, studio ghibli and hello kitty merch. You’ll also love the Matsuriza Drummers at the Japan Pavilion. This show runs a couple times a day and definitely worth a watch.
MOROCCO: A more adult atmosphere here, the things we love about Morocco for families are the photo ready fountains for picture taking and Aladdin and Jasmine character meet and greet (the cutest couple ever). You can also make a Kidcot stop here. Keep an eye out for the shirts with a camel in Morocco, the word Habibi on the shirt means “my beloved”.
FRANCE: We love France!!! The cute gift shop attached to the bakery near the Impressions de France film is quaint and filled with Belle, Aurora and Paris merchandise. A great place to stop, grab a table for the kids and put your feet up. You can also stop at L’Artisan des Glaces. They serve a macaroon ice cream sandwich and is a great place to stop for an afternoon treat. We also got the Creme Brulee Caramel Chocolat at the France Kiosk to give G her first taste of Creme Brulee. You can see both Belle and Aurora and the Serveur Amusant Acrobats here throughout the day.
THE BOARDWALK, via the International Gateway, is a great way to take a break from Food and Wine if you need it. Little beaches, shops, Ample Hills Creamery(yummm), cupcakes and a ferry can all provide respite if your kids are ready to call it a day. This is also a great place to escape to at night if you ended up going to the Food and Wine Festival during the weekend and need to get away from the crowds. They have magic shows, arcade games and lots of other fun little activities like a real boardwalk would have to keep the kids entertained.
UK: Mary Poppins and Alice are big reasons to stop in the UK. We discovered the gardens behind the main shop this year during our Agent P’s Adventure and believe that to be the best place in Epcot for a true rest. Secluded in the corner of the UK are benches, the gazebo and a garden that hardly anyone visits. Perfect for some down time. The Pumpkin Chai Tea and Carmel Milkshake is located at the Ireland pavilion in this area and since they include a recipe card it’s something you can try and make at home.
CANADA: Apart from the O’Canada 360 movie there isn’t a ton to do at the Canada pavilion but walk around. We love the rope bridge and waterfall here though and since a lot of people don’t venture back that far, its usually not that crowded and can be a great escape if needed. The Kidcot area is hidden behind the gardens in a pavilion and offers the kids some coloring time if needed.
Getting Home: Leaving the Park can be a nightmare at the end of the day if you’re using Walt Disney World’s bus system. The time the park closes is important to consider if you have kids in tow. Long lines waiting for the bus can mean cranky kids, especially after a long day. And with long lines, your chance of scoring a seat on the bus decreases. By a lot. Generally, we notice the buses seem to be the most packed from about 30-45 mins before closing to about 30-45 mins after closing. We always aim for the latter as we enjoy having a half or mostly empty park, however this might not work for families with small children who are out past bedtime. Keep in mind, this is really just an estimate going by what we’ve seen over the years, so plan accordingly. This is a great time to use Uber as well if waiting for a bus seems a little unreasonable after a long day at the park.
If you choose not stay for Illuminations, catch the water fountain show on the way out towards the front of the park. It is beautiful and we hardly ever see anyone watching it, which means we get a perfect view without having to fight for it! Sometimes, its the small victories:)
Epcot Food and Wine Festival is running longer than ever this year from September 14- November 14, 2016. If you get a chance to go let us know what you liked!