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Advice for first-time visitors to Epcot's Food and Wine Festival

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Published: August 10, 2009 at 7:32 PM

Tuesday's the first day to make reservations for this year's Epcot Food & Wine Festival at Walt Disney World. As Orlando food critic Scott Joseph and Theme Park Insider readers have noted, there are some notable changes this year, including charges for once-free sessions.

How this will affect the demand for reservations, we'll soon find out. I asked Scott and several other festival veterans what advice they'd offer first-time visitors to the festival (such as, well, me). Here are the top tips:

  • Don't stress about making your plans now. There's plenty to see, do, eat and drink at the festival to entertain even the most demanding first-time visitor who arrives without a single reservation.

  • Do take a look at the festival guide [PDF] at some point before you arrive, though. If you see a particular chef, event or demonstration that really interests you, go ahead and try to make a reservation. Do keep timing in mind, though. In the past, many demonstrations have had queues forming early, though this might change with the new $8 charges for many. Still, Epcot's a big park, and you're probably not going to make it from an event that ends at 12:45 to another that starts at 1. Give yourself about an hour between events.

  • The Party for the Senses rarely sells out, and other events scheduled in the World Showplace (which is huge) are usually the last to fill up. Keep that in mind, if you are trying to make advance reservations for a few events.

  • When you arrive, make a lap around the World Showcase, scoping out the offerings, before you start with the food and the wine. If you jump in first, without seeing all that's available, you're likely to end up with too much in the belly and too little in the wallet when you run across that really special selection.

  • You can't get everything out of the festival in a single day, so don't even try. Again, take a look around, and pick what most interests you. Don't be afraid to take a bit of a risk, though. Trying something new, ultimately, is what the festival is all about.

    I'm considering flying out for this year's festival, possibly making it a two-fer trip with a visit to Halloween Horror Nights at Universal. I'll keep you posted, in case any TPI readers are interested in a get-together at the festival.

  • Readers' Opinions

    From Anthony Murphy on August 10, 2009 at 7:54 PM
    I am going for the first time this year :)

    I think the other thing is to plan for different events like cheese and beer and stuff.

    From steve lee on August 10, 2009 at 9:25 PM
    Here's a quick hint - load up a giftcard to use at the food stalls, rather than having to handle cash or a credit/debit card each time. They have great small cards that you can keep on your wrist and scan as you go. It saves a ton of time and is far easier to deal with.
    From Mitchell Botwin on August 11, 2009 at 5:35 AM
    I have a Disney credit card and it comes with a Disney rewards card. I transfer reward points to the card and use it to eat my way around Epcot.
    From Ray Schroeder on August 11, 2009 at 10:34 AM
    I was also going to suggest using points from your disney credit cards to eat around the world. It's much easier than cash.
    If you plan on going to the Party of the Senses, skip the concert unless you really like the group. People line up early to get in because seating is limited. People make a mad dash to grab a table. Pace yourself. There's alot to eat and drink. You don't want to get stuffed to early.
    Save room for the desserts.
    If they're back this year, a must see is the Sam Adams tasting tent at the American Pavilion. You get a nice sampling and a nifty key chain/bottle opener. Best of all, it's free.
    From Mitchell Botwin on August 12, 2009 at 5:14 AM
    And Sam Adams creates a special brew for the festival. It has been excellent.
    From Russell Meyer on August 12, 2009 at 4:07 PM
    Anyone who is visiting the Festival and is on the Disney Dining Plan, you can use your "snack" credits for most of the food samples at the booths around the World Showcase.

    It's also pretty important to book the more exclusive events as soon as possible. The special dinners and cooking schools tend to book really early. The cooking schools, in particular, fill up very fast because they have very limited spots available. Pretty much, the more recognizable the name, the quicker the session will fill up.

    Like others, I would also recommend the Sam Adams "History of Beer in America" demonstration in the American Adventure Pavilion. I'm surprised Sam is not participating in a Brewer's Dinner as they have in the past--it was an incredible experience.

    From Amy Tupper on August 13, 2009 at 4:47 AM
    I'll be attending F&WF 11, after the "Race for the Taste 10K", which I'll be running that morning. That is also the Sunday of Columbus Day weekend, for those of you lucky enough to get that day off (like me!). We'll be taking some first-timer's and I have forwarded them a link to this entry.

    We've been able to make F&WF part of my daughter's birthday celebration weekend for the last couple of years. Her birthday is Oct 9 and we always go to MNSSHP and now F&WF every year. Something for everyone! :-)

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