All four of Walt Disney World’s theme parks are now operating again after months of coronavirus-caused closure, and even though international travel is still restricted, guests at the reopened Epcot can get back to eating and drinking around the world, thanks to the early arrival of 2020’s International Food & Wine Festival. We headed back into Epcot during its reopening week to bring you back a taste of the fan-favorite Food & Wine Fest, along with a look at the socially distanced attractions the park now has to offer.
Returning to Epcot after quarantine was quite similar to our experiences revisiting the Magic Kingdom, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios. As with the other parks, make sure you read up on Disney’s Park Pass reservation system and face mask requirements in advance of your visit.
If anything, Epcot is perhaps the easiest of the Walt Disney World parks to visit, with same-day Park Pass availability on many days when all the other parks are sold out for annual passholders.
The park doesn’t even open until 11 a.m., and it remains open until 9 p.m., the latest closing time of the four parks. Because we were more interested in scouting out the edibles than enjoying E-Tickets, we didn’t arrive until late afternoon, and we sailed through the nearly abandoned toll plaza.
Parking spots a short walk from the park entrance were still easily available, so there was no need for the recently rebuilt tram station.
Signs of Epcot’s extreme makeover—which was well underway before the closure, but is now being scaled back—are evident from the entrance’s ticket booths, which now boast a variety of vibrant new colors.
A similar palette can be seen on construction walls inside Epcot’s entry plaza, where the “Leave a Legacy” monuments have been replaced by fresh landscaping.
A new fountain is still in progress at the base of Spaceship Earth, which will continue operating in its current form instead of receiving a previously announced reimagining.
The park’s thesis ride was a walk-on every time we walked past, and while the descent’s touch screens were still active, all the interactive displays in the Project Tomorrow post-show have been powered down.
Queues for other attractions around the park were equally nonexistent that evening, with nary a guest to be seen in the Plexiglass-filled queue for Mexico’s Gran Fiesta Tour.
Note that all three animatronic birds were active during our visit, which was a few days before José took an unscheduled vacation.
The only real exceptions were Frozen Ever After and Test Track, which both posted waits up to 45 minutes after experiencing technical difficulties.
Wait times aside, large sections of Epcot looked eerily empty, especially after a downpour drove many guests out of the park.
See what the socially distanced Epcot looks like first-hand through this nearly hour-long walk-though of Future World West, beginning at Spaceship Earth and ending in World Showcase. It features visits to The Seas and The Land pavilions, as well as a full ride on Living with the Land.
The Taste of Epcot International Food & Wine Festival (currently being offered) includes a sampling of 20-odd “Global Marketplace” food kiosks, out of the 30-plus normally operating during the event.
Menus are also slimmed down, with only 2 or 3 tastings at each location, but many familiar favorites are on the bills of fare.
Walt Disney World has recently updated its rules to clarify that guests must remain stationary when removing their face masks to eat or drink, so there’s no more sipping as you stroll around the world. Luckily, we didn’t have much trouble finding open tables around World Showcase; we didn’t even have to resort to using trash cans as high-tops.
Look for additional marketplace booths to open this fall, including this kiosk themed to the Alps outside China, along with this Donut Box truck opening near Test Track.
Our favorite new feature at this year’s abbreviated Food & Wine Fest is the use of World Showplace, the seldom-used event space between Canada and the U.K. pavilion, as an air-conditioned indoor food hall.
With multiple tempting menus, live piano music, and plenty of space to spread out, World Showplace feels a bit like a Disney-themed wedding reception, minus the need to bring a gift.
This slimmed-down Food & Wine Fest doesn’t feature any of the usual seminars, concerts, or dining events that traditionally accompany the event. However, you will find scheduled performances by the JAMMitors and Mariachi Cobre on the American Gardens stage.
A limited amount of Food & Wine merchandise will also be available, and right now you can claim leftovers from the short-lived 2020 Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival.
Remy’s Ratatouille Hide and Squeak scavenger hunt has also returned, and you can pick up a map for $7.99 near the front of the park.
Unfortunately, Food & Wine Festival Passports, with their collectible stickers, have not returned for 2020. Instead, visitors are asked to use the My Disney Experience mobile app to find event information.
If you aren’t interested in the Festival food and merchandise, be aware that many of the usual dining and shopping locations inside the park are currently closed, including the table-service restaurants in France and Morocco, and all the stores and eateries in China.
Some major gift shops have reopened with one-way travel and social distancing markers, such as Mitsukoshi department store in Japan.
World Showcase just isn’t the same place without all the authentic cultural ambassadors and live entertainment, but sampling the Festival booths without having to battle the usual crowds certainly has its charms. Epcot’s future is currently in flux, as exemplified by the recent edits made to the Epcot Experience preview center inside the Odyssey building, and no one is quite sure what the ever-changing park will look like a few years from now. So for now, we’ll simply raise a glass to the reopened resort, and savor the opportunity to experience Epcot with extra elbow room.
For all there is to see and do at Walt Disney World, check out The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World, or to plan your family’s trip to Orlando, check out The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World with Kids 2020. If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to our YouTube channel and sign up for our newsletter here. Be sure to follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.