Walt Disney World’s seminal seasonal snacking extravaganza has returned earlier than ever, and the Unofficial Guide has your top five survival tips for enjoying the 2023 EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival.
The 2023 EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival kicked off this year at Walt Disney World on July 27th and will run daily all the way through November 18th. As always, here are five tips to follow for getting the most out of this year’s Food & Wine Fest:
1. Arrive Fashionably Late
We at the Unofficial Guides are usually fans of rope-dropping the Disney parks, but we make an exception when attending EPCOT on a festival-focused visit. If you aren’t interested in doing any E-Ticket attractions, there’s no reason to arrive at park opening, and day-drinking during the midday heat is a recipe for disaster.
Instead, show up in the late afternoon, after crowds have already peaked for the day. There will still be plenty of time to hydrate your way around World Showcase, but the sun should be less brutal.
If you’re an annual passholder, you no longer need a park pass reservation to visit after 2 p.m.; if you drive, you’ve got a decent chance of snagging a close-in parking spot.
Once inside EPCOT, be sure to grab a Festival Passport to track your journey, and snap that mandatory selfie with the entry plaza display (which recycles the Tower of the Four Winds-inspired designs from 2022).
2. Don’t Miss the Muppets
As longtime fans of Jim Henson’s Muppets, one of our first stops at the 2023 EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival had to be the Odyssey building between Test Track and Mexico, which has been transformed into the Brew-Wing Lab by Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and his hapless assistant, Beaker.
Unfortunately, the madcap pair doesn’t appear in person, but the characters do feature in brief-but-funny video clips displayed in the seating area.
There aren’t any exclusive merchandise or interactive displays (as were seen featuring Figment at other festivals), but there is an abundance of amusingly Muppet-y signage and knickknacks to examine.
We can also heartily recommend two of the “experiments“ on the Muppet Brew-Wing Labs menu. The plant-based Impossible buffalo tenders ($7.50) have the same moderately spicy sauce we’ve enjoyed on the crispy Brussels sprouts, using “chicken“ that has an even-more-authentic texture than the famous burgers.
Although we weren’t brave enough to try the infamous Pickle Milkshake after overhearing other guests’ reactions, the Frozen Fusion ($4.75) raspberry tea slushie topped with freeze-dried orange ice cream was exactly what the doctor ordered to follow the buffalo bites before exiting from Odyssey’s sweet air-conditioning.
Unofficial Tip: Odyssey has a filtered water-bottle refilling station that tastes better than the outdoor water fountains, so take advantage of it before circling World Showcase.
3. Watch Out for Rats
Remy and Emile have returned once again as the mascots of the 2023 EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival, and you can add a little more fun (or at least structure) to your visit by following in their tiny footsteps.
For the young (or the young at heart), there’s a 2023 edition of Remy’s Hide & Squeak scavenger hunt. Pick up a map if you want to play along for the prize, and keep your eyes peeled for life-size rat statues secreted around the park.
For the natural-born cheese lovers (or the lactose pill-takers), there’s a 2023 edition of Emile’s Fromage Montage.
The five-item eating tour now includes a full dozen dishes to choose from—including some at booths like Hawai’i and Wine & Wedge that are slated to open later in the festival’s run.
Once you’ve collected all your stamps, don’t forget to stop by Corcksicle’s Shimming Sips booth for your celebratory dessert.
4. Look For Lighter Fare
Eating and drinking your way through EPCOT’s festivals is never an inexpensive affair, whether you’re counting the cost in calories or dollars. And as much as we adore Canada, we don’t love eating overpriced poutine and cheddar soup outdoors when temperatures approach 100°.
Apparently, we’re not the only ones who feel that way because we noticed that, while some stands like Flavors from Fire (with a meat-heavy menu) were curiously quiet, the nearby Fry cart had an overflowing queue.
Fortunately, we did find a few 2023 Food & Wine menu items that not only haven’t suffered “shrinkflation“ as badly as our neighborhood stores and restaurants but also satisfy without leaving you feeling lethargic.
For starters, shellfish lovers should seek out Coastal Eats, which surprises with not one, but two restaurant-quality seafood dishes under $8.
The lump crab cake ($7) has virtually no filler, and the pungent Cajun slaw makes a nice palate-cleanser; a drop of remoulade would make it perfect.
Spinach and molusks aren’t to everyone’s taste, but this classic presentation of Oysters Rockefeller ($7.50) includes a plump trio of crumb-crusted crustaceans at a price competitive with happy hour discounts at off-site restaurants.
On the complete opposite side of the World Showcase lagoon, we’re very happy to see that Morocco’s quick-service Tangierine Cafe (which was a victim of the pandemic era) is once again open as a festival location. In addition to having the park’s most beautiful buffet line, the cafe is serving what just might be the ideal three-item-combo for oppressively hot weather.
Start with the vegan falafel pita ($5.50), which is an eternal favorite across the arid Middle East for good reason; the stone-baked bread with a trio of dips is another smart plant-based option. Wash it down with a flute of fig vodka-infused mimosa ($11), and finish off with a cinnamon-pistachio cake ($4.75). Its delicious flavor is as delicate as its decoration.
5. Seek Shelter and Shade
The most important thing to know about visiting the 2023 EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival is that this is already the warmest Food & Wine ever, so if you formulated your touring plan back when this was a fall event, forget about it. In addition to hydrating frequently, make sure your agenda includes plenty of indoor attractions—or at least stops in the shade.
Live entertainment, like the nightly Eat to the Beat concerts in the American Gardens amphitheater, are always a good opportunity to take a break during the festival. Popular artists attract queues, and getting a shaded seat may require waiting in an unshaded queue, but cover bands (which often perform on weeknights) usually have plenty of available seating.
Our vote for the very best place to take an extended air-conditioned break at EPCOT remains the American Adventure. The lobby rotunda is either relaxingly serene or resounding with the singing of the Voices of Liberty. Either way, it’s always refreshingly cool.
The 30-minute multimedia main presentation provides a thoughtful history lesson and impressive display of animatronic wizardry (or the perfect opportunity for a nap). And the best thing about the American Adventure is that if you enter just as one of Orlando’s typical tropical thunderstorms starts up, the bad weather is likely to be over by the time you exit.
Finally, one place we wish you could go to escape the heat—but currently can’t—is the “Milenium Pavilion“ event space between the U.K. and Canada, which hosted multiple festival booths over the past few years. With Orlando’s weather becoming increasingly unpredictable and oppressive, we’re eager to see Disney utilize all available air-conditioned venues to accommodate guests.
What do you think of the 2023 EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival so far? Please let us know in the comments below!
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.
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