Kicking off Aug. 31 and celebrating 35 years of Epcot with 35 delectable marketplaces, the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival is bigger and better than ever, with sips and tastes throughout the park, celebrity chefs, culinary workshops, live music and special tasting experiences. Get ready – it’s 75 days, so you have until Nov. 13 to experience it all.
To get started, make the Festival Center your first stop to pick up a schedule and a complimentary festival passport and check out options for navigating the festival. Here are some don’t-miss experiences opening weekend:
- The global marketplaces. There are 35 this year for sipping and tasting your way through Future World and World Showcase, and while some favorites are back, check out the five new additions: Active Eats (sweet avocado crema with strawberries, cake and tortilla streusel); The Almond Orchard (cauliflower risotto with pulled chicken, artichokes, spinach and Parmesan cheese); Coastal Eats (lump crab cake with slaw and avocado lemongrass cream); Flavors From Fire (smoked corned beef with crispy potatoes, pickled onions and Blonde Ale Beer fondue); the Light Lab with all sorts of spirited concoctions. You might consider a Tasting Sampler voucher ($65) for eight food or beverage items (some exclusions may apply). Plus you get a limited-release Epcot Food & Wine Festival trading pin.
- Celebrity sightings. Start your day Sunday, Sept. 3, with Chef Shaun O’Neale (winner of FOX TV’s “MasterChef”) first up for “What’s Cookin’ With . . .” held on select Friday and Sunday mornings in the Festival Center ($129). A cooking demo, breakfast and time for Q&A is all part of the fun. Look for returning favorites such as Alex Guarnaschelli, Buddy Valastro, Geoffrey Zakarian, Jamie Deen, Robert Irvine and more (schedule at epcotfoodfestival.com; reservations 407-939-3378).
- Live music every single night. There’s impromptu entertainment all around World Showcase Promenade, but each evening rocks out with the fantastic Eat to the Beat Concert Series on the outdoor stage at America Gardens Theatre three times nightly. First up: Delta Rae, a folk rock band from North Carolina, Aug. 31-Sept. 1 (“Bottom of the River”).
- Culinary demos. Every day in the Festival Center (2:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 12:15 and 2:30 p.m. Friday through Sunday) you can meet a chef and hear stories and tips while they create a dish that everyone gets to taste ($17). On a sunny afternoon, it’s a great respite from the Florida heat. Reservations recommended at epcotfoodfestival.com or by calling 407-939-3378.
- Mix It, Make It, Celebrate It! If you like a hand-ons experience, this is for you — chefs, bakers, mixologists and other pros show you the ropes ($49). Opening day, it’s Chef Emily Ellyn mixing up fun with Cask & Crew Whiskey, and you get to play bartender and mix your own cocktail. (Mondays through Thursdays, additional hosts and topics are at epcotfoodfestival.com.)
- Kids part of the equation? Remy’s Ratatouille Hide & Squeak returns, a fun way to play together in this culinary scavenger hunt that takes you all over World Showcase. And many of the global marketplaces are featuring dishes geared toward kids’ palates.
Looking ahead, some of our favorite celeb chefs are coming up: Sept. 15, Stuart O’Keeffe; Sept. 17, Jet Tila; Sept. 29, Graham Elliott. And there are five Party for the Senses grand tasting events this year (Sept. 23, Oct. 7, Oct. 14, Oct. 21 and Nov. 11), an extravaganza of food, beverages and themed live entertainment.
The festival runs through Nov. 13 – 75 days in all. Back to Basics series, Eat to the Beat concerts, cultural adventures, Festival Passport and all attractions and park entertainment are included with regular Epcot admission. Party for the Senses grand tasting events, signature dinners and other special wine and culinary programs require reservations and separate event admission. Guests can book some events at epcotfoodfestival.com and call 407-WDW-FEST (939-3378) for all others.