A few weeks ago during my last Best Week Ever post, I discussed how I am learning a lot about fear. This week I am experiencing a lesson in enjoying the moment. This week provided some best ever moments and yet I don’t feel like I really took the time to savor it all and enjoy. I experienced Disney’s Animal Kingdom during the DVC Member event, stayed the night at Beach Club Villas, woke up and checked into Bay Lake Tower for the night, enjoyed Epcot International Food and Wine Festival, and capped it all off with cocktails and fireworks at Top of the World Lounge.
Even though I feel like I didn’t really soak it up, I get to share it with you, helping it to make one the my Best Weeks Ever! And since many of us in Florida, and at the Atlantic Coast, are getting ready to face Hurricane Matthew, let’s take a break from storm prep and bask in some pixie dust.
Disney’s Beach Club Villas
DVC Member event at Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Disney Vacation Club is celebrating its 25th year of existence. This year members have seen a slew of perks and free events roll out to them not only in order to mark the special occasion, but to help boost member satisfaction as well. During a few nights in September DVC Members enjoyed Animal Kingdom all to themselves from 9:30 PM – 12:30 PM.
While I worked, my parents enjoyed Disney’s Beach Club Resort and then checked us in for the event, at the hotel lobby. This enabled us to have our event wristbands ahead of time and although it may not have saved us a ton of time, we simply had one less thing to worry about. Once inside the park we stopped at one of the many tables being manned by an event Cast Member who handed us each a card to get into the night time Kilimanjaro Safari between 9:00 PM – 9:30 PM and two tickets each to play the midway games in Dino-rama in Dinoland USA.
We headed straight for Nomad Lounge. I bragged about this place to my parents and wanted them to experience what has become my favorite lounge inside any Walt Disney World theme park. Nomad Lounge now has an updated food menu; you can check out my quick review about it here.
My parents relished the décor and adventurous spirit of Nomad Lounge. The perfect balance between sophistication and casual approach-ability is struck here. Starting our evening here set the tone for a pleasant and memorable night together.
The Epcot International Food and Wine Festival kicks off in just about a month, September 14, 2016. But you don’t have to wait until it’s festival time to taste your way around the world. Personally, I feel it is a better experience and a better value to make your own food and wine festival type experience at Epcot. That’s exactly what I did on my recent visit, and it turned out to be one of the best visits ever!
Though there was rain in the forecast, blue skies provided a lovely backdrop to the iconic view of Spaceship Earth as I arrived. I made a bee line through Future World; my stomach growled and would wait no more. World Showcase holds so many culinary treasures, even when it is not Food and Wine Festival time. Beverages and snacks at Epcot are very easy to come by. Practically every pavilion has at least one full service restaurant, one counter service restaurant, and at least one cart or stand along the promenade offering snacks or drinks, or both.
When it comes to exploring World Showcase from a culinary perspective, there is some debate as to which direction to start, either Mexico or Canada. There are advantages and disadvantages to both. On this visit I headed toward the Canada pavilion because I had a 2:00 PM FastPass+ selected for Frozen Ever After and planned to my Epcot trip there.
United Kingdom and Canada Pavilions
Starting off with the Canada Pavilion is a bit rough if you arrive before 12:00 noon. The outside snack and beverage cart does not open until about 12:00 noon and the relatively new Trading Post Refreshments is currently unavailable – slated to reopen by the end of August. So really, there aren’t any snacks or beverages to enjoy here until later in the day.
I caught up with the quartet, who posted on Twitter that they are returning to Scotland to record an album, after a recent afternoon performance. They said that they have no plans to return to Walt Disney World after next week, so if you are a Paul McKenna Band fan you only have a few days left to see them without having to fly across the pond.
It’s fair to say that, although McKenna and company are talented performers who authentically represent their musical tradition, they never enjoyed the kind of cult-like popularity garnered by Off Kilter, the Canadian rock band that was controversially canceled prior to McKenna’s debut.
In case you never had a chance to experience the Paul McKenna Band in person, I’ve immortalized one of their sets on YouTube for posterity:
The waterbound octopus topiary is just one of the sights at the Busch Gardens Food and Wine Festival
Look, I love Epcot, and because you’re a faceless (but doubtlessly beautiful and well dressed) internet entity, I’m going to project and say you love Epcot, too, and one of the things we both love about it is the International Food and Wine Festival. What’s not to love about food and adult beverages from all over the world amassed in one beautiful sunny location? But this year, for the first time, we have… other options. Saturdays and Sundays from March 7th to April 26th, Busch Gardens Tampa is having their very first Food and Wine Festival, and as a local who now has literally been wined and dined by both of her beloved theme parks, it’s only fitting that I tell you what you’re missing if you stay in Orlando, and what the differences are. Is this a “one is better than the other” situation? Given that the events take place at different times of the year in different locations with different offerings, not really. It’s more my hope to let Epcot fans know that there’s something else going on nearby in Florida now that they really might want to make a visit to when their tummies are a’rumblin’ if they’re on vacation. Hey, if you’re gonna be a foodie, at least be an equal opportunity foodie!
Between the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival and its newly expanded Flower & Garden Festival, it seems like Walt Disney World gets to have all the fun where cultural celebrations are concerned. But last week the Disneyland Resort announced that it would soon be getting some international excitement of its own.
For the weekend of May 25-27 (10am to 6pm daily), Opa! A Celebration of Greece will bring authentic Greek music, dance, art, food, history, and more to both parks at the Disneyland Resort. Activities will take place in both “it’s a small world” Mall in Disneyland park and Paradise Gardens in Disney California Adventure park.
The Epcot International Food & Wine Festival is many things. A drinker’s paradise, an adventurous eater’s heaven, and a vegan’s worst nightmare. I know, it’s blasphemy to not be completely head-over-heels in love with the yearly foodfest that draws so many visitors to The World Showcase Promenade, so hate me if you must. I have to admit that up until this year, the Food & Wine Festival was probably my least favorite time of the year at Walt Disney World. Why, you ask? It boiled down to pure jealousy. Hearing everyone rave about all of the options they were exploring from different countries, spooning edible culture into their mouths as I sat chomping on a plain pretzel just seemed unfair. That is, of course, until this year.
Now, I can’t claim to have singlehandedly strong-armed Epcot into having vegan options at the International Food & Wine Festival. However, I also can’t deny sending numerous e-mails, and making a few (ok, a lot of) “suggestions” regarding the lack of vegan options available around the ‘Showcase. And as Disney magic would have it, the fine folks at F&W dreamed up Terra, a brand new marketplace for 2012 in which all of the food options, yes, I said all of the food options, are vegan!
The marketplace itself is presented by Gardein, a brand of mock meats with which I am quite well acquainted. Gardein is a favorite among vegans for meat alternatives, and offers meatless meatballs, chick’n strips, and barbecue riblets just to name a few. The Terra menu features two items: Trick’n Chick’n Curry and Chili Colorado, each priced at $3.75. Each item is paired with a wine option, but please be forewarned: neither of the wines offered, the Paul Dolan Sauvignon Blanc nor the Paul Dolan Pinot Noir is vegan. The Honest Kids Super Fruit Punch and Silk brand Berry Smoothie, however, are totally vegan so you can get your G-rated drink on!
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Well, it will be in about a month and a half. 😉
Mexico Marketplace Booth
Epcot Food and Wine Festival bookings begin today, August 16th, and even though the festival is still a month and a half away, it’s always good to start planning early — especially when events book up as quickly as they do at the festival. I’ll be doing a few guest blogs here at Touring Plans about the different parts of the festival, but I wanted to begin with an overview of what you can expect during the event.
Epcot and select restaurants around Walt Disney World When
September 30-November 13, 2011 What
The largest food and wine festival in the world, the Epcot Food and Wine Festival will be celebrating it’s 16th annual event this year. Accomplished chefs (including some celebrity chefs) from around the world join experts in in the culinary and beverage fields to present a series of events about a variety of “consumable” topics! Pair this with some fantastic Disney magic and some great food, and you have the Epcot Food and Wine Festival!
Overview — What You Can Expect at the Festival
With 45 full days of culinary adventure, there’s a lot to talk about! I’ll go into more detail in later posts, but to begin, let’s cover the basics. Here are the major events, activities, and draws to the festival:
Special and Signature Events: Taking place in restaurants and event spaces around Epcot and the rest of Walt Disney World, these events range in cost from $55 to $495 and cover a gamut of topics including pizza and beer tastings, desserts and fireworks events, multi-course meals with celebrity chefs, and wine schools that offer a certificate of completion when you’re finished! But there’s so much more! You’ll find more info on these events in our Special and Signature Events coverage over on DFB.
Chefs from "Baked" Present a Culinary Demo
Low-Cost Seminars and Demonstrations: Ranging in price from $10-13, these events offer guests the opportunity to see a dish made by an expert chef in a show kitchen, learn about select wines and beers, or take a turn at the art of mixology. Culinary demos and beverage seminars usually last about 45 minutes and are often followed by a meet and greet, book signing, or bottle signing with the event presenter. See more details and what events are available in our low-cost seminar and demo coverage over on DFB.
Delicious Baklava from the Morocco Booth
International Marketplace Booths: These are considered by many to be the true draw of the Epcot Food and Wine Festival. 30 tasting booths set up around the World Showcase offer guests the chance to indulge in tapas-sized portions of regional and ethnic cuisine as well as sample some great wines, beers, and spirits from the represented countries. Prices for food and beverages range from $3-8, with larger beverages costing a bit more.
This, in my opinion, is the ultimate way to spend a meal during the festival — simply check the booth menus to decide what you want to try, then spend an hour noshing around the World Showcase! It’s lovely. But here’s a tip — in the evenings and on weekends the booths start to develop long lines. If you head to the booths when they first open at 11am, you won’t have to battle the crowds quite as much.
New booths being introduced this year are Hawaii, the Caribbean, Portugal (with its own wine bar!), and Scandinavia (returning from a hiatus). You can see full menus and details about the booths (including food pics) at our World Showcase Booths page.
As you can see, there’s a lot to do at the festival with just those three types of events, but there’s a lot more where that came from. I’ll be back with you soon to detail those different opportunities and give you a few more tips and tricks about the Epcot Food and Wine Festival!
You can book special events and seminars starting today — August 16th — by calling 407-WDW-FEST! If you’re a Tables in Wonderland member, Disney Vacation Club member, or Annual Passholder for Walt Disney World, you’ll get a discount on seminars and demos offered Monday-Thursday — don’t forget to ask!
Check out all of our coverage (including live coverage during the festival) on the Epcot Food and Wine Festival section of the Disney Food Blog.