I have mentioned in this blog before that a great way to travel solo is to pursue a passion while you travel. For foodies, that might mean taking a cooking class in France or traveling to a food festival or event. Today’s guest blogger, AJ Wolfe from The Disney Food Blog, elaborates on this by describing a terrific solo itinerary for foodies who decide to attend Disney World’s Food & Wine Festival.
While Disney World is a fun trip no matter what, going solo during my favorite time of the year might be the ultimate in “Disney Magic.”
My favorite time of year, of course, is right around October, when Disney World showcases its Epcot Food and Wine Festival! 2010 marks the festival’s 15th anniversary, and it looks like it will be bigger and better than ever — full of international celebrity chefs, incredible dishes from around the world (in cheap tapas-sized portions, so that you can try everything at least once!), and demonstrations on everything from cheese-making to wine-tasting to chocolatier-ing to hops-tasting. Disney’s even thrown in a couple of brand new options this year.
In my opinion, visiting the festival solo can’t be beat! I’ve had the pleasure of touring with big groups, small groups, and all alone, and that “personal” time with the Food and Wine Festival has been oh so rewarding. There’s so much to see and do that you won’t want to “compromise!” If you’re considering heading to the 2010 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival solo this year, here’s a dream itinerary:
Morning: Get Your Bearings…and a Bottle of Wine Head over to the Festival Welcome Center, located in Epcot’s Wonders of Life Pavilion, to grab a map and a Festival Guide as well as browse your favorite foodie titles at the Festival book shop, check out the wines featured throughout the Festival in The Cellar, and take a look at some of the customized Festival merchandise.
11AM: Eat Around the World Hopefully you’re hungry! The centerpiece of the Epcot Food and Wine Festival are the Festival Marketplace Booths. This year, 27 different countries will be represented with booths set up in a semi-circle around Epcot’s World Showcase Promenade; each booth will feature tapas-sized portions of some of the country’s most famous dishes, and many offer beers, wines, and other representative drinks. One of my favorite ways to spend lunchtime is grazing at several different booths, picking and choosing the dishes I’d like to sample. Usually, each dish costs about $2-$5, so you can safely try several for the price of a Disney World restaurant meal. To give you an idea of what to expect, here are photos and menus from the 2009 Festival Booths.
1PM: See a Show Now is a great time to catch one of the free or low-cost seminars happening throughout the Festival. Check out the History of Beer in America (includes samples — and it’s free with Epcot admission!); attend one of the Culinary Demonstrations, where executive chefs from around the country prepare a dish in front of the audience (includes a tapas-sized sample of the dish — $8/person); or meet your favorite cookbook author at an Authors Without Borders seminar (free with Epcot admission).
3PM: Get Tipsy on Tequila OK, not really. But sort of! I can highly recommend the Festival’s new Tequila Tasting Seminars, which are held in Epcot’s premier Tequila Bar, La Cava del Tequila. These are extremely informational, especially for Tequila novices.
5PM: “Pair” Up or Be a Groupie My two favorite options for dinners during the Festival are Food and Wine Pairings and Signature Dining Events.
During Festival Food and Wine Pairings, guests are served three small dishes paired with spectacular wines; a Sommelier is on hand to describe the history of the wines and why the pairings were made. This year, Food and Wine Pairing meals are scheduled to be held in Mexico’s San Angel Inn, Japan’s Tokyo Dining, and Morocco’s Restaurant Marrakesh.
Signature Dining Events offer guests the opportunity to dine under the watchful eye of their favorite celebrity chef! Premier chefs from around the country (and the Food Network!) prepare their favorite dishes just for you at these outstanding dinners.
7PM: Get Sweet or Eat to the Beat There are lots of opportunities to sample sweets and desserts around Epcot during the Festival, but a brand new event this year will be 3D Disney’s Dessert Discovery, a pre-booked event happening every Friday night during which Disney World will treat you to an amazing array of desserts, along with special seating for their famous Illuminations: Reflections of Earth Fireworks Spectacular. Tickets are a steal at only $45.
If the price (or the sheer sugar overload) is out of your budget, head over to Disney’s free-with-Epcot-admission Eat to the Beat concerts. These nightly shows featuring favorites like Taylor Dayne, Kool and the Gang, Boyz II Men, Expose, Rick Springfield, Air Supply, and Big Bad VooDoo Daddy (among others!) are sure to be worth a visit to Epcot alone.
Epcot Food and Wine Festival Tips:
- Consider purchasing a Food and Wine Festival gift card for yourself. This is smaller than a regular credit card, and comes on a plastic bracelet to wear around your wrist. You can load the card with as much money as you’d like, and use it as payment as you visit each Festival Marketplace Booth. Of course, the card is good for use at any Disney World purchasing location, so if you don’t use up the money at the Festival, it can be used for other purchases throughout Disney World.
- Before touring the Festival Marketplace Booths, check out the menus for each in your Festival Guide. There’s no way you’ll be able to sample everything (believe me, I’ve tried!), so choose a few don’t-miss items and hit those booths first.
- Paid events like seminars, food and wine pairing meals, and celebrity chef demonstrations, will sell out fast. The full itinerary of events usually comes out in July, and booking often begins in August. Stay tuned and pre-book your tickets so that you don’t miss out on your favorite Chef or seminar!
- There’s plenty to do at the Epcot Food and Wine Festival without breaking the bank. If you’re planning a budget trip, check out the seminars and demonstrations that cost only $5-$10, plan to “eat around the World Showcase” at the Festival Marketplace Booths for at least a couple of meals, and visit the free events in the Festival Welcome Center. Oh, and don’t forget to catch Air Supply at the Eat to the Beat Concert! (You KNOW you want to…)
Hopefully this helps as you plan your trip to Epcot during what I consider to be the very best time of the year! For more Disney Food information and to keep up to date on the 2010 Epcot Food and Wine Festival, visit me on The Disney Food Blog!