Disney World is a magical place. Not as magical as, say, a Hypercolor T-shirt or magnets, but still pretty mind-blowing. I’ve declared the magic of Disney too many times to too many people who probably worry I suffer from a deprived childhood. Indeed, I didn’t take my first trip to Disney World until I was 29 years old – but that’s not it. And for the record, my childhood was the greatest – I swam on the country club swim team, I kicked ass at making friendship bracelets, and I had a sick collection of troll dolls, some of them even had jewels in their belly buttons so yeah, I had it all.
As an adult (a term I use loosely) and avid traveler, Disney magic exists for me in the opportunity to visit 20+ countries in one single day. You can get messed up in Mexico, geek out in Greece, make friends in Morocco, and die laughing in the Dominican Republic all in one day. The Epcot International Food & Wine Festival is perfect for those who, like me, want to experience all the world has to offer but really only have time for like, a weekend in Tupelo, Mississippi.
This article is the follow-up to last year’s Do This, Not That at the Epcot Food & Wine Festival.
Don’t think of your trip to the Epcot Food & Wine Festival as merely a day at a Disney park. Think of it as a journey to 20+ countries in one day, sans jetlag. It has many of the same characteristics of international travel and yes, you’re going to be exhausted. But probably not as exhausted as these guys who hold the record for most countries visited in 24 hours. My personal record is three. And that’s without even trying so Booyah!
PREPARING FOR TAKEOFF
Before any around-the-world adventure you need to thoroughly prepare. Have I packed enough underwear? When and where should I travel? What to bring and what to leave behind? What shots do I need and will that huge needle hurt going into my ass cheek? Luckily you don’t need shots to visit Disney World despite the copious mouse population (heh) but here is a short list to help you get started:
When to go:
- EARLY IN THE FESTIVAL’S DURATION. The later in the festival, the more crowded it gets. However, avoid opening day like you would a needle in the ass.
- ON A WEEKDAY. This is just smart theme-parking right here. Crowds nearly double on the weekends and nobody likes to wait in line for their tequila flights. NO ONE.
- AS SOON AS THE PARK OPENS. Even though the food & wine kiosks don’t start serving until 11 AM, go as soon as the park opens at 9 AM. This is when you can get all of that non-drinking fun out of the way. Gift shopping, watching a guy draw Mickey Mouse on the ground with a wet broom, riding things, playing in the fountains. Plus, you’ll want to be right there when the kiosks open. I mean like, RIGHTUPAGAINSTTHEM so not to waste a single minute of fooding and wining.
What to bring:
- MOUSE EARS. Duh, everyone’s doing it. Don’t you want to be cool? Check out my super cute Food & Wine Festival ears from Abuzz Designs on Etsy (below ⇣⇣⇣)
- THESE SHOES. They’re memory foam Spaceship Earth Adidas sneakers. Yes, you need these more than you need oxygen.
- AN INK PEN. For keeping track in your passport of everything you’ve consumed so later when you’re unable to button your pants, you’ll know why.
- SUNSCREEN. Because it’s Florida and even though it’s fall it’s still 90+ (°F) and that sun is the real deal. I’m pretty sure it’s what killed the dinosaurs.
- YOUR GAME FACE. Twelve hours of eating, drinking, walking, and laughing is not for the weak spirited. Get your shit together and don’t wuss out.
What to leave behind:
- YOUR CHILDREN. I’m fairly convinced after five years of “research” Disney parks are for adults, not kids. You think it will be fine to bring your kid with you to Disney’s Epcot Center. But I’m afraid you’re wrong. Especially to an event with “…Wine Festival” right there in the title. If you want to have a great time and make this the BestDayEver® (I’m trademarking that.), wiping butts, picking noses, and taming tantrums is going to ruin any chance of that. Besides, do you really want to have to keep making excuses for going around the corner for shots of Suigei Drunken Whale sake? They’re going to figure it out sooner or later and tell their teachers.
- WORK. Calm down Scrooge McDuck, you’re at Disney World now. There are no email emergencies at Disney World. Remember? Magic? Phones off. Unless this happens and you need to film in High Definition. Bonus advice: Don’t climb the countries. Hasn’t he seen Apocalypto? You DON’T want to go up there, bruh.
What to make:
- MATCHING GROUP SHIRTS. Because this is the only time it’s cool. But stay away from anything remotely resembling “I’m his Minnie” and “I’m her Mickey” his and hers T-shirts. PUKE. For the first time ever I’m making the shirts I design for myself and my friends available to you — find them here!
- FUN OF YOUR FRIEND IN HIS GIANT SOMBRERO. Hey, at least you can always find him in the crowd. This is more helpful than you may realize.
- EVERYONE BACK HOME JEALOUS. It’s inevitable; it’s the BestDayEver®. You can accomplish this through any and all social media platforms.
You’ve traveled before. You know that before you are free to make a fool of yourself trying to speak slang phrases in foreign languages to taxi drivers you must first take care of a little business. Clearing customs, getting searched for contraband like cocaine, smuggled cockatoos, or that almost empty bottle of shampoo you forgot was in your bag, and exchanging your money are small obstacles you must face upon arriving. Your journey of 20+ countries in one day is no different. Well, probably fewer cockatoos.
- BAGGAGE INSPECTION. This is where security officers with stern faces go through your purse with little sticks. Amusing as it is, don’t expect the appreciation of humor. Just leave your cockatoos at the hotel, aiight?
- FINGERPRINT SCAN. I’m not even kidding here. For whatever reason, after you beep your green card (OK, it’s a entry ticket, whatever, but it is green!) you must submit a fingerprint scan. Am I being booked into the most enchanting prison imaginable? If I’ve done something wrong, I don’t want to do right!
- PICK UP YOUR PASSPORT. Each country you visit will stamp your passport and this is just the greatest! Passports can be picked up at most of the countries without the daunting paperwork or embarrassing Walgreens photos. You know what I’m sayin’…
- DISCARD PROHIBITED ITEMS. By the grace of the travel gods, all Disney parks have prohibited selfie sticks. This makes me so happy I could just climb a Mexican pyramid. So don’t bring those. Also, ya know, guns and pepper spray and knives and shit like that.
- CURRENCY EXCHANGE. This is probably my #1 most useful Epcot Food & Wine Festival tip: Load whatever money you plan on spending onto a wristband for budgeting purposes (if you’re one of those), speed, convenience, and fashion, obviously. These wristbands are provided for free at all gift shops/stands and you can add any amount you like. At each kiosk, place your order and… well first smile, say “Hi!” and then place your order. Because you were so nice, they will quickly and painlessly scan the barcode on your wristband and your payment is complete. Now get that stamp and go eat your food on top of a trash can.
Layovers can be a hit or a miss. Sometimes they’re great and you’re treated to 2-for-1 margaritas at Chili’s Too and reading books at the bookstore without buying them. Other times you’re trapped in Denmark and the only thing to eat is oak smoked Scottish salmon in a cardboard wrapper and a 49.95€ baby food jar of caviar.
On your journey around the world in one day you are going to have layovers. Specifically, time between countries when you’ve eaten too much and need to lie down, approaching heatstroke, need to pee, or want to do some shopping. Here is a summary of my favorite Epcot layovers:
Chilling in China
- Best gift shop in the park
- Museum with artifacts from Chinese history, a scale model of the Terracotta Warriors, and me whispering random phrases in Mandarin
- Restroom inside the restaurant
- koi pond – get your zen on
Mixing it up in Mexico
- Giant sombreros and teeny piñatas
- Gran Fiesta – for the air conditioning and relaxing boat ride, not the “search for Donald Duck” or whatever it was about. I know where Mexican Donald is anyway. He’s outside the pyramid telling people to put their beers down before he’ll take a photo with them.
- It’s dark inside for happy retinas
- Arts & crafts for kids if you ignored my earlier advice
Fooling around in Future World
- Spaceship Earth, an annual tradition – When they take your picture at the end, make the funniest face possible.
- Enormous gift shops where I learned all about stitching a name into a pair of Mickey ears. I’m inquisitive, shut up.
- Club Cool, a Coca-Cola sponsored spot where you can enjoy unlimited free samples of soft drinks from all over the world. Stay away from the Beverly, blech! (Sorry Mama.) Shout out to Ashley Lillis of The Wandering Weekenders for alerting me to this place!
SOAK UP THE LOCAL CULTURE
This is why you came. This is your mission. This… is why you were born. Don’t let me down!
Hang out with the locals
- Mexican Donald, Genie, Mulan, and some fluffy white cat in Paris are just a few of the many inhabitants you will meet at the Epcot Food & Wine Festival. Already you are seeing firsthand what diversity the world has to offer. Some don’t wear pants, some are blue, and some aren’t people at all.
Try local food and beverage
- What better way to experience a culture than through its food? Don’t hold back. Everything here is quality and nothing is half-assed. The portion sizes encourage trying something new or that you wouldn’t normally eat/drink. The dishes are broken down on the menu outside the kiosk and inside your passport so the only surprise will be, “Holy shit. You’re telling me this cheesecake is made outta corn?”
- The food and drinks are the suitcase into which the whole trip is packed. No? How about… The food and drinks are the overhead bin into which the entire trip is violently stuffed. Regardless of the metaphor, I am not a food blogger. This is literally all I have for food and beverage photos. I’m not wasting any time between purchase and face-stuffing. If you’re into food pictures + information, check out the Disney Food Blog.
Enjoy local entertainment
- Mariachi in Mexico
- Serveur Amusant™ (that’s their trademark, not mine), some guys in France who do dangerous things with chairs and champagne bottles
- Belly dancing in Morocco
- Matsuriza, traditional drummers in Japan
- British Revolution, an annual tradition – Make sure to get a front row shrub.
INEVITABLE DISASTERS (and how to avoid them)
Have I ever traveled abroad where something really shitty didn’t happen and I was forced to figure out what to do? Nope. If you like I can tell you some phenomenal stories.
- LOSE YOUR MONEY BRACELET? After putting money on your wristband, scratch off the back of the card and take a photo of it. If you lose the card, an employee can use that photo to reload a new card with your balance. Disney magic. Information I can provide only from experience and one half hour of panic. My pain = your gain.
- FORGET YOUR PASSPORT PEN? The gift shops sell them. They’re $5.99 and not discrete in the least bit. My husband said I was ridiculous for paying $6 for a Pluto pen with floppy rubber ears but I’ve used it for the past three Epcot Food & Wine Festivals, so who’s laughing now, huh? OK, he still is.
- OUT OF MONEY? I warned you about this last time. You will probably need to bring more than you think. Please, step into my wallet. Actually no, don’t. You’ll just find an old baggage claim ticket and a squished package of Clean & Clear oil absorbing sheets. I’ll clue you in though: this year, for just myself, I spent $97 on a standard Epcot admission ticket and $150 on miscellaneous food and beverage. I brought my own Pluto pen. This number all depends on how much you can eat and drink but I’ve found it to be the average among our group of five.
- ARE YOU LOST? The park is a circle; I can’t help you here.
- END OF TRIP DENIAL? Have another drink. #moneybracelet
As your trip around the world nears its end you will be struck by an array of emotions. Some things you might say to yourself:
- “ONLY 365 MORE DAYS UNTIL NEXT YEAR’S BESTDAYEVER®!” – That’s supposed to comfort you but it’s really just a super depressing declaration.
- “IT’S FUCKING DARK!” – It goes from blinding rays of the sun to depths of the jungle darkness in like ten minutes, way faster than your inebriated brain can adjust. You won’t be able to see anything. You will trip over someone’s child.
- “WHERE IN THE HELL DID ALL THESE PEOPLE SUDDENLY COME FROM?” – At about 9 PM the occupancy of the park will double and it will scare the shit out of you. Children hopped up on sugar and too much attention. Toddlers pissed because it’s late and they’re not getting enough attention. Parents pushing mammoth empty strollers. Drunk dudes.
- “FIREWORKS! LASER BEAMS!” – referring to “IllumiNations,” the super cheesy firework show thing they do every night at 10:00 but ya know, sometimes you’re just really
2015 EPCOT F&W SUPERLATIVES
This year was the best of my five consecutive years at the EPCOT Food & Wine Festival. ‘Twas a combination of going at the right time of year, five years of experience, and the best friends/travel companions a wanderlusty girl can have. Oh, and scallops. Here are my 2015 EPCOT Food & Wine Festival superlatives:
Best Food Items…
- Seared Sea Scallop with Spinach-Cheddar Gratin and Crispy Bacon, 86 the Bacon (Scotland)
- Teriyaki Gyoza Bun: Steamed Bun filled with Chicken, Vegetables and Sweet Teriyaki (Japan)
- Croissant aux Escargots: Escargot Croissant with Garlic and Parsley (France)
- Frozen Chew-tini featuring Crop Organic Meyer Lemon Vodka (Sustainable Chew)
- Guava Margarita (Mexico)
- iCing Grapefruit Sparkling Rice Brew (South Korea)
Food not worth the valuable space in your stomach…
- Sauerkraut Pierogi with Pork Goulash (Poland)
Most overhyped drink…
- Smoking Hibiscus featuring Montelobos Mezcal Joven (Chew Lab): Great presentation but tastes like a forest fire.
- Pastel de elote con queso: sweet corn cheesecake (Mexico): It’s a cheesecake. Made out of CORN. ¡Felicidades, México! ¡Muy, muy delicioso!
Best hidden gem…
- Whiskers & Wine. Yes, it’s true. I get drunk and buy cat-related art. Paintings of cats getting drunk – what more could you want? You can find her set up between Japan and Morocco.
Biggest mistakes I made…
- Not wearing sunscreen. I was too excited. I forgot where I was. Don’t be like me; remember the dinosaurs.
- Eating too much – making it harder to drink too much like I had planned.
Funniest thing on earth after you’ve sampled a good number of German beers…
- The miniature village located next to the Germany pavilion. Sometimes there’s a lizard or two on the buildings and everyone’s like, “Ahh Godzilla!” Just trust me.
Biggest waste of festival space…
- Ocean Spray Cranberry Bog. Why is this here? I don’t get it. It was gone for a few years and now it’s back taking up valuable food and drink space. The free Craisins don’t count.
As you can see, a day at the Epcot Food & Wine Festival has all the makings of an around-the-world trip: being searched, getting so drunk you don’t know which country you’re in, getting
way too appropriately excited about a passport stamp, and butchering all the languages.
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