For me, the official start of fall is when two things happen in Central Florida: Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party begins at Magic Kingdom and the Epcot Food and Wine Festival officially kicks off! This year, however, the festival begins in July to give guests more time to enjoy the offerings.
If you’re planning on visiting the Epcot Food and Wine Festival with kids, then I have some great tips for you; we visit the festival multiple times a year with our little ones and always have a great time.
I’ve outlined the best times to visit with kids, some of the most kid-friendly food and drink options (including the vegan and gluten free choices) and the best family friendly activities that everyone can enjoy. Take a look!
When to visit the Epcot Food and Wine Festival with kids
Pretty much anyone who has ever visited the Epcot Food and Wine Festival will tell you that the best time to go is as early on in the day as possible, from Monday to Thursday. Friday, Saturday and Sunday all tend to be a lot busier, since that’s when the locals will be visiting, as well as people making short weekend trips to sample the festival’s goodies.
It’s also best to go as early in the day as possible, both to beat the crowds and the heat – your appetite can disappear very quickly when stood in a long line in the 90 degree Florida heat! With the festival beginning in July this year, this is an even bigger consideration!
Perhaps because the festival begins earlier this year however, not all of the food booths open with the festival in July; quite a few don’t open until October 1st. I don’t know if this is because the food offerings in those booths is more suited to cooler weather, or just an incentive to get guests to return, but if you want to try all the booths then you’ll need to visit after October 1st.
Although the festival is extremely family friendly, the later on in the evening you get, you can find more people enjoying their adult beverages, and there have been reports of people being a little rowdier later on.
Don’t let this put you off; we’ve personally never encountered anyone who was behaving inappropriately, and I think the festival does have an undeserved reputation for attracting those who might be more likely to drink too much.
If you’re really concerned, try to visit the booths earlier in the day, although it’s really never been an issue for us.
The best food and drink options for kids
Depending on how adventurous your kids are will determine just how much they eat and drink at the festival.
My 8-year old Harrison is super picky and looking at the menus this year, there are very few things I know he’s going to want to try. My 5-year old Grayson, on the other hand, is a very adventurous eater and will happily try anything – so it looks like I’ll have to share most of the food with him!
I’ve included some of the plainer options below with things that I think most kids would at least be willing to sample, but it’s definitely worth going through the menus ahead of time and looking for options that will suit your kids.
All of the options included below are from booths open now, but I’ll be sure to add more once the other booths open in October.
Germany: Schinkennudeln; pasta gratin with ham, onions, and cheese (pictured below) – this is a wonderful kid friendly option, although it is quite rich (and very cheesy!)
China: Pan-fried Chicken Dumplings with sweet and spicy sauce
Italy: Bomboloni; a cream filled Italian doughnut with raspberry sauce and powdered sugar
Hawaii: Passion Fruit Cheesecake (pictured below) – this is really nice and light, and the passionfruit sauce isn’t too overpowering.
Tangierine Café – Flavors of the Medina: Stone-baked Moroccan Bread with Dips
Shimmering Sips: Shimmering Strawberry Soft-serve
Japan: Teriyaki Chicken Bun (pictured below) – this was packed full of piping hot teriyaki chicken and had a great flavor. If you’re giving it to a little one, make sure you check the temperature on it first, as ours was very hot.
Refreshment Port: Braised Beef Poutine; fries, Boursin garlic and fine herbs cheese sauce, cheese curds, and gherkin relish
The Swanky Saucy Swine: Crispy Barbecue Pork Rinds with Pimento Cheese
Brew-Wing at the Epcot Experience: Garlic Parmesan Wings (pictured below) – these are very mild so most kids would enjoy the flavor, plus this location is indoors in the air conditioning so you get to cool off a bit while you eat them!
Donut Box: Candy Jar Donut with M&Ms, Snickers, and Twix
Appleseed Orchard: Apple Crumble Tart
Kid-friendly gluten friendly options
The festival offers a number of gluten friendly options and they’re marked on the festival map as (GF).
Earth Eats: Impossible Three-Bean Chili
Australia: Roasted Lamb Chop with sweet potato puree, bush berry pea salad, and pistachio-pomegranate gremolata
Canada: Le Cellier Wild Mushroom Beef Filet with Truffle-Butter Sauce (pictured below) – this is an old favorite; the mushrooms were delicious and the truffle butter was very good, but the steak is always overcooked for me since it’s such a small portion. As long as you go in knowing it won’t be a huge portion and the steak will probably be cooked to a well done temperature, you’ll enjoy it.
For more gluten friendly options at this year’s festival, as well as all of the other gluten friendly options at Walt Disney World, check out Gluten Free and Dairy Free at WDW’s website
What else is there for kids to do at the Epcot Food and Wine Festival
Remy’s “Ratatouille” Hide and Squeak
Each of the Epcot festivals usually features a scavenger hunt, and it’s my favorite way to keep the kids entertained and occupied as we tour the World Showcase. In the case of the Food and Wine Festival, the hunt features Remy, who can be found in various locations around the World Showcase and in Future World.
You can purchase a scavenger hunt map from various merchandise locations in Epcot, which comes with stickers that can be placed on the map as you find Remy in each location. Once the map is complete, turn it in to receive your prize; this year you get to choose from one of four souvenir tumblers.
My kids LOVE this scavenger hunt, and while they’re hunting all over the pavilions for Remy, I can take a few minutes to eat my food or check out a merchandise booth in peace.
Emile’s Fromage Montage
The details of Emile’s Fromage Montage can be found at the back of the festival passport; you need to purchase five cheese-themed dishes (listed in the passport) in order to receive a free and unique festival prize.
The dishes are all pretty kid-friendly so the list isn’t hard to complete, but you also don’t need to complete it in one day; if you’ll be visiting the festival more than once, just keep your passport safe and you can turn it in whenever it’s completed.
One more thing…
When visiting the Epcot Food and Wine Festival with kids, I’ve found that the easiest way to pay for items from the booths is to use a Disney gift card on a wristband.
This is the first year I’ve tried this method, and it made it so much easier to pay for things to just take the wristband off my wrist, have it scanned, and put it back on. Oh, and it also made it much easier for me to spend more since I wasn’t keeping track – so bear that in mind too!