If you’ve read my post covering my experience of the Walt Disney World reopening, you’ll know that last week I had the chance to go to Animal Kingdom for a preview of the new policies in place at the Walt Disney World parks now they’re open to the public.
I’ve also since had the opportunity to visit Epcot, which means I got to see the Taste of Epcot Food and Wine Festival 2020. While the festival looks different this year, there’s still a lot of old favorites you can find. Read ahead to find out everything you need to know if you plan to visit this year.
Disclaimer: I am in no way suggesting that it is safe to visit Walt Disney World right now. There is a risk of exposure to Covid-19 in any public place, and Covid-19 is an extremely contagious disease that can post severe health problems and death, especially to senior citizens and those with underlying health concerns. If you choose to visit the parks during the pandemic, you assume all risks involved.
The short answer is YES! When Disney announced the opening of the Walt Disney World Parks, there were a lot of changes and a lot of things that were obviously having to be taken away for the safety of everyone.
That being said, one of the most beloved Epcot Festivals was not only coming back this year, but it was arriving early!
This year’s Epcot Flower and Garden Festival was cut very short with the closure of the parks back in March, and obviously with months gone by, most of the flowers have gone, although some of the topiaries remain and there is a selection of merchandise still available for purchase.
The Epcot Food and Wine Festival usually begins in the early fall but this year Disney has decided to get things started early, probably to make up for such a short Flower and Garden Festival.
The festival won’t be exactly the same, so if you’re used to the regular festival, there are some changes to be aware of. If you’re wondering what the festival is usually like, read through this post about how the Epcot Food and Wine Festival usually looks – fingers crossed this will be how the festival looks in the future, and this year’s changes are temporary.
What are the biggest differences with this year’s Epcot Food and Wine Festival?
There are several big changes for this year’s festival, and it’s important to know about these in advance, especially if you’re used to a regular Food and Wine Festival.
The biggest change is the date; this year the festival began in July, and currently has no end date. The festival usually goes until November so if they decide to go until that end date, we could have this festival for a good few months!
This is really exciting, although I’ll be the first to admit that I like the Food and Wine Festival a lot better in the fall when it’s a little bit cooler. Visiting the festival in July was nice, but I’ll be a lot more enthusiastic once the temperatures start to cool off! If you never visit in the fall however, this is a great opportunity to experience this for the first time.
Another big change is that were will be no Eat to the Beat concerts this year. This is completely understandable; there’s really no way to socially distance in the theater where the concerts play, and then there’s the logistics of getting the acts to Florida. This change was expected, but it still makes me sad; the concerts were my favorite part of the festival.
There will also be none of the food and wine demonstrations offered this year. We’ve never taken part in any of these, so I didn’t notice a difference there, but it’s something to note if that’s something you usually make time for. There will also be no Party for the Senses offered this year either.
This year there are no festival passports, but there are signs all over where you can scan a QR code to get copies of the menus, and find out more about what is on offer at the festival. Alternatively if you have the My Disney Experience app, you can find the info on there too.
There will not be as many food and wine booths offered at this year’s festival, however a lot of old favorites are back! I think most people visiting will be able to find at least most of their regular favorite food and wine items on the menu. They may not be in the places you usually find them, but a lot of them are there.
My experience at this year’s Taste of Epcot Food and Wine festival
I hadn’t originally planned to visit the festival any time soon, but we were given a last minute opportunity to visit Epcot before it opened to the public and we decided to go while crowds would (hopefully) be very low.
I was really excited when Disney announced that the Food and Wine Festival would be returning this year, and even more excited that it’s starting early.
As I said, I usually wait to visit the festival once the temperatures start to drop (usually the beginning of October at the earliest) and I must admit that wandering around the festival in July was a struggle; it was HOT, and I don’t know about you, but I’m never super hungry in the heat.
I’m still not comfortable eating in a restaurant, and even if I was, there is very limited table service dining available in Epcot right now; with the Cultural Representative Cast Members still absent, most of the World Showcase is completely closed and only a handful of restaurants are open.
Between the lack of table service options, my discomfort eating in a restaurant, and the crazy heat, being able to eat small portions outdoors is a very tempting idea right now.
One of my favorite additions this year is that the World Showplace (where the Party for the Senses is usually held) is used to house four different food booths with some limited seating and tables – all in the air conditioning!
This is such a great option! There are four different food booths located in here: Festival Favorites, Desserts and Champagne, Appleseed Orchard, and Mac and Cheese: hosted by Boursin, as well as both high top tables and tables with chairs.
The tables were all very well spread out and we didn’t feel crowded in there at all. Masks need to be kept on until you’re actually at a table eating the food.
We tried the Gourmet Macaroni and Cheese with Boursin Garlic and Fine Herbs Cheese and Herbed Panko – and it was very, very good! At $4.50, it was a really good sized portion and pretty filling. It was great to eat this in the air conditioning, I think we would have struggled in the heat as it was quite rich. I’d highly recommend it though, it was delicious!
The Festival Favorites booth in here is where you might find items that didn’t get an actual booth this year; you can find the Pierogis from Poland and the Seafood Fisherman’s Pie from Ireland here.
For right now, there is no 2020 Food and Wine merchandise. I’m assuming this is because it originally wasn’t going to be needed until later in the year and it’s perhaps not ready yet, although it might also be because there is still Flower and Garden Festival Merchandise available.
I was so happy that they were still selling the Flower and Garden Festival merchandise! I only got to visit the festival once this year before the park closed down, and there were a couple of things I’d really wanted to buy so I was really happy to find them still for sale.
How does it work with the masks?
Other festival booths are scattered around Epcot as they usually are. One big thing to note this year is that Disney have just updated their mask rules to indicate that you cannot walk around without a mask while eating and drinking.
This means that once you pick up a plate of food or a drink from a booth, you need to step off to the side and stay in one place to take your mask off to eat or drink.
If you want to eat or drink, you need to be stationary; at a table, or sitting on a bench, or somewhere where you can take your mask off and stay in one place. This is understandable; Disney doesn’t want guests walking around not wearing masks because they happen to have food or drinks, and there are plenty of tables or benches (or trashcans, because let’s face is, we’ve all used those as tables too!)
But it does mean that aspect of the festival is gone. One of my favorite things to do was to walk around with a glass of wine or a small plate of food, chatting with friends or the kids, just taking everything in – and for right now that’s not possible.
Again, it is absolutely understandable, but it’s still a shame. It’s a compromise I’m happy to make if it means the festival goes on in as safe an environment as possible, but I do miss that particular aspect of it.
Is it worth going to the Taste of Epcot Food and Wine Festival this year?
In my post covering my experience at Animal Kingdom since the reopening, I stressed that I absolutely would not tell people that it was safe to visit Walt Disney World right now, and I still stand by that.
I believe Disney is doing everything in their power to make the experience for Cast Members and guests as safe as possible, but that doesn’t mean I would encourage people to visit the parks at the moment.
If you are going to be coming the Walt Disney World anyway however, then I do think it is worth visiting the festival. Epcot is a large park with plenty of room to spread out, and we found that most areas were not crowded at all (in fact some were completely empty).
My biggest concern about visiting Epcot before we went was mask enforcement; I was worried that people would use the fact that they had food and drinks as an excuse to take their masks off for prolonged periods of time, and that made me really uncomfortable.
So the fact that guests now have to step to the side and stay in one place to take masks off to eat or drink makes me feel much better, and will hopefully make for a safer experience.
My biggest suggestion for visiting the Epcot Food and Wine Festival right now is to try not to compare it to previous year’s festivals, because it just won’t compare; I’m confident we’ll get that festival back one day but for now, it’s just not possible.
Instead try to enjoy the festival for what it is now: a highlight of the most popular items from previous years, in an environment that might look a little different, but still has a great atmosphere.
The other Epcot Festivals include the Epcot Festival of the Arts, Epcot Flower and Garden Festival, and the Epcot Festival of the Holidays