If there's one thing I've learned in nearly 3 years of running this little travel blog, it's that the story I think a destination will yield is often very different from the one that presents itself. This post was set to be a run of the mill review of the 2012 Epcot Food and Wine Festival, however my observations and experiences this weekend exposed the need to write a very different story...
|I look forward to this photo all year...|
This is our sixth consecutive year attending Food & Wine, so I'd like to think that makes me something of an expert. The same two weekends are marked on the calender every year, and we start looking forward to this Fall tradition sometime around July 4th. MJ and I just returned from the opening weekend of this year's Festival, and despite my professional status in all things Food & Wine, for many reasons this was easily our most challenging trip to date.
|Don't let the pretty sky fool you...it was 92 degrees...|
I knew we were in trouble before we passed through the turnstiles at Epcot. For the last day in September, the Florida sun sure felt like the middle of summer, and we had a long day ahead of us. Shade was a rare commodity. Beer was passed over in favor of water. Survival was the order of the day, but as I surveyed the enormous crowd from my patch of overcast real estate, it was clear there were many in far worse condition. At that exact moment, this post went from being a general review, to a survival guide for the Epcot Food & Wine Festival.
Think Mo Farah...Not Usain Bolt
The single most important piece of advice I can give those attending Food & Wine - especially first timers - is to approach the Festival like a 10K, not a 100 meter dash. There are 29 booths at this year's Festival, in addition to the usual offerings at the 11 permanent "countries" of Epcot's World Showcase. It is easy in all the excitement to hit the ground running with a visit to eight kiosks in under an hour, but I guarantee this will come back to haunt you. Take it slow. Skip a booth and come back later. Otherwise, there definitely won't be a "later."
|The new Florida booth|
Find The A/C
For those unaccustomed to our heat, travel to Florida can be a challenge especially in the early days of the Festival when summer is still lingering around. So I suggest you work in some quality time indoors. Stroll through the shops of the UK or Japan, take a listen to the Voices of Liberty, or best of all, book a wine tasting at the Festival Center. Whatever you do, just get inside before the sun eventually has her way with you.
|Happenin' crowd at the wine tasting.|
Water Is Your Friend
Yes, I'm well aware it is the Food and Wine Festival, but if H2O isn't a big part of your day, then it will surely end in failure. Chase each beer or wine with a bottle of Dasani, and you just might complete your trip around the world. Restrooms are conveniently located in roughly every other country.
|If you want to see the sunset, I suggest you stick to the 6 oz.|
The most effective strategy I've discovered for surviving Food & Wine is to schedule a rest break in the middle of the day. My usual itinerary...
- 11am-3pm - Hit the booths hard.
- 3pm-6pm - Dip in the hotel pool followed by a nap.
- 6pm-Park Close - Back to Epcot for round #2.
|A new favorite...the Ceviche in Florida.|
Don't Be A Hero
Remember when I mentioned there's 29 booths? Unless you're a member of one of the Frat groups on an outing to the Festival, and stand to lose a bet that involves cleaning puke out of the house fish tank, I wouldn't try it. Sure, you'll have God-like status with us Food & Wine buffs, but the glory is temporary. Pick up a passport, check off the 11 permanent countries, and call it a day.
|I'd also suggest sharing beer flights...|
"Skip Mexico Or You'll Be Screwed" ~MJ
I can hear the howls of protest from my fellow Festival lovers already, but the truth is that Mexico is where Food & Wine dreams go to die. The problem is one of location and product. Those who make the World Showcase loop in a clockwise fashion will come to Mexico first. Full of energy and excitement for the awesome day ahead, they'll boastfully march into the pavilion and order a flight of tequila shots. A few hours later, you'll wonder if they've been conquered by Cortez himself. Seriously, when does anything good ever come from doing tequila shots?
|The beginning, and for many, the end...|
In over half a decade of experience, some of these tips were learned the hard way, while the rest were picked up through simple observation of the misfortune of others. The Epcot Food & Wine Festival is not for those that lack courage, willpower, and stamina, but with the right strategy, even the weakest of challengers can survive its onslaught. Ditch the urine evaporation kit in favor of this guide, and you too could conquer the world.
Enjoy Your Stay