The Epcot Food and Wine Festival kicks off on Sept. 28. (Photo by Michael Freeman).
LAKE BUENA VISTA – It remains one of the signature events of the fall tourism season, a celebration of food, music and special entertainment – Disney-style.
The Epcot International Food and Wine Festival kicks off on Friday, Sept. 28, and the special event built around international foods and a concert series is now entering its 17th year.
As expected, Disney is once again promising to surprise even those veterans of this event, who have been going to it for years.
“After 17 years, you might think that there are no new culinary horizons to conquer,” Disney Insider noted as it announced the event. But in its 17th year, Disney notes, “things are only getting more exciting — and more delicious!”
At a time when the tourism industry in Central Florida is on the rebound and is the leading the region in new job growth – “Now Hiring – Click Here to Apply Today” Walt Disney World has posted on numerous Web sites – the Food and Wine Festival has been a top draw in this region for years.
The Food and Wine Festival is held in Epcot’s World Showcase, where international chefs set up booths that sell specialty meals from across the globe, as well as the popular Dessert & Champagne booth, while Disney also has booked special cooking sessions featuring well known chefs.
This year, visitors can go behind the scenes with Chef-Led VIP Access Tours. This is an addition to the Food and Wine Festival, which allows small groups of guests to meet with a featured chef for a tour of the World Showcase Marketplaces – and with it, an introduction to the meals that are on display there.
“Guests will learn, listen, and nibble their way through a unique experience with a Disney flair,” Disney Insider notes.
The tours will happen on Wednesday mornings from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
There will also be celebrity chefs at the festival, including Andrew Zimmern of The Food Network’s “Weird Food” and Buddy Valastro, host of “Cake Boss.”
The Party for the Senses will be kicking the festival, and a chocolate extravaganza called From Bean to the Bar – Hosted by Ghiarardelli Chocolate Company will be available to provide guests with samples of their products.
Also returning is wine sampling at the Festival Center Wine Shop.
This year, the festival is adding to that line-up, as Epcot shifts from the international to the local.
“Local foods and flavors have become a hot trend, and there’s an easy way to give it a try,” Disney notes, which is why the theme park has added a Florida Local Marketplace featuring meals that have their origins in the Sunshine State, such as Cuban arepas and seafood dishes like shellfish and shrimp ceviche.
For vegetarians, there’s something new as well: TERRA Vegan Marketplace, featuring foods made without animal products.
The festival runs through Nov. 12, and in addition to the food there will be plenty of live music over those 46 days.
The festival’s Eat to the Beat Concert Series features evening performances in concerts that are free with admission to Epcot. There are 18 acts scheduled to take part this year, including Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Blues Traveler, Smash Mouth, Night Ranger, and the Pointer Sisters.
And as a reminder that this is also a garden festival, there will be Disney figures prominently trimmed into the landscaping, and a real watermelon patch where melons are growing.

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