It's Epcot festival season! Don't get caught slipping out there at the World Showcase. Follow these 5 simple steps for an unforgettable experience.
Ahh, Epcot. My favorite park at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida. We are well into Food and Wine Festival time(which happens to be my favorite festival), and so I thought it would be appropriate to share a few tips that I utilize to get the most out of festival season. These tips can be used for ALL of the Epcot festivals, so bookmark this post so that you can whip it out at future Epcot festivals, you Disney wizard, you.
"Magic and pixie dust is cute and all, but the real power is in having a plan in place."
Nothing grinds my gears more than seeing a family, clearly on a vacation that they have been waiting for an extended period of time to come on, bumbling haphazardly through the parks. Here they are, thousands of dollars in, hours of travel completed, tired kids dragging, but yet, they haven't accomplished any of the things they saw in the brochure. Why? Because they didn't plan. Magic and pixie dust is cute and all, but the real power in in having a plan in place. Mix in the elevated crowds during an Epcot festival, and you have the makings of a Level A Disney breakdown. And nobody wants that. I don't want that for them! What that unwitting family of four from midwestern suburbia should have done, was read this post. Here are my Top Five Epcot Festival Tips to save your sanity, and your coins and your edges and your credit etc etc. Top Five Top Five Top Five
I've derived a totally unique and never before heard acronym for you to remember the tips. Really, I think I should trademark it before someone else goes off and names a whole theme park or something after this. The acronym is EPCOT. EPCOT stands for:
Pay with Gift cards
Only Get One
Tip #1- Early Arrival
The World Showcase opens at 11 AM, and that is the time that I would highly suggest that you are in position to enter the showcase and begin your festival frolic. 11AM is the "rope drop" for the Showcase, and therefore, a lot of the same conventional rope drop wisdom rings true here too. The first hour or so is going to be the emptiest, and therefore, you will be able to experience the Showcase without huge crowds.
This tip is beneficial for three reasons: 1. You can move through the festival quicker due to the lack of lines. 2. The food will be fresh and piping hot because the cast members will be fresh (pun intended). 3. Pictures without a bunch of people milling about in the background, score!
Tip #2- Pay with Giftcards
The Festivals offer themed, reusable gift cards that can be loaded with a pre-set amount of money. These gift cards are beneficial for two reasons and I would highly suggesting utilizing them to make your trip around the World Showcase smoother.
Reason 1 is that by using the gift card, you can set a limit on how much you intend to spend. This is absolutely key when it comes to budgeting because trust me, it is super easy to get carried away at the food booths. Reason 2 is that the gift cards come on elastic wristbands so that your funds are easily accessible. It is SUPER annoying having to reach in and out of a bag or wallet to find your cash or card when it comes time to pay at a food booth. The gift card eliminates this and makes for truly painless paying! Bonus: The gift cards are always super cute and make for great little souvenirs from your time at the Festival.
Tip #3- Circumvent the crowds
This tip really goes hand in hand with Tip #1 Early Arrival, but it can be achieved in some capacity without arriving early. For maximum results though, getting to the World Showcase at 11 AM "rope drop" is the best way to maximize this tip. In order to circumvent the crowds, you have to move in a way that the average bear is not-time to go against the grain and off of the beaten path.There are two ways to do this:
1. At 11AM rope drop when the World Showcase opens, hop onto the water taxi that is located directly across from the entrance. This ferry offers direct service from the entrance to the Morocco pavilion. The average bear is entering the Showcase and either going right to Canada or left to Mexico, meaning that you'll have the entire back country area free from crowds for some time!
2. Take the water ferry from the Hollywood Studios entrance to Epcot(or you can walk the path if you're trying to get your steps in). Make sure you time it so that you're arriving at 11AM rope drop. In my experience, this journey averages about 30 min. This route brings you to the back entrance of Epcot called the International Gateway. This entrance is right between the United Kingdom and France pavilions. This is another way to get a head start on the crowds!
Tip #4- Only get one
Ladies and gentleman, repeat after me: "A Festival is for tasting, not for feasting!" The entire point of the small plate sizes at the Festival is so that one can get a taste, and move on to the next dish. The idea here is to get to taste as many dishes as you can. However, if you get full off of one country or spend all of your budget getting four of the same dish, you are defeating the purpose of the Festival.
I always shake my head when I see a family of four all order the same dish from one booth. Now little Jimmy is throwing out a whole plate of shrimp because he was too full to finish it or everyone thinks the dish is gross and now four full plates hit the trash. Barring allergies, or food aversions, this just simply isn't smart. Now you're sitting here with four identical plates, when you could have had one of each dish offered from that booth. The key is to SHARE. Yes, like they teach you in grade school, sharing is caring. Everyone can taste each dish, and if there is something that you don't like, you just throw out one instead of throwing out four. If there is a fan favorite, go back and order additional if you're so inclined.
Tip #5- Take water
This is an important tip! Florida weather is no joke, and no matter what time of year you plan on visiting, it is imperative that you stay hydrated. Plus, walking around the World Showcase is the theme park equivalent of running a marathon. So please, do not get caught without water. You can bring your own water bottle, which can be filled at most quick service restaurants or you can buy the water in the park. Water is super expensive, so I would highly suggest having your own water bottle(s) on deck.
Although it adds extra weight to my bag, I usually freeze several water bottles overnight and pack them. In the Florida heat, they defrost throughout the day, and now I have ice cold water for a fraction of the price.
For the festivals, having your own water is super convenient when traveling the World Showcase. Plus, you'll be sampling foods from all over the world, and it is not uncommon to come across a dish that you do not agree with. I am super sensitive to spices, and so I always have water on deck to wash down a wild pepper flake that tries to take me out. Admittedly, I have also eaten dishes at the Festival that I do not like-again, water is key to wash down the taste.
6. If you want to purchase Festival merchandise, wait until the Festival is about to end(if this works in your travel plans). All of the merchandise goes on super sale. I got a pair of Flower and Garden Festival ears for half price when I went during the final week of the Flower and Garden Festival.
7. If you're a pass holder, don't forget your magnets. Usually, there are two different magnets per festival, each offered during a different time frame. They are available in Mouse Gears by showing your annual pass and your Photo I.D. If you're not a local and can only get down to visit once during a festival, try to go during the "changeover days", as I like to call them. This way, you can grab both magnets during one visit. For example, if the Mickey Magnet is available from September 3-October 14 and the Minnie Magnet is available from October 15-November 8, visit around the October 13-16 mark to snag both!
Those are my Epcot Festival Tips to save your sanity! Stay tuned for future tips posts for other Disney parks and events. I hope that these tips prove to be helpful. Let me know if you have any questions or if you have some of your own Epcot tips to share in the comments.
Stay Dope, Stay Magic,