Thrifty Thursday: Eating Through Epcot’s Festivals

We just returned from visiting Walt Disney World and as always, experiencing Disney during the Holiday Season is just truly a magical way to celebrate! One of the things we spent quite a bit of time doing, was exploring the Epcot International Festival of the Holidays. This yearly event is a wonderful way to learn how many countries – and cultures – experience Christmas, New Years, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and other winter holidays. Through decorations, entertainment, storytelling, and yes food, it’s festive, fun, and frankly delicious. It’s this last part – eating your way around the World – that I want to chat about today.

Chances are, unless you are visiting during the height of the summer season, you are going to experience some kind of festival at Epcot, because Disney has discovered that festivals (as in, eating) are really, really popular.

Originally, there was the Food and Wine Festival held each fall: while in the beginning it was held for a few weeks in October and November, it has progressively grown each year, due to it’s HUGE popularity. This past year was the longest, from late August until mid November and featured the most food booths. As Disney saw how much people LOVE to eat, several years ago, they added a few food booths (called “outdoor kitchens”) to the Flower and Garden Festival each spring, and guess what? The food was a big hit, so each year more food booths have been added to this festival. Then a couple of years ago, again realizing how much people love to eat, a few dessert food marketplaces were added to the Holiday festival, and of course, they were also popular so this year there were a total of 15 food marketplaces (and not just dessert this year), where you could eat (and drink) all sorts of international holiday goodies. Yes, a big hit! Finally last year, Disney debuted the International Festival of the Arts in January and February, which celebrates the arts – including the culinary arts. More food obviously. 🙂

So looking at the calendar, you basically can experience all sorts of Epcot deliciousness, in some fashion, pretty much from late August running almost non-stop until late May. It’s awesome to be sure, but what does that mean for your wallet (and waistline)? As all these little food options cost money, won’t it get super expensive in a hurry?

Happily, there is a fairly easy way to navigate your way around the World, try tons of new food options, and not bust your budget or your diet (well, sort of on that last part).

Share my friends.

It’s really that simple. No matter which festival you attend, the strategy is the same: this is a marathon and not a sprint. If you start at the first food booth and load up on every available food option (to say nothing of the drink), you are going to spend a LOT of money in a hurry, and end up super full pretty fast. Instead, my husband and I alternated choosing ONE dish at each booth, got two forks, and split each dish so we could both sample it. Yes, it’s just a couple of bites this way before you move on, but hey, there’s more food choices to discover! We worked our way around the world this way, doing half of World Showcase on one day and then the other half the next. We planned our eating excursions for our lunch each day and by sharing many small options, we were able to sample far more things, and spent roughly  about what we would have spent on a couple of quick service meals (excluding any drinks of course). But honestly, we had way more fun doing this!

One thing to note is that while we didn’t have the Disney Dining Plan on this trip, if you do, most of the food items at the festivals are considered snack credits on the Dining Plan – which is a GREAT value for those dining plan credits.

Of course, there are so many other things to experience at Epcot’s various festivals, but there is no doubt about it that food is a highlight at them all! As they say, at Disney, food IS a theme park too! 🙂

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2 Responses to Thrifty Thursday: Eating Through Epcot’s Festivals

  1. Shepard C Willner says:

    Sharing is a nice idea for trying out the foods at these festivals, but what if you’re a solo traveler and have nobody to share the joy of new food discoveries with? I mean, do I pull aside a stranger and ask him or her to come along to make these discoveries? Anyway, I want to try out new things to eat, and if any of these festivals happen during late May when I visit Epcot, I’ll definitely give this experience a try. If not, because I’ll have my Disney Dining Plan, I’ll be able to eat my share of funnel cake, popcorn, beer, turkey legs, Mickey ice cream bars, etc.? Happy eating, and Happy New Year!

    • Nancy says:

      I have visited the Festivals as a “single” a number of times and have totally enjoyed sampling the food! While I couldn’t share (and so filled up a lot faster lol) I very happily managed to eat my way around the World Showcase….or at least most of it. 🙂

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