Food, Wine, and Mickey - Oh My!
When someone says "Mickey Mouse," I bet wine is not the first thing that springs to mind. However, if it's between late September and early November, that's exactly what I think of. That's because Epcot's Food & Wine Festival is held every year during that time. The Food & Wine Festival, for the uninitiated, is an annual event that celebrates diverse food and drink from around the world Set in Epcot's World Showcase, guests can visit over 30 booths representing different countries and purchase small samples of food, wines, cocktails, or beer. (Of course, there are non-alcoholic offerings too.)
Even though we had just visited Disney in August, it was really necessary that we visit again this October. After all, it was the 20th anniversary of the Food and Wine Festival. And it was Halloween, and therefore time for Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party. And, well...just because we hadn't been there in two months. So decision #1 was made to go for a long weekend, Friday through Monday. Decision #2: Where to stay? We orginally wanted to stay at a Boardwalk area resort so we could easily walk into the back entrance of World Showcase, but there was nothing available for our dates on short notice. We opted instead for Disney's Polynesian Village, and since we were planning on getting tickets for Mickey's Not Scary Halloween Party (MNSSHP) held at the Magic Kingdom, a resort right on the monoral would be very convenient. We figured on two days at Food and Wine and one night at Magic Kingdom for MNSSHP. We ended up changing our arrival date to Thursday so we could have a full day at F&W on Friday. For Thursday night we chose to stay at the Art of Animation in the Little Mermaid Building, which is the only non-suite building - Cars, Nemo, and Lion King are all suite buildings.
love our photobomber!
Our flight was uneventful and on time, and we touched down in warm, humid Florida early afternoon. We waited about a half hour for our Magical Express bus to whisk us away to the Art of Animation, and while we were waiting I got a text that our room was ready. I had completed on-line check-in from home, so once we arrived at the resort we were able bypass the check-in lines and go right to our room. Love this feature!
Our room was about as far as it could be from Animation Hall, which is where you arrive. The theming is really done well, however, and there was lots to check out on the way.
Timon, Pumba, and Simba watching over us as we pass.
Oh, hey Ursula!
After our bags were delivered [I ignored my own advice that I give clients - if you use the bag service with Magical Expres and don't retrieve your luggage yourself at the airport, your bags can take up to 5 hours to be delived in your room. So if there's something you'll need upon arrival, pack it in your carry-on.] and my grandson was dressed in his Halloween costume, we were ready for the Magic Kingdom. Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party is a hard ticket event, which runs on select nights from late September to Halloween or a day or two after, depending on when Halloween falls. Halloween night usually sells out, as do the days right before it, so if you want to attend on Halloween or right before, grab your tickets as soon as they go on sale.
The Magic Kingdom was looking especially Halloween-y...Halloween-ish?? Whatever - it looked cool.
There were trick-or-treat stations set up throughout the park as well as special Halloween-themed events - dance parties, the Boo To You parade led by the Headless Horseman, and the HallowWishes fireworks display. We left about midnight thoroughly exhausted but with quite a stash!
cavities in the making
Friday morning we checked out of Art of Animation, left our bags with Bell Services to have them transferred to the Polynesian Village, and headed over to Epcot for the main purpose of our trip - the Food and Wine Festival! It wasn't too crowded yet (the crowds would materialize later that night and the next day), so we were able to move about pretty easily and check out the pavilions. Our first stop was the Festival Center in Future World, where there were wine and food seminars, shopping for festival branded items, and special chef events and culinary demonstrations. The first thing on our agenda was to load a nifty wearable gift card, which made it so much easier than pulling out cash at every pavilion. Just order, scan, and enjoy!
We stopped at the Scotland pavilion first and tried the Seared Sea Scallop with Spinach-Cheddar Gratin and Crispy Bacon - a long name for something that could just be called "YUM."
We made it about halfway around World Showcase with stops at Hawai'i, France, Italy, and Poland when we decided to head over the Polynesian to check out our room and cool off. We were in a new studio villa, which was crisp, fresh, and still had that "new room" smell.
The Polynesian Village is a favorite of mine, and it didn't disappoint this stay. The grounds are well-kept and the resort oozes relaxation. The sunset across Seven Seas Lagoon is gorgeous, and if you hang out for a bit you can catch the fireworks from Magic Kingdom a little later.
The overwater bungalows look really cool - I need to stay in one of these!
We managed to tear ourselves away and headed back to Epcot. It was decidedly more crowded than earlier in the day. This was no surprise and we knew it would be crowded, as a lot of local Florida residents visit on the weekends. We sampled so many fantastic items that being shoulder-to-shoulder with new friends we hadn't yet met didn't even matter. Some of our favorites included the Schinkennudeln from Germany (a pasta gratin with ham and cheese - tough to pronounce but sooo worth stumbling over the pronounciation to order it), Ravioli alla Caprese from Italy coupled with a glass of chianti and a frozen margarita with limoncello and tequila, the Cheddar Cheese Soup and the Tawse Vineyard Cabernet Franc from Canada, the Boeuf Bourguignon and La Passion Martini Slush with Grey Goose Le Citron vodka from France, and a very tasty Kalua Pork Slider with sweet and sour pineapple chutney and spicy mayonnaise from Hawaii. We threw in the towel soon thereafter and waddled our way back to the Polynesian.
photo courtesy of DisneyFoodBlog.com (My slider looked so good that I just dove in and forgot to take a pic.)
If at all possible, it was even more crowded on Saturday. Again, we expected this because F&W is such a big local draw, and the weather was picture perfect this weekend. Even with the crowds though, guests and cast members alike were friendly and pleasant. We started our morning off with a croissant donut and a dragon berry refresher complete with dragon berry rum (I'm sure it was at least close to 5:00 somewhere), and continued to eat and drink our way around World Showcase.
We did also manage to squeeze in a few rides on Soarin' over in Future World. Soarin' will be down for refurbishment for the first half of 2016, so it was nice to get one last glide over California before it becomes Soarin' Around the World.
We only visited Epcot the two days and spent Sunday lounging around the pool at the Polynesian. The weather was gorgeous, and the recently refurbished volcano pool has lots of available loungers so we had no trouble staking out a spot.
Our long weekend didn't seem all that long, and Monday came too quickly. Sadly, we hadn't experienced all that Food and Wine had to offer. We missed the Craft Beer Center, the Cheese Studio, the Wine Studio, and a quite few of the pavilions. Next year (yep, already thinking about next year's visit), I think we'll do three days at F&W instead of two, and definitely plan on visiting on weekdays versus over the weekend to combat the crowds a bit. It's also a lot of food to eat in just one or two days, so it will be nice to pace overselves over a period of a few days.
Too soon we were back in Philadelphia, trudging through the chilly airport parking lot to our car. I tried squinting while I looked at the payment booth on the way out, but it still didn't look like the Hawai'i pavilion in Epcot, and the person collecting the parking fee sure didn't tell me to have a magical day. That's okay though; we've already got next year's trip planned out for the real deal.