Get All Your Questions Answered About Disney Safety and Taste of Epcot Food and Wine Festival To Plan Your Epic Visit
If you’re considering a visit to EPCOT to check out the reimagined Taste of EPCOT International Food and Wine Festival, I got the inside scoop for you. From all the safety guidelines to tips to best plan your day, to the Must Eat, Drink, See and Do you don’t want to miss. Get ready because there’s a lot to unpack here!
Disney invited me and other Disney Creators to check out the Taste of EPCOT and new Disney safety procedures. It was such a surprising experience, I returned on my own to further explore. All opinions shared are my own. As always, I only share experiences I love to inspire you to go #MakeSomedayHappen one delicious bite, sip and trip at a time!
As a Disney Annual Passholder, I haven’t missed a year at EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival since it began 25 years ago. It’s my favorite! But of course, I was apprehensive about safety and being in a “crowded” theme park since Covid-19 numbers are still a concern. Would I feel safe? Would I enjoy the new park experience?
As an Orlando local in a town dependent on tourism, I also feel it’s important to help share how to enjoy our hotels, restaurants and theme parks safely. While we follow safety precautions recommended by the CDC, life must resume in this “new normal.” What better place to do this than the happiest place on earth?
I hope you’ll find this guide useful to determine if a visit to EPCOT is right for you. If it isn’t at this time, save this post for later when you’re ready to go #MakeSomedayHappen
How Was Your Day at Taste of EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival?
The day was full of surprises! Some were joyful and heartwarming, some a bit sad and some even magical! Yes, believe it or not there’s still magic moments to be had at Disney amidst this pandemic.
We’re not traveling the world these days, so a visit to EPCOT helped us spend an afternoon dreaming of travel by eating and drinking our way around The World Showcase.
The most surprising outcome of my visits was… I couldn’t wait to go back!
With low guest attendance and minimal to no wait in lines, there may never be a better time to visit! But, you must go prepared. Unlike previous years, in 2020 planning ahead is key. And then, be ready to go with the flow to get the most out of your visit!
What is Taste of EPCOT International Food and Wine Festival?
Taste of EPCOT International Food and Wine Festival is a hybrid of EPCOT’s most popular festivals, combining a sprinkling of elements of this spring’s Flower and Garden Festival which was cut short by the pandemic closure and the fall’s Food and Wine Festival.
It’s the first time Disney runs a festival during summer. Obviously 2020 is a unique year. It’s also the longest festival. It began on July 15 and will run thru fall. The end date has not been disclosed yet.
Let your taste buds travel around the world – 6 continents to be exact – with 20 festival exclusive marketplaces. Most located around World Showcase.
Some marketplaces will open later in the year. We saw Spain, The Alps and The Donut Box with “coming soon” signs.
If you love F&G topiaries, you’ll find Remy from Ratatouille in France and Bambi and friends near Mouse Gear.
You’ll still find plenty of tasty bites from around the world paired with wine, beer and cocktails. This festival is bringing back lots of favorites from both festivals.
Do you need a reservation to visit EPCOT?
Yes! This is a new procedure which requires advance planning. In order to control capacity, you and all members of your party will need to do a few things before you visit any Disney theme park at this time.
1/ Make a reservation for select date(s) via the new Disney Park Pass System. Reservations are limited to one park per day at this time.
2/ Set up your “My Disney Experience” account. It’s free.
3/ Purchase and link your valid theme park admission to your account.
Did you feel safe at EPCOT?
This is the question I’ve received the most. And the answer is YES. I felt as safe as I could feel being outside my house.
Home is the safest place to be. But at the risk of becoming a hermit, we need to venture out while taking every precaution. Many of us felt safer at Disney than we’ve felt shopping in any grocery store during this pandemic.
Is it safe to visit EPCOT right now?
From the moment we arrived in the parking lot until the moment we waved goodbye to the cast members at the gate, Disney has thoughtfully implemented a number of measures to ensure social distancing, health and safety.
It is as safe as it can be, as long as everyone follows the guidelines in place. Disney can only ensure a safe environment. We must take responsibility for doing our part.
How were the crowds? Was it difficult to social distance?
Theme parks and crowds have always gone hand in hand. But that is far from the case now. To ensure social distancing can be properly practiced, Disney has drastically reduced capacity. The park was at such reduced attendance that in many cases our group of 4 were the only ones in any particular area.
There were no crowds at all!
Imagine being able to take a photo anywhere in the park without having people around! That is something that would only happen during special ticketed events.
What is the new attendance capacity at EPCOT?
Disney has not disclosed this and I’m certain those numbers will change. Keep in mind weekends will be busier with locals and annual passholders. Attendance was higher on Friday compared to Monday, but still both days were quite reduced and felt very manageable.
What safety measures did you see in place at EPCOT?
Some of the most important safety measures we witnessed:
Parking: vehicles were directed to skip every other parking space.
Temperature checks are conducted at the entrance in partnership with AdventHealth. As you enter, the friendly attendant greets you with a laser thermometer to your forehead and ear and that’s it!
Contactless bag checks as every guest goes thru an airport style metal detector at the entrance. Pack light and be ready to remove all metal objects from your bag and place in a bin.
Turnstyle Entrance scanners no longer require your fingerprint ID. You simply scan your card or magic band.
Face coverings are required at all times for all cast members and guests 2 and older, except when stationary while eating or drinking. This is heavily enforced.
Hand washing stations and hand sanitizer stands were found everywhere. You can even search for them on the Disney App.
Social distancing markers were placed everywhere you could possibly have a queue. The reduced capacity meant very few if any lines! It was also very easy to avoid other guests as there was so much room to move.
Physical barriers have been installed at cash registers and in other areas where physical distancing may be difficult.
Cashless payment system is set up to minimize contact although you are still able to pay with a credit card if needed.
Signage is everywhere! Plus recorded messages are played throughout the day reminding us to follow health and safety precautions.
The Disney app “My Disney Experience” allows you to explore digital menus, and even place mobile orders for some restaurants. This eliminates the need for guests to crowd around the menu boards.
Cast members were following new protocols faithfully. We observed frequent cleaning of tables after each guest use and high traffic areas.
Trash cans have been adjusted and propped open so that you can dispose of trash without touching it.
Seating areas and tables have been blocked off when they can’t be socially distanced.
How strict is Disney with safety measures?
As per Disney website, “based on guidance from health authorities, anyone displaying a temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or above will be directed to an additional location for re-screening and assistance. Those with temperatures of 100.4 degrees or above will not be allowed entry; those in their party will not be allowed entry, either.”
Face coverings must be worn at all times and they must cover your nose and mouth. Cast members will warn guests who are not in compliance or not wearing their mask appropriately (such as under the chin). Any guests who have an issue will be escorted out of the park. We did not witness anyone being unruly or making a big deal of wearing masks. But best not to risk an unpleasant moment and comply accordingly.
How did it feel wearing a mask all day at EPCOT? Did wearing a mask impact your enjoyment at Disney?
It was hot when I visited (temps in the high 90’s, felt like 100+!) so I won’t lie and say it was a breeze (pun intended!) However, I was surprised at how little it bothered me to be wearing a mask outdoors. For one, I didn’t have to worry about reapplying makeup and sunscreen. LOL!
The key is to wear a comfortable mask. Not all masks are created equal. Look for ones made of a soft fabric with straps that fit snugly but not so tight that they pull on your head or ears.
Disney has themed masks for purchase. You may find one at the Disney Mouse Gear that matches your outfit!
My friend Rachelle from @thetravelbite had a great tip: “Bring a spare mask and have a “wardrobe change” half way through the day to freshen up.”
Where are you allowed to remove your mask?
Disney will allow guests to take off their masks while dining and in “relaxation zones” found throughout the park. We took plenty of breaks to drink water and sip fun libations as one does during any EPCOT festival. But remember, you must remain stationary while eating and drinking so no strolling allowed without your mask on.
We saw cast members cleaning tables constantly which was added reassurance. With tables found everywhere, there’s no longer a need to eat over a trash can (EPCOT fans know what I’m talking about!)
PRO TIP: pack some travel size cleaning wipes if you want to be extra cautious and clean your table.
Are you able to interact with Disney Characters?
To accommodate physical distancing, character greetings are currently suspended. No hugs or autographs allowed, however, we enjoyed a magical moment seeing Mary Poppins in the courtyard of the UK with no one else around.
Selfies and photos from an acceptable distance are allowed. It was supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!
With all the changes, did you still feel the Disney magic?
Although some experiences are temporarily paused, including parades, character meet and greets and the nighttime spectacular fireworks shows, we still felt the magic of being at Disney.
We enjoyed the new special cavalcades along the promenade and World Showcase. We got to wave to Mickey and Mickey in their new vintage travel car!
Disney Princesses surprised us throughout the day, waving from their royal carriages. With so few guests in the park, we were able to see without obstruction and take plenty of videos and photos.
How were the rides? Were you able to social distance while in line?
Going on rides was a concern. While it’s easy to social distance and avoid touching surfaces when outside in the vast open space around the park, on rides it’s a bit trickier. But Disney has instituted new procedures with health and safety in mind to make Disney’s thrill rides as enjoyable as always.
Due to reduced park capacity at EPCOT, wait time for rides was minimal. Spaceship Earth (which is still open despite earlier plans to close for refurbishment), Soarin’ and Test Track were all less than 10 minutes. In fact, the “wait time” listed in most of these was the amount of time it took to walk thru the empty queue to get on the ride itself. Wait times will vary based on time of day.
The longest line I saw for rides was for the Frozen ride in Norway. But everyone was standing properly apart.
Distance markers were seen on the ground of every ride to keep your group separate from others. We were separated on the rides from other groups. Whether having the entire row to ourselves on Soarin’ or the car on Test Track.
On some rides, like Test Track, new plexiglass barriers were installed where lines wind around side by side.
As you can’t avoid touching surfaces on the rides (seat belts, lap bars, etc.), at the exit for every ride we found several hand sanitizer stations and used them profusely.
It’s 2020, so what were the less than magical aspects of the day?
While I found plenty to feel good about at EPCOT, it is 2020 after all. So no, not all of my visit was magical. I was happy the park was empty because it made me feel safe. But this was bittersweet as it also made me sad. While it’s great for an Instagram worthy photo shoot, seeing the park so empty reminded me of all the employees that have not returned to work due to the reduced attendance.
The “life” and “energy” of the park was certainly less ebullient. I look forward to the day when the parks are back 100%. For now, I’m grateful to be able to enjoy some Disney fun. And to enjoy my favorite “La Vie en Rose” slushy in France.
How did you beat the heat at EPCOT?
Not going to lie, this was the ugly part of the day. Dealing with temperatures that felt like 100F+ is not fun! Not much Disney can do about this. So we took breaks in the shade often, enjoyed frozen treats and drinks. And we popped into air conditioned shops every chance we could.
Key word of advice: Drink plenty of water. We discovered a water fountain and water bottle filling station by the new restrooms near Starbucks so bring your refillable water bottle.
What is different at Taste of EPCOT this year?
Sadly special events are not taking place this year. “Eat To The Beat” concerts with popular artists in America Gardens Theater, Party for the Senses, wine seminars, celebrity chef demos and special dining experiences like my favorite French Family Meal Traditions brunch are all missing from the calendar.
Popular beer and wine flights are missing from marketplace menus. And I will also miss the fun festival passport. But we do have a new digital Festival Guidebook available on the My Disney Experience mobile app which is easy to use. The festival menus and offerings are subject to change so keep checking the app.
Are there any indoor marketplaces this year?
Several marketplaces are located indoors, in the World Showplace Pavilion, where Party for the Senses is typically held. The expansive area is air conditioned and offers socially distanced tables.
Here you’ll find Mac & Cheese, Appleseed Orchard, Wine & Dine Festival Favorites and Desserts & Champagne marketplaces.
Enjoy the live piano music too!
What are your favorite “Must Eat” dishes of Taste of EPCOT International Food and Wine Festival?
Lots of favorite eats from festivals past returning this year. Plus a few new reimagined ones. Here’s some of what we sampled during these visits as well as some favorite #MustEats from prior visits you don’t want to miss.
France Must Eats:
France is always on my list of favorites! Don’t miss the Tarte aux Oignons Caramelises et Chévre (Goat Cheese Tart with Caramelized Onions on a Flaky Pastry Crust), Canard Confit à l’Orange (Braised Duck Confit à l’Orang) and the Tarte Tropezienne Coulis Framboise (Brioche Cake filled with Light Pastry Cream and Raspberry Coulis). Pair it all with the refreshing La Vie en Rose slushy (listed below in my Must Drink). You’ll be saying ooh-la-la!
Brazil Must Eats:
Located between France and Morocco, don’t miss the Brazil Marketplace. Crispy Pork Belly with Black Beans, Tomato and Onions and Pão de Queijo Brazilian Cheese Bread have been favorites for years!
Morocco Must Eats:
The tasty bites at Morocco Festival Marketplace are loaded with flavor. The inventive Spicy Hummus Fries topped with cucumber, tomatoes, onions, tzatziki, & chipotle sauce pack a good amount of spice.
Beef Kefta Pocket with caramelized onions, garlic & spicy tomato concassée in a pita is hearty and filling.
Baklava to the next level! Chocolate Baklava with toasted almonds. YUM!
Japan Must Eats:
The dishes here are all hearty and filling. We loved the Tempura Donburi with Tempura Shrimp and Kakiage (Vegetable Tempura) with Tentsuyu Dipping Sauce served over Sushi Rice. However, this menu item was replaced with the equally popular chicken steamed bun.
The Frothy Ramen of Chilled Noodles and Dashi Broth topped with Egg White Froth is a fun returning favorite.
Chirashi Sushi Flowerpot with fresh-cut Salmon, Salmon Roe, and Spinach served over Sushi Rice with Furikake and topped with Poke Sauce is whimsically and flavorful.
Hops & Barley Must Eats:
You’ll find the Hops & Barley Marketplace at The American Adventure Pavilion. Introduced for Flower & Garden Festival, the Southern Seafood Boil with shrimp, mussels, crawfish, potatoes, corn, and andouille sausage was full of flavor when I sampled it at the media tasting.
Freshly Baked Carrot Cake and cream cheese icing is always a favorite.
Italy Must Eats:
For a sweet bite in Italy, get the Cannoli Siciliani, crisp pastry filled with sweet ricotta, dipped in chocolate and candied orange.
Germany Must Eats:
If you’re looking for another filling dish, the Schinkennudeln Pasta Gratin with Ham, Onions, and Cheese is a favorite for all ages. I love the Apple Strudel with Vanilla Sauce paired with a sweet Riesling.
Africa Must Eats:
The Piri Piri Skewered Shrimp with Citrus-Scented Couscous was full of flavor and spice. Perfect to eat while watching the sunset over the World Showcase lagoon.
Mexico Must Eats:
EPCOT fans, do you start or end in Mexico? That’s always been one of my favorites and often one of the busiest spots. Which is no surprise; Who doesn’t love tacos and margaritas?!
The Ribeye Steak Taco with Ranchera Salsa and the Pork Tostada with Chipotle Black Beans, Roasted Pork, and Fresh Salsa Verde were winners!
“Earth Eats” Must Eats:
Plant Based Surprising Dish of the festival: The Impossible™ Burger Slider with Wasabi Cream and spicy Asian Slaw on a Sesame Seed Bun found in “Earth Eats” Hosted by Impossible™ located near Mexico. It’s a returning favorite for a reason: non meat and meat eaters alike all love it!
The healthiest dessert of Taste of EPCOT is the Chocolate Pudding Terrarium with Avocado Cream, Matcha Crumble, and Baby Herbs. It’s also plant based.
Hawai’i Must Eats:
I was happy to see the Kālua Pork Slider with Sweet-and-Sour DOLE® Pineapple Chutney and Spicy Mayonnaise back! The Hawai’i marketplace is in Showcase Plaza, across from the new Starbucks.
Shimmering Sips Must Eats:
The heat makes us all scream for ice cream! At this year’s Taste of EPCOT, there’s no prettier ice cream than the Shimmering Strawberry Soft-Serve. Word of warning: eat it fast! The melt factor is high, but first, you must get your camera out!
World Showplace Must Eats:
Inside the World Showplace, between Canada and United Kingdom pavilions, you’ll find several marketplaces.
For the ultimate comfort food, don’t miss the Mac & Cheese Hosted By Boursin® Cheese marketplace. The gourmet macaroni and cheese creations topped with buffalo chicken, lobster and plant based Italian sausage and peppers have received rave reviews.
For the Coolest Dessert: Liquid Nitro Chocolate Cake Pops topped with Crumbled Twix® Original or Crushed M&M’S® Milk Chocolate are made to order in “Desserts & Champagne” marketplace.
What are your favorite “Must Drink” Sips of Taste of EPCOT Food and Wine Festival?
La Vie en Rose Frozen Slushy with Vodka, Grey Goose L’Orange, St. Germain Liqueur, White and Red Cranberry Juice is a festival favorite in France.
Strawberry Nigori Sake and Furano Martini of Vodka, Lavender Syrup, and Yuzu Juice are both refreshing and inventive sippers in Japan.
We need more bubbles in our lives! The Bleu Spectrum debuted in the Light Lab a few years back. Now you’ll find it at Wine & Dine Festival Favorites at World Showplace. It’s not only fun to sip but you can’t help smile at the colors and the boba pearls in the bright blue Blanc de Bleu Cuvée Mousseux.
Craving comfort food now more than ever, Disney’s famous DOLE Whip® Pineapple with Parrot Bay Coconut Rum is a fun way to cool down. You’ll find it at Refreshment Port.
For my favorite non-alcoholic Must Drink at Taste of EPCOT, Don’t miss the Orange Cream Shake in a Souvenir Orange Bird Sipper Cup at Citrus Blossom Marketplace. It’s delightfully delicious!
What are your “Must See” attractions of Taste of EPCOT Food and Wine Festival?
Catch a Live Show:
We may not have the excitement of seeing world famous artists from decades past at the “Eat To The Beat Concert” series, but don’t miss a performance of the merry Mariachi Cobre and the rhythmic JAMMitors crew in America Gardens Theater.
The JaMMitors are fun for the whole family with their funky percussion using everything from trash cans to brooms and tin cans.
The shade of American Gardens Theater offered much needed respite. It was nice to see Mariachi Cobre performing on this big stage since they normally perform more casually in the Mexico pavilion.
Seats and rows are blocked to allow proper distancing and the theater was mostly empty so I managed to sit right up front. Their spirited folk music from Jalisco, Mexico is heart warming and fantastic.
What are your “Must Do” Activities at Taste of EPCOT Food and Wine Festival?
In years past, we’ve gone on a frenetic pace eating and drinking around the world. This year, at Taste of EPCOT, my advice is Just Chill. Enjoy as much as you can; at whatever pace you’d like. These are truly unprecedented times. Enjoy the moment.
Find a Moment of Zen in Japan’s Gardens:
We were grateful to take a moment to relax in the patio outside of Katsura Grill in the Japan pavilion. Share a few tasty bites, listen to the sounds of the waterfalls, watch the koi fish in the pond and sit socially distanced in the shade of trees and umbrellas.
Have Fun with Remy:
If you’re visiting with kids (or kids at heart) follow Remy’s Ratatouille Hide & Squeak scavenger hunt. Purchase your map and stickers from select Festival merchandise locations—including Pin Traders – Camera Center, Port of Entry or World Traveler at International Gateway. Don’t forget to look up as you make your way around the park!
While new Taste of EPCOT Festival merchandise is coming soon. Check out Flower & Garden Festival merchandise in various locations around the park. Everyone’s favorite Orange Bird and Spike the Bee are in high demand.
My favorite shopping at EPCOT is for authentic goodies around World Showcase. You’ll see plenty of safety procedures in place with distance markers on the ground, plexiglass barriers at cash registers & staff wearing face coverings.
Japan and France always have some fun goodies. Stroll thru the street style vendors in Morocco and shop for scarves, teas, and souvenirs.
Get a Genie lamp and rub it for good luck!
Get Your Photo Taken:
Selfies are great but…
Don’t miss the chance to get your photo taken by Disney photographers at iconic locations throughout the park. Preview your Disney PhotoPass photos on your mobile device, download, edit and share with Memory Maker.
Watch The Sunset:
Sunsets at EPCOT are magical! Be sure to find a spot to take it all in and snap a few photos. We love the sunset views around the World Showcase lagoon. We were also stunned when we saw the sun thru the glass pyramid of the Imagination! pavilion.
What Other Dining Options Are Currently Available at EPCOT?
While business levels are down due to the pandemic, sadly some favorite EPCOT table service restaurants are currently closed. But don’t worry. In addition to the Taste of EPCOT 20 marketplaces, you’ll still find some popular options.
One of my favorite hidden gems, Spice Road Table in Morocco offers great views over World Showcase lagoon, a fantastic Mediterranean menu and the friendliest staff.
Our server Said knew how to take care of us with lots of iced water, bubbles and desserts!
Rose & Crown in EPCOT United Kingdom pavilion has always been a popular spot. It’s a bit quieter these days. You’ll no longer see people shoulder to shoulder, four deep at the bar. But you can still pop in for a pint and fish and chips.
Les Chefs de France and Monsieur Paul restaurants in France are currently closed but expected to reopen as business allows. Instead, don’t miss enjoying ice cream creations at Artisan des Glaces and baked treats at Les Halles Boulangerie-Patisserie.
What is the best spot to celebrate your Taste of EPCOT Best Day Ever?
INSIDER TIP: Spice Road Table Restaurant in Morocco has a fantastic wine list, including affordable sparkling wines and champagnes. It has always been my hidden gem favorite place to end the day with bubbles at EPCOT.
Order a bottle, pair with tasty desserts & share with friends. We loved the Pistachio-Saffron Custard, Chocolate Pyramid with Ice Cream and Assorted Baklavas. Guaranteed magic moment!
Got Any Final Tips To Plan Our Visit To Taste of EPCOT Food and Wine Festival?
As you can see, as with most things in 2020, there’s a lot of changes from years past.
Here’s my final bit of advice before you go:
- If you are in any way compromised health wise, don’t go. Mitigate all risks. A day at the parks is not worth putting yourself or others in danger. Disney will allow cancellations.
- Plan ahead and set realistic expectations. The more you know about what you can and cannot do, what is open and what is not, will help.
- Download the Disney app.
- Exercise patience. Go with the flow. With many new procedures put in place, not everything will be smooth. Mandates are being updated as issues related to COVID-19 evolve.
- Find the fun. Keep a positive attitude. Focus on finding the magic amidst our chaos filled world. We enjoyed magic everywhere we could find it.
- Find a comfortable mask and bring a spare.
- Disney recommends using clear bags to expedite the security screening process. Travel light by limiting the number of bags and personal items brought into the park.
- Review festival marketplaces menus online here. Check out my “Must Eat and Drink” recommendations. Make a list of the ones you absolutely don’t want to miss.
- Be kind. Everyone around you is impacted. Cast members and other guests are all experiencing their own challenges. We could all use a bit of kindness and smiles behind the masks.
- Again, have fun and be safe! This is a once in a lifetime moment. Enjoy it. Take it in and live every minute.
I hope you’re inspired to continue to celebrate life and cross fun things off your someday list – while following all safety precautions and staying socially distanced during these stressful times. Go #MakeSomedayHappen one delicious bite, sip and trip a time.
Disclosure: I was a hosted media guest for this event for promotional purposes. I am under no obligation to share this post. As always, all opinions are my own. I only share with you products and experiences I love to inspire you to safely get together with family and friends, celebrate life and go #MakeSomedayHappen one delicious bite, sip and trip at a time! You can read more about my guidelines in my disclosure policy. Cheers!