Saving time, money and maximizing fun at Epcot's Food & Wine Fest

by: AJ Wolfe\/Disney Food Blog Updated:

There are plenty of low cost and free options as well, such as daily Culinary and Beverage demonstrations by notable chefs and wine experts.

Tips and Tricks for Visiting the 2012 Epcot Food and Wine Festival Next month, the sun rises on one of the most anticipated events of the Disney calendar year - the 2012 Epcot Food and Wine Festival. Foodies from all over the world flock to Central Florida for fun, food, drink, and even a runDisney event (or two!). Every year the event seems to grow in popularity with visitors and locals alike, and 2012 promises to be no exception.

But if you're wary of crowds or on a budget, you might wonder if the Food and Wine Festival is for you. No worries! You can enjoy the fun, too. We have some tried and tested tips and tricks to help you enjoy this highlight of the fall season...

Go Early and Skip Weekends. While the front of Epcot, Future World, usually opens at 9 am, World Showcase doesn't fully spring to life until 11 am. During the Festival, World Showcase Marketplace tasting booths open at 11 am as well.

My number one piece of advice for visiting the Epcot Food and Wine Festival is this: if you want to beat the crowds, head straight to World Showcase as soon as the clock strikes 11. Many other guests will still be in line for Soarin' while you're tasting your first delicious bite!

The second best piece of advice? Skip weekends. If there's any way to get to the Festival during the week, you'll encounter significantly fewer fellow winers and diners than you will on the packed weekend days.

Plan to take advantage of low cost and free options if you're watching your pennies. The Festival can set you back some major dough with lavish experiences like Party for the Senses and other Signature Events.

But there are plenty of low cost and free options as well, such as daily Culinary and Beverage demonstrations by notable chefs and wine experts.

If you'd like to learn about wine or another hot trend, mixology, there are daily tastings and demonstrations at the Festival Center.

Prices for these events range from $11 to $14, and are held on a daily basis at various times. Booking for Tables in Wonderland Members, Annual Passholders, and DVC Members will begin August 10th for seminars, demos, and Mixology events only. The general public can begin booking August 14 at 7 am for most events by calling 407-WDW-FEST.

There are also a number of free events and exhibits included with your Epcot admission ticket. Be sure to check out the HGTV Home Entertaining Seminars held at Festival Welcome Center and featuring your favorite HGTV personalities. You'll learn all about DIY home entertaining from the experts!

New in 2012, guests can also sample before they buy in the Festival Center Wine Shop. Explore available tastes at 1, 3, and 5 pm, as you check out the variety of bottles.

Book Signings and Meet & Greets with celebrity chefs are also free with admission. While these may become crowded, they are open to the general public even if you do not attend the culinary demonstration that the chef conducted. (Note: wristbands are sometimes distributed for highly anticipated events. Be sure to arrive early at Festival Center to ensure your place in line.)

Go with a group. Attending the Food and Wine Fest with a large group of friends and sharing the cost of the Marketplace plates is a great way to taste your way around World Showcase without spending a fortune. This way, you'll all get to enjoy the flavors, and you can spend your money wisely on the drinks and dishes that you enjoy the most!

With a little forethought and pre-planning, everyone can enjoy the tastes and sights of the 2012 Epcot Food and Wine Festival. For more information on all of the events during this year's festival, be sure to bookmark the Disney Food Blog 2012 Epcot Food and Wine Festival homepage. You'll find all of the latest information and food photos you need for a successful visit (or two!) right here!

BIO: AJ Wolfe is the owner and executive editor of The Disney Food Blog, a website covering all things food and drink in Walt Disney theme parks, resorts, and cruise ships. Check out her newest e-Book -- The DFB Guide to Walt Disney World® Dining 2012 -- for in-depth advice on Disney World dining! The Disney Food Blog is not affiliated with the Walt Disney Company.