Walt Disney World has announced details and dates for the 2023 EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival, which is the park’s flagship foodie event of the year. In this post, we’ll share all of the news and our commentary about certain interesting wrinkles of this announcement.
Let’s start with the basics. The 2023 EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival will begin on July 27, 2023 and continue through November 18, 2023 for a grand total of 115 days. It’s starting 13 days later and ending 1 day earlier than last year, making this a 2-week shorter run in total than each of the last 3 years.
Despite this, the 2023 EPCOT Food & Wine Festival is not expected to be smaller scale. According to Walt Disney World, there will be more than 25 Global Marketplaces throughout EPCOT, including returning favorites such as The Fry Basket, Flavors from Fire, Canada, India and Spain. Additionally, several new Global Marketplaces will open later during the festival as summer turns to fall.
At the 2023 EPCOT Food & Wine Festival, the fun doesn’t stop with the food (or wine, I guess). It extends to exciting activities for the whole family to enjoy! Walt Disney World has also announced some of the entertainment and other offerings that’ll return for the 2023 EPCOT Food & Wine Festival. Namely, the Eat to the Beat Concert Series (and dining packages for that) will be back.
Additionally, cheese lovers will want to check out Emile’s Fromage Montage, where you can sample a variety of delicious cheeses served in inventive ways. Purchase any five cheese dishes listed in the Festival Passport and collect a stamp for each cheese dish purchased. Once you’ve collected all five stamps, bring the stamped Festival Passport to Shimmering Sips for a specialty souvenir.
Families can embark on Remy’s Ratatouille Hide & Squeak – a “Ratatouille”-inspired adventure that’s très magnifique! Guests of all ages can search for Remy throughout World Showcase and the Global Marketplaces. To celebrate the Halloween season grab your gourd-eous group and partake in Pluto’s Pumpkin Pursuit, a special pumpkin scavenger hunt from September 29 through October 31, 2023.
In terms of commentary, the most interesting angle of this news is the decision to “delay” the start of the 2023 EPCOT Food & Wine Festival until the end of July rather than starting mid-month like the last few years post-reopening. I’m sure some will claim this is a sign of failure, falling popularity, or who knows what else in an attempt to generate controversy or criticism.
However, it’s important not to have a short memory when drawing conclusions. This is still the 4th longest EPCOT Food & Wine Festival of all time. Back in 2019, the event didn’t debut until August 29, which was one of the longest events of the “modern” era, which started in 2017 when the event was first extended into August.
Prior to that, it had typically started in mid-to-late September and ended earlier. Going back a full decade, the event ran from September 27 until November 11, 2013. So the 2023 EPCOT Food & Wine Festival is still incredibly long by historical standards.
With that said, it’s very rare for Walt Disney World to scale back events. Like prices, usually this type of thing only goes in one direction. When we’ve seen this type of thing occur in the past, it has been due to unpopularity or slower sales.
Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party comes to mind; there were a few attempts at adding dates in August and November 1 several years that didn’t initially stick. That problem no longer exists, with every single date selling out last year.
In this case, a lack of popularity seems unlikely. The EPCOT Food & Wine Festival is incredibly lucrative, and the event was first expanded for the ‘Taste of’ event when the parks reopened in 2020. Attendance would have to absolutely freefall for EPCOT to be less busy this July and August than it was then.
During the last couple of years, Walt Disney World has done the staggered booth openings and actually ended up debuting the second wave of Global Marketplaces earlier than officially announced. That cannot be explained by a lack of demand. (Quite the opposite.) This is also coming at a time when staffing shortages are improving, not worsening; so that’s not it, either.
The best theory that I can come up with is that Walt Disney World is purposefully moving the 2023 EPCOT Food & Wine Festival outside of the summer tourist season in an attempt to push demand among Floridians and Annual Passholders to the August and September off-season.
The thought process here would be that EPCOT now has a strong enough ride roster to draw tourists during the summer, so it’s better to delay demand from locals and regulars until the peak tourist season subsides. It wouldn’t be unprecedented to bifurcate demand by targeting different demographics.
Walt Disney World has done summer events in the past, most recently with “Incredible Summer,” which featured “Guardians of the Galaxy – Awesome Mix Live!” at EPCOT. More recently, the park has hosted Annual Passholder soft openings for its two newest attractions during the off-season prior to their official openings.
Perhaps I’m overthinking this or connecting dots that don’t exist, but I still think there’s a possibility that Moana’s Journey of Water opens early. As discussed in that post, the attraction is practically done and ready.
While it’s also not without precedent for Walt Disney World to sit on almost-completed attractions, the difference here is that there are finishing touches installed or enabled that will weather or cause weathering. It also just seems like a really odd move to postpone the opening of a water-centric attraction until the coldest time of year.
Call me conspiratorial, but my hunch is that the plan is to quietly open Moana’s Journey of Water this summer as another move in a new ‘surprise and delight’ plan aimed at underpromising and overdelivering. This was our basis for predicting a soft opening of TRON Lightcycle Run, and look what happened with that.
Assuming all of this out-of-left field speculation is correct, that would give Moana’s Journey of Water and/or a Walt Disney World-wide summer event time to shine during tourist season. Following that, the 2023 EPCOT Food & Wine Festival would have its own window for being the big draw.
At the tail end of that is the kick-off of the Disney100 Celebration, which will be centered at EPCOT. Along with that, the Giant EPCOT Dirt Pit will be filled, Innoventions 2.0: Half Off Edition, Figment’s meet & greet, and a new nighttime spectacular will all debut. From the perspective of staggering new additions to sustain interest in EPCOT and visits by locals, this approach makes some degree of sense.
With that said, this theory doesn’t make complete sense to me. Again, the Global Marketplaces are incredibly lucrative. The average guest is spending more grazing from these than they are doing a counter service or sit-down meal in World Showcase.
Perhaps there’s more there than meets the eye. It’s possible the longer festival spreads out almost the same demand (again, disproportionately among locals and regulars who love these events) leading to lower per day revenue and higher per day operating costs.
Obviously, it’s impossible to crunch the numbers from the outside looking in, but it’s very safe to assume Walt Disney World has done exactly that. Another possibility is that there’s something I’m overlooking entirely. The bottom line is that Disney would not voluntarily leave money on the table. That’s not what they do.
Speaking of leaving money on the table, there’s also the question of culinary seminars, demonstrations, meals with celebrity chefs, and other special events. Walt Disney World still has not announced any of this–or even teased its return. Last year, none of these things returned–which might suggest the same for 2023.
However, it was honestly somewhat of a surprise that last year’s Food & Wine Festival didn’t bring back these elements. It seems like a no-brainer, as all of these special events are pricey and generate a lot of revenue. If these things do not return for the 2023 EPCOT Food & Wine Festival, it’ll almost certainly be due to insufficient staffing once again. In other words, that is not an example of Walt Disney World voluntarily leaving money on the table.
Ultimately, we’re looking forward to the start of the 2023 EPCOT Food & Wine Festival. Although I’m curious about the rationale for reducing the number of dates, I’m honestly pleased by the decision. The event has been too long the last few years and, like Halloween season, I’ve been ready for it to be over by the time it entered what should’ve been its sweet spot. Personally, I still think this is about 25-30 days too long; my perfect EPCOT Food & Wine Festival would run from September through November.
At this point, we’re anxiously awaiting additional details and the Global Marketplace menus for the 2023 EPCOT Food & Wine Festival. Last year, the new booths and items were really disappointing. Frankly, it’s downright disheartening that there was so much hype and praise for the Fry Basket, which ranks as one of the most unambitious booths ever, from my perspective. I hope EPCOT’s culinary team doesn’t give fans more of what they want and booths like that.
On a much more positive note, Walt Disney World absolutely crushed it with this year’s food lineup for the 2023 EPCOT Flower & Garden Festival. This is one of the best events in years for food, with several booths having stellar lineups from top-to-bottom. Paradoxically, the Food & Wine Festival has been the weakest culinary event hosted by EPCOT for the last few years.
My personal ‘wish list’ for the 2023 EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival would include new Global Marketplaces from actual countries or regions and a return of the studio concept booths in the culinary corridor, plus past favorites making a comeback (SPAM Hash and Pumpkin Mousse are big ones, but there are plenty others). In any case, here’s hoping this will be the year the EPCOT Food & Wine Festival turns things around. Maybe a shorter and more focused festival is precisely what’s needed!
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Looking forward to the 2023 EPCOT Food & Wine Festival? Did you attend the event in any of the last few summers or falls? Think that it’ll benefit from being shorter and more focused, or are you disappointed that you’ll miss it during your summer vacation? Any hopes for Global Marketplace booths or menu items? Think any of the other demonstrations or seminars will return? Any tips you want to share to make the most of the experience? Any questions we can help you answer? Hearing feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!