To read about Part I of my road trip, click here.
Walt Disney World in Orlando, FL
After working for Disney Theatricals, I gained a better appreciation for Disney World. I went once as a teenager but since working for Newsies, I have been to both Disney theme parks a few times. Since we were also attending during the Food and Wine Festival, we decided to stay for 5 nights.
Our Digs: Home2 Suites, about a 15-minute drive to the parks. Unfortunately, none of the Disney resorts allow dogs but it all worked out because I had enough HHonors points to get 3 nights free. This Hilton chain has new buildings with big rooms including kitchenettes. The gyms are always decent with laundry facilities next door. We also liked the free breakfast with a Mickey waffle iron. The hotel has a shuttle to Disney (for free) and Universal (for a fee) but the times were limited so we drove every day ($20 for in/out parking at all parks).
Tickets: We bought 4 day park hopper tickets so that we could go to the Epcot Food & Wine Festival every day. They were a little pricey but totally worth it so that we could maximize the festival and have flexibility.
Food & Wine Festival
The 2016 Festival was held from September 14-November 14 with offerings at the usual pavilions plus additional countries & special themes. There are even 2 Festival wines (although I really didn’t care for the cabernet). Concerts are everyday (Jeffrey Osbourne and Tiffany while we were there) in the World Showcase. There are no extra tickets for the festival but special events are ticketed and fill up fast.
The Passport: Passports are located throughout Epcot. It’s your guide for everything in the festival, plus lists all food and drinks offered at each stand and stickers to mark when you’ve been there. We shared one book and got to 27 stands.
Coupons: You can pay a la carte or you can buy a coupon book of 8 or 16 which also gets you a special pin and lanyard. We bought 16 to share which was $109 + tax and found it not to be a good value. Here’s why – in order to even get our money back we needed to only use the coupon on items over $7, however there is a limit and we found we could only go up to $10 items. Most items are in the $3-5 range so we ended up using cash and had coupons left over in the end so it wasn’t the best value.
Ready to see what we ate & drank? Here it is arranged by stand in the order of the Passport:
Two Henrys Blueberry Vanilla American Wheat Ale – yum! Sweet but great flavors & was reminiscent of a Blue Moon
Shipyard Midnight Snack Milk Stout – Also delicious. The stout had lots of different flavors, salty, sweet, and not too filling as a stout.
The Chew Collective – from the TV show, new this year
Grilled Beef Skewer with Romaine, Apricots and Feta Cheese – this was one of our first and favorite foods. The beef was tender and on a bed of salad that was very flavorful and fresh.
Peanut Butter and White Chocolate Mousse with a Caramel Drizzle – A big disappointment. I was really looking forward to this but found it hard to eat all the layers at once and the white chocolate was a bit sour.
Chocolate Studio – new this year
Ghirardelli Chocolate Raspberry Torte – YUM! Super rich but you can never go wrong with dark chocolate and raspberry
Wine & Dine Studio – new this year. My favorite pavilion for their lawn-like area with string lights
Seared Scallop, Truffled Celery Root Puree, Brussels Sprouts and Wild Mushrooms – This was my favorite but I’m obsessed with scallops. I got one huge scallop which is actually a steal for the price.
Artist Palette of Wine & Cheese – Goat, cheddar and blue cheeses paired with 2 whites and a red wine. The cheeses were all good and we loved the Conundrum White Blend 25th Anniversary. I’m still dreaming of that wine (which, btw, you can buy all wines offered at the Festival Center).
Islands of the Caribbean – new this year
Jamaican Beef Patty – like a meat pie, very flavorful
Mojo Pork with Black Beans, Cilantro Rice and Pickled Red Onions – So good! And the recipe was included so I plan on making it at home
Frozen Mojito – I’m not a mojito fan so my husband got this and I tasted it – very strong!
Pineapple Dole Whip Soft-Serve Ice Cream with Bacardi Coconut Rum – why have a normal Dole Whip when you have rum in it?! SO GOOD.
Chicken Gyro with Tzatziki Sauce – delicious! A little tough to share (and messy)
Desserts & Champagne
I wish I could’ve had champagne but the cheapest glass was $12… (and the Dom was tempting but priced at $24) so we had floats instead:
Sprecher Hard Orange Cream Soda Float with Vanilla Soft-Serve – pretty tasty
Strawberry Fanta Float with Vanilla Soft-Serve (no alcohol) – my husband loved and almost got another!
Beef Empanada – another meat pie, very good
Kalua Pork Slider with Sweet and Sour Dole Pineapple Chutney and Spicy Mayo – GRAB NAPKINS! Very juicy, and messy. A woman on the monorail over was raving over these and they were good, just not as rave worthy as she thought.
Lamb Meatball with Spicy Tomato Chutney – it actually comes with bread so it’s kind of like a meatball sub, except the bread was hard to cut or chew
Grilled Lamb Chop with Mint Pesto and Potato Crunchies – not great to share. The lamb chop was really good but the crunchies were weird
Lamington – SO GOOD but of course I’m partial to Australian food and desserts. It tasted like Mounds.
Beijing Roasted Duck in a Steam Bun – I couldn’t eat this as there were ducks walking around the area. But my husband liked it!
Chicken Pot Stickers – Very good
Buttered Chicken with Micro Cilantro and Naan Bread – very spicy and flavorful. I wish the naan was warm and softer.
Kielbasa and Potata Pierogi with Caramelized Onions – definitely a must
Easily the worst run of the stands – long lines and some miscommunication.
Pennette alla Parmigiana (aka Chicken Parm) – eh. For the long wait and frustration, it wasn’t that spectacular.
Hops & Barley
New England Lobster Roll – HUGE with lots of lobster
Smoked Beef Briskey and Pimento Cheese served on Griddled Garlic Toast – another large portion, a little messy
Fresh Baked Carrot Cake and Cream Cheese Icing – warm and very good
Block & Hans
Festival Cabernet Sauvignon – I was not impressed and ended up throwing it out
Spicy Sushi Roll – a huge hand roll which was filling and tasted fresh
Spicy Hummus Fries with Cucumber, Tomato, Onions and Tzatziki Sauce – it’s hard to know from the name what this is but it’s basically falafel. It was tasty.
Beer-braised Beef with Smoked Gouda Mashed Potatoes – the beef was really tender
Belgian Waffle with Warm Chocolate Ganache and Whipped Cream – good but I liked the
Belgian Waffle with Berry Compote and Whipped Cream better
Hoegaarden Witbier – my favorite beer so I was quite happy!
Leffe Blonde Belgian Pale Ale – another great beer
Pao de Queijo: Brazilian Cheese Bread – we probably battled the line at least 3 times for these. You get 2 cheese buns which are SO GOOD. These were a fave for sure.
St. Germain Sparkling Kir – champagne and St.-Germain? YES PLEASE!
Frozen Daiquiri Ice Pop – Contained rum so it wasn’t quite frozen and was a little messy but it was refreshing in the heat.
Warm Chocolate Pudding with Irish Cream Liqueur Custard – the name is deceiving; this is actually a chocolate lava cake. This was my favorite dessert because it was warm, flavorful and the Irish Cream was a great touch.
The Tipsy Laird: whiskey-soaked cake – we got this so we could cross Scotland off the list and it wasn’t bad
“Le Cellier” Wild Mushroom Beef Filet Mignon with Truffle-Butter Sauce – the meat was so tender and very flavorful but it is a small portion. Consider getting 2 if you don’t want to share.
Alright! So now you’re experienced all the things we ate and drank at Epcot, here’s what we did in each park:
Rides: The Great Movie Ride, Star Tours, Toy Story Mania – all great rides. Toy Story Mania is one of my favorites. Adam found a storytelling flaw in Star Tours but I still enjoyed it.
Shows: Indiana Jones, Fantasmic! – Fantasmic is awesome, a definitely a must see as Hollywood Studio’s nighttime attraction.
Eats: VIP Dining package at The Hollywood Brown Derby. For $62.99 we had a 3-course lunch which then gave us VIP seating for Fantasmic. The food was delicious – I had a salad, lamb and 3 little desserts, as well as a delicious wine flight (which was extra). VIP seating was worth it – no waits and we were able to sit in the center section with the best views.
Tips: Get a VIP dining package (offered at 3 restaurants) or a FastPass for Fantasmic. Toy Story Mania is an awesome ride – go there first or get a FastPass.
Rides: Haunted Mansion – since it was almost Halloween, we had t do it!
Shows: Enchanted Tiki Room
Eats: We weren’t crazy about any of the restaurants in Magic Kingdom so we headed over to Epcot for lunch.
Drinks: No booze in the park – boo! They should make the Dole Whips with rum like at Epcot.
Tips: Go to Magic Kingdom when it opens as the crowds get crazy around lunchtime.
Rides: Disney & Pixar Short Film Festival, Gran Fiesta Tour
Eats: Aside from the festival, we ate at the Biergarten in Germany. We had a buffet lunch with Oktoberfest music. The food was good – my favorite was the meatballs.
Drinks: I had a Riesling from the wine store in Germany which also offers flights.
Tips: Try to go through the back entrance which you can access via water taxi. There are less lines there! Lines can get long in stores that sell alcohol – people love to Drink Around the World so also look out for drunk groups! Get FastPass for IllumiNations so you can be in the front section. You’ll still be able to see the show from the sides but you’ll miss some bits plus have the fireworks smoke blowing towards you.
Rides: Kilimanjaro Safaris – we loved getting so close to the animals. I got some great photos!
Shows: Festival of the Lion King – a fun 90-minute show. No plot but good music.
Eats: Yak & Yeti – a mix of Asian & Indian foods so lots to choose from. I had the chicken tikka masala which was very filling.
Tips: Go to the park early when the animals are out and about and there’s no wait for the safari. We got there at opening and everyone went to the safari – people were even running!
Don’t think Bruno didn’t have a fun time too! Since Disney doesn’t allow dogs in their resorts, they actually have a great boarding & daycare facility on the grounds. It’s called Best Friends Pet Care and it’s GORGEOUS. It’s huge, with a dog walking area and facilities for all sorts of animals. Bruno had his own indoor/outdoor suite, plus 4 hours of play time each day and walks. It’s not cheap but we knew Bruno was in good hands and came home just as pooped as we were.
Have you been to Disney? What are your tips?
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