6 tips for navigating the 2017 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival at Disney World

The 2017 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival at Disney World is a foodie’s paradise.

Whether you are looking for Grilled Sweet and Spicy Bush Berry Shrimp with Pineapple, Pepper, Onion, and Snap Peas to eat, or a Kung Fu Punch with Smirnoff Vodka and Bols Triple Sec to drink, you will find more than enough to quench your appetite and thirst.

So much so, that it could get a bit overwhelming. After all, you don’t want to leave with the regret of never trying the Kalua Pork Slider with Sweet and Sour DOLE¬ģ Pineapple Chutney and Spicy Mayonnaise, or the regret of trying too much food and feeling like you could sink to the bottom of the World Showcase Lagoon.

So here are a few tips for taking in the Food & Wine Festival, which runs Aug. 31 to Nov. 13, 2017 without either missing anything crucial or over-indulging.

1. Plan ahead: Yes, you already made dining reservations for other parts of your trip and booked your FastPasses. Do you really need to plan to eat at a festival? The short answer is yes.

Sure, you can show up and just walk around and head to one of the 35 booths and graze. But you have over 120 choices of meals and even more beer and wines to choose from at the festival.

Look at the menus here and start thinking about what sounds good. They also highlight vegetarian and gluten-friendly meals.

In addition to the food there are culinary demonstrations, beverage seminars, cheese seminars and special dining and pairings packages. All of those require reservations. Here is where you can find them all.

2. Don’t make other dining reservations at Epcot: If you’re heading to another park, sure make those dining reservations. If you’re heading to Epcot, don’t bother. The entire park is your restaurant. You don’t need a sit-down dinner at the end of the day.

That being said, if you going for a week, you will wan to make a couple of reservations toward the end. A full week of juggling your plate and drink, and fighting for a table will become tiresome.

3. Go for lunch or early afternoon, avoid the weekends (unless you love crowds): The crowds swell up after 4 p.m. since there is a special Epcot after 4 p.m. pass for Florida residents. In addition, those who come for conferences at the resorts are probably going to head to the festival as well on special passes. Weekends grow as well since you have people leaving the resort and coming to the resort planning on staying during the weekends, and locals are off from work and come to enjoy the atmosphere. It may sound overwhelming, and it can be.

And, let’s be real. There is alcohol served every few hundred feet at this event. People are on vacation and letting loose. It can get a bit rowdy.

4. Share: You will want to try a bit of everything, so your best strategy may be to split everything with a friend. These are not huge dishes to begin with, but all are shareable. This allows you to get a taste of everything. And, if you plan on going a number of times, you’ll know what full portion you might want later.

5. Stick to a budget: This is probably the most difficult thing to do, especially now that you can just flash your MagicBand to get one more Kahlua pork slider — and choke down the bill later. One way to force yourself to stick to a budget is to buy a festival gift card and use that — and only that — to pay for your food and drinks. Once it’s gone, that’s it.

6. Enjoy the entertainment: The one thing Epcot has going for it is entertainment. At night is the Eat to the Beat concert series featuring 32 different bands such as Squeeze, Delta Rae, Sugar Ray. The complete schedule is here. In addition, five other acts have been booked to play during the day around the festival. They can be found here.