I’ll be honest: I am not a fan of living in Orlando. And I don’t even technically live in Orlando, I live in the suburbs. I moved here two years ago to do the Disney College Program, and never left after my program ended. With life looking like I’ll be Orlando-adjacent for a while, I figured it was time to start looking at O-Town from a different lens.
The first stop on this journey is EPCOT’s Food & Wine Festival.
Let’s be honest, EPCOT isn’t something new for me. In fact, it’s my favorite park at Walt Disney World and the park I visit 9 times out of 10. But, I’m trying to look at it from a different lens. Where else can you try different foods from around the world, ride a few rides, and see live music all in a few hours? EPCOT—and the rest of WDW—is something completely unique to Orlando, and while I’m not blind to the faults of the company and the impact it has had on Florida, I can still appreciate what it offers.
This visit was my first time trying out some of the 2023 Food & Wine Festival offerings, which is always a fun time. My first time visiting Food & Wine was back in 2021, not long after my DCP started, so I have fond memories tied to this festival.
First up: the Mimosa Flight from Shimmering Sips.
Okay, technically first up was The Seas with Nemo and Friends and its adjacent aquarium. Nemo is a great ride because there’s never a queue and the AC is top-notch, and I love the aquarium because, duh, who doesn’t love an aquarium?
Then it was time for mimosas. Now, I try not to drink frequently, but I love a good little mimosa flight, especially at EPCOT. (Let’s be honest, I’ve only ever had a mimosa flight at EPCOT.) These went down like straight juice, and I loved every little sip of my fruity little bubbly drink!!! To balance it out, we got the Filet Mignon from the Canada pavilion as well. This year, it was served with Boursin Black Truffle and Sea Salt Mashed Potatoes, which, honestly, I could’ve eaten a whole plateful of.
As we walked through the picturesque UK pavilion and I briefly went on a mimosa-induced rant about the monarchy, I fell in love with the most adorable and perfect teapot EVER: an Alice in Wonderland book-themed one!!! I have a feeling it’s going to come home with me someday…
Now it was time for the real reason we came to EPCOT: The Fray was performing at the America Gardens Theatre in the American Adventure Pavilion. For both the Flower & Garden Festival and the Food & Wine Festival, mid-tier (sorry not sorry!) bands and musicians perform throughout the evening. Usually, I don’t care, but every once in a while there’s a semi-decent band and I try to stop by. The Fray used to be one of my absolute favorite bands back in middle school, and there was no way I was going to miss them performing at EPCOT, one of my happy places.
It was kind of a weird full-circle moment; listening to an old favorite band from childhood while living a life and future I never thought I would have. I never thought I’d end up in Orlando, being what I call a “Disney local,” but here we are. Life has a funny way of working out, and I’m still trying to come to terms with that.
Afterwards, we rode Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros, which is always a favorite for me, a huge Donald Duck fan. One nice thing about visiting the parks often is not having to worry about waiting in line for certain things or trying to cram everything in. I understand it’s a unique opportunity to be able to say that, and it is something I try not to lose sight of. See, I couldn’t say that if I wasn’t Orlando-adjacent.
I know there’s way, way more to Orlando than WDW, but I moved here to work for the mouse, and while I haven’t been employed by the company in over a year, it's still a place I find comfort in. I couldn’t think of a better place to start.
Moving forward, I want to use this…series?...as more of an opportunity to explore unique parts of the city and try to find a sense of community here. Orlando is a big city, there has to be something here I love.