If you’ve been avoiding theme park vacations because you aren’t into princesses or tripping over toddlers all day, these theme park food and wine festivals might be enough to change your mind. Offering unexpected and unquestionably more grown-up menus, these festivals bring upscale dishes and swanky libations into the world of corn dogs and soft serve. Most theme park food and wine festivals offer guests small plates and tasting sizes, so you’ve got plenty of room to try everything, but you can also pop into a mixology class or live cooking demonstration.
Held at theme parks around the U.S., we found 10 special events that will surprise and delight even the most cautious theme park skeptics.
Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival 2021: Dates TBD
Where: Disneyland California Adventure, Anaheim, CA
The culinary celebration of Disney California Adveture Food & Wine Festival takes place each Spring at the Disneyland Resort and features locally-inspired cuisine, as well as regional beer, wine, and spirits. While you sample dishes and drinks from among the kiosks scattered around the park, you can take part in culinary demonstrations led by celebrity chefs, get a lesson in mixology, or simply dance along to the daily live music. From the Nuts About Cheese Marketplace to the Avocado Time Marketplace, there’s plenty of options to please even the most discerning of palates, including a number of gluten-friendly and vegetarian options.
Epcot International Food & Wine Festival 2021: Dates TBD
Where: Walt Disney World, Epcot, Orlando, FL
No matter the time of year, guests who visit Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida always have the opportunity to dine on global cuisine from the 11 countries featured in Epcot’s World Showcase. When the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival comes to town each Fall, however, the park is transformed into a global marketplace of food, drink, and fun. Be sure to pick up a Festival Passport upon entering. This will allow you to mark the items you most want to try from among the more than 40 booths so you don’t get overwhelmed by all the choices. Your Passport is also your guide to the free nightly concerts, specialty merchandise, chef-led workshops, and more.
Knott’s Boysenberry Festival 2021: Dates TBD
Where: Knott’s Berry Farm, Buena Park, CA
A cross between a raspberry, a loganberry, and a blackberry, boysenberries were originally cultivated on the small California berry farm known as Knott’s Berry Farm. Now one of California’s most beloved theme park food and wine festivals, Knott’s Berry Farm returns to its berry-growing roots each Spring, featuring dozens of unique culinary takes featuring this tart berry. Guests can sample Boysenberry Gumbo, Sweet Boysenberry Tamales, and even Boysenberry Cheesecake on a Stick. Wash it all down with a berry-infused craft brew or wine from the Craft Beer and Wine Garden. There’s also a crafts fair, saloon show, and a pie-eating contest to keep your spirits “berry” high.
Universal Orlando Mardi Gras Celebration 2021: Spring 2021
Where: Universal Orlando Resort, Orlando, FL
While technically Mardi Gras—or Fat Tuesday—is meant to be one day of indulgence, Universal Orlando is throwing that notion right out the window (along with tens of thousands of beads) during their two-month-long Mardi Gras Celebration. While there is daily live music (including big names like TLC and Marshmello) and a nightly parade, the real showstopper is the authentic Cajun food. There’s a crawfish boil, jambalaya, beignets, and, of course, a lucky king cake. If you’re looking to expand your tastes beyond New Orleans, visit the Carnival Around the Universe tent. Here, you’ll find a plethora of global Carnival cuisines with a bi-weekly rotating menu featuring dishes from countries including Germany and Brazil.
Dollywood’s Flower & Food Festival 2021: Spring 2021
Where: Dollywood, Pigeon Forge, TN
Nestled deep in the Smokies, Dollywood, founded by country music queen Dolly Parton, pays homage to Dolly’s childhood in the mountains of Eastern Tennessee. This Spring, to celebrate the park’s 35th anniversary, Dolly is throwing a fragrant, floral soiree in honor of all her favorite things.
Dollywood’s Flower & Food Festival will help to usher in Spring by highlighting the natural beauty of the surrounding area with nearly half-a-million plants and flowers and fresh, Southern cuisine. For five full weeks, guests can sample Smoky Mountain-inspired dishes created by Dollywood’s team of culinary experts, including heirloom tomato and feta cheese galette and a fresh violet slushy.
Cedar Point Frontier Festival 2021: Dates TBD
Where: Cedar Point, Sandusky, OH
Cedar Point is best known as “The Roller Coaster Capital of the World,” but their annual Frontier Festival will usher guests back in time to the bygone era of the wild west. If you can find time between the square dancing, live bluegrass music, and pie eating contests, you can eat your fill of down home Southern cooking. The tantalizing smells of smoked brisket and cast iron-cooked baked beans will draw you back to the Frontier Town section of the park where you can ride some of those famed coasters after sipping and sampling your way through this tasty street fest.
Swan and Dolphin Food & Wine Classic 2021: Dates TBD
Where: Swan and Dolphin Resort, Lake Buena Vista, FL
The Swan and Dolphin Food & Wine Classic is held annually along the causeway between these sister Walt Disney World resorts. As you stroll, you’ll be treated to dishes from the resort’s award-winning restaurants, beer, wine, spirits from around the world, and live entertainment.
The party continues inside the hotel with hands-on demonstrations and sommelier-led beverage pairing seminars. This weekend-long theme park food and wine festival can be enjoyed for just an evening, or you can make a weekend of it by purchasing an overnight ticket and hotel package.
California Great America Red, White, & Brews 2021: Dates TBD
Where: California Great Adventure Park, Santa Clara, CA
Guests can sample a delicious slice of Americana at the California Great America Red, White, & Brews festival each Summer. The park’s Hometown Square section is transformed into a street fair filled with barbecue, beer, and family-friendly entertainment. Aside from the traditional brisket and cornbread, the mouth-watering menu includes such dishes as Asian shredded chicken on crispy wontons and a savory pulled pork funnel cake. Northern California breweries and wineries are well represented, and with the purchase of a beer and wine tasting card, guests 21 and older can take a pedal-powered tour of the park while they drink.
Busch Gardens Food & Wine Festival 2021: Dates TBD
Where: Busch Gardens, Tampa, FL
The Busch Gardens Food & Wine Festival is two months of wines, cocktails, craft brews, live music, and food you’d never expect to find in a theme park. The 14 food and drink “cabins” showcase various regional and specialty cuisines, including Cajun offerings from Nola Eats and fresh-from-the-sea dishes from West Coast Catch. Items can be purchased individually or you can save a few bucks with a sampler card. Similarly, you can purchase whichever drinks catch your eye, or sign up for tequila, bourbon, or gin tastings that’ll let you learn as you imbibe.
Bravo’s Top Chef Food & Wine Festival 2021: Dates TBD
Where: Universal Studios Hollywood,Universal City, CA
The Bravo Top Chef Food & Wine Fest differs from others in that it is billed as a separately-ticketed, after-hours event only for guests age 21 and over. Instead of bounding around Universal Studios Hollywood from one food booth to another, guests will be treated to a more intimate event that includes delectable food and beverage tastings and the opportunity to learn from and interact with your favorite Top Chef “cheftestants.” VIP packages that include additional experiences, including theme park admission, are also available.