Merchandise at the Epcot Food and Wine Festival

by Gregg Jacobs, contributing writer

I got lucky and was able to take an unexpected trip to the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival at Walt Disney World. Most festival attendees focus on the food offerings, with good reason. There's no experience quite like strolling around World Showcase Lagoon on a nice day, sampling food and beverages from all over the world as you go. Check out fellow MousePlanet writers Ryan Poulter and Donald and Bonnie Fink for reviews of the taste and look of the festival.

Mickey Mouse (and Bob Iger) also sees this as a merchandising opportunity, and there are plenty of goodies to pick up as you stroll and sip. These come in two basic categories: utilitarian items that can actually enhance your experience at the festival (including the best invention ever), as well as mementos, large and small, ready for you to take home to remember your time there.

Let's look at those items you can use while you're there, starting with the best invention ever: The portable party plate. Have you ever been to a food festival or a dinner party, holding a glass of wine in one hand and a tray of food in the other? To eat, you have to juggle the wine glass and plate in one hand, precariously place your wine glass on your plate, or find a table or counter in the room to set the glass down, which might require you to walk away from your conversation partner.

I know this sounds like an infomercial, but my favorite festival item is that simple dining plate/tray that has a round cut-out in the top corner to hold your wine or other beverage. This way, you can just put your stemware in the slot and hold both glass and plate in one hand, to free up your second hand to eat. This life-changing doodad sells for a whopping $6.99!

You can buy this simple wine/food tray for only $6.99. Photo by Gregg Jacobs.

Another new item this year will appeal to the environmentally conscious. Instead of throwing your disposable plastic utensils away, Disney is now selling a reusable and portable fork and knife set. It comes in a carrying case and can be wiped off and stowed for your next culinary stop. These would also be great for picnics at home or camping; the set sells for $14.99.

There is also all manner of glassware, from wine glasses to mugs to beer steins. They even sell Tervis glasses, which prevent spillage when you've had a few too many—not quite a bargain at $24.99, but could come in handy. In this category, I'd recommend the set of two stemless wine glasses for $26.99. We have a non-Disney set of these at home that come in very handy for company.

My second favorite item is the 2016 Epcot Food & Wine insulated bag. Selling for $34.99, the bag measures 14 inches by 9 inches, and comes with a shoulder strap. It's basically a thermal bag designed to keep your favorite wine or food items cool or warm. Large enough to hold two bottles of wine or enough food for a nice picnic lunch, it comes in very handy for the festival and at home for any occasion where you want to bring food on the go. My dad bought one this year and was stopped at least five times by people asking him where he got it.

In terms of kitchen items that you may not use at the festival, but would be fun to have at home, there are many choices.

My favorite amongst these are the festival salt-and-pepper shakers. Shaped like Disney trash cans with the festival logo on the front, they are a fun way to bring the park home with you. At $9.99 each, my only knock is that they're all the same, so you may be wondering which is shaker holds the salt and which holds the pepper on your return home.

The shakers in the shape of Disney trash cans are a festival favorite. Photo by Gregg Jacobs.

There are also dishtowels and aprons with the festival logo. Another favorite is a variety of cookbooks containing recipes from Walt Disney World restaurants and in some cases, dishes available at the festival booths.

If, on the other hand, you're fooded out at the end of your visit and just would like a few collectibles to take home as mementos of your visit, Disney has you covered there, too.

The two main icons you'll find on these items are the festival mascot, our Imagination friend, Figment, and the saying "Taste Your Way Around the World."

Our pal, Figment, appears on this great mug and spoon set (only $14.95). Photo by Gregg Jacobs.

As well as this tee shirt and poster. Photo by Gregg Jacobs.

The festival saying abounds on hats and T-shirts in all colors and sizes. If you're a pin fan, there are also many of these with a wide variety being made in a limited edition format just for the festival.

Disney brought out Yzma and Kronk, two of its less famous characters from "The Emperor's New Groove," for this great limited edition pin. Photo by Gregg Jacobs.

Sure there are plenty of shirts, mugs and keychains as there are at any Disney event, but what I like about the festival is, if you take the time to explore, you can also find some interesting things you wouldn't necessarily expect to see.

If you want something a little more off the beaten path, there's also a nice variety of artwork to choose from, both in the form of original work and prints. These, obviously, generally revolve around the subject of food and wine, and would appeal to a wide variety of guests. They range in prices from a $20 for a nice print to a few hundred dollars.

There's plenty of food and wine themed artwork for you to chose from. Photo by Gregg Jacobs.

A few other interesting items I found while strolling, in between stuffing my face, were jewelry made of seeds and soaps made of natural materials.

The best part is you can find all these treasures all over Epcot. Mousegear and most other regular locations have at least some festival merchandise, as does the festival center (located in the former Wonders of Life pavilion). The center is also a great place to buy some of the wines you sampled.

There are also "festival shops" and kiosks located all around the lagoon, tucked in between the food booths. Take the time to explore all of these as you sip, stroll and eat. You never know what you might mind.

In closing I'll also give you all a quick reminder. If you can't make it out to the festival this year, many of these items are available to be purchased and delivered to your home via the Shop Disney Parks app, available for both iTunes and Android (see a previous article for more details).

As always, happy shopping and in this case, eating!

Shopping Tip of the Month

Last month, Walt Disney World quietly rolled out its 45th anniversary promotion and with it, some great merchandise. I'll write more about this after my December visit, but looks like some great clothing, pins, Dooney & Bourke bags and a commemorative magic band are available.

Even better, it looks like there's some great attraction specific merchandise, which readers of the space know I love (check out the tee shirts).

To take quick look, visit the Disney Parks Blog and let me know what you think.