The 2013 Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival kicked off on Wednesday, so I decided to take a trip out to see all of the new offerings for this year. More-so than in the past, the event has changed quite a bit from the previous year with the addition of marketplace booths similar to the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival held annually in the fall. That being said, the number of booths at this event is limited to just fourteen, and the menus are slightly lighter when it comes to drink options. To fit the theme of the Flower and Garden Festival, the menus focus on items containing fruits and vegetables. That being said, there are still a few dishes that contain meat, so you should be able to find something for everyone in your party.
My first stop for the Festival is always the Festival Center. Located in the former Wonders of Life Pavilion in Future World between Universe of Energy and Mission: SPACE, this is where you can find Festival passports, merchandise, seminars, and educational displays.
I was really happy to see they added the “Garden Passport,” similar to the passport for Food & Wine Festival, to keep track of all the food, wine, and events you want to experience. Each location for the Festival has a description, checklist, and place for the Cast Member to stamp. We had a really great time visiting each place collecting stamps!
Bambi’s Butterfly Garden is now Tinker Bell’s Butterfly House. It is very similar to previous years, except they used the fairy topiaries instead of the Bambi ones. I usually really enjoy going to see all the butterflies, but it seems because it was the first day of the Festival the butterflies were still in their cocoons. The decorations they added to fit the fairy motif were really cute, and I can’t wait to see them again with the addition of the butterflies.
We stopped at the Oz the Great and Powerful Garden to get our stamp…but we had already experienced this area since it has been open for a few weeks already.
Now for the topiaries and garden displays… you know, because this is the Flower and Garden Festival. New for 2013 were displays featuring characters from Monsters University, Cars, and Phineas and Ferb. If we’re being honest, all but the Mike Wazowski and Sulley topiaries were reused from years past, so there is really only one completely new display this year. However, I thought the Cars display was much nicer than in years past since it included a game for children where they have to find car parts around Radiator Springs with detective Mater. Also, Phineas and Ferb are now directly behind Spaceship Earth with a display reminiscent of their backyard from the hit television show. Among the returning displays this year are The Lion King, the Disney Princesses and their princes, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and Buzz Lightyear, Woody, and Lotso (who unfortunately no longer smells like strawberries) from Toy Story.
Now, as far as the marketplace booths are concerned, even though there are only 14 booths, there is a lot to try. The price tag to try everything can be a bit much, and it is literally impossible to ingest all of the offerings in one go around Epcot. However, with a group of people to split the cost and share the food, it is completely manageable.
Overall, the booths were very good. That being said, I don’t think the menus are nearly as strong as those at the Food & Wine Festival. My personal favorites were the Florida Fresh and Taste of Marrakesh booths. The shrimp and grits and the angel food cake from Florida Fresh were outstanding, and all three dishes from Morocco pleased everyone in our group. There were a few other standout dishes including the German Meatloaf Sandwich from Bauernmarkt and the Baked Goat’s Brie from The Cottage, and Rocky Road Brownie Mousse from The Smokehouse.
There were also some booths that stood out for being not so good. L’Orangerie in France was by far our least favorite. We strongly considered skipping it since no one in our party was interested in any of the offerings, but then decided to give it a shot anyway. I really wish we had skipped it. The Caramelized Peaches tasted canned and burnt, and the ratatouille had clearly been sitting under the heat lamp for quite a while.
I think the most highly anticipated food item from the Festival was the Dole Whip with Rum from Pineapple Promenade. This was one of the disappointments for us. While it was good, it was very small…and instead of adding some pineapple juice to make the rum mix better, the rum was just kind of sitting in the bottom and we had to maneuver to mix it up ourselves.
As with Food & Wine Festival, take time to look at the booth menus before you go to see what appeals to you. Give things a shot. Luckily everything is just a tasting portion, so if you don’t enjoy it, it isn’t a great loss.
All-in-all I really enjoyed the Festival this year much more than in previous years. The food and drink booths add a lot to the experience, and the Garden Passport stamps made the whole thing a fun game for us…and that was a group of adults! I can’t wait to take my kids back to visit the play areas, collect stamps, and see the butterflies (who will hopefully arrive by this weekend).
Have you experienced the festival? What did you think? What dishes from the booths stood out to you?