Epcot’s International Flower & Garden Festival is an 11-week event that transforms the park into a showcase of spring. With nearly 100 custom-grown topiaries, 11 outdoor kitchens with original snacks and beverages, gardening and design workshops and presentations, and specialty gardens, the festival is a vacation in itself. Flower & Garden is ongoing during normal park hours from March 5 through May 18 this year and, excepting some specialty offerings, is included with the price of admission to the park. The Festival Center, where you’ll find all the information you need to enjoy the event, is located between Ellen’s Energy Adventure and Mission: SPACE and is open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Be sure to stop into the Festival Center for continuous shows of “The Making of The Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival” in the HGTV Theater, gardening pointers, and your copy of the Festival Guide as well as your Festival Passport.
There are some general tips for Flower & Garden that will help you plan your trip no matter what you plan to see and do there. First, stock up on Disney gift cards. They can be used at all of the kiosks and shops and are really convenient if you’re trying to stay on a budget or don’t want to carry cash. Disney gift cards can be purchased at a discount at retailers like Target (using your REDcard and stacking pharmacy discounts you can get up to 10% off!), Sam’s Club, and BJ’s Wholesalers. Second, go on a weekday if it’s possible. Local traffic increases significantly on weekends and can make seeing all you want to see a bit difficult. Third, take sunscreen and don’t forget to hydrate. Sunscreen and water may seem like intuitive things to put on a list of recommendations, but the Florida sun can be particularly potent and so can the drinks at the outdoor kitchens. You want to fully enjoy the festival and sunburns and hangovers are not the way to do it.
Last, use the Touring Plans resources and the official website to make a plan for seeing all the festivities. While the festival may seem like an adults-only venture at first glance, don’t count it out if you have kids. Epcot’s teams have made sure there’s plenty of fun with Cars and pixie-themed gardens, a Monsters University playground, and special kids’ activities throughout the park that keep the event in line with the park’s family focus, and the outdoor kitchen offerings have some fun treats like Japan’s Frushi (fruit sushi) that are great tries for those testing out their taste buds.
WHEN TO GO
Flower & Garden has two schedules that you may want to keep in mind while you’re planning. The first is the schedule of Home and Garden Television (HGTV) Celebrity Presentations. The second set of scheduled events is the Flower Power Concert Series. Concerts are held Friday through Sunday at 5:30 p.m., 6:45 p.m., and 8:00 p.m. at the America Gardens Theatre. For more information on presentations and performers, check out Rikki’s post.
WHERE TO STAY
Any resort hotel on Walt Disney World property (or good neighbor hotel) is a great pick, but the BoardWalk Inn, Yacht Club, Beach Club, Swan, and Dolphin are all within walking distance of Epcot.
WHAT’S NEW OR NOTABLE THIS YEAR?
Computer generation brings the topiaries’ face features to life in a newly detailed way and the front entrance garden is where this new style will really shine. Also new to the entrance garden this year are a water fountain and lily pond.
Eleven “Outdoor Kitchen” food kiosks in World Showcase feature garden and farm-fresh foods for the second year. This year’s new kitchen, “Urban Eats,” offers sustainably farmed food, much of which is grown in Epcot’s own Land pavilion. The Urban Eats menu includes Eggplant Scallop with Romesco Sauce, Ghost Pepper-Dusted Tilapia, Winter Melon Salad, Mango Chutney, Vegan Red and White Wines, and gluten-free beer. For a full listing of all the Outdoor Kitchen menus, check out the official page here.
“Hummingbirds at Home”, a new exhibit presented by the National Audubon Society, allows guests to walk through live hummingbird gardens and get tips on how to attract these magnificent birds to their own yards.
Tinker Bell’s Butterfly House is once again home to thousands of butterflies fluttering around glass sculptures (below) and gardens made just for attracting the winged creatures.
Illuminated gardens and nearly 100 topiaries decorate the Epcot grounds for this year’s Festival.
WHAT ARE THE MUST-DO’S?
Try Frushi (pictured above) is one of the best snacks on property any time of year. It’s fruit sushi – a soy wrap around fresh fruit and coconut rice. You’ll find it at “Hanami,” the Japan Pavilion’s Outdoor Kitchen. While you’re there, be sure to try the Kung Fu Punch as well. It’s the punch that punches back.
Get a passport at the Festival Center. Each Outdoor Kitchen and specialty garden has a themed stamp to add to your pages and the final product is a fun souvenir. It also helps you keep track of favorite sights and snacks.
Taste the Dole Whip with Rum at Pineapple Promenade. Flower & Garden is the only time it’s served, and it’s a Disney Bucket List check-off.
Walk through the butterfly and hummingbird gardens. Rarely do you find nature so lovely and so close-up, and both are a peaceful break from the park when it’s bustling.
Walk slowly. The topiaries and gardens are incredible and there’s nothing like strolling around to see them all on a gorgeous day at Epcot. Or, if you can’t make it down, I’ll leave you with some photos that I hope will make up for it. Until next time, keep it magical. ~M