The groundhog has spoken, and spring is on the way. Time to think of birds singing and flowers blooming. (And maybe restocking allergy supplies…)
It also is time to start planning for the Epcot International Flower and Garden festival. Now in its 23rd year, this annual event has brought a splash of color and new life to the Epcot resort. This year, the festival will run from March 2 through May 30, 2016. Whether this is your first visit or you’re an old pro, here’s some hints to help make the most of your visit.
Be sure to pick up a festival passport from the festival center or from select gift shop or food booth locations. In addition to having menus of the food booths, locations of topiaries, and a list of concert performers, the passport also contains information about the festival and makes a lovely (and free) souvenir. At each location in the passport, you can stop by and get a special stamp.
Garden Rocks Concerts
In the evenings from Friday through Sunday, Epcot comes alive with the sounds of some famous musicians in the Garden Rocks concert series. The concerts are offered three times a night at The American Adventure pavilion’s American Gardens Theater.
This year will include some newcomers to the festival with performances by Blood, Sweat & Tears, Brian Howe (Bad Company), Georgia Satellites, and Darlene Love. Also returning are favorites like Starship, Herman’s Hermits, Village People, and Gin Blossoms, among others. You’ll want to arrive early if you want a good seat in the American Gardens Theater, but you can also enjoy hearing the music from the outdoor areas around The American Adventure pavilion.
Flowers and Gardens
I remember being amazed by topiaries that I saw on my first visits to Walt Disney World more than 30 years ago, and the presentation of these verdant works of art has only improved over time. You can find character topiaries scattered throughout Epcot along with flowers everywhere, including more than 200 “floating gardens”. In addition, almost every place that can be covered with flowers will be covered with flowers. It is like walking through a living art gallery.
Think of the outdoor kitchens like a miniature Food and Wine festival. Thirteen booths now grace the area around World Showcase lagoon, offering a variety of foods that focus on fresh flavors. New this year are La Isla Fresca, with Caribbean flavors, and Cider House, with dishes prepared with cider served alongside hard ciders.
Playgrounds may not be the highlight of your visit to Flower and Garden, but if you are a kid, these monster-sized outdoor play areas are sure to be a hit. This year there will be a two play areas: a music-themed play area and Cactus Road Rally, with a Cars theme. In addition, the walk-through butterfly experience is back, along with other exhibits geared toward the younger set.
Disney event merchandise comprises the same type of items from year to year, although the designs vary from desirable to outlet-worthy. Like years prior, expect limited edition or limited release pins, MagicBands, and Dooney & Bourke bags, alongside a variety of t-shirts, mugs and glasses, hats, and more. Disney has released an unboxing video of some of the merchandise here.
In the old Wonders of Life pavilion in Future World is the Festival Center for Flower and Garden. Events occur throughout the day offering educational experiences with Master Gardeners, hands-on presentations and demonstrations, and exhibits about what it takes to bring a festival like this into reality.
What does it take to bring this about? How about more than 100 topiaries, 76,000 bedding plants around Future World’s East and West Lake alone (part of the 200,000 bedding plants added around Epcot for the festival), more than a mile and a half of gardens, and more than 1,200 orchids just at the Mexico Pavilion! The beauty of this festival is really a testament to the hard work of the horticulture team.
Admission to the activities, entertainment, and exhibits of the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival is free with your admission to Epcot. Whether you choose to make this the focus of your visit or just added enjoyment to your park visit, Flower& Garden is worth a visit to Epcot whether or not you choose to stop and smell the flowers.