It is the 25th edition of the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival, and the park celebrates spring with vibrant flowerbeds, floating gardens, larger-than-life topiaries, culinary experiences, and Garden Rock Concerts.
Topiary lovers will enjoy the many topiaries found throughout the park. Frozen fans will find Anna and Elsa topiaries at the Norway Pavilion, and Cars topiaries thrill children at the desert-themed interactive play garden located in Future World East. Look for Belle and the Beast at the France Pavilion.
Classics are the topiaries of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in the German Pavilion, plus the Lady and the Tramp, right next door in the Italian Pavilion.
And than, there is Figment!
Winnie the Pooh and Friends are found at the United Kingdom Pavilion and so is Tinker Bell. The Three Caballeros topiaries at the Mexican Pavilion are my favorite.
One of the most impressive creation is the bromeliad dragon topiary found at the China Pavilion.
Beautiful garden spaces throughout the park entice guests to recreate these wildlife habitats back at home. Annual favorites are the English Tea Garden, the Shakespeare Garden, and the Goodness Garden Butterfly House. Walking among hundreds of colorful butterflies, guests can observe cocoons in several different stages of development and learn how to attract these amazing creatures to their very own backyards.
Garden-ready ideas, including how to create your own butterfly house, can be found at the How-To Garden! in Future World West. In the absence of any garden seminars this turned out to be my favorite garden.
The interactive play gardens, complete with children’s outdoor climbing systems, are perfect for kids to let off steam. In addition to the Cars-themed Road to the Florida 500 garden, children of all ages will love the new Imagination Play Garden, where they can test their reflexes on a net play climber and discover different sounds through a musical maze.
One of the most amazing sights is Festival Blooms, the flower beds surrounding the Future World east and west lakes, including more than 100 floating mini-gardens. The must-take picture upon entering the park is, of course, the topiary display featuring Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy. Nothing beats this photo-op with the iconic Spaceship Earth in the back.
Taste your Way through Epcot’s International Flower and Garden Festival
But what would be Epcot’s International Flower and Garden Festival be without the outdoor kitchens scattered around World Showcase? Similar to the Food & Wine Festival, guests can taste their way from country to country.
From Canard Confit Aux Gnocchi à la Parisienne: Braised Duck Confit with Parisian Gnocchi at Fleur de Lys (France Pavilion), to Pork Taco: Slow-braised Pork Taco served with Apple Relish, Goat Cheese, and Chile de Árbol Sauce (Mexico Pavilion), to Fritto Misto: Crispy Shrimp, Zucchini, and Spicy Sauces (Italy Pavilion), there’s something for every taste.
I found my favorite meat dish, Lamb Chop with Quinoa Salad and Blackberry Gastrique, at The Berry Basket booth. And who can say no to Beef Brisket Burnt Ends and Smoked Pork Belly Slider with Garlic Sausage, Chorizo, Cheddar Fondue, and House-made Pickle from THE SMOKEHOUSE: Barbecue and Brews at the American Pavilion. For a twist on hot dogs, try Spicy Hot Dog with Pineapple Chutney and Plantain Chips, available from the Pineapple Promenade booth.
Vegetarians, too, will have no problem finding yummy treats, such as Potato Pancakes with House-made Apple Sauce at Bauernmarkt: Farmer’s Market (German Pavilion) or the very filling Tarte à la Tomate Provençale: Tomato Tart with Sautéed Onions, Fresh Thyme, and Rosemary on a Flaky Pastry Crust at Fleur de Lys (France Pavilion).
My favorite vegetarian dish was Fried Cauliflower with Capers, Garlic Parsley, and Chili Ranch Sauce from Taste of Marrakesh at the Morocco Pavilion.
Warm Cheese Strudel with Mixed Berries (Germany Pavilion), Key Lime Tart with Toasted Meringue (Florida Fresh booth), and Warm Wild Berry Buckle with Pepper Berry Gelato (The Berry Basket booth) take care of those with a sweet tooth.
Rock Concerts, Garden Tours, and More
Friday through Monday, guests can enjoy the free Garden Rock Concerts at the America Gardens Theater in the American Adventure Pavilion. Showtimes are 5:30 p.m., 6:45 p.m., and 8 p.m. When I visited, Night Ranger performed. Check out the complete lineup here.
The festival, the Garden Rock Concerts, and all gardening programs are included in your park admission. If you want to carry the educational part of your visit a little further, you can sign up for Gardens of the World, a three-hour walking tour throughout the park. A Disney horticulturist explains what goes into maintaining the landscapes and displays, while sharing behind-the-scenes tales about the award-winning topiaries and gardens that make the festival so special. Guests also learn about various plant materials, gardening techniques, and how to apply Disney landscaping techniques at home. The price for this tour is $85 plus tax. Guests must be at least 12 years of age to participate. In addition, guests under 18 years of age who are participating in the tour must be accompanied by a paying guest at least 18 years of age. Visit Guest Relations or call 407-WDW-TOUR to make reservations.
Make sure you ride Living with the Land to learn more about the vegetables grown. Did you know that they are served year-round in some of Epcot’s restaurants and in the outdoor kitchens during the festival?
Free of charge is the English Tea Garden Tour presented by Twinings of London®. The 20-minute tour is held Monday through Thursday at 3:30 p.m. and 5:)0 p.m., Friday through Sunday at 1:00 p.m., 3:30 p.m., and 5:00 p.m. Same-day registration is available in The Tea Caddy gift shop at the United Kingdom Pavilion. For $18 plus tax, you can sign up for Royal Tea Garden Tour, a 45-minute VIP guided tour that includes the artistry and history behind growing and blending tea. The tour ends with a sampling of tea and scones. This daily tour begins at 9:45 a.m. in the United Kingdom Pavilion before World Showcase opens to the general public at 11:00 a.m. For more information and reservations, call 407-WDW-Tour. Note that, for all tours, valid admission to Epcot is required.
Fun Scavenger Hunts for the Entire Family
From March 16th through April 1st, guests visiting the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival could participate in the Egg-stravaganza scavenger hunt. Be on the lookout for a dozen hidden Disney Character-themed eggs. This is an annual event that takes place right around the Easter holiday.
New this year—and running throughout the duration of the festival—is Spike’s Pollen Nation Exploration. Follow the trail of Spike, a bee who has been pollinating his way around the festival.
At the end of each game, kids collect a small prize. Maps and stickers for both scavenger hunts can be purchased for $5.99 plus tax.
While still beautiful, this year’s festival did not have many new gardens and not a single new topiary. The gardening programs were also missed, and so was the fact that there was no Festival Center this year, as there had been in the past. Hopefully the 2019 edition will come back with lots of new exhibits and gardening seminars. The Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival runs now through May 28th.
For in-depth information on all there is to do year-round at Walt Disney World, check out The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World with Kids by Bob Sehlinger and Liliane Opsomer, with Len Testa.
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