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Fresh Epcot with Small Children
Let’s start with what is really big news: this year the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival lasts 90 days! That is a whooping 15 days more than in 2015. There is a huge demand for special entertainment and the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival is certainly an event that locals and out of town guests eagerly await each year.
There are many reviews about the festival out there and while I will provide the basics the focus of this article is on how to enjoy the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival with young children.
Every year Disney makes sure that the topiary in front of the park is really special. And Minnie sure looks absolutely fabulous when you enter, I love it that the honors this year also went to Daisy Duck, Huey, Dewey, Louie, and their Uncle Donald. The Victory Garden is inspired by a 1943 Donald Duck comic book of the same name. It is always good to see Disney going back to the classics.
Next let me tell you about my all-time favorite display. It is the Mickey Mouse ranger topiary that can be found in Future World. It is Disney’s tribute to the National Parks Service centennial anniversary. Did you know that this year entry to all National Parks is free on all public holidays? There is also a program called Every Kid in a Park. It is a program created by the White House, in partnership with the Federal Land Management agencies to help engage and create a next generation of park visitors, supporters and advocates. I am thrilled to see that Disney is calling attention to our National Parks with this large display.
Topiaries are my favorites and they are really amazing year after year. Kids will love to have their photo taken with Snow White at the German Pavilion.
And they will be thrilled to discover that ‘the prettiest of them all’ with the seven dwarfs as topiaries a few steps further.
The Beauty and the Beast topiary are found at the France Pavilion, not far away from the spot where Belle meets her little fans.
Also at the France pavilion, standing under a clock, are Cinderella and Prince Charming. Cinderella has no meet and greet at the park but she is present at the Akershus character dining (breakfast, lunch and dinner) at the Norway pavilion. At Akershus Snow White, Belle, Princess Aurora, Ariel, and Mary Poppins join her to pose for pictures and sign autographs.
While you cannot meet the live characters, kids will love to see that Peter Pan, Captain Hook and the crocodile took over the British pavilion.
Also at the British pavilion are the Winnie the Pooh and Friends topiaries.
Bambi and Friends are in Canada, Buzz Lightyear in Future World, Phineas and Ferb just a bit further in Future World East, and the Lady and the Tramp are in Italy. If your child loves The Lion King check out Simba and Friends at the Outpost.
The Frozen girls have not yet arrived at Epcot, but their topiary has been placed at the Norway Pavilion for all to admire in anticipation of the opening of the Frozen Ever After ride and the Royal Sommerhus meet and greet.
The new Minnie Mouse and Pluto topiaries is really beautiful. You can find Minnie Mouse herself at the Epcot Character Spot in Future World West, to the right of The Fountain restaurant. Mickey Mouse and Goofy join her at this Fastpass+ meet and greet location. At Legacy Plaza West you can find Pluto at select times throughout the day.
There are of course many more character meet and greets at Epcot but not all have their very own topiary. Characters vary seasonally and may change at any time. Make sure to pick up a Times Guide for times and locations
Fresh Epcot alright, but show me the Fun playgrounds where kids can let off steam
All kids will get crazy about the new hands-on Harmony Gardens musical playground.
Disney’s Fab Five topiaries of Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Goofy, Pluto and Donald Duck are at the heart of the playground, which is equipped with interactive drums, chimes and xylophones.
Back by popular demand is the Cactus Road Rally play garden, home to the Disney-Pixar topiary Mater and Lightning McQueen.
Fresh Epcot – the educator
The Butterflies on the Go garden is also a must for little ones. The butterfly house has ten species of butterflies and an amazing display about the growth of monarch butterflies. Like last year I must admit that I felt a little underwhelmed. I still reminisce about the little Fairy houses two years past.
If you want to carry the educational part of your visit just a tad further, I highly recommend the Behind the Seeds Tour at Epcot. This guided, one-hour tour, through the Land pavilion greenhouses is at the Living with the Land attraction. The tour costs $18 per person. A 15% off discount is available for Annual Passholders, DVC owners, and Disney Visa Cardholders. If you do not want to spring for the behind the scenes tour I still recommend you ride Living with the Lands to emphasize on the fact that vegetables grown there are served in some of the Epcot restaurants and Outdoor Kitchens during the Flower and Garden Festival.
Fresh Epcot offers Culinary experiences
Talking about food. I truly believe that the Outdoor Kitchens are perfect for introducing young children to new culinary experiences. If you are on a Disney Dining Plan you can use your snacks for the small plates at the different Outdoor Kitchens.
There are 13 Outdoor Kitchens this year, up two from last year. The new outdoor kitchen at World Showcase Promenade is La Isla Fresca. I really enjoyed the Jerk-spice Chicken with Mango Salsa, Chayote and Green Papaya Slaw with Lime-Cilentrp Vinaigrette.
The other new kid on the blog is Cider House at the United Kingdom Pavilion. Here I went for the typical Irish dish of Pear Cider-brined Shredded Corned Beef with Braised Cabbage and Pears and Branston Dressing. The beef was dry and a big chunk, the cabbage nice but overall not a dish to write home about.
Sure to be a hit with kids though is The Smokehouse at the American Adventure where pulled Pig Slider with Crispy Onions and Coleslaw are the big draw.
Right there you also have the American Adventure Kidcot Fun Stop with plenty of tables to sit and relax, and Pixar’s Woody topiary.
The topiary is lovely at night.
Fresh Epcot also let’s you take the kids to one of the Garden Rock Concerts
Performances are at the America Gardens Theatre every Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 5:30, 6:45 and 8 p.m. The concerts are included in the park admission. Here is the lineup for the Garden Rock Concerts through the end of this year’s festival:
March 18-20: Little River Band
March 25-27: Village People
April 1-3: Herman’s Hermits starring Peter Noone
April 8-10: The Guess Who
April 15-17: Blood, Sweat & Tears featuring Bo Bice
April 22-24: Brian Howe, former lead singer of Bad Company
April 29-May 1: Georgia Satellites
May 6-8: Gin Blossoms
May 13-15: Darlene Love
May 20-22: Night Ranger
May 27-30: The Spinners
Horticultural presentations and lectures round up the offer, and to top it all some of the gardens and topiaries are illuminated at nightfall.
Will you be visiting the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival with your children this year? We would love to hear about your experience.