Epcot comes alive every Spring, veritably blooming with hundreds of floral planters floating on the water and waving from the sky during the International Flower & Garden Festival, March 2 – May 30, 2016. Here are ten reasons not to miss it.
- Your favorite Disney characters. If you like Disney movies and cartoons, you’ve got to see the one-of-a-kind cast of Disney characters (over 100 of them!) featured during the Flower & Garden Festival — as topiaries! Made of living plants, designed with mind-boggling ingenuity and care, the character topiaries are truly works of art. In addition to Mickey, Minnie, and all their friends, Epcot has created a few fan favorites of its own. Many guests look forward to visiting the topiary dragon in China while Norway has long had a troll (of course, he now has to share the spotlight with Anna and Elsa from FROZEN!). New this year are Donald’s nephews, Huey, Dewey, and Louie – welcoming guests at the front of the park with Donald and Daisy. (Their scene is based on a Donald Duck Story called “The Victory Garden.”) A nifty new Park Ranger Mickey topiary has been created to celebrate the 100th birthday of the National Park Service. (Watch for illuminated topiaries at night!)
- Two words: Outdoor Kitchens. Yum! These 13 food stands send delicious aromas wafting through World Showcase and send you strolling around the lagoon with small plates of gourmet deliciousness. Two new kiosks will debut this year: the Cider House and La Isla Fresca. The Cider House kiosk occupies the little cottage at the UK Pavilion which offers Irish food in the fall during the Food & Wine Festival. The Cider House offers a salad made with greens grown at Epcot’s Land Pavilion. They also serve Pear Cider-Brined Corned Beef with a dessert of Lemon Scone with Crème Fraîche. Meanwhile, fresh Caribbean Island flavors are showcased at La Isla Fresca. One of their savory choices is Jerk-Spice Grouper or Chicken with Mango Salsa and Green Papaya Slaw while dessert is a Tres Leche Cake with Guava sauce. Their Simply Frozen Tropical Juice with or without Cruzan Mango Rum is only one of the exotic Flower and Garden Festival beverages available around the park.
- Flower and Garden Entertainment. The Garden Rocks Outdoor Concert Series will be rocking your favorite blast-from-the-past “throwback beats.” Herman’s Hermits, Little River Band, the Spinners, and Blood Sweat and Tears are among this year’s eleven bands visiting Epcot. Performances are included with Epcot admission and are held at America Gardens Theatre at 5:30, 6:45, and 8:00 p.m. every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evening.
- Fun for kids! Brand new this year is the Harmony Gardens Musical Playground which is equipped with state-of-the-art net climbers and other playground favorites. Children can let out some pent-up energy on drums, xylophones, and chimes, directed by the baton of a conductor Mickey topiary. Topiary Minnie, Goofy, Pluto, and Donald are here, too. There’s another kids’ play area at the back of the Cactus Road Rally, home to the topiary characters from CARS. You can print out a kids scavenger hunt for the festival before you go: Flower and Garden Festival Scavenger Hunt
- An edible flower garden! This unique exhibit is located near the Morocco Pavilion. It’s one of a dozen special mini gardens with which Epcot blooms during festival. You’ll also find a Water Wise Garden, Prehistoric Plants, Pollinator Paradise, Music Garden Melodies, Nature Works Everywhere, Fire Garden, Extraordinary Orchids, Tuscan Cucina Garden, Bonsai Collection, and a Shakespeare Garden. There’s a mini garden to explore around every corner.
- Garden Passport 2016. This free booklet is a lot of fun for both kids and adults. It has checklists of topiaries to look for, gardens to visit, outdoor kitchens to try out, and it also lists times and dates of entertainment and special presentations. A popular feature of the Garden Passport is the 16 pages devoted to stamps that can be collected at each of the food kiosks. You can download a passport for perusal before you go, then pick up the actual booklet at the park. Epcot Flower and Garden Passport 2016
- Going Green. Environmentalists will find appealing educational exhibits, including a display with an outdoor patio table (with table settings and wine glasses) demonstrating a unique example of the farm-to-table concept. The bottom of the table houses an aquarium with large goldfish which supply the fertilizer for the vegetables growing in built-in planters above – eventually bound for the plates on the table! In the Garden Emporium, you can find jewelry made from cantaloupe seeds, coffee beans and orange peels as well as stationery stained with real plants and flowers. The Flower and Garden Festival also has a Health and Healing Garden.
- Shopping! Dooney and Bourke has created an exclusive Epcot Flower & Garden collection in a muted teal featuring Mickey, Minnie, and Epcot’s Figment. There are also commemorative Flower and Garden mugs, t-shirts and Magic Bands. Even though Duffy is gone from Epcot, at least temporarily, there are special Flower and Garden Festival Duffy outfits and dolls available to boost your Duffy collections. Unusual garden items such as the “Alice in the Garden” line from ALICE IN WONDERLAND includes flowerpots with feet and Cheshire Cat bird feeders as well as hummingbird feeders (every yard needs a tree with a Cheshire Cat grinning from it!). To facilitate your Flower and Garden Festival expenditures, you can pick up a mini gift card wristlet (load it with $15 or more to activate) which makes visiting the food kiosks a breeze. This year, the wristlet gift cards are actually scented — like orange blossoms!
- Winged friends. The Butterflies to Go exhibit, complete with its own little waterfall, presents the phases in the butterfly life cycle and includes a display showing how to make your own butterfly garden. There are also giant butterfly topiaries (much bigger than the 12-inch variety to be seen on the Jungle Cruise!). Meanwhile, the Purple Martins Garden features a colony of the migratory songbirds that have flown 3,000 miles from the Brazilian Amazon to make their nests at Walt Disney World.
- The Gardening! If you’re a green-thumbed Disney guest, this is probably your Number 1 reason to visit the Epcot Flower & Garden Festival. Epcot horticulturists are on hand to present how-to demonstrations and seminars. You can meet Master Gardeners from the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. At the Garden Theater, you can see a presentation on the “making” of the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival While the gardens and landscaping at Epcot are always beautiful, Disney horticulturalists go above and beyond for the Flower & Garden Festival. You’ll find the tips and the inspiration to transform your own backyard garden into a Epcot-style paradise.
Have you been to the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival?