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A First Timer’s Guide to Epcot’s International Flower & Garden Festival at Walt Disney World

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Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival
Welcome to this month’s Blogorail Red Loop. Today we are sharing what you can expect when you visit the Disney parks this spring.

Last spring, I found myself on two whirlwind trips to Walt Disney World during the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival season. Although I visit Disney destinations often, this was my very first time at Walt Disney World during the festival. For once, I had the rare chance to be a Disney newbie at something!

The Flower & Garden Festival was definitely a highlight of both of my trips. I think a visit is well worth it even for a casual Disney fan. Gorgeous flowers and amazing food – what is there not to like?

If the festival is new to you too, here’s what you need to know, how you need to plan, and what you will see during a visit.

What is the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival?

Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival features breathtaking gardens all over Epcot.The annual festival, in its 23rd year in 2016, celebrates the coming of spring with special sights and tastes all over Epcot. Both World Showcase and Future World in Epcot are planted with breathtaking flower displays. Amazing Disney character topiaries dot the park’s landscape among the flowers. Special gardening events and concerts add to the fun.

But don’t let the “flower and garden” name fool you: equally central to the festival is food! During the festival, Epcot features a dozen “Outdoor Kitchens.” These small food kiosks throughout the park have tasty snacks and drinks that you can only find at Disney during the festival.

How Do I Go to the Flower & Garden Festival?

First, get in the car or on a plane and head to Orlando. Um, yeah! But seriously, going to the festival is easy once you’ve made it that far. All that is required is a theme park ticket to enter Epcot. Admission to the festival is included in regular Epcot admission. There are no additional special event tickets needed to attend.

What Are the Can’t Miss Things to To Do & See?

There are so many things to do and see that you really can’t do it all in a single visit – or even, in my case, two visits! Do your research in advance so you know what outdoor kitchens and special events interest you the most so you can make time to hit the right highlights.

Anna and Elsa topiaries delight Frozen fans at the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival in Walt Disney World.Topiaries: Every visitor – particularly first timers – should make time to simply walk around all of Epcot to see the topiaries of favorite Disney characters. The attention to detail and skill required to make these works of art are truly inspiring. There are more than 100 topiaries in all – everything from Peter Pan and Captain Hook doing battle on the United Kingdom pavilion to adorable Bambi and Friends. Anna and Elsa will be there as well (now in a new location by Norway as the construction of the new Frozen ride continues).

One of the tasty treats featured at the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival is frushi in Japan.Wining & Dining: The food at the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival is both delicious and an excellent value. Most items are “snack size” and are priced accordingly. This means you have room in your stomach and budget to taste several! In fact, a popular evening activity is simply to stroll from kitchen to kitchen, ordering a bite or two at each stop until you’ve made a meal of it.

Food and drink highlights on my trip included the pineapple soft serve with rum (a.k.a the adult version of the classic Dole Whip) at Pineapple Promenade, the “frushi” at Hanami in Japan, and the Pulled Pig Slider with Crispy Onions and Coleslaw in the Smokehouse (I’m Southern, after all, so I don’t miss a chance for BBQ!).One of the best foods at the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival is a Dole Whip made with rum.

“Fun Fresh Weekends” Gardening Events: In true Epcot fashion, Disney builds education into the festival, with horticulture presentations and experts on hand. These special events take place mostly on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays so plan your Disney days carefully if you want to make time to improve your green thumb.

Concerts: Also on weekends, Epcot comes alive with music during the Garden Fresh Concert Series every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evening. I may have totally relived my 90’s childhood last year during a Jon Secada concert – it was amazing! The acts every year are usually long-time favorites so chances are you’ll be singing along to whoever is performing.

For Kids: The festival includes several play areas for little visitors. Kids can also come face to face with real butterflies in the Butterflies On the Go exhibit at Club Cool and learn about gardens and nature at other exhibits. Frankly, nearly everything at the festival is kid-friendly, so you can’t go wrong with anything. My 6 year old daughter simply couldn’t get enough of the topiaries and we could have spent hours taking her photo in front of every one!

Peter Pan and Captain Hook topiaries do battle in the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival.How Do I Make the Most of a Visit?

The best way to see and do as much as possible is to pick up a Flower & Garden Passport that has all the festival highlights listed on it. Every single topiary, menu item, tour, flower display and more is listed there.

What’s New for 2016?

Although many of the treats and topiaries are the same from year to year, Disney is always innovating. You can expect to see something new unveiled at the festival each year.

So what’s new in 2016?  First things first – the Festival will be longer than ever this year. It’s scheduled for a record-breaking 90 days, from March 2 to May 30, 2016.

The 2016 Festival will feature two new outdoor kitchens: La Isla Fresca in the World Showcase Promenade and Cider House in front of the United Kingdom Pavilion in World Showcase. La Isla Fresca will feature Caribbean inspired cuisine along with fruit juices and rum concoctions. Cider House will serve up a modern twist on cuisine from the British Isles along with several varieties of hard ciders.

Bambi and pals at the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival.There will be two new topiaries as well. First, Huey, Dewey, and Louie will join Donald and Daisy at the main entrance to the festival this year. Second, I was especially interested to see that a topiary Ranger Mickey will be on display to celebrate the 100th anniversary of America’s National Parks in 2016. As a child, seeing Epcot truly inspired me to travel. I love that Disney is joining with the National Park Foundation this year to keep inspiring another generation of kids to travel in America’s backyard.

Planning a visit to Walt Disney World in the spring? The Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival is a can't miss attraction. Get tips for planning your visit and what to do, see, and eat.

For more Spring fun at the Disney Parks,
check out the other great posts from the Blogorail!

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Disclosure: Disney graciously hosted me on one of my two trips that coincided with my visit to the Flower & Garden Festival last spring. On the second trip, Disney provided me and my family with discounted conference admission, tickets, and lodging as part of the Disney Social Media Moms celebration. As always, all opinions are my own.

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Jennifer Kaufman

Thursday 17th of March 2016

Wow! This post is so thorough, definitely sharing for anyone going down. I do think that with the recent addition of the food booths, this is absolutely one of my favorite times to visit!