I was fortunate enough to spend a day at the 24th annual International Flower and Garden Festival at EPCOT recently. The festival lasts an unprecedented 90 days this year, from March 1 to May 29, and many other aspects of the festival have been expanded: more topiaries, more outdoor kitchens, more play areas and more free concerts. There are even classes, demonstrations, and tours, both free and paid, that you can attend.
One thing to keep in mind, however, is that many of the Festival events are only offered on the weekends. The Festival Center is open Friday-Sunday and is located in the old Wonders of Life pavilion between the Universe of Energy and Mission Space. At the Center you’ll find exhibits, demonstrations and hands-on presentations. A schedule can be found here. These are generally complimentary, but seating is limited and on a first-come first-serve basis. If you attend a presentation, you might also get a “freebie” like a plant or a food sample.
In the past, Home and Garden Television (HGTV) was a sponsor of the event, but now most of the presenters are experts from University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agriculture Sciences.
There are also a variety of Garden Rocks concerts that are held Friday through Monday at the American Gardens Theater. These are free but in order to have a reserved seat you might consider booking a Garden Rocks Dining Package.
While the presentations and the concerts only go on during the weekend, there are many, many displays and gardenscapes that are visible during the entire Festival timeframe. The topiaries are fun to look at, especially the new Belle one in the French Pavilion and the Cars 3 character, Cruz, outside Test Track. My daughters enjoyed wandering in the Butterflies on the Go habitat, seeing butterflies and their chrysalises. And I liked meandering through the Shakespeare Garden in the United Kingdom.
There are two interactive play areas that looked like they were a blast and featured seating areas for adults.
You can take several specialty tours during the Festival. Most are for an additional fee, but there is a short, complimentary tour of the English Tea Garden. You can learn about the tea-making process and see tea-flavoring plants sprouting in giant tea cups. Sign up is same day in the Tea Caddy gift shop in the United Kingdom Pavilion.
There’s another horticultural tour that is reasonably priced and very interesting that gives you an insider look at the greenhouses and fish farm in the Land Pavilion. Called Behind the Seeds, it lasts an hour and costs $25 for adults. I did it a couple of years ago and really enjoyed it. You can read Fancy Free Diva’s review of it here.
Last, but certainly not least, are all the Outdoor Kitchens. These are open every day during the Festival and are very similar to the booths at the Food and Wine Festival. You can pick up a Festival Passport at the Festival Center and mark off all the dishes you try as you eat (and drink!) your way around the World Showcase. I was in dessert mode and my favorite two tastes were the Macaron Chocolat Framboise: Large Raspberry Macaron with Chocolate Fudge and Raspberry Jam ($4.75) in France and the Freshly Baked Lemon Scone with Crème Fraîche and Mixed Berries ($3.75) from the United Kingdom. My husband loved the Carne Asada with Black Bean Cake and Cilantro Lime Sour Cream ($6.50) from the Florida Fresh booth and the Pulled Pig Slider with Coleslaw and Crispy Onions ($6.00) from the Smokehouse at the American Pavilion. My favorite drink was the highly refreshing Watermelon Cucumber Slush with Tamiami Florida Gin ($11.75) from the Florida Fresh kitchen. Most of the food dishes are also DDP snack credit eligible.
The day we attended, the weather was gorgeous and the crowds were fairly low. The crowd level did rise as the day went on. While some people may not like the fact that there always seems to be some sort of festival going on at EPCOT these days, I love it. Each festival I’ve been to (Food and Wine, Festival of the Arts, Flower and Garden) has its own distinct feel; while the food booths may *look* similar, the dishes they offer differ from festival to festival and they enhance the international experience. Do yourself a favor and try to plan at least one of your trips to coincide with one of these festivals.
Ready to book your next vacation? Contact Authorized Disney Vacation Planner, Patricia Payne of All For Dreams Travel for FREE help planning your trip!