A couple of weeks ago we had the chance to stop by Epcot during the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival. Much like the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival held each year in the fall, the Flower & Garden Festival gives guests a chance to wander around the World Showcase enjoying tastes, sips, sights and events that are exclusive to the festival. Having visited Walt Disney World–and more specifically, Epcot–several times during special events and not, I can tell you that the Epcot festivals are my favorite. Whereas the pace in the other three parks tends to be somewhat hurried, Epcot’s festivals are anything but. We love strolling along the route between pavilions and stopping at one of the food booths–or “outdoor kitchens”–and indulging in a small bite or sip. There always seems to be some form of live entertainment available, too. Whether it’s the Chinese acrobats, Italian jugglers or one of the Garden Rocks concerts that take place in the America Gardens Theater, there is always something fun to watch.
So, what’s different about visiting during the Flower & Garden Festival? Plenty. Here’s a glimpse.
Topiaries & Floral Displays
Perhaps the most obvious difference between visiting Epcot during this event and any other day of the year is the bountiful flora. There are several topiaries modeled after Disney’s most loved characters.
How cute is this display, a recreation of a scene from Disney’s Lion King? Being the fun-loving family we are, we even attempted to recreate the recreation. Unfortunately, Cassidy was a bit too weighty for it to work. Either that or a certain someone needs to start pumping more iron.
In addition to the pixie-dusted topiaries, guests will notice that Epcot is abloom with color.
This red, white & blue floral display is planted just outside the America Gardens Theater. Aren’t they clever?
Small Bites & Sips
Here’s where it gets good. Really, really good. A couple of years ago, Disney plussed up the Flower & Garden Festival by incorporating outdoor kitchens that serve small bites as well as beer and wine that fits in with the garden theme. I suspect that they realized what a huge hit the small bites are at the Food & Wine Festival and decided to make similar tasting options available in the spring. During our recent trip, we had the opportunity to sample several culinary creations from the outdoor kitchens. Here are a few of our favorites.
This is the quinoa vegetable “naanwich” from the Urban Farm Eats booth. The quinoa patty is topped with arugula pesto and oven-dried tomatoes with a sprinkle of feta. It was quite good, if only a touch too salty.
This is the “frushi” we picked up in Japan. Don’t let your eyes deceive you; those are bitty pieces of fruit wrapped in rice and soy paper. It doesn’t taste all that great, but the presentation makes it a fun treat for the kids.
This little slice of heaven, on the other hand, is sublime. It’s a strawberry marshmallow macaron from the outdoor kitchen in France. Tucked within that sweet marshmallow filling is a sweet and juicy strawberry surprise. You won’t regret this purchase, but at $4.50, it’s a bit of a splurge for one cookie.
I did mention that there are sips available as well. This is a flute of sparkling pineapple wine. It was quite good–not as sweet as I expected it would be (which is a good thing) but it definitely tasted of pineapple.
Not to worry; the kids have their choice of alcohol-free sips to try as well. Jayce is pictured above enjoying a frozen desert violet lemonade.
Tips & Hints
If you anticipate a day spent trying tastes and sips around the “world”, I highly recommend that you purchase a festival wristband. These wristbands are available for purchase in several locations and make budgeting a breeze.
Rather than nickel-and-diming your way around the outdoor kitchens, you might find it more advisable to determine a budget at the onset and purchase a single wristband with your predetermined amount loaded. That way, as you visit each kitchen and order your goodies, you can deduct if from the gift card. Not only is it easier for budgeting, but it’s also more convenient to flash the gift card than it is to pull a credit card out of your wallet at every stop. Alternatively, Disney resort guests can use Mickey bands, but even then it’s tough to keep track of how much you’re spending.
When we visited, we loaded each of our kids up with $30 on a wristband and they were able to choose what they wanted to taste as we worked our way around the World Showcase.
Epcot’s festivals are popular events–especially with the locals. If you want to avoid significant crowding, visit on a weekday. Even then, you should be prepared to deal with a lot of people, but weekends bring shoulder-to-shoulder crowds.
This is not the time to order a pulled pork sandwich and call it a day. Be adventurous! Use the opportunity to branch out and try a food item you would normally look over. Because the portions are relatively small, it’s a great time to give quinoa a go.
There are several unique shopping opportunities that exist only during the Flower & Garden Festival. Take a minute to browse through the shops and kiosks. You’ll find specialty merchandise that isn’t available anywhere else. As proof, I enter into evidence, Exhibit A:
I hope you’ve enjoyed this virtual tour. Feel free to ask any questions in the comments and I’ll do my best to share my experience!