Spring is here! Well, that’s what it says on the calendar even though the temperatures in Toronto don’t really reflect it. I’m glad though that the snow is almost all melted and there’s a bit of green on trees and the ground. Last year I visited Epcot on my own and shared a few tips for visitors heading to the International Flower & Garden Festival. I’ve updated the post below with new tips for the 2015’s event. Enjoy!
Walt Disney World Resort is celebrating the start of spring with their annual International Flower & Garden Festival which runs from March 4 to May 17, 2015 this year. There’s over 100 topiaries on display, interactive play zones for the kids, Garden Rocks Concerts every weekend and Disney horticulturists and gardening experts offering tips and advice on how to spruce up your home this season.
Having been to the festival twice (once with my family, once without), I can say it’s tons of fun with or without kids.
This year, Frozen‘s Anna and Elsa topiaries make an appearance at World Showcase Plaza and a new outdoor kitchen between France and Morocco (called Botanos Botanico) will be serving up seafood with fresh vegetables and fruit (scallops and grouper with mango and avocado, for example).
If you’re planning on visiting this year’s Flower & Garden Festival, here’s a few tips from last year’s visit on how to make the most of your time at Epcot:
1. Download the Festival Guide
There is lots to see and do during this time of year at Epcot and before you head to the park you might want to take a look at the festival guide on Disney’s website.
If your plan is to make it through the entire park and get on some of the rides, the guide will help your travel group plan out your day at Epcot. Last year’s visit during the festival left me too stuffed and exhausted to make it outside of the World Showcase. I spent 4 hours walking, eating and taking photos, I didn’t even make it to other parts of the park (nor did I get on any rides).
2. Visit the Play Gardens
If you have young children with you, be sure to check out the play gardens where little ones can burn off some energy and pose for pictures with their favorite characters – topiary style.
Mike and Sulley’s Monstrous Garden in Future World features a tunnels, slides, a net climber and a shaded area for parents to relax while the kids play. Cactus Road Rally located near Test Track is a Cars-themed area featuring Mater and Lightening McQueen. Butterflies on the Go gives kids the opportunity to see several different species of butterflies up close.
3. Catch a Garden Rocks Concert
Famous artists and bands put on a show at Epcot’s America Gardens Theatre (an outdoor theatre) every weekend (Friday – Sunday) of the festival. There are 3 shows each night (5:15PM, 6:30PM. 7:45PM) and some of the bands in the lineup include Taylor Dane, The Guess Who, En Vogue and Village People.
The weekend I visited last year, there was a fairly long lineup more than an hour before show time – about 200 people deep when we walked by American Adventure. You can find out more about weekend events here.
4. Have a Food Budget & Pace Yourself
This is where I ended up spending all of my time and money the weekend I visited without my children.
The outdoor kitchens had so much to choose from and I ended up dropping close to $40 sampling signature foods from around the world.
Here’s what I sampled last year: taco from Mexico, potato and cheddar biscuit with smoked salmon tartare from United Kingdom, duck confit and an orange blossom macaron from France, frushi (fruit sushi) from Japan and a Piggylicious bacon cupcake from America were some of the things I filled my belly with. Thank goodness I also did a ton of walking that weekend!
Favorite Dishes – Duck Confit and the macaron from Fleur de Lys (outdoor kitchen near the France pavilion). This year they’ve replaced the Orange Blossom Macaron with Macaron Guimauve a la Fraise (strawberry marshmallow macaron) which sounds just as delicious!
The duck was juicy and flavorful. The sweet and cold macaron was a refreshing way to balance out the richness and heaviness of the confit dish before it.
Least Favorite Dishes – Piggylicious Bacon Cupcake and Frushi.
The bacon maple cupcake didn’t turn out the way I had imagined it would taste. It was very salty and very sweet at the same time and I couldn’t handle two competing strong flavors.
It could also have been that it was the last thing I ate before leaving the park and I was so stuffed my taste buds and stomach couldn’t handle any more food.
I’m a sushi fanatic so I’m not sure what made me to choose the fruit sushi over the fish sushi (maybe it was the colors and the presentation?) — it wasn’t too memorable and I probably should have spent that money on Pineapple Soft-serve at the Pineapple Promenade outdoor kitchen.
I was craving a Dole Whip (not sure why they call it Pineapple Soft-serve here and not Dole Whip) but was too full to fit in ice cream.
The outdoor kitchen offerings are just a small sample of what is to come at the Food & Wine Festival, so if you like it now, you’ll be in heaven in September when that starts.
5. Plan Around the Weather
Since the majority of activities for the Flower & Garden Festival takes place outdoors, dress appropriately for the weather and the walking!
The weekend I visited on my own (end of March), there were thunderstorms, rain showers and a tornado warning – very typical weather for that time of year according to local friends. Many visitors ended up purchasing ponchos while at the park (ranging from $5-12).
When I visited with my family 2 years ago it was mid May and very hot – close to 40 C (104 F). Both kids were cranky from the heat so we spent only a few minutes taking photos of the topiaries and spent the majority of our time indoors in air conditioned spaces.
6. Take the Twinings Tea Tour
If you or someone in your party is a tea drinker, consider signing up for the free Twinings Tea Tour in the United Kingdom pavilion.
Participants are taken on a free 20 minute tour of the garden and get to taste test freshly made samples of cold brewed teas. As participant lists fill up quickly, it’s recommend that you sign up as soon as you arrive at Epcot. Registration is at The Tea Caddy and tours run every day (Monday – Thursday 3:45PM and 6:15PM, Friday – Sunday 1:00PM, 3:45PM and 6:15PM).
It’s probably not something younger kids would enjoy as the focus of the tour is about the history of tea and the Twinings of London company.
7. Bring Extra Memory Cards and Batteries
There are just so many photo opportunities during the Flower and Garden festival that I took 200 photos combined (SLR and iPhone) and was down to 10% on each camera after 4 hours at the park.
From topiaries, sand sculptures, illuminated gardens at night, and all the food you’ll be eating, your camera(s) will be used often.
Have you been to the International Flower & Garden Festival before?
What did you like or dislike about the festival?