The 25th Annual Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival is underway and everything is coming up beautiful and delicious! Along with the returning topiary stars, butterfly exhibit and favorite outdoor kitchens, the festival is bringing some new merchandise, musical acts, exhibits and food offerings to the garden table. This year’s anniversary festival is one you do not want to miss! But where does one start?
A FESTIVAL OF BEAUTY
The festival kicked off February 29th and will run until May 28th, spanning a period of 90 days this year. I took opportunity to run over there to snag some topiary pictures on Day 3 of the event. As a bonus, I had the awesome privilege of attending Media Day on March 3rd as the guest of my friend, Angie from This is the Motherhood. At the media event, we were treated to a wealth of information about this year’s newer offerings, as well as an opportunity to sample of the new foods, gather intel on the new exhibits and get an up close look at the new merchandise.
LET’S TALK WHAT THERE IS TO SEE AT THE FESTIVAL !
Everyone loves to see the classics when it comes to the topiaries. If you have visited Epcot over the last 25 years during this time of year, you know that Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck and Goofy are always on display in their flowery attire. I always enjoy roaming the park to see the creativity the Cast Members in Horticulture bring to the stage. The colors, shapes and likeness of the characters they are modeling are exquisite and carry such detail. From the classic Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs near the Germany Pavilion to Captain Hook and Peter Pan over near the UK Pavilion, they are always photo ready and amazing to see.
My personal favorite is Belle over in the France Pavilion. Coming in a close second, is Simba being held by Rafiki near the Outpost between the Germany and China Pavilions.
New to the festival this year is the topiary garden found right at the front entrance of Epcot. The anniversary display features a burst of color surrounding the classic icons of Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse , Pluto and friends (not shown) as they welcome Guests into the Park. It is never a dull moment around these parts as it is a popular spot to snap a memorable photo.
Merchandise and souvenirs are always an important part of the festival. Everyone has to walk away with something to remind them of the magical experience they had. This year, Minnie Mouse is found everywhere! She has her own Minnie’s Farmhouse Flower Shop line with apparel, mugs, hats and more. Of course, both Figment and Orange Bird make their return to the festival and are featured on many of the clothing items and classic souvenirs.
I am, by no means, a MagicBand collector, though you would never know if you found the box I have stashed in my closet. Disney released two new MagicBand designs that Guests can purchase to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Festival. For Annual Passholders, there is an option to purchase a special edition 25th anniversary band featuring Figment.
GIFT CARDS: Gift cards! For the last few years, Disney has offered creative gift cards and gift card keychains to use around World Showcase. This year’s gift card tag is absolutely gorgeous and features a vibrant flower.
When I am getting to the food? I’ll get there. Be patient.
GARDEN ROCKS CONCERT SERIES
The Garden Rocks concert is always a crowd pleaser. With three performances a night, there is rarely an empty seat, nor space found near the American Gardens Theater.
While attending the Media Event the first weekend of the festival, we were entertained by the 80’s rock group Night Ranger, which personally brought me back…way back! I never would have thought I would have remembered all the words to “Sister Christian.”
The performance was fantastic! During the 30 minute show, Guests were singing along, dancing out of their seats and applauding with gusto. It was fun to see the intereaction between the band and Guests as they handed guitar picks out to the crowd.
This year, the concert series has some amazing bands returning to the American Gardens Theater stage, such as Starship (who also gave a fantastic performance) and The Guess Who. Quite a few new acts have also been added to the Garden Rocks concert series roster (“*” means they have performed at Epcot in the past, but not for this particular concert series).
- Survivor* (I want to see these guys!!!)
- Smash Mouth*
- Rick Springfield*
- Jo Dee Messina*
- Don Felder (formerly of The Eagles)
**Click here for a complete list of performances and dates**
Securing your concert seat:
Guaranteeing your spot at one of these concerts can be as easy as purchasing a Garden Rocks Dining Package. The package includes breakfast, lunch or dinner at select Epcot restaurants with guaranteed seating at one of the three concert performances offered that evening. Each meals includes an appetizer, entree and a dessert ~ or one full buffet or family-style dining experience. Also included is a non-alcoholic beverage. You can book advanced dining reservations online or by calling (407) WDW-DINE.
THE FESTIVAL GARDENS
The garden exhibits are wonderful self-guided tours of nature! Along the route, Guests can read tips and tidbits about a particular flower, arrangement or life cycle. This year, along with the traditional English Tea Gardens (presented by Twinings of London) and The Goodness Garden Butterfly House (presented by GoGo squeeZ), there are two new additions to the garden destinations this year.
One such exhibit is The How-To-Garden, where Guests can find creativity at work! While strollling through, I found a display featuring a figure constructed out of clay flower pots sitting upon a garden bench. That a pretty creative design! Just down the walkway, there is another adorable scene with a doghouse surrounded by some topiary pets.
Another new addition, which is no doubt going to be quite popular with families, is the brand new interactive play garden in Future World. The Imagination Play Garden features new games and opportunities for the family to enjoy together. Inside this area, Guests can find a play maze, a sensory garden, an activity zone and a covered seating area (that was a genius idea right there)
OKAY ~ LET’S TALK FESTIVAL FOOD!
Food! Okay – now you’re talkin! This is why my boys like the festival! To be honest, this is actually my favorite part of ANY festival. This year, there are 15 outdoor kitchens ready to serve up the best tastes from around the globe! From Florida Fresh to the Smokehouse to the Bauernmarkt: Farmer’s Market, the heavenly aromas will no doubt tickle your nose and tempt your taste buds.
The newest addition to the outdoor kitchens this year is the Honey Bee-stro Hosted by National Honey Board™. You can find this kitchen over in Showcase Plaza as you enter World Showcase from Future World. During the media event, I was able to try the Honey Tandoori Chicken Flatbread with White Cheddar Cheese, Charred Vegetables, Clover Honey Sour Cream and Micro Watercress. Oh, my gosh – this is something I will be getting again!
Some of the other newer offerings include:
- Roasted Cauliflower with Buckwheat Honey Carrot Puree, Wild Rice PIlaf, Asparagus, Honey Blistered Grapes and Sunflower Brittle (The Honey Bee-stro Hosted by National Honey Board) (GF, Vegan)
- Tropical Mousse Cake: Layers of Passion Fruit Cake, Coconut Mousse and Tropical Fruit Glaze with Fresh Pineapple (La Isla Fresca)
- Beef Brisket Burnt Ends and Smoked Pork Belly Slider with Garlic Sausage, Chorizo, Cheddar Fondue and Housemade Pickle (THE SMOKEHOUSE: Barbecue and Brews)
- Spicy Blackened Shrimp and Cheddar Cheese Grits with Brown Gravy and Local Sweet Corn Relish (Florida Fresh)
- Toasted Pretzel Bread topped with Black Forest Ham and Melted Gruyere Cheese (Bauernmarkt: Farmer’s Market)
FOOD ALLERGY TIP: For those with food allergies or other dietary restrictions, the Disney Chefs are more than willing to try accommodating you. To find out more, check out my post about the tips one Disney Chef shared with me as the festival was just kicking off.
SO – ARE YOU HERE YET?
If you are local to central Florida or have a trip planned between now (early March 2018) and May 28th, stopping at Epcot to see what’s going on is an absolute must! Do not pass GO! Do not collect ….wait, you do need to go through Security and the ticket gate. After that, you’re golden and ready to explore!
Go! Have fun! Eat something delicious and take a picture that is worth a thousand words! Share your experience with me! I’d love to hear what your favorite food was or which topiary made you smile! Enjoy the Festival….it’s totally worth the day…or two….or three.