The 2013 Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival kicked off this Wednesday so we decided to all go as a team to experience what new things and activities this year had to offer. Typically from year to year you don’t see very much change with the Flower & Garden Festival, but I’m happy to say that this year definitely broke that pattern. Celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, Flower & Garden not only featured brand new topiaries and play areas based on new movies coming out in the near future, but added food booths to World Showcase which added a brand new dimension to experiencing the festival.
The topiaries set up this year were fairly reminiscent of the ones they’ve done in past years, with the exception of the new Monster’s University display in the entrance to World Showcase and the main display set up in front of Spaceship Earth which depicts an outdoor picnic scene with Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Donald, Daisy, and Goofy. They also have a Phineas and Ferb display right behind Spaceship Earth that seemed very popular and a Lion King display that showed Rafiki lifting baby Simba up into the sky just like the opening scene of the movie. I can see that this would make for some great photo opportunities for any new parents visiting Flower & Garden this year.
The butterfly garden that is a part of the festival every year is set up on the back side of Innoventions close to Journey Into Imagination, and now houses Tinker Bell and the other fairies that used to be near the back of MouseGear. In addition to the butterfly garden, there are two kids’ playground areas set up in Future World – one themed to the new movie Oz the Great and Powerful, and one themed as a Cars/Radiator Springs junkyard. We discussed the Oz play area not too long ago in our write-up about the upcoming movie.
One of the best parts of this year’s Flower & Garden Festival is the addition of themed food booths set up around the park, similar to the Food & Wine Festival in the fall. The small buildings set up all around World Showcase are the same ones that are used for Food & Wine, but the selection of food and sometimes even the theme at each one is different than you’d see there. In my opinion, the greatest food booth is The Smokehouse set up at the American Pavilion. They serve authentic American barbecue and beer and the location features a fairly large seating area to enjoy the food. The brisket and the pulled pig sliders were definitely a hit.
Another highlight in regards to the food offerings is definitely the Pineapple Promenade set up near the restrooms close to Canada. It’s here that you can get a Dole Whip with Siesta Key Spiced Rum poured on top. It is unbelievable! I think it could have been a little better if the rum had been mixed in with the Dole Whip, but I’m not complaining at all. Dole Whip? Good. Rum? Good. Rum + Dole Whip? GOOD. If that’s not your thing, they also have the classic Dole Whip soft-serve available, just like Aloha Isle at Magic Kingdom or Capt. Cook’s at the Polynesian Resort.
Along with the food booths at this year’s Flower & Garden, the festival has also borrowed the concept of the wristband gift cards seen at Food & Wine. This makes it very simple to load up a card and use it to pay for your food and drinks as you walk around World Showcase. It’s also a great way to forget how much money you’re spending!
Just like the Food & Wine Festival, guests at this year’s Flower & Garden can get a passport that features all of the available activities, and food booths that are set up around the park. At each spot, you can get a stamp showing that you visited the location or even tried some of the food at the booths. This is a wonderful addition to Flower & Garden because it not only shows you what all there is to do at the festival, but encourages you to visit as many spots as you can and get the stamps. The “Garden Passport” can be picked up at the Festival Center or at some of the festival booths set up around the park.
In years past, The Flower & Garden Festival has offered unique merchandise designed specifically for the event that can be purchased in shops set up around the park and MouseGear. I’m not sure if it’s because this is the 20th anniversary of the festival and Disney is trying to step it up, but the merchandise this year really seems to stand out. Not only are there special t-shirts, baseball caps, mugs and pins that display Flower & Garden Festival artwork on them, but there are some completely new merchandise items as well. There are two ear hats this year designed specifically for the festival – green grass Minnie ears with a ladybug bow, and a strawberry classic Mickey ear hat. There are also special designed glass bottles, which I think are probably prettier than they are practical. Check out some of the merchandise available throughout the park below!
Overall, I think that this year’s Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival is a huge improvement over those of years past. I know that as a local, and as someone who’s been to the Flower & Garden Festival for the past three years, I look forward to going back to Epcot over the next several weeks to try more of the food options and to just hang out in the park while the festival is going on! Be sure to check out our full photo gallery for this year’s Food & Wine Festival!