This year’s Taste of Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival is the longest ever, lasting from March 3rd until July 5th. This gives more guests a chance to experience the most beautiful festival at Walt Disney World!
This event began in 1994 and has grown exponentially ever since. There are more topiaries, more gardens, more special events, and, in 2013, the addition of Outdoor Kitchens. With few exceptions (i.e., food and merchandise), almost everything offered to guests during the Festival is included in your admission to Epcot. However, keep in mind that currently, you MUST have a park reservation to attend.
Fun Fact: Halfway through the Festival, Disney gardeners remove the blossoms that thrive in early Spring to plant a new crop of flowers that flourish in late Spring’s warmer temperatures. So if you are local, or plan to go more than once, you can have a different experience at the beginning of the Festival than at the end! You never have to worry about old or wilting flowers; Disney gardeners will keep everything fresh and beautiful during the entire Festival.
It takes an entire year and numerous Walt Disney World horticulturists to put together the Flower and Garden Festival. There are literally millions of flowers on display including, floating flower planters, gardens, Disney character topiaries, many flower beds, as well as flower towers. Additionally, there are outdoor kitchens (food booths), live music, a self-guided tour of a tea garden, and more. The playgrounds that were part of the Festival in previous years are absent in 2021; but not to worry, there’s still a LOT to see and do. So, what’s new? What’s returned from previous years? What hasn’t? Let’s find out!
I did not notice any new topiaries this year, but many have been moved to different spots in World Showcase and Future World. It’s fun to find old favorites in new areas. Many Outdoor Kitchens are repeats from the past, but there are at least two new offerings this year. EPCOT Sunshine Griddle, located near Test Track, specializes in brunch items. The Avocado Toast with tomatoes and goat cheese offered there is a new favorite of mine. Farmers Feast, inside of World Showplace (the building set back off the main path, between the UK and Canada), has a rotating menu. Depending on when you go to the Festival, the food offered will vary according to season.
A number of Outdoor Kitchens that have returned from past years offer new or additional items on their menu. The Festival offers over 20 different kitchens, so every guest can find something to enjoy (including vegan options).
If you’ve never attended Epcot’s Flower & Garden Festival, be aware that sampling from these Outdoor Kitchens can add up, so I’d recommend sticking to a set budget. It’s easy to drop $50 in no time, especially if you like alcohol. If you don’t mind spending a bit, it’s a lot of fun to “eat around the world” and sample the various cuisines offered. For you Dole Whip fans, they make a version with rum at the Pineapple Promenade booth. I have not tried everything, and taste in food is always subjective, but (in addition to the avocado toast I mentioned earlier) my personal favorites so far this year are the Bon Bon Chicken Skewers in China; Sweet Sausage Risotto Balls in Italy; Scallops with Green Beans, Heirloom Potatoes with Bacon from Canada (I think that was my very favorite); Beef Tenderloin Tips with Mushroom Sauce, whipped potatoes and veggies, also in Canada; Warm Cheese Strudel with berries from Germany, Pecan Praline in America.
There are quite a few special gardens and exhibits offered at the Festival.
These can be found all across Epcot, including a bamboo garden in China, Bonsais in Japan, Tropical Rainforest and Orchids in Mexico, Shakespeare inspired garden in the United Kingdom, Miniature Garden in Germany, a tropical rainforest garden in Mexico, and the English Tea Garden by Twinings in the UK, where you can also take a Self-Guided Tea Tour. Get your free guide for the tour inside the Tea Caddy shop. You’ll see oversized teacups on the tour, which takes place on the grounds of the UK pavilion. The teacups are filled with various flowers and herbs tea is made from. The brochure will tell you more details about what you are seeing. When guests have completed the tour, they can return to the Tea Caddy shop for a couple of free samples of teabags.
Also returning this year, but in a new location near the Imagination building, is the butterfly house.
Butterflies of all colors and sizes fly freely inside this exhibit. You may have to wait in a line before you’re let in to keep guests distanced from one another, but generally, the line moves quickly. Once inside, in addition to the butterflies, guests will see many beautiful flowers, all of which are species that attract butterflies. There are also educational signs so guests can learn more about these beautiful creatures. Additionally, there are special houses where you can see butterflies inside their chrysalis (where they change from a caterpillar into a butterfly). If they are lucky, guests’ cans see new butterflies emerging from the chrysalis and pumping up their wings to get ready to fly!
For guests who have not had the opportunity to visit during the Flower and Garden Festival, the topiaries of Disney characters are often the highlight.
The details are amazing. Some of the characters you will see are Woody; Bo Peep and her Sheep; Snow White and Dopey; Anna and Elsa; Captain Hook and Peter Pan; Tinkerbell; Sorcerer Mickey (the first topiary you see as you enter Epcot); Donald Duck; Chip N Dale; Goofy; Mickey and Minnie; Kermit; Miss Piggy. There are dozens, too many to list here.
In past years there was a concert series called “Garden Rocks” that took place during Flower and Garden. This year the live entertainment is more limited. Guests can see the Jammitors on the Mill Stage in Canada, known during the Festival as the Jammin’ Gardeners. The stage is decorated accordingly.
A pianist performs Disney songs inside the World Showplace at certain times of the day. Last visit, we heard an entire medley from Beauty and the Beast.
Other musical acts will be on the stage at the America Gardens theater, on the water outside the USA pavilion. Here is where to find the Voices of Liberty (traditional American music as well as Disney tunes) and Mariachi Cobre. Friday to Monday there are performances by local musicians playing a wide variety of songs. For times to see any or all of these acts, check the Epcot guide.
Of course, there is plenty of Festival merchandise for sale in multiple kiosks around World Showcase. There are things directly connected to the Festival, such as watering cans and lawn ornaments, as well as shirts and other items that commemorate the Festival. You’ll also see kiosks with merchandise that is unique but not necessarily related to flowers or gardens. Mouse Gear‘s temporary location also sells festival merchandise, as do the two large buildings at the entrance to World Showcase (Port of Entry and Disney Traders).
Spike’s Pollen-Nation Exploration family scavenger hunt is back this year. Maps and stickers for this fun experience are available at a number of locations for $7.99 plus tax. As guests look at the various gardens in the World Showcase, they search for the plant Spike has pollinated. These are identified by seeing Spike the bee as well as Spike’s Pollen-Nation Exploration plant stake (instructions come with the map). When you find one, you add the corresponding sticker to your map. When the map is full of stickers, guests can return your map for a surprise! Don’t worry, if you miss a couple, you will still get your prize.
A handy guide and a must for most guests is the Festival Passport! It includes detailed information about the topiaries and gardens, as well as info on the entertainment and what is offered at each Kitchen. Passports can be found at both the Front entrance and International Gateway entrances to Epcot. They can also be found at just about every Outdoor Kitchen or kiosk in World Showcase, so if you forget to grab one when you arrive, there is no need to run back to the entrance. The passports are also available digitally in the My Disney Experience app.
A few suggestions to make the Festival even more enjoyable:
- If possible, avoid visiting on weekends. Florida locals are most likely to attend on weekends, which will make the park more crowded and the lines for the Outdoor Kitchens are noticeably longer.
- Take advantage of Photopass or Memory Maker if you have access to either. In addition to having great shots with topiaries and beautiful flowers, during the Festival the photographers can take special magic shots not seen at other times of the year. It cannot hurt to politely ask for Magic Shots if you are a fan. And happily, not long ago, the rules changed to allow guests to take off their masks while standing still for pictures (either your own or those taken by a Disney photographer).
- Plan ahead if you are going to take advantage of the Outdoor Kitchens. It’s easy to over-eat and then get to a booth with something you wished you waited for, but now you are too full. Use the My Disney Experience app to see what’s available and where before you go to the Festival.
If this is your first visit to Flower and Garden Festival, I can almost promise you’ll have a blast. Even if you opt-out of the food booths, the topiaries, gardens, music, and ambiance pretty much ensure a wonderful time for all. If you’re returning, you already know how great the Festival is, let me assure you it’s as much fun and as beautiful as ever!