Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival begins this year on March 2 and runs for 90 days, ending May 30, 2016. This is the longest timeframe yet for this Orlando theme park special event. Last year’s festival lasted 75 days.
If you have a pass which allows entrance into Epcot year-round, this is a nice event to plan around. However, most tourists make their plans and then find out they’ll be attending this theme park during the festival (an extra bonus). Either way, you’ll appreciate this complete guide to the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival and find some great tips.
The Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival itself is included in your ticket, however, some events cost extra, as well as the food at the Outdoor Kitchens. Festival highlights include:
- Garden Topiaries (those really cool Disney characters made from living plants)
- Outdoor Kitchens (where you can sample some great food)
- Music Concerts (free!)
- Weekend Events (including great tips for gardeners)
ORLANDO TOURIST TIP: A fun thing to do is to pick up a Garden Passport and collect stamps for several stops. You can check off the topiaries you find, the gardens you visit and the kitchens you purchase food from. The booklets are available at several locations (or download ahead of time) and they make a nice souvenir for your Orlando vacation. The booklet lists foods available, beverages, where to locate gardens and much more! Read on for other fun things to do with children…
Epcot is beautiful year-round, however, during this festival they go above and beyond in the gardens. You’ll find dozens of garden scenes beginning at the entrance of the park with this year’s new topiary featuring Huey, Dewey and Louie along side their uncle Donald Duck and Daisy. The scene is based on “The Victory Garden,” a 1943 Donald Duck comic book. There are over 100 topiaries located throughout the park. ORLANDO TOURIST TIP: Returning guests will want to check out the NEW! topiaries listed here. Keep your eye out for these most popular scenes:
- Anna and Elsa from Frozen Located at Norway Pavilion
- Bambi & Friends Featuring Bambi, Flower and Thumper Located at the Canada Pavilion
- Beauty and the Beast Located at the France Pavilion
- Buzz Lightyear from the Disney•Pixar Toy Story Located near Mission Space
- Woody from the Disney•Pixar Toy Story Located at The American Adventure
- Donald, Daisy, Huey, Dewey and Louie – NEW! Located at the Front Entrance
- Fantasia Located at Future World West
- Floral Sun – NEW! Featuring a large landscape with vibrant sunbursts Located behind Spaceship Earth
- Lady and the Tramp Located at the Italy Pavilion
- Minnie Mouse & Pluto – NEW! Located at Showcase Plaza
- Peter Pan, Captain Hook & Tick Toc Crock Located at the United Kingdom Pavilion
- Ranger Mickey & Friends – NEW! Celebrating the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. Located at Future World
- Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Located at the Germany Pavilion
- The Lion King Featuring Mufasa, Pumbaa, Rafiki, Sarabi, Simba and Timon
Located at The Outpost between the Germany and China Pavilion
- Winnie the Pooh & Friends Located at the United Kingdom Pavilion
This year the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival will feature 13 Outdoor Kitchens with two brand new ones – La Isla Fresca and Cider House. Each kitchen offers a small sampler dish (at an additional cost) with cuisine from that region of the world. It can cost hundreds of dollars to taste a sample from each kitchen, so be sure to read the following and pick out the dish you want to try to help stay within your budget. Most dishes will cost between $5-$10.
The Outdoor Kitchens for 2016 are:
- Bauernmarket: Farmer’s Market – NEW!
Next to the Germany Pavilion. Ice cold brews and an “organic” champagne apértif with elderflower and mint—a refreshing pick-me-up that’s ideal for spring. Guten tag!
- Cider House – NEW!
Near the United Kingdom Pavilion. Try a variety of buzz-worthy ciders and artisanal provisions that may inspire a playful picnic .
- Fleur de Lys
France Pavilion. Try the colossal raspberry and fudge macaron—it’s waiting for you to relish and share!
- Florida Fresh
Between the Morocco and France Pavilions. Sweet and tangy creations made from locally grown fixings. Pair your picks with an adult thirst-quencher—wine, craft beer or a sweet watermelon juice or slush.
Japan Pavilion. Innovative plates like the festival-favorite Frushi—fresh fruit with raspberry coconut rice, toasted coconut and whipped cream—are a hit with kids and adults alike.
- La Isla Fresca – NEW!
Showcase Plaza. Caribbean-inspired fare seasoned with jerk-spice or carefully braised. Enhance this tropical tasting with a frozen drink or dessert.
- Jardin de Fiestas
Mexico Pavilion. Let your appetite build as you explore a medley of tantalizing tapas and exotic elixirs, each boasting a hint of botanical flavors.
- Lotus House
China Pavilion. The tranquil courtyard is the ideal spot to sink your teeth into small plates of contemporary Chinese food and sip fruity bubble tea with your little ones.
- Pineapple Promenade
Showcase Plaza. There are plenty of tart and tangy items to try—including pineapple-flavored soft-serve, frozen lemonade and the popular spicy hot dog topped with chutney.
- Primavera Kitchen
Italian Old Country dishes like the new egg pasta stuffed with ricotta, spinach and spring veggies.
- Taste of Marrakesh
Morocco Pavilion. Choose from a trio of spice-infused Mediterranean masterpieces and cocktails such as white sangria or sparkling wine with a pop of pomegranate liqueur.
- THE SMOKEHOUSE: Barbecue and Brews
American Adventure Pavilion. Slow-cooked specialties—the perfect fixin’s for a springtime gathering with family and friends. Think lip-smacking sliders, brisket, smoked ribs and a mighty fine selection of golden craft brews.
- Urban Farm Eats
Showcase Plaza. Delve into a vivid spread of healthy and all-natural food and drinks presented on stylish, eco-friendly serving ware. This stop provides a bounty of inventive tips for growing your own groceries at home.
If you are attending Epcot on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday, you can catch a great concert for free! Performances are held at the America Gardens Theatre (between Japan & Italy) at 5:30, 6:45, and 8 p.m. and are included with park admission. The concerts are only 30 minutes in length, so if you miss the earlier one, return for another performance a little later. Several of these groups return each year. New acts are noted as NEW!
The 2016 Music Lineup includes these popular acts:
- March 4-6 – The Orchestra starring former members of ELO “Evil Woman”
- March 11-13 – Starship starring Mickey Thomas “We Built This City”
- March 18-20 – Little River Band “Reminiscing”
- March 25-27 – Village People “Y.M.C.A.”
- April 1-3 – Herman’s Hermits starring Peter Noone “I’m Henry the VIII, I Am”
- April 8-10 – The Guess Who “American Woman”
- April 15-17 – Blood, Sweat & Tears featuring Bo Bice “Spinning Wheel” – NEW!
- April 22-24 – BRIAN HOWE, former lead singer of Bad Company “Can’t Get Enough” – NEW!
- April 29-May 1 – Georgia Satellites “Keep Your Hands to Yourself” – NEW!
- May 6-8 – Gin Blossoms “Hey Jealousy”
- May 13-15 – Darlene Love “Wait ‘Til My Bobby Gets Home”– NEW!
- May 20-22 – Night Ranger “Sister Christian”
- May 27-30 (Monday) – The Spinners “Working My Way Back to You”
From 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on the weekends, you’ll discover many special seminars and presentations scheduled during the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival. Be sure to attend a how-to demonstration at the Festival Center and get some great advice for your own garden!
Locations where the events take place:
- Garden Information Desk – Ask questions of Master Gardeners from the Institute of Food and Agricultural Science (IFAS) at the University of Florida.
- Garden Theater – See the making of the Festival
- Horticulture Heritage – See how horticulture has played a role in creating Walt’s vision
- Greenhouse Stage – Gardening specialists will share their expertise at 11:00am and 2:00pm
- Fresh Epcot Stage – Demonstrations from experts at 12:00pm and 3:00pm
- Spotlight Stage – Planting tips from the Institute of Food and Agricultural Science (IFAS) at the University of Florida.
- Festival Stage – A variety of horticulture topics
- Intermissions Cafe – stop by for a selection of wine, cheese, wraps and salads
- Festival Center Shop – Flower & Garden Festival-themed merchandise and more.
- Art in the Garden Weekend: April 1 to 3, 2016
View nature through the eyes of “Plein Air” artists and appreciate one-of-a-kind Disney works of art on display within the World Showcase from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.
- NEW! Outdoor Family Fun Weekend: April 8 to 10, 2016
Reap the benefits of sharing quality time together at select Festival gardens. As a bonus, animal specialists from Disney’s Animal Kingdom will be presenting an exhibit on how bugs play an important role in helping a garden thrive. Check it out at the Festival Center from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
- Earth Day Weekend: April 22 to 24, 2016
Celebrate the place we call home, where you can enjoy interactive activities, discoveries and more! Plus learn about the efforts to protect coral reefs and other marine life at The Seas with Nemo & Friends®―a special tribute to the amazing creatures that dwell in our vast oceans.
- Florida Fresh Weekend: April 29 to May 1, 2016
Explore the bounty of the Sunshine State from Apalachicola to Zellwood at this Festival Center-based event.
- Florida Federation of Garden Clubs: May 6 to 8, 2016
Marvel at amazing flora designs that defy description inside the Festival Center from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
While the grown-ups will appreciate the work that goes into the gardens, this Orlando theme park event has special activities for kids too. While you are checking off the various gardens, be sure to allow extra time at these two for your kids: Music Garden Melodies Playground along the Imagination Walkway between Future World and World Showcase and the Cactus Road Rally
located along the Test Track Walkway.
Music Garden Melodies Playground – NEW!
This garden features Disney’s “Fab Five” topiaries, including bandleader Mickey Mouse and his fellow members Minnie Mouse, Goofy, Pluto and Donald Duck. It is hands-on, and after dark it really lights up! Children can play instruments like drums, chimes and xylophones—and tap into their adventurous side by tackling state-of-the-art net climbers. Music-themed plants also add a clever touch to this sonic scene.
Cactus Road Rally
Inspired by the Disney•Pixar film Cars, this playful area features a canopied jungle gym and eye-catching cacti. Topiary buddies Mater and Lightning McQueen invite parents to relax and recharge while your kids race around in a desert-themed mini park. ORLANDO TOURIST TIP: Enjoy an “I Spy” moment by taking turns pointing out the various auto parts scattered among colorful flower beds.
Other Kid-friendly activities include:
- Butterflies on the Go – Kids will have an opportunity to observe several species up-close, learn about their life cycles and may even witness them emerging from cocoons.
- Purple Martins – See an incredible species of small migratory songbirds that have undergone an impressive 3,000-mile journey from the Brazilian Amazon to raise their families at Walt Disney World Resort.
- Ranger Mickey and Friends – Pose for a family photo with this spectacular topiary and then find your closest neighborhood park with the help of the National Park Foundation and the National Park Service.
- Backyard Habitat – Unearth sources of inspiration to construct your own wildlife-friendly spaces at home.
- Nature Works Everywhere – Kids will absorb amazing tips on how to create gardens that will help their school yards filter water, provide welcoming habitats and improve soil quality.
More Gardens (for Adults to really enjoy) and Tours include:
- Bonsai Collection – ancient art producing amazing miniature trees.
- English Tea Garden – 20-minute guided tour (sign up) & self-guided tours.
- Floating Mini-Gardens – petite plots drifting on the ponds.
- Prehistoric Plants – greenery that existed when dinosaurs roamed the earth
- Health & Healing Garden – discover ancient plants that have the ability to heal.
- Pepper Fire Garden – the world’s hottest peppers.
- Shakespeare Garden – can you match up famous quotes to flowers
- EPCOT® Gardens of the World Tour – designed especially for garden enthusiasts! Three-hour tour at an $ additional cost.
- Behind the Seeds Tour – Interact with amazing plants, insects and fish—and even see alligators. One-hour walking tour at an $ additional cost.
ORLANDO TOURIST TIP: For Annual Passholders, be sure to pick up one of three special edition prints from Disney artist Don “Ducky” Williams. They are available (while supplies last) at Innoventions West behind Club Cool. You must show a photo ID and valid annual pass or MagicBand. One print per Passholder per month.
- Donald Duck Print – March 2-31, 2016
- Goofy Print – April 1-30, 2016
- Mickey Mouse Print – May 1-30, 2016
Lighted Magical Accessories: Children will love attending at night if you purchase special accessories that light up as you travel around World Showcase. Choose from the Mickey Ear Hat, Minnie Mouse Headband, Mickey Mouse Glove and the Sorcerer Mickey Wand.
As you can read in this complete guide to the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival there is a lot going on during this featured event! It is one of the best times of the year to visit Epcot. Not only is the Orlando theme park extraordinarily beautiful, the flowers and gardens provide more things to see and do. Best of all, most of it is free!