Epcot Flower & Garden Festival Blossoms with Fun for the Whole Family

Filed under: Epcot at Walt Disney World Orlando,Vacation Tips |

Hi there! Michelle here and I’m delighted to have been asked to contribute to the Florida Leisure blog. I hope you enjoy my thoughts about some of the great things to do in Orlando and Central Florida and for my first post I thought I’d talk about a recent visit I made with my family to the Epcot Flower & Garden Festival. The festival is in full bloom this spring, adding bursts of vibrant color, whimsical topiaries and sweet scents down virtually every park path.

My husband and I took advantage of a gorgeous March day to bring our 8-year-old daughter, Gabby, who has been there several times, and her friend, Megan, who was visiting the park for the first time.

Among the featured weekend events of the festival are the home and garden presentations led by some of the biggest names at HGTV, as well as concerts by big name acts from the 1960s and 70s such as Starship and The Monkees. I would have loved to hear from Sabrina Soto from “The High Low Project” but with two kids in tow, the presentation was quickly relegated to the “maybe next year” list. Instead, we chose to spend our day hitting the everyday highlights of Epcot but still making sure we took plenty of time to smell the roses. And roses there were…

According to Walt Disney World Resort, Epcot boasts 30 million blooms, 240 floating mini-gardens on two ponds, 700 container gardens of flowers, herbs, plants and vegetables, dozens of Disney character topiaries, 30 “flower towers” of impatiens, and sweeping beds of original floral designs spread across 260 acres, all of which take more than one year and 400 Walt Disney World horticulturists to plan and prepare. The description promises a great deal—and it delivers.

The Disney character topiaries are perhaps the most impactful element of the festival, with the most beloved names from all generations of Disney films represented. I was instantly smitten with Mickey and Minnie Mouse in the Classic Characters garden, whereas the girls unanimously voted Lady and the Tramp, found in Italy, their favorite. Interestingly, it’s a movie they’ve never seen, yet it involved puppies, they reasoned, so it must be great. I have to admit, the long grasses representing Lady’s floppy cocker spaniel ears were a stroke of horticultural brilliance.

With the topiaries themed to various areas of the park, it seemed there was always a surprise waiting around the next corner, especially in the World Showcase, where we found greenery pandas and a flowery, mist-breathing dragon in China, and the ever charming Lumière and Cogsworth from Beauty and the Beast frolicking in a garden maze in France, to name just a few.

Bambi’s Butterfly Garden was another favorite with the kids, with dozens of species flitting from flower to flower and occasionally finding rest on a guest’s head or shoulder. The oversized butterfly topiaries outside the tent made for yet another great photo stop but it was the chrysalis display that most interested Gabby, and the Bambi, Thumper and Flower topiaries that captured Megan’s attention.

The Pixie Hollow Fairy Garden was another delightful surprise. Although it’s billed for preschoolers, even the adults seemed to enjoy strolling through the garden of graceful green figurines and peering down into the tiny representations of their fairy homes.

Sprawling expanses of flower beds, often in whimsical flower patterns, line the banks of Epcot’s many lakes, while floating flower beds dot the surface of the water, making the concrete walkways from Future World to the World Showcase much more appealing.

Our first order of business for the morning was to grab Fast Passes to ride Soarin’ in the late afternoon. The whole family loved the feet-dangling, free-spirited feeling of flight and the incredible scenery. After several hours passed, we were able to obtain early evening Fast Passes for Test Track, another family favorite. The speed lap at the end didn’t sit well with our guest, who crossed her arms and scrunched up her nose at being “tricked” into riding a “roller coaster” but promises of Mickey-shaped ice cream sandwiches soon smoothed over any hard feelings.

We found a surprisingly short line for Mission: SPACE, for both the green and orange teams, but the girls kids agreed that the dizziness they experienced, even on the less intense green team, put a damper on the overall ride experience.

Of course, educational opportunities are always close at hand at Epcot, and the girls were quickly drawn to a manned exhibit of dolphin bones at The Seas with Nemo and Friends. In typical “tween” fashion, they couldn’t recount exactly what Mark the cast member had to say, but they somehow came away with the knowledge that dolphins swallow their food whole and that their teeth feel something like pegs. Good job, Mark!

We made time for a few other rides, including Ellen’s Energy Adventure, the Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros at Mexico, and Maelstrom at Norway, however, the girls were most excited to participate in Kidcot, in which they traveled to each country in the World Showcase to obtain stamps and often colorful drawings of each countries’ flags from the attendants at each. While passport books can be purchased at various World Showcase gift shops, children can receive a complimentary cardboard cutout of “Duffy the Disney Bear,” the handle of which can be stamped much like a passport. Seeing the colorful costumes and hearing the authentic accents of World Showcase cast members was part of the thrill but the kids especially enjoyed seeing their names written in various alphabets of the world, from Chinese to Arabic.

Living in Central Florida for the last 12 years, I’ve been to the Disney parks and to Epcot numerous times, but I’ve decided there is perhaps no better way to spend a warm, sunny springtime day than strolling among the millions of blooms and stopping to admire and photograph the cast of characters, albeit in greenery form. These photo opportunities of my daughter are even more meaningful to me, as the last photo I have of her with a Disney character was taken when she was just a year old. Looking back at that photo, I realize that her unease around (ssshhh!) people in costumes was evident even then: in the picture, she’s practically jumping out of my arms, giving Mickey Mouse a glare that would warn him to keep his distance— if only he had peripheral vision… Luckily, the floral variety of characters were above suspicion and she posed happily… for the first dozen shots or so.  After numerous “Just one more!” requests to “Stand right over there” or “Just sit up nice and tall!” this snap happy journalist was chided with groans and growling faces and eventually put the camera away.

Although kids get tortured by too many photos, it’s the dads who often get the short end of the stick at the theme parks:  Carrying the camera bag and the backpack full of snacks and sunscreen; ordering lunch and balancing a tray of food and drinks while mom and the kids relax and “save a table” in the café, or having to backtrack halfway around the world after Duffy the cardboard bear somehow got swallowed up by the Maelstrom. Most of the time, seeing their children having fun is reward enough for Dad. But just in case, a nice cold Pilsner at the “Bier Garten” in Germany certainly never hurt…

The Epcot Flower & Garden Festival runs through May 20. For tickets, information and a schedule of festival events, visit www.FloridaLeisure.com.

2 Responses to Epcot Flower & Garden Festival Blossoms with Fun for the Whole Family

  1. Great post Michelle! We’re taking the kids to Epcot in April and look forward to seeing the flowers and gardens even more now!

    Jen DeVore
    March 29, 2012 at 3:25 pm

  2. We were there 2 weeks ago, and it was wonderful! Unfortunately my pictures are nos as good as yours!

    March 29, 2012 at 3:44 pm

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