This past weekend I took my mother to the 2013 International Flower & Garden Festival (FGF) at Epcot. This is the festival’s 20th year and hats off to Disney for creating a very enjoyable experience for us both.
The impressive topiary garden at the entrance to Epcot is entitled “Party with Mickey & Friends” and depicts a barbeque celebrating the 20th anniversary of the FGF. Mickey, Minnie, Goofy and Pluto are at one end while Donald and Daisy are playing tennis on the other end of the garden. These incredible topiaries are popular photo opportunities for park guests as they enter the park and the area can get quite crowded.
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As you walk around Spaceship Earth, the ever-popular Phineas and Ferb are featured in the garden on the north side with Agent P looking over the fence. At the kiosk across from this garden, FGF guides are available.
After heading east from the plaza just past Ellen’s Energy Adventure toward the Festival Center, there are more enjoyable topiaries and gardens that offer excellent photo opportunities including Mickey and Minnie, Goofy, Pluto and Donald.
In the Festival Center presented by HGTV, we heard Robert Bowden the Director of Orlando’s Harry P. Leu Gardens speak about gardening myths. We also picked up a Garden Passport, a fun way to make sure you visit each festival area around Epcot. Our passports were stamped at each festival location throughout Epcot. Various festival merchandise and items related to gardening were also available for purchase in the Festival Center.
Buzz Lightyear was the topiary featured in front of Mission Space. At Test Track, a beautiful garden was designed to attract birds. Also near Test Track was one of my favorite festival features, Radiator Springs. The life-sized topiaries of Lightening McQueen and Mater are fantastic. Hubcaps lined the fence and other auto-related items were incorporated into the garden. In addition, there was an interactive fun play area for kids. The whimsical aspect of this area is appealing to all ages.
A garden retreat finishes out the path from Test Track to the fountains in the center of Future World while decorative plantings surround the fountains. The garden area north of the fountains featured Lion King character topiaries that captivate fans of the movie.
On the west side of the fountains, Tinker Bell’s Butterfly House is a festival attraction not to be missed. Striking gardens and topiaries with Pixie Hollow fairies are scattered inside and outside the house and designed to please the many butterflies that can be found. Tip: if you wear red, your clothing may attract butterflies. A butterfly landed on my maroon sweater and stayed for quite a while. A cast member had to remove it safely when I was ready to leave the butterfly house. It was a unique and fun experience.
Along the banks of the water between Future World and World Showcase are an outstanding mass planting of blooming flowers in vibrant colors and designs. As you cross the main walkway into World Showcase, huge topiaries promoting the new movie Monster’s University feature beloved characters Mike and Sully and some really cute monsters.
A new attribute of this year’s FGF are Garden Marketplaces. Similar to the kiosks at the Epcot Food & Wine Festival, these marketplaces sell food, beverages and plantings related to the different countries around World Showcase. The Marketplaces may appeal to a lot of guests who otherwise are not interested in the flower and garden aspect of the festival. All the food, beverages and featured plantings for each location are listed in the Garden Passport you can pick up at the Festival Center.
As you enter World Showcase and walk to the right, another fantastic new garden featured this year is The Land of Oz, promoting Disney’s new film, “Oz, The Great and Powerful”. This garden was also a personal favorite including “glass” flowers, the wizard’s crashed balloon, photo opportunities, midway-like games and a large children’s play area. Next to the Oz gardens were water wise gardens for herbs and vegetables.
Throughout world showcase, various booths sell merchandise related to gardening and the Festival including commemorative shirts, garden art and wind chimes. The Mickey and Grumpy gnome statues were some of my favorite.
Although the Canada pavilion did not have gardens exclusive to the Festival, the lavish gardens that are featured here are not to be missed any time you visit Epcot.
As you walk into the United Kingdom section of World Showcase, remarkable topiaries featuring Peter Pan’s Hook and the crocodile are very eye-catching. The beautiful English Tea Garden incorporates over-sized teacups throughout the garden.
Outstanding topiaries I noticed that were displayed in previous years of the festival and remain enjoyable include Winnie the Pooh and Friends and Disney Couples as you walk from United Kingdom into France. In France, Beauty and the Beast, Lumiere, Mrs. Potts, Cogsworth and Chip topiaries bring a smile to all who walk through this garden.
Between France and Morocco is the Backyard Play Garden, which highlights different outdoor activities and garden features that attract children and include another fun playground for kids. We were also given free samples of applesauce in a pouch from GoGo squeeZ and it was very refreshing.
A Spice and Herb Garden was in Morocco, arranged in a visually appealing way. The Bonsai Collection in Japan was interesting, intricate and unique. Charming Toy Story character topiaries were found all around the American Adventure pavilion along with an emphasis on the Smokehouse Barbecue marketplace.
In Italy, Lady and the Tramp topiaries along with beautiful container gardens were found throughout the pavilion. While in Germany, life-sized Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs topiaries were located near the World Showcase Lake.
China’s unique Dragon topiary was very eye-catching and even sprayed water. The China pavilion also displayed an enchanting panda topiary that served as a great photo opportunity.
As we walked into the Norway section, we noticed the imposing Troll topiary standing guard. Between Norway and Mexico we saw many beautiful orchids. As we passed Mexico we ended our tour at the Fresh Florida marketplace.
Another aspect of this year’s Festival is the Illuminated Gardens throughout Epcot. These gardens are lit at night so that they can be enjoyed even after the sun goes down. Consult your festival map for which gardens are illuminated.
The Flower Power Concert Series also takes place on the weekends during the FGF with three performances scheduled each Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings. Some of the acts performing this year include Chubby Checker, The Guess Who and Nelson. See the full schedule
Because we ate a fabulous lunch at Le Cellier in the Canada Pavilion, we didn’t purchase any food or drink from the garden marketplaces, other than a very tasty strawberry slush from the Florida Fresh marketplace. However, as I walked around World Showcase I saw many items that I hope to try when I visit again before the festival ends on May 19, including the ever-popular Dole Whip with added rum from the Pineapple Promenade.
The crowds were moderate and it was usually easy for my mother to maneuver her scooter. The temperatures were in the 70’s but it became chilly at sundown. Spring Break crowds will make the festival much more crowded in the next few weeks, but you can also expect warmer temperatures. If you want to experience the more popular attractions at Epcot (Test Track, Soarin’, Mission Space, etc.) in addition to attending the FGF, you should plan at least two days to enjoy Epcot.
We spent a wonderful day at Epcot touring the enchanting gardens and enjoying the smells of the marketplaces. After the holiday celebrations, the FGF is one of my favorite activities to experience at Epcot. Thinking about the incredible talent and creativity required to turn a simple plant into a recognizable Disney character is mind-boggling to me. The variety of plants, the impact of the vibrant colors and the employment of thousands of plants and flowers make the beauty of the festival awe-inspiring for park guests and garden enthusiasts alike. I hope you are able to experience the remarkable Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival this year.
Visit www.EpcotinSpring.com to learn more.
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