What you need to know for the 2017 EPCOT Flower and Garden Festival

The 2017 EPCOT International Flower and Garden Festival kicks off today and there’s more to enjoy than ever before. The event now runs for 90 days which means more concerts, more celebrity guests, more seminars, and more food.

Whether you’re a first time guest or a regular, there are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind to make sure you have the most enjoyable experience possible.

A lof of the joy of the Flower and Garden Festival is just wandering around discovering the different plant displays and food kiosks. But there are a few things you’ll want to plan for. These includes:

The garden rocks concert series: a dinner package can be a great way of enjoying the show without having to wait too long in queue. Or, if you can wait until the last show of he night, there is usually enough room for everyone.

We really enjoy the outdoor kitchens, aka food kiosks, I like to get the little passport pamphlet and spend a few moments looking at which countries have items I know I want to try, but if I see something I like while out walking around, I’ll try that too. Just keep in mind that all those little purchases can add up, so keep your budget in mind not just your taste buds.

You may also want to stop by for the expert presentations. Experts from shows you might see on HGTW and DIY will be on hand making presentations of a variety of home improvement and gardening topics. Look for these sessions every weekend at the Festival Center.

The character topiary are always a big attraction. This year there will be nearly 100 of the creations representing over 75 Disney films. Make sure to head over to France to see the new Belle topiary. Also make sure to take advantage of the ubiquitous photopass photographers. They’ll help you get a memory that will last a lifetime.

The 90-day festival, open March 1-May 29, will feature an irresistible array of new gardens and character topiaries, popular entertainers and tasty food and drink offerings:

  • Fresh, farm-market food and beverage flavors will debut at the new Northern Bloom and The Berry Basket Outdoor Kitchens that will join 13 returning Outdoor Kitchens. Delectable chef-inspired bites from Northern Bloom include Seared Scallops with French Green Beans and Butter Potatoes with brown-butter vinaigrette and Applewood smoked bacon. A Maple Popcorn Shake for sipping can become an adult libation with the addition of some Crown Royal Maple Whiskey. At The Berry Basket, the Lamb Chop with Quinoa Salad and Blackberry Gastrique can pair with the new Founders Raubeaus Pure Raspberry Ale.
  • The new generation of princess topiaries (Snow White, Anna and Elsa – the first to be designed and created with topiary facial features) will welcome a brand-new Belle topiary as fans remember her from the Oscar-winning Disney film, “Beauty and the Beast.” Located outside the France Pavilion with the Beast topiary, Belle will come to life with sculpted facial features and her yellow ball gown created with golden blooming Joseph’s Coat and Creeping Jenny plants.
  • Another festival first will be a 6-foot-tall topiary of Figment, the feisty dragon mascot of the park’s Imagination! Pavilion, perched atop a 5-foot-diameter ball fashioned from yellow Joseph’s Coat. Sure, it’s hold-over from the Festival of the Arts, but it’s been augmented with more flowers.
  • This year’s Epcot front-entrance topiary garden, “Welcome Spring Fun, Food and Flowers,” inspired by a vintage Walt Disney short film will spring to life with a floral-festooned maypole featuring Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Daisy and Pluto.
  • The popular Garden Rocks concert series will expand to four days each week, with three concerts each Friday through Monday presenting pop musicians that span multiple genres over five decades. New acts this year: Simple Plan, Exposé and Berlin featuring Terri Nunn. Festival favorite Jon Secada kicks off the series March 3 and 4, and Dennis DeYoung featuring the music of STYX wraps the long weekend March 5-6.
  • New Garden Rocks Dining Packages will be available on select days at several Epcot restaurants. Guests can book packages at 407-WDW-DINE.
  • Redesigned interactive play gardens will include the new “Cars”-themed Road to Florida 500 garden introducing the new “Cruz” character topiary from the June 2017 release of Disney•Pixar’s “Cars 3.” Music Garden Melodies play area will return with a new garden design, musical note topiary elements and climbing nets.
  • During the first festival week, the Festival Center will open Wednesday, March 1 and each day through Sunday, March 5 with an entertaining mix of gardening seminars and DIY workshops. Throughout the rest of the festival, the center will be open each Friday through Sunday.

One of the popular Outdoor Kitchen gardens, Urban Farm Eats, will return with savory bites, sweet treats and ideas for planting produce that can inspire growing numbers of guests who want to learn to grow their own edibles.

“A lot of people, including young children, are serious foodies now, and they have lots of questions about gardening,” says Eric Darden, festival horticulture manager. “We’re getting more and more people in their 20s and 30s asking, ‘How can I grow this?’ I think we’ll be creating more gardeners because people can see what’s possible.”

The 2017 festival forecast will be sunny with colorful floral bursts by day and a nighttime landscape aglow with twinkling lights:

  • Topiaries of Donald Duck and nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie will share Future World space in front of Spaceship Earth with Chip and Dale for a “Fresh Epcot” selfie and family photo opportunity.
  • Anna and Elsa topiaries will return to the Norway Pavilion festival landscape in celebration of the park’s new Frozen Ever After.
  • Nearly 100 festival topiaries in all will include up to 70 character creations such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Lady and the Tramp, Simba, Timon and Tinker Bell.
  • Guests can plan on special appearances related to Earth Day and other spring activities including: March 31-April 2 and April 28-30: Disney’s Animals, Science and Environment and Conservation Specialists from Disney’s Animal Kingdom; April 22-24: Celebrate Earth Day with featured personalities and activities; May 5-7: Discover the Bounty of Florida Agriculture by learning from Sunshine State specialists; May 12-14: Florida Federation of Garden Clubs presents floral designs that defy description.
  • The Butterflies on the Go garden will return with the story of the Monarch’s epic journey across the continent and featuring butterflies emerging from their chrysalises.
  • On the way to the new Soarin’ Around the World attraction in The Land Pavilion, guests can discover gardens featuring edible flowers, plants that benefit health and healing, and a pollinator paradise.

Dozens of Disney-crafted “flower towers” and beds of multi-colored blooms will transform the park’s landscape.  At least 70,000 bedding plants will surround the Future World east and west lakes alone; on the water, 220 mini-gardens will be set afloat.

The festival, including all gardening programs, exhibits, concerts, complimentary English Tea Garden tours and special appearances, is included in regular Epcot admission.

With 90 days there’s a lot to experience. I recommend coming back at least a couple times over the course of the festival. You’ll have a different experience each time with new presenters, new flowers, and new bands at the concert series.

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