This year the Walt Disney World Flower and Garden Festival at Epcot runs Feb 28 to May 28, 2018. Before we were annual pass holders we were quite sure there was only one festival we really needed to go to each year and this was not it. Living in Ohio, every trip to Disney still means we have to figure out money for flights, lodging and food. So why would we make another trip to Disney, during spring break and school trip season no less? And then we discovered something…
…the Flower and Garden Festival is essentially just the Food and Wine Festival but for a whole different set of people.
Why you should visit the Flower and Garden Festival
The Flower and Garden set like gardening, fresh food, infused drinks, and easy days filled with lounging and strolling. While this may seem like an over generalization its a stark contrast to our other favorite festival.
At Flower and Garden you will not see people stumbling around or drinking around the world like at Food and Wine, which is why we love this event for kids and families.
You miss out completely on the “rainy season” and while you may get a sprinkle or two, it doesn’t last for your whole vacation.
The foods and drinks at all 15 booths around the world showcase are just as amazing as Food and Wine.
Bands at the Garden Rocks Concert Series compare pretty equally to the band offerings at the Summer Concert Series and Food and Wine.
And there’s a slew of other reasons this festival now feels like it should be the one thing we do each year to kick off our summer vacation mindset. Starting in late February each year, it is also a great cure for that winter cabin fever.
If you give in and attend Walt Disney World during this event, be sure to set aside a day at Epcot during your vacation. You will love it, your kids will love it, your elderly grandmother will love it. This event is free with park admission to Epcot and least crowded on weekday mornings and afternoons. We’ve since this festival get better every year with new foods, new drinks, new bands, new celebrity cooking shows and gorgeous new topiaries that make this a must do event at Epcot if you’re visiting Disney anytime between March and May.
Flower and Garden Festival Center
Last year was the first year we saw the festival big enough to warrant a festival center, so plan to stop by this year just to get the lay of the land. The Festival Center is considered the go-to place to stop before diving into the festival and you’ll get more info here than anywhere. Your festival passport and map will be here and inside you will find flower and garden specific merchandise, the complimentary Annual Passholder pin, classes, and info booths to help you navigate the festival. If you’re there during a heat wave, it’s also a great place to relax in the air conditioning or if your family needs downtime.
Gardens and Topiaries
While the headliner sometimes seem to be the outdoor kitchens, because we simply can’t get enough food, snacks or yummy drinks, it really is all about the gardens around Epcot. During the festival Epcot gets a complete overlay of flowers, gardens, and character-shaped topiaries. The horticulture team somehow keeps the gardens and flowers looking fresh and amazing throughout the entire festival, so plenty of photograph ops all around. Each year these are different, so you will never see the same on in the same spot twice.
Much like the Food and Wine Festival the outdoor kitchens are set up outside each country in the World Showcase. Flower and Garden 2018 will have 15 food booths all featuring fresh offerings associated with each country’s spring fare. In addition to the frushi, zucchini stuffed ravioli and violet lemonade made with real violets that routinely appear each year, and have cult followings, there will be loads of new foods and we’ll update the post with menus as soon as they are available. We highly recommend saying no to any planned meals during your Flower and Garden day. Being able to sample from the booths throughout the day is a little more fun when you don’t have to stop to have a “real” meal or budget in extra money for extra food. Check out our review of the food from the last festival to see what you can expect. And head to the Disney food blog for a full list of 2018 Flower and Garden Festival Menus to start picking your favorites.
Epcot loves their band lineups. Every festival has some sort of music extravaganza meeting the needs of lines of people remembering their favorite bands of the past. Seriously, we’ve seen very very long lines for some of the performers, so if you’re hoping to get in on the action arrive at the America Gardens Theater a little early to scout out the line. Garden Rocks concerts happen on the weekends only whcih means you’ll be contending with the locals, pass holders and date night crowd. Check out this years Garden Rocks Flower and Garden Concert Series Schedule.
Easter Eggs featuring a Disney character can be found in each country in the Epcot World Showcase. If you’re up for the hunt, this game comes with a map and a prize for kids (or adults) to play the around the world. There is also a kidcot passport for the Flower and Garden Festival that can make the kid experience extra special as you stroll from one country to the next. Check out our Flower and Garden with Kids post here for more details on the typical fun happenings at Epcot.
Special Events and Tours
The Flower and Garden Festival is included in the price of admission to Epcot, so if you have a park ticket or a make your way package you can just show up, no extra tickets needed. There are, however, other special events and tours that are offered during the festival for a fee, if you want to take part. The festival is pretty spectacular all by itself, but if you’re interested in a tour one of our favorites is the Royal Tea Garden Tour for 15 dollars a person. You get special teas and scones and a talk about tea gardening. Check out all of the special events and tours on the website.
Flower and Garden Festival Tips and Tricks
- Plan at least 1 full day at Epcot to really enjoy the Flower and Garden Festival. We sometimes even block off 2 days since the booths have so many great foods and drinks to try.
- Be sure to visit Tinker Bells Butterfly House and take a look at all the topiary displays and butterflies. It’s easy to rush through this event, but if you take a moment to stop and look around you’ll notice displays with fun facts, hidden eggs in each country, and even the smallest spaces adorned with plants and flowers. Epcot never looks more beautiful, so soak it in.
- Buy a Disney gift card to cover the costs of foods and treats throughout the day. This will help keep you on budget and any left over balance can easily be used anywhere on Disney property.
- Don’t plan any restaurant reservations or quick serve lunches on your festival day. Challenge yourself to piece your meals together from the amazing foods showcased in each country.
- Since Epcot doesn’t usually open the ropes until 10 am, our best trick is to have a light breakfast in France at La Halles Boulangerie-Patisserie, which is open in France, near the International Gateway. This is a walk up quick serve restaurant and you can grab a croissant and coffee before heading into your garden day. Eating here also gets you pretty close to all the action for when those ropes do drop.
- If you’re adding rides to your day, aiming for the earliest Frozen Ever After or a Soarin fast pass you can manage on your Epcot day will keep the rest of your day open for the festival. Book these early.
- Only plan on the concerts if you are a die-hard fan. The time it will take to wait in line is often extensive and cuts into the other things you could be doing. Besides, since these are open air concerts if you’re truly interested but don’t want to wait for a theater seat, you can hang out in American Adventure to hear the bands.
- Don’t be afraid to split up your travel party. Some of you may want to just try the foods and drinks, others may want a coffee and a stroll, others may just want to go on rides and others may just want to experience all the concerts. Epcot during this festival is a lot less chaotic than others so slightly safer to split up and meet your group later if you so please.
- If you’re visiting Walt Disney World between March and May you will be up against spring breaks and school trips. Know that most schools and groups book the Value Plus ( Pop Century and Art of Animation) or Value Resorts. If you’re looking to escape the teens try for the moderate or off site resorts instead.