In a little over a week Epcot begins hosting the 2017 Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival. This annual event is a treat for the senses. The park is in full bloom and there is so much to see and do at Epcot during the spring. Last year we covered everything you can find at this colorful springtime event over the course of two episodes. If you haven’t listened to those podcasts I encourage you to go back and listen to both before moving forward with today’s episode. We aren’t going to repeat the same information here. Instead, this will be a companion episode to update you on everything new for the festival in 2017. With that said, let’s do a quick reminder of the basics and…
Get started with our Know Before You Go Essential Facts:
- This seasonal event is held at Epcot
- The event is included in your normal park admission
- The event is 90 days
- It runs from March 1 – May 29, 2017
Those are the facts, now time for the fun!
Welcome back to the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival! If you have never been to Epcot during this time of year, you need to go! Each year the amazing topiaries, gorgeous blooms, delicious bites, and live entertainment seem to get better and better. Today, we are focusing on the new additions to the festival for 2017. What better place to start than with the topiaries?
Every year a new feature topiary greets guests at the entrance to the park. These topiaries are among the largest and most dynamic of the group, making for an exciting start to the day. This year Mickey, Minnie, Daisy, and Pluto will be on display as they strike a pose inspired by a vintage Walt Disney short film. This is a great spot for pictures, both during the day and at night. If you have Memory Maker be sure to have a Disney Photopass photographer capture this memory before you head deeper into the park.
Another topiary you will want to look for is Belle back in the France pavilion. Now, Belle has been at previous Flower & Garden festivals, but this year she is getting a whole new look. Disney calls this, “the next generation princess topiary.” Anna & Elsa were the first in this next generation, added back in 2015. The next gen princess topiaries are complete with detailed facial features. That means this year’s version of Belle will look like the beauty herself just stepped off the animated screen. Well, she might have more of a green hue in her face, but still there will be no mistaking who this topiary represents. A beauty but a funny girl!
Fans of Phineas & Ferb will be excited to hear they are joining the topiary team as well. Look for the stepbrothers with bad haircuts as you make your way from Future World over to the World Showcase. The duo will be near the Odyssey Bridge. If two new topiaries is good, well then three has to be even better. Donald, Panchito, and Jose’, better known as the Three Caballeros, will be puffing their flowery feathers near the ride bearing their name. Look for the Three Caballeros near the Mexico pavilion as you head that way to ride the Gran Fiesta Tour.
Finally, I’ve saved the best for last. Well, the best for nostalgic Disney fans that is. New this year, is a 6-foot tall version of our favorite Disney dragon, Figment! That’s right, the little spark of imagination himself will be balancing atop a floral ball just behind Spaceship Earth. This can be an easy one to miss as you will have to look back after entering the park and passing the giant landmark. If you do miss Figment, don’t worry, you should see him on your way out that day.
Of course, these are just a few of the more than 100 topiaries to discover throughout Epcot. Speaking of discovery, if you want to discover more of the gardens and exhibits there are special tours available during the festival. New tours this year include Alpine Containers, Geranium Grandeur, and Nature Works Everywhere. The Alpine Containers tour teaches you about high elevation plant life above the tree line. Geranium Grandeur invites you to soak up the sights and scents of the colorful annual, biennial, and perennial plants. Nature Works Everywhere is geared towards kids, teaching them how to create gardens that benefit their school and the wildlife it hosts. Be sure to check your guide map to find these and the returning tours, gardens, and exhibits.
Now, all that hard work of discovering gardens and learning about plants is sure to work up a big appetite. The Flower & Garden festival has you covered and then some when it comes to food. There are more than a dozen outdoor kitchens added to the World Showcase for this event. Before we get into the new kitchens being added this year, a quick reminder of the essential facts for the outdoor kitchen.
- Outdoor kitchens open daily from 11:00 am – 9:00 pm
- Epcot admission is required
- Alcohol will only be served to guests 21 years or older
- The kitchens are subject to closure at any time
- Food and beverage samples are available while supplies last
- All menu items are subject to change without notice
Our first new stop on the culinary tour is at the friendly Canada pavilion. Not only can you watch O Canada!, but now you can also get a taste of the Great White North at the Northern Bloom kitchen. The menu you will include:
- Seared Scallops with French Green Beans, Butter Potatoes, Brown Butter Vinaigrette and Apple wood Smoked Bacon (GF)
- Beef Tenderloin Tips, Mushroom Bordelaise Sauce, Whipped Potatoes with Garden Vegetables
On top of that, you can wash these tasty plates down with some really unique beverage options!
- Maple Popcorn Shake with Crown Royal Maple Whiskey
- Maple Popcorn Shake (non-alcoholic)
- Unibroue Maudite Amber Ale, Chambly, Québec
- Unibroue À Tout Le Monde Saison, Chambly, Québec
- Unibroue Éphémère White Ale, Chambly, Québec
- Beer Flight
The other new stop this year is called The Berry Basket. Looking at the menu, I think this is a kitchen my wife would like to pay a visit to! You can choose from:
- Lamb chop with Quinoa Salad and Blackberry Gastrique
- Field Greens with fresh Strawberries, Blue Cheese, Strawberry Vinaigrette and Spiced Pecans (V)
- Warm Wild Berry Buckle with Pepper Berry Sorbet (V)
- Founders Raubeaus Pure Raspberry Ale, Grand Rapids, MI
- Island Grove Blueberry Moscato, Hawthorne, FL
- Twinings® Green Tea Berry Mint Julep (non-alcoholic version also available)
One of the other additions to this year’s festival is something you will find at every kitchen. You can now look for two symbols next to select menu items. If you see a capital (V) next to an item that is a vegetarian option. If there is a capital (GF), that item is gluten/wheat friendly. There should be something delicious out there, even for those with special diets. With more than 15 outdoor kitchens, there is now something to satisfy any craving.
One of the stops you will come to is the America Gardens Theater outside of the American Adventure pavilion. This is the home of the Garden Rocks Concert series. Showtimes take place Friday – Monday at 5:30 pm, 6:45 pm, and 8:00 pm. Each year the festival brings back crowd favorites like The Gin Blossoms, The Guess Who, and the Plain White T’s. They also add in new artists to bring something new and exciting to the stage. This year’s new artists include Simple Plan, Expose’, and Berlin. If you are a fan of these groups and want to know when to catch each group, here is the current schedule for these three new acts:
March 17 & 18: Simple Plan – known for “Welcome to My Life”
April 28 & 29: Expose’ – known for “Point of No Return”
April 30 & May 1: Berlin featuring Terri Nunn – known for “Take My Breath Away”
The first artist of the festival will be Jon Secada on March 3 & 4. The final act will be The Spinners on May 29. Click here for a full list of this year’s performance schedule. Remember, the entertainment and performances are subject to change without notice so check your times guide when you are in the park.
The Garden Rocks Concert series is included in your Epcot admission, but seating is limited. If you want to guarantee a seat in the theater you can purchase a Garden Rocks Concert Dining Package. This year there are 15 participating Epcot restaurants. Price varies by restaurant, but each dining package will include an appetizer, entree’, and dessert, or one full buffet or family style, dining where applicable, plus a non-alcoholic beverage and one guaranteed seat to the Garden Rocks Concert held on the same day. There are a few important things to know when booking a dining package. They are:
- Dinner reservations must be 2.5 hours prior to show time
- Tax and gratuity are not included
- Valid Epcot admission is required
- Reservations require a credit card guarantee
- Magic Your Way and Deluxe Dine packages will be accepted as payment
- Reservations can be made by calling (407) 939-3378
One last tip we shared last year, that I want to reiterate here. If you select the dining package you will have a guaranteed seat, but where that seats is depends on how early you show up to the theater. Guests will begin lining up as early as 30-45 minutes in advance of show time. The earlier you arrive with your seat voucher the closer to the stage your seat will be.
Well, that just about wraps up the new offerings for the 2017 Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival. This is such a great time of year to visit Walt Disney World and Epcot in particular. In addition to the new callouts from today, you can enjoy the Butterfly Garden, seasonal play areas for kids both near Test Track and the Imagination pavilion, plus special weekend guests at the festival center over by Mission Space. This is one time you can find yourself spending a full day or more at Epcot. Plan on visiting Epcot during the weekend to take full advantage of everything going on. You can spend your morning exploring Future World, riding Soarin’, Test Track, Living with the Land, the Seas with Nemo and Friends, Spaceship Earth and more! Then move over to the World Showcase in the afternoon where hopefully you have a FP+ for Frozen Ever After. Don’t forget to take in the O Canada! and Reflections of China films, like we talked about the past two weeks. By the time the evening rolls around you can eat and drink your way around the lagoon, catch a Garden Rocks Concert, and cap off the day with a viewing of Illuminations.
That sounds like so much fun, I think I may have to do just that when I go to Epcot later this spring. I can’t wait to introduce my little nephew and niece to the topiaries, playgrounds, and fun rides! Since I will be in Walt Disney World soon, now is the time to send me some rider responses! Is there something new at WDW you are dying to learn more about? Is there something old we still haven’t covered on the podcast? Please let me know over the next few weeks. I really do love exploring everything Walt Disney World has to offer, especially if it is something that can help you on your next trip. The best way to send in your questions or comments is on our Facebook page. Come like the page at facebook.com/wdwrideguide and then send me a message.
Next week marks episode 100 of the WDW Ride Guide Podcast and I’ve saved a special experience to share with you for the occasion. I hope you will come join us again next week.
Until then, take time to stop and smell the roses as you make each day a ride worth taking!
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