10 Reasons to Visit the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival
Outdoor kitchens full of fresh flavors, stunning garden displays with shrubs in the shape of princesses, and entertainment for every age makes the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival one of the best times to visit this Disney World theme park.
The annual event spans about three months, typically beginning around the first of March and running through late May. Admission is included with a regular park ticket to Epcot, so in addition to the thrilling rides of Future World and the fun activities of the World Showcase, you’ll get to see dozens of topiaries and flower displays, tap your toes during special concerts and sample limited-edition international dishes.
In case you need more convincing, read on for 10 reasons why you should visit Epcot during the International Flower and Garden Festival.
With everything from Mickey and Minnie to Bambi, Buzz and butterflies, the topiary displays around the park are perhaps the most eye-catching symbol of the International Flower and Garden Festival.
If you want to take a topiary tour, you can pick up a free passport at the entrances or outdoor kitchens to ensure you don’t miss any. The exact displays may change a little year to year, but you’ll find them around both Future World and the World Showcase – where characters are located in their home countries (i.e. Belle in France, Ana and Elsa in Norway, Peter Pan in the U.K., etc.).
Creative gardens can be spotted in both worlds at Epcot too. Future World’s collection includes an informative butterfly house, floating flowers and a special how-to garden that teaches sustainability and outdoorsy crafts.
Around the World Showcase, gardens exhibit flora to represent some of the countries. In England, you’ll find a tea garden; in Morocco, fragrant spices; in Japan, a collection of bonsai plants; and in Mexico, tropical rainforest greenery.
If you’re REALLY into gardening (or just looking for something different to do at Epcot), you can join in on a few different tours, some free and others with a charge.
Whether it's following a professional horticulturist around for a few hours to discover all the different displays or sampling tea and scones after learning about tea blending and brewing, these special experiences add a little extra Disney magic during the Flower and Garden Festival. You can even join a behind-the-scenes look in the Land Pavilion, checking out the agricultural displays up close that are typically seen from a boat on the “Living With the Land” ride.
Ah, the food of Epcot. In case you were afraid of missing out of some of the yummies by coming to the International Flower and Garden Festival instead of fall’s International Food and Wine Festival, fear not!
The outdoor kitchens may be fewer in number than during the autumn fest, but you’ll still find WAY too many tasty bites to try in one day. With more than a dozen food kiosks set up around the World Showcase, featured flavors primarily focus on the pavilion countries with a few extras for island bites and Florida favorites (hello, key lime pie).
So what’s on the menu? It changes year to year, but you’ll find things like barbecue brisket in America, potato pancakes in Germany, dumplings and spring rolls in China and Jamaican and Caribbean seasonings near the Showcase Plaza.
Most kitchens include at least a couple of savory dishes, a sweet dish and a selection of beverages. The Garden Passport details everything on the current menu, and it’s advisable to plan ahead since you’ll want to eat everything as soon as you catch a whiff. Plus, you can spot which menu items are vegetarian, gluten-free or kid-friendly before you go, in case you have dietary restrictions.
Pro tip: If you're trying to stick to a budget, buy one of the festival-themed gift cards at the gate so you don’t go overboard. You can wear them on your wrist to pay in a flash, and once it’s empty, you can cut yourself off!
Aside from the name, Garden Rocks Concert Series, the musical entertainment doesn’t exactly mesh with the spring and flower theme, but it certainly amps up the festive atmosphere!
Typically running Fridays through Mondays with three performances each evening, a variety of bands and artists take to the stage at the America Gardens Theatre. Popular acts span five decades of music in genres ranging from rock to pop and country with names like Night Ranger and the Village People making repeat appearances over the years.
If you’re a collector of Disney goods, you won’t want to miss the special merchandise available during the Flower and Garden Festival. With everything from t-shirts and tote bags bearing the festival name to floral-adorned mugs and drinkware, you’ll find plentiful selections to mark your visit.
The festival-themed wristlet gift cards can also be picked up at shops around the park and make a great souvenir after you’ve used up the balance.
Epcot may not be known as the most child-friendly of the parks, especially for little tots too short to ride “Soarin’” or “Test Track,” but during the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival, there are a few extra ways to keep the kids entertained.
Grab one of the free Garden Passport books to track where you’ve stopped with included stickers; the outdoor kitchens all have a corresponding sticker, so kids can play a matching game while mom or dad waits in line for some goodies. Speaking of the eateries, kid-approved foods and drinks are marked on the passport, too, so you can quickly ID what they might be into tasting (ice cream, slushies, cake … the good stuff!).
To take the sticker game up to the next level, purchase one of the scavenger-hunt map games at the Port of Entry. There’s a limited-time egg-hunt around Easter that can be traded in for a surprise on completion, and a new pollen-themed hunt that follows a cartoon bee available throughout the festival.
When littles need to get out the wiggles, take them to one of the play gardens in the Future World area. The Road to the Florida 500 garden is a race-themed setting based on the movie “Cars” and is located right by “Test Track,” so it’s the perfect spot to hang out with kids too small to ride.
A second kiddie garden added in 2018 by Future World West is based on imaginative play, filled with things to climb on and crawl under (and Adirondack chairs for parents to chill on with a frozen lemonade).
Since the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival takes place from late winter into spring, you might be fortunate enough to avoid the scorching hot temperatures that put a damper on summer vacations, especially if you visit during the early weeks of the event. While pop-up showers are inevitable, the rain chances also are significantly lower than in summer, so clear, sunny, 70-degree days are possible during the festival.
But since it’s Florida, you could also have a sweltering day in March. It’s always a gamble!
Of course, no visit to Epcot would be complete without hitting up the park’s rides and shows around Future World and the World Showcase. Unlike the special events at the Magic Kingdom which require a separate ticket, the Epcot Flower and Garden festival is included with regular park admission, so you can take advantage of Epcot attractions PLUS the special festival extras.
“Frozen Ever After,” “Test Track” and “Soarin’” remain the most popular rides here and are all in the top tier of FastPass+ experiences, so pick your favorite and secure a FastPass for it as soon as possible (60 days before check-in if you’re staying on property or 30 days before your visit if not).
You’ll also find that some days during the festival have Extra Magic Hours in the morning and at night, so you’ll get the most bang for your buck on these dates if you’re staying on property. (For those who don’t know, Extra Magic Hours are when the park opens early or closes late for resort-guests only. Epcot park hours are typically 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., with the World Showcase opening at 11 a.m. Extra Magic Hours usually run from either 8-9 a.m. or 9-11 p.m. on select days. Check the hours here.)
While the fireworks show during the festival is the same one that runs throughout the year, you’ll want to stick around to watch the nighttime spectacle, especially with rumors swirling around that the longest-running Disney fireworks display may be retired soon for a new program.
The current production, “IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth” includes a spinning globe, lights, music and fireworks over the lake in the middle of the World Showcase.