Since 1994, every spring the International Flower and Garden Festival opens like a field of flowers across Epcot. From the first week of March until the last week of May, plant lovers drool and daydream as they wander through the eye-popping displays. But what about the kids? I’ve pulled together a list of must dos at Epcot’s Flower and Garden Festival with kids to keep Mom happy.
With over 70 topiary displays with Disney characters from every generation, I love meandering through Epcot discovering the displays. Each character is a piece of plant art and I take a few minutes to discover the details in each. I am amazed how the gardeners use plants and plant products to create characters with amazing detail.
And think it’s the same every year, not so. Each year I find my favorite topiaries in a different spot. Even the blooms radiate different colors. As a plant lover, I study the way the gardeners group the plants in eye-popping arrangements. I seriously covet the container groupings. It’s everything I want on my patio.
Even though I am a foodie, I love Epcot’s Flower and Garden Festival a tad more than the International Food and Wine Festival in the Fall. Read on and to see why.
A Topiary for Every Movie
Well, almost. My girly faves are Elsa and Anna in Norway and France’s Beauty and the Beast topiaries. For my boys, Phineas and Ferb top the charts.
Along with the themed topiaries, some of the countries have themed gardens too. In Japan we find a display of Bonsai. In the United Kingdom, I’m enchanted by the Shakespeare Garden and the pots of tea plants.
Over 200 floating gardens catch us by surprise. They float and turn in the wind under the monorail near the Odyssey Bridge and the International Gateway.
On the weekends, Epcot comes alive with music at the Garden Rocks Concert. A free concert located in the America Gardens Theatre bringing national acts to the World Showcase.
Of course, special tours and tastings tantalize me. Though additional tickets might be required.
Epcot’s Flower and Garden Festival with Kids
Kids and gardens can be a hard sell. So stop by the Music Garden Melodies Playground. My favorite feature is sitting in the Adirondack chairs watching my kids play.
Another must-do for kids, the Road to Florida 500 features Lightening McQueen and Cruz Ramirez.
We explore the butterfly garden, sponsored by Go-Go Squeez next. After chasing butterflies, my boys slurp down an applesauce pouch in one gulp.
The Kidcot activities, a free educational booklet in selected countries in the World Showcase, get a fresh makeover for Epcot’s Flower and Garden Festival with kids. Just grab a booklet head to a special desk in each pavilion. For 2017, kids learn about fruit from across the world.
Always running on-time, the miniature outdoor train in Germany excites my boys. I spend a few moments studying the tiny details with real trees to scale.
Dining during International Flower and Garden
One of my favorite parts of International Flower and Garden Festival is the food. Just for the festival, the Epcot chefs roll out farm-to-table offerings while mixologists concoct delicate spring inspired cocktails.
At the outdoor kitchens sprinkled in the countries, I find farm-to-table items offering fresh alternatives for families. The small plates entice me to sample in every country. And the signature cocktails are hard to pass up, especially the champagne cocktails.
I use the Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World by Bob Sehlinger and Len Testa for every trip. It provides a comprehensive guide, packed with information. If this is your first visit, don’t try to do everything.
My visit to Walt Disney World was hosted for review purposes. Some of my resort stays were hosted.
This post contains affiliate link in which I get a small commission if you purchase a book.
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The International Food and Wine Festival at Epcot in Walt Disney World offers a day of sampling culinary treats from around the world while walking from one country to the next in Epcot’s World Showcase. Each year brings more sampling since the first festival in 1995 and a favorite event for Florida locals as well as vacationers.
The International Food and Wine Festival features special events like cooking demonstrations, cookbook signings and bottle signings. Along with the culinary world tour, savory and sweet curated samplings are expertly paired with wine and spirits. With smaller portions, I found it easy to sample lots of dishes to find a new favorite and the cocktail prices were reasonable.
My day at the International Food and Wine Festival
I spent a couple of hours riding my favorite rides, like Soarin’ Around the World that reopened this summer, before heading over to the World Showcase. I’m not the most adventurous morning eater, in fact I usually skip breakfast, though the International Food and Wine Festival opens at 9 a.m.
After a quick stop at Epcot’s Guest Relations Booth for the Times Guide, a Festival passport and a map, I’m ready and hungry. The International Food and Wine Festival passport is your go-to guide for information, like the regional-inspired offerings from each country. The pocket-sized passport includes stickers that let you mark off your culinary adventures.
In addition to the regular countries that reside in Epcot’s World Showcase, the International Food and Wine Festival includes pop-up kiosks with additional countries like Greece and Australia. I found booths dedicated to desserts and champagne along with farm fresh offerings in the Showcase Plaza, the area across the bridge.
I sampled vegan options, like the Loaded Greek Nachos with meatless sausage and vegan Tzatziki (Greece). And not so vegan options like Bavarian Bratwurst with a hard roll (Germany) and the Le Cellier Wild Mushroom Beef Filet Mignon with Truffle-Butter Sauce (Canada), satisfied my meatier appetite.
For my sweet side, the Chocolate Studio offered a red wine chocolate truffle that paired with Fonseca Bin No. 27 Port. The Wine and Dine Studio offered an artist’s palette of wine and cheese, a pairing of La Bonne Vie goat cheese with dried cranberry bread, karst cave-aged cheddar cheese paired with a fig compote and a Statesboro blue cheese served with candied walnuts. The palette included Conundrum White Blend, Kurt Russell’s GoGi “Goldie” Chardonnay and Robert Mondavi Winery Maestro Red Blend.
During my visit, it was hot, like highs over 90F with humidity to match. So I sampled bubbles, like the St-Germain Sparkling Kir in France. The Mimosa Royale with sparkling wine, orange juice and orange liqueur offered a refreshing afternoon break in Morocco. The Wyder’s Dry Pear Hard Cider located near the entrance of the World Showcase was light on the palette too.
Events at the International Food and Wine Festival
All items can be purchased separately at the kiosks but if you want to order, eat and repeat then purchase an International Food and Wine Festival Tasting Sampler. For eight food and beverage entitlements across the World Showcase, it’s $59 plus tax. For 16 food and beverage entitlements, it’s $109 plus tax. The card comes on a bracelet for easy swipe-and-go; no fiddling with a wallet.
Want to celebrate in high style at Epcot? The Ultimate Day at the International Food and Wine Festival helps you accomplish your mission.
The 7-hour day begins with brunch at the Wonders Retreat then head to the VIP lounge for beverage demonstrations. A guided craft beer sampling comes after a ride on Frozen Ever After and Soarin’ Around the World. Finish the day up with champagne and reserved seats at the Eat to the Beat Concert Series. The day costs $399 a person and doesn’t include admission to the park.
Don’t forget the Eat to the Beat Concert Series at the American Gardens Theatre with a different band every few days hitting the stage at 5:30 p.m., 6:45 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. Hour-long cooking classes teach budding gourmands the insider tricks, daily at 4:00 p.m. for $49 per person.
As always, the day caps off with fireworks with the Illuminations Reflections of Earth. A spectacular show that’s packed with power and fire.
Kids at the International Food and Wine Festival
I want to leisurely walk around and sample the culinary offerings while enjoying all the details of each country in Epcot. That’s why I didn’t take my kids, 8, 12 and 13, to this year’s International Food and Wine Festival.
The World Showcase in Epcot has activities for kids but my kids don’t like them. Sorry, it’s the truth. They want to head to the rides and stay there for the whole day. And kids get whiney if they don’t get their way. So Mom left them at home for this quick trip.
During my visit, I rode a few of my favorite rides, like Soarin’ Around the World, Spaceship Earth and Living with the Land. Then I headed to the World Showcase for the rest of the day to eat, drink and enjoy being an adult. As a Mom, I don’t get to do this often and we all know a kid can kill a wine buzz.
If you bring your kids, the Kidcot Fun Stops offer kids the opportunity to create arts and crafts at 11 different World Showcase stops. Just for the International Food and Wine Festival, kids can play hike-and-squeak with Remy from Ratatouille. After purchasing a map with stickers from the official festival merchandise location, kids search for Remy hidden across the World Showcase and turn in the booklet for a special treat when they’re done.
Where to Stay for Your Walt Disney World Trip:
Looking for lodging for your visit? I’ve stayed at numerous properties in Walt Disney World, from value resorts to luxury spas and some national hotel chains.
So I logged on to Amazon and bought the book. Which book? I bought the one with the most pages, The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World 2016. Then I read it cover-to-cover, my friends. Is it boring?You bet, but I still read the book. I recommend this. Packed with a lot of information that will save you time and money. Don’t skip the book!
What would you do if you had to plan a last-minute trip to Walt Disney World? A while back, I got the opportunity to explore Walt Disney World as a part of a work trip and had to plan a trip for four in a couple of weeks. Before this, we spent only one day in a whirlwind tour of Disneyland. So how does a national parks, road-tripping Mom plan a last-minute Walt Disney World vacation?
I lost my mind.
Taking a Disney trip requires planning. Really. For a moment I thought could wing it. Then my best friend, traveling companion and fellow Walt Disney World newbie talked some sense into me.
If we wing it, she said, we’ll be walking around, getting nowhere, wasting all our time in line. She was right. Her sister, a Walt Disney World veteran, had given her that advice.
2. Then I read it cover-to-cover, my friends. Is it boring? You bet, but I still read the book. I recommend this. Packed with lots of information that will save you time and money. Don’t skip the book!
3. Then I took the book with me. The thick, heavy book lived in my backpack. Hard to believe but I thumbed through the book A LOT in the parks. I checked to see how scary a ride was for my youngest who still takes about the scary ride from four years ago. I checked to see if a ride was worth the wait. The book was right.
5. The Orlando International Airport is not next to Walt Disney World. I mean that would be great! Nope, It’s a $70 taxi ride away so I wanted to stay at a Walt Disney World resort because of the complimentary Magical Express transportation. That and this was my first trip, I didn’t know my way around and didn’t want to get too far from the parks.
6. I loaded up on snacks, like protein bars, nuts and fruit leather, and stashed them in my backpack. Each of us had a water bottle so we didn’t sip on soda in the parks. The food at Disney is expensive and so-so at best, except for a few signature items like the Dole Whip.
7. I also got myself kids meals. I’m not proud. Pro tip: Have the kids hold a table so no one asks how many kids you have.
8. I stopped by the Dollar Store and loaded up on glow sticks, autograph books and Disney tattoos. I threw this stuff in their cinch sacks with a couple of sharpies.
9. A note about dining reservations. I skipped this because my boys aren’t into food and the typical Disney characters. They would rather ride rides. Now when Walt Disney World opens a Star Wars themed restaurant, my boys will be all over it. So if you are planning a last minute trip, don’t sweat the dining reservations and eat at quick service instead.
What to do when Your Favorite Resort is Booked
I didn’t have a lot of time to plan my April trip, about a month. So the value-priced rooms disappeared before I could snag one for the Saturday night of our five-day, four-night trip to Walt Disney World.
To make it work, I ended up with reservations at three different resorts. No biggie, I’ll just transfer resorts. I’ll make it work. I’m a family travel writer, it’s just part of the job. That and I didn’t have a choice.
So I learned a lot from my three-resort tour of Walt Disney World. My trip was part of a work conference so a couple of rooms were booked at a Walt Disney World deluxe resort. Since I arrived early to explore the parks, I booked a room at a value resort. Then the least-expensive room I could find for a Saturday night was a moderate resort.
I had my freak out moment when I couldn’t find a room for under $600 for a few weeks. And I wasn’t going to spend that on a family trip. If I’m spending that kind of money on a room, my lovely children will be at Grandma’s. But maybe, that’s just me.
By stalking the Walt Disney World website, sometimes more rooms come available about 4 weeks out. Don’t count on this feature but check daily for resort availability. If a room does come available, grab it and don’t wait. You can always cancel.
Walt Disney World will transfer your luggage for free from one Walt Disney World resort to another Walt Disney World resort. I found this out by asking my pals and Disney experts at TravelingMom.com.
The Pop Century Resort is a value resort ($-$$) 1.7 miles away from Hollywood Studios. It features four areas named after decades of the 20th century with a total of 2,880 rooms along the shores of Hour Glass Lake and cross from the Art of Animation Resort.
The Pop Century Resort is fun. The buildings exude energy and draw me through the resort. From the four-story tall bowling pins and the ginormous 60s flowers pasted to the sides of the candy-colored buildings, this place is a hit with the young at heart.
Hits of the Pop Century Resort
Over the top theme that kids love
Great option if you plan on spending all your time in the parks.
Misses of the Pop Century Resort
Farther away from parks but closer than off-property lodging
Limited activities for kids, no fishing or pirate cruises
The Caribbean Beach Resort is a moderate resort ($$-$$$) 4.1 miles from Epcot. An expansive property that includes seven villages with a total of 2,112 rooms along the shores of the 45-acre Barefoot Bay.
The Caribbean Beach Resort evokes the calm and serenity of a beach vacation yet includes a resort-style pool that’s sure to excite the kids. With its expansive grounds and lush, tropical landscaping, the Caribbean Beach Resort never felt crowded.
Hits of the Caribbean Beach Resort:
The Fuentes del Morro pool is one of the best of the Walt Disney World resorts.
Lots of activities for the kids, like fishing excursions and pirate cruises
Larger rooms with more amenities, nice if you’ll be spending more time in the room
More dining options, quick-service and casual dining
A pool in every village
Misses of the Caribbean Beach Resort:
Huge resort that requires its own bus to get around
No character breakfasts
No private patios or balconies
A motel feeling, I entered my room from an outside corridor.
The Grand Floridian Resort and Spa ($$$$$+) is the Walt Disney World’s flagship resort located on 40-acres next to the Seven Seas Lagoon. Built to resemble a grand Victorian seaside resort of the late 19th Century, it features 867 guest rooms across the main building and five additional buildings. Next to the lagoon is a pool, a white sand beach, a marina and a view of Cinderella’s Castle in Magic Kingdom.
The Grand Floridian Resort and Spa offers a grand experience for families who yearn for the convenience a Walt Disney World Resort and want a refined environment to decompress from the energy of the parks. Walking into the Grand Floridian lobby is sensory experience, the architecture is as impressive as the 3-foot tall flower arrangements that greet me. The service is refined yet welcoming.
Hits of the Grand Floridian Resort
Lots of dining options including quick service, casual dining and fine dining.
The most transportation options to get to the parks—bus, monorail or ferry
The highest level of service of the Walt Disney World resorts
One of the best spas in Orlando
Misses of the Grand Floridian Resort
Nice pool but not my kid’s favorite
My kids were immune to their luxurious surroundings and wanted to spend all their time in the parks.
Beautiful property but off-site luxury resorts give you more for less
Note about transferring resorts during your stay:
I had to change resorts three times during my five-day/four-night stay at Walt Disney World and they will transfer your bags free-of-cost. I preferred to pack up our bags and roll them down to bell services that transferred them in the afternoon, usually between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.
If I wanted a bell hop to grab my bags from my room I would have to stay with my bags until the bell hop arrived. I found this inconvenient since we wanted to get to the parks as early as possible.
The process was fairly easy and I had only one small incident. One of our bags had a tag on it stating it was left on the transportation bus. Nothing was missing.
Part of this trip was provided for free for review purposes. The opinions are solely that of the writer.
The carful of kids love our national parks and we’ve spent years driving to the corners of our country to explore them. So why are the carful of kids exploring Disney during National Parks Week? What does Disney and the National Parks have in common? I find out at Epcot’s International Flower and Garden Festival.
Disney is a sponsor of the National Park Service’s Centennial. I was a little shocked to hear this myself. I love Disney and I love our national parks but they’re kinda different.
During the carful of kid’s exploration of Epcot’s International Flower and Garden Festival, I find Mickey as a Park Ranger in the National Park Foundation’s garden. Mickey celebrates the National Park’s Centennial and encourages kids to find their park. Yea, Ranger Mickey encourages families to explore the national park near them.
Every spring since 1994, the International Flower and Garden Festival plants itself in Epcot. From the first week of March until the last week of May, plant lovers gaze and daydream as they wander through the amazing displays. It’s a must for the gardener, young and old.
With over 70 topiary displays with Disney characters of every generation, I love meandering through Epcot’s World Showcase discovering each display. Each character is a piece of plant art and I take a few minutes to discover the details in each. They’re spectacular.
For music-lovers, Epcot comes alive with the Garden Rocks Concert Series on the weekends. Check out the free concert located in the America Gardens Theatre; bringing national acts to the World Showcase.
The floating gardens under the monorail near the Odyssey Bridge catch us by surprise. Turning ever so slightly in the breeze, they’re a delight. Everywhere I look, there’s beds of plant color that only Disney can dream up.
Next to the floating gardens, the carful of kids explore the butterfly garden that’s sponsored by Go-Go Squeez. After chasing butterflies, the carful of kids slurp an apple sauce pouch down in one gulp, compliments of Go-Go Squeez.
Along with the themed topiaries, some of the countries have themed gardens too. In Japan we find a display of Bonsai. In the United Kingdom, I’m enchanted in the Shakespeare Garden.
If your kids aren’t as mesmerized with the International Flower and Garden Festival, find the kid-pleasing miniature outdoor train. I’m as delighted as my boys with Epcot’s Garden Railway located in Germany. With a scaled, living landscape and several trains running at once, it’s a must for the whole family.
As the sun dips and the light begins to fade, the topiaries transform again. Thanks to their lighting, the topiaries glow into the night.
Along with the garden displays and topiaries, Epcot’s celebrates its farm-to-table initiative. With produce grown in the park, the International Flower and Garden Festival has special menu items throughout Epcot’s World Showcase. In the outdoor kitchens that are sprinkled throughout, I find farm-to-table items that are fresh alternatives for families. Yum!