10 Reasons Why Flower And Garden Festival Is The Best Time To Visit Epcot
Epcot's International Flower and Garden Festival will run March 1 - May 29th, 2017
1 - The crowds are (mostly) manageable.
At least compared to Food and Wine Festival. Food and Wine has gotten to the point where trying to visit it after 3pm or on the weekends is a trial by fire packed wall to wall with people. Yes, you will have spring break crowds to contend with for about a month of its nearly 3 month run time, but even during these busiest times the World Showcase area is still more navigable than during Food and Wine weekends. Even during Spring Break, most of the crowds are focused on the big rides (Soarin', Test Track, Frozen Ever After), so with a decent touring plan and FastPasses you could still hit most if not all of these with little inconvenience. With the crowds on the rides, the food booths in the World Showcase remain relatively short-lined. Also Flower and Garden's attractions really are spread throughout the park (not just the showcase), so if where you are is crowded? Just go to another area.
2 -The Outdoor Kitchens
While you can't so much "taste your way around the world" at country-themed outdoor kitchens, the 15 outdoor kitchens (almost as many as Food and Wine!) are all focused on "fresh" farm-to-table style food, some country-centric. Personal favorites include the Beijing Candied Strawberries in China, Shrimp and Grits at Florida Fresh, and the incredible Brisket Hash at the Smokehouse. I won't lie: I haven't gotten around to trying everything yet. YET. Having a few friends with you really is the ideal way to do the festival, sharing all the dishes so you don't get overloaded along the way.
3 - The Royal Tea Garden Tour
Whether you're die-hard for this drink like me or a more casual enjoyer like my husband, the Royal Tea Tour is a 45 minute guided tour through the English Tea Garden where you get to learn all about how tea is made. Advanced reservations are recommended, and this only occurs once a day at 9:30 a.m. Groups are SMALL (ours was around 10 people).
You'll have your own private tour guide take you on a tour of the garden. Each tea cup is growing the ingredients primarily responsible for a particular tea flavor (Pumpkin Spice Chai, for example). The garden is GORGEOUS and the smells from all the herbs were such a lovely and serene way to start my day.
When the tour concludes, you step into a private early opening of the Tea Caddy shop in the U.K. pavilion where you COULD shop til you drop...
...Or just enjoy the included fresh scones and tea. By the way, if the "scones" you're used to are the ones from Starbucks that are sort of biscotti- like? That's not what these area. What we Americans call biscuits are closer to what the British refer to as scones (and what the British call Biscuits are closer to crackers or cookies for us).
We had a savory and sweet option (cheddar biscuits with Earl Grey butter, and fruit scones with berry spread). They were really delicious, and when they showed up later at our media luncheon? It took all the restraint in my being not to shovel them into my purse. I sampled the Apple Spice Chai tea and had time to also try out the Berry Fusion Green Tea (a new favorite, I'm going to hunt it down at Publix, I hope). So what might be the best part of this tour? It's really a bargain, especially compared to most other add-on tours. It's $15 per person, and it includes your scones and tea. I'm sort of tempted to go do this again before the festival ends this year. Here's more info on the tour. Speaking of shopping...
4- Adorable Festival Exclusive Merchandise
LOOK AT THIS DOONEY
JUST LOOK AT THE ADORABLE LITTLE FIGMENT
*sigh* I need more disposable income.
5 - Free Concerts
As part of the Garden Rocks concert series, they are included with admission. Excuse me while this 80s child who loves 90s music warms up her Gin Blossoms and Exposé mp3s in anticipation.
6- Get Your Education On At The Festival Center
A frequently overlooked aspect of Flower and Garden Festival is the Festival Center. It's an indoor (read: Air Conditioned!) exhibit center in future world (between Universe of Energy and Mission: Space). Inside you'll find vendors and educational seminars on all types of outdoors-y topics. If you're really lucky (and we were), you might even get to meet Captain Ron and his handler, Pepe. Captain Ron, as part of Disney's conservation efforts, sniffs out sea turtle nests for protection in the Vero Beach area. I'll let Pepe tell you more.
We were extra lucky and got a special meet and greet opportunity with the pup of the hour himself.
What. A. Schmoopie.
7 - Get Your Brew On In The World Showcase
Sure, Drinking Around the World is a cherished Epcot pasttime that isn't exclusive to Flower and Garden Festival, BUT the festival outdoor kitchens feature a lot of small or limited, sometimes even EXCLUSIVE offerings from breweries around the world, several local!
8 - Fairy Gardens
There's an incredible little club of Fairy Garden crafters that have an exhibit in the Festival Center. They also have a spectacular selection of Fairy Gardens in the U.K. Pavilion. This little club cares for the fairy gardens out in the World Showcase at their homes throughout the off season. Also if your little ones are into the Disney Fairies? They'll flip out over this tiny and incredibly accurate creation of Tinker Bell's house.
9 - The Desert Violet Lemonade
This little drink from the Pineapple Promenade has acquired a cult following among locals. Is it because it's purple? Is it the little edible flower embellishment? It sort of tastes like a purple sweet tart. It's refreshing. It's $3.50.
And when I mentioned Flower and Garden Festival starting to my 4 year old, the first words out of her mouth were "DA PURPLE LEMONAAAAAAAAAADE!!!!"
10 - It's Spectacularly Beautiful
When it's called "Flower And Garden Festival," it's got to deliver on the title, obviously. I've already mentioned the Tea Garden and the Fairy Gardens, but there are also the character topiaries scattered throughout the park.
The topiaries are just the beginning. Almost every inch of the park from the entrance through the showcase is covered in flowers or plants of some kind.
Then there's the Butterfly Garden, too.
*SPECIAL BONUS REASON- THE EASTER EGG HUNT*
The Egg Hunt is only offered in advance of the Holiday, but it happens to coincide with most of the festival. We do it every year. For around $6 you get a map, and you and your family goes on a hunt to find the hidden eggs in each country of the World Showcase. At the end of your hunt, you can get your map stamped, and you get your own souvenir egg to take home. My kid LOVES this. Read more about our egg adventures in the 2017 festival here.
*WDW invited us to attend a day at Flower and Garden Festival. Admission, food, and tours were gratis. I was not obligated to do anything in return. All opinions here are my own, and if you don't believe me do a site search for Flower and Garden Festival and see how many times I've sung its praises over the years*