For the Walt Disney World fan, one of the signs of spring is the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival. The seasonal event not showcases the theme park’s year-round gardens and lush landscaping, it adds special floral displays, Disney character topiaries, gardening seminars, food kiosks known as Outdoor Kitchens and live musical entertainment with the Garden Rocks concerts.
Now in its 23rd year, the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival has expanded to 90 days, up from 75, and will run from March 2-May 30, 2016. The festival has also increased the number of Outdoor Kitchens that will operate to 13. These changes continue the festival’s gradual shift into a lower-key version of the popular Epcot international Food & Wine Festival.
In addition to offering a longer run, more food and drink offerings and its ever-changing floral displays, this year’s festival will offer several new touches or experiences. These keep the event feeling fresh and attract repeat Disney guests, many of whom make the festival part of their spring-break travel plans.
Here’s a closer look at what’s new for the 2016 International Flower & Garden Festival:
Outdoor Kitchens: New La Isla Fresca and Cider House Outdoor Kitchens add some new tastes to the food kiosks. La Isla Fresca creates a Caribbean culinary tour with Jamaican Braised Beef with Pigeon-Pea Rice and Jerk-Spiced Grouper or Chicken with Mango Salsa. The new Cider House promotes a fresh look at food, offering a Field Greens salad with greens harvested from The Land pavilion, heirloom apples, Stilton cheese and dried blueberries; the salad can be paired with with a blueberry hard cider from Plant City, Fla.
Plus, dozens of new food and drink options will debut at this year’s Epcot Flower & Garden’s 11 other Outdoor Kitchens: Urban Farm Eats, Pineapple Promenade, Fleur de Lys, Florida Fresh, Taste of Marrakesh, Hanami, The Smokehouse: Barbecue and Brews, Primavera Kitchen, Lotus House, Bauernmarkt and Jardin de Fiestas.
Disney character topiaries: Donald’s nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie will be featured in topiary form for the first time. They will be displayed at Epcot’s front entrance, along with Donald and Daisy, in a design inspired by the 1943 Donald Duck comic book “The Victory Garden.” A Ranger Mickey topiary garden will be displayed in Future World, its design celebrating the 100th anniversary of the National Parks Service. A Floral Sun garden with yellow “sunbursts” also offer a Future World topiary garden featuring Minnie Mouse and Pluto.
These new additions join the nearly 100 Disney character topiaries – including Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Lady and the Tramp, Peter Pan, Anna and Elsa – displayed around Epcot during the festival. Topiaries can be found in both Future World and World Showcase.
Children’s play area: A hands-on Music Garden Melodies, described by Disney as a “musical playground” will debut this year. It will feature Disney’s Fab Five in topiary form, as “band leader” Mickey Mouse is joined by his friends Minnie Mouse, Goofy, Pluto and Donald Duck. But the playground might hit the right note with younger guests for its interactive drums, chimes and xylophones. Here, young guests will be able to create their own musical sounds or play on the outdoor climbing systems. The area will also feature music-themed plants.
Edible flower garden: The area by The Land pavilion, located in Future World, will offer an edible flower garden with a focus on petals with flavor.
Garden Rocks Concert Series: Four new musical acts join the lineup of Garden Rocks, the free concerts that take place during festival weekends: Blood, Sweat & Tears featuring Bo Bice (April 15-17); Brian Howe, former lead singer of Bad Company (April 22-24); Georgia Satellites (April 29-May 1); and Darlene Love (May 13-15). Concerts take place at the American Gardens Theater on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 5:30 p.m., 6:45 p.m. and 8 p.m.
For more information about the 2016 Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival, call Walt Disney World Resort at 407-W-DISNEY (9407-34-7639). Or visit EpcotInSpring.com for more information as additional details are released. The festival, including all gardening programs and exhibits, is included in regular Epcot admission.