I have a confession to make. I know that most Disney fanatics dearly love the Magic Kingdom and rank it as their favorite of the four Walt Disney World parks. Yes, I love it, too, but I’ve got a soft spot in my heart for Epcot that makes it my number one. From the fountain that performs four times an hour to various musical pieces (Yanni’s “Standing in Motion” is the best) to the stunning scenery and powerful soundtrack of Soarin’ to the ease with which you can take a trip around the world to the delight of seeing someone try Beverly in Club Cool for the first time, it’s such a great park.
The Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival in the spring and the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival in the fall are the cream filling and icing on top of the tasty Disney cupcake. Flower and Garden just kicked off on March 5, and it runs until May 18, so you’ve got plenty of time to indulge in the cornucopia of experiences that is has to offer. Flower and topiaries are only the start.
Here are my top five favorite things to do at the festival. Your mileage may vary, but this is how a local like me likes to spend her time:
1) Visit the butterfly house. I always recommend this, but there’s a special incentive this year. Not only do you see a variety of butterflies, lots of lovely flowers, and fairy houses from the world of Tinkerbell, but you’ll also admire glass butterflies and flowers. They’re new for 2014, and I recommend seeing them early, as the butterfly house gets very, very crowded as the day wears on.
2) Take a photo with Soccer Goofy. This year, there’s a new photo op. You can actually step into a topiary scene with Goofy and try to block him from making a goal. Look for the scene near the main Agent P recruiting booth in Future World on the path to World Showcase.
3) Visit the Festival Center. Remember the old Wonders of Life pavilion with the exercise bikes with little TV screens and the weird hot/cold coils? It’s now a hub of activity during the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival. You can talk to a master gardener, watch a live presentation, see bonsai trees, buy souvenirs, catch a movie about the making of the festival, and even meet HGTV celebrities on the weekends. You can also accomplish my fourth recommended activity there…
4) Pick up a free passport. You can get a Garden Passport in the Festival Center or at various locations. This is especially fun if you have kids, but adults enjoy it, too. The passports have a topiary checklist, food pages, and spots to get special stamps in many of the gardens. I love to make it my mission to see how much of my passport I can fill up in one day.
5) Eat a Piggylicious Cupcake. You’ll find this unusual taste treat at the Smokehouse BBQ food stand by the American pavilion. It’s made with bacon and has a very pleasing smokey flavor. Of course, I’m a cupcake fanatic with adventurous culinary tastes, but I recommend trying it even if you’re a bit on the conservative side.
There’s plenty of other great food, too. Obviously, it’s not on the scale of the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival, but the culinary and beverage offerings are a great addition to the event.
If you’d like to see what the festival looked like when it was under construction, you can join me on a behind the scenes tour in this post.
In the meantime, here’s my tip from a local for the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival: get there early. Yes, that sounds simple, but it’s literally the best tip I can give you. I repeat, get there early. Arrive when the park opens and go to the butterfly garden early, since it’s one of those limited capacity things that attracts huge crowds later in the day. Enjoy the topiaries and gardens, get your picture with Soccer Goofy, and hightail it to World Showcase as soon as it opens at 11:00 a.m. Plan on an early lunch to avoid lines at the food kiosks. If you don’t believe this is good advice, I’ll leave you with one closing photo. If you don’t get there early, don’t say I didn’t warn you when you encounter this:
Follow me on Twitter via @themeparkwriter and stay tuned for more tips, observations, comments, and rants from someone who lives close enough to Walt Disney World to hear the fireworks from her house every night. I literally write my blog In the Shadow of the Mouse. Email comments and story ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.