The 2014 Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival runs from March 5, 2014 until May 18, 2014 at Walt Disney World. The 11 food kiosks return for 2014, making this like a mini Food & Wine Festival! The event gives Disney guests a glimpse at expert-designed flower and garden displays and Disney character topiaries, and also includes the “Flower Power” live music concert series and special programs and seminars by HGTV (the main sponsor), DIY, and Epcot expert gardeners. Most of the offerings for Epcot’s Flower & Garden Festival are included with theme park admission to Epcot. In this guide, we’ll cover everything you should see during the 2014 Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival!
Whether you’re a first time guest or a seasoned veteran of Walt Disney World, visiting during Epcot’s Flower & Garden Festival is a great idea. Epcot is at its most beautiful during Flower & Garden Festival. The place smells and looks wonderful, and there are a lot of unique offerings, displays, and photographic opportunities.
Just to give you an idea of how impressive Epcot looks at this time of year, here are some stats: 30-million blooms, 240 floating flower planters, 700 gardens, nearly 100 Disney character topiaries, 30 flower towers, and one beautiful butterfly tapestry of flowers all culminate in an incredibly vibrant time of year for Epcot! It takes more than one year and 400 Walt Disney World horticulturists to prepare for the 75-day Flower and Garden Festival.
Some of you are probably thinking, “yeah, but I loathe gardening and I much prefer barren concrete to vibrant flowers.” Well, if that’s the case, I can’t recommend visiting Epcot during the International Flower and Garden Festival. However, if your views on flowers and gardening aren’t quite that extreme, it’s a great time to visit. I groan when Sarah turns on HGTV (just how many episodes of a show about decorating a house to resell it can one person watch?!) and I’ve been known to (accidentally, I swear!) run over portions of our own garden with the lawnmower, but I love visiting during Flower & Garden Festival. The park is gorgeous, smells great, and there are a lot of unique things to photograph. Much like the Behind the Seeds tour, while the fundamental substance of the presentations at Flower & Garden Festival doesn’t appeal to me, the overall “feel” and ambiance of the Festival does appeal to me. It’s a really fun time to be at Epcot!
If you’re going to be in Walt Disney World during the 2014 Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival, here’s the full listing of special “stuff” for the event, and whether we think it’s worth your time to experience. It’s also worth noting that those visiting during the last weekend of the Flower & Garden Festival can also hit the first weekend of the 2014 Star Wars Weekends. Plan accordingly to make sure you are able to experience both!
Outdoor Kitchens - The “Outdoor Kitchens” (previously Garden Marketplaces) are essentially Food & Wine Festival kiosks offering food and drinks. There are 11 kiosks this year, with returning options such as “Florida Fresh,” “Smokehouse BBQ & Brew,” “Primavera Kitchen,” “Hanami,” and “Fruits by the Glass.”
The kiosks last year proved quite popular, and the items we tried were on par with Food & Wine Festival, with some things being even better. Although we question the motive, we absolutely love Food & Wine Festival, and we blow big chunks of money at these Flower & Garden kiosks, too.
If you’ve never attended Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival, it’s worth noting that grazing from these kiosks will cost you considerably more than eating an actual meal. So if you’re looking to save money, stay away from these kiosks. If you’re looking to have a great time and are willing to spend a bit of money (we easily spend $40-60 in an afternoon at Food & Wine Festival kiosks), you should be able to spend an afternoon just wandering these kiosks!
Expert Presentations – HGTV and DIY experts will be on hand offering presentations on a variety of gardening and home improvement-related topics. These TV-celebrities appear every weekend at the Festival Center and offer tips guests can actually use at home (so just because you don’t own a mansion with a team of dedicated horticulturists doesn’t mean it won’t apply to you!).
These presentations are actually pretty interesting, at least for someone like me who has only a rudimentary understanding of gardening. I wouldn’t want to spend all day at these seminars (that would get old quick), and I feel that maybe someone who is really interested in gardening would find the information here a bit “below” them, but for a novice, they’re something worth seeing. Our recommendation is to pick one that stands out and consider others if you really enjoy that one.
Special Gardens & Exhibits – New for 2014 is “Mike & Sulley’s Monstrous Garden” display. It sounds like this is 50% garden, 50% play area. It’s unclear what this will entail, but it’s unlikely to be as impressive as last year’s Oz garden, since Monsters, Inc. won’t have a promotional budget.
Tinker Bell’s Butterfly House - Tinker Bell’s Butterfly House returns this year, combining butterflies and fairy topiaries. This butterfly house is always really cool, as butterflies fly all over the place and even land on guests. We recommend spending about 10-15 minutes in here to watch the butterflies and take photos.
Hummingbirds at Home - A new exhibit presented by the National Audubon Society, this is a walk-through hummingbird garden (a la the butterfly house) and educational piece on how guests can attract hummingbirds to their own homes. We’re looking forward to this. I love the Audubon Society, and think something like this could fit really well with the “edutainment” aim of Epcot.
Character Topiaries – Throughout World Showcase and Future World, there are nearly 100 topiaries, with over 75 inspired by Disney films! The highlight at Epcot’s entrance for 2014 will be Goofy, Donald Duck and Daisy Duck topiaries engaging in a butterfly hunt. Although it’s unclear what this means, the topiaries will have a “new computer-generated look while telling an entertaining story.”
The unimpressive light-up topiaries that debuted in 2013 are returning (hopefully with improvements) and Muppets topiaries debut in 2014 as well (presumably to promote Muppets Most Wanted). Other topiaries around Epcot will include Pixar characters, Winnie the Pooh, Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Princesses, Lion King characters, and other classic favorites.
For us, the topiaries should be the highlight of Epcot’s Flower & Garden Festival, but they quite often disappoint. The topiaries are recycled from year to year and season to season (you can see some of the exact same topiaries in different locations at Christmas…we have photos of them from Christmas 2007 and they look the same) and are often shoe-horned in places they really don’t belong. The centerpiece this year sounds like it will have a new Goofy topiary, but based on the positions of the other characters, it sounds like the rest will be recycled. It would be nice to have new topiaries each year, especially since in the late 1980s and early 1990s, new topiaries regularly appeared when there wasn’t even a special event (as reflected in one of our favorite Walt Disney World books, Gardens of the Walt Disney World Resort). Still, there are some new topiaries each year, and it’s great to see them added to enhance the park.
We just wish there were a Figment topiary. Maybe a Figment AND Dreamfinder topiary. All else would be forgiven if a special topiary were added over by Journey into Imagination. There used to be a Figment topiary over there, so why not a new one?!
Flower Power Concert Series – This weekend concert series features live music from the 1960s and 1970s during the Flower Power Concert Series. Famous artists rock Epcot’s America Gardens Theatre in World Showcase (near the American Adventure) every Friday, Saturday and Sunday during the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival at 5:15 p.m., 6:30 p.m. and 7:45 p.m. Bands include Chubby Checker and The Wildcats, Paul Revere & The Raiders, new acts Gary Lewis and the Playboys and The Alan Parsons Live Project, among many other favorites!
We’ve never actually taken the time to watch a Flower Power Concert, but it’s great to see Disney bringing in some one-time big names, and many of the bands are some reasonably big names. For our short, weekend trips lining up for these shows and watching an entire concert is too big of a time commitment for bands that really don’t command high concert prices on their own, but locals and others really seem to love these shows. Now, if Elton John and Billy Joel were to appear together in a show as part of the concert series, we’d be the first ones in line at park opening to see them!
Other Stuff - Other not-to-be-missed special exhibits include: Mater’s Parts, Plants, and Play Garden, which will feature topiaries from Cars and a small play area; The Festival Center (in the former Wonders of Life pavilion), featuring merchandise and presentations by Disney horticulture experts from Disney’s Animal Kingdom and other parks and HGTV Design experts; and, illuminated gardens and topiaries that will twinkle and glow each night.
Overall, there’s a decent amount to do at the Flower & Garden Festival, and something that will appeal to everyone. We recommend visiting during the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival, but it’s not something around which you should plan a trip. It’s our second favorite time to visit Epcot, after the International Food & Wine Festival.
One of the cooler aspects of the Flower & Garden Festival, in my opinion, is that you can visit multiple times and have a totally different experience each time. This is not only because the presenters and bands change, but because halfway through the festival, Disney gardeners remove the blossoms that thrive in early-spring to plant a new crop of flowers that flourish in late-spring’s warmer temperatures. This is great for those guests visiting during the concluding weeks of the Festival, as they don’t have to worry about seeing a bunch of wilted flowers. It’s beautiful during the Festival’s entire run!
Although there are new offerings each year, generally not a ton differs from year to year. The same character topiaries are used year in and year out (with a few exceptions), and most of the new content consists of thinly veiled promotional pieces for upcoming Disney films.
The Outdoor Kitchens are another (newish) highlight, and while these are an obvious attempt to capitalize on the colossal success of the Food & Wine Festival, so what? Food & Wine Festival is a ton of fun for guests, so why not incorporate elements into other times of the year, as well? The best things Disney does are mutually beneficial for it and guests. Obviously Disney is a business, and in this case we love the booths at Food & Wine Festival, so we think these are a solid addition to the Flower & Garden Festival. It would be nice to see similar investments in overhauling the topiaries that haven’t changed in the last 5 years or so, but we can’t complain too much because clearly a lot of effort is being put into this festival that is included with theme park admission to Epcot. Based on what Disney has announced thus far, it appears 2013 will bring the biggest set of additions to the Flower & Garden Festival in a long time, which is great to see. It’s a beautiful time of year to visit Epcot, and we’re really looking forward to the Festival!
For more details on Flower & Garden Festival, including kiosk menus, check back once this year’s map becomes available!
Have you ever been to Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival? Considering attending? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!