The 2016 Epcot Flower & Garden Festival

It’s time again for the Epcot Flower & Garden Festival! I debated whether or not to write about this year’s event, since I already covered last year’s festivities. If you’re looking for tips on how to make the most of your time and money (hint: lighten up on the drinks), check out my original festival post here.

Already know the basics? Read on to see how this year’s offerings compare.

Tigger Topiary at the 2016 Epcot Flower and Garden Festival.jpg
Let’s bounce to it!

The biggest change I noticed from past events is the portion size. In the past, food and especially drinks were served in small tasting dishes. A 2 oz pour might cost a few dollars, making it easy to sample several beverages throughout the day.

Epcot Grilled Sweet and Spicy Bush Berry Shrimp
This delicious wine and shrimp pairing from the 2015 Food & Wine Fest shows the festival portion sizes I’m used to.

Wine this year can still be purchased in smaller pours; however, beer and cider are served in normal, full-size plastic cups and cost around $8 apiece. This is great news, if you fall in love with one specific brew, and good news for your wallet, assuming you limit yourself to one or two drinks. Buying a bunch of smaller, less expensive drinks adds up quickly, but I still prefer to sample my way around World Showcase. Luckily for me, several locations still serve beer and wine flights, so it’s the best of both worlds.

Cider Flight from Epcot's 2016 Cider House Outdoor Kitchen
This year’s cider flight, from the aptly-named Cider House outdoor kitchen. This place also served up a tasty pear cider-brined corned beef dish.

Some of the food offerings also increased in size, such as the pulled pork sandwich at the American pavilion, and the spicy hot dog served at the Pineapple Promenade.

Epcot Pulled Pig Slider with Carolina BBQ Sauce at the Flower and Garden Festival
Yummm. The “pulled pig slider,” seen here with Carolina BBQ sauce, costs around $6, but it’s a generous and very filling option for those looking to stretch their dining money.

This year’s event saw the introduction of two new outdoor kitchens. Cider House, as mentioned above, serves up flavors inspired by the United Kingdom. My favorite items here are the shredded corned beef and the blueberry cider. La Isla Fresca features vibrant Caribbean flavors. We loved the jerk-spice grouper with fresh mango slaw, and I personally loved the colorful, tropical vibe of the booth itself.

Braised Beef, Jerk Spice Grouper, and Simply Tropical Juice Drink at La Isla Fresca
La Isla Fresca’s braised beef, jerk-spiced grouper, and Simply Tropical frozen drink

Of course, Epcot also brought back fan favorites such as Japan’s “frushi” and Morocco’s incredibly sweet baklava. And, most exciting of all, this year saw the return of my favorite item ever served at the Flower & Garden Festival: the Rose Margarita, served up at Mexico’s “Jardin de Fiestas” kitchen.

Jardin de Fiestas at the 2016 Epcot Flower and Garden Festival

I may have actually squealed when I saw it on the menu. Cocktails, as opposed to wine, beer and cider, can get pretty pricey, so my boyfriend and I waited until the very last day of the 2013 Flower & Garden Fest to buy my pricey rose margarita, rimmed with bold hibiscus sugar and topped with a cheerful pink flower. Big mistake. It was love at first sip, and we lamented not trying it earlier in the festival season! The drink is technically available year-round at La Hacienda de San Angel, one of Epcot’s many themed restaurants, but I hoped it would one day return as a festival offering.

We handed our money over without question, and were rewarded with a small glass of the tart pink blend. Only…I don’t think it’s the same drink we fell in love with. There’s no hibiscus sugar, no pretty little flower, and definitely not the same “kick” that the original served up. It was tasty, but a little disappointing after hyping it up in our minds for years. I guess we will have to stop at La Hacienda and try the real deal soon!

Rose Margarita and Elderflower Sangria at the 2016 Epcot Jardin de Fiestas Booth
Rose Margarita on the left, Elderflower Watermelon Sangria on the right

Meanwhile, the elderflower watermelon sangria was delicious, and we enjoyed trying the rest of the items at the Mexican outdoor kitchen. In fact, we made a point of stopping to sample something from every single booth (collecting stamps in my cute little festival passport along the way). I’ll stop chattering now (I’m getting hungry) and let the pictures do the talking.

Flowers at Epcot Flower and Garden Fest with Figment with in the Background
My favorite Festival view year after year
Harissa Chicken Kebab, Baklava and White Sangria at Epcot's Morocco Booth 2016
Harissa Chicken Kebab, Baklava and White Sangria from Morocco’s “Taste of Marrakesh” Outdoor Kitchen
Piglet Topiary at the 2016 Epcot Flower and Garden Festival
Piglet topiary in the United Kingdom pavilion.
The Smokehouse Barbecue and Brews Burnt Ends Hash and Bourbon Salted Chocolate Cake
Beef Brisket Burnt Ends Hash and Chocolate Cake with Bourbon-Salted Caramel Sauce and Spiced Pecans from The American Adventure’s “The Smokehouse: Barbecue and Brews” outdoor kitchen
Donald Topiary at the Epcot Flower and Garden Fest
Donald Duck Topiary at the Music Garden Melodies play area.
Flowers in Bloom Behind Spaceship Earth at the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival
Bright floral display located just behind Spaceship Earth, aka “the Epcot ball”
Hanami Chicken Edamame Bun at the 2016 Epcot Flower and Garden Festival
From Japan’s Hanami Outdoor Kitchen: a “steamed bun filled with chicken and edamame and topped with curry sauce.”
Epcot Monorail Tracks on a Sunny Spring Day
Even if you don’t pay to enter Epcot, you can always ride the monorail, which makes a quick loop around Future World before pulling into the station. It’s a fun way to see some of those gorgeous blooms without paying a fortune.
Ranger Mickey and Epcot Ball at the 2016 Flower and Garden Festival
Ranger Mickey representing the National Parks Foundation.
Candied Strawberries at the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival Lotus House
Candied strawberries from China’s Lotus House outdoor kitchen. Totally worth the hard candy coating you’ll be picking out of your teeth long after the strawberries are gone.
Butterfly Garden and Bambi Topiary at the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival
I loved the Pacific Science Center’s butterfly exhibit growing up near Seattle, so it’s always a treat to peek inside Epcot’s butterfly garden.
A Sunny Day in Paris at the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival
Paris, food and Walt Disney World, three of my favorite things all at once!
Grand Marnier Ice Pop at the Fleur de Lys French Outdoor Kitchen 2016
Finally trying out the Grand Marnier Peach Cocktail Ice Pop from France’s Fleur de Lys kitchen. Also delicious? The Alsatian Onion Tart, “with sauteed onions, fresh thyme and rosemary on a flaky puff pastry crust.”
Beauty and the Beast Topiaries at Epcot's France Pavilion
My favorite princess in my favorite place
2016 Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival Passport Book
Don’t forget to pick up your Festival passport! It’s probably intended to engage young kids at what I consider to be an adult-oriented Disney park…but I collect all the stamps anyway.
Urban Farm Eats Kitchen Menu, Featuring Watermelon Salad, Naanwich, and Seared Pork Tenderloin
So. Good. The watermelon salad, packed with the vibrant flavors of feta, red onion, baby arugula and balsamic vinegar, is a favorite year after year.
Aquaponics 101 Sign at Epcot's Urban Farm Eats Booth
I love the focus on responsible growth and farm-to-table harvesting. In fact, some of the fish, fruit and veggies served throughout the festival are grown at Epcot. Check it out over at Living With the Land.
Snow White Topiary with Epcot Ball at the 2016 Epcot Flower and Garden Festival
Snow White getting a little sun over in the Germany Pavilion

 

Beautiful Spring Flowers at the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival
Again with the flowers! There is no shortage of beautiful views during the Flower and Garden Festival. This one can be spotted on the walkway between World Showcase and Future World’s Test Track.
Gate at the Epcot China Pavilion
This gate at the China Pavilion is inspired by the real-life “Gate of the Golden Sun.”
Beautiful Italian Bridge Overlooking World Showcase Lagoon
I love the beautiful architecture of the Italy Pavilion, like this charming little bridge overlooking the World Showcase Lagoon.
Woody and Cinderella Topiaries at the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival
Woody topiary at The American Adventure, and Cinderella and her Prince in France
Florida Fresh Outdoor Kitchen at the Epcot Food and Wine Festival
Florida Fresh serves up delicious flavors every year…
Florida Shrimp and Grits and Watermelon Slushy at the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival
…like these shrimp and grits, the only grits I’ve ever loved in my life.
View of Future World from the Butterfly Garden at the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival
Be still my heart!
Buzz Lightyear Topiary in front of Mission Space at Epcot
See you here soon!

Curious about what else the Flower & Garden Festival has to offer? It’s more than just food, wine, and gorgeous flowers everywhere. Check out my post on the 2015 event to see what other goodies are in store each year, then head on over to the Walt Disney World website to get your trip started!

Practical Info & Tips:

  • The 2016 Festival runs through May 30. There’s still plenty of time to get in on the fun!
  • Stay hydrated! Its a good idea to bring unopened water bottles and refill them around the park as needed. This is especially important if you plan on drinking your way around World Showcase.
  • Take advantage of freebies around the park. Sample international soda flavors at Club Cool, snag a free chocolate sample at Ghirardelli inside the Festival Center, and, during especially busy times, present your Chase Bank credit or debit card at the American Adventure to gain access to the Chase Lounge. There are comfy seats, bathrooms, plenty of air conditioning, and complimentary access to several Coke Freestyle machines.
  • Like any other crowded warm-weather destination, it helps to arrive early. I love visiting when the sun sets and the temperature drop, but so does everyone else. It’s always packed toward the end of the day, but if you can stand the heat, visit mid-morning and enjoy a leisurely stroll around World Showcase.
  • Worried about going over budget? Consider buying a Festival gift card and sticking to the pre-loaded amount. If you have money left over at the end of the day, no worries. It’s a Disney gift card and be used in plenty of places around the resort.
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