Ready for some local color in Orlando? You can’t possibly do better than the hundreds of thousands of blooming beauties on display at the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival. Already underway, this year’s party – the longest ever at 90 days – brings temptations in the form of new outdoor kitchens, horticultural features and plenty of celebrity punch from the realm of rock 'n' roll.
Ranger Mickey charms guests while spreading awareness of this year's National Parks Service centennial — Photo courtesy of A.D. Thompson
New for foodies: the La Isla Fresca and Cider House Outdoor Kitchens, along with a host of new offerings throughout the World Showcase. A record 13 festival kiosks will be peppered throughout and a total of 30 new food items join the fray, but fear not – you can still get your rum-spiked pineapple soft serve at the Pineapple Promenade!
Also new this year is Music Garden Melodies, with topiaries and a themed playground offering interactive musical gadgets.
Living color: More than 500,000 plants, trees and shrubs are planted for the festival; 250,000 of those are blossoms — Photo courtesy of A.D. Thompson
“We work really hard to make this time of year during the Flower and Garden Festival the best time of year to bring your children to Epcot,” says Eric Darden, Horticulture manager for Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival. “And we do that by having kids’ activities and kids’ gardens throughout the park…. So really, this is an event that isn’t just for gardeners, it’s for anyone who enjoys the outdoors or just seeing pretty flowers.”
Music Garden Melodies, one of the festival’s largest gardens at nearly a third of an acre, is just one delightful place for parents to make a pit stop. While kids experiment on instruments and play equipment, they can marvel at plants with features that resemble musical instruments.
The nearby Butterflies on the Go butterfly house is always a hit with young, old and every guest in between. These garden fairies flutter amid passion flower and coral honeysuckle, milkweed and canna lily in an enchanted atmosphere.
Smoked pork ribs with roasted corn salad is featured at The Smokehouse Barbecue and Brews Outdoor Kitchen — Photo courtesy of Disney/Matt Stroshane
Among the new topiaries this year, Ranger Mickey (paired with lovable scamps Chip & Dale) is on hand and, says Darden, he is – in many a staffer’s opinion – the best Mickey they’ve ever done for the festival. “This year is the National Parks Service centennial and Ranger Mickey is representative of that. You can tell who he is just by looking. He’s got the tree, the binoculars, the hat, the satchel...”
Signage – and even real park rangers on some days – will be set around this charming topiary, where guests will likely want to get a snapshot with Spaceship Earth sparkling in the background.
“Every year we have displays I think are going to surprise everyone,” says Darden. “This one has steal-the-show potential.”
The Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival runs through May 30 and is included with park admission.