Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival 2016: A Photo Tour

by Donald and Bonnie Fink, contributing writer

The 2016 Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival is underway. In its 23 years of operation, this is the first time it will run a full 90 days. In the past, it's been closer to 75 days. There are several new topiaries including three at the entrance, where for the first time Donald Duck has his nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie with him in the garden. Many of the topiaries are the same, but some have new twists like Pluto at Showcase Plaza with a new sunflower collar. For those of us who are repeat visitors, it makes it fun to see what might be different and new.

At the main entrance to Epcot you can find Daisy greeting guests. Behind her is Donald and new for this year is Huey, Dewey, and Louie. Photo by Bonnie Fink.

At the main entrance to Epcot facing Spaceship Earth Donald works in his garden assisted by his nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie. Photo by Donald Fink.

Near Showcase Plaza is Ranger Mickey, celebrating 100 years of the U.S. National Park Service. This topiary is presented by the National Park Foundation. Photo by Donald Fink.

Butterflies on the Go, near Innoventions, is presented by GoGo SqueeZ. Our research tells us that there are over 1,000 butterflies on display representing 10 different species, but they're really hard to count. Photo by Donald Fink.

Facing Spaceship Earth but in the same garden as Ranger Mickey you can find Chip and Dale. Here, Chip seems to have discovered an unguarded sandwich in a national park. Photo by Donald Fink.

Mickey as the Sorcerer's Apprentice is in the Fantasia Garden, located in Future World near Imagination. Photo by Bonnie Fink.

Front and center as you enter Showcase Plaza are Minnie and Pluto tending their garden. The topiaries are not new, but Pluto's sunflower collar seems to be a new addition. Photo by Donald Fink.

There are two play areas at the Flower and Garden Festival set aside for recreation for the little ones. Musical Garden Melodies is located along the walkway from Imagination to the World Showcase and features the Fab Five plus Daisy. The other play area is in Future World East behind Mouse Gear. It's called Cactus Road Rally and features the characters from the Cars movies, Mater and Lightning McQueen.

Musical Garden Melodies is a new play garden in an old spot. It features the Fab Five of Mickey, Minnie, Pluto (seen here), Goofy, and Donald, plus Daisy. Photo by Bonnie Fink.

Urban Farm Eats is an old favorite outdoor kitchen located along the west walkway between Future World and World Showcase. Nearly everything on their menu is new this year. One item that's sure to be good is their seared pork tenderloin with mushroom ragout, spring vegetables, and marble potatoes. Photo by Donald Fink.

One of the three new outdoor kitchens this year is La Isla Fresca, located at the World Showcase Plaza. It features food and drink from around the Caribbean. Photo by Bonnie Fink.

The Cider House is a completely new outdoor kitchen located in the United Kingdom pavilion. It features various hard ciders and lagers from around the United States, as well as cider-themed food. One menu item that looks interesting is the pear cider-brined shredded corned beef, with braised cabbage and pears.

The Cider House kiosk in the United Kingdom is new this year. Photo by Donald Fink.

There's a new dish on the menu at Fleur de Lys in France; the macaron chocolat framboise is a large raspberry macaron filled with chocolate fudge and raspberry jam.

A Fleur de Lys cast member hands a plate of cassoulet au confit du canard (pulled duck confit with braised flageolot beans) to a guest. Photo by Donald Fink.

Woody from "Toy Story" is ready to saddle up in front of The Smokehouse: Barbecue and Brews at the American Adventure pavilion. Photo by Donald Fink.

The Smokehouse menu includes a pulled pork slider with crispy onions and coleslaw along with smoked pork ribs with roasted corn (new this year). For dessert try the warm chocolate cake with bourbon-salted sauce and spiced pecans. Maybe wash it all down with Orlando Brewing Company's Uncle Matt's Organic Grapefruit Pale Ale or a Shipyard Maple Bacon Stout from Clearwater, Florida.

Many of the items on the menu at The Smokehouse are cooked on site in this large wood-fired smoker located at the American Adventure Pavilion. Photo by Donald Fink.

A kitchen cast member hands over a pulled pig slider at The Smokehouse. Photo by Donald Fink.

You can read more about what's on the menu in the outdoor kitchens on the official Flower and Garden webpage.

Festival Blooms is a garden located along the shore of the lagoon between Future World and World Showcase. It's not new but the design is different each year. Photo by Bonnie Fink.

Tigger is at the Winnie the Pooh Garden, located in the United Kingdom pavilion. Photo by Bonnie Fink.

You can't miss Tick-Tock-Croc, a topiary included in the Peter Pan garden at the United Kingdom pavilion. Facing the Crocodile is Captain Hook and on top of the building behind them is Peter Pan. Photo by Bonnie Fink.

We make a point to visit Epcot on the weekends during the Flower and Garden Festival so we can catch some of the performances at the American Adventure Pavilion. Named The Garden Rocks Concert Series, these weekend 30-minute performances take you back to the sounds of the 70s and 80s. Some, like Peter Noone and Herman's Hermits, take you back a bit farther.

Some of our favorites include Herman's Hermits, Orchestra, featuring members of ELO, and The Guess Who. New this near are Blood Sweat and Tears, Brian Howe, from Bad Company, Georgia Satellites, and Darlene Love. A list of performances and dates can be found on the Disney web site. Be sure to click on the "Read More" link under "Freshly Picked Music" for a listing of dates and times of each performance.

The miniature train exhibit in the Germany pavilion has its very own miniature Flower and Garden Festival, complete with Minnie and Mickey topiaries on a very small scale. Photo by Bonnie Fink.

There are many vendors in various boutiques around World Showcase. You might find just what you need for your garden, or something interesting for your home.

A glass blower is working on site at a shop near Germany creating all sorts of items, including these handmade glass chickens. Photo by Donald Fink.

At the Outpost in Epcot you'll find the Simba and Friends topiaries. Here are Pumbaa and Timon. On the opposite side of the walkway is baby Simba, his father Mufasa, and their trusted friend Rafiki. Photo by Bonnie Fink.

In the pond at the China Pavilion you can find a Dragon Topiary. Photo by Donald Fink.

We've only visited this year's Flower and Garden Festival once, in preparation for this Photo Tour. But from what we've seen, we'll be back enjoying it over and over for the next three months. This is a great time to be in Florida with mild days, not too hot, and generally dry weather. Visiting the International Flower and Garden Festival is sure to put anyone in a gardening and outdoor frame of mind.