2017 International Flower and Garden Festival: A Photo Tourby Donald and Bonnie Fink, contributing writer
There's a lot to see and do at the International Flower and Garden Festival. Every year we're torn between the old and familiar, or the new and innovative. This year, for example, we were disappointed that our old standby favorite Cars character, Mater, wasn't on display, but intrigued that the new Cruz Ramirez was in his place. Much of the music entertainment at The Garden Rocks series is returning from last year, but some of it is new too. And many of the topiaries are the same as previous years, but displayed in new and interesting gardens.
So let's get to some of our images of this year's Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival.
This Figment topiary is listed as new for this year. He's located in the garden directly behind Project Tomorrow, which is directly behind Spaceship Earth. We're sure we've seen it before, but maybe it's just a result of good branding. We've seen Figment in so many places for so many years that we aren't surprised when he pops up as a topiary in Futureworld. Photo by Donald Fink.
Glidden has an interesting display on the sidewalk in Futureworld. It's near the walkway to Showcase Plaza on the right, near Butterfly Haven. When we snapped this image, these butterflies looked like simple decals on the concrete. Nothing special. When we looked at the image later, we noticed the 3D effect from the shadowing below. The butterflies appear to be gliding above the concrete in all the images we made, but look like simple decals when viewing them in person. Photo by Bonnie Fink.
Dale is busy in the garden at the Farmer's Market display where Futureworld meets Showcase Plaza. There are several photo spots here as well as PhotoPass photographers to get some great shots. Photo by Bonnie Fink.
This year, many of these gardens that were designed as photo opportunities have a walkway where guests can walk out into the garden. Their pictures then depict them in the garden rather than simply standing near it. When we walked by a garden that had the new design, it was being used by the PhotoPass Photographers so there was very little opportunity for a quick snapshot in the new setting. Of course, the PhotoPass photographers are always willing to make an image with your camera or phone. And if you have an Annual Pass, it's often best to let them get the picture for you anyway.
Here is our first look at Cruz Ramirez. She's a young Hispanic sports car that will make her debut in the new movie, "Cars 3." She's a trainer at the Rust-eze Racing Center who instructs Lightning McQueen as he competes against younger, faster sports cars. It's important to mention that Ms. Ramirez is not a has-been, second rate sports car. She can hold her own, doing 0-60 in 3.8 seconds with a top speed of 210 MPH. Photo by Donald Fink.
Disney, along with Florida Audubon, maintains several Purple Martin habitats on property. We've seen them at Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort, here at Epcot, and along the walkway from Disney Springs to Old Key West near the golf course. This year, we were fortunate to see the birds in residence at the International Flower and Garden Festival. They're located in the gardens behind Mouse Gear. Photo by Donald Fink.
Each year, for the International Flower and Garden Festival, there is a new pattern for the Festival Blooms. They're located along the waterway between Futureworld and World Showcase. These flowers are so popular that you often need to be patient in order to get in close enough for a clear image. Photo by Donald Fink.
The Three Caballeros are usually at the back entrance to the lobby at Disney's Coronado Springs, but they make an appearance at the 2017 International Flower and Garden Festival. Here, at Showcase Plaza on the way to Mexico, you can find Panchito Pistoles (left), Donald Duck, and Jose Carioca in a bed of hot peppers. Photo by Bonnie Fink.
Have you tried the strawberry cider at the United Kingdom pavilion? At the Cider House, you can sample Ciderboys Strawberry Magic Hard Cider, from Stevens Point, Wisconsin. Speaking of cider, you can also try Pear Cider-brined Corned Beef with Braised Cabbage and Pears and Branston Dressing. Photo by Bonnie Fink.
We tried a lemon scone from The Cider House at the United Kingdom pavilion. It came with crème fraîche and mixed berries. The presentation wasn't all that appealing, but we like scones. Photo by Bonnie Fink.
This large raspberry macaron with chocolate fudge and raspberry jam is from Fleur de Lys, located in France near the entrance to Chefs de France. If you're sampling the beverages at the Festival, save room for something from here. The wines, liqueurs, and slushes looked interesting. Photo by Bonnie Fink.
There are literally millions of flowers on display at the International Flower and Garden Festival at Epcot. Not all are as pretty as this amaryllis, which was located in the English Tea Garden in the United Kingdom, but they're still worth a look as you make your way from one outdoor kitchen to another. Photo by Donald Fink.
This year, the fairy houses are in the United Kingdom pavilion, in the Peter Pan and Tinker Bell Garden. Imagine that. There are several interesting little houses to see that are sure to inspire the woodworkers in the group into designing some dazzling bird houses. Photo by Bonnie Fink.
Twinings offers three different Tea Garden Tours. There's the Self-Guided Tea Tour and the English Tea Garden Tour that are complimentary, and there's the Royal Tea Garden Tour, which is a VIP tour with tea samplings and scones for a nominal fee. Photo by Bonnie Fink.
If simply walking around World Showcase, sampling the food and drink, and admiring the flowers isn't quite enough for you this year at the International Flower and Garden Festival, there are several tours that you can book to make things more interesting.
One tour that interested us was the Epcot Gardens of the World Tour. This tour is with a Disney horticulturist and takes about three hours. It introduces you to the various gardens around World Showcase. Days and times are Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. Disney strongly recommends that you have an advanced reservation for this tour.
Another favorite tour of ours is the Behind the Seeds Tour. This tour is not specific to the Flower and Garden Festival, but it seems appropriate for the event. A Disney horticulturist takes you into the vast greenhouse at The Land for an up-close look at how things are done there. We've taken this tour a couple of times over the years and it never gets old.
Belle and the Beast in France aren't new this year, except that in previous years Belle didn't have facial details. It's more than appropriate considering the release of the new live-action movie. We wonder if the folks that maintain the topiaries will change the Beast's horns to match the new look from the movie too. Photo by Bonnie Fink.
It seems that with the International Flower and Garden Festival—or any other festival at Epcot for that matter—there's a game that involves finding various items in the lands. This year it's EGGstravanganza. The plan is similar to other games in the past: You purchase a map with stickers of the various eggs from one of several merchandise stores at Epcot. Then, as you travel around World Showcase, you find these eggs. When you find one, you place a sticker that looks like the egg you just found on your map in the country where you found it. In the end, you bring the map back to a vendor and receive a souvenir egg. They know if you actually found the hidden eggs because each one is different, and you have to match the correct egg to the country.
If you decide to play this game, don't forget to look up, and don't think that all the eggs are outdoors. You've really got to look around to find these frustrating little eggs. If you give this game to a little person in your group, be prepared to help because they really are challenging to find.
This Italian garden features all the spices and herbs needed for a great Italian meal. It also introduces the idea of growing in terra cotta containers to save space. Using terra cotta containers, a spice or vegetable garden can easily be incorporated into small living spaces. Photo by Donald Fink.
Bauernmarkt is located in Germany. They serve several beers and lagers along with some potato pancakes; one sweet with apple sauce, and one savory with caramelized ham, onions, and herb sour cream. Bauernmarkt means farmer's market in German. Photo by Donald Fink.
For many people, including us, one of the highlights of any festival at Epcot is the weekend music concerts at the America Gardens Theater at the America pavilion. For the International Flower and Garden Festival, it's called Garden Rocks, and this year there are sixteen bands scheduled to perform. Many are returning acts from previous year, but four are new to this year's lineup.
Some of our favorite returning bands are Herman's Hermits, The Guess Who, and Blood, Sweat, and Tears. There are four new acts this year, including Plain White T's. Here is a link showing the schedule for this year's Garden Rocks Concert Series.
Here are Dave Trio - Guitar (left), Tim Lopez - Lead Guitar, De 'Mar Hamilton - Drums, and Tom Higgenson - Vocal and guitar. These guys, along with Mike Retondo on Bass (not shown) make up the members of Plain White T's as they perform at the 2017 Epcot International Flower and Garden festival. This concert, along with many others, is performed at the America Gardens Theater at the America pavilion, usually Fridays through Mondays during the Festival. Photo by Donald Fink.
Tom Higgenson from Plain White T's performs at a Garden Rocks concert during the 2017 Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival. We could tell that Tom was into his Disney gig, with the not-so-plain white Mickey Mouse tee shirt and the Magic Band on his wrist. Photo by Donald Fink.
Plain White T's on stage at the American Gardens Theater at the America Pavilion, Epcot. Dave Trio - Guitar, Tim Lopez - Lead Guitar, De 'Mar Hamilton - Drums, Tom Higgenson - Vocal, guitar. Not seen here is Mike Retondo on Bass.
Over the last few years, it seems that a festival of some kind is more likely than not to be underway when you visit Epcot. Some festivals have been extended, and new ones, like the Art Festival, have appeared. The Flower and Garden Festival has easily remained our favorite.
This year, the Epcot international Flower and Garden Festival is a good combination of new things to see and experience and familiar things, that we've grown used to and even anticipate. We've already visited the Festival several times, but we're by no means finished. We expect that we'll be back over and over this season, enjoying as much as we can.