In Full Bloom

“I must have flowers, always and always.” – Claude Monet

It’s finally springtime and the flowers are beginning to bloom! Here in the south, everywhere I look the grass is turning green, flowers are popping up from the ground, and trees are budding. It’s at this time every year, that I begin to have the strong urge to get my hands in the soil, clean out my gardens, and plant new vegetables and flowers. I was recently needing a Disney fix, so I booked a last minute flight, a room at Port Orleans Riverside Resort, and flew to Orlando with my husband and youngest son. One of my favorite places to visit in the spring is Orlando, Florida for the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival. This event takes place yearly from early March – early June. The park is seriously stunning with beautiful flowers and over 100 topiaries everywhere you look! You will find many of your favorite Disney characters located throughout the park in the form of a topiary! Some of my favorites are Beauty and the Beast, Anna and Elsa, Lady and the Tramp, Woody, Minnie Mouse, and Winnie the Pooh. It’s amazing to think about how many flowers and hours went into making these topiaries! Every corner we turned and every land pavilion that we visited had a new topiary to admire and photograph. The fine details and expressions on some of the faces are truly amazing! *The photos of the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival sign and the Anna and Elsa topiaries were taken by our wonderful Yellow Shoe Travel in house photography Michelle Tiek.

While you are there, don’t forget to visit the gardens, tours, and exhibits that are only available during this event. You can pick up a Festival Passport that gives details about where to find all the topiaries, garden destinations, fun activities for children, scavenger hunts, Garden Rocks Concert Series lineup, merchandise only available during the festival, special tour information, menus for each outdoor kitchen, and passport stickers. Visit Italy and the Garden Italiano which features fresh produce and herbs, you can discover the history and art of tea blending at the English Tea Garden, hear about the Mexican Rainforest in the Tropical Rainforest Garden, and learn about ancient spices in the Morocco pavilion. If you or your children like butterflies, make sure you visit the Goodness Garden Butterfly House to view all the butterflies and hopefully you can watch one emerging from it’s cocoon!

FOOD… possibly my favorite thing about Epcot! Similar to Epcot’s Food and Wine Festival in fall, Epcot’s International Flower and Garden Festival has outdoor kitchens set up all throughout World Showcase featuring flavors of each country. The majority of these small plates are around $7 or less making them a great option if you are using a snack credit! Some our favorite plates were the Seared Scallops with French Green Beans, Butter Potatoes, Brown Butter Vinaigrette, and Applewood-smoked Bacon from the Northern Bloom kiosk in Canada, and the Harissa Chicken Kebab with Dried Fruit Couscous Salad, Fried Cauliflower with Capers, Garlic, Parsley, and Chili-ranch Sauce, and the Walnut Honey Baklava from the Taste of Marrakesh kiosk in the Morocco Pavilion. The fried cauliflower was quite possibly the winner out of all of these!

Sometimes you need a break from the heat and crowds! This is when I like to find the unassuming, not always known about places to grab a snack, drink, and sit down to rest. One of our favorite places to do this was at Tutto Gusto Wine Cellar in the Italy Pavilion. This small, cozy, dimly lit wine cellar makes you feel like you have stepped out of a theme park and into a family restaraunt in Italy. We ordered glasses of Pinot Grigio and tried a Gusto Plate with 2 different types of cheeses (I preferred the creamy La Tur which was a blend of sheep, cow, and goat’s milks while my husband preferred the semi-firm Fontina Valdostana), add Finocchiona which is a fennel and pepper flavored salame, focaccia, and crispy Italian breadsticks…Delizioso! Another fun place to take a break is at La Cava del Tequila in the Mexico Pavilion. This little lounge that celebrates the heritage and tradition of tequila making is tucked away in the pyramid to the right of the stairs just before you enter San Angel Inn Restaraurante. There is usually a long line to sit at the bar, but you can ask for a table and will often be seated quicker. Make sure you try 1 (or 2, or 3..) of the MANY different tequilas, mezcals, and specialty margaritas! This time I tried the Cucumber Margarita which had Tequila Altos Reposado, Mezcal Montelobos, caramelized pineapple juice, basil, cucumber, and was served on the rocks with a Tajin chili powder rim. Alongside an order of chips, salsa, cheese dip, and the BEST guacamole, it was perfect! Overall, I say skip a table service reservation and just eat and drink your way around the world at Epcot!

If you are a music fan, then you will love the Garden Rocks Concert Series. This concert series provides live performances on select nights in the America Gardens Theater. Some familiar names performing this year include Sister Hazel, Sister Sledge, Lonestar, Rick Springfield, and Herman’s Hermits just to name a few. You can book a Garden Rocks Concert Series Dining package at 1 of 15 select restaurants to receive breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and guaranteed seating to one of 3 performances for that day. Each meal consist of an appetizer, entrée, dessert, and non-alcoholic beverage, or 1 full buffet.

From the flowers, topiaries, food, drinks, concerts, tours, gardens, and exhibits, there is so much to see and do at Epcot’s International Flower and Garden Festival!

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