I'm a Disney kid through and through, it's sort of hard not to be when you grow up in South Florida. My childhood was spent going to Disney with my family a few times a year, which was always great. As an adult, I like going for a few different reasons, some relating to the feeling of nostalgia I get walking around the parks with family, but what I really love to do at Disney nowadays is going to their various special events, food and art festivals. My all time favorite though is EPCOT's annual Flower and Garden Festival.
But first, a side note, out of all the different Disney parks I have to give a special shoutout to EPCOT for many reasons, one being that I think it played a very instrumental role for me as a kid who wanted to see the world. If you've ever been there you know that half of the park consists of the 'World Showcase', an almost 2 mile long exhibit with 11 different country-themed pavilions. Each pavilion was designed with every detail in mind, from the regional cuisine, to the typical sites and experiences you would have in each country. As a kid I didn't get to choose where I could travel to so when I went to EPCOT I LOVED feeling like I was traveling around the world all in one day. We'd have tacos in Mexico, take a Fjord ride in Norway, wander through Italian palazzos, see Bellydancers in Morocco and have pastries in France, all in one afternoon! I truly think that was one of the ways my travel bug was sparked (many moons ago) <3
If that's not enough of a reason for making EPCOT your favorite of all the Disney parks, then for me it also helps that it's the location for a few of their annual festivals including the Food and Wine Festival; however, my absolute favorite is the Flower and Garden Festival. I try to go each year and always have the best time, so I finally decided to put together my guide for things to do and what we ate, I hope you enjoy!
Experience the flowers and topiaries: This is pretty obvious right?!?! When at EPCOT's Flower and Garden festival you have to spend some time walking around and enjoying the gardens and flowers that are specifically created for this annual event. There's no specific location to find them because they're literally all over the park. My favorite however are the topiaries of some of our favorite Disney characters! It's truly amazing what the Disney horticulturist can create. Also, because this is a flower and garden festival there are lots of outdoor stalls that sell garden supplies, mini topiaries and other plants and flowers you can bring home! Here are a few of my favorite topiaries found around the park.
Learn about global gardens and sustainability: On top of just admiring all of the beautiful flora throughout EPCOT, take some time to learn a bit too. Scattered throughout the World Showcase and Future World are various booths and stalls that teach sustainability regarding lifestyle choices and food selections and ways we can live in harmony with nature. I for one always LOVE this part because I think it's great to do a check-in to see if I'm living in alignment with my environmental values. It's also a great way to teach kids early on how to make better environmental choices as they grow.
Visit the butterfly tent: We can't talk about sustainability without taking into account our hard working 'pollinators' like bees and butterflies. I love seeing both out and about because they're beautiful to look at but also because I know we wouldn't be around much longer if these guys weren't hard at work pollinating our food. At EPCOT's Flower and Garden Festival, they understand this as well and dedicate an entire tent to butterflies and pollinators. It's amazing, you can actually walk through the tent and see butterflies in action and in various stages of transformation. If you're there, definitely take some time to walk through the butterfly tent to marvel at all the different species and flowers.
Food: OK, so now on to the food. Although this post isn't about EPCOT's other festival the annual Food and Wine festival or Festival of the Arts, all festivals involve food. I'm not sure what I like more, seeing the flowers or going around to all of the outdoor food kitchens to sample my way around the world. If you've been to EPCOT before, you know there are 11 different country pavilions, with each having permanent restaurants or quick service foods that are amazing. But in the past few years EPCOT decided to open these food stalls during festival times for those who want to opt for seasonal small plates. You can eat at either but I LOVE going from country to country so I can try an assortment of small plates. Pro Tip: Get a Disney gift card and put a pre-set amount on it. This helps when you know you're going to be swiping your card a lot and don't have to worry about taking your credit card out every few minutes. This also helps if you want to budget either your money or how much you want to eat and drink.
Get a food passport: I'm all about passports of all kinds. I have a regular passport to travel, a national parks passport that I lovingly stamp when I visit, and as a kid I definitely cherished my EPCOT passport, so of course when coming back as an adult you bet I'm going to get an official food passport. These are free and you can pick them up all over the park, but it's a great way to plan. The passport has all of the food stalls and outdoor kitchens along with their accompanying menus so you know which stalls to hit and which to possibly come back to later. It's also a lot of fun to get your passport stamped on certain items. This year that included 5 specific plant based small plates around the different countries. Pro Tip: if you get all your stamps you can take your passport to customer service and get a small free gift.
So without further ado, here were my favorite small plates from EPCOT's 2021 Flower and Garden Festival. Also, when visiting the different countries be sure to pick up their passport cards, which have a stamp and some general information about each country. These are generally for kids but hey you bet this child at heart grabbed those too ;)
Germany: We love going to Germany because that's where some of our family immigrated from. As a kid we grew up eating bratwurst and sauerkraut, so we always have to make a stop each time we visit. In the Germany pavilion you can find an AMAZING buffet full of German sausages, potato salad, red cabbage (you name it). It also has a quick stop with bratwurst, pretzels and beer and the delicious Karamell-Küche, which is a sweet shop where you can see them making homemade caramel that tops every sweet treat in the shop. This year, we grabbed some potato pancakes and had the toasted pretzel bread with Black Forest ham and gruyere cheese. My family also had the German beer flight and I had the Apfelschaumwein which was an amazing mix of sparkling wine and apple liqueur!
China: Next stop was China where we spent time looking at the adorable panda topiaries and sampled some delicious crab rangoon and peanut satay chicken skewers.
Italy: In Italy we didn't try any of the outdoor food stalls because at that point we were hot and wanted to eat inside. There are a few sit down restaurants here but love the wine cellar which makes you feel like you're having a drink in an underground cavern. This was one of my favorite stops where we sampled different Italian wines with a wine flight and had some charcuterie with some amazing rosemary bread.
Japan: I love walking through the Japanese pavilion. If you've read my about me section, you've seen that my first international trip was to Japan, so I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for that beautiful place. At EPCOT, I love walking through the different shops and zen gardens they have on display.
During the Flower and Garden Festival be sure to get some 'frushi' or some delicious pineapple sake! Also, one of my favorite photo ops is under the tori gate which looks out over the water and the famous EPCOT globe.
Morocco: Morocco is also one of my favorite countries to visit when in EPCOT because I love Middle Eastern culture and the aesthetic of the beautiful mosaics use throughout the buildings. I was also a Belly Dancer for many years and just love seeing the performances they have there, so when I'm in EPCOT I always spend a lot of time here.
Beyond that, the food is terrific and includes both a sit down restaurant, a fast service takeaway and a newer restaurant and bar with indoor and outdoor seating that looks out over the World Showcase Lagoon. That's where we sat down to try their new menu, which included some great appetizers like hummus 'fries' and traditional Moroccan dips.
United Kingdom: Visiting the United Kingdom is always a good time because of the Rose and Crown pub and tea gardens. It's a great way to take a break, have a pint and some fish and chips (which is our family's favorite), with malt vinegar of course. Beyond that they have a beautiful 'tea' garden with tea leaves and flowers. You can actually walk around on your own to check out the different tea plants or book a tour to sample then followed in their terrific tea shop where you can find all sorts of Twinings brand teas and accessories.
France: Ahhhhh, you can't go to EPCOT without spending time in the French pavilion. If I had to pick one that would be my favorite because I love Paris. This is such a beautiful area with cute perfumeries and cooking shops. But beyond that, my all time favorite is their pastry shop with tons of French pastries, cheese plates and sandwiches. There's also an amazing sit down chef's restaurant if you have more time. This year we splurged on a Grey Goose slushy, an onion and goat cheese tart and a giant chocolate macaron cake pop!
Honey Outpost: Our last stop was the honey outpost, which isn't a country pavilion but nonetheless was delicious. All of their dishes spotlighted honey as an ingredient. Here we had a delicious honey mustard chicken flatbread with sun-dried tomatoes and goat cheese, pork belly with honey and orange carrots and finally the world's most delicious cheesecake that featured honey 5 different ways!!! Seriously I don't really like cheesecake and this was one of the best desserts I've ever had.
And that's about it, of course there's so much more you can see and do, experience and eat, but hopefully this will get you started. There's so much to experience at EPCOT in general if you love to travel but to turn things up even more, consider going during one of their annual festival, trust me you won't be disappointed.
As always I'd love to hear about your trips and travels and any comments you might have, thanks!