The Savers Guide
If you know anything about Epcot you know that it’s known for its annual festivals. And as the years go on it seems that more of them are added. However, there’s one that has been running the longest and that’s the Epcot Flower and Garden Festival. 2020’s Festival will run for 90 days between March 4th and June 1st.
This guide is meant to help you learn all about the Flower and Garden Festival as I share some of my tips and tricks, money saving techniques, pre-arrival must-do’s and more. I’ve been attending this festival for well over 10 years and have lots to share! One thing that I love about this Festival is that there’s some consistency in what you can expect but at the same time, every year is different.
Most people picture the topiaries when they think about the Flower and Garden Festival, and we don’t blame them. They are one of the highlights of festival and as mentioned before, something that is constant but ever changing. For example, the 2019 festival introduced us to two new character topiaries, Miss Piggy and Kermit the Frog!
New in 2020
New for the 2020 Flower and Garden Festival is a Remy Topiary that will be featured at the France Pavilion in World Showcase. This new topiary will be the centerpiece of the brand new Ratatouille Garden. The garden is going to be really unique! Everything that’s planted in it is part of a ratatouille recipe, surrounding the chef himself, Remy.
As you probably know (or don’t know) the France Pavilion is currently undergoing an expansion to add a brand new attraction called Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure. It’s one of the more popular attractions at Disneyland Paris and I’m really excited to have it open at Epcot. While no opening date has been announced, I’m guessing late spring to early summer.
Whenever it is, I think this new Ratatouille Garden is a salute to the new attraction and is going to be a bit hit at the 2020 festival.
What Can I do at the Flower and Garden Festival?
There’s lots to do at this festival! The topiaries are one of the must-do’s and to be honest, it’s not that hard. Most of the topiaries are placed in locations that you can see as you walk through Epcot. There are only a few that you may have to go a bit out of your way to see. A festival guide map will show you all the locations and topiaries that are available to see.
Every pavilion in World Showcase will have a unique and relatable topiary or topiaries. For instance, Winnie the Pooh and friends are always located in the UK Pavilion (the author is from the UK). In the Mexico Pavilion you’ll find The Three Caballeros – Donald Duck, Panchito and José Carioca. As mentioned above, Remy, Beauty and the Beast and Miss Piggy and Kermit can all be found at the France Pavilion.
Other notable topiary characters include:
- Lightning McQueen and Mater
- Captain Hook and Peter Pan
- Mickey and Pluto
- Goofy and Donald
- Minnie and Daisy
- Chip n’ Dale
- Elsa and Anna
I enjoy taking pictures of as many as I can while I’m there and compare them to the years before. It’s fun to see the topiaries that haven’t changed a bit and the ones that have.
Garden Rocks Concert Series
This is probably my third most favorite thing to do at the Flower and Garden Festival. The “Eat to the Beat” Concert series features some classic groups that perform daily at the American Adventure Pavilion outdoor amphitheater. 3 times daily you’ll get to sit and enjoy some really great music from these musicians. Have you heard of any? The 2020 list has yet to be released but let’s take a look at groups that have performed in the past:
- STARSHIP starring Mickey Thomas “We Built This City”
- Plain White T’s “Hey There Delilah”
- Sister Hazel “All For You”
- Air Supply “All Out of Love”
- Sugar Ray “Every Morning”
- Tiffany “I Think We’re Alone Now”
- Boyz II Men “End of the Road”
- Blue October “Into the Ocean”
- American Authors “Best Day of My Life”
And that’s just naming a few! While the concert series does tend to change its lineup each year many of these groups have been coming for years and so some of them can be counted on. We’ll update this page once the official 2020 list becomes available.
The Garden Rocks Concert Series can be attended in two ways. First, you can purchase a Garden Rocks Dining Package which guarantees you a seat at a show that day plus you get to done at some of the best restaurants at Epcot. The restaurants participating this year include:
Via Napoli Ristorante e Pizzeria
Tutto Italia Ristorante
Spice Road Table
San Angel Inn Restaurante
Rose & Crown Dining Room
Nine Dragons Restaurant
La Hacienda de San Angel
Garden Grill Restaurant
Coral Reef Restaurant
Chefs de France
You’ll want to make reservations in advance for these restaurants and once you’ve arrived for your reservation let them know you’re wanting to do a Garden Rocks Dining Package. There’s a slight catch with these packages, that is, the restaurant usually has a limited dining menu and it may cost a bit more than just dining without the package.
I’ve done these before and it’s hard to say you should or shouldn’t do it. While a guaranteed seat is nice, not all concerts are full which leads me into the second option: standby
The standby line forms about 30-40 minutes before the shows start and the closer you are to the front of that line the better. I’ve found that at some shows, most everyone in the standby line gets in. Other shows only a few get in. The more popular the artist is the more people seem to do the reserved seating dining packages.
These shows are a lot of fun and very intimate which I love. You don’t feel like your at a massive concert with thousands of people (because you aren’t) and the artists have a lot of fun with the audience.
This is my second most favorite thing about the Flower and Garden Festival. Food! I’m a big foodie and Epcot, which has no shortage of options already, adds so much more food during the festival. Like the International Food and Wine Festival, these outdoor kitchens are just stands that offer unique bites based around a theme as well as drinks and dessert.
While the Food and Wine Festival is based solely around serving unique country food, the outdoor kitchens at the Flower and Garden Festival are based more around healthy, organic eating. That’s not to say you can’t find a nice piece of filet or hanger steak. It’s just more following the theme of the festival which is agriculture, growing and cooking. Trust me, everyone can find something they like at these outdoor kitchens.
Currently the list of outdoor kitchens for 2020 has not been released yet but as soon as it is we will have it posted here.
As I mentioned above, these outdoor kitchens really only offer bites, almost sample sized, of different foods. Typically these kitchens will cost you more than just sitting down and eating a regular meal at a quick service or sit down. They usually average between $5-$8 each and I typically get around 6-8 items in one afternoon. It’s pretty easy when you want to try everything!
My approach to the outdoor kitchens is to look at the guide and mark which ones sound really, really good to me, like my top 5. I know I’ll end up getting those. Once I have then I’ll go through and pick out my next 5 and walk to those kitchens and see if the smell can convince me to fork out some more money. If not I just move on.
Guests who are on a Disney Dining Plan can use snack credits to purchase at these kitchens. It’s a great way to save since these food items are usually much more than the cost of a snack.
Events and Tours
Many of the indoor areas of Epcot are used during the Flower and Garden Festival for classes, exhibits and tours. We love this mostly because they are all air conditioned…and the offerings are great! While I never spent money on a cooking class with a celebrity chef, they have them and most people I’ve talked to have told me they thoroughly enjoyed them.
Prices for these classes vary but what doesn’t is how quickly they fill up. I highly recommend signing up for the class you want as soon as it becomes available. You can find a list of the classes at disneyworld.com and well as instructions on how to sign up.
One of my favorite things to do is the Gardens of the World tour which offers you an inside look at all the flowers, plants and topiaries at Epcot. They show you how they plant everything, how they choose what to plant, how they shape and cut the topiaries as well as offer you gardening tips for your own yard. The tour is 3 hours long and costs about $85 per person.
The Behind the Seeds Tour that they offer is also a great tour to take. It’s much less time (just one hour) and less expensive than the Gardens of the World tour ($25 per person). During this tour they take you around the Living with the Land Greenhouses and fish farm for an up close look at everything.
Annual Passholders also have a special location where they can get their free Flower and Garden Festival magnet as well as purchase unique merchandise. Be sure to check your guide map for the location.
Of course all this can be considered family fun but there are some events and areas that are catered to kids. One of my favorite places to take my girls is the butterfly exhibit. It’s a large tent outside that features tons of plants and flowers and of course butterflies. Hundreds of them! You simply walk around the tens look at the plants and watch the butterflies flurry about as they too go from plant to plant.
There’s a lot of great informational stuff on butterflies in this exhibit and how they take can of and pollinate plants.
If you’re going with kids who just can’t stay still or be patient then the Play Garden and Family Play Zone is perfect for you! Here kids can run around outside, play on slides, climb on fake rocks and even learn if they want too. My girls always have a blast here, especially in the coloring zone where they can spend an hour or more just coloring pictures.
The Play Zone is gated in and has a soft squishy ground so it’s very safe for kids. Of course you can’t just leave them there, a parent needs to be with them or nearby.
Lastly, every year they do a sort of hide and seek game where you can go around Epcot and try and find hidden objects. The map you receive will give you the general location of the object but it’s up to you to try and find it! Once you’ve found them all return to one of several merchandise kiosks or stores and turn you map in for a great price.
Speaking of merchandise, we’ll keep this brief. There is a lot of new merchandise that comes out for the Flower and Garden Festival, some of it collectible and some of it just date-stamped for that year. Shirts, bags, dinner wear, glasses, buttons, pins, candies, plush toys and so much more. It’s easy to spend a lot of money here. My opinion is grab what you want! It’s all unique and a lot of fun.
Tips and Tricks
If there’s an artist your really want to see perform at the Garden Rocks Concert Series I would suggest you do the dining package for guaranteed seating.
Guests who are on a Disney Dining Plan can save up their snacks credits and use them at these outdoor kitchens. It’s a great way to get more for your buck!
Came with kids to the Flower and Garden Festival? There’s a play zone just for them to run around and play while you get a much needed break!
Weekends are busy as locals love to come out and play during the festival so if you can, try and visit Monday thru Thursday.
Schedule your cooking and celebrity chef classes when they first open. They tend to fill-up very quickly!
If it’s a hot day outside, head indoors as there are plenty of exhibits and activities where the AC is flowing.
If you think you’ll be going to several outdoor kitchens be sure to purchase a Disney gift card wristband at any festival merchandise location. It makes it much easier to pay for things.
Even if you’re not a big gardening, flowering person, I think everyone can appreciate the Flower and Garden Festival at Epcot. Maybe the best part about it is that you didn’t have to put any work into it but you get to enjoy all that it offers! That’s what it’s all about right?!
There’s something for everyone at the festival, horticulturist’s, foodies and groupies alike. Remember that about 90% of everything at the festival is included with your regular park admission. Only the classes cost money to book. The outdoor kitchens, exhibits, Garden Rocks Concert Series, topiaries and play areas are all free.
There isn’t a ton of stuff to plan ahead for here. Come with an appetite for food, music and horticulture and you’re sure to have a magical time.
If you’re looking to save on your park entry be sure to see what special offers and discounts we have on tickets right now. You can also go beyond the festival and plan out the rest of your vacation with our Savers Guide to Walt Disney World. We also have a brand new attractions review list that shows every major attraction at Disney World plus some great first-hand reviews.
Dean has been writing and blogging for over 10 years. He specializes in Disney theme park news including updates, openings, special events and general advice for travelers. He doesn’t shy away from the good, the bad and the ugly. His previous work includes being a Cast Member at Disneyland and working as a travel agent.