This week the Epcot International Flower Garden Festival officially opens. It’s one of Epcot’s longest events, in the length of time it’s going on at the park. So from year to year it might not seem like a lot changes. This year, though, it’s got something special up its sleeve.
One of Disney’s big films of the year is “Oz: The Great & Powerful,” which tells the story of how a man from the American Midwest became the wonderful, terrible Wizard of Oz. It opens on March 8, two days after the kickoff of the Flower & Garden Festival, and Epcot’s done something huge to celebrate.
Literally huge. The Land of Oz Garden is the centerpiece of the Flower & Garden Festival, although it’s already open for those who want to visit it. It’s nearly 1/3 of an acre in size, making it the largest garden ever made for the Flower & Garden Festival. Because this is Disney and Disney doesn’t do things by halves, The Land of Oz Garden is more than just a garden. It’s almost like a mini-festival inside the larger garden festival.
It’s a combination playground, garden, and country fair, the latter of which draws inspiration from the type of turn-of-the-century carnivals seen in the “Oz: The Great & Powerful” film. Guests can compete in games like bean bag and ring tosses, and take their pictures sticking their faces through pictures of the characters from the film. There’s playground equipment on which kids can play, and comfortable lounge chairs from which their parents can watch them.
The gardens are of course filled with beautiful flowers. Some of them are glass art poppies, another reference to the film. Epcot’s gardeners will be maintaining the grounds throughout the festival, updating the flowers as the weather gets warmer, so guests will see a variety of beautiful colors.
While The Land of Oz Garden might be the highlight of the 2013 Flower & Garden Festival, it’s far from the only attraction. Always a favorite of the festival, the topiary displays this year will feature characters from “Monsters Inc.” and “Monsters University,” “Cars,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Lion King,” “Lady and the Tramp,” “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” “Winnie the Pooh and Friends,” and more. In the evenings, the gardens will be lit for viewing with a beautiful sprinkling of pixie dust.
The Flower Power Concert Series will be rocking the stage every weekend, with new and returning favorites like The Turtles, The Village People, and The Guess Who. HGTV stars from shows like “My Yard Goes Disney,” “Property Virgins,” “Going Yard,” “Design on a Dime,” “Million Dollar Rooms,” and more, will be heading up the DIY stage throughout the entire festival.
Predictably, most attractive to me is the Garden Marketplace, aka the food. We get a little touch of the International Food Festival here, as there are booths featuring cuisine from Morocco, Mexico, Germany, the United Kingdom, Japan, and more. Highlights include fruit sushi at the Hanami booth, trifles and tea at The Cottage, and lamb kebabs at the Taste of Marrakesh.
The best part of the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival is that, unlike most events at the the Food & Wine Festival, all that’s required is valid park admission to Epcot. This year’s festival runs from March 6 to May 19.
*(The above image by meshmar2 is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 License.)