Attractions: EPCOT Blooms with Flower Festival Magic

At the EPCOT International Flower & Garden Festival, Mother Earth is the star of the show.
2023 Epcot Festival

The EPCOT International Flower & Garden Festival is the highlight of the spring season, where the entire park blossoms before your eyes. (COURTESY OF WALT DISNEY WORLD)

When the EPCOT International Flower & Garden Festival opened in 1994, it was all about the flowers, the gardens, and simple green topiaries like those Walt Disney fancied during a 1950s visit to Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen. For the 29th festival year, it’s still about all that floral beauty. But it’s evolved over the years into so much more. Rock & roll concerts. Creative eats. Adult libations. And topiaries that Walt himself might never have imagined.

“Mother Earth is the star of the show,” says EPCOT proprietor of festivals Rick DeCicco. But, he adds, other elements of the 126-day festival, which runs March 1 to July 5, kick up the show several notches. “Truly, the entire festival team is continuing to improve the guest experience.”

Take those topiaries, for instance. 

Four new character topiaries—Isabel, Mirabel, Antonio, and Luisa from the Disney animated hit, “Encanto,” all adorned in vibrant succulent plants—will greet EPCOT guests as they enter the theme park. A floral Princess Tiana will reign over a bayou setting featuring Spanish moss, fireflies, and water lilies at the park’s American Adventure showcase. The overall EPCOT landscape will be awash in seasonal color, and each garden will have a story to tell, such as how to plant a community garden of herbs, fruits and vegetables. At Butterfly Landing, guests can learn about the metamorphosis of a butterfly while surrounded by various species of winged beauties. 

Ever since that first festival, horticulturist Debbie Mola Mickler has helped bring the park to full bloom. But this year is extra special thanks to the merging of technology and Disney’s famous topiary creations, she says. “Now we can enhance and create topiary elements that we haven’t been able to achieve in the past.” Each of the four “Encanto” topiaries will feature special touches, from an illuminated butterfly in Mirabel’s outstretched hand to a topiary bird perched upon Antonio’s shoulder. Isabel, who’s “all about flowers, will have a beautiful arch of flowers from hand to hand,” Mola Mickler says. Luisa, whose power is her strength, will be the tallest of the quartet at about nine feet.

In the lagoon by the Japan pavilion’s Tori Gate, the giant dragon topiary, nearly 20 feet long and composed of more than 600 plants, is back with a new look, Mola Mickler says. “Traditionally, it’s just one color, but this year it’s going to be a kaleidoscope of color,” fashioned with hundreds of multihued succulent plants. 

DeCicco, who oversees all festival prep—including horticulture, food, beverage and specialized merchandise—calls the new and reimagined topiaries “next-level.” 

The festival’s Outdoor Kitchens also have become a major attraction for locals and visitors as Disney chefs whip up new treats each year, says Ricky Ly, author of “The Food Lovers’ Guide to Orlando” and founder of the popular foodie forum

“From using local honey and corn to herbs and microgreens grown onsite at EPCOT’s The Land, Disney’s food and beverage team have shown what it means to be farm-to-table, leading the way by example for its peers in the theme parks and attractions arena,” Ly says. “The success of the festival over the years shows how much the interest and appetite for culinary delights have grown.”

Citrus Blossom, one of the festival’s 15-plus kitchens, is located this year at the park’s Odyssey Pavilion with an all-new menu that includes a single-serving lemon meringue pie, orange-sesame tempura shrimp, and citrus baked brie. The Florida Fresh kitchen is back after a multiyear hiatus with its fan-favorite plant-based grilled street corn and a new corn option crusted with spicy corn chips. The original Florida Fresh watermelon salad with feta cheese, pickled onions and blueberry balsamic returns. “It’s my happy place,” DeCicco says. “And you can have a cucumber watermelon slush with or without gin” at Florida Fresh.

Embark on a mouthwatering mission to taste your way around EPCOT, enjoying brilliant gardens, fresh flavors and lively entertainment. (COURTESY OF WALT DISNEY WORLD)

A new kitchen called Brunchcot opens near the park’s Test Track pavilion with avocado toast, shrimp and grits and a new Lox Benedict on focaccia. And the Farmer’s Feast kitchen is back for a third year with three separate menus, each tied to the season. An Early Bloom menu begins with chilled potato and leek vichyssoise and bison ribeye chargrilled on site; the Springtime Menu debuting later includes grilled swordfish with asparagus and lemon beurre blanc; and the final third of the festival will feature a Summer Solstice menu with barbecue seared pork tenderloin, summer succotash, and sweet corn crème brûlée. Farmer’s Feast is next to an outdoor play garden where parents can relax, nibble and sip while their children burn off energy.

“You may be wondering, ‘What will the parents be drinking with this?” says DeCicco with a twinkle in his eye. “We have a sparkling blueberry-elderberry hard tea and a cocktail I’ve been chasing for many, many years to unleash on the public—our Ghost Mary—a translucent Bloody Mary with potato vodka and tomato water.”

Many locals and Disney fans each year plan their visits around the festival’s Garden Rocks Concert Series, when they can catch a performance of a favorite band or musicians like Herman’s Hermits starring Peter Noone, The Pointer Sisters and Little River Band. 

And Disney super-fans can’t get enough of the ‘70s-inspired Orange Bird merchandise like this year’s third-iteration-sipper cup—an homage to the original Orange Bird cup sold in the Magic Kingdom’s Adventureland. 

Guests can sip a cup of their favorite tea on a guided tea garden tour of flowers and herbs in the United Kingdom showcase, take in at least 200 floating gardens along EPCOT ponds, and find festive photo ops in front of the park’s brightly hued Flower Towers.

“Plants these days are much more vibrant and brighter in color,” Mola Mickler says. “I’m very, very excited about being able to bring that to our guests.”

Visit for more details. Visitors can book a same day park reservation and ticket (starting at $109) at

Categories: Arts and Events