This year’s Flower and Garden Festival at Epcot was an exciting, unexpected bonus for me. My work in Orlando last week coincided with the festival (and with Ma Petite’s 15th birthday!), so we decided to check it out since we’ve never visited during the festival before now. If you follow me on Instagram, you saw a few pics from the week.
The festival started March 2nd and goes until May 30th this year, so if you’re in the Orlando area between now and then definitely stop in and check it out! You only need your standard Epcot theme park ticket to enter.
Epcot is always beautiful, and it is our favorite Disney theme park, but it is especially lovely with the colorful flower garden displays, 100 Disney character topiaries and Florida’s near-perfect spring weather.
Daisy Duck greets guests upon arrival. Her dress is made from pink flowers which make up a small part of the 30-million blooms you will see at the festival!
Donald and the nephews are just behind her.
So adorable, you need the rear view of these cuties! In the distance behind the nephews, you can see a couple of the 30 flower towers visible throughout the park.
This sunshine tapestry garden is one of 700 gardens you’ll see at the festival.
The Mickey head themed tapestry and all the colorful blossoms are breathtaking.
Here’s another shot. There are approximately 240 floating flower planters in the water!
I think the butterfly sculptures were my favorite.
There is a butterfly habitat you can enter, as well, just behind these giant floral butterflies.
There was a delightful miniature village, complete with functioning train, in Germany. It was created for the festival some years ago, but I believe it remains year round due to its popularity.
The pictures do not do it justice, so go see for yourself!
There are also more “natural” garden habitats along the way through the World Showcase like the orchid and bromeliad garden near Mexico.
Interspersed among floral displays and restaurants are 13 outdoor kitchens featuring a sampling of international foods and drinks, with something for everyone.
You can get a rundown of the outdoor kitchens at this year’s festival here. At any kiosk in Epcot, you can pick up a festival passport, which you can ask staff to stamp for you as you complete your journey through the festival. Even though we didn’t get ours stamped, we did pick up the small passport book because it contained a list of all events, including the outdoor kitchens and their offerings.
Gluten-free and vegan offerings are clearly marked in the booklet.
We marked the foods we definitely wanted to try, making our way to 11 of the 13 outdoor kitchens.
Here are a few of the foods we tried and our thoughts.
There’s an excellent assortment of cocktails (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) from which to choose. We had two favorites: the Elderflower Watermelon Sangria from Jardin de Fiestas (Mexico)
and the Yuzu Plum Wine Slushy at Hanami (Japan). The slushy is left in the photo below. It was one of the best drinks I’ve ever tasted, bar none. The cashier came to know our faces over the couple of days we explored the festival. :)
We also tried the Suigei Sake, which is pictured on the right. The server warned us, “this is not a shot, so sip it”. Apparently a lot of folks chug it down. We sipped it but didn’t finish the sake. It was a bit flat of flavor and heavy on only alcohol flavor, but still fun to try!
We also tried the Frushi (pineapple, strawberry, melon rolled in raspberry coconut rice and sprinkled with toasted coconut). It was delicious dipped in the raspberry sauce. You can ask for no whipped cream for dairy-free.
Keeping with the Asian vibe, we sampled Beijing-style Candied Strawberries at Lotus House (China) which were delicious beyond description – perfectly ripe, sweet whole strawberries dipped in a simple syrup that hardens like a thin candy coating and sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds (which is a surprising and tasty flavor with the berries!). I plan to make some this summer when the fresh berries are available.
In the background behind the berries is a glass of Oolong Peach Bubble Tea. I didn’t try it as it has dairy, but it is gluten-free. Ma Petite enjoyed it.
At the Florida Fresh kitchen between Morocco and France, we sampled Shrimp and Stone Ground Grits with Andouille Sausage, Sweet Corn, Tomatoes and Micro Cilantro. It was full of flavor and we went back there on our second visit to make this dish our lunch. The shrimp were cooked perfectly and the flavors were on point, and we know our shrimp and grits here in the South!
We also tried the Fresh Squeezed Watermelon Juice (not pictured) at Florida Fresh. It’s non-alcoholic and was refreshing when the temps soared in the afternoon.
Another “oops no picture” food item is the Cassoulet au Confit de Canard from Fleur de Lys (France). This is a pulled duck confit with braised flageolet beans and all of us were unimpressed. Maybe it’s because we lived in France last year, but we find France our least favorite country in Epcot and were disappointed in this dish because it lacked flavor and the duck didn’t taste particularly “ducky” or fresh.
We had a Kir Imperial (sparkling wine with Chambord black raspberry liquor) as well but it was dark (but really lovely at Epcot, see image above), so again, no image.
At the Cider House in the United Kingdom, we sampled the Freshly Baked Lemon Scone with Creme Fraiche (you can omit for dairy-free) and Mixed Berries. The scone was warm, which was a pleasant surprise, and bursting with lemon flavor. The texture, however, was gummy, so it wasn’t something I finished and wouldn’t buy again. I find a lot of gluten-free baked goods from out gummy, so this is subjective and you might love this scone, so I do recommend you try it for yourself.
In the American Adventure area, The Smokehouse: Barbecue and Brews, was one of our favorite spots for snacking. We tried the Smoked Pork Ribs with Roasted Corn Salad. The ribs were tasty, as there was a real smoker set up on site where they were cooked. The cold corn salad underneath was something I could omit. It didn’t add to the ribs, in my opinion, and was relatively flavorless.
The Beef Brisket Burnt Ends Hash with White Cheddar Fondue and Pickled Jalapenos is not listed as gluten-free on the menu guide because the white cheddar fondue contains wheat; however, you can order the dish without the sauce and it will be gluten-free. Here, it is pictured with the sauce.
I’ll have more for you soon on other areas of Walt Disney World where you can eat freely and enjoy your gluten-free holiday with few worries.
For more great Disney info on this and every other Disney park and event, visit my friend Alexis’ blog Gluten Free in Orlando. She’s definitely the go-to resource for gluten-free dining at Walt Disney World! You will also enjoy reading another Disney dining expert, Sarah’s, blog at Gluten Free & Dairy Free WDW. Both of these ladies live near the magic and frequent the properties, so they have all the tips and tricks you need to plan a marvelous, gluten-free holiday at Disney!