The Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival is in full bloom just as families begin to descend on Walt Disney World for spring break. From the official dates to the concert lineup, merchandise to snag and food to try, here's how to plan a visit the whole family will love.

By Brooke Geiger McDonald
March 10, 2020
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Credit: Brooke Geiger McDonald

The 2020 Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival is in full bloom just as families begin to descend on Walt Disney World for spring break. The timing of this festival couldn't be more perfect—pops of colorful flowers, fresh seasonal food, and kids' activities and play areas throughout the park make this not just Epcot's most kid-friendly festival of the year, but the perfect antidote to the winter doldrums and stir-craziness kids and parents across the country are experiencing in full force.

If you and your family are headed to Epcot between now and June 1, here are the best ways for kids and parents to enjoy the festival together.

Editor's note: We're aware that families have concerns about the coronavirus (COVID-19) and how that could impact upcoming travel. At time of writing, Walt Disney World remains open. Stay up to date with travel restrictions and advisories here.

1. Take in the Topiaries

Massive character topiaries are hands-down a highlight of the festival, which Epcot food and beverage project manager Chelsea Florig calls "a celebration of spring that makes the pavilions and the park feel alive." Bringing beloved Disney and Pixar characters to life in flower and foliage form requires in-depth collaboration between character artists, film studios, welders, and the horticultural team, explains horticultural director Eric Darden. Topiaries are playfully positioned around Future World and in their respective countries around the World Showcase.

Some of our favorites include Remy from Ratatouille, who stands atop a wheel of cheese over in the France pavilion; Kermit the Frog pedaling on a bicycle near the United Kingdom pavilion, and, in a clever update that pokes fun at the huge amount of construction going on around Epcot right now, Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy have traded in their gardening tools for construction equipment—see them in the photo above!

Kid tip: The festival guide booklet features a checklist of topiaries. Let your kids pick out their favorite characters then go on a hunt for them or, if you have time, see if you can spot them all!

2. Snack Your Way Around the Festival

All of Epcot's festivals have become a celebration of food and drink in one way or another, but this one really shines the spotlight on seasonality and fresh produce—and provides a great opportunity to teach kiddos about eating with the seasons and focusing on good quality ingredients. Most festival booths are themed around a particular ingredient, like citrus fruit at The Citrus Blossom and honey at The Honey Bee-stro, or a particular regional cuisine, like Mexican at the Jardin de Fiestas or Chinese at Lotus House.

As you visit the festival booths, look closely at the nearby beds. "You may see planted around our outdoor kitchens our flavors that are used within the dishes there," Florig says.

Kid tip: For kiddos with less adventurous palates, look out for the strawberry icon on festival menus. This indicates that the food or drink, like the fan-favorite frozen Violet Lemonade, is kid-friendly.

Credit: Brooke Geiger McDonald

3. Keep Kids Interested With Two Fun Scavenger Hunts

Adults love taking a laid-back approach to Epcot festivals, enjoying the sights and sounds as they snack and drink their way around the park. But kids, who know a ride is never far away at Disney World, can be a tougher sell on the leisurely stroll. Enter Spike's Pollen Nation Exploration, a cute scavenger hunt that will keep your kids engaged as they hunt for Spike the Bee among the floral beds throughout the festival. For $6.99, pick up a scavenger hunt map and stickers and add a sticker each time you spot Spike and a featured flower. A completed map earns a souvenir prize!

Kid tip: Spike's Pollen Nation Exploration runs all festival long. Beginning March 27, a second Egg-stravaganza Scavenger Hunt also begins and features another fun sticker map. My kids love spotting the giant, Disney character-adorned colorful Easter eggs hidden throughout the World Showcase.

4. Kick Back While Kids Run Around Two Interactive Play Areas

Two beautiful outdoor play areas have been created with both parents and kids in mind, explains Darden. "We like to encourage free play," he says, noting that play areas also include plenty of shaded seating for parents. The Play Full Garden (pictured below) is steps from festival booths and an outdoor kitchen and features play areas for both younger and older children and a musical plant maze. Bo Beep's Playtime Training Grounds is a Toy Story 4-themed playground on the opposite end of Future World.

Kid tip: Both playgrounds close at dusk, so visit them early to avoid disappointment. Parents, I've learned this from experience—it's hard to pull kids away from these play zones, so make sure you don't visit them until you're ready to stay awhile!

Credit: Brooke Geiger McDonald

5. Try the Garden Graze

Who doesn't love a food challenge? If you're having trouble choosing what to eat at the festival, try the Garden Graze. Purchase five select plant-based menu items—including one of my absolute favorites of the festival, the Impossible Farmhouse Meatball—and get a complimentary prize at the end of your graze.

Kid tip: You can team up as a family to try all five items, some of which are more kid-friendly than others. Give kids the task of collecting the stamps from each of the booths once you've purchased the items and let them enjoy the prize: a refreshing Lime Dole Whip in a souvenir cup.

6. Catch a Concert

The Garden Rocks concert series puts on concerts three times nightly at the America Gardens Theatre. The lineup brings some oldies but goodies to the stage, like Rick Springfield, A Flock of Seagulls, Survivor, and Air Supply.

Kid tip: Parents, if you want a good seat for your favorite band but don't want to have to queue up with your kiddos ahead of time, check out the Garden Rocks Concert Series Dining Package. Eat a meal at a participating restaurant and you'll get guaranteed reserved seating as part of the package.

7. Visit the Butterfly House

See countless butterflies fluttering about at the Goodness Garden Butterfly House near the Land pavilion. Inside the screened-in structure, several species fly freely among flowers, foliage, and informative displays about butterfly life cycles and habitats.

Kid tip: This is one of the many spots throughout the festival that incorporate education into the fun (read: less parental guilt if you've pulled your kiddos from school for vacation). Snap a photo of the display that explains how to create your own butterfly habitat and take the learning home with you.

8. Shop for Exclusive Festival Merchandise

Our family visits Walt Disney World regularly and we love picking up festival merch as annual souvenirs since the designs are typically unique to the season and year of our visit. Four festival merchandise lines each feature their own star character: Orange Bird, Spike the Bee, Mickey Mouse, and Minnie Mouse.

Kid tip: For an inexpensive souvenir that also helps teach kids about reducing waste, pick up a Spike the Bee reusable spork for $2.50 and forgo the disposable versions given out at the booths.

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