by: guide4wdw – Collin

Epcot Festivals – 5 Ways to Make the Most of The Experience! 

Epcot festivals are perhaps one of the defining principles of the Epcot experience in my opinion. Epcot to me has always been the “ideal” park. It was Walt Disney’s creation from the beginning. Of course, it’s not the same concept that was originally drawn up, but these offered festivals picturesquely capture one of the defining principles of the EPCOT concept, a community. As strange as that sounds, a festival is perhaps the dining feature of a community design. It brings people together, shares culture among “nations,” and develops a connection with guests that is somewhat hard to explain in words. It’s something you have to see to entirely appreciate, but an Epcot Festival is a living entity in more that one way. The guest interaction is always changing, the plant life debuts and changes as the world around it fluctuates, and each festival shares a blended effort of so many unique and creative individuals in the development of the project year after year. 
It’s a community like no other and one that may not be the perfect description of the real definition of a community but nonetheless a concept I truly believe Walt Disney would be proud of. 
Epcot festivals are unique, but perhaps the greatest element of the events is that there really is something offered almost every season of the year: 
-Flower and Garden Festival: February 28th – May 28th (2018) 
-Food And Wine Festival: August 30th -November 12th (2018)
-Festival of the Arts: January 12th – February 19th (2018 – concluded for the year)
-Epcot Festival of the Holidays: Dates to be announced.
No matter what festival you choose to attend, the following tips may be something you want to consider during your next Epcot festival experience!    


1. Avoid Table Service Meals During the Epcot Festivals (Maybe…)

If a goal of your trip is to enjoy the given festival that may correspond with your travel dates, you may want to consider avoiding table service meals during your day in that particular park. I love table service more that just about anything in the overall Disney experience, but if you’re headed to these large culinary based events, I actually recommend avoiding it so that you can save that money and try that much more of the culinary tradition as you tour the showcase. 

Chances are, if you eat a full table service meal before or during your tour of the “world” you’ll likely be far too full to enjoy a variety of the offerings available from the limit time outdoor kitchens. It’s inevitably a tough decision to make but personally one that I’ve failed to take my advice for time and time again. 

For example, during our last trip, we booked a table service breakfast at Garden Grill in the Land Pavilion. If you want to check out a full review of that experience be sure to check out our The Garden Grill – One of the Best Breakfasts on Disney Property article. It’s an outstanding meal, but at the same time wasn’t our best option when planning to attend the 2018 Flower and Garden Festival festivities that same afternoon. We had grand plans of trying many different food kiosks and “eating our way around” the countries, but we almost ran out of stomach space to make the most of it (key word… almost lol). 
In the end, we still managed to try a few of our top picks that were “must try offerings,” but truth be told it wasn’t quite as enjoyable as it could have been if we would have avoided the large breakfast. Of course, your “mileage” may very and what works for us in this regard may or may not work for you, We truly enjoy traveling from location to location stationed throughout the showcase and these festival kitchens are highlights of our Disney trips year after year.  

2. Make a Day of the Experience 

If you’ve never tried an Epcot Festival, it’s important to note that there’s more to do at these events that simply the dining. The Flower and Garden Festival in particular typically offers special events, seminars, and hands on experiences that so many guests completely overlook. There’s a little bit of something for everyone, from concerts to the broadway level performances offered at select events and times, you may be surprised at what you could uncover during your time in the park. 

If you know you’ll be touring one of these special festivals, I highly recommend looking into the event schedule before you arrive and as soon as you enter the park. If you plan it right and are willing to make a full day (or multiple days) out of the offerings, you can experience so many different realms of entertainment that you may have never experienced or expected from a theme park in the past. Check out the lineup of events, pick something unique, and you’ll enjoy your day in the park more that you likely expected. If you don’t know what’s going on, pick up a Festival passport as you enter the park and the events of the day and the vast variety of offerings will be listed in the book. It’s completely free to guests and makes for a great little souvenir and an even better way to document your chosen dining locations with the included stickers for marking your journey.   

Just for example, at this years Flower and Garden Festival (2018), guests are invited to take part in a variety of special events including but not limited to:

-The Epcot Gardens of The World Tour- A three hour tour with a Disney Horticulturist host through a variety of gardens and displays on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday! 

-Tea Garden Tours in the United Kingdom Pavilion- Special tour offerings for the season guided by a Disney cast member. Typically the tours are presented by Twinings of London and are offered in 3 different iterations. I’ve heard nothing but excellent reviews of the offering! 

3. Don’t Overlook the Little Things

It’s surprisingly easy to overlook many of the elements of the special events in favor of the top tier attractions that are offered to guests day after day. However, if you’re careful with your time you can not only experience the attractions but also the special event offerings, and still have time to explore some of the lesser known elements of the festivals. 

Perhaps the greatest example of this seemingly simple tip is one of my personal favorite goals of every trip during the Flower and Garden Festival, the Bonsai Collection of Japan. There’s no one perfect way to experience the casual enjoyment of the experience and the area lends itself to one of the most picturesque settings in all of Walt Disney World. The Bonsai trees are truly spectacular and exhibit a craft that is largely impressive in the realm of horticulture. I’m far from a gardening expert but the years and care put into making these trees a viewable reality to guests is something that really has to be witnessed to be fully appreciated. The tree pictured is 30 years old and has been meticulously cared for for 11 years!   

Another favorite aspect is the yearly Goodness Garden Butterfly House. As another simple experience, the garden invites guests to enter a large domed space full of wonderful plants and impressive greenery created for this event alone. When you’re immersed in the experience it’s hard to believe it’s designed and developed for a limited time offering event. Only Disney would out the care and effort into a space like this to envelop guests in the true spirit of the event. It’s spectacular in design and the butterfly tie in is something incredible to witness first hand. The area is a foray of life in the form of a garden and has been and likely always will be a guest favorite year after year. 

The garden is a come as you please offering and does not require guests to wait in a lengthy line, and as result has nearly infinite repeatability. For me, it’s highlight of the trip, and as someone who rarely enters the gardening realm, it’s quite the production to witness first hand.         

4. Don’t Overlook the Merchandise 

As a typical rule of thumb when visiting the parks, I tend to avoid typical t-shirts and ordinary theme park souvenirs. There’s nothing inherently wrong with them, but after you’ve been to Disney as many times as we have, some of the merchandise tends to get repetitive. I know that sounds horribly conceited, but I don’t intend for it to. We tour the parks not because we’re rich or have some special discounted offer from Disney (even though we may wish that was a reality), but rather because it’s what we’ve grown up doing and enjoy more that just about anything else. We have a passion for this place and all that it offers, but we experience nearly everything through out of pocket costs. We work normal jobs, live many hours from the parks, and don’t really have any tie-in to the Disney company directly. We write about this place because it’s the place that has created so many memories for us over the years and if I can share just one way in which you can experience those same incredible memories with even one person, the end result is more that worth the time put in. 

With all of that being said, Flower and Garden Festival and other festival merchandise is the sole exception to my personal barrier against t-shirts and non unique souvenirs. The festivals bring with them something new and different every year. There are outdoor decorations, special posters, and unique merchandise that you may never see again. To me, that takes a seemingly ordinary souvenir and attaches a memory of the time spent at the event to that item or element of your vacation of a lifetime. That’s exactly what I look for in a souvenir. I don’t look for something trivial but something that takes me back to a moment with friends or family that I can keep for generations. That’s part of the reason I recently got into photography. Capturing a moment is sometimes worth more that any words could ever describe to some. It’s a snapshot of a time that took your breath away or a moment that you may inadvertently relive time and time again and tell stories about for years on end. Those special types of souvenirs attach heart to a seemingly ordinary object in a way that brings a certain level of joy into each and every day of your life. No matter how trivial that time may seem or whatever minor tasks may fit your busy life upon returning home.      

5. Prep With a Gift Card for the Event 

As one of the more interesting and perhaps slightly unique tips on our list, buying a Disney gift card before you arrive at an Epcot festival can make a small but noticeable difference in how you tour the events. If you live near someplace with a Walmart or even a Lowes or similar location, you can likely pick up a gift card before embarking on your Disney vacation. If not, you can always grab a card upon entering the park. It sounds a bit strange to buy a gift card to spend while you’re still in the park, but the concept behind it is pretty helpful. Essentially, we recommend getting a gift card in order to one, limit your sending to what is on the card, and two, to make your world showcase festival experience a bit easier. 

If you buy a gift card, it’s easy to slide it in a pocket or in the back of a phone case or something similar and have it within reach as you walk from pavilion to pavilion or from outdoor kitchen to outdoor kitchen. Inevitably, especially at Flower and Garden Festival and Food and Wine Festival, you’ll want to stop for a snack at many different locations in order to try a taste of a variety of offerings that have debuted for the year. Instead of digging through a purse or pulling out a wallet every time you want to buy something it’s a touch easier to grab a gift card and hand it to the cashier. There’s nothing to leave at the counter or to drop as you pick up your food and if you wait to buy your gift card on property for select festivals Disney even offers small gift cards attached to bands for easy access. Here’s a glance at what they look like > Disney Gift Cards (not a sponsored link). 

Personally, I see this as a great option for teenagers or older kids as well. That way the adults of your group can designate how much money they can spend, put it on the card, and let them pick and choose what they want until the funds run out. You don’t have to worry about them running up a bill on your Magic Band or asking for money time after time and overall it could make things a touch easier for everyone.              

Your Thoughts

As always, if you have thoughts, concerns, questions, or even some tips of your own to share, don’t hesitate to reach out to us on Facebook or your favorite social media platform. Give us a follow while you’re there, and we’ll keep the conversation going in the future. We’re not the largest Disney community, but we’re one that’s there and one that listens. Thanks for reading and have a wonderful day wherever you are!

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Last but certainly not least, if you’re starting the planning process, a great place to start are with some of our top planning articles! Looking for dining? Check out Disney World Dining Tips For 2018. Want to start with some more tips? 44 Excellent Disney World Tips for 2018 or Disney World Planning Guide and Tips For 2018 are a great place to begin! Looking to save money on tickets? Check out our friends over at The Official Ticket Center for great deals that even made it into our 2018 Discount Disney World Ticket selections and another great way to help us create more content through your contributions at no additional cost to you! You’ll probably even save money along the way.