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GRAND OPENING! Welcome to the 2017 Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival!

Happy March, Disney Guys and Gals!!!

     It's Flower and Garden time!!!! Yes, Epcot's newest festival, Festival of the Arts, just closed a few days ago, but back to back, we have another fantabulously awesome festival to enjoy! Welcome to the 2017 Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival!!! Hooray! (That's a lot of exclamation points. I apologize. I'll try and reel myself in.)

     I LOVE Flower and Garden! (Dang it! There's another one!) It's an amazingly colorful, vibrant and fragrant festival, the engulfs ALL of Epcot, and gives Guests two
months of gorgeous flowers and topiaries, incredible rock concerts, exciting opportunities to learn about how to grow and maintain their own gardens, AND delish food and drinks from the Outdoor Kitchens! (Ok, I am really excited about Flower and Garden, so there are going to be lots of exclamation points in the post. We will just have to deal!)

     This year's festival is bigger and better than ever, with longer running dates, (March 1st-May 29th), new entertainment acts, (including Simple Plan, Expose and Berlin), and two brand new Outdoor Kitchens. Not to mention 70+ topiaries, dining packages, events and tours, appearances by home and garden experts, playgrounds, and a massive butterfly garden. Whew! I'm exhausted just naming it all! There's tons to see and do at this kid-friendly festival, and I was there to check out opening day with The Hubs, so if you stick with me, I'll take you on a photo safari of the festival, as well as share with you menus and reviews of the food items that we tried. Let's go....

     As expected, opening day of the festival was slammed! The weather was hot, hot, hot and gorgeously sunny, which made all of the colors that much more vibrant. This year's entry topiary is similar to last years, but a little more sparse.

Still cute, though. Anyway, we grabbed this year's Festival Passport and headed toward the Festival Center first. On the way, we met up with this little imaginary dude...

He makes for a super cute, and super colorful topiary! We saw a couple of cool displays in Future World, as we walked to the Festival Center, located in the old Wonders of Life Pavilion. One was all about gardens that have low water requirements, and the other, near Universe of Energy, was about Prehistoric Plants.

     Universe of Energy itself was also adorned with floral towers. That's one of the things I really love about this Festival. Everywhere you turn, there' touches of floral added here and there. It's really beautiful.

     Outside of the Festival Center, there were some great Fab 5 topiaries, and the whole outside of the building has lovely flower displays.

     Inside the center, Guests can festival exclusive merchandise, demonstrations, displays, classes and even a little cafe selling fresh fruits, veggies and sandwiches. Oh, and more flowers, too. Great place to hide out from the rain, should a storm roll through. I'll have to keep this in mind for my May visits. 

     Back outside, we said a quick "hey" to buzz Lightyear, in front of Mission Space, before heading over toward the Cars themed playground. 

Also along the way, we checked out the Purple Martins area, which has alien-looking bird feeders, attracting these unique birds. Note that they are Purple MARTINS, not Purple Martinis, as The Hubs misread the sign to say. 

     The Cars play area is super cute, as always, and the perfect place for younger kids to get out some of their energy, running and climbing. And it's the perfect area for parents to enjoy some Adirondack chairs and a moment's rest. 

No kids with us today, though, and it would probably be pretty weird for two adults withOUT children to be hanging out in a playground, so we kept it moving. 

     Back behind Spaceship Earth, the featured topiary this year has Chip and Dale on one side, and Donald, (Duck, not Trump), and his nephews on the other. There's also the incredible buttery Garden topiaries and some gorgeous chalk art, too! 

The butterfly tent is always amazing to visit, but it does tend to get better over the course of the festival, as more caterpillars transform. 

     There's definitely some cool merchandise this year, including an old-school hyper-color type of t-shirt that changes colors in the sun, and the popular wrist tag gift card, perfect for wearing around the festival to pay at the Outdoor Kitchens, This year's is shaped like an orange and is even scratch and sniff! 

     As usually, Phineas and Ferb were over by the Agent P Scavenger Hunt Game, and the walkways leading to World Showcase were just breaktaking! I love the floating planters, adding pops of color to the lagoon! 

     Time to hit up those Outdoor Kitchens! For those of you that haven't been to Flower and Garden recently, you may not be familiar with these booths. Epcot has combined the most popular element of the very popular Food and Wine Festival, into the spring festival, opening about a dozen booths around World Showcase. Each location sells smaller, sample sized food items, as well as regional alcoholic beverages. For Food and Wine, the booths are themed to various countries around the world, and Flower and Garden's booths are similar, but they also incorporate the element of farm or garden fresh items, as well. But what it boils down to is this: YUM! 

     Before we get into the individual booths, I will say this... overall this year, it seems to me that many of the portions are larger, as are the prices. This could be seen as a plus or a minus. If you're the type who likes to just pick a couple of things to sample, you'll be happy with the larger helping. If you're using Disney Dining Plan snack points to get items, you'll get a better value out of the higher pricing. But if you're like me, and you like to try all different stuff, you really need to bring some friends along to share the food and the cost. Otherwise, two booths in, you'll be done. The Hubs and I were the only ones we knew that were available to attend opening day, and so we had to try and sample stuff as much as we could, without getting sick. Now, let's not kid ourselves... eating has never been a problem for us. We can both put away a good amount of food. But when you're starting on an empty stomach, and you only have three hours before you have to pick up the kids from school, it can all go wonky. We did our best, (for YOU, of course!), but to be totally upfront, things that we had reviewed last year, we did not get again this year, so my reviews below are combined with this year's and last year's. Fair enough? Ok, let's go!

     First up was the brand new booth, The Berry Basket. It's themed to... you guessed it... BERRIES! Here's the menu: 

And here's my mini review of what we sampled:

  • What did we try?   Warm Wild Berry Buckle
  • How would I describe it?   A coffee cake-like pastry, covered in a mixed berry compote, and topped with a small scoop of pepper berry gelato.
  • How was the portion/value?   At $4.25, it was easily shareable between two or three people and is about the size of most Disney desserts, so I think this is reasonably priced. 
  • What letter grade would we give it?   C   The cake was served warm, which was nice, but the ice cream melted pretty much on contact, making a gooey mess that ran over the sides of the plate. The cake itself seemed like a package coffee cake, and would have been better as a more hearty biscuit. The flavors were good, and the pepper berry gelato was something a little different. (You get pretty much no pepper-flavor to it.) 
  • Will we get it again, when we return to the festival?   No. Not my favorite. 

  • What did we try?   Twinings Green Tea Mint Berry Julep (non-alcoholic)
  • How would I describe it?   A refreshing mint-berry slushy, served with blackberries on top. 
  • How was the portion/value?   $4.25 is probably a little much for a few ounces of slushy.
  • What letter grade would we give it?   B   I loved this and would have given it an A. The Hubs hated it, so I'm balancing us out at a B. This drink wasn't overly sweet and the mintiness gave it such an awesomely refreshing finish to it. The Hubs hate berries. And mint. And tea. This drink was SO not made for him. 
  • Will we get it again, when we return to the festival?   I absolutely will. The Hubs, not so much. But at least I know he won't steal any of mine. My four year old totally will though. This drink will be his jam!
     Next in line was La Isla Fresca, which has a Caribbean theme to it. 

And here's the menu: 

They were having some difficulties opening and so we skipped it for now, but I did try the slush last year:
  • What did we try?   Frozen Simply Tropical Juice Drink (non-alcoholic)
  • How would I describe it?   This was pretty much straight-up frozen mango juice. Since I am allergic, my little guy, K, got this one. He loves anything slushy, so he was a fan. Our friend, "A", got the alcoholic version and said it was tasty. The shot of rum pooled at the bottom of the cup, making for a potent final sip.
  • How was the portion/value?   To me, for $4.25, ($9.25 for the alcoholic version), I should get a full 8 oz. glass, not a little 4 oz. (I'm just guessing here) one.
  • What letter grade would we give it?   N/A   This one was all K.
  • Will we get it again, when we return to the festival?   I do not wish to die of mango poisoning, so, no, I will not.
     The Mexican booth, Jardin de Fiestas, was also not open when we passed by, so we skipped that as well. but here is the menu:

The Mexico pavilion has some nice Flower and Garden touches, including The Three Caballeros, in topiary form, and some incredible orchids, wrapped around the trees. 

     Of course, Norway features everyone's favorite icy sisters, who just can't seem to 'let it go': well as some troll friends:

     The next Outdoor Kitchen was Lotus House, in China.

Didn't get anything this year, but here's what we had last year:
  • What did we try?   Beijing-Style Candied Strawberries
  • How would I describe it?   Just like a candied apple, but with a skewer of strawberries, and topped with a sprinkle of sesame seeds.
  • How was the portion/value?   You get 3-4 strawberries per skewer, depending on size. $5.50 may seem like a high price, but I honestly love these so much, that I'd pay it any time. (Though, I will note, this is up over $.50 from last year!)
  • What letter grade would we give it?   A   I LOVE these! I have come to get them every year now since they were introduced. The strawberries are always super high quality, so they are juicy and fresh, and the candy coating adds just enough sweetness. The light sesame flavor is a nice touch. The Hubs doesn't even like strawberries and he'll usually steal one of these from me.
  • Will we get it again, when we return to the festival?   I plan to get them several more times before the festival is over. 
  • What did we try?   Vegetable Spring Roll
  • How would I describe it?   Standard Chinese spring rolls, served with a creamy orange sauce.
  • How was the portion/value?   $4.50 for two spring rolls was ok by me.
  • What letter grade would we give it?   B   The rolls were tasty and not overly greasy. I was expecting the orange sauce to be sweet like a duck sauce, but it was more savory, and I was not a fan.
  • Will we get it again, when we return to the festival?   Maybe. Definitely not a bad snack, and a really good sized portion.

  • What did we try?   Oolong Peach Bubble Tea
  • How would I describe it?   A milky iced tea, with a very light peach flavor, (in fact, I didn't taste peach at all!), and a whole bunch of blackish-green tapioca "bubbles" in it.
  • How was the portion/value?   This one was a full 20 oz. cup, but rightfully so, since it was $6.75. I think that price tag is WAY too high! (Especially since that's $.25 more than last year and I thought THAT was too high!)
  • What letter grade would we give it?   C   First of all, I wasn't expecting this tea to be milky, so that was a surprise, and not exactly en enjoyable one on a hot day. As I said, the peach flavor was barely detectable. Now, I know people who go nuts for bubble tea, but for me, these flavorless tapioca balls made me feel like my drink was full of eyeballs. Ew. It manages to pull off a C because overall, the sweetness and creaminess of the tea was enjoyable, just not my cup of tea. (See what I did there?)
  • Will we get it again, when we return to the festival?   That's a "no". For $6.75, I could get two other things elsewhere.
     The African Outpost area has some of the best festival topiaries, straight out of The Lion King, as well as some cool merchandise areas. 

     Germany has Bauernmarkt (Farmer's Market):

Several new options this year, so we tried a couple of things:
  • What did we try?   Potato Pancake with Caramelized Ham, Onion and Herb Sour Cream
  • How would I describe it?   Similar to a corned beef hash. A savory potato pancake, topped with cubed ham, sweet onions and a sour cream drizzle.
  • How was the portion/value?   The portion was large and easily shareable for two. At $4.25, this one is a good value. 
  • What letter grade would we give it?   B+   Tasted like breakfast! This was a delicious combination of flavors and we both really liked it. 
  • Will we get it again, when we return to the festival?   Maybe. I certainly wouldn't mind, as long as I had someone to share it with. 
  • What did we try?   Warm Cheese Strudel

This post first appeared on Kingdom Konsultant Travel, please read the originial post: here

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GRAND OPENING! Welcome to the 2017 Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival!


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