The Best Time Of Year For Garden Lovers To Visit Disney's EPCOT

Since 1994, the EPCOT International Flower and Garden Festival has combined the beauty of horticulture with the fun of a theme park trip in Florida's Walt Disney World. The festival has come a long way from its modest beginnings as a five-week event, sponsored by the magazine Better Homes and Gardens. It now lasts three full months and is virtually synonymous with spring at Disney World. From the minute you walk into EPCOT's main entrance, you'll be greeted with the sight of flowers and topiary sculptures shaped like butterflies and Disney characters. Throughout the park and its World Showcase area, there's also a wide array of global gardens that help the Flower and Garden Festival live up to its name as a truly international event.

EPCOT has three other international festivals throughout the year: the Food and Wine Festival, the Festival of the Holidays, and the Festival of the Arts. Each of them holds a different appeal, but during the Flower and Garden Festival, plant lovers will find almost as much to see as there is to do at EPCOT. You can still enjoy thrill rides like the indoor, reverse-launch roller coaster, Guardians of the Galaxy – Cosmic Rewind. However, EPCOT's festival landscaping will keep you strolling through colorful gardens on your way in and out of pavilions, shops, restaurants, and ride buildings. This year's Flower and Garden Festival takes place from February 28 to May 27, 2024, and Disney has already announced the details of what you can expect.

Topiaries at the International Flower and Garden Festival

One of the main highlights of the Flower and Garden Festival is the chance to see Disney characters come to life as actual living plants in the spring. The festival features 30 lush topiary displays, many of them appropriate to different regions, such as "Frozen" characters in EPCOT's Norway pavilion, and "Beauty and the Beast" characters in its France pavilion. Other recurring displays, cultivated by gardeners each year, include Mickey Mouse and friends and the beloved mascot Figment, who is helping EPCOT return to its roots with a meet-and-greet as well.

In its 30th year, the festival is adding some new topiaries, starting with characters from the 2023 Disney animated movie, "Wish." They're taking their place at the park's main entrance, with the symbol of EPCOT, Spaceship Earth, behind them. If you missed the "Encanto" topiary, which debuted at the main entrance last year, it's moving back to World Showcase in 2024. Though Guardians of the Galaxy – Cosmic Rewind opened in 2022, this is the inaugural year for the sentient tree Groot to join the Flower and Garden Festival as a topiary outside the ride.

For the first time ever, visitors will also see characters from the Oscar-winning "Coco" represented as a topiary in EPCOT's Mexico pavilion. Tiana from "The Princess and the Frog," is returning to The American Adventure pavilion for a second year as she awaits the opening of the new Tiana's Bayou Adventure attraction at the Magic Kingdom.

Exploring the global gardens

The festival's other main attraction is 25 beautiful green global gardens. Like the topiaries, many of these are themed to different world cultures. In the United Kingdom pavilion, for instance, you can wander through an English tea garden and a Shakespeare garden with the flowers that inspired his sonnets. Pop into the Tea Caddy shop (modeled after the real-life cottage where Shakespeare's wife lived) for some Twinings tea afterward. The Morocco pavilion has a spice garden, while the Japan pavilion features an authentic bonsai collection. Italy even has a Tuscan kitchen garden with ingredients for Italian food.

In 2024, EPCOT's Germany pavilion has added a gnome garden based on regional folklore. Over in China, there's also a new Penjing garden, where you can view landscapes in miniature during the festival. The gardens aren't limited to World Showcase, either, as you can also see them spread out across the front half of EPCOT. Among other things, there's a butterfly landing and a prehistoric garden with dinosaur-age plants. Floating gardens on the ponds will supplement the new walk-through attraction, Journey of Water, Inspired by Moana (pictured above).

If you've got kids, they can run wild in the Camp Get Out 'N' Play Garden. The best time of year for adults to visit the Flower and Garden Festival is May. By then, spring break and Easter will be over, and you can enjoy a more peaceful garden atmosphere before EPCOT's summer rush hits.