EPCOT’s 2015 International Flower and Garden Festival

EPCOT’s 22nd Annual International Flower and Garden Festival is right around the corner! This 75-day event takes place from March 4th through May 17th. This year marks the third consecutive year that EPCOT has incorporated tapas-sized dishes, deserts, and delicious drinks! Often referred to as the “Mini Food and Wine Festival,” the International Flower and Garden Festival is truly an event that cannot be missed!

What to Expect

View from the Disney GardensWith 2015 offering 10 new mini-gardens, 11 outdoor kitchens and over 100 locally grown Disney Character topiaries, it is no surprise that it takes more than a full year and about 24,000 cast member hours in order to prepare for the annual event.  There are 400 Walt Disney World horticulturists that are needed in order to put everything together in time, including 30 million blooms that cover the park all throughout the festival. The topiaries are a regular staple of the festival. Of course there will be all the classics like Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald Duck, and Pluto. But this year, everyone’s talking about two new additions: Disney’s very own royal sisters, Elsa and Anna! Be sure to check out the dynamic duo at the entrance of The World Showcase.

Rock Out at Garden Rocks

EPCOT Flower & Garden Festival musicianEvery Friday, Saturday and Sunday, go back in time at the Garden Rocks Concert Series and enjoy some of your favorite bands from the 60s, 70s, and 80s! These eleven bands take the stage every weekend and perform three shows a night. Since the music is performed in an open-arena, there is no need to get there early for good seats. The design of the American Garden Theatre lets you continue walking around to enjoy the beautiful flowers and gardens, while at the same time, being able to jam out to the bands. Check out this year’s lineup!

2015 New Additions

One of the most exciting, new exhibits of 2015 is The Urban Farm. This kiosk will demonstrate how you can grow your own produce at home, and you don’t need to live on a farm to do so. They’ll show you have to raise fresh fish and chickens at your home, and even teach you the art of bee farming. After learning tips from the chefs, guests can sample actual items from the demonstrations nearby at their restaurant, The Urban Farm Eats.

Also new this year will be free, 15 minute cooking demonstrations given by actual Disney Chefs! Located at the Port of Entry, they will be showcasing the actual recipes and dishes from the festival. You can attend to ask questions, learn cooking pointers, or just watch and see how it’s made. Make sure you check out these exhibits that happened every Friday, Saturday and Sunday throughout the entire festival starting at 3 p.m.

Full Menu Line-Up

Food and Garden Festival CuisineWith 11 kitchen kiosks at the Festival this year, your taste buds will never be able to thank you enough! Since these bite-size samples only cost around $5, you’ll be able to taste and try everything without taking a huge hit to your wallet. From the Kung Pao Chicken Bun at Lotus House to the delicious Strawberry Marshmallow Macaroon at the famous Fleur de Lys, you’ll definitely want to sample everything. And let’s not forget the drinks! This year there will be a new twist on the classic Pineapple Soft Serve: Coconut Rum! If the Dole Whips aren’t your thing, no worries. There are at least two different cocktails at each of the kitchen kiosks that showcase their own unique style! Check out the full menu here!

Bonus Tips

A common misconception about the Flower and Garden Festival is that once it gets dark out, the festival comes to an end. This is completely inaccurate. After the sun goes down, everything becomes brilliantly illuminated and the fun continues. The topiaries and gardens light up and give you a whole new perspective of their beauty in the dark! Rest assured that you can continue to eat, drink and dance your way through the foliage!

Miss Piggy at EPCOT Flower and Garden FestivalGreat news! In order to visit the festival, you don’t need a special ticket. Entrance into the festival is included with your regular admission to EPCOT. Additionally, when you arrive, make sure to pick up your Garden Passports to have stamped at each of your stops along the way. You can find these at the Festival Welcome Center, all of the outdoor kitchens, and at the merchandise stores, as well.

One of the greatest aspects of the EPCOT’s International Flower and Garden Festival is that there will always be something to satisfy all your senses! There is so much to see, smell, taste, hear, and touch that it will make you want to return year after year. So make sure to mark your calendar as the festival is just a week away!

Disney Dining Plans Explained

Disney is famous for making things easy on DVC members. The Disney Dining Plans,  however, are unfortunately an exception. You can get great deals and great food with Disney Dining Plans, but finding the right plan for you can be a bit confusing. It takes some persistence and concentration, but we’re here to break it down and make things simpler.

What are Disney Dining Plans?

Basically, Disney Dining Plans are pre-purchased vouchers accepted at certain restaurants on Disney property. Each member of your family is granted a certain number of credits per night based upon the dining plan you purchased. Instead of paying a check at the conclusion of a meal, your Key to the World card is used to deduct credits from your account. There are several different kinds of credits: quick service credits, table-service/buffet credits, and snack credits. Each of these will be explained in the dining plan outlines below. Keep in mind that credits are awarded per night, so if you do a 7 day, 6 night vacation, you’ll only receive meal credits for 6 days/nights.

Deserts at Disney World

What are the terms?

  • Children (ages 3-9) MUST order from the children’s menu when available
  • Everyone on the reservation must be included on the Disney Dining Plans for entire duration of your stay
  • Disney Dining Plans must be purchased 48 hours in advance of your reservation and payment is due at the time of booking
  • Dining Plans do not include gratuity at most dining locations. Exceptions include Dining Shows and Fairytale Dining at Cinderella’s Royal Table
  • Meal credits cannot be transferred to anyone not included on your reservation
  • Meal entitlements (i.e. Quick Service Meal, Table-Service Meal, etc.) cannot be exchanged for a Snack or Beverage entitlement
  • Purchasing a Disney Dining Plan does not ensure a seat. Reservations are still HIGHLY recommended for some table-service, character dining, and signature restaurants
  • Disney Vacation Club members are not eligible for Premium or Platinum dining plans
  • Children under 3 years old do not qualify. Food can be shared or purchased independently for young children

Not All Dining Locations Are Created Equal

For the most part, each meal cost 1 credit (see the individual plans below for details on what is included in a meal). But, there are some exceptions. A meal at Disney Signature Restaurants will cost you 2 table-service credits per person. These restaurants include: Jiko – The Cooking PlaceFlying Fish CafeCalifornia GrillCitricosNarcoosee’sArtist PointYachtsman SteakhouseLe Cellier Steakhouse, and The Hollywood Brown Derby.

Dinner shows will also cost you 2 table-service credits per person. These restaurants include: Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical ReviewMickey’s Backyard BBQ, and Disney’s Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show.

Lastly, Character Dining at Fairytale Dining at Cinderella’s Royal Table will also cost 2 credits per person.

Disney Quick Service Dining Plan

This plan only includes meals at Quick service restaurants where there are no waiters to seat you. It’s the Disney version of “fast-food.” You walk up to a counter, place an order, pay (or, in the case of a dining plan, provide your Key to the World card), and then seat yourself. Gratuity is not typical at Quick Service restaurants. The Quick Service dining plan includes 2 Quick Service meals per person per day plus a snack and refillable mug.

Cost: $41.99 per aDisney Dining Plans Breakfast Buffetdult (ages 10+), $16.03 per child

Choose 2:

Breakfast – 1 juice, 1 entrée,1 single-serving, non-alcoholic beverage

Lunch – 1 entrée, 1 dessert, 1 single-serving, non-alcoholic beverage

Dinner – 1 entrée, 1 dessert, 1 single-serving, non-alcoholic beverage

Here is a list of all Quick Service restaurants eligible for dining plans at Walt Disney World.

Disney Dining Plan

This plan includes 2 meals per person, per day: 1 Quick Service restaurant, and 1 at a full buffet or table-service restaurant. The plan also includes 1 snack per person per night and 1 refillable mug.

Table-Service restaurants feature a host or hostess that will seat your party at a designated table and a server who will take orders and provide service. Payment comes at the end of the meal, and gratuity (not included in your dining plan) is typical. Reservations are also highly recommended.

Cost: $60.64 per adult (ages 10+), $19.23 per child

1 Full Buffet or 1 Table-Service Meal – 1 appetizer (Guests ages 3-9 only), 1 entrée, 1 dessert (lunch and dinner only), 1 juice (breakfast only), 1 single-serving, non-alcoholic beverage

1 Quick-Service Meal – 1 entrée, 1 dessert (lunch and dinner only), 1 juice (breakfast only), 1 single-serving, non-alcoholic beverage

Here is a list of all Table-Service restaurants eligible for dining plans at Walt Disney World.

Disney Dining Plans Salad

Disney Deluxe Dining Plan

This plan includes 3 meals per person, per day and they can be Quick Service,
Table-Service, or Buffet. Each person is also entitled to 2 snacks per day and a refillable mug.

Cost: $109.53 per adult (ages 10+), $29.86 per child

Snacks

Snacks are available at Quick Service restaurants, food carts, and some merchandise stores. Options typically include Ice Cream, a single-serving of popcorn or other snacks, a piece of fruit, or a beverage. Look for the purple Disney Dining Plans square on menus to indicate a qualifying snack.

Keeping Track

Keeping track of your meal plan credits may vary in complexity based upon your dining plan and the number of people in your party, but Disney does a pretty good job of keeping you up to date. Everything is tracked electronically, and your receipt from each dining location will indicate your remaining balance and how much you’ve used so far.

Are Disney Dining Plans Worth It?Disney Dining Plans Pasta Dish

The value of Disney Dining Plans really depends on your party, preferences and eating habits. For some people, it’s worth the price just to have dining paid and taken care of. For those of you (like us) who are concerned with getting the absolute best deal possible on the meals you’ll pay for anyway, check out this Disney Dining Calculator. We believe that this tool is based on 2014 prices, but it should give you a good ballpark. If you want pinpoint accuracy, you’ll just have to compare the Disney Dining Plans to the Disney restaurant menus that you’re interested in.

Epcot Food and Wine Festival 2014 Guide

Foodies rejoice! It’s almost time for the 19th Annual Epcot Food and Wine Festival at Walt Disney World in Florida, and this year’s event is bound to me more extravagant than ever. From September 19 – November 10, Epcot guests are invited to taste their way around the world with spectacular culinary options from across the globe, plus a vast selection of wines and live entertainment. Check out this special sneak preview video from The Disney Information Station.

Did you see those scallops?! Yummmmm! So, maybe that piqued your appetite. Here’s what you need to know:

How the Epcot Food and Wine Festival Works

If you’re a newbie to the Food and Wine Festival, the first thing that you need to know is that a a park ticket to Epcot World Showcase is required. That will cost about $100 per adult after taxes (a military discount may be applied). Once you’re in, each country has an established booth which serves delectable “local” dishes in small portions. Prices will vary, generally hovering just below $10 with some only costing a few bucks. Cash will be a hassle as you move from booth to booth, so we recommend paying with a credit card, gift card, or Disney Magicband if you’ve got one. Some dishes may also be applied to your Disney Dining Plan, so that might also save a few bucks.

Epcot Food and Wine Booths

  • Africa
  • Australia
  • Belgium
  • Brazil
  • Brewer’s Collection
  • Canada
  • China
  • Craft Beers
  • Desserts & Champagne
  • Farm Fresh – NEW!
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hawaii
  • Intermissions Cafe
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Mexico
  • Morocco
  • New Zealand
  • Patagonia – NEW!
  • Poland
  • Puerto Rico
  • Scotland
  • South Korea
  • Singapore
  • Terra

If you’re wondering what will be served at each booth head over to the Epcot Food and Wine Festival information page, where they’ve got the menus available for you to drool over.

Maximize Your Epcot Food and Wine Festival Experience

As with most events of this nature, the best thing to do is get there early and arrive with a gameplan. The lines will be shorter and the weather cooler earlier in the day. Also, the other guests are more likely to be feeling optimistic and sober. You better believe that after a full day of eating and drinking at least a few guests will get a bit rowdy. Seafood Dish at Epcot Food and Wine Festival

Call us crazy, but we prefer to enter the park with a planned route in mind. We examine the menus, establish a point of attack based upon ease of access and potential deliciousness, then plan to move through the park in the most efficient route possible. We even discuss contingency plans in case a booth is shut down or the lines are just too long. Yeah, maybe our approach is a bit excessive, but being prepared never hurt, so here’s the map from last year’s food and wine festival in case your half as crazy as us.

Epcot Food and Wine Festival Special Events

There is a lot more to do at the Food and Wine Festival than just eating and drinking. Take a cooking class with a world-class chef, watch culinary demonstrations, attend a food and wine pairing seminar, or even a mixology course. You might even run into a few celebrities and cooking show television stars. There are a TON of special events but some of them are not offered every day of the festival, and many of them are quite popular, so if you’re intent on a particular experience, be sure to make a reservation in advance by calling (407) 939-3378. Note that a few of these are free, but most of them do include separate costs and can get quite pricey. These events are included with the price of admission:

  • Back to Basics
  • The Chocolate Experience: From Bean to the Bar, hosted by Ghirardelli® Chocolate Company
  • Marketplace Discovery Passport
  • Book signings
  • Bottle signings
  • Meet ‘n’ greets
  • “Seasons of the Vine” film

Also free with admission to the park is the Beat Concert Series, which includes the following artists:

Jo Dee Messina (September 19 to September 21)

The Pointer Sisters (September 22 to September 23)

The Commodores (September 24 to September 25)

Christopher Cross (September 26 to September 27)

Hanson (September 28 to September 29)

Air Supply (September 30 to October 2)

STARSHIP Starring Mickey Thomas (October 3 to October 5)

Sugar Ray (October 6 to October 8)

Fuel (October 9 to October 10)

Sister Hazel (October 11 to October 12)

Richard Marx (October 13 to October 14)

Billy Ocean (October 15 to October 16)

Night Ranger (October 17 to October 19)

Smash Mouth (October 20 to October 22)

Jim Brickman (October 23 to October 24)

Los Lonely Boys (October 25 to October 26)

Wilson Phillips (October 27 to October 28)

Dennis DeYoung (original member of STYX)(October 29 to October 31)

38 Special (November 1 to November 2)

Boyz II Men (November 3 to November 5)

David Cook (November 6 to November 7)

Big Bad Voodoo Daddy (November 8 to November 10)

Conclusion

The Epcot Food and Wine Festival is truly one of Disney World’s premier annual events, and we recommend that any serious Disney-lover try it at least once. It does cost a pretty penny, but the experience, the food (oh, the food!), and drinks are all worth the price. Have you been to the Epcot Food and Wine Festival? Share your experience, favorite dish, and plans for this year in the comment section below!

Disney Restaurants You Must Try

Whether you’re a sophisticated foodie or a just a hungry vacationer that appreciates stupendous flavor, these Disney restaurant suggestions are sure to pique your appetite.

Before diving into our evaluations, here’s what you won’t find in this article:

  • Quick-service restaurants or food carts around the parks
  • Victoria and Albert’s – this luxury dining experience is definitely one of the most illustrious Disney restaurants, but we excluded it due to the exorbitant prices and the fact that children younger than 10 are not permitted
  • Every single restaurant on Disney property – we’re all about the best, or at least, what we consider the best. If you don’t agree with our picks, we’d love to read your opinion in the comments section toward the bottom of the page

Le Cellier Steakhouse

Located in the Canada Pavilion of Epcot, Le Cellier resembles exactly what it sounds like: the wine cellar of an elegant chateau. Rich wooden furniture, stone archways, and candle chandeliers add nicely to the refined décor.

Le Cellier is open for both lunch and dinner, but reservations are highly recommended for either as this is one of the most popular Disney restaurants.

Must-Try Appetizer: “Le Cellier” Seafood Salad ($17)

Must-Try Entrée: Dry-Aged Boneless Rib-Eye ($49)

Must-Try Dessert: Maple Crème Brûlée ($8)

Even though there are vegetarian options (House-made wild Mushroom Ravioli), this restaurant really specializes in steaks and seafood. If you’re not much a meat-eater, Le Cellier Steakhouse probably isn’t the best choice for you. Like most Disney restaurants, there is a children’s menu which includes pasta, chicken, salmon, and sirloin.

Click here for the full menu.

Visitors have said:

“One of the best meals I’ve ever eaten. Everything about this restaurant was amazing. The atmosphere was rustic and elegant. Every minute detail was thought through, from the subtle Canadian theme to how the menus lit up in case you have difficulty seeing in low lighting. Our server was excellent and extremely helpful with the menu. She took time to explain how every dish was prepared and gave her recommendations. We ordered two appetizers to share between the five of us- the cheese soup and classic poutine. The cheese soup was to die for! It was devoured within a minute of being placed on the table…. The steak was perfectly cooked and the risotto was the best I have ever had. The lamb and aged rib-eye were also excellent choices. Dessert was an amazing maple creme brule. Some of us also ordered the smokehouse chocolate bar, which was basically a fancy smore that actually smelled like a campfire. Everyone was so full but could not stop eating! We ate every last bite of the meal. The bill was very high ($350) but we paid with the Disney dining plan. It was easily worth the double credits. This is a meal that none of us will ever forget.” – posted on TripAdvisor

Jiko – The Cooking Place

Jiko features some of the most unique culinary offerings available at Disney. This is a great place to go if you want to experience spices and flavors that you won’t taste anywhere else. Jiko combines African, Indian, and Mediterranean cuisine into a delectable medley of gastronomic options.

Must-Try Appetizer: Crispy Duck “Bobotie” Roll ($12)

Must-Try Entrée: Spicy Botswana-style “Seswaa” Beef Short Rib ($46)

Must-Try Dessert: Ghanaian Chocolate and Kenyan Coffee Pot de Crème ($11)

Click here for the full menu.

Like the Animal Kingdom Lodge where Jiko is located, the atmosphere is generally pleasant and laid-back. Two wood-burning ovens and the golden savannah sunset wall give the restaurant an alluring ambiance, but we wouldn’t call it particularly unique.

Visitors have said:

“This is probably one of the best fine dining restaurants located within Disneyworld. Everything from the decor to the ambience to the service was outstanding. The extensive wine selection is 100% South African. The bottle we had was excellent. The food is delectable. I had the monkfish which was cooked to perfection. My wife’s short-ribs was mouth-watering and super tender. The cuisine is a blend of African, Asian fusion and they worked very well together. Prices are a little steep but well worth every penny.” – posted on TripAdvisor

California Grill

California Grill is our all-around favorite Disney restaurant. The food isn’t quite as extravagant as Victoria and Albert’s, but it definitely qualifies as fine dining. Disney cites the price at $30-$59.99 per adult meal, but that figure would be tough to meet if you’re interested in appetizers, drinks, and/or dessert. That being said, the prices are not unreasonable for the quality. It will all depend on your appetite but expect to pay $120-$150 for two adults.

California Grill has an impressive wine list that includes over 300 options, and there is also a hardy selection of craft beers and cocktails. The dinner menu is constantly in flux, taking advantage of seasonal specialties and innovative market-inspired cuisine. Below are some of our top picks:

Must-Try Appetizer: Sonomo Goat Cheese Ravioli ($15)

Must-Try Sushi: Spicy Kazan Roll ($26)

Must-Try Salad: Crispy Rock Shrimp Salad ($18)

Must-Try Entrée: Lamb Porterhouse ($49)

Must-Try Dessert: Warm Homemade Fritters ($12)

Click here for the full menu.

On the 15th floor of Disney’s Contemporary Resort where California Grill is located, you’ll have a remarkable vantage from which you can view the lagoon, Cinderella Castle, and the Magic Kingdom Fireworks Spectacular. If you’re dining before or after the fireworks show your reservation entitles you to view the fireworks from the lounge or outside observation deck. We recommend eating around sunset, enjoying the gorgeous twilight view, and then returning for the fireworks.

This is a very popular Disney restaurant, so you will definitely want to make a reservation (up to 180 days in advance) for seating in the main dining area. If you’re comfortable eating at the bar, those seats are available on a first-come-first-served basis and reservations are not accepted.

Visitors have said:

“My husband and I booked this restaurant a few months in advance as we were celebrating our Honeymoon in Disney. Upon arrival at the Hotel, the California Grill checkin is on the 2nd floor and you are escorted up to the restaurant via elevator. From the moment we arrived they walked us to our table whilst explaining where the observations decks were for each park along with a brief description of the kitchen. The service was second to none and we didn’t feel at all rushed. The food was simply amazing, I highly recommend the bison! We were on the dining plan and it is certainly worth 2 credits. For anyone considering this restaurant, you won’t be disappointed!!”– posted on TripAdvisor

Be Our Guest Restaurant

Confession: We haven’t actually visited this restaurant yet, since it was recently added to Magic Kingdom as part of Fantasyland. However, it definitely makes our personal must-try list. The restaurant is located inside Beast’s Castle and the dining room resembles the ballroom scene straight from Beauty and the Beast. Archways, chandeliers, mosaics, and all of the elegance fit for a princess make this a must-see. Critics have given the cuisine rave reviews, so below are our first picks of what we hope to try.

Appetizer: Mussels Provençal ($12.99)

Entrée: Thyme-scented Pork Rack Chop ($23.99)

Desserts: The “Grey Stuff” (Chocolate Shell, Cookie Crème topped with Lumiere’s special “Grey Stuff”) ($4.19)

Click here for the full menu.

Be Our Guest offers quick-service dining for lunch, but we’re aiming for the full sit-down dinner experience in the evening. The prices are relatively moderate, ranging from about $15-$30 per adult.
If you’ve dined at Be Our Guest, be sure to let us know in the comments section below. We would love to hear more about this spectacular new restaurant.

Visitors have said:

“The best dining experience in Disney World. Lets begin with the decor, it is the Beast’s castle. A cast member calls your party’s name and lhuge castle doors are opened for you to enter,it is a very large restaurant with a few rooms that all have magic touches. The food was superb, my family ate the steak, scallops and shrimp, chicken and pork chops, all were delicious. The staff was wonderful and after dinner the Beast makes an appearance and you go to special area to take pictures. With the special touches in each room you feel like you are in the movie.” – posted on TripAdvisor

Flying Fish Café

All of these restaurants are “must-try,” but if you’re a seafood lover like we are, Flying Fish Café should be your first stop. Located at Disney’s BoardWalk, this lively themed restaurant features an open kitchen, beautiful murals, and stylish modern décor.

Wine connoisseurs rejoice! Flying Fish has an extravagant wine list to complement any of its artisanal cheeses or delectable entrees.

Must-Try Appetizer: Yellowfin Tuna Tartare and Crispy Tempura Tuna-Vegetable Sushi Roll ($18)
Must-Try Salad: Mozzarella di Bufala alla Caprese ($15)

Must-Try Entrée: Brioche-crusted Cool Water Rainbow Trout and Pan-roasted Bay Scallops ($34)

Must-Try Dessert: Pine Nut and Almond-crusted Ice Box Blood Orange-Mascarpone Cheesecake ($8)

Note that Flying Fish also has non-seafood options that include an Angus New York Strip Steak, and Ancho-Chicken, and these are great too! – posted on TripAdvisor

Additional Great Disney Restaurants

  • ‘Ohana – Disney’s Polynesian Resort
  • Monsieur Paul – France pavilion at Epcot
  • Chef Mickey’s – Disney’s Contemporary Resort
  • Citrico’s – Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort
  • The Hollywood Brown Derby – Hollywood Studios

Think we’re missing something? Mention it in the comments section below!