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Flowers and fun at Epcot
By PETER COUTURE
Published April 29, 2007
[Walt Disney World]
Here's a first impression of the 14th annual Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival: Topiaries have come a long way.
ORLANDO - Here's a first impression of the 14th annual Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival: Topiaries have come a long way.
A pirate ship with Peter Pan, Captain Hook and a cable-suspended Tinker Bell anchors the entrance to the theme park and is part of the more than 70 intricate topiaries sprinkled throughout the venue.
Horticultural manager Eric Darden says people so associate the iconic shrubberies with Walt Disney World that when he travels, the first question he is invariably asked is, "Are you the one who makes those figures out of plants?"
Darden says topiary design has advanced in the past five years from what were once sculpted green shrubs after Disney let its experts experiment with different plants and other elements. That creativity shows in this year's pirates and princesses theme - from an embracing Cinderella and Prince Charming to a 14-foot-tall swashbuckling Goofy.
Darden says he meets guests who visit Epcot only for the festival and its estimated 30-million blooms.
But what if you're not into flowers and gardens? This year, there are even more activities you can do with your kids, such as:
- An expanded Growing Future Gardeners exhibit Germany Pavilion, where parents and kids can see a daily ladybug release and get ideas for projects such as a pizza garden (the herbs needed for your favorite pie).
- Mower Mania (Future World East) gives kids a chance to drive a radio-controlled lawn mower around a lawn course. Darden says the genesis of this activity was - what else? - a fellow cast member (as Disney employees are called) who dreamed that her son was playing with his radio-controlled car on a park berm.
- A "lift and sniff" Fragrance Garden (France Pavilion) has the flowers and plants used to create Guerlain perfumes.
If you want to cultivate a green thumb, there's a new venue for you. The visiting experts who are part of the festival's Great American Gardeners series move to the Garden Odyssey Center for their presentations.
The first 40 guests for each program can take part in the activities.
As always, the festival is divided into theme weekends. On the popular Mother's Day Weekend, mom gets a complimentary flower. The festival, which has been lengthened this year, ends June 3. It is included in the park's regular admission, which for one day/one park is $67 for ages 10 and older and $56 for ages 3 to 9. (The price per day drops if you choose a multiday ticket option and increases if you choose the park hopper option).
For schedules and programs, see disneyworld.com (search "flower") or call (407) 934-7639.
More Orlando news
SeaWorld: The popularity of pirates hasn't gone unnoticed at the park, where the new show "Elmo and the Bookaneers" encourages kids to read. The 20-minute musical runs through Labor Day weekend. Opening on Memorial Day weekend are three new kiddie rides in Shamu's Happy Harbor: the Ocean Commotion boat ride, the Flying Fiddler lift ride and the Sea Carousel. For information, call toll-free 1-800-327-2424 or go to www.seaworld.com.
Wet 'n Wild: The park is opening a major addition in May. Brain Wash is a six-story tube ride that drops into a domed funnel. For information, call toll-free 1-800-992-9453 or go to www.wetnwildorlando.com.
Guidebooks: Zagat Survey, the company best known for its red restaurant guides, has released its first Walt Disney World Insider's Guide ($15.95). The guide, based on the experiences of almost 5,000 parkgoers, reviews all of Disney's Orlando theme parks, from rides to resorts to restaurants. A taste: Soarin' at Epcot ranks as the most popular attraction.
Orlando is one of the world's most popular tourist attractions, right in our back yard. In this monthly column, Peter Couture will report on what's new and what's worth the drive, be it rides, restaurants or relaxation.