Epcot’s Flower and Garden Festival – 2017 Coverage and Reviews

From March 1 to May 29 this year, Epcot is hosting my favorite festival: the Flower & Garden Festival. Below is a collection of some my favorite coverage of this year’s event. Elyssa and I plan to be done there in April to see some of this stuff first hand, but–for now–we’ll point you to some other sources to show you what is going on.

Outdoor Kitchens

Over the years, Flower & Garden has expanded its “Outdoor Kitchens” (i.e., Flower & Garden’s answer to Food & Wine’s country kiosks.) You can tell Disney is really serious about these kitchens, since it released a special, scratch-and-sniff, wrist band gift card for people to use at them.

As with Food & Wine, the best coverage of the individual items available at these these Kitchens comes from Josh over at easyWDW. Here are the link to his various reviews: (the NEW indicator means a new Kitchen this year, not a new review from Josh)

If you’re more concerned about just the new items for this year’s Festival, than TouringPlans has a post covering just those and Tom from WDW News Today has his list of the top 7 new dishes.

For more food coverage, Tessa Koten at TouringPlans has a list of her favorite items (which she labels as “family friendly”, though I don’t understand what about those items makes them such), and Robert Niles, over at Theme Park Insider has a brief write-up of some of the items he sampled.

Topiaries

Even though there is a growing emphasis on the Outdoor Kitchens, the original draw of the Flower & Garden Festival (and what really makes it special for me) is the wide array of topiaries that Disney puts out . As you would imagine, there is a lot of photography.

Cory Disbrow has some coverage in his signature style at the end of this post and

WDW Magic has a whole photo gallery.

Josh over at easyWDW has a walk around Future World as well a detailed look at the Festival Center (which is only open from 10am to 5pm on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday). The only “issue” with Josh’s review is that it might be comprehensive enough for you to just skip the Festival Center all together.

Other Media

If you’re someone who prefers to listen to your Flower & Garden coverage, then Lou has got you covered over at WDW Radio. On the other hand, if you’re someone who wants to watch some video coverage, then check out these videos from the DIS covering overall highlights:

and the more general “exploring” of the Festival:

The Disney Food Blog also has a video covering (you guessed it) the food:

Finishing Up

If, after all that, you still need coverage of the Flower & Garden Festival, then Tom Bricker has an overview post with some more photography over at Disney Tourist Blog, as does JeniLynn Knopp over at Inside the Magic. Finally, Denise at Mouse Steps has a list of 13 tips to help you enjoy your time there and a review of one of the new “Tea Tours” that’s available in the England pavilion.

That’s it for coverage this year! Enjoy the festival!

Still my Role Model (even if he's not there)
Still my Role Model (even if he’s not there)

Last One to Leave, Turn Off the (Osborne) Lights

The End of the Osborne Lights

On Wednesday night, the Osborne Lights faded to black for the last time. Thankfully, a lot of our favorite Disney blogs were there to cover the event (and give people like me–who couldn’t be there in person–a chance to see what the Lights were like in their final moments):

Mouse Steps had an excellent photo post, including a video of the show’s final moments:



WDW Magic had a photo post and an epic 10 angle video of “Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24” and the last moments of the show before it went dark:



WDW News Today had a nice written recap and video of the final moments:



TouringPlans had a recap of the last night and a video of their own:



And with that, we say goodbye to the Osborne Lights. As I’ve said before, I’m sad they’re going away, and I hope they come back (in some form) some day.

The Start of the Studio’s Star Wars Invasion

Last week, Disney started rolling out some of its previously announced Star Wars related attractions and food items. Though Elyssa and I probably won’t get to see any of it with our own eyes for a couple of months (unless we decide to just head down some other random weekend…), there has been a ton of coverage online about what is available.

If you want to get the most in-depth summary of everything (especially in the context of overall Studios touring strategies), I recommend that you check out this post by Josh over at easyWDW. In addition to covering all new entertainment and new food items, he also explains how to best fit a visit to the Launch Bay into your day:

If you do want to do the meet and greets [available at the Launch Bay], I suggest visiting as late in the evening as possible and ideally 90 to 120 minutes before close. … The benefit of going late is that we know for a fact how morning touring goes, so we can stick to the tried and true strategy there and enjoy short waits at Toy Story, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, Tower of Terror, and other Meet and Greets.

Based on recent treads in crowd levels, Josh’s strategy makes a ton of sense. Take advantage of the lower crowd levels associated with rope drop to get the most popular attractions out of the way and then visit the Launch Bay when most people probably already have. It will also be interesting to see what the crowd levels are like in the Launch Bay after it has been open for a few months.

If you’re mainly interested in seeing photos of the new Launch Bay, then you can check out the companion photo post from easyWDW, or these posts onWDW News Today and WDW Magic. Both Inside the Magic and The DIS also have video walk throughs of what you can see in the Launch Bay. For those of you more interested in pictures of the new food items, I suggest checking out WDW News Today and Disney Food Blog.

On a semi-related note, various sources are also saying the new Symphony in the Stars fireworks show is rumored to start on December 18. (You can also now start booking reservations for a new dessert party associated with the show for dates starting January 5, 2016.) This is a little surprising to me, since I feel like the Osborne Lights are enough to draw people to the Studios over the holidays. I have always assumed they would wait until after the Osborne Lights are taken down to start showing Symphony in the Stars.

Star Wars toys lose all their value if you take them out of the box.
Star Wars toys lose all their value if you take them out of the box.

News Nuggets from Around Disney World

So many nuggets, they don't even fit in the cup.
So many nuggets, they don’t even fit in the cup.

It’s about time for a hearty helping of news nuggets. As you are probably aware, new Star Wars offerings opened at The Studios this week, but since Star Wars is so important (both to Disney, and to Elyssa and me), I will be saving a recap of that coverage for another post.

On to the nuggets!

We’ll close out with some links to the various Christmas decorations that are up around Disney World, including gingerbread sculptures at Contemporary, Mickey’s Village at the Yacht Club, and the famous gingerbread house at the Floridian.

News Nuggets (Special, Double-Sized Edition!)

Double-Sized Corn Dog Nuggets. Yum.
Double-Sized Corn Dog Nuggets. Yum.

While we were away on an actual visit to Disney World, we fell a little behind on the various bits of news that came out over the past couple of weeks. We intend to rectify that situation with today’s special, double sized, edition of Rope Drop [dot] Net’s News Nuggets:

NOTE: While I was preparing this News Nuggets update, Disney released additional details about the nighttime “Rivers of Light” show coming to the Animal Kingdom. I couldn’t wait to share that news, and already posted about it here.

Lastly (and of particular interest to Elyssa), next year’s Dapper Days have been announced: * April 16 – Magic Kingdom * November 12 – EPCOT

I think we already have a Kivus & Camera wedding booked for April 16, so I guess we’ll see how badly Elyssa wants to go down for the one in November.

News Nuggets from Around Disney World

Just after dusk at Epcot
Just after dusk at Epcot

It’s another week, and it’s another round of News Nuggets. As with last week, I’m including a “stock” image from Disney World until Elyssa and I can build up our catalog of corndog nugget imagery. (Trust me, she’s looking forward to that part of our trip.)

  • New Minnie “Seasonal Dining” Experience at Hollywood & Wine It makes sense to add some more character dining to The Studios, and Hollywood & Vine is the logical choice for where to put it (especially since its the go-to spot for various “special” character dining events.) The addition of this experience as “year long”, however, seems to be another indication of the lack of a Star Wars-specific special dining experiences coming up. (And, relatedly, lack of a Star Wars Weekend?)
  • Custom Magic Bands now Available in TomorrowLand I know I’m sucker for it, but I really want one. I have no idea what characters, color, etc… that I’ll pick out, but it seems inevitable that I pick one of these up during my next trip.
  • Rick Bayless to open Frontera Fresco at Disney Springs I think they’re doing a good job of rolling out these restaurants at a pace that allows each announcement some room to breath. Hopefully, Frontera Fresco will get the same positive reaction that we are seeing from The BOATHOUSE and Morimoto Asia.
  • Enhancements to Shop Disney Parks App allow for resort and front of the park delivery It’s kind of an interesting concept. You see something in a store while you’re roaming around the park, but—instead of having to buy it right then—you head off to your ADR and buy it while you’re sitting down for dinner. Then, your item is then waiting for you at your resort the next day.
  • Sorcerer Mickey Meet-and-Greet now in the Old Studio Backlot Area This is an “interesting” place to put Sorcerer Mickey, but you have to have this meet-and-greet somewhere. It’s too classic of a Mickey look to not have a place where you can see it.
  • New Musical Group Debuts in Morocco Here’s the blurb from the Disney Parks Blog: “Ribab Fusion, a popular band from northern Africa, celebrates Morocco’s Amazigh culture with everything from smooth grooves to high-energy funk, fusing the traditional sound of the single-stringed ribab with a contemporary, Afropop style.” It seems like an interesting choice, but I’ll reserve judgment until I see them in person. If you prefer to see watch a video now, however, you can find one here.
  • Epcot’s Holidays Around the World to Start November 27 I always enjoy these little experiences, so I’m glad to see they’ll be back before too long. It’s the little touches like this (and the fabulous decorations at the resorts) that really make the low-crowd period in early December a great time to visit Disney World.

Though not exactly “news”, the construction of the Magic Kingdom Hub has reached another milestone. If you want to see a great set of pictures of what the Hub looks like now, I suggest this post from Da Mouse.

Five Items I want to Try at 2015 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival

It’s less than a month until Elyssa and I head down to Disney World to visit the Food & Wine festival (and run a race, or something….). That means it’s time to really start figuring out which booths I might want to visit at this year’s festival.

My process is simple: start with Josh of easyWDW’s reviews of the new (one and two) and the returning food items, and supplement with other reviews, as necessary. (As you’d probably guess, I would encourage you to check out Josh’s posts for the full description and photos of all the items.)

After going through the various reviews, here are five items that I know I want to try. I’m sure I’ll add to this list as I read more coverage, go back over reviews, etc…, but this is my starting point:

Crispy Pork Belly with Black Beans and Tomato (Brazil)

Josh from easyWDW describes this as:

It’s high quality meat with little fat and a crispy texture, despite sitting in the generous spoonful of flavorful black beans

Potato and Leek Waffle with Beer-Braised Beef and Smoked Gouda Cream (Belgium)

Josh from easyWDW describes this as:

Several large bites of tender, slow cooked beef top a freshly pressed waffle. It’s basically beef stew over a waffle with a little bit of an onion-y kick from the leeks

Chilaquiles de pollo (Mexico)

Josh from easyWDW describes this as:

[A] baked enchilada kind of thing with some corn chips that are no longer particularly crunchy. But it’s piled high with seasoned shredded chicken, melted cheese, and the other ingredients to make a flavorful dish that probably doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but tastes better than anything currently served at the Mexico quick service.

Tacos de camarón (Mexico)

Josh from easyWDW describes this as:

Battered shrimp, pico de gallo, pickled onions, and chipotle mayonnaise is a slightly different take on Mexico’s usual shrimp taco. This is the best version yet, with four lightly fried shrimp sitting underneath a creamy, spicy chipotle mayo and the piquant onions adding a little crunch along with the pico.

Liquid Nitro Chocolate Almond Truffle with Warm Whiskey Caramel (Next Eats)

WDW Magic describes this as:

It is made right in-front of you using liquid nitrogen to rapidly cool the truffle mix. It is all topped in a warm whiskey caramel to make a delicious sweet treat

Early Coverage of the 2015 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival

Sunset at Epcot
Sunset at Epcot

The 2015 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival officially opened on Friday and (as you might expect) there has been a ton of early coverage.

My go-to source for reviews of food items at Disney World is easyWDW and Josh has already reviewed all of the new items at the festival in these two posts: Part 1 and Part 2. He’s already sold me on the $5 Chilaquiles de pollo from Mexico:

This is not exactly what I was expecting – I thought it would be more of a nachos situation, but this is more of a baked enchilada kind of thing with some corn chips that are no longer particularly crunchy. But it’s piled high with seasoned shredded chicken, melted cheese, and the other ingredients to make a flavorful dish that probably doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but tastes better than anything currently served at the Mexico quick service. It’s an above average value that’s easily shared.

Sounds great. If you’re interested in items returning from previous years, Josh also put together a post on those items a couple of months ago. Of course, though I enjoy the food-based posts, I’m still eagerly anticipating his reviews of the various new craft beer options available at this year’s festival. (Yes, I know there is a site dedicated to reviewing beer at Walt Disney World, but since at least one of their reviewers has said she is not a huge IPA fan I discount the site’s opinions pretty heavily.)

UPDATE: September 30, 2015 – I was contacted by Scott of Beers & Ears via Twitter, and he explained that though Jenn isn’t an IPA fan, he actually is. He also pointed me to his recent review of BrewDog’s Punk IPA as an example of an IPA he’s enjoyed. Given this new information, I might have to re-evaluate how I interpret the opinions of the writers on Beers & Ears.

TouringPlans has a series of posts looking at this year’s festival, including one taking a look at this year’s Food & Wine Festival branded merchandise, one reviewing some of the new food items, and one giving some general updates about things like the Chase Lounge and the “Remy’s Ratatouille Hide and Squeak scavenger hunt”. I especially like Julie Mascardo’s description of the new Chocolate-Almond Truffle from The Chew’s “Next Eats” booth:

Essentially the chocolate truffle is a chocolate mousse made into a ball and then dipped into liquid nitrogen, which instantly freezes it. The frozen ball is then tapped with a small hammer to crack it open, and almond powder is sprinkled over the top and then it is coated with a whiskey-caramel sauce.

Yes, please.

Both WDW Magic and Disney Food Blog also have reviews and recommendations of items at this year’s festival, but I found the WDW Magic reviews lacked detailed descriptions of the food items, and I think my sense of taste differs slightly from those who write for DFB. That said, I’m including the links should your preferences differ from mine.

One new wrinkle I plan on trying this year is the Food and Wine Tracker app by Dave Kennedy of disneypodcast.net. I first heard about this app via EatingWDW and, though it seems fairly basic, I think I am going to give it a shot. (Of course, if easyWDW puts together a PDF version of its 2015 Food & Wine coverage, I’ll probably end up downloading that as well.)

Finally, if you want to get a flavor (pun kind of intended) of what this year’s Food & Wine festival looks like, there are a ton of photos over on DISboards.com. The gang from the DIS also put together this video walk through: (which seems like a great way to end this post)

Early Reviews of Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar

As you may have heard on Twitter yesterday, Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar is now open at Downtown Disney (or “Disney Springs” if you’re reading this after September 29, 2015.) As is usually the case when a new place to grab food or drink opens, there have been a ton of new reviews posted.

The most thorough review of the bar, so far, comes courtesy of Dani (last name withheld) at TouringPlans. Her review features a good mix of photos, a description of the arrival experience (texting people that they can return is so much nicer than a pager-based system), and a nice rundown of the food and drinks she tried:

The calamari flatbread [$14.99] is a perfect choice for calamari fans. The harissa spread gives a nice Mediterranean flavor. This is a great option to share. The Air Pirate’s Pretzels ($8.99) were also a surprise hit. The caraway seeds add depth to the flavor, the beer cheese is way-too-good , though the mustard may be too strong for some palates.

(For people liked me who have no idea what “harissa” is, it’s “a Tunisian hot chili pepper paste the main ingredients of which are roasted red peppers, serrano peppers and other hot chili peppers and spices and herbs”.)

Josh from easyWDW also had an excellent write-up on the bar, that was full of his usual snark:

Lisa ordered the $10.25 Reggie’s Revenge: Florida Cane ‘Orlando Orange’ Vodka, Midori Melon Liqueur, White Cranberry Juice, and fresh Lime Juice. Ordinarily, you want to avoid just about anything originating in Florida, perhaps with the exception of this week’s episode of Cops, but Florida Cane does a good job with their vodkas. (emphasis added)

As you would expect from an easyWDW review, the article is full of good pictures (including some artsy titled ones) and good, practical advice about what you might want to actually order. (I admit I was pleased that he also seemed to enjoy the calamari flatbread, since I have been intrigued by that option since the menu was first posted. Also, his running joke about the name of the bar is fantastic.)

If you’re looking for more photos from the bar, then Denise at MouseSteps has a post with about a 100 of them. WDW Magic has also nice, concise, review, if you still want more coverage.

Star Wars Launch Bay to Open at The Studios in December

WDW Magic is reporting that artwork on the building that will be the future home of the Star Wars Launch Bay indicates that the new “attraction” will open in December of this year. Personally, I was hoping they would get it open by early November, but I really had no doubt that they’d have it ready before the Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens in mid-December.

Rope Drop Changes Coming to Hollywood Studios

WDW Magic reports that changes are coming to the opening procedure at Hollywood Studios. The biggest change comes at 8:30am (for a 9:00am park opening):

Guests without breakfast reservations will be allowed through the touch points at 8:30am and onto Hollywood Blvd. Guests will be able to go as far at the 50’s Prime Time Cafe, Min and Bill’s Dockside, and to the Trolley Car Cafe, with ropes at each of those locations.

There will then be a “rope drop” at these locations at 8:45am. (As you might expect, some of the shopping and the Starbucks will be open at 8:30 when guests are let into the park.)

Personally, I prefer this opening procedure. It lets people spread out a little and then better position themselves for either heading to Toy Story Midway Mania or Rockin’ Rollercoaster.