DW and I just adore the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival. The F&G Festival and the Food & Wine Festival in the fall are our two favorite events of the year. Every year I say F&G is bigger and more beautiful than the previous year, and 2006 is no exception. The park is alive with the color of millions of beautiful blooms accented by numerous displays of charming character topiaries.
Friday was the opening day of the Festival, and the first thing that greets you as you pass through the turnstiles is the stunning Tunnel of Love topiary “Crazy Over Daisy” featuring Donald and Daisy sailing through heart-shaped arches. It’s truly amazing what the Disney folks can do with flowers and plants.
Before everyone starts asking for pictures, we didn’t feel like being burdened with a camera on our first day (a wise choice since it later rained quite a bit) but we’ll be back out numerous times during the coming weeks and will be sure to post some photos.
We got to Epcot about 1:30 and headed straight to see Paul James, the Premiere Weekend’s special guest in the Great American Gardeners series. Paul James is the host of HGTV’s “Gardening By The Yard,” and he’s just as down-to-earth and funny in person as he is on his TV show. He did an hour-long Q&A with the audience in sweltering 90-degree heat but still managed to make people forget how uncomfortable the outdoor venue was.
In past years the Great American Gardeners series has been held inside the Festival Center at Innoventions West, but much of that space has been taken up by the new Character Connection that replaced the Character Caravan bus. If Friday’s heat was any indication, moving the Gardeners series outdoors was a really bad idea. Paul James even mentioned that WDW officials were contemplating either moving the venue indoors or setting up big fans outside for the next day’s shows.
After listening to Paul James, we went inside the Festival Center and checked out the gardening merchandise and artwork. Every year we find something we like – this time it was a pair of beautiful bas-relief colored tiles with flowers and butterflies.
We had planned on going to the 5:45 Flower Power Concert with Nelson (Rick Nelson’s children) and began a slow walk around World Showcase to look at all the beautiful displays. We got as far as France when the skies opened and delivered the first significant rain Orlando has seen in a couple of months.
We took shelter in the Guerlain perfume botique (how fortunate for DW) and had to wait quite a while for the rain to let up so we could at least walk between the raindrops. We struck out again but now everything was wet and sticky, including us.
Walking towards the America Gardens Theater, we debated if we wanted to sit on wet seats (if we couldn’t get seats under cover) to listen to Nelson. We’ve seen them several times before, and although they do a great job of paying tribute to their dad’s music, they’re not on our must-see list.
As we approached the theater, the long line of people standing in the rain waiting to be admitted sealed our decision. Sorry Nelson, but it was off to an early dinner at MGM’s Hollywood & Vine.
We continued to circle World Showcase, taking in the beautiful sights, but with the weather so nasty we did a rush job and will examine things more closely on another visit.
We rarely bother with Advance Dining Reservations before we head to the parks. Usually we just check with Guest Relations after we arrive and most times we don’t have a problem getting close to what we want. Friday was no exception as we stopped by Epcot Guest Relations on our way out around 5:15 and secured two ADRs for Hollywood & Vine for 7:20.
When we arrived at Epcot it was quite crowded until the rain chased a lot of people away. It must have done the same thing at MGM because the park wasn’t crowded at all. We went to the Tune-In Lounge for a drink before dinner and were seated immediately upon checking in at 7:10.
Hollywood & Vine had its usual great buffet, but the delicious turkey pot roast no longer is on the menu. It’s been replaced by a traditional beef pot roast – very tasty, to be sure, but not quite the same. Our server also warned us that management likely is going to take the corn spoonbread (another of my favorites) off the menu, too.
MGM was open until 10 p.m., so we still had some time available after dinner. We went on one of our favorites, the Great Movie Ride (our first and only real attraction of the day), and for the first time in our experience the gangster who commandeers the guest vehicles was played by a female. It was an interesting change. It’s funny, though, because of all the times we’ve been on the ride, we’ve seen the cowboy version only once.
After GMR we just wandered around for awhile, stopping in at Tatooine Traders to look at Star Wars merchandise, and then ended up at The Write Stuff, one of our favorite shops. There, much to our surprise, we found the Mickey tape dispenser that completes the office set we bought at Christmas at World of Disney.
They were out of the tape dispenser when we bought the items, and we found out later that the set was being test-marketed. The dispenser wasn’t expected to be offered when the set was marketed to the general public. At any rate, it was a very pleasant way to end our day.