I recently had a great opportunity to catch up with a good friend in Orlando, Florida. His family was in town for March Madness and I joined along so we could attend the Flower and Garden Festival.
I got invited for a weekend at Disney World for the Flower and Garden Festival and a few basketball games.
We had been talking about the Food and Wine Festival all year long at the South Pole Station. As soon as my friend mentioned that the Flower and Garden Festival is a mini-version of the Food and Wine Festival, I immediately used some of my airline miles for a flight to Orlando.
My friend had a hotel room with two beds so I just stayed in his extra bed all week. Luckily, he had hotel miles so it wasn’t too expensive. Our weekend was planned as follows:
I landed in Orlando and met my friend at Disney Springs. We wandered Disney Springs (Disney’s official shopping outlet) until his family showed up.
Then we got lunch and did some shopping. I ended up at the Coke factory getting a massive tray of root beer floats. There were eight separate root beer floats and each one had a different kind of Coca-Cola product. It was awesome!
Then we ended up at the hotel room for a shower and a quick nap. For dinner, we ended up at a teppanyaki bar (you know, the ones that the cook flings shrimp in the air and lights onion volcanoes on fire?). I had not been to one of these in years, as well.
Our night was filled with March Madness, the annual college basketball tournament. People fly all over the country finding the stadium that their alma mater or favorite college is playing at just to get tickets.
The energy of these games is exhilarating. I had never been to a physical game but I grew up cheering the Utah Utes on while they played in March Madness. The team won that we were rooting for, which was awesome! By the end of the game, I was beat. We went directly back to the hotel and crashed out.
Our entire day was spent at Hollywood Studios at Disney World! I had not been to Disney World since my mom had graduated from college when I was a child so this was a blast from the past.
The food inside Hollywood Studios is just basic amusement park fare. Burgers, tacos, ice cream, and fried chicken strips dominated most menus. Admittedly, Disney’s strong point is their desserts, not their regular food in the parks. That was not the main focus for this day, though.
I was OK with eating this food while I was flying through the air on rides and running around with Mickey and Donald. The day spent at Hollywood Studios was so much fun. Even though there was a particular ride that took an hour and a half to get onto, the rest of the day was filled with everything I hoped.
Third Day – The Flower and Garden Festival:
The Flower and Garden Festival is a yearly event that is held at Epcot, one of four Disney-themed parks. If you have never been to Epcot, it is massive! The locals that go to Disney World every year seem to joke that Epcot is not a day long visit. It takes at least a couple days.
During this month long festival, however, the entire park is FILLED with elaborate flower and garden displays. It seemed every time I turned a corner I was met with another display dedicated to a different Disney movie. I love flowers and I love photographing flowers so everything about this was great.
To top it off, my friend hooked us up with passes to get into some of the most popular rides without having to wait in line.
If you have ever been to ANY Disney Park, you would know how big of a deal this is. Some rides take up to 3 1/2 hours to go on.
The main reason I came was for the food. During this festival, the Flower and Garden Festival put up culturally specific food stands all around the park. Most of Epcot is split into different cultural themes and each food stand corresponds to this. There was 15 in all but my favorites were the German booth, the American BBQ booth, and the Caribbean booth.
I also really liked the Florida Native booth but the Watermelon Cucumber Slush I got had a massive ice cube in the cup. This meant I got far less slush than I expected. Most of the food stands were hit-or-miss but I didn’t dislike any of them.
In total, my friend hit up all 15 food stands and I ordered from 14 food stands.
Since my friend had graciously let me sleep in his hotel room, I could afford to spend all the money I expected to spend on a hotel room on food! Most food stands I ordered two items from their menu but the German food stand I got all four items on their menu! Haha. Each food stand generally had two or three main dishes, a couple dessert options, and a few cocktails/beer options.
The food stands were not free and each item can cost between $3-$11. On average, most things costed about $5. As you can see, that could add up if you ordered a few things from every stand….Totally worth it, though.
After we went on a few more rides and went souvenir shopping for the families, we headed back to the hotel room.
Then we got changed for the last March Madness game with my friend’s family!
For some reason, the stadium had “long lens photography equipment restrictions” for this one specific game. This dumb rule had me running back and forth between the car and security. Just a few days ago, I was able to bring all of my equipment into the game and take some photos for everyone on my websites.
Apparently, big games like this get photo restrictions. I still got some great photos from one of my lenses and a nifty trick I learned with my camera but not quite as good. This had me miss tip-off.
My shaky start getting into the game did not get better when I found out the team we were cheering for was having a tough time, as well.
The team played very well but in the end, they lost. That was ok, though. I made some new friends from my buddy’s family and we had a blast yelling at the referees (which, inherently, were terrible. haha). I was also able to get this amazing shot:
I also got to spend a great weekend with a good friend of mine and his family at the Flower and Garden Festival. Even after all of that, I ended up eating my weight in Disney foods. Those simple things are what make a good weekend.