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Oz the Great and Powerful Lands at Epcot’s International Flower and Garden Festival

The marvelous land of Oz has captured the imaginations of people for over 100 years. Chances are good that this wondrous place has sparked your imagination, whether you’re a school kid, bank teller, rocket scientist—or a horticulturist like Eric Darden.

Eric is the Manager of Horticulture for the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival. This year, the event is presenting one of the most ambitious dreams that Eric, his team and his fellow Disney Parks cast members have ever made come true.

“The Land of Oz Garden is one of the biggest single areas we’ve ever created for the Festival,” said Eric. “It starts in the ‘Kansas’ section, where kids can play midway games in the tents.”

In Walt Disney Pictures “Oz The Great and Powerful” — which opens today nationwide — you’ll see Kansas in black and white, Oz in dazzling color and all in three-dimensional RealD splendor (at select theaters). But at this new Epcot garden, of course everything’s blooming in full color — from the ring toss game and fun mirrors to the Baum Circus tents (named for L. Frank Baum, author of all 14 original Oz books).

“As you walk along, you’ll seem to travel through Oz, where the kids can enjoy the large playground,” explained Eric. Newly designed, this playground sparkles with details that celebrate the film. As the kids play, grown-ups will appreciate the nearby shaded chairs. Look on the other side of this area and you’ll see that it’s actually themed to the Wizard’s deflated hot air balloon!

Now through May 19, 2013, The Land of Oz Garden is just part of the overall new excitement at the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival.

A dazzling array of unusual flowers and plants suggest the setting of Walt Disney Pictures’ “Oz The Great and Powerful,” including a bed of yellow pansies arranged to resemble a very familiar brick road—plus some dazzling red glass poppies. These amazing creations were prepared especially for The Land of Oz Garden by artist/sculptor Craig Mitchell Smith using his own elaborate technique of cutting, heating, shaping and reheating each flower—a process that takes four days per poppy!

Now through May 19, 2013, The Land of Oz Garden is just part of the overall new excitement at the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival.

Now through May 19, 2013, The Land of Oz Garden is just part of the overall new excitement at the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival. “Now we have great food and beverage options at twelve Garden Marketplaces,” says Eric. “Now it’s all tied together—from the garden to your table—better than ever.

Now through May 19, 2013, The Land of Oz Garden is just part of the overall new excitement at the Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival.

13 Reasons to Visit Walt Disney World Resort in 2013

It seems there’s always a new reason to visit Walt Disney World Resort – whether it’s the debut of a new guest offering, an update made to a favorite attraction, or the return of a fun annual event, there’s always something to do and see at our parks.

That said, here are 13 new reasons to visit Walt Disney World Resort in 2013.

Splitsville Luxury Lanes opened at Downtown Disney at the Walt Disney World Resort

1. Splitsville Luxury Lanes opened at Downtown Disney exactly two weeks ago on December 19. No doubt this new location will be a big draw for guests of all ages who love to bowl, dance, play pool and dine.

Dining at the new Monsieur Paul restaurant in the France pavilion at Epcot

2. Another recent debut is the Monsieur Paul restaurant in the France pavilion at Epcot. The restaurant now features a new menu created by Chef Francesco Santin.

3. Senses – A Disney Spa at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort just debuted to guests. I don’t know about you, but I hope to hit up this newly reimagined location for a facial or massage in the coming year.

4. As Disney Parks Blog Author Tom Smith mentioned earlier, we’ll have a lot of fun surprises to look forward to in 2013 with Limited Time Magic.

5. The Atlanta Braves will return to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex for spring training, which means a chance to attend fun preseason games beginning February 22 against the Detroit Tigers.

6. Characters from “Doc McStuffins” and “Sofia the First” will be added into the “Disney Junior – Live on Stage!” show at Disney’s Hollywood Studios on February 15.

7. The Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival, its fun topiaries, and the Flower Power Concert Series will return for some spring fun March 6. As we previously shared, this year’s festival will also whisk guests back to the land of Oz.

8. We’ve marked some milestone anniversaries at Magic Kingdom Park and Epcot in the last two years. This spring, Disney’s Animal Kingdom will celebrate its 15th year.

9. My fellow blog author Darrell Fry just announced that the Drew Brees Passing Academy and Tournament will be held at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, June 27-30. Sounds like an amazing opportunity for football fans!

10. A newly updated California Grill will debut at Disney’s Contemporary Resort this summer (date TBA). In addition to decor, Chef Brian Piasecki is also tweaking the menu, which will continue to focus on fresh, seasonal creations.

11. The 31st Night of Joy returns to Magic Kingdom Park September 6-7, this year featuring Steven Curtis Chapman and Michael W. Smith as the main acts.

Big Thunder Mountain at the Magic Kingdom Park

12. Last fall, we shared the news that an interactive queue is coming to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at Magic Kingdom Park. Should be interesting to see exactly what materializes at this attraction in 2013.

Princess Fairytale Hall coming to New Fantasyland at Magic Kingdom Park in 2013

13. Princess Fairytale Hall, another new addition to Magic Kingdom Park, will open in New Fantasyland in 2013 (exact date TBA). This will be the new home for Disney princesses to meet their loyal subjects in the Magic Kingdom Park. To open in the Castle Courtyard in the center of Fantasyland, the regal space will provide the perfect setting for meeting Cinderella, and Aurora and the other Disney princesses.

Which event or new offering are you looking forward to most? Let us know in the “comments” section below.

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