Epcot’s 21st International Flower and Garden Festival offers the chance to mingle with TV stars and brush up on cooking and gardening skills.

I forgot that Disney’s Space Mountain was so thrilling. This twirling, twisting roller coaster thrusts you through space – even more exciting when you can’t anticipate the next drop because you’re in total darkness surrounded by stars. I loved every second.

My last Disney experience happened a decade ago, but the combination of my passion for thrilling rides and a festival highlighting two favorite hobbies, gardening and cooking, lured me to Walt Disney World and the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival.

From March 5 through May 18, celebrity experts from HGTV and DIY Network make appearances at the festival. I was hoping to get some helpful hints – especially tips on re-doing my kitchen from Alison Victoria of “Kitchen Crashers” or learn landscaping ideas/techniques from Chris Lambton of “Going Yard.”

Strolling through fabulous gardens interspersed throughout the park was inspiring. Topiaries abound – almost 100 – and in true Disney style, no detail was missed. Although inspired by these creations, I was daunted by the meticulous craftsmanship and, thankfully, realized my own limitations.

So, I stuck to studying the multi-colored flower beds, pondering their placement in my own backyard. Other than mingling with the celebrities, there were opportunities to attend gardening workshops provided by Disney horticulturists. Their titles ranged from “Magical Hummingbirds” to “Monarch Butterflies” to “Diagnosing Your Veggie Problems.”

Next on my list was a visit to the outdoor kitchens, set throughout the World Showcase promenade. Delectable bites and samplings with themes of various countries were tempting at every turn.

My two new favorite attractions that provided a thrill equivalent to Space Mountain were Epcot’s Soarin’ and Mission: SPACE. Soarin’ simulates a breathtaking adventure of hang-gliding over California’s fabulous natural wonders, from the mountains to the deserts to the coastline. Unless you harness yourself into a glider, this is as close to the real thing as you’ll ever get – wind in your face and all.

Mission: SPACE takes you on a flight to Mars. Yes, really – blasting off, gravity pull and dodging asteroids. How does Disney do this?

After packing in all the exciting adventures I could handle in one day, I made my way to Epcot’s France Pavilion. Always the Francophile, I would never turn down a croissant.

Their latest update is Monsieur Paul, an epicurean delight deserving of a special occasion or just celebrating life. Their dishes equal some of the finest meals in Paris – most likely because of the influence of three-Michelin-starred Chef Paul Bocuse. Strong hint – make sure to sample their Homard du forestier, oeuf de cailles mollet, bouillon crème aux truffes noires – translated as super delicious lobster.

Festivals, adventure and gourmet meals! A day at Disney offers all of that and so much more.

Travel Tips:

• A must visit: Downtown Disney’s Raglan Road Irish Pub – the inspiration of Kevin Dundon, award-winning Irish celebrity chef, television personality and author. Besides the always refreshing on-tap Guinness, get a taste of his grandmother’s recipe in Ger’s Bread & Butter Pudding – served with a side of butterscotch and vanilla crèmes – or the Trifle Sinful – need I say more?

• Calendar this: Epcot’s 19th International Food & Wine Festival, happening Sept. 19 through Nov. 10. 407.939.3378 or visit epcotfoodfestival.com.

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