Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar one of many changes likely coming to Disney’s Polynesian Resort

UPDATES: Get the latest news on Trader Sam’s and the Polynesian refurbishment
Bonus cocktail recipe: The Backscratcher at the Polynesian Resort’s Tambu Lounge

Reports have recently surfaced that indicate the eventual Orlando location of Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar may not be the revamped Downtown Disney complex, as indicated earlier this year, but rather Walt Disney World’s iconic 39-acre Polynesian Resort near the Magic Kingdom theme park.

Disney's Polynesian Resort, October 2011
Disney’s Polynesian Resort, October 2011. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

In March, Disney Springs was officially announced as the successor to Downtown Disney, the massive shopping and entertainment district on Disney World property but outside its theme parks. The 120-acre lakefront site is expected to expand from 75 to more than 150 stores, restaurants, bars and more. Slated for completion in 2016, the refurb will create a replica of a 19th century Florida waterfront town. [See The Atomic Grog’s full report here]

Disney released elaborate conceptual artwork and many details on the theming of Disney Springs, but little info on what retailers or restaurants would be part of the new development. This is understandable since many deals are likely still being negotiated, and the exact locations of various businesses are still being fleshed out. But this didn’t keep the rumor mill from churning, especially when images leaked out online that show dozens of logos of potential venues.

On this list was the distinctive logo of Trader Sam’s, already a must-see destination for Disney and Tiki fans after only two years at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim. The bar features classic Polynesian decor, cocktails and food plus an extra helping of Disney Imagineering magic. The theming evokes both classic attractions (Jungle Cruise, Enchanted Tiki Room) and a beloved, defunct Downtown Disney cabaret (the Adventurer’s Club). So this potential location made some sense. But was it really a good fit considering the overall theme?

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Is Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar in the mix for the re-imagined Downtown Disney?

UPDATES: Get the latest news on Trader Sam’s and the Polynesian refurbishment

Rumors were swirling even before the official announcement March 14 about the planned massive renovation of the Downtown Disney shopping and entertainment district at Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, near Orlando.

A conceptual model of Disney Springs
A conceptual model of Disney Springs. (From the Disney Parks Blog)

The multi-year expansion, expected to begin in April, will be the largest in Downtown Disney history. When it’s completed in 2016 (and perhaps earlier), the area will become known as Disney Springs, themed after a Florida waterfront town that sprang up in the 19th century. The back story will draw on both Disney and Florida history. Walt Disney’s parents were married in 1888 in Central Florida, an area replete with natural springs.

The online Disney community is abuzz about the plans, which also include major design and structural changes to the 120-acre lakefront site that will allow it to grow from 75 to more than 150 shopping, dining and entertainment venues. Images that feature logos of potential tenants leaked out on the WDW Magic message board, fueling the excitement about high-end retailers and new themed restaurants. Click here, here and here for more on the leaked images. WDW News Today also published leaked concept art.

Trader Sam's Enchanted Tiki Bar

But there’s one possible new venue that holds special interest to tikiphiles and old-school Disney fans alike. While we’re excited about the overall expansion and potential revival of what was the once-thriving Pleasure Island bar and restaurant district, we’re ecstatic about the possibility of Disney opening its second location of Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar.

Continue reading “Is Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar in the mix for the re-imagined Downtown Disney?”

Disney raises the bar for cocktails, decadent dishes and desserts at Epcot Food and Wine Festival

The entrance to Epcot beckons you to "Taste your way around the world."
The entrance to Epcot beckons you to “Taste your way around the world.”

Last year, The Atomic Grog spent one whirlwind day at the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival, sampling food and drinks from 16 different marketplace kiosks. For 2012, Mrs. Hurricane and I vowed to take a more leisurely approach, so we dedicated parts of three days to the same task. The result: We tasted 38 items from 25 of the 29 booths surrounding Epcot’s World Showcase Lagoon. With our indulgences finally fully digested, we’re ready to share a recap and reviews below.
See below: Photos of the food and drinks

2012 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival: Through Nov. 12 at Disney World, Buena Vista, Fla. Access to the festival marketplace is free with theme park admission; food, seminars, and special events are priced individually.
* Official site | Facebook page | Epcot | Walt Disney World | Disney Parks Blog
Atomic Grog preview: 17 reasons to sink your teeth into Epcot’s Food and Wine Fest
Related: 30 great ways to celebrate 30 years of Epcot magic

Freddy Diaz of AlambiQ Mixology in Miami shakes up a craft cocktail during a seminar presented by the Peter F. Heering Company.
Freddy Diaz of AlambiQ Mixology in Miami shakes up a craft cocktail during a seminar presented by the Peter F. Heering Company.

The Epcot International Food and Wine Festival teases you with the enticing admonition to “taste your way around the world.” For the past 17 years, guests have circled the globe more times than the nearby space shuttle astronauts. The futuristic Disney World park is the logical setting for such an adventure, its World Showcase already the site of 11 pavilions representing countries as disparate as Norway and Morocco.

While we barely made a dent in the nearly 200 food and drink items offered up at the booths, we managed to sample most of those on our hit list. It’s highly recommended you plan ahead. Browse online reviews and photos before you go. And if you have a chance, be sure to check out a few of the many low-cost beverage seminars. We attended an informative wine seminar, plus an excellent cocktail seminar. Click here for the review:
* Miami mixologist shows how to jazz up your tired old cocktails with exotic liqueurs

The sun is setting on the 2012 festival, but many of the following reviews should still be relevant in 2013. The most popular items remain from year to year.

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17 reasons to sink your teeth into Epcot’s 2012 International Food and Wine Festival

UPDATE: Our 2012 review
Disney raises the bar for cocktails, decadent dishes and desserts

The Epcot International Food and Wine Festival, now in its 17th year, offers much more than the opportunity to eat and drink your way around the Disney theme park’s World Showcase promenade at some 30 food and beverage marketplaces. That’s the highlight, of course, but devotees have long known about the special events and distinctive touches that make a trip to Epcot a must-do every fall for foodies and Disneyphiles alike.

2012 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival

The appetizer-sized portions at the marketplace booths are priced in the $4-$8 range, while drinks are $3-$6. The festival is included in the daily Epcot admission price, but most of the special events cost extra and tickets must be reserved in advance. Go to EpcotFoodFestival.com for more info. Click here to see menus and photos from all the participating marketplaces.

Spanning a record 46 days, from Sept. 28 through Nov. 12, this year’s festival will continue a recent trend toward a bigger and better event as guests become ever more demanding of what they expect from craft food and beverages. Beer and cocktails have a higher profile, and the event is also thriving on its association with celebrity chefs and the growing foodie culture in general. As a fan of television’s Food Network and other culinary programming, I have to count myself among that group.

Last year, The Atomic Grog’s experience at the festival was enjoyable beyond expectations. [Click here for the review] Look for even more extensive coverage in 2012. In preparation, here’s a list of 17 things that make this year’s International Food and Wine Festival distinctive and worth looking forward to.

Continue reading “17 reasons to sink your teeth into Epcot’s 2012 International Food and Wine Festival”

Major changes in store for Disney’s Polynesian Resort?

UPDATES: Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto coming to Disney’s Polynesian Village (May 2014)
Refurb schedule announced, but no word on Trader Sam’s (February 2014)
Trader Sam’s could be key part of Polynesian refurbishment (August 2013)
Trader Sam’s one of many changes likely at Polynesian Resort (July 2013)

Rumors have swirled for years about the future of Disney’s Polynesian Resort, the 40-year-old iconic hotel and one of the Magic Kingdom’s two original resorts.

The entrance to the Great Ceremonial House at Disney's Polynesian Resort
The entrance to the Great Ceremonial House at Disney's Polynesian Resort. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward, May 2011)

Affectionately known as “The Poly,” this sprawling 39-acre homage to the South Seas was one of the original two hotels built on the monorail line before the Magic Kingdom’s opening on Oct. 1, 1971. It was actually the first to open, beating the flagship Contemporary Resort by hours and hosting the press on opening day.

Like the Magic Kingdom, the Polynesian has remained true to Walt’s original vision (he was a fan of mid-century Tiki culture and explored the Pacific on vacations). Unlike the Contemporary, it has remained essentially the same stylistically, but with many upgrades to infrastructure and amenities over the years to keep it modern and comfortable.

But times are changing. Two major factors may be pushing massive renovations onto the Polynesian, though Disney officially remains tight-lipped on any speculation.

Continue reading “Major changes in store for Disney’s Polynesian Resort?”

Modern Retro Disney World: Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room

MODERN RETRO DISNEY WORLD

This is the first in a series that will spotlight The Atomic Grog’s picks of the top “modern retro” features at the world’s top tourist mecca. Disney World is a vast ocean of fun and frolic for all ages, but it’s easy to overlook the classic, timeless elements that make the massive resort special. It can be enjoyed on many levels – from the totally immersive, escapist experience in the theme parks to the many unique restaurants, bars and hotels. But what makes the fantasy complete is the incredible innovation, artistry and attention to detail that spans more than 40 years. The Atomic Grog is dedicated to celebrating and preserving cool mid-century kitsch, and there’s much of this to admire and embrace in “the happiest place on earth.” Is Disney World hip? Hardly. But it can still be enjoyed by geeky hipsters (and hipster geeks) with not a shred of irony. We hope you enjoy the ride with us.
Related: Disney World is still cool at 40 thanks to retro artists Shag, Kevin & Jody
July 2013 update: Tiki Room celebrates 50 years of enchantment

WALT DISNEY’S ENCHANTED TIKI ROOM
Photos: Jump to the gallery

José, Fritz, Michael and Pierre perform on an elaborate bird-mobile that descends from the ceiling (November 2011).
José, Fritz, Michael and Pierre perform on an elaborate bird-mobile that descends from the ceiling (November 2011).

Location: Adventureland in the Magic Kingdom theme park.

What is it? An indoor attraction themed to a Polynesian paradise featuring a colorful menagerie of flowers, Tikis and 200 performing Audio-Animatronic birds.

Origins: An opening-day attraction On Oct. 1, 1971, the Enchanted Tiki Room was originally known as Tropical Serenade. It was re-imagined and re-opened in 2011 under its current name with a show that pays tribute to the original Enchanted Tiki Room in Disneyland.

Claim to fame: The Disneyland attraction was the first to feature the Disney invention of Audio-Animatronics and was reportedly Walt Disney’s favorite.

Continue reading “Modern Retro Disney World: Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room”

Cocktails come of age at Epcot Food and Wine Festival

Previous coverage: A taste of paradise comes to Epcot Food and Wine Festival
Related: Artists shine amid copious crowds at Disney World’s birthday party

2011 Epcot International Food and Wine Festival: Through Nov. 13 at Disney World, Buena Vista, Fla. Access to the festival marketplace is free with theme park admission; food, seminars, and special events are priced individually. [Official site]

Review by Jim “Hurricane” Hayward

“Please overindulge!” This very succinct advice came from the artist and Tiki/cocktail enthusiast Shag when he signed an event poster for me at the 2010 Hukilau in Fort Lauderdale. Words to live by, to be sure, but not until this year’s Epcot International Food and Wine Festival was I able to experience that mantra on such a grand and eclectic scale.

The new Hawaii booth. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)
The new Hawaii booth. (Photo by Hurricane Hayward)

For 16 years, the six-week festival has served up tastes from six continents at dozens of themed booths offering tapas-sized portions of delicious regional specialties paired with an impressive selection of wines and beers. Now, finally, cocktails have truly joined the party as the art of mixology gets its due respect. The result: An opportunity to eat and drink your way around the world with a Mai Tai and Singapore Sling to compliment an amazing array of foods.

So overindulge, we did, on the opening weekend of the 2011 festival. After attending the maddeningly crowded Walt Disney World 40th anniversary party on Saturday, Oct. 1, at the Magic Kingdom, my wife and I were looking forward to a leisurely food-and-drink adventure Sunday at Epcot. We were not disappointed. And in honor of Shag, whose commemorative merchandise I picked up the day before, we were on a mission to overindulge (albeit in small portions).

Continue reading “Cocktails come of age at Epcot Food and Wine Festival”

Artists shine amid copious crowds at Walt Disney World’s 40th birthday party

Photos: Jump to the gallery
Previous coverage: Disney World celebrates 40 years of mid-century magic
Related: Cocktails come of age at Epcot Food and Wine Festival | More on Disney World

Masses of mouse-minded fans flocked to the Magic Kingdom on Saturday, Oct. 1, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Walt Disney World. And while initial crowd forecasts were low, interest in the birthday bash quickly grew among the Disney faithful and resulted in a sometimes overwhelming throng even though actual celebratory festivities were modest.

The Magic Kingdom entrance and train station, as seen in December 1972 and Oct. 1, 2011. (Photos by Hurricane Hayward)
The Magic Kingdom entrance and train station, as seen in December 1972 and Oct. 1, 2011. (Photos by Hurricane Hayward)

The Oct. 1 opening date was selected in 1971 because it was considered the slow season, and it typically remains so today. But Disneyphiles came out of the woodwork for the anniversary party last week and took advantage of the late park hours at the Magic Kingdom (it was open from 9 a.m. until midnight).

My wife and I combined this event with a visit to the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival on Sunday, and it’s a good thing we did. The overflowing crowd on Saturday made for a hectic day and not much time to relax and enjoy the Disney experience. That’s not to say it wasn’t memorable. Here are the highlights (and some lowlights):

We stayed at the Caribbean Beach, one of Disney’s moderate resort hotels, and were pleasantly surprised. We had previously enjoyed Port Orleans Riverside, and this was on par with that experience.

The rooms were spacious and clean (with the great details that Disney is known for), the grounds (200 acres, including the 45-acre Barefoot Bay) were huge and full of amenities (be sure to take a walk around the lake) and the theming was spot-on. It was closed when we wandered by early Sunday, but I’ve heard the pool bar makes a great Piña Colada.

Continue reading “Artists shine amid copious crowds at Walt Disney World’s 40th birthday party”

A taste of paradise comes to Epcot Food and Wine Festival

Review: Cocktails come of age at Epcot Food and Wine Festival
Official sites: International Food and Wine Festival | Epcot | Walt Disney World
Related sites: The Disney Food Blog | Facebook: Epcot Food and Wine Festival Fans

One of the best times to visit Walt Disney World is during a taste-tempting six weeks every fall when the 1.2-mile promenade of World Showcase at the Epcot theme park is transformed into a foodie’s dream come true at the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival.

Epcot Food and Wine Festival

Already home to dozens of restaurants and bars spread throughout pavilions representing 11 countries, the picturesque promenade around the 40-acre World Showcase Lagoon will be engulfed this year by 30 “international marketplaces” featuring food and beverages from six continents.

Every year, new countries and themes are added to the eclectic mix of food, wine, craft beers and cocktails. For the 16th annual event, it’s exciting to see two island locales among the three new festival marketplace booths. Say aloha to Hawaii and the Caribbean Islands. Perhaps it’s just a coincidence, but here’s hoping this is an outgrowth of the renewed interest in tropical and Tiki culture.

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Disney World’s Enchanted Tiki Room will reopen Aug. 15 with vintage show

July 2013 update: Tiki Room celebrates 50 years of enchantment
Modern Retro Disney World: Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room
Aug. 2011 update: Disney World’s updated Enchanted Tiki Room has retro feel

The Enchanted Tiki Room at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom in November 2008, before a fire closed the "Under New Management" version of the attraction. (Photo by Susan Hayward)
The Enchanted Tiki Room at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom in November 2008, before a fire closed the "Under New Management" version of the attraction. (Photo by Susan Hayward)

Whatever (or whoever) started a fire in Walt Disney World’s Enchanted Tiki Room back in January may have inadvertently set off a chain of events that has corrected one of the biggest blunders in the history of theme park attraction renovations.

Closed for the past seven months, the iconic attraction is scheduled to reopen Aug. 15 with a new animatronic show that pays tribute to the original attraction, which was a pet project of Walt himself. To the delight of many hardcore fans, the oft-reviled “Under New Management” theme has been ditched (for good, hopefully). Iago from Aladdin and Zazu from The Lion King have been replaced by José, Fritz, Michael and Pierre – the four crooning parrot hosts who have been entertaining guests at California’s Disneyland since 1963.

The redesign of Disney World’s Enchanted Tiki Room was announced in May at Disney’s “D23 Destination D: Walt Disney World 40th Anniversary Conference,” a special event for members of Disney’s D23 fan club (D23 refers to Disney and 1923, the year the company was founded). The Aug. 15 date was officially announced by Disney World on Tuesday.

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