Modern Caribbean Rum

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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Minimalist Tiki

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.

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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.

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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.

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