“Curtains Up and Napkins Out” by Chuck Mirarchi

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When people make their plans to visit Walt Disney World®, one of the first things they look forward to is making their dining reservations. Currently you are able to make your reservations 180 days from your arrival.

The first thing many people do is book reservations at the character buffets and at some of the more upscale restaurants including Le Cellier (Epcot), California Grill (Disney’s Contemporary Resort), and Coral Reef Restaurant (Epcot), etc.

One dining experience that typically is forgotten is the Disney dinner shows. It’s not that they are not popular, but they are typically not a priority booking.

There are three main dinner shows at the Walt Disney World Resort: Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue, Disney’s Spirit of Aloha Show, and Mickey’s Backyard B.B.Q.

There are some general rules for each of the three dinner shows. These three dinner shows are all-you-care-to-eat and are served family-style. You can ask your server to continue to bring out as much of everything or of something specific as you wish.

Each show does require reservations. It’s best to book them in advance so you can not only get the seating time you desire, but also – in the case of the Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue and Disney’s Spirit of Aloha Show – your preferred seating category. These two shows offer three pricing categories for adults and children. You can book any of these dinner shows through Disney Dining reservations, online, or at your Disney resort. It’s best to book your reservation early as tables are assigned in the order of when reservations are made.

However, if you wait until you are at Walt Disney World®,  you run the risk of not getting a reservation depending on a number of factors including the time of year, day and/or time you want to dine, size of your party, etc.

Pricing for each of these shows does include tax and gratuity, as well as select specialty beverages. However other select alcoholic beverages and specialty cocktails may be purchased at an additional cost.

Upon booking each of these shows you will be required to provide a credit card to pre-pay for the dinner show. However, you can also use the Disney Dining Plan. It will require 2 dining credits per person. You still will be required to provide a credit card though.

Unlike other Disney Dining reservations, if you cancel at the last minute or no-show on these dinner shows reservations you will be not be refunded for the full amount of your entire party. Disney’s cancellation policy for these dinner shows is you MUST cancel 48 hours prior to your reservation in order to receive a refund. (i.e. you have a dinner show reservation on the 20th and you cancel on the 17th… refund… cancel on the 18th… no refund.)

You can pick up your tickets to any of these dinner shows up to 7 days prior to show date at any Walt Disney World® ® Resort Guest Services Desk. You are asked to arrive at least 30 minutes prior to show time. If you chose to pick up your tickets at the show box office, you are requested to arrive 40 minutes prior to show time. Your table will be held 15-minutes after your reservation time, but after that it may be given away to wait-listed / stand-by guests.

Each dinner show has a specific, pre-set menu, however there is a children’s menu available, as well as if you have any dietary restrictions, they will accommodate them as best as possible. They also ask if you are still honoring your reservation, but no longer need those special dietary requests that they be cancelled 24-hours prior to arrival.

There are typically discounts available for each of these shows including Tables In Wonderland and annual passholder. It’s best to ask the dining agent.

If you notify Disney about a special celebration – it will be recognized during the show.

Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue

The Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue is the longest running show at the Walt Disney World® Resort. It opened on September 5, 1974 and just recently celebrated it’s 35th Anniversary. The show is held nightly at 5, 7:15, and 9:30pm. As mentioned earlier, there are three pricing tiers but the actual seating at Pioneer Hall is on 2 levels – the main floor and the balcony.

Make sure you plan some time to travel to the Fort Wilderness Campgrounds. You can reach Fort Wilderness by boat from the resorts and the Magic Kingdom to the dock, by bus (Boone or Crockett bus at the Ticket and Transportation Center) to the Settlement area, and by personal car – parking at the Fort Wilderness Reception Outpost with a short ride via the Boone or Crockett bus to the Settlement area. Note: you will have to walk to Pioneer Hall once you arrive at Fort Wilderness.

Once you reach the Settlement Area you will check in – tickets in hand – with a Cast Member outside Pioneer Hall. If you still don’t have your tickets you must go to the Guest Relations window to the left of Pioneer Hall first. When it’s time to go in, there will be an announcement from the porch with the ringing of the dinner bell.

The Revue is a foot-stomping, audience-participation show held nightly at Pioneer Hall on the Fort Wilderness Campgrounds. Once inside Pioneer Hall, guests wait for the arrival of the Pioneer Hall Players. After “arriving by stage coach” the six players fall into 3 categories – Six Bits Slocum and Dolly Drew (comic relief), Jim Handy and Claire de Lune (the dancers), and Johnny Ringo and Claire de Lune (the singers) burst through the back doors to start this 120-minute hoe-down.

The salad course, along with the cornbread, is pre-set on the table. When the players come bursting through they get the show started and continue until the main courses are ready to be served. At that time the servers come through the dining room – literally slamming small metal kettles of fried chicken, smoked barbequed pork ribs, mashed potatoes, and country-style baked beans not on your table but right down on your plates.

Along with accommodating dietary restrictions, there are some offerings for children (available upon request) including mac and cheese, hot dogs and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

For dessert, the Pioneer Hall Players not only introduce the dessert – strawberry shortcake – but the servers come parading off the stage with the dessert to the tables.

As mentioned earlier, many of the popular beverages including some alcoholic beverages, are included with your meal. However a few select beers and specialty drink are available for purchase.

Seating and pricing categories:

Category 1 – seating on the first floor level with your table nearest the stage

Adults (10 and up) $59.99 including tax and gratuity.

Children (3-9) $30.99 including tax and gratuity
/Infants (0-2) No charge

Category 2 offers either a great table on the first floor behind the Category 1 seating below the balcony or in the center of the balcony on the 2nd floor.

Adults (10 and up) $54.99 including tax and gratuity

Children (3-9) $26.99 including tax and gratuity
/ Infants (0-2) No charge

Category 3 offers tables that are located on the right hand side or left hand side of the balcony on the 2nd floor.

Adults (10 and up) $50.99 including tax and gratuity

Children (3-9) $25.99 including tax and gratuity
/ Infants (0-2) No charge

Disney’s Spirit of Aloha Show

Disney’s Spirit of Aloha Show, located at the Polynesian Resort Hotel, was previously knows as The Polynesian Revue, the Kauai-Pono Polynesian Revue, and the Polynesian Luau. It was originally held nightly at the Seven Seas Lagoon, where guests sat on the beach and dined while watching the show. As the luau grew in popularity, the Luau Cove – a covered, permanent venue – was built for the show. Therefore providing not only a larger and more comfortable ‘room’ with table seating, but also shelter from most inclement weather. The 90- minute show, which is performed at 5:15 and 9pm Tuesday through Saturday, is only cancelled when the temperature falls below 50 degrees.

As with the Hoop Dee Doo, the Spirit of Aloha Show has three pricing categories but three seating areas: category 1 is the main floor seating, category 2 is upper floor seating that rings the main floor seating, and category 3 is upper floor seating on the far ends and back of the room. All do offer good views of the show – it just depends on how close you want to be to the stage.

Getting to the Luau is fairly easy – once you arrive at the Polynesian Resort Hotel either by the monorail, bus, or an easy walk from the Ticket and Transportation Center – follow the signs to the Luau Cove. The cove is located on the northwest part of the resort. Once you check in and you receive your lei, if you have your tickets you will be directed to an outdoor garden area to wait. If you do not have your tickets you will need to obtain them at the Guest Service area located just before the entrance to the main room.

The show, like the cove, has gone through some extensive changes throughout the years. Originally the theme of the show was one like someone would see if they were to visit Hawaii. Today, the Spirit of Aloha Show’s is actually divided into two parts: a variety show of music and dance and the fire-baton performer. The host of the show is Auntie Wini. It starts off with her setting up the story and welcoming back one of the local girls back from the big city and helps her rediscover her roots. It follows a similar story set-up like the Hoop Dee Doo as well. You have two main couples: the romantic, more serious young couple and the comic relief couple who have a romantic tension between them, but they don’t realize it at first.

The Aloha Dinner Show features music and dances of the cultures of Tahiti, Samoa, Tonga, New Zealand and Hawaii, which are presented while the guests dine on a feast that is inspired by the flavors of Polynesia.

The salad course of tropical mixed greens with mango poppyseed dressing is pre-set along with pineapple coconut bread and fresh pineapple. After the show has begun the main course of Islando BBQ pork ribs, Lanoi roasted chicken, Polynesian rice and fresh seasonal veggies arrive. And of course, you can have as much of all or some of everything. Right before the fire-baton dancer comes out the staff parades throughout the dining area with smoking platters of the Kilauea Volcano Delight Dessert – which is a smoking volcano surrounding chocolate mousse pyramids with a fruit sauce.

Category 1 is located in the lower level, in the center and nearest the stage so you will be as close to the performers as possible.

Adults (10 and up) $61.99 including tax and gratuity

Children (3-9) $31.99 including tax and gratuity / Infants (0-2) no charge

Category 2 offers tables in the lower level that are located on either the left or right side of the stage OR upper level tables located directly behind the Category 1 seating.

Adults (10 and up)
$56.99 including tax and gratuity

Children (3-9) $27.99 including tax and gratuity / Infants (0-2) no charge

Category 3 offers tables in the lower level that are located to the extreme far right or left of the stage, OR the majority of the upper level tables.

Adults
$52.99 including tax and gratuity

Children (3-9) $26.99 including tax and gratuity / Infants (0-2) no charge.

Also you may use points from your Dining Plan for the Luau. It will require 2 dining credits and is available for seating in Category 2 or 3 only.

Mickey’s Backyard B.B.Q.

Also located at the Fort Wilderness Campgrounds, Mickey’s Backyard B.B.Q. , formerly known as the All-American Backyard Barbeque, takes place at the Outdoor Pavilion. There are 2 shows at 6:30 and 8:00 pm, from March through December, are offered every Thursday and Saturday.

Mickey’s Backyard B.B.Q. offers country fun and is the only one of the three dinner shows to feature Disney characters: Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, and Chip and Dale. Although they do come around during the show, and dance with the guests remember that this is billed as a backyard party and they are pretty strict about the characters not signing autographs – so leave the books at the hotel and save them for the parks or character meals other than this one.

The venue is an open-aired, pavilion – like a big barn – with long picnic tables and benches with checkered tablecloths. Unlike the Hoop Dee Doo and the Luau, Mickey’s Backyard B.B.Q. does not have assigned seating. Here it’s seat yourself. So it would benefit you to arrive early so you can sit at the location of your choice. Also remember that the show may be cancelled due to inclement weather. If the weather looks like it might be a problem it’s best to call either Disney Guest Relations or check with the Disney Resort Guest Service Desk to make sure the Backyard B.B.Q. is still on.

Transportation to the B.B.Q. is the same as getting to the Hoop Dee Doo – by boat or Disney bus and then walking to the pavilion. However, the easiest way to get to the B.B.Q. venue is to take a boat from one of the monorail resort hotels and head to the pavilion – which is located near what was once River Country.

Make sure you have your tickets before arriving at the pavilion. If you don’t, you’re going to need to backtrack to the Guest Relations window to the left of Pioneer Hall first then walk back.

The show, which is hosted by Sarsaparilla Sal and Tumbleweed, features line dancing, lasso rope tricks, Disney characters, and a live country band, but also a chance for the guests to get up and sing with the country band. It is a much more laid-back type of show, but just as fun. The buffet menu includes baked chicken, barbecued pork ribs, burgers, hot dogs, corn, baked beans, mixed green salad and cole slaw, fresh baked cornbread, watermelon, ice cream bars / novelties, and marble cake. A children’s menu and special dietary requests are available. Unlimited ice tea, lemonade, beer and wine are available. There is no table service here – so it’s a true buffet.

There is only one price structure for Mickey’s Backyard B.B.Q. – Adults $44.99 and Children (ages 3-9) $26.99. There is no charge for infants up to 2 years of age. You can use your Disney Dining plan for the Backyard B.B.Q.

Each of these shows are a lot of fun and provide not only a nice, casual atmosphere, but a different experience and whole new set of memories for your trip. So next time you’re planning a trip to Walt Disney World®, it would be worth taking in one of these dinner shows.

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About the author

Tom Corless

Tom has been regularly visiting the Walt Disney World® Resort from the time he was 4 months old. While he has made countless visits in the last 28 years, he did not become a truly active member in the Disney fan community until the summer of 2007, when he decided to launch the WDW News Today website and podcast. Tom has since become an Orlando-local and is a published author on Walt Disney World.
Contact Tom at [email protected]

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