The Importance of: Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort

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Since the middle to end of World War II, American tourists have had a fascination with the Polynesian Islands and tiki culture. Walt Disney was tied to this in various, interesting ways. Hawaii was one of his favorite destinations, and he absorbed a lot of the culture, hospitality, and food he came across on trips there. So much so that it even sprouted the creation of the Enchanted Tiki Room, one of Disney’s most iconic and memorable attractions still in operation today. And of course, Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort.

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Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort commenced operations on October 1, 1971, but its official “birthday” was celebrated on October 24 of the same year when the resort’s first luau dinner was hosted on the beach, and included guests such as Lucille Ball, Bob Hope, and the Governor of Florida. Walt knew a Polynesian-themed resort was an absolute, but its design and layout varied throughout the planning stages. At first, the Polynesian was to be akin to a high-rise on the beaches of Waikiki in the 1960’s, but eventually, the planning team decided on a more traditional “longhouse” design that we know and love today.

Aside from the incredible history that fills this hotel’s identity to the brim—including John Lennon signing the Beatles’s termination papers on the property—Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort is notorious for two important things in Disney fandom: Tonga Toast and ‘Ohana.

‘Ohana is a family-style restaurant located on the second level of the resort’s main house. ‘Ohana was originally opened in October 1971 as Papeete Bay Verandah without the open kitchen and incredible service we know today, to be turned into ‘Ohana in September of 1994. Since then, a few aesthetic changes have occurred alongside adjustments to service and character presence. Overall, ‘Ohana has provided decades of memories for millions of guests, including the delectable pineapple coconut bread and steak and chicken skewers.

Tonga Toast has been on the menu at The Polynesian since its first day of operation in 1971! This decadently rich banana-stuffed French toast has had something of a cult following for decades. There are even entire sites and T-shirts created for this item alone. It is that incredible. Once the Tonga Toast is deep-fried, it’s coated in cinnamon-sugar and topped with a strawberry compote. My mouth waters just thinking about it.

In a world where consumer demands and culinary tastes are constantly changing while ebbing and flowing, it’s so special to the life-long fans that items and theming like the instances found at the Polynesian still exist and are kept familiar and unique.

 

There are so many timeless pictures of families enjoying a meal at ‘Ohana, or the looks of joy when people first have a Tonga Toast placed in front of them. Each and every one of those pictures is so unique and special. For Disney fans, the nostalgia of visiting this resort is one of the many reasons we all keep coming back. There’s a familiarity and comfort walking into the grand lobby of this stunning resort and faintly smelling the food wafting down from the second story. In that precise moment you’re reminded of why Disney is special, and why many of us consider it home.

 

While you dream about an escape to the Polynesian, take a look at these links all having to do with the latest and greatest at the resort!

Tambu Lounge at Polynesian Village Resort Set to Undergo Massive 3 Month Refurbishment

PHOTOS: Polynesian Resort Says Aloha to New 70’s-Style Merchandise Logo and Dress

REVIEW: Kona Cafe Favorites and a Warm Aloha to New Entrees at Polynesian Village

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About the author

Roger Perez

A Florida born and raised Disnerd that can never say no to tonga toast.

1 Comment

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  • Great piece! Since the early 80’s we always stayed at the Contemporary, but we would always make our way to the Polynesian either for a meal or just to walk around. You hit the nail on the head with the smell, the sights, and just the overall environment. Even though they have changed the interior over the years, it still has the same vibe…. although, I do really really miss the old centerpiece to the lobby. I wish they would’ve hung onto that.

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