After Hours Magic
By Zamgwar, ALL EARS® Feature Writer
This article appeared in the February 25, 2003, Issue #179 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)
You are a pro. You know all the tricks. You've boarded the bus to Magic Kingdom at 7:15 a.m. After a brief stroller race down Main Street USA, you've completed Fantasyland, including a spin on Dumbo by 10:05 a.m. You've gone left rather than right when given a choice on a queue. Your daughter's been an assistant conductor on the railroad, and your son has captained the steam boat. Courtesy of FASTPASS, you've fallen in the Briar Patch, conquered Space Mountain, saved the galaxy from Evil Emperor Zurg, and have had a ghost hitchhike home with you.
Following becoming a licensed copilot of the monorail (my license is in my wallet) you've taken the single riders' line on Test Track, drunk from the talking water fountain, found the Hidden Mickeys in the monk scene on Spaceship Earth and woken up at the end of American Adventure just in time to tear up. To end your day, you've smorgasborded at Norway and watched IllumiNations from the terrace in Japan.
Your day is done. It's 10:15 p.m. Do you know where your Martini is?
Perhaps one of the greatest improvements to the realm of the Mouse since I first crossed its borders in the mid-'80s is the addition of nightlife. Back in the days of only two parks, "after hours" was limited to a madcap pianist who performed in the Empress Lilly Lounge at the then-small Disney Marketplace, as well as several lounges in the Lake Buena Vista hotels. Disney nightlife was nil.
Oh, how things have changed.
With the opening of Disney's BoardWalk, Pleasure Island, a plethora of fabulous resorts, and the expansion of the Marketplace into Downtown Disney and the West Side, it's possible for an adult to enjoy a number of Disney evenings without ever boarding an attraction.
That is, unless you're like me and consider an attraction anything that is served well-shaken, straight-up and with three olives.
In the Epcot area, the BoardWalk really is much more than a nice hotel. It's a great place to grab a bite, wet your whistle, dance, and soak in a sea of foam. Beer or soda foam, that is. The entire area is magnificently themed, reminiscent of the great boardwalk areas of the Atlantic shore. In the early evening hours, it is alive with outdoor entertainment. Jugglers, people making balloon sculptures, and tricycling musicians are just a few of the colorful folks who make their way back and forth across the wood-planked expanse. For those who may not have used their legs enough during the day, there are foot-powered surrey bikes that accommodate up to eight people for rent. Mutual screams of panic and delight can be heard from walkers and riders as these "cars", with their bells ringing, careen downhill after the bridges.
Following IllumiNations' final burst, the BoardWalk area takes on an almost carnival atmosphere, with a wide variety of hot places serving cold drinks. There's ESPN for those who want a tall cold one with a side of sports scores, and a DJ spinning sports trivia from the booth. The Big River Grille and Brewing Works, with its hand-crafted beers, has high stools at a counter against a large window facing out onto the BoardWalk, as well as outdoor tables for those who prefer their cocktails garnished with a healthy helping of people-watching. Atlantic Dance Hall features DJs spinning hot dance tunes should your drink require a good "shake".
In Jellyrolls (what a fun place!), sing-alongs are served up by dueling pianists banging out fun on the eighty-eights. On my last visit, I found myself going hoarse from singing at the top of my lungs. This undoubtedly was a result of the wide variety of "vocal chord loosening agents" served up by the bartender.
Pleasure Island, Disney's "beverage and entertainment" park, is a clubhopper's version of being a kid in a candy store, only the candy is much more potent. Immediately after passing through the turnstiles (admission is included on Park Hopper Plus and Ultimate Park Hopper passes) you find yourself standing in a place where it's New Year's Eve every night. Test tube shots are sold by wandering nurses, and beer vendors dot the street.
Is this heaven? No, it's Disney for adults.
My conservative "Mary Tyler Moore-esque" sister initially found the area decidedly unDisney. In fact, on her first visit she thought it was themed after the island in Pinocchio, and fully expected all its inhabitants to sprout donkey ears. On later visits, however, a number of "Monkeyheads" from the Adventurers Club left her dancing in the street.
The actual theme of Pleasure Island centers on the fictional legendary explorer and yachtsman, Merriweather Pleasure. A sharp eye will find historical plaques on each building detailing what its use was during Mr. Pleasure's days. There is something for every creature of the night here. There are high-tech discos with the bass pounding out in volumes only heard from teenagers' cars at stoplights. There's the Comedy Warehouse, where a variety of stand-up is on tap. A large outdoor stage fills the streets with live music, frequently supplied by name (albeit dated names) talent.
A favorite of mine, and of many Disney fans, is the Adventurers Club. Well-themed as a meeting place for "Adventurers," the club is inhabited by a variety of bizarre characters played wonderfully by Cast Members who interact with guests. The more you interact, the more fun it gets! The entertainment is what I call Living Theater. Shows run almost continuously in the either the Library, Mask Room, Treasure Room, or main hall. Bar stools mysteriously raise and lower, masks talk, and conversations between a floating, disembodied head is normal. The whole place is crowded with a vast collection of artifacts, brought back by "Adventurers," each one hilariously labeled. It's a magnificent result of what must happen if you give Imagineers beer.
A great Pleasure Island tip for those who don't care for liquid spirits and just want to enjoy the entertainment: declare yourself a designated driver at the turnstiles. You will be given a special wristband (so that you won't be served alcoholic beverages) and two coupons that you may exchange for soda, pop, tonic, or whatever you call Coca-Cola-like drinks where you come from.
I call them mixers.
Surrounding Pleasure Island is a shopping mecca and a wide variety of bar/restaurants, in the Marketplace and the West Side. Headline entertainment can usually be found at the House of Blues. A touch of Havana and dash of salsa garnishes Bongos Cuban Cafe. The PERFECT ice cold martini (according to one who is an expert in these matters), served with a personal shaker on the side, can be found at the bar of the Portobello Yacht Club restaurant.
After more than a dozen visits to Walt Disney World, this entire area still holds many unvisited delights for me and "She Who Must Be Obeyed" (Zamgwar's wife). And one of the BEST perks of staying on-site can be enjoyed after a night out at any of these areas -- some nice person in a bus or on a boat drives you home for free.
Aside from the nighttime entertainment areas, almost every resort has a great place to order a cocktail (some with live entertainment), sit back in a nice comfy chair, and reflect on the day's activities. They are also the perfect place to meet up with on-line friends. Last call is earlier than at the entertainment areas so you can enjoy some adult time without paying for it in the morning.
You pay for it when you check out instead, which can frequently be worse!
On my many trips with family and friends to Mousedom, the resort lounges are the only place it was assured that everyone would meet. Go figure.
Wherever your nighttime adventures take you, you are sure to come home laughing, to enjoy another great perk of being on-site: Sleeping in! Because the parks are only a short stroll, bus or boat-ride away.
Office of Shaken Not Stirred
The Zamgwar Institute
Enjoy Zamgwar's other ALL EARS® articles in our Writers' Corner:
Related Nightlife Links:
Disney's BoardWalk: http://allears.net/btp/brdwlk.htm
Downtown Disney: http://allears.net/btp/downtown.htm
Pleasure Island FAQ: http://allears.net/btp/faq_pi.htm
Adventurers Club FAQ: http://allears.net/btp/faq_adv.htm
Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.