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by Alice McNutt Miller
AllEars® Guest Columnist
This article appeared in the November 16, 2010 Issue #582 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)
My family had the opportunity to stay in a Wilderness Cabin at Walt Disney World's Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground this summer. I thought that this would be a great opportunity to have dinner at the famous, and very long-running (I know it has been running for a very long time, but I am very sorry to say that I do not know for exactly how long, sorry to those of you who like precision!) Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue at Fort Wilderness' Pioneer Hall. We had "done" the Hoop-Dee-Doo several years before, when the girls were in elementary school, and they really liked it. Their enjoyment at that time related more to swirling their napkins and playing the washboard than it was about either the food or the content of the show, however. In any case, I decided to take a chance, and made reservations for the four of us as far in advance as possible, and was able to score a Category 1 table. (Category 1 tables are in the front and center of the main floor, Category 2 tables are on the sides and at the back of the main floor, and Category 3 tables are located on the balcony level above the main floor.)
A few weeks later, we found out that my husband and his business partner were able to schedule a meeting with one of their clients in Orlando during the time of our visit, so his partner was also going to come to Orlando with his two kids, who are exactly the same ages as ours -- 13 and 15. I called Disney dining again to try to change the reservation (at this point, we were only about a week out), and was lucky enough to score one for seven, but this time in a Category 2 table. Not quite front and center, but still good.
I can't remember exactly how much we paid per person (and I'm sure that the prices have probably changed -- translation: gone up -- since we attended), but suffice it to say that the prices were at such a level (particularly since the kids are no longer "kids" in the eyes of Disney) that I really wanted everyone to have a good time, otherwise we might have wasted a significant sum that could otherwise have been spent on greens fees for mini-golf at Winter Summerland.
We picked up our Hoop-Dee-Doo vouchers at the Concierge Desk on the day that we checked into the resort. The Cast Member behind the desk asked me if we had ever seen the show before. When I answered "yes," she said, "Well, nothing has changed." Um, OK, is that a good thing or a bad thing? Had to wait and see, I guess.
We met our friends at Pioneer Hall at about 6:45 p.m., and the kids walked down to the playground near the beach to play some tetherball for a few minutes (it is my firm belief that no matter how much they look like adults, teenagers are still children, particularly when tetherball and a cool playground are involved). We skipped the photo opportunity outside, and were seated in the hall at about 7:10, after most other guests had been seated, but without having had to wait in a long line. Our server dropped off some cornbread and our salad, and said he would be back to take our drink orders.
The evening's menu was: Garden Salad with House Vinaigrette Dressing, Cornbread, Fried Chicken, Smoked Barbecued Pork Ribs, Mashed Potatoes, Cowboy Beans and Strawberry Shortcake. Drinks included in the price of the meal were various sodas (Coke! Not Pepsi!), iced tea, milk, chocolate milk, coffee, apple juice, pomegranate lemonade (!), draft Bud Light, chardonnay, rosé, merlot and sangria. For an extra fee, you could purchase Perrier or Evian Bottled Water (sorry little ladies, tap water is fine for this family), "The Ultimate Margarita featuring 1800 Tequila," or Tinker Bell and Friends or Buzz Lightyear Punch ("Lemonade Punch served in a souvenir Fairies or Toy Story 3 cup with a glowing Tinker Bell or Buzz Lightyear Clip-on Light"). Add a glow cube to Any Drink for $3.00 (I think the price may have gone up to $4.00. That's some inflation!). Whew!
At the very bottom of the menu is printed the following information: "For our Guest [sic, they forgot the "s"] with food allergies or other health-related dietary restrictions, we are happy to discuss and attempt to accommodate your special dietary requests." Good thing that was there. Just as we sat down, our friend's 15-year-old daughter announced: "I'm a vegetarian. I can't eat anything on this menu." Okaaaaaay... this was something new. How did this happen? The last time we got together with these folks -- about three weeks prior -- she had chowed down happily on a medium-rare rib-eye. I got our server's attention, and relayed this information. To the guy's credit, he didn't skip a beat, telling me that he would ask the chef to come out to discuss options with us. I felt a bit bad, as I knew that Disney is very well equipped to handle the special dietary needs of its guests, but I also know that it is better if you let them know this stuff in advance. The chef came out and suggested some sauteed vegetables and pasta with marinara sauce to our friend's daughter. She seemed very happy with this, and enjoyed her meal.
So, what was the verdict? The kids really liked the show. They were old enough to understand the corny jokes thrown out by the players (my younger daughter, Claire, was thrilled to see that one of the players -- Claire de Lune -- shared her name), and they still liked the napkin twirling and washboard playing. The food was good and plentiful, our server kept our drinks filled, and we all laughed a lot. It was nice to see the teenagers not worrying about being "cool," and really getting into the humor. And to the nice Cast Member at the Concierge Desk: I hope that they never change a thing.
A few tips:
-- If you want to see the Hoop-Dee-Doo Revue make your reservations as early as possible; the shows tend to fill up quickly.
-- If you want to be in the middle of the action, reserve either a Category 1 or Category 3 table. Most of the (hilarious) interaction between the players and the guests occur in either of these seating areas.
-- Be sure to mention special occasions like birthdays, anniversaries, honeymoons, etc. when you make your reservations, as the cast make special (and funny) efforts to recognize them.
-- Give yourself plenty of time to get to Pioneer Hall in advance of your show time. Guests not staying at Fort Wilderness will have to take several forms of transportation to reach Pioneer Hall.
-- Finally, if you are taking a teenager, be sure to check on the most up-to-date status of potential vegetarianism (our friend's daughter is now back to eating meat again!).
AllEars® Writer Jack Spence included videos and photos from the Hoop Dee Doo Revue in his blog, The World According to Jack:
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Alice McNutt Miller is a lifelong Disney fan whose fondest childhood memories include "The Wonderful World of Disney" on Sunday nights and her first trip to Disneyland when she was 10 years old. Alice and her family are Disney Vacation Club members, and have visited Disney parks all over the world. They live in Vienna, Virginia.
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.