Nightlife does exist at Disney World — here’s where to find it
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As a mom of three, most of my Walt Disney World trips involve waking up early, squeezing in a full day of fun and then heading back to our resort early enough that the kids don’t get thrown too far off their normal sleep schedules. Every so often, though, the grandparents step in and I get to visit The Most Magical Place on Earth sans kids — and, let me tell you, there’s a whole new world of late-night Disney fun just waiting to be discovered.
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Here are a few of my favorite late-night hot spots at Disney World.
Dinner, drinks and a show at Disney Springs
After a four-year hiatus, Cirque du Soleil recently made a triumphant return to Disney Springs with Drawn to Life. The spellbinding show combines the magic of Disney animation with the just-as-magical physical feats of the Cirque du Soleil performers. With ticket prices starting at $85 and a runtime of 90 minutes, I prefer this show for a date night or night out with friends rather than a place to take my family of five.
Disney Springs gets bonus points for staying open for dinner and drinks much later than most of Disney’s theme parks. Some nights, you can get dinner reservations as late as 11:30 p.m. My favorites are Wine Bar George for their signature Frozcato – a frosty mix of Moscato, vodka and pineapple Dole Whip, a Kungaloosh draft beer from Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar or the outdoor Stargazers Bar at Planet Hollywood where you can listen to live music on the weekends.
During the day, Disney’s BoardWalk area woos families with classic midway games, delicious dining, shopping and spectacular views of Disney’s Crescent Lake. But when the sun goes down and the boardwalk lights flicker to life it becomes a playground for the over-21 crowd.
On a recent visit, my friends and I began our night at AbracadaBar, a magic-themed bar with a few tricks up its sleeve. In addition to wine and beer, AbracadaBar serves a selection of cocktails named for famous magic tricks and magicians (like the Pepper’s Ghost, which is an oft-used trick of magicians and Disney Imagineers alike). I questioned whether I had been overserved when the magician in one of the posters on the wall disappeared, but after closer inspection, I realized it was a clever trick that played into the bar’s design.
A short walk down the promenade are two of the only spots at Disney World that stay open past midnight and are for adults only. Jellyrolls is a lively dueling piano bar that requires you to leave your ego at the door and join in the fun. I sang along for hours with the performers as they took requests from the audience (bring some cash if you want to request a song). I was shocked at how many songs they knew. Jellyrolls gets crowded early and most people stay all night. Get there close to opening time to guarantee a table.
The Atlantic Dance Hall is just next door to Jellyrolls. Inside, there’s a full bar and plenty of seating surrounding a large dance floor where a DJ plays hit tunes from the ‘80s through today. Outside, you can relax on the quiet balcony that overlooks Crescent Lake.
I’m never one to shy away from a dance floor, but, sadly, I was one of only a few people who went with that option. It was in stark contrast to the enthusiastic participation at Jellyrolls, but I visited after midnight on a Thursday. It could be more crowded on weekends — and I’ll definitely be back to find out.
Jellyrolls and the Atlantic Dance Hall are only open Thursday through Sunday and both have a cover charge.
Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort
If I had to choose a favorite Disney resort (but please don’t make me), it would probably be Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. I love the tropical vibes, the South Pacific-inspired food, the easy access to Dole Whip (sometimes with rum) and the Magic Kingdom views.
Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto, located in the back of the resort’s Great Ceremonial House, is Disney’s version of a traditional tiki bar. It’s small and dripping with tropical decor from floor to ceiling, with just the right amount of sensory overload.
The menu is unsurprisingly rum forward and a few drinks on the menu trigger a bit of Disney magic around the bar. And, yes, you can get your Dole Whip fix in the form of a Spikey Pineapple. Order it “extra spiky” for an added splash of rum.
After 8 p.m., Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto only welcomes guests 21 and older and it can be tough to get a table. During my last visit, the wait was more than two hours, so we chose to sit outside at Trader Sam’s Tiki Terrace. The food and drink menus are the same and we were treated to a performance by a ukulele player.
Phins Bar at the Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel
Every time I stay at the Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel, I notice how different it feels from any other Disney hotel. It could be that it’s technically a Sheraton (and, therefore, part of the Marriott Bonvoy program), but I think it’s the large lobby dotted with couches and the lobby bar that encourages guests to gather for a drink or two instead of retreating to their rooms after a long day at the parks.
The aptly named Phins bar serves wine, beer and cocktails, including my personal favorite, the Phins and Feathers pale ale that’s specially brewed for the hotel. Because the lobby is so large, there’s plenty of seating where you can relax and enjoy your drinks.
La Cava del Tequila in EPCOT’s World Showcase
La Cava del Tequila is the only spot inside the parks that made this list — and deservedly so. Located in the Mexico pavilion at Epcot’s World Showcase, La Cava del Tequila does one thing and does it very well: tequila. After a long day at Epcot, you can pop in for a quick tequila or cocktail (my favorite is the frozen avocado margarita) or grab a table and have some bar snacks with your drink. My low tolerance has kept me from reserving a spot at the La Cava Experience, but if you are into tequila tastings, it would make a great addition to your Disney after-dark vacation.
Featured photo by Tarah Chieffi for The Points Guy.
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