One of the best "secrets" of Disney World is the amazing plethora of unique, fun spots to grab a drink, both in the parks, at the resorts, and in Disney Springs. Most people assume that Disney World, being an amusement park aimed for kids, is only for kids. Boy are they wrong! Disney puts a lot of thought and mixology into their bars and it shows. However, don't let the fact that these are "secret" spots fool you. They can and will have long lines to get in and find a spot to sit.
1. Trader Sam's Grog Grotto
Located inside the Polynesian Resort, Trader Sam's is perhaps my favorite spot in all of Walt Disney World. Why? SO MANY REASONS! First, the theming: It is a Tiki Bar set in the South Seas where depending on the drink ordered at the bar numerous special effects take place. For example, order a Krakatoa Punch and you can watch the skies darken and the volcanoes in the windows erupt. This place is a Tiki-lovers paradise! Second, the drinks are delicious and creative. My personal favorite is the HippopotoMai-Tai which blends run, orange curaçao and lime juice to make the perfect (STRONG) concoction! But my second order is always a Dark and Tropical Stormy. Third, the food is also on point. Their menu focuses on shareable bites such as Hawaiian poke, Chicken lettuce cups, and banh mi sliders. I tend to go for the pan-fried dumplings, but everything there sounds amazing! My one note about Trader Sam's is to get there early! They open at 4pm, but by 3 there will already be a line forming outside. The bar is not very large and seating is limited. My advice is to get there around 3pm, put your name on the list. You will get a pager and then can wander to the outside tiki bar area and enjoy the sunshine and drink until time to open. Also, if you get a choice, sit at the bar!
2. Nomad's Lounge
Found inside the Animal Kingdom near the entrance to Pandora is Nomad's Lounge. Inspired by the Asian and African travels of the Imagineers, Nomad's Lounge is designed to be an oasis in which to relax and enjoy a drink during your travels. The vibe of the lounge is laid back! The chairs are mostly low slung couches with indoor and outdoor seating. It invites you to order a drink and sit for a while.
The cocktail list also reflects the nomadic theme by featuring fusions of exotic liquors and mixers. I went with the Annapurna Zing which mixes Sapphire Gin with passion fruit, lime juice, syrup and ginger beer. This fruity drink is the perfect cocktail is sip away the time with.
The food menu is comprised of small tapas sized portions. While the food is not as exotic and exciting as the cocktail menu, they do appeal to a wider audience including kids if they happen to be with you. The charcuterie board and artisanal cheeses is always a good bet, but the wagyu beef sliders and the beef brisket poutine are the standout dishes!
Another personal favorite bar/lounge for me is the Abracadabar on the Boardwalk. The Boardwalk is a often missed area of Disney World because it is tucked behind the International Gateway of Epcot and just a walk away from Hollywood Studios. Abracadabar has also a unique, but distinctly cool theme. The alleged backstory is that it was the hangout spot for magicians and other entertainers back in the early decades of the Atlantic Boardwalk. The wallpaper and drapers are heavy and rich giving you a full respite from the hot and sunny Florida sky. The walls are also lined with glass cases holding vintage magician props.
The menu consists of both "curious cocktails" and small plates. While the cocktail menu does feature lots of imaginative and fun looking cocktails, the vintage vibe of the place had me wanting a French 75 (my favorite!). On the food menu, the Thrice Spiced Fries and the Kurobuta Pork Belly are amazing!
While Nomad Lounge definitely was kid friendly, this bar is not. They certainly won't bar kids from entering, but Im not sure they would enjoy the food or the vibe of the bar. So definitely take that into account.
4. Jock Lindsay's Hangar
Jock Lindsay's Hangar at Disney Springs is also an awesome spot to grab drink, bite to eat, and just sit and enjoy the scenery. This is also a huge favorite of locals and cast members, so while kids are very welcome here, it certainly has a most adult, local vibe than say, T-Rex Cafe.
The theming inside the Hangar is Disney's imagining of the back story of Jock Lindsay, Indiana Jones' laid back pilot. Most people don't remember the character at all, but Disney has give Jock a new life, or past...The details are set around a globe-trotting, adventure-seeking pilot's vintage aviation collection. The walls are filled with maps, photos, and memorabilia from Jock's imagined life. There are a number of seating options which I like as you can choose where to sit depending on if you're there for a drink, some food, or just in search of a water view. But did I mention the Diver Bell? You can cozy around a small table inside a large, rustic Diver Bell. Definitely one of the cooler seating areas I've ever seen!
To drink I went for the Bedtime Story, a mix of Mandarin Vodka, Ginger Liqueur, Hibiscus Syrup, Lemon Juice and Ice Tea. It was delicious! And the Hibiscus Flower on top is actually edible. While the flower was not that great tasting, that was a cool touch.
5. La Cava del Tequila
My final favorite (but definitely not my least favorite) is La Cava del Tequila. This is a cult hit among those who have ever ventured down into Epcot's Mexico Pavilion and waited in the 20+ minute line. But what is on the other end of that line? Delicious margaritas and a well of over 100 tequilas! I do like tequila, but an icy margarita to walk around the World Showcase is always a winner. My favorite is the Avocado. While initially I was skeptical, it is creamy and delicious. Really give this a try! Another major favorite is the Blood Orange margarita topped with berry foam. I really cannot recommend this place enough for an amazing drink! Now that Epcot has opened Choza de Margarita, a "margarita shack," outside the line may shrink a bit. Either way, its worth it!!
Since November is National Aviation Month, I thought what better chance to share our latest experience with Jock Lindsay's Hangar Bar. For those of you unfamiliar with Jock Lindsay (and don't worry, I think most people are!), Jock Lindsay is a character from Raiders of the Lost Ark, the first in the Indiana Jones series. Jock was Indiana Jones' laid back pilot. But for most of us, if you remembered him from that, is where his story ended. Disney gave Jock an new life, err past, and themed an aviation bar to perfection. Take a look:
Located at Disney Springs next to the Boathouse, the location is an easy one to grab a quick drink or sit and relax.
Inside the Hangar is a well curated gem! The theming is entirely set around a globe-trotting, adventure-seeking pilot's vintage aviation collection. The walls are filled with maps, photos, and memorabilia from Jock's imagined life. There are a number of seating options which I like as you can choose where to sit depending on if you're there for a drink, some food, or just in search of a water view. But did I mention the Diver Bell? You can cozy around a small table inside a large, rustic Diver Bell. Definitely one of the cooler seating areas I've ever seen!
While the vintage, aviation ambiance is pretty neat, the food and drink options stand up to the test. First, the menu itself is a unique creation. It is multiple layers of not just the food and drinks offered, but of Jock's backstory and where his travels took him. Its worth a read, honestly.
On our latest trip we tried the Mac's Pork Belly Sliders and the Chimichurri Fries. Both were quite good. Now, I will say that since I truly love Pork Belly and can tell when it properly cooked or not, the sliders were not perfect pork belly. But if you're going to slather sauce, and cabbage on top of it, you wouldn't want perfect pork belly. So this dish, while not perfect, was really good and very filling! Our other choice was the Chimichurri Fries. These were so hard to stop eating! I cannot recommend these enough!
To drink I went for the Bedtime Story, a mix of Mandarin Vodka, Ginger Liqueur, Hibiscus Syrup, Lemon Juice and Ice Tea. It was delicious! And the Hibiscus Flower on top is actually edible. While not that great tasting, that was a cool touch.
Honestly, this was a surprise LOVE for me. While I enjoy finding new lounges on Disney Property (And this one is kid friendly!) usually I am never as awestruck by a spot. Jock Lindsay's Hangar Bar was cool, interesting and well themed! Does Jock Lindsay’s Hangar Bar look like a place you’d visit?
Most adults will not give T-Rex Cafe the same rave reviews as say Homecomin' or other Disney Springs restaurants. Adults are usually drug there at the request of their children. No doubt this restaurant is geared towards the kids in the family, however, it is absolutely ok for adults to make a reservation here! And here's why:
The Theming Is Just Cool
T-Rex Cafe is a dining experience immersed into the age of the dinosaurs. Surrounded by large animatronic prehistoric creatures and meteor showers, the T-Rex Cafe will transport you to the Jurassic Age. The overall atmosphere is a clear reference to the theming of Rainforest Cafe, the sister restaurant, but there is just so much more here. Unlike other Disney property restaurants, T-Rex Cafe is not subtle. It is "in your face" dinosaurs!
There are four distinctly themed rooms in which to be seated, but you are encouraged to walk around and take in all of the restaurant. The Ice Age Room is beautiful as it changes colors from blue to purple to red (although I have a hard time eating in this one just because who wants blue food?). The UnderSea room surrounds you with octopi, starfish, and a live aquarium. The Forest is the more typically dinosaure-themed room with Triceratops and other dinosaurs greeting you. And then finally, there is the Meteor Shower room where the meteors shoot across the ceiling and the kitchen is visible through a firey bar.
One note about the meteor showers: They go off approximately every 15-20 minutes. When there is a meteor shower the lights flash, there are loud booms, and the dinosaurs gets very agitated. My kids love this! But I mention it because if you have a smaller child or someone in your party who may not react well to the stimulation, I would recommend not eating here.
Menu Has Something For Everyone
The menu is GIANORMOUS! It will take you some time to decide what you want, so order your drinks and then dive in. The menu features American cuisine with a "mammoth" touch. With entrees ranging for ribs to burgers to salmon to salads, everyone in your party will find something that they can eat. The same is especially true for the kids. The children's menu covers lots of ground and my picky kids always like what they get!
My husband always orders the Bronto Burger. It is a large burger topped with a fried onion ring and comes with waffle fries. The hubby says its his favorite burger on property. (I don't agree with this statement as I am particular to the Southern Burger at Sci-Fi Theatre in Hollywood Studios, but I digress) Personally, I really like the Omnivore's Delight which is a spinach salad with goat cheese, strawberries, and carmelized onions. I always add the grilled chicken.
Now, that said about the entrees, I would not recommend eating dessert here. T-Rex touts its Chocolate Extinction as the top dessert and while it sounds great, it is pricey and just not worth it. I recommend skipping dessert and heading elsewhere in Disney Springs such as Ghiradelli Ice Cream and Chocolate Shop, Sprinkles Cupcakes, or Amorette's Patisserie. They have a greater variety of deliciousness and are at a better price point as well.
Some Things to Note:
While I certainly advocate for dining at T-Rex Cafe if it is the right fit for your family, I do want to note a few things that are draw backs. The first is noise. This is a loud restaurant. The sheer number of tables, plus the meteor showers, plus the occasional roar of dinosaurs, make this a hard place to have a conversation. If you are looking to actually talk to your family over lunch or dinner, this is not the place. If you are looking to sit down somewhere cool, eat a decent meal, and watch your kids love it, then yes. Go here. It's OK.
The second is the crowds. It is a large restaurant, and it seats a LOT. This is a place I highly recommend getting reservations ahead of time. Or you will be sitting outside in the sun while your children are likely shopping in the gift store...see below.
The third is the GIFT STORE! My kids will not fail to find something they just have to have here. And its nearly impossible to keep them from going into it. The restaurant is already fairly pricey for what you get and sometimes adding on the cost of the souvenir at the shop is hard to stomach.
Finally, the price. The food, itself, is high for what you get. But you are not paying for the food. You are paying for a prehistoric adventure. Nevertheless, it is easy to be sucked into the "extras" such as the novelty, light up glasses or the specialty cocktail drinks, or the gift shop as mentioned above. The price is high and it gets higher quickly here.
Overall, T-Rex Cafe gets a solid OK. The cuisine is not gourmet, but its not trying to be. You go for the atmosphere and to see the face on your kids when the dinosaurs come to life. So do you have kids? Do they like dinosaurs? If you're family is like mine Happy Kids + Full Bellies = Reservation! Just because there are "better" restaurants to be found, doesnt mean this one you must skip.
I know what you are thinking! Free and Disney do not go in the same sentence! But there are some really fun sights and activities at Disney World that in fact do not cost a thing (are very inexpensive)
1. Visit Disney's Boardwalk
Located behind Epcot, and accessible through the International Gateway, is Disney Boardwalk. The Boardwalk is a quarter-mile wood, walking path that is designed as a throw back to the great Boardwalks of the Mid-Atlantic coast in the early 1900s. The Boardwalk is made for strolling along and partaking in the atmosphere. There are great restaurants, a dance hall, ice cream shops, midway games, and street performers. The Boardwalk, itself, is free, while food and drink are extra. I am a huge fan of Ample Hills Creamery!
2. Disney Springs
Disney Springs, the transformed Downtown Disney, is now one of Disney World's greatest attractions itself. A mix of boutiques, entertainment, and more eateries than even I have tried, Disney Springs is a great spot to visit for dinner, dessert, or just to walk around and enjoy the outdoor shopping and sights. There are more than 50 shops located at Disney Springs, some selling Disney Merchandise and some more national and international brands. There are 56 restaurants and that doesn't include the delicious food stands and food trucks! My kids would recommend T-Rex Cafe, while I have to say Homecomin' is my favorite spot!
3. Picking A Pearl inside Japan Pavilion at Epcot
While this experience is not "free" and you do have to have a ticket for entrance into Epcot, the Picking a Pearl inside the Japan Pavilion still ranks as one of my top favorite experiences in Disney World and it costs $18. Thats it and you walk away with a beautiful pearl. If you have never done this, check out our recent review of the experience here: pick-a-pearl-at-japan-pavilion-at-epcot.html. The short version is that for $18, you get to search the tanks for the oyster that speaks to you. Once chosen the cast members perform a short ceremony for you pearl as they open it and measure it. **TIP** Go for the ugliest, slimiest, oldest looking oyster. They usually contain the larger or more exotic pearls!
4. Free Soda at Club Cool in Epcot
5. Free Duffy Cut Out at Epcot
Staying in Epcot for one more freebie is a fun activity for the younger kids in your family. Around the World Showcase, there are areas in each Pavilion labeled "KidCOT". These stations have markers and paper cut out of Duffy on stocks. The kids can color them at each country and also get them stamped. My kids love to collect all the stamps around the World!
What are your thoughts?
And if you're ready to start to enjoying Disney and save money, let us know. We're happy to help you book your next stay at Adventureland Villa and help you plan your vacation!
Homecomin' by Art Smith was one of the biggest new restaurant additions in the latest round of Disney Springs' transformation. Art Smith in and of himself is a huge draw! He is considered without question to be one of the top "celebrity" chefs in the country right now contain Oprah and President Obama among his clients. I, myself, have gone googly-eyed before when encountering him at an event at Epcot's Food and Wine Festival! (See Below...)So needless to say I jumped at the chance to give Homecomin' a try! And it was great! I'm from the South and this "Southern Cooking" was comforting, and yet elevated. Take a look!
Inside, the restaurant is fresh and modern, but not stark in anyway. On the far side of the restaurant, is a beautiful mural depicting Floridian groves. Now onto the food:
We tried two of their staples on the appetizer menu with the house-made hushpuppies served with pimento cheese and red jalapeño jelly. These were light and fluffy. If you like hushpuppies, give these a try! While the hushpuppies didn't have much spice, the jelly gave it that punch!
Another Southern classic, Fried Green Tomatoes. These were perfectly fried and topped with a great remoulade sauce. The ham, eh, I could have gone without it. But overall, I would order this again without hesitation.
ONTO THE ENTREES!
No visit to Homecomin' is complete without at least trying the signature dish on the menu: Art's Famous Fried Chicken! The chicken is brined in buttermilk for 24 hours then fried and served with creamy mashed potatoes, cheddar biscuits. My father loved this and the mashed potatoes are truly amazing. I could have licked that bowl!
Now, I am a sucker for Braised Short Ribs and so I could not pass these up. And OMG! They were awesome! The meat just fell apart on the fork. And the mash potatoes...just don't miss those!
Being southern, we also tried the fried catfish with a cucumber salad. This was also quick delicious. In fact, several people at the time agreed that the fried fish beat the fried chicken in flavor and crispness.
Overall I give Homecomin' a solid A-. The only minus for me was that there are other restaurants at Disney that just earn the A and A+ bit more solidly, and I cant give everything top scores! That said, I thoroughly enjoyed Homecomin'. I loved the food, the drinks, and the atmosphere and I would have no hesitation to eating here again. If you like slow-cooked, well seasoned Southern food, I definitely recommend it!
Tara is a Disney-obsessed Mom of two active boys!