Review: Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto and Tiki Terrace at Disney World’s Polynesian Village Resort


It’s already time to go back inside (and outside!) Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto and Tiki Terrace at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort!

Trader Sam's Grog Grotto

Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto

While both the Grotto and Terrace continue in soft openings with an official opening anticipated for late April (when all the sought-after souvenir glasses will be available for guests to take home), these new hot spots remain the talk of the town.

On March 28th, when both the Grog Grotto and the Tiki Terrace soft opened for the first day, tales of lines up to 6 hours long were nearly as much of a story as the bars opening themselves. So a common question now is, “What are the wait times like?”

How long until you can get past Trader Sam's door?

How long until you can get past Trader Sam’s door?

Grog Grotto Hours of Operation

Grog Grotto Hours of Operation

Unsure of what to expect, my husband and I arrived at the Polynesian at 2 pm on a weekday for the 4 pm opening, and no line had started yet (though the bar is open until midnight, after 8 pm only guests 21 and older are permitted).

At 3 pm, we decided we’d better stake out our spot, so we went to the inside door of the Grog Grotto, where two Cast Members were waiting. We were told we were the first for the day, and could start the line outside at the metal bench pictured below.

The line starts here

The line starts here

The next guest arrived at 3:15, and a line in earnest began to form at 3:30 pm. Around 3:50, a Cast Member came outside and gave us all a stamp to show at the door as our proof that we’d been counted in the line. At this time, I counted around 40 people waiting, and when we were let in at 4:00 pm, everyone made it inside to fill up the 51 person capacity. Huzzah!

Outdoor entrance into the Trader Sam's hallway

Outdoor entrance into the Trader Sam’s hallway

Now, I’m not claiming this will be the case everyday. We clearly arrived early anticipating a wait and were shocked that there wasn’t one, especially during what’s considered a peak time (still in the Spring Break window). Now, I had a friend in town Saturday of the same week. She arrived at Trader Sam’s at 7:30 pm and was given a pager for a 90 minute wait, and folks arriving a while after were looking at a couple hours at least.

Pager for Trader Sam's

Pager for Trader Sam’s

That’s not altogether surprising, though, since I think we can all anticipate longer lines on weekends for what is sure to be a popular destination for locals as well as vacationers for a long time to come.

Okay, logistics, schmogistics! WE’RE IN! It’s time to see a little more of what Trader Sam has in store for his guests…



You’ve now entered Trader Sam’s “happy hideaway.” The story of the Grotto is told to us by Skip, Manager of the Jungle Cruise Navigational Company (just click the image below to enlarge). As head salesman of the jungle that we all know and love from the Jungle Cruise, Trader Sam discovered a passion for mixology as an extension of his professional interest in head-shrinking potions. As he traveled the globe for ingredients, he picked up many a souvenir and brought them back to the Grotto.

The story of Trader Sam's Grog Grotto

The story of Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto

Entering the Grotto for the first time was — for me, at least — overwhelming in the best way possible. While you want to grab a table or a seat at the bar (and lemme tell ya, it’s best to move quickly to get one), it’s difficult to not want to try to take in every bit of the INSANE amount of details and decoration right away. This room is simply the stuff of dreams for fans of Disney detail and history.

Trader Sam's Grog Grotto

Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto

Before we take in a few of those gems, the basic setup is small and…well, I don’t know if “cozy” is the word. It’s snug, for sure, but somehow not in a bad way. The way everyone is close together, it seems to encourage a party atmosphere and festive mood.

Oh, my… where to start? Well, I’ll take a cue from a Jungle Cruise Skipper and point out a few of my favorite details! There’s this one.



And this one.

Family Tree East Coast Branch

Family Tree East Coast Branch

I like this one.

Picture of Walt Disney

Walt Disney

Ooookay, so CLEARLY that joke doesn’t play out in writing the same way it does on the Jungle Cruise when your Skipper deadpans pointing out his or her favorite plants ;) . Still, you get the point. There is just a TON of [Read more…]

Disney Food Post Round-Up: January 22, 2012

Did the Frito Kid have a hand in inventing Doritos?

Lots of Disney food news popped up this week, including lovely, flavorful things like wine, chocolate, caramel, coffee, cake, and more!!

Plus, we’ve found some seriously interesting posts to share with you — did you know that Doritos may have been invented in Disneyland?? Check it out…

Treat Yourself to Updated Disney Food News

For more decadent food news, stop by our Disney Food News Pin Board, where Disney Food News is updated on a regular basis — even little stuff that you might not see in a full post on the blog! Worth a look… :-)

DFB Disney Dining Adventures e-Book

Have you read our newest Disney Food Blog e-Book?

DFB Disney Dining Adventures includes over 80 pages of pre-planned food fun to add to your family’s plans on your next trip! Let us do the planning for you — all you need to do is have a blast!

Want a day full of Dole Whips or a day planned for a Princess? Perhaps you have a dino fan in the family — we’ve got two days of pre-planned Jurassic-sized fun! And if you’re traveling with the grown-ups, check out our full two-day Beer Adventure!

The e-Book includes:

  • Fully themed strategies that cover one day, two days, or a full week
  • Themed breakfast, lunch, and dinner suggestions
  • Disney attraction and ride suggestions that complement each Adventure theme
  • Our favorite snacks that are within easy access during each Adventure
  • Historical and behind-the-scenes tips and details that make the Adventure come alive!
  • Plus more bonus sections!

You can check out sample pages and even more details here! Or get your instantly downloadable copy right here! Use code: ADVENTURE for a $2 discount!!

On to the Round-Up!

AKL Resort takes us to the Animal Kingdom Lodge’s Sanaa at Kidani Village. Try the yummy Naan bread!

OC Weekly investigates the origins of Doritos? There may be a Disneyland connection!

Main St. Gazette clearly agrees with me that the Picnic Burger is a slam dunk at Disney World’s Sci Fi Dine-In! Woo!

WDW Parkhoppers heads to dinner at the Polynesian’s Kona Cafe.

MousePlanet reviews the story behind Mama Melrose’s at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

DisneyParks Blog shares favorite healthy eats at Walt Disney World.

Guest Review: Tangaroa Terrace at the Disneyland Hotel

Welcome back guest author Carrie Hayward, author of PassPorter’s Disney Weddings & Honeymoons, as she shares her recent trip to the Disneyland Hotel’s newest restaurant — Tangaroa Terrace. Thanks, Carrie!

My husband and I are big fans of Disney’s take on tiki culture and often wonder why they don’t exploit the theme more around the parks and resorts, especially when it comes to food service (Aladdin’s Oasis, I’m looking at YOU). So we got very excited when we heard that Disney was reimagining the counter-service restaurant at the Disneyland Hotel with a tiki theme. On Sunday we had a chance to try the new [Read more…]

Review: Captain Cook’s Snack Company

UPDATE: Dole Whip is no longer being served at Captain Cook’s, is no longer self-serve, and is no longer available 24 hours a day. You’ll now find Dole Whip at the Pineapple Lanai in Disney’s Polynesian Village in addition to Aloha Isle at the Magic Kingdom. You can also find Dole Whip available intermittently at Animal Kingdom’s Tamu Tamu Refreshments, and at Epcot during some special events. On the upside, you can also get a Dole Whip Float at Pineapple Lanai!

There are two important things you need to know about Captain Cook’s Snack Company and why I consider it to be one of Disney’s best kept secrets:

1. It offers two of Disney’s most beloved menu items — Tonga Toast and Dole Whips.
2. It’s open 24. Hours.

Those two are reason enough to visit, but when you add in the fact that the place serves up some pretty unique and delicious eats, there’s no reason NOT to escape the crazy of the Magic Kingdom for a quick boat ride over to the Polynesian Resort and a visit to Captain Cook’s.

Entrance Sign

This joint looks pretty much like a fast-food location decorated in stereotypical Hawaiian style. Because that’s what it is. But it’s also so much more!

Counter-Service Restaurant

It was one of the first locations to pioneer [Read more…]

“The Best Thing I Ever Ate in Disney!”: Snacks and Drinks

We’ve recently started a fun new series based on the Food Network’s (very cool) show, The Best Thing I Ever Ate. Due to some keen suggestions from readers, we’re splitting our series up into different sections: breakfast, appetizers & side dishes, snacks & drinks, entrees (lunch & dinner), and desserts.

Today, we’re taking a look at Snacks & Drinks! I’ve done my favorite brand of informal polling (i.e. posted questions on twitter and facebook ;) ) to find out others’ experiences of the “Best Thing They Ever Ate” — snacks and drinks style — in Disney parks and resorts. To be sure, the answers sounded veeeery similar to our recent post about the Best Value for your Snack Credits, but we had a few different ideas as well!


Who doesn’t indulge a bit with some of the great snacks available on a trip to Disney? Here are a few of the favorites, as determined by Disney Food Blog readers:

Mickey Premium Ice Cream Bar

Sometimes there’s nothing better than a classic! The Mickey Premium bar has been sweetening Disney trips for years, and I doubt that will stop anytime soon. While other ice cream treats come and go, I’m pretty sure you can count on the Mickey Bar to be available just about everywhere you can find the Big Cheese himself.

Mickey Premium Bar

Thanks again to Morgan! (Photo courtesy Morgan and Jeff Rooks via flickr)

School Bread

This Norwegian delight is a staple in the World Showcase and a favorite of [Read more…]

Best Disney World Restaurants for Fireworks Viewing: Part I

One of the most enjoyable ways to spend an evening is with dinner at a great restaurant followed by a beautiful Disney fireworks display. The best way to spend an enjoyable evening is to have the great dinner DURING the fireworks display!

There are several Disney restaurants from which you can see either Magic Kingdom’s Wishes or Epcot’s Illuminations. Here in Part I of our “Restaurants for Fireworks Viewing” series, we’ll look at restaurants from which you can see Wishes.

Wishes is the Magic Kingdom’s nightly fireworks display. It usually takes place at 9:00PM, but can be earlier or later depending on time of year and the MK’s schedule of special events. The Wishes soundtrack is piped into the restaurants, so hearing the accompaniment to the fireworks will not be a problem.


‘Ohana, one of the two table-service restaurants at the Polynesian Resort, has arguably the best view of Wishes from any restaurant. With a wall of windows facing the castle, directly across Seven Seas Lagoon from the Polynesian, the view of Wishes is head-on — just as you’d see it on Main Street in the Magic Kingdom (only farther away).

'Ohana Sign

See that blue spot in the middle? That's the Castle from our 'Ohana table.

See that blue spot in the middle? That's the Castle from our 'Ohana table.

The second picture isn’t the best — the castle looks a million miles away — but trust me that it’s a great show from ‘Ohana. Definitely worth booking. And speaking of booking, you’ll want to book a reservation about 30-45 minutes prior to the scheduled time for Wishes. When you arrive at the podium, request a “Fireworks view” table. They cannot guarantee it, but they’ll do their best. If you happen to be seated in one of the few tables from which you can’t see the fireworks, you’re free to move during the show to stand in an area of the restaurant offering a better view.

Also, note that if you don’t get a reservation for around fireworks viewing time, the Polynesian Beach is another great spot to view Wishes.

‘Ohana is a casual dining establishment; standard park-wear is acceptable here.

Narcoossee’s, in the Grand Floridian Resort, sits over to the left-hand side of the Magic Kingdom. Several window tables offer a great view of the Wishes fireworks show.

View of Castle From Narcoossee's

View of Castle From Narcoossee's

Narcoossee’s also has an outdoor viewing area along the railing outside of the restaurant. This will offer a great view if you’ve not yet been seated at your table. Again, book a reservation about 30-45 minutes prior to the scheduled start time for Wishes.

Narcoossee’s is a bit fancier than ‘Ohana; you might want to dress up a bit.

California Grill
California Grill, on the Contemporary Resort’s 15th floor, is often thought of as the quintessential Wishes viewing spot. The restaurant offers its outdoor viewing deck in addition to the views from the wall of windows in the restaurant.

California Grill Sign

View of Castle from our California Grill Table

View of Castle from our California Grill Table

That said, California Grill isn’t my favorite location for Wishes viewing, as the vantage point is strongly to the right of the castle. As a result, many of the fireworks launched from a mile or so behind the castle are skewed and don’t appear as they would when watching the show from directly in front. However, California Grill definitely has my vote for best food of the three!

Note that if you can’t book a reservation around fireworks time (these fill up fast) but get a reservation at some other time that evening, you are welcome to return to the 15th floor observation deck to view the fireworks at their scheduled time. Also, James comments below that the bar at California Grill has non-reservation seating, so you might get lucky with a seat at the bar if you hit the Contemporary at the right time. (This seating is first-come, first-served.)

California Grill is another Disney signature dining location, so it’s pricey…and dressy.


While these three are clearly the front-runners in dining reservations, you can also see glimpses of Wishes from Magic Kingdom’s Plaza Restaurant, Crystal Palace, Casey’s Corner, and Tomorrowland Terrace Noodle Station.

Interesting “views” of Wishes can be had from Cinderella’s Royal Table in Cinderella Castle and Pinnochio’s Village Haus in Fantasyland. While the fireworks are exploding above your head (not necessarily in your view, of course), you can see the flares being released from the tops of Magic Kingdom buildings around you. You won’t be able to truly experience Wishes, but it’s a unique view for anyone who has an interest in pyrotechnics, engineering, or fireworks in general.

Restaurants in the Magic Kingdom from which you can see very little — if any — of the Wishes Fireworks display are: Liberty Tree Tavern, Tony’s Town Square, Columbia Harbour House, Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe, El Pirata y El Perico, Pecos Bill’s Cafe.

Check out the other “Best Disney World Restaurants” in our series!

Food Blog Sunday Round-Up

eat hereThe Food Blog Sunday Round-up is becoming a tradition, I see. I just can’t let these other great Disney food posts from the week go un-mentioned, so here we go…

The Disney Blog’s Review of Portobello: Things are turning up for what is now called just “Portobello” (dropping the “Yacht Club”) in Downtown Disney. Scott Joseph Orlando has another good Portobello review from May 2009.

DisneyDaddy’s Cinderella’s Royal Table reviews: For anyone considering Cinderella’s Royal Table for breakfast or dinner, DisneyDaddy reviews both meals.

The Disney Chick has been busy cooking this week! Check out her step-by-step recipe/preparation/review blogs!
Brown Derby Grapefruit Cake: DisneyFoodBlog does not lie; one of my favorite things in the world is cream cheese frosting…which this cake has…so check it out!
‘Ohana Coriander Chicken Wings: One of DisneyChick’s favorite recipes to date! Delicious, and it only took 30 minutes to make!

Imaginerding’s Reminiscent Recipe: Highlighting the White Rabbit’s Gingerapple Fizz recipe out of Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse Cookbook

Solofriendly’s Visit to the Kona Cafe: Gray’s experience in an overly-crowded Poly Ceremonial House has her thinking that Kona might be better for lunch instead of dinner!

Thanks for the great food posts, everyone! If you’ve got a Disney food post coming up, or if you see a good one somewhere online, send them my way at! Thanks!