Aloha! A word often used at Disney’s Polynesian Resort to welcome guests and help transport them to the Pacific South Seas islands of Polynesia. The Polynesian resort was one of the first resorts built at Walt Disney World. Its opening coincided with the opening of the Magic Kingdom back in 1971.
This resort offers a lot of entertainment and dining options not only to guests of the resort, but to any family willing to visit for a relaxing and entertaining evening. Most of the resort’s activities are located in the main building or longhouse (another name for the buildings at the resort) called the Great Ceremonial House. Inside and around this longhouse you’ll find restaurants and entertainment options abound.
During a recent trip to Walt Disney World our family had the opportunity to visit the Polynesian Resort primarily for dinner; however, because of some great timing we experienced even more.
Three months prior to our visit to Walt Disney World I made an advanced dining reservation (ADR) at Ohana for 6:30PM. It had been a while since we dined at Ohana so our family wanted to give it another try. We heard the restaurant made some changes to their food offerings so it seemed like a good time for another visit.
We arrived at the resort at 5:55PM via our rental car. Using our Tables in Wonderland dining card available to Florida residents and Annual Passholders we used the resort’s valet parking service at the front of the Great Ceremonial House. This card gives you free valet parking provided you are dining at one of the resort’s restaurants. As we left our car and tipped our valet attendant we stopped for a second to admire the beautiful entryway at the front of the Great Ceremonial House.
Within a few seconds we were surprised to hear some Polynesian drum music. Emerging from the front entrance were an island dancer and a Polynesian fire dancer. Each evening (Tues – Sat) at 6:00PM the resort holds a Torch Lighting Ceremony. The fire dancer goes through some ritual dances and lights his fire baton. He performs some tricks with his baton and begins to light the torches along the pathway to the building's front door. This performance is one of those details you’ll only find at Disney World.
After we enjoyed the Torch Lighting Ceremony we walked into the resort’s lobby area. It is beautifully landscaped with décor you’d find in the Pacific South Seas region. There are plenty of photo opportunities in and around the lobby area.
After we took some photos of the lobby and walked through the resort’s gift shop we walked upstairs to the 2nd floor of the Great Ceremonial House. The 2nd floor houses one of the resort’s table service restaurants called Ohana. The restaurant is beautifully decorated with Polynesian flowers and carvings you would find in the South Seas paradise.
Disney’s attention to detail holds true with this restaurant. In the Polynesian language Ohana means family. You are reminded of family several times during your visit. In fact, the format for your meal is family style dining where your table is served various food items and everyone at the table helps themselves. It’s an all you care to eat format, so feel free to eat as much as you want.
When you are first seated you are given a bowl of salad, Hawaiian pineapple bread, along with some dipping sauces for your future meat offerings later during your meal.
In a few minutes you are greeted by your server who brings you additional food offerings. These offerings are more substantial. They include Polynesian sticky wings, noodles and broccoli, and pot stickers.
While you are enjoying your meal a Polynesian lady emerges inside the restaurant and welcomes all of her “cousins” to Ohana. This is the start of an entertainment segment. She invites all children to join in on some Polynesian fun. Soon several children are galloping around the restaurant in a parade. Then they are participating in limbo and coconut race contests. Later, she wishes everyone celebrating a birthday or anniversary at Ohana happiness and good health for the rest of their life.
During or after the entertainment segment you will be greeted by your server again who will be bringing you various meats and fish from one of the largest fire pits in North America. Around the fire pit are various tiki carvings which exude Polynesian flare. The meats are served from a long skewer by your server. You can ask for as many pieces as you would like. The meats served are steak, pork, chicken, and shrimp. Your server will continually come around to your table with the meat and shrimp skewers until you are satisfied.
Once you are completely satisfied with your appetizers and meats you are served dessert. In typical Polynesian fashion your server will bring you a large dish of banana bread pudding with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce for your table to share. Talk about “sweet conclusions!” If you have any room left in your stomach you will enjoy this dessert. It’s a fantastic end to a very large meal.
After you have finished your meal and decided to leave Ohana be sure to check the time. For us; fortunately, it was around 8:30PM. In 30 minutes the Electrical Water Pageant was about to stop at the Polynesian resort. You can view my recent blog about the Water Pageant here http://www.studioscentral.com/column/world-of-opportunity/electrical-water-pageant. We decided to head out to the boat dock to view the show. After waiting a while and viewing the sunset over the Seven Seas Lagoon the show started. It lasted about 10 minutes. Afterwards we strolled over to the Polynesian beach area to get a spot for the 10:00PM Summer Nightastic fireworks show. During our wait our Daughter decided to play in the sand while we relaxed after an exhausting, but enjoyable day. The fireworks show did not disappoint; in fact, its one of the best firework shows we’ve ever seen. Be sure to check it out if you are planning a visit in the very near future.
After the fireworks spectacular we picked-up our car at the valet and headed back to our home resort. We had a great evening at the Polynesian resort. If you plan your evening far enough in advance you can enjoy a similar evening experience. As they say, "timing is everything," and it certainly holds true at Disney’s Polynesian Resort.
Related Link: For information about Ohana click here. http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/dining/ohanas/
Next Up: Fantasia Mickey has a challenge for you up his sleeve.