A Look at Disney’s Dinner Shows

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Disney World is known for supreme entertainment as well as some pretty outstanding dining. It’s no surprise that at some point Disney had the idea of combining the two and creating “dinner shows.” There are three dinner shows found in at Walt Disney World. Aside from them all being All-You-Can-Eat, they are quite different shows with various themes. Obviously you’re going to have to cough up some money to attend one of these shows. If your family is considering booking a dinner show at Disney World, take a look at this comparison of all three options before you make your decision.

Mickey’s Backyard Barbeque

For those of you with young children, consider Mickey’s Backyard Barbeque first. It seems to be the most family-friendly show and definitely the one geared most toward children. The show itself takes place in an outdoor, open-air pavilion at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort. You’re attending a fun-filled picnic with Mickey and his friends. This is the only dinner show with character interaction, in case you were wondering. That being said, it CAN be chaotic and crazy. There is line dancing, a country-western band, and some pretty spectacular rope tricks. Throw in lots of kids trying to get face time in with the characters and parents shoving their kids up close to get the perfect photo, and it can be overwhelming if you’re not prepared for it. The food (see menu) is what you would expect at a barbecue… ribs, potato salad, mac and cheese, hot dogs, etc. The food is average but certainly nothing spectacular. A big plus for you parents looking to tolerate the noise level is unlimited beer and wine. You have to be aware of the fact that you are IN the elements with very little separating you from the heat and bugs. Come prepared by wearing layers and a coating of bug spray. Transportation is sometimes an issue to get to this event if you don’t have a car with you. You’ll need to take a bus to Magic Kingdom and then the boat to Fort Wilderness. Allow for enough travel time or else you could be late.

Spirit of Aloha

Photo: Stephanie Haefner

Heading over to the Polynesian Resort, the Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show is more expensive than Mickey’s Backyard Barbeque, and, according to most reviews, a better experience. As you’d expect with a typical luau, the show is at an outdoor theater with covered seating. Because of the fact that you are exposed to the heat, if you’re attending a show during a very hot month, consider choosing the later show after the sun has gone down so you’re not sweating your butt off. The show itself is filled with traditional and authentic dancing. Nothing is out of the ordinary in the show, but if you’ve never seen an actual Polynesian luau, you won’t really have much to compare it to. The show’s storyline is definitely on the corny side, so if you can suspend reality and just play along with it, you’ll enjoy the show. The food quality (see menu) is something that is constantly battered at Spirit of Aloha. Disney has to make a huge mass of the same food for a lot of people to accommodate all of the guests at the show. Obviously, the chicken might come out dry or your vegetables could be a little cold. The good thing about the food at the Spirit of Aloha compared to Mickey’s Backyard Barbeque is that it seems to be a little more bang for your buck when you’re not choosing from typical picnic fair that you could make for yourself at home. The seating at Spirit of Aloha is tiered, and the prices differ depending how close you would like to sit to the stage. Keep in mind when booking this event that some seats in Category 3 don’t give the best view of the stage.

Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue

The most popular of all of Disney’s dinner shows is easily Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort. To keep with the running theme of the previous dinner shows we’ve covered, you come to Hoop-Dee-Doo for the show first and the food second. The menu is a pretty generic western themed meal with choices like fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and strawberry shortcake. Once again, it’s not something out of the ordinary, but you should definitely find something that you’ll enjoy. The show is often widely praised for being hilarious and rowdy. If you’re not into slapstick comedy, this might not be for you. It’s not meant to be tame or classy… just good old-fashioned fun. Audience participation can be really entertaining here and is often the highlight of the show. This is the only dinner show that is not outside, so you’re free to enjoy air conditioning as you’re downing a cold Bud Light. The downside to Hoop-Dee-Doo is the pain in the butt transportation. If you’re driving or taking a bus to Fort Wilderness, you’ll have to take an internal bus to Settlement Depot and walk to Pioneer Hall. I’ve heard through and through that the easiest way for guests using Disney transportation to get to Pioneer Hall is to take the boat from Magic Kingdom and then walk right to Pioneer Hall.

My Recommendation

Alright, so what show do I suggest? You’re going to hate me, but I’m going to suggest whichever show your family would enjoy the most. If you’re looking for a really hilarious night of food and fun, I’d say Hoop-Dee-Doo. If you have always wanted to attend a luau but you don’t think you’ll ever make it to Hawaii, give the Spirit of Aloha a try. For families with young children that want to see characters, go with Mickey’s Backyard Barbeque. There isn’t a right or wrong answer. Just make sure you come prepared with proper expectations for whichever show you choose. As with all Disney dinner shows, I seriously recommend getting a reservation for your group as soon as the 180 day booking window opens. Some of these shows only have two performances a week and can fill up quickly.

 I’d love to hear about YOUR experiences at any of Disney’s dinner shows. Please tell us about it in the comments!

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Stacey Lantz

Born and raised in Southwest Michigan, Stacey believes she lives far too many miles away from Walt Disney World. In her spare time she enjoys singing/dancing, spending time with her nieces, and of course, talking about Walt Disney World to anyone that is willing to listen. She's been blogging about all things Disney since 2008. Follow her on Twitter @Stacey87.

7 thoughts on “A Look at Disney’s Dinner Shows

  • Been to Backyard Barbecue February 2012. Too Agressive for me, sharing gigantic tables with entire families with small kids. You can´t really enjoy the show from most tables as they are too far away or you are seated backwards, so as much as it might be good, it will take you a lot of effort to see anything (like standing up and trying to make your way around). Lack of any silverware, real dishes, sodas, glass cups, or even a place to sit down and rest your back might be a problem as well. We left after 30 mins of show, food was just average. Worst cost benefit in WDW by far.

    • Thanks for your honest opinion! We really appreciate it. I’ve read more negative reviews than positive on Mickey’s Backyard BBQ because of the exact reasons you stated. I hope they decide to revamp it sometime soon in hopes to gain some more positive exposure on the dining experience.

  • We did Spirit of Aloha in May 2012 and loved it. Our 6 year old year and 9 year old girl liked trying the different foods, and really liked the show….especially when their dad went on stage. We paid for Category 1 and were front center, so if you can swing it I’d suggest paying a few dollars more for this. Don’t worry about getting there early, they don’t let people in to their seats early, just into a somewhat cramped outdoor waiting area.

    • That’s not the first time I’ve heard that paying extra for Category 1 at Spirit of Aloha is worth it. Thanks for the tip!

  • We have always wanted to go to a show but have yet to do it. We have done the Candlelight Processional, but I guess that’s a little different.

  • This HDDR was one of the highlights of our trip last year. It will be part of mevery Disney trip.


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