Our frog family enjoys the unique dining experiences found throughout the Walt Disney World resort. We've dined with princesses at Cinderella's Royal Table, enjoyed seafood at the Coral Reef restaurant and indulged in the rustic setting and fine steaks at Artist Point at Disney's Wilderness Lodge.
As much as we enjoy dining with the tadpoles, we do enjoy our occasional opportunities to change out of Mom and Dad mode, transform into Leap and Flora, and slip our webbed hands around an alcoholic beverage (or two) inside a cozy bar.
For those of you who enjoy the occasional beer or cocktail with your dinner, Disney is more than accommodating. Extensive wine lists and varieties of craft beer are available at almost every sit-down restaurant on property. As for bars—locations where drinks are the main course—Disney has upped its game. The extensive theming, storytelling and magic usually reserved for theme parks has now poured over into the Disney bar scene. The result is some truly remarkable locations with creative cocktails that can make for a memorable evening away.
We've done our research—tough work I know— visited these locations and compiled our list of the six best bars and lounges at Disney World. Through a combination of theme, storytelling, fun and location, these bars and lounges represent the best of the unforgettable or magical experience that we seek when we visit Disney World. And yes, the drinks are quite tasty. Quite. Tasty. Indeed.
Remember to designate a (car, bus, boat or monorail) driver if you plan to truly indulge in these experiences.
Best Bars and Lounges at Disney World
Tucked away inside Disney's Animal Kingdom lies a gem of a bar. Set inside a park known as Disney's non-fiction theme park, Nomad Lounge was born from the real-life journey of creating the park where it resides.
Nomad Lounge is located next to Tiffin's, the park's fine-dining restaurant. The lounge is themed toward travel and discovery, incorporating thoughts and memories from members of the Walt Disney Imagineering team behind Disney's Animal Kingdom. Large travel banners hang from the ceiling while travel questions such as "What was the most memorable food?" line the walls. With mosquito netting curtains and large wicker couches and chairs, this secluded spot speaks mellow and calm.
The travel theme continues down to the menu, which is themed as a travelogue. Inside you'll find the lounge's food and beverage selections weaved inside traveler's notes, sketches and photos from Imagineers. The menu layout mirrors Animal Kingdom's different lands—Asia, Africa—and such. The small plates listing begins your adventure, then you dive into the specialty drinks.
For our beverage excursion, we chose the Snow Leopard Salvation—Snow Leopard Vodka, Belle de Brillet Pear Liquer, Mint and Lime Juice topped with Ginger Beer.
The bar's most unique feature is that anyone may add their own personal stories of adventure. For $1.00, guests may purchase a paper mini-banner where you can write down your own travel stories. The banner is then placed with the other inside the lounge. With a bar themed around the stories of travel, it's a neat and personal touch.
Nomad—a person who does not stay long in the same place— certainly sums up a theme park visitor. If you make camp at Nomad Lounge, you'll be rewarded with a calming place that lets you dwell on the experience of travel with creative drinks served along your journey.
California Grill Lounge
For our money, the title of Disney's most magical lounge would be given to the one that doesn't use any human-made special effects or wizardry. The California Grill Lounge, located on the 15th floor of Disney's Contemporary Resort Hotel, wins because of the show-stopping sights at sunset.
The California Grill benefits from its top-floor vantage point, letting you gaze out into the Seven Seas Lagoon and peek into Magic Kingdom.
The lounge takes up a small section of the California Grill restaurant. If you're lucky enough to grab a table at sunset, you're in for a treat. The lounge setting lets you gaze out across the Seven Seas Lagoon and gives you a peek into Magic Kingdom. The kinetic motion of the ferries, cars and monorail below in addition to the sky's red glow, offer you an unforgettable view in which to enjoy cocktails. While the California Grill's bar has an impressive alcohol setup, it's the tables inside the lounge that are the stars. One of the benefits of the California Grill Lounge is that you can order off the restaurant's main menu, making this first-come, first-serve lounge a sweet deal if you don't have reservations.
Like the restaurant itself, the cocktail list is modern and creative. During this visit, I chose the Santa Monica Cider—Rekorderlig Strawberry-Lime Cider, Hendrick’s Gin with Agave Nectar, Lime Juice and Micro Basil. Flora went with the Monte Ray—Mount Gay Rum, Pineapple Juice, and Licor 43 with a splash of Sweet-and-Sour. We munched on Roasted Tomato Flatbread and watched as day blended into night, waking up the lights of Magic Kingdom.
Since we had Fastpasses later that night, we didn't hang around to watch the fireworks show from our table. Seeing the sunset from California Grill Lounge was quite enough magic for us. Those few lounge tables offer the most unique viewpoint of any Disney World bar or lounge. There is magic in simplicity, and you won't soon forget your experience here. If you're looking to experience the California Grill without a reservation, try to plan your visit at sunset as close as possible.
Before our dinner ended, I was able to sneak in a "kiss goodnight" with the California Grill Coffee—Godiva Dark Chocolate Liqueur with Baileys Irish Cream, Licor 43 and Coffee.
Jock Lindsey's Hangar Bar
The transformation of Downtown Disney into Disney Springs has brought a new wave of creative bars and restaurants into this dining, shopping and entertainment district. Restaurants such as The Boathouse, Morimoto Asia and Chef Art Smith's Homecomin' offer bars and lounges that are as unique as the cuisine they serve. As wonderful as those establishments are, we frogs visit Disney for Disney-style theming. We seek out immersive storytelling and thrills.
The name Jock Lindsey's Hangar Bar doesn't leap with instant recognition. Yet once you step inside and connect the clues that point to Jock Lindsey's career as a pilot for famed archaeologist Dr. Henry "Indiana" Jones, you get a sense of the story being told.
Jock Lindsey's Hangar Bar is an Indiana Jones fan's playground. As the story goes, Jock turned this once-abandoned hangar into a bar, filling it with the treasures he found and stocking the menu with recipes inspired by his adventures. There are plenty of hidden references and artifacts tucked in every corner for Indiana Jones fans to find. For those of you who enjoy a deeper dive into Disney creative world-building—Jock appears to be a member of the Society of Explorers and Adventures.
The drink selection and menu are true treasures. Much like Nomad Lounge, the menu is used to tell the bar's story. This one reads as a pilot's log book, with notes from Jock scribbled throughout. Drink names hint at the travels of Dr. Jones—Anything Goes, German Mechanic, The Scottish Professor. One drink even ties into the World Famous Jungle Cruise.
We got into the "spirit" of Jock Lindsey's Hangar Bar and tried Reggie's Revenge— Florida Cane "Orlando Orange" Vodka, Midori Melon Liqueur, White Cranberry Juice and fresh Lime Juice. Three of the drinks are served in specialty glasses, conveniently available for purchase. For lunch, we dove into the Rolling Boulder Sliders (get it?) three meatball brisket mini-burgers.
Jock Lindsey's Hangar Bar is the kind of place that rewards those who love the subject (here, Indiana Jones) and layer in nods and references to that particular fandom. For people who just want a unique place for drinks, it works. Yet for those of us who go to Disney for the details (me), we could spend hours reading the menu and obsessing over everything on the wall to find the "bigger" connection.
La Cava del Tequila
Every foodie knows that World Showcase at Epcot is a 12-country celebration of international delights. From fine French cuisine to German pretzels the size of small children, the food and drink offerings are filled with dishes intended to give you a "taste" of that country's heritage.
This world fair of food theme gives guests the chance to discover the many sides of a country's signature dish or beverage. That's certainly true at this small establishment tucked away inside the Mexico pavilion. As you may have guessed, La Cava del Tequila, focuses on tequila. The small bar celebrates the heritage and tradition of tequila-making in Mexico.
The bar features over 100 varieties of tequila. Visitors can purchase their way aboard one of the many tequila fights or can have their favorite brand of choice used in a variety of cocktails. The decor is not as lavish as others. The theme of the bar is set in the cellar of a hacienda with leather seats and Mexican artwork on the walls. It's an intimate setting, disconnecting you from the theme park and placing you squarely in the home of tequila.
Despite the selection of rare tequilas, we found ourselves drawn to something green. The La Cava Avacado margarita—tequila, melon liqueur, fresh avocado, agave nectar and fresh lime juice—is served frozen with a hibiscus salt rim. This refreshing drink certainly hit the spot after a long Epcot day.
La Cava del Tequila gives us the best of Disney storytelling and immersion. It invites you into a Mexican-home to experience the country's signature drink. If the purpose of World Showcase is to give you an idea of a country's heritage and soul, slipping into La Cava del Tequila lets you discover one of Mexico's treasures. We can certainly drink to that.
If you like a place where your bartenders always have something up their sleeves, then we have the lounge just for you.
Take a stroll down to Disney's Boardwalk Inn and visit a place where creative drinks appear—and soon vanish—right before your very eyes. AbracadaBar is a former magicians' lounge. While the illusionists have disappeared, the bartenders are the real magicians.
This is a small, intimate setting that is more of a lounge than a bar. Along the wall are various trinkets of the magician's trade. Take a good look at one of the magical posters along the walls, as you may notice they go through some changes. In magic, things are not always as they appear. Gaze into wallpaper. Is that Alec Azam the rabbit from the Pixar short film "Presto" looking over a carrot?
The menu itself is magic (no ... really ... try it). The drink selection is full of old-fashioned, classic cocktails, delivered with a magical twist. Magic Hattan, Parlor Trick and The Sour Assistant are some of the creative concoctions. We chose Pepper's Ghost—Ciroc Pineapple Vodka and Habanero Lime. We didn't start seeing strange apparitions, but we had two of these beauties.
The lounge-full-of-magic theme of AbracadaBar is a "great escape" for those of you who may enjoy theming, but don't need to be swimming in it. It's unique because it hints a level of mystery, but calm enough for a quiet conversation. We are certain to "disappear" into this location on our next visit.
Trader Sam's Grog Grotto
The jungle's "head" salesman has made quite the name for himself as a bar proprietor. Trader Sam's success in slinging drinks called Shrunken Head Zombie and Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Rum has allowed him to expand his business into a small home tucked within Disney's Polynesian Village Resort.
Trader Sam's Grog Grotto—sister location of Trader Sam's at the Disneyland Hotel—is a throwback tiki bar sprinkled with island-themed fun. The original Trader Sam's takes its theme from the Enchanted Tiki Room and Jungle Cruise. Here, there is a distinct nautical decor, with inspiration pulled from "20,000 Leagues Under The Sea." The walls are full of tropical novelties and sprinkled with many clever Disney nods and references.
The joy of Trader Sam's Grog Grotto is that ordering particular drinks pays off with surprises. Order the Krakatoa Punch and you'll be treated to a volcanic eruption. Ordering the Uh-Oh! will awaken the tiki-goddess Uh-Oah. Upon ordering the Nautilus, the entire bar is bathed in blue light, and an announcement—pulled directly from the old 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea attraction—commands us to "Dive! Dive." Your server "swims" over to deliver the drink, which is served in a submarine-shaped cup and accompanied with straws for sharing.
We couldn't help ourselves but to "dive" into many different drinks. The Krakatoa Punch—Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum, Pyrat XO Reserve Rum, Orgeat (Almond), Sam’s Gorilla Grog and Hibiscus Grenadine—arrived first. We then angered the gods with the Uh-Oa!—Myers’s Original Dark Rum, Bacardi Superior Rum, Orange, Passion Fruit, Guava, Pineapple and Grapefruit Juices, Falernum, Cinnamon, and fresh Lime Juice. Finally, we climbed aboard the Nautilus—Barbancourt Pango Rhum, Appleton Estate Reserve Rum, Combier Crème de Pêche de Vigne Liqueur, Tropical Juices and Falernum.
If we had to choose, Trader Sam's Grog Grotto would top our list of the best bars and lounges at Disney World. It's the most "enchanted" and provides the most fun. If you're willing to get into the spirit of the spirits and don't mind chanting crowds and tropical vibes, it's a great example of how well Disney theming and storytelling can work outside of a theme park.
Have you visited any of these bars? Which ones are your favorite? Are there some on our list of best bars and lounges at Disney World that we've overlooked? Let us know in the comments below. We'll be delighted to check them out. Dee. Lighted.