One of My Must Do’s – But not just at Disneyland?
When you are at Disneyland, especially if you are staying on property, or lucky enough to be a local who can visit on a whim, one of my “Must Do’s” is Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar located by the pool at the Disneyland Hotel.
I am sure that many of you have heard of this bar or have been there yourself; and if there is any debate on whether you should or should not go, my definite recommendation is that you should go.
The actual drinks in the specialty glasses are good, very good in fact, but I wouldn’t say that they were outstanding. However, they are very close to authentic Tiki Bar drinks. They are mostly tropical, of course, and are not the kind of thing you can find in most typical bars trying to serve tropical drinks. The use of different liquors, liqueurs, and mixes can be somewhat unique. Even for an experienced drinker like myself, I do not always get the chance to sample some of the ingredients listed. For example, Falernum in the Uh Oa! (Falernum – A sweet syrup used in tropical drinks with flavors of almond, vanilla, lime, allspice, clove and ginger) and Hibiscus Grenadine in the Krakatoa Punch. Falernum is not used very often in regular bars, which usually makes it one of the signs that you are in a more authentic Tiki Bar.
I also had a chance to order the Pu Pu Platter, I wanted to attempt to try several things at once. It included Tamarind-glazed Island Pork “Wings”, Sweet and Spicy Asian Wings, Panko-crusted Chinese Long Beans, Green Papaya Slaw, and Sriracha Aïoli. The wings were somewhat typical, but good. The pork wings were more unique, but I have also seen them elsewhere, just different flavors. The long beans were excellent, and I have seen many people rave about them elsewhere, so I had to try them, and I definitely recommend them. You can find a complete menu right on the Disney site here. I was able to order the appetizer “to go”. That allowed me to have a couple of drinks, then return to the room to wake the rest of the family from nap time with a small snack before heading back to the park for the evening.
The outdoor patio has a vibe that is different from what is going on inside the bar. The patio is much more spacious and laid back. It connects the Tangaroa Terrace to Trader Sam’s, but they are really two separate restaurants. They also discourage patrons from sitting on the Tangaroa Terrace patio if you are there for Trader Sam’s. On select evenings on the patio they have Hawaiian style live music adding to the overall atmosphere of the area.
While I could spend time reviewing the drinks, or the menu, that is really not the highlight of the restaurant/bar to me. To me, it’s the overall experience and the atmosphere that is created in the small space.
When I start thinking about the short time I was able to spend at Trader Sam’s it always keeps me wishing that I made more time to spend there on my trip. Children are allowed in the bar, but I believe only until 8pm. If you are thinking about taking your child in, I would go alone first to evaluate the appropriateness for yourself before you do that. The atmosphere was so fun that I would not hesitate to bring my child there in the middle of the day so she could have the experience. Again, that’s my opinion of the atmosphere and my understanding of my child. In addition to having “Adult” Tiki drinks, they have several unique choices for nonalcoholic beverages as well. So if you are under 21, or just don’t drink alcohol there are still many options than just the typical Shirley Temple, or a glass of water. They serve food also, so it could be a place for you to grab a snack or light lunch poolside.
The atmosphere is the real selling point. It’s like an attraction straight out of Adventureland, and that is intentional. Once you settle in, and start to look at the multitude of details that went into the decoration, you will start to see very familiar items. Tiki gods from Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room, as well as references to the Jungle Cruise adorn the walls. The level of detail continues when you start to look at the pictures and decorations on the wall, and the messages that are relayed. A lot of the jokes are “insider” type things. However, you don’t have to be a Disney History buff to appreciate the level of detail in the theming, or understand the jokes that can be somewhat hidden. It’s just a matter of taking your time to appreciate the details, and that can be said about most Disney themed environments.
The theming is just one aspect to the environment created. Another important aspect is created by the staff itself. I would argue that these bartenders are some of the most entertaining bartenders on property. They have to be to sell the “gimmicks” or “tricks” that occur when specialty drinks are ordered. They were also very friendly and extremely personable. They made me feel comfortable when I was there, and made the overall experience very enjoyable.
Now….regarding the events that can occur when you order certain things, I am consciously choosing not to describe them in detail. I will tell you that I got squirted with water, heard lots of yelling, saw real fire, heard warning bells and saw a volcano erupting. The physical effects that are in the room are great, but would not be as impressive without the staff really “selling” it each and every time. I researched the bar before I went because I knew I would be staying at the Disneyland Hotel and had heard lots about it. I knew what to expect going in, and I like that. I don’t usually care for surprises, but I know that a lot of you do. You can decide what level of information you want on your own. There are plenty of YouTube videos out there that show you exactly what to expect, or you can just wait and be surprised.
I also want to take a second to compare Trader Sam’s to the old Adventurers Club on Pleasure Island in Disney World, as I have heard others try do to this, and seem to miss the boat. I did have the opportunity to spend part of an evening in the Adventurers Club, and I can understand why some people try to make the comparison. However, I do not think that the comparison is fair. The Adventurers Club was entirely different. It was an immersive and interactive theatre experience. The effects were far above and beyond what occurs in Trader Sam’s. The shows were excellent, there were constant genuine laughs. It was semi-scripted allowing direct audience tie-ins to immerse you even more in the experience as the evening went on. Once you understood what was going on, and some of the background of the characters, it made it even better. This is not to take away from what Trader Sam’s is at all. Basically, I am saying that if you know what I am talking about when I say “Kungaloosh!” and you hope to have some re-creation of that experience of that by going to Trader Sam’s, you will be disappointed. Trader Sam’s is a great bar, with neat parlor tricks in a highly themed environment. The Adventurers Club was an immersive attraction and theatrical experience that happened to have a bar in it.
In summary, if I lived close, I would definitely be a regular. When I go again, I am going to spend more time there. I would recommend sitting at the bar if possible, it allows for the best views of the effects and the most interaction with the bartenders. You can buy the drink glasses, but only buy them if you want them as a remembrance of your time there. Although some are limited edition, Trader Sam’s specific ones, I don’t think they will go up in value that much. I have also seen the glasses elsewhere online, even the Trader Sam’s specific ones. Also, not all of the glasses are Trader Sam’s specific. Just ask your bartender to explain. They were glad to talk to me about the differences, but I ended up with a complete set by the end of the trip anyway.
Trader Sam’s – Coming to Disney World?
Regarding Trader Sam’s coming to Disney World, there is a very distinct possibility that it is happening. There are some facts that indicate that, as well as the general rumors that are circulating. When Disney Springs was announced (The renovation of Down Town Disney) and some of the concept art and models were shown, there was the Trader Sam’s logo on the image showing possible corporate connections, tie-ins, retail and restaurant locations that might be coming. So the original thought was that it may be coming to Disney Springs. Lately, with the planned renovation of the Polynesian Resort Lobby, the new speculation is that it may be added there. That would make it a similar location to where it is at Disneyland, as part of a resort. In my opinion, no resort at Disney World would be a better fit for a Trader Sam’s than the Polynesian. We also know that Disney likes to replicate its successes, so no one is going to be surprised if it does get built. Frankly, for me, it doesn’t matter where it goes, I just hope it comes to Disney World. I would enjoy making it part of my Disney experience no matter what coast I am on.
What do you think? Have you been? What do you recommend? What don’t you recommend? Feel free to comment below. Follow me on Twitter Follow @saddlesoreswnsnor on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/saddlesore.swanson. I also want to thank my special guest photographer K.T. for her last minute help.