"Around here, however, we don't look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things...and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths."
---Walter Elias Disney

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Polynesian Escape

A recent blog post about alcoholic Dole Whips put me in a Polynesian resort frame of mind. Before I go any further, let me just say that spiced rum Dole Whips are the best idea since the wheel and they need to be a permanent fixture at the bars of the Polynesian. Period. I see no need to serve them at Aloha Isle in the Magic Kingdom because the Poly is such an easy trip from the park. That thought is what moved me to write this post.

The Magic Kingdom is my favorite Disney park by far. I could happily spend all day and night in there and not need an escape at all. But the Magic Kingdom lacks two things that make me a happy guy; adult beverages and really good dinner. Maybe the new Be Our Guest restaurant will change that, but until I get back to check that out, I'm still recommending the Poly as a great pop outside the park for a bite and a cocktail destination.

Pool Hoppin' circa 1976. Yes, that's me :)
Any of the monorail resorts would work, and the Wilderness Lodge and Fort Wilderness are only a boat ride away as well, but to me the Polynesian is special. It is the most "Disney" of the monorail resorts to me. The Contemporary doesn't excite me at all and the Grand Floridian seems just too much for me to feel comfortable. Though I've only stayed there once, and that when I was a young teenager, the Polynesian feels like home to me the way the Magic Kingdom does.Until we did stay there, it was our family's dream. We'd take the boat over from Fort Wilderness to eat or go to the pool (pool hopping was fine back then) or to play on the beach. Our week at the Polynesian was pure magic. The place is like being in another world, which is what Walt Disney World is all about to me. And that new world is right on the Magic Kingdom's doorstep, making it a draw for the Stites family.

The lovely Miss Lisa and I have fond Poly memories going back to our first trip to Disney together, a college graduation gift trip with my parents back in the summer of 1993. We were staying in a cabin at Fort Wilderness with my mom, dad and sister. One day we stayed in the Magic Kingdom for Extra Magic Hours and closed the park out. We had to be about the last to leave because we just refused to let the night end. I took what turned out to be my last ride on Mr. Toad (even getting the Mr. Toad car) that night. We watched the Electrical Parade from the crest of the big Splash Mountain drop. It was one of those magical Disney days where everything goes not just right, but better than you could have dreamed and we didn't want it to end. Instead of taking the launch back to the campground, I had the brilliant idea that we take the monorail to the Poly and see if Kona Cafe was still open and perhaps get some dessert. It was and we had midnight (or well past midnight if I remember correctly) sundaes before catching the last boat back to Fort Wilderness. We were the only ones on the bus back to our campsite, it being 2 am by this point, and the driver just drove us right to our site rather than follow the route. It was perfect.

On my family's latest trip last September we worked in visits to the Poly in twice, once planned and once not. We arrived for our trip in the early afternoon of a Saturday and had park tickets for the day, so decided to visit the Magic Kingdom first. We had no reservations for dinner and figured we'd just find a counter service somewhere. As it turned out, we ended up taking the monorail to the Polynesian and eating at Captain Cook's Snack Company. This place gets very little discussion among the blogs and websites and Facebook pages I follow, and that's a shame. The menu is the best by far of the counter service monorail resorts, the others being basic sandwiches and burgers. Captain Cook's features Hawaiian BBQ pork on a sandwich or as part of an awesome nacho platter. There are also very good flatbread pizzas to be had. But the coup de grace is the self serve DOLE WHIP MACHINE!!!!! I mean, come on, is that not worth the trip in and of itself? What a "Welcome to Disney" dinner!

The Lapu Lapu
Our second trip to the Poly was a planned one, and the plan came together perfectly. We'd done a character breakfast that morning before park opening at the Crystal Palace and scheduled dinner at 'Ohana  late enough that we hoped to catch the Wishes fireworks show from the window. We showed up for our 8 pm ressies a few minutes early and requested a window seat. They told us the couldn't promise anything and the place was packed so I wasn't going to be heartbroken if we didn't get our request. I figured we'd have a bit of a wait, so we ordered drinks (the perfectly splendid Lapu Lapu) and settled in at the bar. Before the second Lapu Lapu was ready, they came to show us to our table, a window seat overlooking Cinderella Castle! As we sat down we noticed the strolling ukulele player was singing our wedding song, so we got right back up and danced before ordering. Dinner was family style, all you can eat and delicious. As we forced more and more dessert bread pudding into our already stuffed tummies, the lights went down and the Wishes music began playing in the restaurant and the fireworks began. We had the perfect seat, full bellies, pineapples full of rum and we were IN DISNEY WORLD! It was the beginning of the end of one of my best days ever. I say beginning of the end because after the fireworks, we went right back into the magic Kingdom to ride my son's favorite (the Tomorrowland Speedway) and close out the Extra Magic Hours. Perfection.

Check out more Poly pictures at Pooh Sticks on Facebook

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