"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

Friday, January 1, 2016

The Great 2015 Stites Monorail Bar Tour

This has been on our Disney bucket list for a while. If you're unfamiliar with the concept (and I feel sorry for you if you are), this involves taking the Disney monorail around the resort loop and drinking at The Contemporary, The Grand Floridian and The Polynesian resorts. I suppose if you're a purist you should hit ALL the bars in each resort, and I'd love to try, but we settled for the Readers' Digest version and just hit one in each.

The Monorail Bar Tour was first on our list of Things-To-Do for this trip. We planned to (and did) arrive around dinner time and figured we'd just settle into our room and then begin the adventure. I briefly considered a trip to Downtown Disney (it was still called that) to try out Jock Lindsey's Hanger Bar before our monorail journey, but decided against it for time concerns. That was wise. Our timing ended up being PERFECT!

An unexpected bonus was our Monorail Tour Tour night being a Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party night, so we were accompanied on all our journeys by all manner of costumed partiers. We stepped off the elevator in our Pop Century building and ran smack into a 4 foot tall Darth Vader and Storm Trooper. We about died of cute before we even began, ya know? The whole night was sprinkled with costumes, mostly homemade and awesome. I kind of wanted to take photos of some, but it would be creepy shooting photos of strangers, wouldn't it? I thought so. Anyhow, off we went on our bus from Pop Century to the Magic Kingdom to catch the monorail.

Now, the logical thing to do would be to just hit the monorail resorts in order--Contemporary, Grand Floridian, Polynesian. But no, we were hungry and our friend Jen had raved about the pork belly appetizer at Mizners Lounge, so we headed there first.
Mizners is way in the back there

These guys were great!

The lobby of the Grand Floridian is breathtaking, and Mizners is situated in a rather cozy manner on the second floor opposite the entrance from the monorail behind a bandstand. If you're lucky, a band will be playing and you can sit at the bar, as we did, and feel all tucked away in another world. When the band IS playing, it's a bit loud at the bar, but it's still really cool to be in such a fancy place sipping a Manhatten and listening to live jazz. Which is what I did (Lisa chose the Cosmopolitan) and we had a great, relaxing first stop.

The bartender noticed our Happy Anniversary buttons and when another couple came and sat down next to us, she noticed theirs as well and sort of set the four of us to talking. Turns out they were celebrating 50 years and were both former cast members at Walt Disney World. We got talking to this couple, R.J. and Suzanne Ogren, and it made our night. R.J. had been an animatronic artist in WDW's early days and Suzanne had been a character actor and later supervisor in the live entertainment department. They've just published a book about their experiences called Together in the Dream: The Unique Careers of a Husband and Wife in the Early Decades of Walt Disney World. I've got my copy (though not read it yet, review forthcoming after I have) and you can get yours on Amazon here, in either paperback or Kindle edition. R.J's stories about the Haunted Mansion and other attractions from the "inside" were enthralling, but as sometimes happens, we found out we had much more in common. He had served in Vietnam as a Navy combat photographer and was familiar with some of the locations and experiences my father had told me about from his time in the war. We also found that we were all four of us involved in some way in our local community theaters, even having put on a few of the same shows. We spent a few hours in Mizners with the Ogrens; the time just disappeared as we talked about everything from how to make a spider web gun to the experiences of veterans returning from war to the staging of 39 Steps. All this while R.J. was speaking with his friend, the drummer in the jazz band, to request Suzanne's favorite songs. It was, as I said, a huge highlight of a wonderful weekend, and time I will never forget. Disney magic is everywhere.

Finally dragging ourselves away from "Cocktails With An Imagineer" (he wasn't an Imagineer per se, but close enough for us. Heck, he fixed things in the Haunted Mansion), we hopped back on the monorail and headed for the Contemporary. I'll admit, this was more a "have to" than a "want to" for us. We wanted to do the whole tour and the Contemporary is one of the resorts. It's just never been one of our favorites. I mean the monorail running through the lobby is beyond cool, but other than that nothing in the Contemporary's "feel" appeals to us. We chose The Outer Rim lounge, which sits right next to Chef Mickey's in the lobby
and sort of serves as its waiting area. This means it's loud. Very loud. And crowded. With kids. This night said youngsters were crawling all over the couch seating and having pillow fights with the cushions. It was a bit of a shock from the staid atmosphere at Mizners. We sat at the bar and ordered a couple drinks from a frazzled and grumpy bartender (who can blame him? Bar tending in Romper Room would put anyone in a foul humor) and went to find a couch away from the worst of the ruckus. It wasn't terrible, let's be honest. The drinks were good and we got to watch the Electrical Water Pageant out the window. But we simply finished our drinks, completed our required tour stop and set off excitedly for the Polynesian and Trader Sam's Grog Grotto!

Trader Sam's is the seller of the Nautilus souvenir mug that sort of brought this whole trip together. I'll devote a whole post to a review of this place later, it deserves it. We were concerned about making it in before closing after spending so much time at Mizners, but it all worked out fine. We checked in with the hostess and left our names. She told us we would have about a 45-minute wait and that would leave us only about 15 minutes before last call, which I think was meant to discourage us. She doesn't know Lisa and I don't discourage easily. We smiled, added our names to the list and with blinky coaster alarm in hand headed down to Captain Cook's to see what they were serving at this hour. Turns out they had the whole dinner menu going so we got a flatbread and some Polynesian meatballs and sat down to wait our turn. Before we were even finished our coaster began blinking so we boogeyed on back to Trader Sam's and found seats at the bar.
Tentacles. Why'd it have to be tentacles?

Trader Sam's seemed like eating in the Enchanted tiki Room, where the birdies sing and the tikis boom. There are "windows" that turn from sunny seascapes to thunderstorms, there are moving bar stools (throwback to the awesome Adventurers' Club), there are moving giant squid tentacles, it's a wonderful place for a drink. The drinks are expensive but delicious, and the Nautilus mug is worth every penny of it's $50 price tag. They even give you a brand new, still in the box one on your way out after you finish. We had a blast and left thinking it was the greatest bar in the world.
The Prize

We monorailed it back to the Magic Kingdom at about last call, caught a bus full of sleepy, costumed Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party revelers, and tucked in back in our Pop Century room feeling quite proud of ourselves and accomplished. Our sights are set high, right?

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