August 2011: Dinner shows come and go in Orlando. Visitors listening to the “take a day off from theme parks” advice really like them. They’re staying in a hotel and have to eat dinner anyway – why not add a show and make a night of it?
A few observations: People do not go to Orlando dinner shows for the food, which ranges from “pretty good” to “I’m eating chicken, right?” People go for the atmosphere, and to be amazed or laugh, depending on the theme. The following list is fairly comprehensive as written, but new shows come onboard and old ones fall off. If you discover a problem, please let us know. Unless otherwise noted, all dinner shows are within 20 minutes of Disney World.
What to expect at most shows:
- Sitting at a table with strangers or sitting theater style at a skinny table facing a themed stage floor or an open arena suitable for horses.
- No silverware. Some offer it, but many serve food, including soup, that guests must eat without utensils.
- Extra perks for extra money. Most shows take a photo upon admission that you can buy later. Others sell themed hats or flags, souvenirs, etc.
- Alcohol. Some shows offer beer or wine as part of the admission price.
- Tipping. Most do not include a gratuity for waiters/waitresses in the cost of admission, and guests receive multiple warnings to leave some money behind.
The following descriptions, brief as they are, try to answer the question: Why would I pick this show rather than one of the others? Dinner shows are listed by general popularity and longevity. For more information on each one, visit the websites.
One of Disney’s dinner shows, it’s a top choice for many families, and one of the few choices for Disney guests who don’t have a car. Located in Disney’s campground, it’s a high-class, G-rated act. The jokes and humor hit home fairly often, even for adults turned off by the wholesomeness. “Vittles” are served family style.
Guests sit theater style facing a noble 11th century medieval tournament. Sides are picked, competitions held, and winners declared. The food is pretty good compared to many shows, though silverware is not to be found. A testament to the show’s popularity is its longevity in the area and its expansion to other U.S. cities.
Guests sit theater style facing a horse arena. The plot – fairy tales, princes, princesses – takes a back seat to the equestrian tricks. At Medieval Times, the horses function as part of the show, but at Arabian Nights, they’re performers. A top choice for horse lovers. Again, don’t look too hard for silverware.
Polynesian all the way, the show, held at Disney’s Polynesian Resort, features South Seas food, dancing, and a luau. While covered from the rain, the show takes place outdoors and is best enjoyed in temperate weather. It’s the only Orlando dinner show in direct competition with a similar show held at Sea World.
Featuring country songs and dancing, Mickey’s BBQ recreates a barn dance with whoopin’-hollerin’ Disney characters. While covered, it’s held outdoors and scheduled seasonally at Disney’s campground not far from the Hoop-Dee Doo Revue. The food includes picnic favorites – ribs, chicken, hot dogs, etc.
A tongue-in-cheek pirate tale that’s decidedly not Disney’s version. Diners sit theater style, facing an 18th century pirate ship set. Lots-of-action meets not-much-plot that includes cannons, princesses, treasure chests, and booty (the innocent kind) – the stuff kids love.
An offshoot of the Pirates Dinner Show, Treasure Tavern is new to Orlando and unique as the only dinner theater exclusively for adults 18 and older. Dads who harbor a childhood fascination with pirates and an adulthood fascination with buxom wenches consider this a must-do.
It’s Prohibition, Chicago, and a gang war broke out. You’re in a speakeasy, and an Italian Mama cooked her heart out. Stage acts fit the mood.
Heavy on the comedy and light on the murder, three different shows roll out clues and encourage the audience to figure out “who done it?” You’re a guest invited to dinner, only to end up in the middle of a slapstick Agatha Christie novel.
Sea World’s version of a Polynesian luau can be enjoyed without buying a ticket to Sea World. Held indoors, it includes hula dancers and many of the same things included in Disney’s Polynesian dinner show.
Wonder Works, a stand-alone attraction on International Drive, looks as if a tornado ripped out the building and deposited it upside down. Held in the same building, the Magic dinner show wraps comedy around magic. It’s the top choice for people who like magic, want something cheaper than other dinner show fare, and don’t mind eating pizza as a main course.