You might think that the best entertainment a Disney resort would be inside the theme parks...but Disney's hotels are often miniature theme parks parks of their own, each with unique theming and entertainment options. The entertainment on offer goes beyond the arcades and pools you might expect at a run of the mill hotel, including shows and character experiences that you won't find inside the theme parks.
Sure, it can be a bit time-consuming to get to Disney's hotels if you're not staying there -- especially if you don't have a car at the parks -- but taking the time to make the trip can reward you with entertainment options you just won't find anywhere else. So the next time you're at the parks, consider expanding your Disney to-do list by catching a show or live performance outside the park gates — you may find these easy-to-overlook entertainment options are just as much fun as anything you'd see at the parks themselves.
1. Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue, Fort Wilderness Resort, Walt Disney World
If you're familiar with any of the shows at Walt Disney World's hotels, Hoop-Dee-Doo is probably what you've heard about simply because it's been running the longest. Hoop-Dee-Doo is one of Disney's oldest shows at this point, having recently celebrated its 40th anniversary. Even so, plenty of people aren't aware it exists, hidden away in the rustic Fort Wilderness Resort.
This western-style dinner show offers all-you-can-eat fare alongside vaudeville-style entertainment with singing, dancing, and plenty of corny jokes. Don't expect the standard cast of Disney characters to make an appearance here: the show's an original one (though it does make a nod to Disney's Davy Crockett series
2. Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show, Polynesian Village Resort, Walt Disney World
This dinner show at the Polynesian is, predictably, themed to match the resort that houses it and features music and dance from Polynesia, including Tahiti, Samoa, Tonga, New Zealand and Hawaii. Though there are some musical references to Lilo & Stitch, this is another show where you don't see Disney characters on stage: the focus is on the dancing, with only a thin storyline to tie the entertainment acts together.
The food here doesn't usually impress, but the show does, especially if you've never seen Polynesian dancing or fire-knife performances in person before.
3. Electrical Water Pageant, Walt Disney World
This floating nighttime parade features 14 barges that circle the Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake while pulling 25-foot-tall screens of lights — there are more than 50,000 lights in total! The floats feature dragons and other sea-life as well as a finale with a salute to the American flag, all accompanied by music.
It's an impressive display that makes a nice pairing to the Main Street Electrical Parade, though you won't see it on main street. Instead, the pageant makes its way past the hotels on the Seven Seas Lagoon and Bay Lake, including the Polynesian, the Grand Floridian,Wilderness Lodge, Fort Wilderness, and the Contemporary before a final run past the Magic Kingdom entrance. If you're interested in catching this water parade yourself, it typically runs any night the weather's good, but ask at the front desk about when the pageant will be by your hotel and sure to stake out a place at the beach to watch it pass!
4. Lobby Music, Grand Floridian Resort, Walt Disney World
If you think hotel lobbies sound dull, you haven't ventured to the Grand Floridian's exquisite lobby, which is always a good place to sit, people watch, and enjoy the scenery (and the air conditioning). But if that's not enough to pique your interest, there are actually two musical acts that play intermittently throughout the day.
The jazzy Grand Floridian Lobby Society Orchestra is a 5-piece jazz band that plays ragtime, Dixie, jazz — and of course Disney variations of the same — from the balcony overlooking the lobby. But if jazzy tunes aren't your thing, the grand piano in the lobby isn't just there for looks. Just like the orchestra, a musician comes out at various times to play 30 minute sets on the piano, including piano arrangements of your Disney tunes.