For those who long for the kitschy throwback vibe of dinner theater (and those of you who like the idea of food + entertainment = awesome convenience), herein lie 10 great Orlando venues where these two staples meld into one splendid evening out. Disney aficionados who haven’t yet been should mouse-earmark both the Spirit of Aloha show at Walt Disney World’s deluxe Polynesian resort and its family-friendly Hoop-Dee-Doo Review – which recently celebrated its 40th anniversary! Both offer up delicious all-you-can-eat fare and signature entertainment delivered in true Disney tradition. Off the Mickey grid, however, those without children in tow might enjoy the comedy spoils of the Orlando Improv where headliners both famed and up-and-coming bring the yuks or head over to Treasure Tavern for a saucy little sideshow that’s best for those 18 and over. The whole family, on the other hand, can enjoy the entertainment in places like WonderWorks, where the one-man Outta Control Magic Comedy Dinner Show serves up loads of laughs alongside pizza just adjacent to the Pointe Orlando entertainment complex while history buffs can immerse themselves in Ren Fest flair (sans silverware at Medieval Times) or icy water – though not literally – at Titanic, the Experience’s Gala Dinner, which gives guests a tour of the attraction and re-enacts the events of that fateful April night when the ship deemed unsinkable met its match in the cold north Atlantic.
Pirate's Dinner Adventure
This colorful and highly interactive show includes a fully rigged pirate ship, a kidnapped princess and her court, bloodthirsty pirates and, of course, plenty of terrific swashbuckling action. The venue's new Rise of the Sea Dragons show incorporates life-sized dragons into the mix to the delight of young, old and everyone in between. Admission here includes an appetizer, main course and dessert options. Come early for a pirate cocktail party and enjoy an appetizer buffet while magicians entertain and storytellers regale your party with seafaring tales of yore. Visiting around the holidays? Pirate's Dinner Adventure offers special themed performances around Halloween and Christmastime. (407-248-0590, 800-866-2469)
Titanic – The Experience
This unique museum attraction is dedicated to the history of this infamous doomed ship, but Titanic, the Experience one-ups its exhibits on weekend nights, allowing visitors to slide into the roles of its ill-fated passengers without the inconvenience of an icy, watery grave. Its intriguing show immerses guests in the "Titanic Gala Dinner," during which they join their fellow passengers to celebrate the retirement of the ship's legendary captain. The interactive experience includes a tour of the attraction along with a re-enactment of the unfortunate events of April 14th. Come early and enjoy themed cocktails before dinner is served. All aboard! (407-248-1166, 877-410-1912)
By day, WonderWorks' signature upside-down building features more than 100 interactive exhibits, as well as a ropes challenge course, laser tag, and 4D theater. But some of the best it has to offer comes after dark at the Outta Control Magic Comedy Dinner Show, one of the most popular evening attractions in Orlando. Showman Tony Brent brings with him a rapid-fire arsenal of magic, impersonations, improv and comedy to the delight of audience members young and old. Guests enjoy pizza and unlimited beer, wine or soda as an accompaniment. The Outta Control Magic Comedy Dinner Show has received many accolades over the years. Most recently, Tony Brent was named "Best Local Entertainer" by Orlando Magazine. (407-351-8800)
Capone's Dinner & Show
Bring your kids. Bring your grandparents. The cheekiest of humor will sail over the former's heads while everyone enjoys a trip back to a time modeled on the gangland era of 1930s Chicago. Fare here is all-you-can-eat Italian, which includes a pasta bar, both New York- and Chicago-style pizza, lasagna and more. Drinks (soft and hard) are included in the overhead. Upsells – Capone-style fedoras and feather boas – are available via online ticketing where the discounts on admission can be deep. Navigate their seating chart to find your preferred section, then show up for a good time with the gangsters and the gun molls. (407-397-2378, 800-220-8428)
Disney's Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show
Aloha and welcome to the idyllic, open-air Luau Theater where the mesmerizing magic of the South Seas melds with that of the Happiest Place on Earth. The result? The Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show, where guests enjoy all-you-can-eat island pulled pork, roasted chicken, barbecued ribs, rice, vegetables and more while enjoying an immersive spectacle that begins the moment you enter Disney's spectacularly themed Polynesian Resort. Elaborate costumes and choreography – watch out for the fire dancer! – pair up with a traditional South Pacific tale. It's multicultural, too, featuring cultural experiences from New Zealand, Samoa, Tonga, Tahiti and of course, Hawaii, all without leaving Orlando. (407-934-7639, 407-939-3463)
Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament
No, "Game of Thrones" fans, winter is not coming. This is Orlando, after all. Even so, Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament will certainly help you get into the spirit of an age of bravery, honor and epic battles with zero fear of contracting the plague. Witness the spectacle of the joust, marvel at the superb horsemanship and epic falconry and – just as fun and adventurous – tear into your four-course meal (roasted chicken, ribs and beer in part) sans silverware. This is the sort of place parents take their kids only to realize that the grown-ups find it just as exciting as they cheer boldly for their representative knight amid the splendor of the Kissimmee Castle. An eight-cottage medieval village adds to the attraction's authenticity. (407-396-1518, 888-935-6878)
Leave the kids home and enjoy a slightly more adult night out at Treasure Tavern, where dinner and theater – that includes music, comedy, dance, a bit of cheeky (but not too cheeky!) burlesque – combine to create a show that delights the audience. It's an 18+ show – though 15+ will be admitted with adult supervision – that starts at 8 p.m. sharp. Come early to enjoy a drink, get comfortable and enjoy performer interaction as the room fills up. Popular with locals, convention crowds and special-occasion groups, musical numbers are performed up close and personal and the acts oft rotate, which gives folks a reason to come back. (1.877.318.2469)
Orlando Improv Comedy Club and Dinner Theatre
Comedy is subjective, of course, but if you're a fan of stand-up and looking for a relatively intimate venue that books plenty of performers you've heard of – at last update names like Jay Mohr, Mo'Nique, Carlos Mencia, Tommy Davidson and Kevin Smith were on its calendar – Orlando's Improv is the schedule you're going to want to have a look at. Of course, the warm-up acts or locals may hit the mark, too – all the headliners were once up-and-comers, too. The Improv is located on I-Drive – ideal for date nights or a loose evening out with colleagues if you're in town on business. Go early, grab a good table and enjoy dinner before the show. (407-480-5233)
Sleuths Mystery Dinner Shows
Engaging and intellectual – at Sleuths dinner show, guests use their powers of observation to become expert detectives and help solve the mystery. Over two-and-a-half hours, you'll meet the cast, enjoy dinner and unlimited beer, wine or soft drinks, engaging with the venue's charming and outrageous characters as you unravel what's happened. Audience participation is the order of the evening and the dinner companions and your table will become a team of detectives, discussing the clues and having lots of laughs while doing so. Prizes are awarded to the evening's most successful detectives, but everyone enjoys entrees including prime rib, lasagna and Cornish hen. (407-363-1985, 800-393-1985)
Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue
Saddle up, partner and get ready to experience the family-friendly fun of one of the longest-running dinner shows in the city. Set in a rustic dance hall, the theater's home-style menu features a wide range of traditional American favorites, including everything from BBQ ribs, seasonal vegetables and fried chicken to corn on the cob, baked beans and strawberry shortcake. The dinner price also covers unlimited drinks, including soft drinks and alcoholic beverages such as draft beer, wine and sangria. The hoedown usually lasts about two hours, and reservations as well as pre-payment is required. Casual attire is suggested. (407-939-3463)
About A.D. Thompson
A.D. Thompson has spent more than 20 years as a professional writer and roughly 15 as a Floridian. The words, she has found, come easier with bare feet and rum.
A roller coaster enthusiast, A.D. readily admits there is fun to be had amid the madness of the theme parks, but has found there is magic, as well, in the outer-lying reaches of Mickey’s long shadow. She is delighted to share with you the spoils of her adopted city.
Visit her colorful compendium at www.amydrewthompson.com.
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