Why You Shouldn’t Skip The Enchanted Tiki Room

2015-11-05 16.57.51For whatever reason, Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room is an attraction that you can pretty much always experience without a significant wait even on the busiest days. I’ll be honest, there was a chunk of time in the not-too-distant past for me where I’d walk right by the Tiki Room without even considering going in because, you know, why would I waste my time on an outdated attraction that can’t even generate a modest wait? It would be a mistake, however, to equate demand with quality. The reality is that the Enchanted Tiki Room, while admittedly a straightforward attraction that is a complete throwback, is a an attraction of great historical significance that oozes quirkiness and charm that is a worthy part of any Disney trip. Join me after the jump to learn more!

What It Is

For the uninitiated, the Tiki Room is a theatre-in-the-round show featuring the singing stylings of 4 multi-national macaws, several other birds, in addition to other enchanted plants and objects. While there is dialogue, it is at its core a musical show with a South Pacific vibe. It is, to put it mildly, unusual, and reactions to it tend to range from “what a fun little show,” to “what on earth was THAT?” Viewed with an appropriately whimsical vantage point, however, it can be a welcome addition to any touring plan.

Tons of History

disneyland tiki room preshowLet’s get one thing out there right off the bat: the Tiki Room is not exactly a modern attraction. Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room first opened June 23, 1963 at Disneyland and has been running more or less continuously there for over 50 years (excepting down time for refurbishments and a couple of revamps). As a result, there is quite a bit of history associated with the attraction.  For example, the Tiki Room is perhaps most notable for being the very first attraction to feature the audio-animatronic figures for which Disney is now well known. Additionally, because it needed computers to control all of those animatronics, and computers don’t care much for extreme heat, the Tiki Room was also the first attraction at Disneyland to be air conditioned.

Disneyland Enchanted Tiki Room bathrooms
At Disneyland’s Tiki Room, there are bathrooms in the pre-show area

Did you know that the Disneyland version of the Tiki Room was originally intended to be a restaurant dinner show? If you look at it from the air, you can see that it’s attached to what is currently the Jolly Holly Bakery and Aladdin’s Oasis, giving the building access to a kitchen. That’s also the reason that it has restrooms right there attached to the show building.

It was also an opening day attraction at Walt Disney World, although it was at the time named the Tropical Serenade. The technology was considered bleeding edge, and while no one would think of the Tiki Room as a super headliner today, when the Tropical Serenade debuted, it was considered an “E-Ticket attraction.”  

In 1998, the Magic Kingdom version of the Tiki Room got an update with the addition of Iago and Zazu from Aladdin and The Lion King, respectively, as the new hosts, along with a modified storyline and a new name: Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room (Under New Management). The show was not particularly well-received, however, and when a fire in 2011 prompted a shutdown of the show for repairs, Disney took advantage of the opportunity to restore the attraction to a streamlined version of the original Disneyland version of the show. This same version of the show is shown at both the Magic Kingdom and Disneyland Park today (with minor variations, such as the pre-show).  

Quirky Fun

Here’s a challenge: sit through a production of the Tiki Room without moving, humming, or even singing along to the music. Yes, the Tiki Room is one of those attractions where you’ll see people bobbing in their seats and probably even singing along to music that is for better or for worse very catchy. Even if you hate it, you’ll be hard pressed to sit still and be quiet through the whole thing — it’s just too ridiculous. I’m actually bobbing my head as I write about the Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Tiki Room right now just thinking about it, in fact.  

Another thing: this is one of those attractions, not unlike the Jungle Cruise, where the performance of the Cast Member at the helm can dramatically alter your experience. I’ve not encountered any at the Tiki Room yet that detract from the experience, but some of the hosts at the Tiki Room, particularly at Disneyland, really seem to embrace the absurd, quirky fun that makes it what it is and ramp up the camp and craziness in their presentation of the attraction. It makes it a bit easier to embrace the kitsch and just go with it when the host is in character.

Kill Multiple Birds With One Stone (Pun Intended)

Enchanted Tiki Room Dole Whip at Disneyland
Dole Whip!!!

One great thing about the Tiki Room is that even when the park is at its most crowded, it would be unusual for you to have to wait more than the amount of time before the next show to experience it. This makes it a prime candidate for afternoon touring, when lines at the headliners are at their highest and the sun is at its hottest. It’s a long enough experience to give you a full and fair opportunity to recharge, and as I mentioned earlier, it’s AIR CONDITIONED, which can be a huge plus if you insist upon being in the parks at 3:30 in the afternoon.

The Disneyland version is even better from this standpoint. For one thing, because it was initially conceived as a restaurant, it is one of a very short list of attractions (I actually can’t think of another — anyone?) that has a public restroom in the queue area. What’s more, you know that crazy-long Dole Whip line that snakes from the Tiki Juice Bar at the entrance to Adventureland back towards the Jungle Cruise? If you’re in the queue area for the Tiki Room, you can skip that line, and just walk up and buy a Dole Whip without the wait, and you can even bring it in and enjoy it while taking in the show if you’re so inclined! We, however, prefer to take advantage of the pre-show area to casually enjoy a snack, let everyone get caught up on bathroom visits and then head in for the show at our leisure. Usually that can be done before the next show starts, but if not, the show isn’t long enough that it’s really a big deal. It’s a great way to take a break without really taking one.   

The Rain Effect Is Legit

Much though I enjoy the Tiki Room, even I would have to concede that particularly as compared to more modern attractions, there is not a heck of a lot going on. With that said, there is something to be said for staying in one’s lane, and the Tiki Room is a great example of an attraction that picks a few simple things and does them really, really well. Case in point: I have experienced the Tiki Room more times than I can count, but every single time it starts raining, my first thought is, “well, crud, I didn’t bring an umbrella.” It’s a great, very convincing effect. All in all, the music is fun and catchy, the show is endearing, and it makes a great respite in the midst of a busy day of touring. If you’ve never experienced it before or it’s been a while, give it a fresh look!

As always, I love hearing your comments. Where do you fall on Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room?  Treasured classic or out-dated fossil? Let me know in the comments!

Special thanks to my buddy “Howie From Maryland” Berman (@hocohowie) for his on-the-ground research in aid of this article!

James Rosemergy

When not planning for or traveling to Walt Disney World with his beautiful wife and impossibly adorable daughter, James practices law in St. Louis. He also really likes cheese. He can be found on twitter at @jrtoastyman.

15 thoughts on “Why You Shouldn’t Skip The Enchanted Tiki Room

  • January 6, 2016 at 8:41 am

    I grew up going to WDW and seeing the Tiki room there more times than I can count. On my first visit to DLR, I was almost taken aback by the Tiki Room’s Host CM’s seemingly one-man show prior to the start of the attraction. He was so wacky, off the cuff and oddly endearing. It’s something I remember to this day! That experience, along with the mother (about my age) and her daughter singing along to every word of the show (because Californians literally grew up in Disneyland) made the magic of DLR Tiki Room come to life.

    • January 6, 2016 at 9:52 am

      Spot on — I had an experience just like this at Disneyland! The host was just ridiculous (in a good way), and it really primed us for the similarly ridiculous experience that is the Tiki Room.

      … and when you see so many families singing along, it makes it that much easier to embrace the silliness. I think if push came to shove, I prefer the Disneyland version for this reason. It’s like it’s part of the fabric of the park.

    • January 8, 2016 at 3:45 pm

      I am guessing you got to see Maynard in action that day. He is a DLR icon. He is the best! Growing up with DLR Tiki and just recently going to MK for the first time I was disappointed at how rushed their version was (several parts cut out) and not being allowed to eat or drink just seemed criminal!

  • January 6, 2016 at 10:06 am

    Idgaf, this is by far my favorite attraction, and I WILL drag people to go see it. Lol. I’ve also been know. To torture coworkers with the song on occasion. ^_^

  • January 6, 2016 at 10:30 am

    You don’t have to convince me! This is one of our must-see attractions for both me and my daughters. I love the Dole Whip access for the Disneyland version, plus the cool pre-show area. Having the fountain in the longer show is also a big plus.

  • January 6, 2016 at 11:10 am

    Agreed – WDW just wouldn’t be the same without the Tiki Room. I enjoyed it growing up and I enjoy it as an adult returning with my children.

  • January 6, 2016 at 1:22 pm

    A treasured classic! I loved the original version of the show but I was very unhappy with the “Under New Management” version. The first time I was able to watch the new/original version, I sat there and literally cried. I hope the Tiki Gods never try to “improve” the show again.

  • January 6, 2016 at 1:25 pm

    LOVE the Tiki Room! Vintage Americana at it’s best! Last September, experienced it on “Tiki Day” with a whole room full of flower shirted, mumu wearing folks who all sang at the top of their lungs through the whole show. It was magic. Would just kill to go to dinner in there!

    • January 6, 2016 at 2:05 pm

      That sounds like a blast!

  • January 6, 2016 at 1:30 pm

    Our family had a similar experience with the host at DLR. We had not encountered that at WDW and my wife and I just looked at each other and asked, “Is that a live person doing that or is it a recording?” It was so good, so funny, so well timed that it seemed too polished to be live.

    The Tiki Room is my nearly 5 year old DD’s favorite song and show. We’re going to WDW later this month and she’s already singing ‘In the tiki, tiki, tiki, tiki, tiki room” whenever she’s not singing a song from Frozen!

  • January 6, 2016 at 4:13 pm

    I had no desire to see it since it was explained to me as”a bird show”. I thought it was a live bird show! I hate those, so for years we passed it up! I’m so glad we checked it out, it is a new family favorite!

  • January 6, 2016 at 9:28 pm

    It’s a family favorite for us. I knew my husband was still right for me when he loved it on his first visit as much as I had loved it as a kid. We have done both WDW and DLR. I give the advantage to DLR, since it still has the water in the fountain and you can eat dole whip while watching. It’s just such a classic and really represents the heart and soul of Walt Disney himself.

  • January 7, 2016 at 3:15 pm

    I have to say DLR is overall better than WDW for reasons stated above. But I like the seats better in WDW feels like church or something. I was very disappointed with regular type chairs in DLR.

  • January 7, 2016 at 10:03 pm

    Haha, for all those mentioning a particularly brilliant, over-the-top host at DLR, I bet you anything it was Tiki Maynard! His spiel about ‘tiki trashcan’, the magical doors that lead to the mysterious ‘outside’, and José always calling him señorita are a show worth seeing all by themselves. I’ve only seen him a couple times, but he’s certainly memorable enough to be my favorite host, hands down.

    • January 7, 2016 at 10:05 pm

      Yes! Tiki Maynard! He was a riot!

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