Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto Review
Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto is a bar & lounge at Walt Disney World’s Polynesian Village Resort. This review features photos from the new tiki bar, my thoughts on the experience, and how it stacks up to the original Trader Sam’s at Disneyland.
In terms of some basic background info, since Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto is a lounge, not a restaurant, it neither participates in the Disney Dining Plan nor does it accept the Tables in Wonderland card. Just in case you wanted the bill for those fruity drinks and collectible mugs to sting just a bit more.
This post is going to compare Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto (Walt Disney World) to Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar (Disneyland), so for simplicity, the former will be referred to as Grog Grotto and the latter as Enchanted Tiki Bar. In my review of Enchanted Tiki Bar, I called it the best thing Disney has built in years.
I’ll won’t bury the lede here: not only is Grog Grotto one of the best things Walt Disney World has built in years, it is one of several things this year that gives me faith that the ‘Vacation Kingdom of the World’ side of Walt Disney World is still alive. I’ll even go two steps further: Grog Grotto is better than Enchanted Tiki Bar, and it helps buoy the whole Polynesian Village Resort overhaul (in my eyes), making me a fan of the ‘new look’ of the resort as a whole. Those are some lofty words for a small hole-in-the-wall bar, but hey.
Let’s take a look inside Grog Grotto, and just why I think this place is special…
In terms of style and influence, Grog Grotto is very similar to Enchanted Tiki Bar. Much like its West Coast counterpart, Grog Grotto has numerous references to Adventureland attractions, and the ‘adventure-y’ side of Disney in general.
On a superficial level, I’d say the biggest difference is the details here skew slightly more towards 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and South Seas & nautical oriented adventures, whereas Enchanted Tiki Bar was more Tiki Room, Jungle Cruise, and American tiki culture. But you probably could have gleaned that much from the names of the respective bars.
I haven’t had a chance to comb through the bar yet to find all of my favorite Easter Eggs, but once I do, I’ll return with another post on them and the backstory through-lines in this incarnation of Trader Sam’s, as I did with my Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar Backstory & Details post.
Suffice to say, Grog Grotto is a treasure trove of details, and references pretty much everything in Adventureland, including Swiss Family Treehouse, Jungle Cruise, and even the Enchanted Tiki Room: Under New Management. (Yes, that version.)
Also represented are Walt Disney era films, among numerous other things. One reference I did not see was the Society of Adventurers and Explorers, but I’m guessing I just missed that since I didn’t explore every nook and cranny. (If there is a S.E.A. reference, please kindly leave a comment indicating such–but not what or where it is, as I’d like to discover it for myself.)
Much as guests have come to expect from Enchanted Tiki Bar, there are a ton of special effects in Grog Grotto that are triggered by the ordering of certain drinks. This is a mixed bag. The effects themselves are awesome, but when the same thing is triggered every 10 minutes, it gets old rather quickly.
This is especially true when you have the same band of regulars showcasing their extensive knowledge of Grog Grotto by chanting lines slightly before the bartenders, thereby somehow proving their unflinching allegiance to Sam, somehow, I guess?
In the few times I visited Grog Grotto, I got the distinct impression that it has “regulars” who do this. If you are reading this and thinking, “hey, that’s me!” consider the following aside an intervention…
The great downfall of Adventurers Club was a small subset of regulars, some of whom acted like this. As someone who visited Adventurers Club on numerous occasions and really enjoyed the place itself, nothing turned me off to it more than the people who would come dressed as club members and “prove” themselves by beating the actors to the punchlines and just generally being obnoxious, all the while not ordering any drinks. The Club they loved so much? They helped kill it.
Myself being about as geeky of a Disney fan as a person can be, I guarantee I am far more tolerant of fellow geeks than “normal” tourists. If this made me less inclined to visit the Adventurers Club, it certainly turned “normal” people off to the Club. By normal tourists, I mean those who spend liberally on drinks because they are on vacation and don’t mind splurging.
We can all speculate as to the “real” reasons why the Adventurers Club was closed, but if there is one unerring truth in this world, it’s that Disney loves $$$. If the Adventurers Club were selling more drinks and were thereby more profitable, it would undoubtedly be open today.
Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar and other locations in Disney Springs are proof-positive that Walt Disney World management is not averse to bars…so long as they bring in money.
Summer 2018 Update: There’s good news on this front! During our most recent visit to Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto, we found the experience to be much more enjoyable in terms of guest demographics.
Not only has the bar found its groove with the gags and effects, but the audience skewed more heavily towards non-obnoxious tourists who were genuinely surprised by the effects. It’s actually fun watching people react to these interactive elements for the first time.
Perhaps our experience was a one-off, but we think it’s more likely that many Walt Disney World regulars have moved on to the newest ‘shiny object’ at Walt Disney World and are now less likely to frequent Trader Sam’s. Either way, we’ve enjoyed ourselves a ton on our more recent, infrequent visits to Grog Grotto.
This is all seemingly off-topic for a Grog Grotto review, but I mention it here because my visits to Grog Grotto were eerily reminiscent of those to the Adventurers Club, with the same type of ostentatious and annoying locals. (Why this is not an issue at Enchanted Tiki Bar, located outside the biggest locals’ park in the Disney empire, is beyond me.)
Granted, I went early on, so perhaps the luster has worn on by now and they’ve moved on to something else, but if anything could potentially be the downfall to Grog Grotto for me, it’s this clientele. If I had to speculate, I would say this won’t be a longterm thing, mostly because Grog Grotto doesn’t have the same repeatability as something with actual actors. I truly hope that’s the case…and perhaps this is already a moot point.
One thing Grog Grotto won’t have to worry about is sufficient popularity to justify its existence. Early on and still during peak travel seasons, the wait times for the inside bar were measured in hours. We were told there was roughly a 3 hour wait one day (down from 6 hours just a few weeks earlier!), so we passed entirely.
The next afternoon the wait was “only” 45 minutes, so we headed outside to the lovely Tiki Terrace where a live band was playing. This might be heresy, but I came to enjoy lounging around the Tiki Terrace more than inside the actual bar–it felt like the inside bar was somewhere to have a single drink and see a round of effects, while the outside terrace was better suited for long-term lounging.
After that, while we stayed at the Bora Bora Bungalows, we wandered over to Grog Grotto about an hour before last call every night. Never once did we wait to get inside, and bar really cleared out about 30 minutes before closing. This was by far the most enjoyable time of day to experience Grog Grotto’s interior, so if you have the chance, go this route.
I mentioned above that I think Grog Grotto is better than Enchanted Tiki Bar. It’s not by a wide margin, but I do give it the edge. I suspect the success of Enchanted Tiki Bar caught Disney management off-guard, and while it is abundantly clear that the project was a labor of love for the Imagineering team working on the Disneyland Hotel incarnation, it also seems like they did some things on a shoe-string budget. They definitely made the most of what they had, but it feels like Grog Grotto was built with the success of Enchanted Tiki Bar under everyone’s belts, so to speak.
From the layout to the effects to the decor, the impression I get from Grog Grotto is that it’s an iteration on the Disneyland version. Flush off the success of Enchanted Tiki Bar, I suspect Disney was willing to devote more money to the project, and the team involved knew what changes to make to improve upon the experience. The effects are more impressive, the layout is less cramped, and the decor is (somehow!) even more detailed and has greater depth. Despite all of this, it manages to feel like a kitschy, intimate hole-in-the-wall dive bar–in the best way possible. So kudos to all involved on that one.
Oh yeah! They serve food and drinks at Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto. Since they were out of all the cool new souvenir mugs while we were there (probably for the best as I didn’t want to deal with the internal struggle over whether I should or shouldn’t drop $50+ to get a souvenir Nautilus), I didn’t photograph most of our drinks.
The only unique-to-Grog Grotto drink I thought we got the entire time we were there was the Krakatoa Punch, but it turns out that’s in California, too, and I just forgot. (Apparently I’m not entirely clear-minded on visits to Trader Sam’s…)
Here’s a photo of the Uh-Oa! (our favorite drink) recycled from Disneyland. Read my thoughts on the rest of the drinks in our Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar Review.
The tl;dr version is that while the drinks are all fruity, they aren’t the norm of all sugar, little booze. Trader Sam demands his drinks be sufficiently strong, or else bartenders incur the wrath of the tiki gods. (Which means being transferred to Stitch’s Great Escape. The punishment fits the crime, I’d say.)
There’s also food at Grog Grotto. After being wholly underwhelmed by this small, bland $13 Hawaiian Poke, we elected to stick to Captain Cook’s for the rest of our culinary urges.
Pretty awesome review of a place that serves food & drinks, right? A recycled drink photo and link to another post, plus one food item, discussed in a single sentence. In fairness, the main draw at Grog Grotto is the ambiance and show (and those souvenir mugs)…
Overall, Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto is a ton of fun, and certainly worthy of the the “Trader Sam’s” name. The second in what hopefully is a “chain” of Trader Sam’s around the globe (I’d love to see a Trader Sam’s in Tokyo DisneySea with a steampunk motif!) builds upon the success of the original with a few tweaks and little improvements. That it managed to live up to the original is quite the achievement, especially considering that Disney probably could have phoned it in here, making a Trader Sam’s in name only with weak drinks and overpriced souvenir mugs, and still drawn huge crowds. The drink menu mostly sticks to the tried and true formula of the great options found in California, with a couple of additions. All told, Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto is a must-visit for boozehounds and teetotalers alike, as the great Imagineering work on display here makes it so much more than a bar.
Want more dining tips? Check out our 101 Delicious Walt Disney World Dining Tips. Planning a Walt Disney World trip? If you’re interested in learning more about hotels, our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page is a good place to start. If you want to save money on tickets or determine which type you should get, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at unconventional things you should take on your trip. Once you arrive at the parks, our Walt Disney World “Ride Guides” are great for determining what to do and when to do it.
If you have made the pilgrimage to Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto, what was your experience? Did you buy any souvenir mugs? Any other menu or drink recommendations? Do you agree or disagree with my assessment? Any other tips? Share your thoughts in the comments!
Tom–I love your reviews–but on our current trip (I am sitting in the Poly lobby right now) we went to Trader Sam’s 2 nights in a row at 11 pm. They took our name, but we never got in. At 11:40, I checked again and the lady at the door said they couldn’t let anyone else in–but she did let us at least look inside (no drinks). Perhaps this place has gotten too popular for its own good. Luckily we’re coming back in a few months, but sadly not staying at the Poly. I’m not sure we’ll make the trek over if there’s a chance we won’t even get in.
My husband and I love the Tiki Lounge at DL. We have never had to wait for a table, and actually stumbled on it accidentally. We don’t stay on property, but like to explore when we are done in the parks. We are headed to DW on Saturday, still not staying on property, but hope to check it out. I guess we will probably try Monday, as that seems to be a slow day.
Hollie did you find the Grotto to be slow on Monday?
I’ve been able to visit both bars. The only downside to Grog Grotto is the food. I remember at Disneyland they had so many more choices, and we were able to make a meal out of the appetizers. To make an entire meal out of the food at Grog Grotto would be so expensive and just not as tastey. I ordered a zombie head drink, only so I could get the glass. I went last week at 5:00pm. There was no wait. I did feel rushed though. We ordered one drink and instead of being asked if we wanted another, they immediately gave us a check. Are they trying to turn people in and out quickly?!
We went in March during the soft opening and we only waited 10 minutes. I don’t drink but I still had a good time and liked my glorified soda. I’m vegan and my fiance is vegetarian, so they were able to veg-a-tize the sushi. Unfortunately, they put cream cheese on it but it was still nice of them to do. I agree with a previous poster about the drink prices not being listed. They also did not tell us that certain mugs were not in- which would’ve been helpful before I ordered my fiance a nautilus (also didn’t realize it was a two-person drink). It was $70 for two alcoholic drinks, sushi, and the non-alcoholic drink. It was a special trip (we got engaged) so it wasn’t a big deal but I could’ve spent that on, like, 30 soft pretzels. However, the experience did make for some great drunken memories at Magic Kingdom. I am not sure I recommend drinking here and then going to watch the creepy talking Mickey immediately after, like we did.
Great review and spot on! My brother and I just returned last weekend from a last minute trip to the world and we stopped by Grog Grotto our first night shortly before they closed. We got there a little after ten thirty as MK just let out at ten, and all other parks were closed already, so we weren’t sure if they would be packed or not? They were not!!!! This was the only night we were able to get there so I’m not sure if this was a fluke or not but by the sounds of it, we made the right decision as there were only a few other groups there and only one other by the time we left. I loved the theming of the inside (we didn’t go outside at all) and the cast members were a ton of fun but we did get the same feeling as mentioned above about the “locals” in the bar. I wasn’t blown away by the appetizers (we had the roasted chicken and pork sliders) but the drinks were quite tasty and given the overall ambiance I would definitely go back again.
We love Trader Sam’s and go at least once every trip, so 4 times this year, but I agree that just because you might know what’s coming doesn’t mean you always need to participate! Let other’s have the fun of seeing it for the first time!! The pork tacos are our favorite dish there – and really good for the price. You get 3 which is awkward for two people to share but last trip there were 3 of us and it was a perfect snack. And my only issue, and its obviously not stopping me from going, is that drink prices aren’t listed. So its a little bit of a shock when the bill comes, especially if you decided you HAD to have a Nautilus to take home…
Side note – we found out on our last trip that you can take any of the drinks to go as well, so if you decide that the HippopotoMai-Tai is the perfect drink to watch the fireworks on the beach with they are happy to make it to go 🙂
We loved Trader Sam’s! We went in May on a Monday before dinner, around 7/7:30 expecting to have a huge wait, and we walked right in and there were seats to spare. The bartender told us Mondays tend to be slow with lower wait times (if any at all). I don’t know if that held up throughout the summer, though.
We visited Grog Grotto for the first time a week ago! We consider Trader Sam’s an imagineering masterpiece and were so excited to check out GG. The details take me back to the amazing WDW details in my childhood memories. The GG layout is much better and we found the drinks to be stronger than those at TS but that might have been a fluke. I agree that GG really ties together the Poly renovations. Can’t wait to read your Easter Egg post.
P.S. I am a daily reader of your blog but first time poster. 🙂 How do I change my picture on the post?
@ Tom Bricker
We will be staying at the Polynesian in the lodges over Halloween. Does anybody know whether a 19yr old is allowed in Trader Sam’s anytime amid the day.
Copied from the WDW site:
“Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto welcomes the whole family–including children–from opening until 8:00 PM. After 8:00 PM, only Guests 21 years of age or older may visit.”
… They seem to be opening regularly at 4pm; so you have a good amount of time in the early evening to get in with the whole family. Just got back, it was definitely a highlight of our trip. Enjoy!
We were there in late May. Wait wasn’t too bad (about 30 min), but we went late on a Thursday night. Apparently this was usually a busy night for CMs because it was pay day, but I didn’t notice anything too annoying…although we were there pretty much until last call, so most of them might have filtered out. We ate on the Tiki Terrace before heading into the Grotto & I enjoyed the sausage situation (basically spicy hot dogs) they had going on, as well as the pot stickers. Another bonus to the Tiki Terrace is you can order the blended Dole Whip/rum drink that is not served inside. SO GOOOOOOOOD.
Any situation that involves sausage is a good situation. 😉
Thanks for the additional food recommendations.
I second the sausage. Delicious!
I’ve seen a few reviews from people who said the same thing about being surprised to enjoy sitting outside almost more than inside once you’ve seen the effects.
We’ll be at WDW 2 weeks from today, planning on going to Trader Sam’s after dinner at Ohana one night so it’ll be late, hopefully not too crowded. Can’t wait to try it and Jock Lindsey’s which is sounding good so far.
We are also really excited to try Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar. Early reviews from there are really positive, which is great. Sounds like Walt Disney World is finally stepping up its nightlife game after years of stagnation following the closure of Pleasure Island.
Just got back… did Jock’s & Grog Grotto. Jock’s didn’t have the souvenir mugs in yet. The theming/design were great and the atmosphere warm & welcoming. Unfortunately, we seemed to catch them in the midst of fresh trainees (as expected for only being open 3 days). There was one amazing bartender leading the show who pulled two trainees aside and told them they “need to get on board”. There was a 2nd experienced bartender as well… those two sold the whole experience from beginning to end. The drinks were solid. It definitely has a lot of potential from the start & once they get some more experience under their belts, it should be pretty great.
Grog Grotto (inside) was awesome; after an hour wait. No “regulars” were there to ruin it. That internal souvenir mug struggle? Very real. Came away with the souvenir Nautilus, Hippopotamaitai, and Shrunken Zombie Head. Can’t wait to go back.
We will be staying at the Polynesian in the bungalows over Halloween. Does anyone know if a 15yr old is permitted in Trader Sam’s at any point during the day, or is it adults only? We would love to be able to see it, but would feel a little guilty (maybe) abandoning our 15 yr old son while we had fun! Thanks
It’s 21 and over after 8pm, before that any age is allowed.
Thanks Lauren, that was going to be my question too. My daughter will be 18 when we go and is very cross that she would be able to drink at Trader Sam’s if it was here in Oz but not in the US. Now she’ll be able to come and accompany her intoxicated mother home!!!
By Oz, you probably mean Australia, but I’m still going to assume you’re actually from the majestic place of Munchkinland and Emerald City. That must be awesome! 😉
For the sake of adding to the food portion of the review- we went in May (sat outside, because three hour wait) and split an order of the Pan-Fried Dumplings. They were good, and at least a little bit more reasonable from a cost per bite perspective than the amount of Poke you had. I wouldn’t go out of my way for them, but if you’re going for drinks anyway, they’re certainly good enough.
Since it was so early in its life, we noticed a few tables outside were occupied for hours by solo people that seemed to be reviewing it for some thing or another- hopefully that annoyance has passed as well. Um, no offense!
It is really, really nice sitting outside- if seeing the indoor effects isn’t on your bucket list, the place is still worth a trip.
Thanks for the tip on the dumplings!
No offense taken. Aside from awkwardly (and quickly…I don’t want to eat cold food!) taking photos of my food with a pro-grade DSLR, you’d be hard-pressed to distinguish us anywhere we visit from ordinary tourists. While some might say Disney blogging is a noble task and gives one the right to monopolize space at restaurants or in the parks, I am not one of the people who would say that. The way some bloggers/vloggers/etc. act bothers me just as much as it likely bothered you.
Fantastic point about the Adventurer’s Club and the chanting along inside Grog Grotto. Sadly, when we were there (opening day soft open) there were a group of off-duty MK CMs (and I know what ride they’re from, I’m choosing not to post it) who ruined the experience for the rest of us. They knew every word, and moreover, added their own commentary to the new ones. For example, during the rustling noises before the (admittedly crowd participation appreciated) “two shots of rum!” section, one of these off-duty CMs would scream “Shoot her! Shoot her!” mimicking the original Jurassic Park. It was extremely off-putting.
We’ve since gone back and sat outside. We enjoyed this much, much more. Can’t wait to see your post on the Easter Eggs you found! It was a little too crowded that first day to check everything out, and I’ve not been back inside since.
Exactly. Crowd participation is one thing when it’s invited or called for, but it’s one thing to participate like normal with one of those sequences and going out of the way to ‘flaunt’ knowledge of this or that.
The vast majority of Cast Members are wonderful and do an excellent job, but I’ve near off-duty CMs on a number of occasions as they loudly discussed aspects of their job (that they really shouldn’t have been discussing in public) at volume levels that were clearly for the “benefit” of those around them. It came across as trying to show off. It sounds like you had a similar experience at Grog Grotto.