We venture out to Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground for Hoop-Dee-Doo-Musical Revue, the dinner show that debuted all the way back on June 30, 1974, or the day before this website was founded.
Whenever Fort Wilderness comes up, I feel like half the time is devoted to trying to explain how to get to Pioneer Hall/Settlement Depot, which is where you’ll find the Hoop-Dee-Doo Theater/Pioneer Hall, Trail’s End, the takeaway quick service, Mickey’s Backyard BBQ, the resort store, the marina, etc. For more detailed transportation information or to read my review on weekend brunch at Trail’s End, see this post.
But from Magic Kingdom, simply board the boat that docks immediately outside the entrance/exit. From the other Parks or Disney Springs, take the Fort Wilderness bus to the Outpost Depot, which is the only stop that the bus makes. Then board one of the internal buses that will drop you off at Pioneer Hall in around 15 minutes. There’s also a bus that travels between Wilderness Lodge’s bus stop and Pioneer Hall, which is an underappreciated choice. And of course, boat service is available from the Contemporary Resort and Wilderness Lodge to the Pioneer Hall area. Finally, Disney’s Minnie Van service also drops off directly at Pioneer Hall just outside of Hoop and Trail’s End, making it one of the more intelligent destinations to use the flat-rate $20 service. More on the Minnie Van service is available here.
Like with the decision to book most experiences, Disney or otherwise, the main concern is going to be cost. Hoop-Dee-Doo offers three seating choices:
It’s worth noting that tax and gratuity are included when comparing prices here to other meals. If you don’t include either, Hoop is $59/adult and $35/child for Category 1. Without tax and tip, Chef Mickey’s dinner is $50/adult and $30/child. Obviously we are talking about two very different experiences here, but Hoop isn’t wildly more expensive than other fixed price meals. And if you’re willing to go with Category 3, the prices are virtually identical. At ‘Ohana, adults are $43 and kids are $24 before tax and tip, or about $8 less expensive per person than Category 3 seating at Hoop. The Spirit of Aloha Luau at the Polynesian Village Resort, which I review here, is a few dollars more expensive than Hoop.
I suggest splurging for Category 1 Seating as it’s “only” $5 more than Category 2 and you probably don’t want to be in Category 3.
Category 1 offers the best views of the stage and the difference in price should be a drop in the bucket in the grand scheme of things. I’d pay an extra five bucks not to be staring at this pillar. But if you’ve seen the show before or don’t mind a potential obstruction, a family of four can save around $30 by opting for Category 3 rather than Category 1. That’s enough to cover approximately two bottles of water.
The theater is surprisingly intimate and “feels” a lot smaller than you might imagine given the size of the building.
Tables are otherwise assigned well in advance, potentially based on when you book. Those booking first receive better seats within their booking category. On the day of our visit, a line had formed in front of the theater, but there is no reason to stand in it if you don’t want to. Being this far back will only delay our seating by a couple of minutes.
It makes sense to arrive 45 minutes before the stated showtimes, which are typically 4pm, 6:15pm, and 8:30pm. That will give you plenty of time to check in and pick up your tickets, find your seats, and get going on the starters.
Hoop-Dee-Doo is an all-you-care-to-enjoy affair served in three courses, in addition to complimentary wine and beer choices.
Dave and his lovely wife were nice enough/unintelligent enough to invite me along. You can pull his thoughts on the meal up here or find out all about the Copper Creek Villas at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, here.
The salad is serviceable with a tangy vinaigrette akin to Olive Garden and packed with a lot of fresh, crunchy, thick-cut vegetables and a generous helping of parmesan cheese.
Cornbread here is delicious served alongside the soft, creamy honey butter.
“Unlimited” Bud Light, Yuengling, Beso del Sol White and Red Sangria, and Frontera Chardonnay and Merlot are included in the price. I use quotations because it probably is not going to be your server’s priority to make sure your drink is full for the duration of the show. I always order two beers to start as there may not be an opportunity to get a refill until after the entrees are served. Yuengling is probably the way to go here – it’s tastier than Bud Light, while still being incredibly easy to drink. Frontera wine is about as gross as it gets and Beso del Sol Sangria is served watered down from a 3-liter box.
Dinner is served family-style with each individual item arriving in its own pail or tin bowl. Every review of Hoop will include a blurb that the food is served out of the same kitchen as Trail’s End, which is true. But I think the quality typically ends up being lower as the food sits for some amount of time before it’s served. You obviously can’t serve fresh fried chicken and mashed potatoes to 200 people within three minutes of each other. Temperature-wise, what we were served was between cold and lukewarm. It wasn’t a dealbreaker, but going in with relatively low expectations on the food front is probably smart or you risk being disappointed.
My piece of fried chicken was fine, though I enjoyed it more than Dave. There was a lot of meat attached to the bone and the skin was nice and crispy, but it was incredibly dry and salty.
After experiencing Central Barbecue in Memphis last week with Rendezvous on tap for next time, my opinion about what constitutes “good BBQ” has changed demonstrably, though Hoop’s ribs are just fine. The sauce is more sweet than tangy, but there is a lot of it slathered on the meaty bones. You can easily fill up on these.
I thought the beans were great with some pieces of pork mixed in along with some sweet brown sugar.
The mashed potatoes disappointed – cold and largely flavorless with a really thin consistency.
The corn was a little better – buttery and sweet with mostly whole kernels.
Unlike my experience at the Polynesian Luau, the meal was paced perfectly so food was delivered at the appropriate time, so we could enjoy it in between acts. That’s one of the reasons why service can “feel” a little inattentive or like your server is just going through the motions – they sort of are as timing is important. But while service seemed relatively uninterested, it was efficient.
As far as the show, I think it’s a really fun time and I even found myself getting close to smiling a couple of times.
The show has interactive elements, but they’re far from overwhelming.
Expect some amount of harassment if you make the mistake of celebrating a birthday or anniversary at the show.
It’s hard to capture just how much fun all of the hokey singing, dancing, and gags are in pictures, but it’s a lively, entertaining musical production that hits all the right, wholesome notes.
The Strawberry Shortcake song and dance are a highlight, with the restaurant’s servers appearing on stage carrying the desserts that they will shortly serve tableside.
The shortcake is a great way to close out the meal – sweet with a fresh strawberry flavor, homemade whipped cream, and a nice spongy texture.
The final number is a rauccous exchange between the Pioneer Hall Players and four “lucky” audience members.
I still have never been chosen to play the pretty girl, even after going to the show three times a night for seven years.
Performed something like 40,000 times to more than 11 million people, Hoop-Dee-Doo is as much of a Walt Disney World institution as Mickey Bars or the Contemporary Resort.
I recommend seeing the show sometime around a third vacation. It’s going to take 3.5 hours of your day given the 2-hour showtime and transportation back and forth. That may be too much time away from the Parks on your first vacation. But if you are trying to find a place to relax(?), Hoop does offer plentiful air-conditioning, good food, great entertainment, and a fun time.
When you find out the family has decided on going to STK instead. VERY FUNNY GRANDPA.
Like most things Walt-Disney-World-related, attending is not an inexpensive proposition. But before tax and gratuity, the cost for adults is “just” $59 for the top tier and $51 for the lowest tier. Liberty Tree Tavern at Magic Kingdom costs $35 for dinner. Add two Bud Lights and you’ve added $14, for a total cost of $49. That makes Hoop somewhere between two and nine more dollars. That’s not bad at all.
And visiting Fort Wilderness is a fun, pretty adventure with a lot to see and do.
Overall, Hoop-Dee-Doo is a unique, quintessential experience at Walt Disney World and something anyone that’s made it to the end of this review should strongly consider doing. The food is not great, but the show is, and four or five “free” beers should make both even better. I would go back anytime.