We return to Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort & Campground to check out Mickey’s Backyard BBQ. I recently reviewed Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue in this post. I also have a look inside a refurbished Cabin here and a recent review of Trail’s End brunch, along with a look around the Settlement, here.
Unlike most offerings, Mickey’s Backyard Barbecue is not offered every night. You can pull up seasonal availability, along with Disney’s official word, here.
The BBQ is typically offered on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights at 5:30pm, though during January, it’s only offered on Saturdays.
From there, you’ve also got two Categories of seating. Because I’m a boss, I booked Category 1 and would highly recommend that you do the same if you’re committing to the Barbecue.
We’ll see the differences in action during the run-up to the start, but suffice to say that for an extra ten bucks per person, you’ll not only get reserved seats near the front of the stage, a meet and greet with Mickey/Minnie/Goofy and Chip/Dale with basically no wait, a 15 minute headstart with the buffet food, but most importantly, a full extra hour of open bar. And by the time Cowboy Trevor shows up on stage, you’re probably going to be happy that you’re seven Yuenglings in instead of just three or four. Otherwise, with tax and gratuity, Mickey’s Backyard Barbecue is $62 for adults and $37 for kids for Category 2 or $72 for adults and $47 for kids for Category 1. It “feels” expensive, but it includes the show, character interaction, buffet, and for the adults, “unlimited” Bud Light/Yuengling, Red and White Frontera Wine, and Sangria.
Mickey’s BBQ takes place in a separate Pavilion in what I suppose you could call the backyard of Trail’s End. Getting there is easiest if you take the boat from the Contemporary Resort or Magic Kingdom or the bus or boat from Wilderness Lodge. Otherwise, you’ll need to take an internal bus to the Settlement Depot after arriving via Disney bus or other automobile from the main parking area towards the front of the Campground.
The BBQ Pavilion is covered, but outdoors. We arrived just before 4:30pm with the 5:30pm start time and proceeded to check in and pick up our tickets within a couple of minutes.
Since we were Category 1, we were handed this green card alerting cast to our elevated status.
A cast member then walked me and Erin to our front-and-center table.
Grim grinning ghost singing pumpkins at Fort Wilderness pic.twitter.com/5WRdOIuzNS
— josh (@easywdw) October 28, 2017
This review is from October 28th, 2017, and with Halloween on the horizon, Fort Wilderness was decked out for the holiday. I had never seen these Grim Grinning Ghost singing pumpkins before.
A fun little touch only seen after checking in to the BBQ.
Chip and Dale met later in the evening with this backdrop.
Seating, all of which is on metal picnic tables, sprawls underneath the canopy.
Those with Category 2 seating will be let in 15 minutes before the official start of the show. With the usual 5:30pm start time, that usually means 5:15pm.
There’s no reserved seating for Category 2 guests, which means this is not a meal for which you want to show up late. If you are Category 2, you can find seats that are virtually identical to Category 1 if you arrive by 4:45pm and move swiftly to a picnic table close to the stage that doesn’t have a “reserved” placard on it.
Most people heading in will stop for a moment and consider where to sit.
Somewhere in here is probably best – you’ll have a straight-on view of the show and be near the buffet.
But only the first section of each long table is typically reserved for Category 1 guests.
Otherwise, Category 1 guests arrive a full hour before the show starts and have an opportunity to meet Mickey, Minnie, and Goofy with virtually no wait and few people around.
Most Category 2 guests will wait at least 30 minutes later in the evening for the same, albeit more-rushed, photo op.
Here’s the line at the end of the hour-and-45-minute show. You may not be in the mood after chasing the kids around during the Barbecue.
During the extra hour, I don’t think I saw more than eight people waiting.
Chip and Dale meeting with no wait.
The buffet is ready to go at 5pm for Category 1 guests.
15 minutes later, after Category 2 guests head in, this is what it looks like. The crowd around the food dies down within 30 minutes and buffet items are replenished often throughout the evening. The show begins promptly at 5:30pm, so if you’re Category 1, you’ll have a solid 30 minutes to enjoy your first couple rounds. Category 2 folks have around 15 minutes before Tumbleweed Will and Cyclone Sally arrive on stage.
Each buffet line is identical in its offerings and has room on both sides for serving.
Here’s what’s available:
Oak-smoked Pork Ribs. These were actually pretty good – meaty and modestly tender with a basic, sweet sauce.
Honey-mustard chicken. This didn’t deviate much from your standard rotisserie-style offering, which is probably a good thing, as I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen this flavor profile advertised elsewhere. The chicken was pretty good too – hot and fresh with a little bit of sugar and spice from the rub. Juicy chicken for the most part.
Corn-on-the-cob. While not as mushy as it probably could have been, there’s a reason most eateries don’t attempt mass-produced cobs. It was still better than reheated kernels swimming in murky water, at least.
Macaroni and Cheese. Just fine for the buffet line – the kids should enjoy it and most adults should benefit from a relatively creamy, slightly cheesy spoonful.
Baked Beans. A little bit of brown sugar and a nice meaty saltiness from the bacon help this one along.
Smoked Pulled Pork. Another favorite from the likes of Trail’s End and Whispering Canyon, it works a little better in a bun along with some slaw, but it’s also a hearty way to fill up without feeling like you’re eating an excess of calories. The sauce doesn’t overpower the flavor from the meat, which is nice.
Grilled Burgers. Probably the low point on the buffet, these things are cooked to death and don’t get any fresher as they sit.
The thick buns don’t add much and you’ll probably be waiting a while at the condiment bar to dress it up. But this should fit the bill for those that “just want a burger.”
Hot Dogs – not much better, but a healthy squeeze of ketchup and mustard improve the situation and they’re not quite as big of a commitment as the burgers.
AS MUCH CORNBREAD AS YOU CAN EAT.
Watermelon. No seeds means they care and it was actually nice and ripe for once – something that virtually never happens.
I have an unhealthy love of pasta salad, which may make me a bit biased as it’s rare that I meet one that I don’t like, but I thought what was offered at Mickey’s Backyard Barbecue was very good – rich and creamy with a nice crunch from the vegetables.
I feel the opposite about most coleslaw, but this was actually pretty good with fresh flavors and a nice crunch. None of that yucky watery mayonnaise that you often see.
The Cucumber Salad was a little too sweet for my tastes alongside all of the sweet barbecue. I would have liked more vinegar, but it’s potentially nice to have options.
While it might not look like it, the Potato Salad was another winner. The potatoes were cooked to a nice al dente, which gave the salad a lot of character with a little bit of a kick from the mustard and pepper.
And a Kale Apple Salad, which perhaps left a little something to be desired unless you got one of the crispy, sweet apple slices.
Your standard Caesar Salad on the right.
Overall, my expectations going in were rock bottom, which might have helped my positive takeaways.
But the food was 90% as good as Trail’s End, better than Hoop-Dee-Doo, and I thought the variety was better-than-expected. They could have easily gotten away with serving just Caesar instead of the five cold salad options. Don’t tell Disney that!
There’s like eight buffet lines but exactly one small condiment station, which I thought was a little strange as lines backed up pretty far after Category 2 arrived with what I’m sure ended up being disappointing hamburgers.
But there’s also lettuce, pickles, red onions, pickle relish, butter, ranch, salt, and pepper available.
Ketchup and mustard provided tableside.
Like Hoop-Dee-Doo and the Luau at the Polynesian, certain wines, beer, and sangria are offered complimentary throughout the experience. I have a review of the Luau here.
But unlike Hoop and the Luau, there’s a bar in the back of the area where you can take it upon yourself to request whatever you like, as often as you want. The downside is that for those that prefer to be served, there are really no servers. You’ll need to grab anything and everything you want by going up to the bar/bartender yourself.
As someone that likes to “maximize their value” whenever possible, it was nice to be in control of my consumption. These Concha Y Toro Frontera wines, here in Merlot or Chardonnay, are not good – less than $8 for 1.5L bottles at Total Wine, but after six or seven cups, you may not care.
And Yuengling is a popular, easily-drinkable macro on draft, each of which would cost you $7 at another Disney bar.
Beso Del Sol Sangria is also available.
Non-alcoholic drinks are available for the taking.
On the appetizer and dessert front, Mickey’s Ice Cream Bars are all-you-can-eat/carry.
Nobody will bat an eye when you bust one out while Category 2 enjoys the holding area.
Along with Orange & Cream Bars, which were refreshing after all of the heavy barbecue.
There’s also a Build-Your-Own Shortcake Station.
Not my most photogenic entry. This was similar to what’s offered at Hoop Dee Doo, but not quite as fresh. You can always have another Mickey Bar.
My expectations on the show were also low, but I thought it was entertaining.
There’s a lot of energy with the live music and characters dancing along with the kids to the music.
The dance floor was made more manageable when each of the characters would entertain a smaller group towards one side of the floor. That’s Mickey poking his head out down to the right.
But there are a lot of opportunities to interact with the characters and grab some quick pictures throughout the show.
Cowboy Trevor offers a break from the music.
If you’re impressed by somebody with the ability to lasso with their feet, then this is the sideshow for you.
But his two stints are a good opportunity to catch your breath and grab some more food (beer).
And it also affords the characters an opportunity to conduct traditional meet and greets.
Chip and Dale with just a handful of people waiting about 45 minutes into the show.
If you don’t opt for Category 1 seating, you can always stand in front of those that do, even after being asked to move or sit by everyone behind you.
But I was impressed by the talent of the band and the engaging personality of the singer.
I’m typically participation-adverse, but even I enjoyed joining in on the cha-cha towards the end of the evening.
Overall, I enjoyed Mickey’s Backyard Barbecue far more than I thought I would. Category 1 is a wise investment when it’s available as it eliminates the need to visit the characters for a photograph at their customary meet and greets during the event, in addition to offering reserved seating in the best locations, a 15-minute head start on the buffet, and a full extra hour of unlimited draft beer, wine, and sangria. The food was almost as good as Trail’s End next door. The music was entertaining and the characters are a lot of fun. I liked the freedom of being able to get up and get my own Mickey Bar rather than being at the mercy of a server going about their rounds.
On the other hand, I can see how it would make some parents wary as you’ll probably need to keep an eye on the kids as they engage with the characters and dance around. The lassoer that performs in between sets is also a bit of a bore. One guy swinging a rope is not necessarily that exciting. But it’s a good opportunity to grab a beer and take pictures with Chip & Dale.
The characters do meet at the end of the night until everyone has an opportunity to take a picture. So don’t feel like you need to take time away from the hootin’ and hollerin’ to wait for a half hour during the show.
Value-wise, the Backyard Barbecue is not an inexpensive proposition, like most things at Walt Disney World. But before tax and tip, Category 2 seating is “only” $7 more expensive than Chef Mickey’s dinner or $3 more than lunch at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall. It’s also about $15 more than dinner at Crystal Palace or $10 more than lunch at Hollywood & Vine. And it includes the booze for adults, in addition to a much more interactive experience and food that should satisfy overall.
I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss it.