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The Walt Disney World monorail, known as the “Highway in the Sky,” is an elevated beam way system that runs between Epcot, Magic Kingdom and three hotels: Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa and Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort.
For years, Walt Disney World guests have participated in unofficial “monorail pub crawls,” where they ride the monorail from hotel to hotel and visit various themed bars. In January 2017, Walt Disney World decided to build on this idea and added a food component, dubbing it the Highway in the Sky Dine Around, a progressive dinner at the three hotels along the monorail route with a private viewing of the Magic Kingdom fireworks at the end.
Meredith Wallace of M M Travel in Bedford, N.Y. says she’s gotten great feedback from clients about Highway in the Sky being a highlight of their trip.
“It’s a fun way to try different foods and explore different locations at the monorail resorts,” she said.
My Highway in the Sky journey in late June began at The Wave of American Flavors restaurant in Disney’s Contemporary Resort, where we were served a special cocktail created just for the event (and that can’t even be ordered on any Disney property). The Whisky Peach tea — made with Jameson Irish Whisky, peach schnapps, iced tea and agave syrup, and garnished with a bruleed peach — was served with a cup of corn soup.
“We’re always seasonal at Wave, so since it’s the height of corn season, we did a corn soup with just a little buttermilk and thyme,” the chef explained to me. “Instead of using a roux to thicken, we used masa (corn flour) to add more corn flavor, and we garnished with a little fresh shrimp and a corn shoot.”
After our appetizer and cocktail, we were escorted to a private monorail car that whisked us to Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. There, Becca from Kona Cafe greeted us with “Aloha” and silk flower leis and gave a brief history lesson about the hotel.
“Our story begins in 1934, when Walt and his wife first visited Hawaii,” she said. “Walt fell in love with the lifestyle and culture of Hawaii, so, many years later when he had the idea for building Walt Disney World Resort, The Polynesian was his first hotel concept.”
We were then treated to a trio of island dishes: sustainably farmed kampachi (Kona white fish), served with a soy ginger cream; Hawaiian tuna poke with avocado cream; and Kona coffee-rubbed beef filet served with purple Japanese sweet potatoes. Our delicious and beautiful plate was accompanied by a classic island mai tai and authentic Hawaiian music from Kalei, one of the entertainers from the hotel’s Ohana restaurant. Kalei even taught us how to say “highway in the sky” in Hawaiian: iolani (sky) a la nui (highway).
From Disney’s Polynesian Village, we hopped back onto the monorail to head to Disney’s Grand Floridian, the flagship hotel at Walt Disney World Resort that transports guests back to West Palm Beach in the 1920s. At Citricos, the hotel’s Mediterranean-style restaurant, proprietor Stig Jacobson explained that we would be served a special “surf and turf” pairing of two guest favorite dishes: braised short rib over creamy mashed potatoes and Alaskan halibut over sauteed spinach. We were also given a choice of Italian red or white wine to accompany our meal.
I shared a table with John and Bonnie from Pennsylvania, who were celebrating their 41st wedding anniversary.
“I was looking for something at Disney’s Contemporary Resort because we had dinner there on our honeymoon,” Bonnie said. “And Highway in the Sky Dine Around seemed like the perfect way to commemorate our anniversary.”
After dinner, we went downstairs to the Garden View Lounge for a glass of Fairy Tale Celebration Cuvee — a sparkling wine only available at Walt Disney World — and a cheese and charcuterie course that included Humboldt Fog goat cheese and double cream brie, plus prosciutto and multiple kinds of salamis.
We boarded the monorail one last time and returned to a private patio at Disney’s Contemporary Resort for a dessert of organic chocolate flourless cake, Valencia citrus cake and Florida strawberry shortcake, as well as coffee and cordials. We had a spectacular view of the Magic Kingdom, and it was the perfect spot to watch the Happily Ever After fireworks show over Cinderella Castle.
“Our guests love that they don’t have to think about a thing as they are whisked away from location to location in their own private monorail car,” said Sara Schmalz, catering guest experience manager for Walt Disney World Resort. “It’s also fun to see everyone interact throughout the evening. By the time we reach the dessert stop, everyone has made new friends.”
Highway in the Sky Dine Around takes place Monday through Thursday and costs $170 per person plus tax (gratuity and valet parking are included). Bookings are commissionable if made through Disney Dining. Travel agents should note that the experience is intended for guests ages 12 and over, and Disney dining plan entitlements cannot be redeemed for this event.
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