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A guide to getting the best buzz for your buck at Orlando’s theme parks

Partying through the theme parks

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The holiday season in Central Florida’s theme parks is a magical time of dazzling decorations, heartwarming traditions and soul-crushing crowds. The days between Christmas and New Year’s Eve are typically the busiest for Orlando’s attractions, and with tourism rebounding to post-recession highs, Christmas 2013 promises to be the most insane in recent years.

Frankly, it’s a situation nobody should have to face sober. So, if you are going to be squeezing through a local resort’s overcrowded gates over the next week – whether you’re being forced to escort out-of-town guests, or have simply gone nuts and are going of your own volition – you need this survival guide to my favorite in-park libations. For additional tippling tips, check out partythroughtheparks.com.

Walt Disney World

Disney may be the most popular local resort, but it’s also the most expensive one to get drunk at. The original Magic Kingdom was famously booze-free until the recent opening of Be Our Guest restaurant, which is too pricey and overbooked to count on for a good buzz. If you want to toast the Holiday Wishes fireworks over Cinderella Castle, park at the Polynesian Resort and crash their beach; I recommend a hip flask of rum poured over a self-serve Dole Whip from Captain Cook’s.

Since the death of Pleasure Island, Epcot is Disney drinking’s ground zero. The best time to drink around the world is fall’s Food & Wine Festival (I’m still salivating over the Glenfiddich flights) but you can get smashed year-round in Mexico’s tequila cave – go exotic with a jalapeño or avocado margarita – or England’s semi-authentic pub. There are no notable potables at Animal Kingdom (at least not until Na’vi Juice arrives in 2017) but Hollywood Studios now has a nice al fresco tapas bar outside the Brown Derby restaurant, featuring pricey cocktails and priceless people-watching.

Universal Orlando

It’s no coincidence that my favorite Mickey competitor and the complex with the most bars per square foot are one and the same. Before you even get into the parks, you can hit Universal’s CityWalk and its various hotels for numerous happy hour drink discounts; start with half-price margaritas at Margaritaville’s Lone Palm bar, continue to half-price Abita Turbo Dogs at Emeril’s and end with $5 Dark and Stormies at Royal Pacific’s Tchoup Chop. Stop into the soon-to-be-shuttered Cigarz for a shot and a smoke while you still can.

If you have an annual pass, the Watering Hole and Backwater Bar in Islands of Adventure and Finnegan’s in Universal Studios Florida offer $4.50 drafts and $6 well doubles; the Alcatraz bar pours call brands for the price of wells. For a few bucks more, no Simpsons fan should leave without a sip of Duff Beer at Moe’s Bar in the new Springfield area; the Yuengling-like standard brew is the best. Finally, the bartenders at the Hog’s Head Pub at Harry Potter’s Wizarding World aren’t allowed to adulterate Butterbeer, but if you order a shot of Bailey’s on the side and it “accidentally” slips into your virgin beer, they can’t stop you.


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