The power of nature is something that always fascinates us as humans. We do our best to understand it, prepare for its occasional fury and awe at its wondrous beauty. At Rainforest Cafe these elements have always been central to the experience. But just as the tectonics plates move and reshape our Earth, Rainforest Cafe had to once again transform itself in order to draw a new generation of fans with more of the raw power and beauty of the natural world that has intrigued millions since the restaurant opened its doors. Their answer a new completely rebuilt volcano that shoots fire into Downtown Disney’s (soon Disney Springs’) skyline and a Lava Lounge that provides open air, waterfront views and a lava flow themed bar with a backdrop of oozing lava against the molten rock of the volcano’s outer reaches. A dormant volcano can become active at seemingly almost any moment and though it took longer than most of us had hoped, once Rainforest Cafe’s volcano reawakened with its new ferocious sounds and visuals, it once again stole the show of Downtown Disney as onlookers raced to the edges of every inch of Downtown Disney to catch a glimpse of the eruptions. But at Da Mouse we aren’t ones for just glimpses so join us as we embark to bring you our first impressions of this new entertainment and dining experience at the Walt Disney World Resort.
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Walking towards Rainforest Cafe from Downtown Disney’s West Side because parking can get a little hectic at Downtown Disney (thankfully Disney Spring’s eventual parking garages should alleviate this) there was an apparent buzz forming as onlookers who like me were on the other side of the property had seen and were waiting once more for the next volcanic eruption. As I walked briskly towards Downtown Disney’s Marketplace, more and more people were at the edges of the railings not only to take photos but to countdown for what was to come. And every half hour it happens. The rumble, the roar, the fire. What is a smoldering volcano blowing off steam during the day becomes a spectacle of intense fire and controlled explosions as the sun sets on the retail mecca of the Walt Disney World Resort.
It is spectacular and even though we had previewed what it could look like because it is not the first Rainforest Cafe to feature an active volcano, I couldn’t help but feel the same feeling of awe as the multitude of guests beside me who were lost in the moment as they saw something like they’ve probably never seen before. It is definitely going to draw more attention to the restaurant and in a conversation I overhead closer to the Lava Lounge, one employee was joking about how he didn’t have to work this weekend because with the volcano erupting he knew that the already overpacked Rainforest Cafe was going to be that much more filled with excited guests who may perhaps have overlooked the much tamer volcano that came before.
As impressive as the volcano’s eruptions are it’s not the only story at the new Rainforest Cafe and Lava Lounge. The entrance of the restaurant now has a beautiful waterfall with a scene that includes a giant animatronic alligator that does a pretty good job of attracting the curious younger ones in for a closer look until it animates and growls with its seemingly sharp teeth for all to witness. Then those kids aren’t as brave as they once were but it quickly tells me how this refurbishment has already transformed the area into many layers of memorable experiences that are what make guests young and old, want to come back. Beside the waterfall is a cave adorned with a small Lava Lounge marquee and it represents a new entrance that takes guests into the heart of the volcano and to the Lava Lounge. Inside are some pretty beautiful cutaways that glow with bright orange-red molten lava and give one a sense of adventure as they walk into their much more subdued lounge destination. [parallax back_button=’no’] [parallax_section id=’1′ height=’500′] [/parallax_section] [/parallax]
There is nothing about the Lava Lounge itself that is revolutionary. It couples a very nice looking bar with gorgeous panoramic waterfront views of Downtown Disney. It features a few new cocktails and one can pull up to the bar or grab one of the many tables by the water and order food from the Rainforest Cafe’s regular menu. Its decor is nice but not stunning, though the bar itself features a bright red bar top that is quite beautiful and behind the bar is a giant cutaway where the pulsating lava gives a sense for the active volcano we are beside. But indeed not everything has to be revolutionary to be successful and in this case the Lava Lounge gets so many of the basic things just right that you can’t help but feel welcomed, at home and most of all comfortable. This latter comfort is only furthered by what was an incredibly fun, lively and attentive staff who though dealing with all the normal inconsistencies of an opening night gave everyone there nothing but good times. There was not one person at the bar who wasn’t happy and I promise it wasn’t because of the libations they consumed though that always tends to help.
Together the Lava Lounge with its solid offerings and excellent staff along with the reinvigorated Rainforest Cafe volcano entrance bring this Downtown Disney landmark back into the swing of things at a Downtown Disney that is preparing for the future that is arriving with Disney Springs. Imagine how neat it will be and just how much better this Rainforest Cafe renovation will seem when you are crossing the new Disney Springs bridge and headed towards the fire spewing volcano and the much calmer Lava Lounge that provides just enough refuge from the typical hectic pace of the average Disney vacation. We will have more coverage from the newly renovated Rainforest Cafe soon but for now enjoy the incredible sights and sounds.