Theme park cast member stories: Getting out early for happy hour

November 30, 2009, 10:20 AM · A friendly theme-park shout-out to Theme Park Insider readers today... all five of you, or whoever's left reading the site during these slowest weeks of the year for the theme park business.

Working in the Magic Kingdom, even the nation's busiest theme park was slooooow during the early days of December. The park itself closed at times between 5pm and 7pm, creating an unusual situation where the "closers" were coming into work just as the park was opening on some days. Heck, working the Magic Kingdom in early December started to feel like a "normal" job with typical office hours.

With the early close, cast members could go out after work and be around... other people who'd gone out after work. For whatever reason, there seemed to be a taboo on going out with fellow cast members while the park was still open. I don't recall ever hanging out with other Disney employees after a shift that ended more than two hours before the park closed for the night. The attitude seemed to be - Hey, if you want to hang out with your co-workers... extend.

That left cast member gatherings for late evening, or more typically, early morning hours. When we went out, we knew we'd be surrounded by other cast members, too, (or employees of other theme parks and tourist joints). Folks with office jobs and other 9-to-5 gigs would be long asleep by then.

But in early December, walking two hours before park close left you plenty of time to hit a "normal" person's (gasp!) happy hour.

So we did.

The bar at a Casa Gallardo
Someone else's photo of a Casa Gallardo bar

Several of us from Magic Kingdom West attractions liked to hit the old Casa Gallardo on South International Drive. The main appeal of the happy hour wasn't the drinks, believe it or not, it was the cheap food. Pushing and pull the tiller on a Tom Sawyer Island raft, or walking miles on the Haunted Mansion load and unload belts, really burns off the calories. So MK attractions employees can put the food away.

But a cast member's salary doesn't enable you to hit off-property table-service restaurants very often. That's why we loved the cheap food in the bar. A plate of chicken nachos, or a couple of tacos, for a couple bucks - yeah, that'll do. And it was a tasty step up for our usual Mexican restaurant, El Taco Bell.

College had already taught me the value of happy hour discounts. Every Friday afternoon, I'd hit up a bar near campus that set up a steam table with build-your-own tacos. Just tell the bartender you're a designated driver, and you'd be good to go with free Cokes, too.

Yeah, I did it. Call me cheap; I don't care.

With the early close time at Disney in December, you'd think that cast members would have had so much more time to party. But I can't recall nearly as many people getting hammered and doing stupid things as they did after midnight closes, when people had a scant hour or two to drink before the bars closed for the evening.

Part of this was due to the lack of college students and temporary employees during the first weeks of December. Only the full-timers worked those weeks, and we were an older, and ever-so-slightly more sedate, crowd.

But I'd attribute a lot of our reticence to the clock. Getting off work at six o'clock, you just felt too, well, normal, to party like a cast member. So we trudged off to happy hour like a bunch of office workers, instead.

Replies (11)

November 30, 2009 at 10:47 AM

I remember those days at Casa Gallardo. It's now an Unos (about a mile and half away from where I am sitting.

But there were other legendary CM watering holes. There was Darryl's and People's (also on I-Drive).

But none of those haunts were as legendary as original The Giraffe lounge in the Hotel Royal Plaza! The Giraffe was THE place to go -- especially back in the days of the Magic Kingdom College Program.

November 30, 2009 at 10:49 AM

Casa Gallardo! That was my favorite Mexican food (before all the Mexicans invaded NC and began putting up little restaurants all over the place). Great, cheap food. I wish they still existed.

November 30, 2009 at 12:05 PM

So I take it that if you were a CP now, you wouldn't be in the crowd of people at House of Blues on Sundays or taking the party bus to Roxy's, huh?

November 30, 2009 at 12:25 PM

I sincerely doubt that I have the genetic capability to have survived 20 years as an attractions host. So it is probably for the best that I am no longer a CM... :-)

November 30, 2009 at 12:30 PM

And yes, (I just discovered) there is a Facebook page dedicated to The Giraffe.

November 30, 2009 at 3:10 PM

Its all about the Ale House for Cast Members now. Matter of fact Disney Cast Members go to the Ale House on 535, Univeral Team Members go to the ale house on Kirkman.

November 30, 2009 at 10:26 PM

This actually sort of depressed me. I never pictured Cast Members as 9-5'ers, not even the older ones, not even in December.

November 30, 2009 at 10:59 PM

And thus... the drinking. It all works out, you see.

December 1, 2009 at 12:02 AM


Cast Members are just normal people, like you. And somedays, after work, we find some much needed pixie dust that they keep magically in the bottom of a mararita. :)

December 1, 2009 at 3:33 AM

Mr Sydowski,

Please note Mr. Counsil is a regular TPI poster and, thus, could never really be described as "normal."

Thank you for your time.


December 2, 2009 at 3:32 PM

Haha - not normal at all, TH.

Possibly my two favorite hobbies: drinking and theme parks.

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