03 September 2007

Engine Room, steady on

It seems the closer I get to any trip to Walt Disney World, the more fondly I remember old traditions; the first ride in a given park in the morning, where to sit to watch Illuminations, Fantasia Gardens on the first day of a trip, and the food, oh, the food. I have several food traditions, like eating breakfast at Kona before heading for home, but there are two that come before all else, the Citrus Swirl at Sunshine Tree Terrace (which I had originally planned to talk about today, but was beaten to the punch by Lou Mongello and Jeff Pepper on the WDW Radio Show, so we’ll save that topic for another day) and chicken tenders at Columbia Harbour House. Now, you can say that the chicken tenders are the same all over the World, but they aren’t there is something about the tenders here that just speaks to me, usually with the words straight out of Alice in Wonderland, ‘Eat Me.’

Besides what I consider to be the best chicken tenders on property (especially with the barbeque and honey mustard sauces available here), the Columbia Harbour House is full of stories just waiting to be unlocked. Nestled in the corner of both Liberty Square and Fantasyland, the Columbia Harbour House does its even best to feel at home in both lands. In fact, if you check out the external architecture, specifically the section that creates an overpass between the two lands, which is in reality part of the dining area, you can see just how seamless the details of both lands are intertwined. Take a step back from the bridge, on the Liberty Square side, and take a view into Fantasyland. Rather than brickwork, which is the hallmark of Liberty Square, you’ll see small sections of stonework that definitely looks as if it would be more at home in Fantasyland. This works on both sides of the overpass, I suggest that you take a hard look at both sides next time you pass through, see how many pieces of the opposites land’s architecture and theme you can find on each side.

Before going into anymore detail, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the origin of the Columbia Harbour House name. The ship Columbia was the first United States ship to circumnavigate (circle) the world. As well, the name is homage to the Sailing Ship Columbia, a replica ship of the original Columbia, which resides in Disneyland.

Inside there are fantastic details everywhere, from a replica of the Columbia’s figurehead in the ordering area, to lighting fixtures made out of old Captain’s Wheels, to the ship models and advertisements of ships seeking passengers. My personal favorite is the exhibit showing various knots used on seafaring vessels. The original Columbia was not, in all actuality, a naval vessel. That is, that it was from the United States, but was not part of the navy, and it certainly never saw battle. This is fittingly depicted throughout the two floors of the restaurant, as there is plenty of maritime memorabilia, but very little in the way of naval paraphernalia.

This is absolutely a place I do not ever miss on my visits. I do attempt to try new places on every trip, but the Columbia Harbour House is never off the list, no matter how short the visit. The amount of time you could spend simply taking in the atmosphere of this place makes it a must see for anyone. Of course the fact that the do indeed have the best chicken fingers on property just adds to the experience.

Hidden Mickey Alert: On a wall across from the ordering area, on the first floor of the Columbia Harbour House, there are a selections of maps that form a Hidden Mickey.

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