Harbour House: Home Sweet Home

As you all know, upon reaching the end of the Food and Wine Festival, Disney relocated me to Columbia Harbor House in the Magic Kingdom.

If you’re anything like me, the first response to a statement like that is, “Where on earth is Columbia Harbour House?”

(Even though I’m a bit of a Disney fanatic, I really don’t know as much about the parks as I’d like to. I’m in the perfect position to learn all I care to know now!)

Well, let me answer that question. Here’s the quick and dirty, I’ll get to details in a moment. Columbia Harbour House is a quick service restaurant in the Magic Kingdom, located mostly in Liberty Square, directly across from the Haunted Mansion and next door to Peter Pan’s Flight.

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Before my training, I’d never heard of it. Or eaten there, obviously. So when Disney called me on the phone and told me I was moving to a quick service location, I’ll admit, I was disappointed, especially since my Food and Wine buddies were being deployed fun, magical places like Crystal Palace, Fort Wilderness, Boma, Be Our Guest and Akershus. You know, real table service restaurants and buffets.

“I’m going to be dumping chicken nuggets into fryers,” I complained to my mother on the phone. “I’m not going to culinary school for this!”

That just goes to show what I know.

As far as quick service restaurants go, Columbia Harbour House is the top of the totem pole. It actually has a pretty advanced menu. It offers two sandwiches, the Anchors Aweigh and the Lighthouse sandwich, the Garden Harvest Salad, Broccoli Salad, Chicken Nuggets, Fried Shrimp Basket, Grilled Salmon with Couscous and Broccoli, Lobster Roll, New England Clam Chowder and Vegetarian Chili. Plus the seasonal dessert, which is currently a chocolate cake and a peach cobbler.

I should have known the menu would be complex and delicious, even for quick service. It’s Disney, after all.

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What really surprised me, though, was that everything was made by hand And as a culinary cast member, it’s my job to prep all that.

Yep, it’s made by hand.

“Here’s the thing about Harbour House,” Heidi, one of my fellow culinary cast members told me, “It’s located right here in the Magic Kingdom, and it’s quick service. When you think about Disney World, you immediately think of the castle, right? We’re the busiest park, and we’re a quick service establishment. That means we can’t ever fall behind because no one wants to wait for food. And it gets busy here.”

I experienced all this firsthand as they put me on the salmon grill for my first bit of training. During the lunch rush.

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All in all, I think I’m going to very much enjoy my time here at Columbia Harbour House. I like the people I’ll be working with and it’s a very family-style atmosphere (for example, we’re having a holiday potluck next week where everyone brings cookies.)

Plus, Harbour House is located in a fun area–halfway into Fantasyland and halfway into Liberty Square, it’s amazingly detailed. For example, you won’t find any bathrooms in Liberty Square, keeping with the details of the time period–no indoor plumbing in the colonial era. But Harbour House houses bathrooms…only on the half of the restaurant that’s located in Fantasyland.

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And if you’re a fan of the Haunted Mansion and its secrets, keep your eyes peeled for the third picture down from the stretch room before you enter the queue. See the Haunted Mansion Mariner and the spear in his hands? Finish your adventure at Columbia Harbour House and notice the same spear hanging on the beams above the counter.

That’s a lot of attention to detail right there.

Of course, the ties between the Haunted Mansion and Harbour House don’t end there. (They’re so close to each other there are several ghostly distinctions at Harbour House!) Each section of the restaurant is dedicated to either a ship lost at sea or a ghost ship. And a map of the Ghost Fleet of the Outer Banks, published in National Geographic, is framed on one wall, listing 500 ships lost along the US coastline. You’ll notice the upper windows overlook the Haunted Mansion, and there are so many amazing details in the Haunted Mansion I’ll save it for another post, because I can’t even begin to cover it all here!

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It’s just one of the reasons I love working for Disney, especially in the Magic Kingdom. I love getting into the park for free! But I was reminded just how lucky I am to live my dream when I was waiting for the bus last night behind the castle. I had the most gorgeous view of the fireworks, and the music was piped in all around me.

Some of you may not know, fireworks are actually shot pretty far back behind the park, even though the look like they’re right above the castle. This is for everyone’s protection (getting hit by flaming shrapnel might put the slightest dent in your vacation plans.)

So when I stood behind the tunnel, waiting for the bus to take me to the Magic Kingdom Cast Parking (where car alarms go off because of the fireworks, a rather humorous sight) I was able to get the best view of the fireworks as they burst into full glory, a sight that most guests aren’t ever able to see.

It reminds me exactly of what I’m doing–living my dream, and helping to make magic for people. One marinated salmon fillet at a time.

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