Hubby and I had our first date at a dueling piano bar 25 years ago, so as you can imagine, they have kind of been our thing. Ironically, we had yet to try one in Orlando since we moved here … three and a half years ago. We decided to remedy that, and thankfully, Jellyrolls at the Disney Boardwalk Resort was worth the wait!
Jellyrolls is an adult-only, 21-and-over nightspot open every night from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. and named after Jelly Roll Morton, a legendary jazz pianist, not the dessert. I know this now because I googled it after I asked why they didn’t serve the dessert and the cocktail waitress looked at me funny. In my defense, their logo does look like a slice of yummy sponge cake layered in sweet jam goodness. In fact, the only downfall to this piano bar is that the only food they do serve is free popcorn! But it’s all good, just eat before you go. Or you can make a whole night of it by eating at one of the restaurants on the Coney Island-style boardwalk beforehand. Not sure if you can get a real jelly roll dessert there, but you can get lots of other things. Sorry, I digress.
There are several dueling piano bars in our wonderful city to choose from, but Jellyrolls was the best choice for us. It wasn’t filled with the rowdy, younger, and boisterous “drink-beer-by-the-buckets” party crowd that you can find at Howl at the Moon on International Drive, or the crazy busy City Walk crowds ready to celebrate Mardi Gras every night of the year at the New Orleans-themed Pat O’Brien’s. Nope, Jellyrolls is a hidden treasure that sits quietly toward the end of the boardwalk and offers a more casual vibe. The crowd ranged from young people celebrating birthdays (and even a bachelorette party) to moms and dads escaping their kids; there was even a table filled with seniors who were thoroughly enjoying themselves, I might add. There were those on vacation but also many locals. Jellyrolls may have a laid-back “I’m on vacation” vibe, but it still can get busy, loud, and wild like its sister piano bars I mentioned before. Even though the show doesn’t start until 8 p.m., I highly recommend you get there early if you want a table by the stage. We got there at 7:30 p.m. and were lucky to snag one. By 9 p.m., there was standing room only, and people practically fought us for our table when we left at 11.
While there is a $15-per-person cover charge to get in, there is no drink minimum – which is good because drinks are not cheap. That said, they weren’t outrageous either when you consider it’s a DISNEY property. I tried their Blue Screwdriver, and while it was on the weaker side, it was still very good. To be honest, though, we really weren’t going there for the drinks; we were there for the music and experience.
Dueling piano bars are typically characterized by having two grand (or baby grand) pianos placed opposite each other with two talented musicians who tickle the ivories as they play audience-requested songs. Supposedly, the musicians try to top one another – thus the name dueling. At Jellyrolls, the dueling is more witty banter with each other as the piano players work together to entertain the audience. The result: a room filled with happy people singing along and lots of laughter.
When we left Jellyrolls, we took a relaxing stroll on the boardwalk. The boardwalk alone would make a great date where you could play the afternoon midway games, share a funnel cake, watch the early evening street performers, shop, and even view the Epcot fireworks if you time things right. We are going back for that; and to look for a real jelly roll, too, because I suddenly have a craving.
A FEW INSIDER TIPS ABOUT JELLYROLLS:
– If you are a Disney Passholder, parking at the Disney Boardwalk Resort is free. Or you could park at Disney Springs (for free) and take a Disney transportation bus over to this Epcot resort property.
– Most people offer a $1 or $5 bill with their song requests, but if you want to FASTPASS and have your song played quicker, give them a $20 or higher.
– You can now purchase specialty drinks in a refillable Jellyroll souvenir 16 oz. insulated tumbler for $22 with refill drinks for only $10, which if you plan on coming back, can save you a few bucks because you can bring the tumbler back again and again and only pay the refill price.