Plan a Tower of Terror Dinner Party

Initially, I contacted the planner of our first anniversary party to set up our third anniversary party, even though we were not staying at the Disney resort where she now works. She checked to see if she’d be allowed to work with me, but it was determined that since we were staying at the Beach Club, I should work with the Senior Catering and Convention Services Manager at the Yacht & Beach Club. (Update: Disney Catered Events no longer assigns planners by resort, so if you do have a favorite, you may be able to work with him or her again no matter where you stay!)

Our event date was February 4, and since most private events can’t be contracted till 6 months or sometimes even 90 days out, I waited until late November to initiate the process. In this case, because of the location of the event, I couldn’t sign a contract until 30 days out. Most of the major planning took place about 3 weeks before the event in just a few days’ worth of emailing back and forth.

The Plan

The idea was to start the evening with an IllumiNations cruise, then have the boat drop the four of us at Disney’s Hollywood Studios for dinner on the terrace at Tower of Terror. Since our event couldn’t start until about 2 hours after the park closed, the cruise would help us kill time till our late dinner and be a great way to reference the IllumiNations party we had at the end of our wedding day.

The Venue

I was on a tour of wedding venues in Hollywood Studios when I asked if the terrace at Tower of Terror—my absolute favorite spot in the whole park—could be used for a private event. The rep was pretty sure it had been done before for small groups and got back to me later with complete info. Here’s where they initially told me the event space was—they are now calling it the “Small Terrace” and the space where our party was actually set up is the “Large Terrace.”

The cool thing about Hollywood Studios is that practically every nook and cranny can be used for events—even, like, pathways! So if you have an idea for an event there, just ask.

The Price

While I like to go on about how inexpensively you can do a dessert party in Epcot, I’ll admit that this event required a bit more saving up. Still, at that time, dinner for 4 at Tower of Terror cost less than a Fantasmic dessert party, two hours on the Grand 1 Yacht, or brunch at the Attic! We were only required to pay a $45/person food and beverage minimum, but as you can see, that’s gone up considerably…

Tower of Terror Small Terrace – Capacity: 10 for Dinner, 15 for a Reception
Venue Rental Fee: $500 + tax
Food & Beverage Minimum: $1,500 + tax and service charge

Tower of Terror Large Terrace – Capacity: 30/45
Venue Rental Fee: $500 + tax
Food & Beverage Minimum: $4,500 + tax and service charge

Tower of TerrorCourtyard – Capacity: 72/100
Venue Rental Fee: $2,000 + tax
Food & Beverage Minimum: $1,500 + tax and service charge

Things I Added
To give the event a little more oomph, I added a basic IllumiNations cruise for $346.13 (incl. tax) and an elaborate anniversary cake with light-up fondant topper for $180 (+ tax and service charge). If you want the Grand Floridian Bakery to make your cake, tack on another $75 for the delivery fee. I wish I’d done this.

Things I Skipped
These include transportation, music, floral & décor, and keeping the ride operating so we could go on it.

  • We could have hired a town car to pick us up backstage at the end of the night and return us to the hotel, but I wanted to walk back out through the empty park at the end of the night. (Our guests kindly parked their car at DHS beforehand so we had a ride back.)

 

  • I asked about getting an iPod setup so I could play the Tower of Terror area music loop I’d downloaded online, but they wanted $450. Instead I bought a tiny $10 speaker case for my iPhone. As it turned out, the area music was still playing when we got there. It was a wonderful touch but it would have been nice to know in advance…

 

  • We used the cake as our centerpiece (it did light up, after all!) and had them arrange the included votive candles around it. As usual, when I got there and saw the hideous convention chairs, I wished I’d sprung for covers or replacements or something.

 

  • The cost to actually ride the ride would have been $6,600. Not worth it!

The Menu
I customized our dinner menu from generic theme park menus sent by my EM.

Originally I’d asked about creating a menu with items from Jiko, but the chefs came back with a jaw-dropping estimate of $180/person. I tried paring down the menu and having just two entrees to split between the two couples, but it was still $150/couple. So instead I tried to approximate the Jiko dishes using theme park menu items. The final menu:

(1) Custom Plated Dinner – $80
California Greens with Choice of Lemon Vinaigrette and Avocado Cream Dressings
Beef Fillet with Red Wine Demi, Mashed Potatoes, Asparagus, and Roasted Tomatoes

(1) Custom Plated Dinner – $80
California Greens with Choice of Lemon Vinaigrette and Avocado Cream Dressings
Pacific Salmon with Lemon Butter, Mashed Potatoes, Asparagus, and Roasted Tomatoes

(2) Custom Side Dish – included in menu price
Jiko White Cheddar Macaroni & Cheese

(4) Vanilla Ice Cream (for cake!) – included in menu price

(2) Walt Disney World Soft Drinks, Assorted (BOC) – $4++ each

(3) Pitchers of Ice Water – free

Splitting the dinners was interesting. I thought we all got plenty of food (especially factoring in cake and ice cream!), but it was strange that while we each got our own salads, we were just handed extra plates and forks for splitting the main courses.

The Cake

This was yet another of my experiments in achieving the perfect Disney cake. For the cake design I found an inspiration picture on Flicker. I had a vision for the cake topper to light up (cuz it was going to be so dark at dinner!) and look like a cross between an Art Deco wall sconce and the light-up panel in DISer ColeV’s wedding cake. However, since Patrick wasn’t in on the surprise, I couldn’t have him draw an inspiration picture for me, and I have the mad artistic skillz of a 3-year-old. I did the best I could, but I guess my photo communicated “tiara” more than it did “light fixture”…

I requested red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting rather than the cream cheese mousse we’d had in our wedding cake. It was definitely better-tasting than our wedding cake and closer to the “gourmet homemade” cakes I like at SoCal bakery SusieCakes, but using frosting instead of mousse between the layers made the cake kinda squat. Lesson learned.

Also, while the theme park bakery made a valiant attempt to re-create the effect of the elaborate inspiration cake topper, I wish I’d known they were the ones who’d be making it. Perfectionist that I am, I would rather have paid the Grand Floridian bakery a $75 delivery fee if it meant that the same team that made the inspiration cake would be making our version.

Click here to see how the party turned out!

And click here to learn how to plan a dessert party at Epcot!


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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Kyle April 23, 2011 at 6:05 PM

Love this! Please E-Mail me with who and how to contact the proper people to make something like this happen.

Thanks Kyle

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lurkyloo April 24, 2011 at 7:25 AM

Hi Kyle! You can find complete info on planning this event and others (including phone numbers and prices) starting with this page on my site: http://disneytravelbabble.com/how-to/private-party. I set up it and the individual planning pages for each of our private parties so that the info would be available to everyone!

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Natalie May 4, 2011 at 9:52 AM

I just called WDW catering to do an anniversary dinner at Epcot. Apparently they won’t do anything for groups under 20 in any of the parks. Thanks for the info, and love the new site!

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lurkyloo May 4, 2011 at 10:11 AM

Hmmm… I know someone who’s doing an event for 12 people at Epcot next week. I wonder if they meant they wouldn’t do dinner for less than 20, because she’s doing a dessert party. Epcot has several small locations with 10-person minimums and 20-person maximums. I think this may be one of those cases where you need to call back and hope to speak with someone more knowledgeable!

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Natalie May 5, 2011 at 9:49 AM

Thanks for the advice. I’m going to try again today!

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Andrea April 26, 2012 at 1:47 PM

Hi Carrie,

Heard back from Catered Events. The provided info on Norway Loft and Hollywood Hideaway. Both have high minimums for dinner, but I’m enquiring about breakfast. Any other venues that would accommodate 5? Also talked to private dining at AKL–Kidani and they are willing to work with me on a private meal in my villa. They would customize the menu to reflect our favourites from Boma, Sanaa and Jiko and serve family style. They are also willing to do a cake. I’m thinking about a Brunch the morning of my birthday. We’ll see how it comes together. Andrea

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Carrie April 26, 2012 at 1:53 PM

Sounds great! Since the two venues they’ve offered you accommodate WAY more than 5, it seems like most mid-sized venues would be OK. Here’s a link to a roundup of locations at Hollywood Studios; photos of other park venues are HERE.

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Joanne Pridmore June 21, 2012 at 12:31 AM

Hi Carrie
Do you know whether Disney are still insisting on at least 10 people for a TOT private dinner such as you and Patrick had? I would
Ove to do something similar for my 50th next June, but we will only be a party of 8.
Do you have any of your brilliant ideas as to what we might do instead if the TOT party would not be possible. I would love something that really had the wow factor, but cannot afford to (for example) privately book out a whole ride. I would really appreciate your help!!!!
Much love
Joanne

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Carrie June 21, 2012 at 9:38 AM

Hi Joanne! You know, I haven’t looked into it lately, but I strongly encourage you to ask when you start planning, because policies change ALL the time at Disney. Another idea might be a Fantasmic dessert party, which is pretty wow cuz you get a private area with desserts and seats for the show. Also, the IllumiNations and Wishes cruises are fun, and you can order a cake from the resort where they depart to be served onboard. The Grand 1 Yacht for Wishes probably has the biggest wow factor. Otherwise, any kind of small private meal inside Epcot or DHS would be fun, and you can do a ride mix-in for $15/person instead of a ride buyout. This allows you to be escorted to the head of the line and to ride together, and it’s WAY cheaper than buying out the whole ride.

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Tina Daniels February 18, 2013 at 5:21 PM

Oh no! I’ve just spent half an hour talking with my husband about your event! We actually have the money to do something like this on our May trip — then I come over here and see the note about HS. Depressing! I may try and contact someone about it anyway…

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Carrie February 18, 2013 at 7:36 PM

Definitely do! The parks change their rules all the time, so maybe the policy will have changed by now. Good luck!

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NATALIE ENGEL October 30, 2013 at 9:49 PM

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY TOWER OF TERROR I AM HAVING ALOTS OF FUN GOING ON THAT RIDE I AM SORRY ABOUT THE ELAVATOR OUT OF ORDER AND FIVE PEOPLE WHO GOT STRICK BY LIGHTING I FELT BAD ABOUT IT

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY

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