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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Tip Tuesday: ESPN Club


Welcome to another Tip Tuesday!

This week, I wanted to highlight an often overlooked dining option at Walt Disney World that may be the closest thing to nirvana for sports fans - the ESPN Club!

Located on the far eastern side of the boardwalk (closest to Epcot) is the ESPN Club.  This is a restaurant and bar that serves your typical sports bar fare from nachos to buffalo wings to hot dogs and hamburgers.  There are three sections - the SportsCentral main dining area, the Sidelines Bar and the Yard, which is a gift shop and arcade.

What makes this very different from your hometown sports bar is this little thing called ESPN.  That's right - the restaurant is a show.  Often the cast members will have camera going inside and will interview guests about sports topics.  The live events take place at different times, so you never know when you might find yourself on camera.  Sometimes sports celebrities will stop by, so keep your camera handy.

Beyond the live events, the ESPN Club is a fantastic place to catch the game, and watch another game, and another game and yet another game.  In all the ESPN Club has more than 100 monitors displaying more than 30 different channels.  In the center of the SportsCentral room is a 108-square-foot screen!  Talk about real-life sports!

I've spent many an afternoon watching baseball, football and soccer at the ESPN Club -- and I'm not alone.  On days when major sporting events are taking place, be prepared for a long wait. 

Why the wait?  Well, the ESPN Club doesn't take ADR's (Advance Dining Reservations).  Yep - all walk-ups.  Locals will flock to the ESPN Club on gameday, so it's not unusual to have a wait time of more than an hour (and sometimes a lot more than an hour) to get a table in either the SportsCentral room or the Sidelines Bar.

Here's a little tip -- the bar has seating areas too.  Being a bar, it's bar-style seating with smaller tables, but you can still order from the complete menu.  If the line for the SportsCentral room is pretty long, see if you can get a table at the bar - often the line's much shorter.  There are plenty of televisions there as well -- just not the jumbo screen.

The ESPN Club is a fun place for lunch or dinner even when there's not a huge game on.  We've often been able to walk right in for an early lunch around 11:30 a.m. or noon. 

One other tidbit about the ESPN Club -- no takeouts.  So if you're staying at the Boardwalk, unfortunately you won't be able to get a basket of dingers to take back to the room.  Sorry.

After lunch or dinner - take a moment to browse the Yard for some ESPN merchandise (though the selection is pretty limited -- if you really want ESPN stuff, I suggest the Clubhouse over at ESPN Wide World of Sports).

So check out the ESPN Club on your next trip - it's a great place to catch the game!

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