Today in Disney History, 1967: Blue Bayou Restaurant Opens at Disneyland

by | Mar 18, 2024 | Disney History, Disneyland, Disneyland Parks, DLR Food

Dig into the storied history of one of the most popular dining spots in all of Disneyland with a look back at the opening of Blue Bayou.

If there’s one restaurant at Disneyland Park that’s an absolute must-try, it’s Blue Bayou. As one of the oldest restaurants at Disneyland Resort, Blue Bayou offers a one-of-a-kind dining experience that’ll transport you to the bayou. It’s always booked, with very few walk-up spots and a long list of hopeful diners waiting for a chance to enjoy its menu of Cajun-inspired cuisine. And it’s quite the historic spot.

Back in March 1967, Blue Bayou Restaurant opened its doors at Disneyland and welcomed its first diners. Ever since, it’s been a highly sought after dining destination and one of the most in-demand dining reservations you can nab. But what is it that makes Blue Bayou so storied?

We’re walking through history, highlighting how this innovative restaurant became such a beloved favorite –– and a must-visit whether you’re new to Disneyland or a longtime guest.

Blue Bayou and Pirates of the Caribbean: A Joint Opening

Pirates of the Caribbean, bayou scene, at Disneyland

Photo by Cliff Wang

Blue Bayou opened on March 18, 1967, and it made Disneyland history on that date. It opened along with Pirates of the Caribbean, a brand-new attraction, making for a completely innovative and unique pairing: the opportunity to ride and dine in the same place.

Both the restaurant and the attraction had to open together –– they share a show building and are intertwined with one another. Blue Bayou is inside the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction, situated right across from the boat launch so guests can float past the restaurant and towards the ride’s first drop, all while diners look on.

At the time of its opening, the restaurant was a welcome addition to the still-new theme park; guests and critics had bemoaned the lack of decent (and more specifically, fine) dining options throughout Disneyland. Blue Bayou was an answer to this, delivering both an impressive dining experience that could only be found inside Walt Disney’s park and serving a “fine” menu of elevated dishes.

Blue Bayou was planned under the direction of Walt himself, as one of the last Disneyland projects he oversaw before his death. Of course, its final form did change a bit from its initial plans. At first, the restaurant was intended to be a dinner show –– featuring an elevated meal and live entertainment. However, after an initial trial run and a dress rehearsal, Walt declared, “In this restaurant, the food is going to be the show, along with the atmosphere.”

That change is really what set Blue Bayou apart from all of the other dining options in Disneyland. Here, you can tell that the setting is the “wow” factor, the special extra that makes it worth nabbing one of those always-in-demand reservations.

Oh, and speaking of reservations: They’ve been hard to get for nearly 60 years! When Blue Bayou opened, it was the first reservation-based restaurant at Disneyland. But reservations couldn’t be made by phone; guests had to physically visit the restaurant inside the theme park to nab a dining spot. This meant there was often a rush towards New Orleans Square as soon as Disneyland opened each day, with hopeful diners rope dropping even back in the 1970s to get a spot on Blue Bayou’s list.

Still to this day, Blue Bayou offers a one-of-a-kind experience for both those who ride Pirates of the Caribbean and those who sit at its tables to dine. No matter which side you’re on, you’ll experience the waters of a Southern bayou, the sounds of local creatures… and the clinking of silverware, the flickering candlelight from tables, and even some faint shouts as riders approach the first drop of the attraction!

Step Into a Southern Bayou While You Dine

Inside Blue Bayou restaurant at Disneyland, dining at the waterfront

Photo by Adrienne White

One of the reasons Blue Bayou is still one of Disneyland’s most popular restaurants over the last 50-plus years is it transports guests to another world. When you enter the lobby of the restaurant, tucked inside the doors off one of the narrow streets of New Orleans Square, you won’t notice anything particularly special; you’ll feel like you’re waiting for a more upscale restaurant. 

However, once your party is called and you ascend the small steps, you’ll leave Disneyland behind and step onto the expansive patio of a traditional Southern mansion, with a view right over the water and out onto the bayou. From the towering columns and iconic exterior of the Southern home behind you to the chirping of crickets and lapping water, it’s an entirely immersive environment. 

The interior of Blue Bayou is wholly impressive, too. When you dine in this restaurant, you’ll find the lighting dim –– after all, the show building is set to night, with a dark ceiling and night sky effect overhead. Air conditioning, coordinated lighting, wrought-iron chairs, and even the small flameless candle lights on your table will make you feel like it’s a Southern evening, no matter the time of day outside. The glow of fireflies blinks throughout your meal, and projections overhead make it feel like time is passing slowly.

The Blue Bayou Menu: An Introduction to Cajun Cuisine

In addition to its Southern setting, Blue Bayou also features a menu inspired by the region. It stays true to its theming (and its location inside New Orleans Square) with a menu that’s filled with Cajun classics and dishes, ingredients, and flavors that are hallmarks of this style of cuisine.

And surprisingly, though the menu has certainly changed over the years, there are some staples that are still around from the Blue Bayou’s opening day!

Back in 1967, the Blue Bayou menu featured options like Crevettes Bayou, or petite bayou shrimps with pineapple in cream sauce, and Seafood Creole, which featured king crab meat, bayou shrimps, and whitefish in a Cajun sauce of green peppers, tomatoes, and celery on rice pilaf. While these dishes are long gone, you can still order the beloved Monte Cristo Sandwich –– which is one of Disneyland’s classics –– and it’s pretty much unchanged from the original version, featuring turkey, ham, and Swiss cheese dipped in egg batter and fried.

On today’s Blue Bayou menu, you’ll also find some seasonally-inspired salads, and more elevated Cajun-inspired options that reflect the restaurant’s fine dining status. But don’t worry, staples like Chicken Gumbo and Creole Roasted Chicken haven’t gone anywhere in recent years, making them modern staples at this beloved establishment.

Changes Throughout Blue Bayou’s History at Disneyland

Blue Bayou at Disneyland, restaurant exterior sign

Photo by Danny Shuster

Since March 18, 1967, plenty of changes have come to Blue Bayou –– but not many that have dramatically altered the original experience and ambiance. Over the years, the restaurant has received updates and refurbishments, often closing along with Pirates of the Caribbean when the entire show building is due for some touch-ups or tweaks.

But in recent years, some more notable changes have happened at Disneyland’s Blue Bayou restaurant. After the COVID-19 pandemic and Disneyland’s lengthy closure, Blue Bayou reopened with an updated and slimmed-down menu. It also began serving alcoholic beverages for the very first time.

Despite these changes, you’ll still feel like you’re stepping into Disneyland history when you dine at Blue Bayou. The scenery inside, and the experience of dining in a classic Disney attraction, is unmatched… and pretty much unchanged since opening day! The hardest part of the modern experience? Deciding if it’s worth the splurge, and if you’re able to get one of those hot reservations.

Blue Bayou Restaurants Beyond Disneyland

While the Blue Bayou that opened at Disneyland Park in Anaheim back in 1967 is the most famous version of the restaurant, it’s not the only one! There is one more: a Blue Bayou located at Tokyo Disneyland in Japan.

Like its sibling at the original Disneyland, this second Blue Bayou restaurant serves New Orleans-inspired, Cajun-themed dishes and captures the American South right in Tokyo. It’s just like the original, with the same theming and style touches, making for an even more unique experience inside one of Disney’s international theme parks.

But don’t expect those in-demand reservations to be any easier to get!

The Best Restaurants at Disneyland

 

Posts by Heather Adams

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Heather is a lifelong Disney fan who grew up at Disneyland and loves spending as much time as possible in the parks. As WDW Magazine’s Content Operations Manager, Heather is a content creator and strategist with experience at a wide variety of different outlets. She’s written for publications including Clean Eating Magazine, Fatherly, The Drive, Task and Purpose, Healthversed, Nation.com, and Car Bibles. Heather also authored the book Fidget!: 101 Ways to Boost Your Creativity and Decrease Stress.
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Authored by
Heather Adams

Heather is a lifelong Disney fan who grew up at Disneyland and loves spending as much time as possible in the parks. As WDW Magazine’s Content Operations Manager, Heather is a content creator and strategist with experience at a wide variety of different outlets. She’s written for publications including Clean Eating Magazine, Fatherly, The Drive, Task and Purpose, Healthversed, Nation.com, and Car Bibles. Heather also authored the book Fidget!: 101 Ways to Boost Your Creativity and Decrease Stress.
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