The Abandoned Big Bamboo Lounge of Kissimmee, FL

Two years ago, I took my first ever trip down to Disney World and had a much better time than I ever expected to. On a non-parks day, a friend took me around Orlando to a few interesting sites off the beaten path. Among them was the then-closed/now-demolished Big Bamboo Lounge, a dive bar pictured above.

Bamboo Lounge 02

I wish I had gotten the chance to have a drink here. The Bamboo was set back off the highway, tucked in amongst the trees. A watchtower was set closer to the road (of COURSE you had to get drunk and try to climb it; it’s Kissimmee law).

Bamboo Lounge 05

An antique ambulance used to be parked in front:

The Bamboo was frequented by Disney cast members after the costumes had been removed and the park had closed. They’d gather here to pound drinks and trade war stories about their experiences that day at work (I would kill to have sat in on some of those conversations). The walls were covered in Disney memorabilia donated by former employees, including hundreds of nametags, t-shirts, hats, and business cards. There was no food (you were welcome to bring your own), no electronic gambling machines, no air-conditioning – just alcohol, some tunes, and conversation.

Bamboo Lounge 04

The bar was heavily damaged during the hurricane season of 2004 and closed. It later suffered a fire (possibly due to homeless people living inside), sealing its fate. It was torn down a year or so ago. When we went to visit, the bamboo was still hanging:

Bamboo Lounge 06

The Orlando area is well known for being a pretty desolate sprawl of strip malls and highway, which makes a local cultural institution like the Bamboo all the more invaluable. A bar was recently opened up in the back of an area motel called the Nu Bamboo, but I doubt it’ll be anything more than a shadow of its predecessor. It’s important to remember great places long gone, and as unexpected a choice as it might be, rest in peace, Bamboo.

More history, pictures, and info about the Bamboo can be found at www.bigbambooloung.com.

-SCOUT

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8 comments

  1. Sounds like a great place in its hey day. I wish I had known about it on all my trips to Disney. You’re right, would have loved to hear the Disney employees discuss their days @ work! Next time I’m down there I’ll have to ask some of them where they hang out after work now.

  2. Right near the Big Bamboo was the Xanadu house, which was supposed to be the “house of tomorrow.” Really interesting architecture. I think it was torn down a few years ago.

    Here’s a wikipedia link for it:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xanadu_House

    Another interesting spot in Central Florida is the old Splendid China theme park. Closed and abandoned several years ago, rumor has it that it’s still filled with cool buildings and statues.

  3. Actually, the Disney/Kissimmee is what is known for desolate strip malls. The downtown Orlando/Winter Park area has beautiful historic homes and neighborhoods. There are some amazing lakes, crystal clear springs and canals. It’s almost laughable how many people live in the Disney area for years and never venture out to explore the actual Orlando area. Tourists who land at the airport and get shuttled to Disney World seem to think they have been here but the fact is they were never closer than 20 miles to the city. Two different worlds…. and yes, I have a ton of crazy Disney stories. Haha. btw You have a great blog, I really enjoy it.

  4. You all have no idea what the Big bamboo ment to us cast members!!! It was AWSOME AND IS SORELY MISSED BY ALL OF US….. It was the best place for us to go after a long days work at the theme parks. It was packed with casmemebers and I wish I could have gotten my 20 Year and 25 Year Anniversry Name Tags back before it was closed. You all would have loved it!!!! It just isnt the same to us old timers anymore….. Just a sad loss…

  5. I was one of the last bartenders to work at The Boo & I still miss it every day. I closed 5 nights a week & still went in to hang out on my 2 nights off. Just a great, diverse group of folks that enjoyed a good conversation in a relaxed setting. Never will there be anything like it

  6. I had the pleasure of having a drink or two here a couple times in 2001 or 2002 when I stayed at the youth hostel across the street. It really was a cool spot! I just googled to see if it was still there and sad to find out it is gone. (didn’t see it on google maps)

  7. You can find it on Google Maps, but the building is gone and grass now covers the parking area instead of rutted dirt or mud. (In the pictures above the dirt parking lot looks better than it did when the place was open.)

    I only visited the Big Bamboo a few times, but I always met people from other countries. The place was apparently more famous in Europe than it was here.

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