6225 West Irlo Bronson Highway (Route 192), Kissimmee 34746
(800) 553-6116; (407) 239-9223; from Canada: (800) 533-3615
Prices: Adults $56.60, children (3 to 11) $31.03, seniors (55+) $37. Additional discounts for online booking. Prices do not include tax or tip.
Times: Daily. Show times vary and there are frequently two shows a night, so check. Matinees sometimes available.
Directions: I-4 to Exit 64, then east on Route 192 for less than a quarter of a mile. The entrance road is on your left, with the theater itself set well back from the highway.
Orlando residents have voted Arabian Nights their favorite dinner attraction year after year, and it’s easy to see why. Beautiful horses, impeccably trained and put through their intricate paces by a young and vivacious team of riders, are hard to beat. The show may appeal most to horse lovers and riders, but the old clichés “something for everyone” and “fun for the whole family” are not out of place here.
Arabian Nights is huge; it has to be to accommodate the 20,000 square foot arena the horses need to strut their stuff. Each side of the arena is flanked by seven steeply banked rows of seats; all told, the house can hold 1,200 spectators and every seat provides a good view of the action.
The “seats” are actually a series of benches, each seating 12 people at a small counter on which you will be served your dinner. The fare is simple but satisfying — salad, a choice of prime rib, chopped steak with gravy, grilled chicken, or chicken tenders, with garlic mashed potatoes and a medley of vegetables, plus dessert. Vegetarian lasagna is also available. Unlimited beer, wine, and soft drinks are included in the price. Carafes of fancier wine can be ordered separately (for $18 and up), as can mixed drinks.
The doors open about an hour and a half prior to show time if you’d like to come for pre-show drinks and non-equestrian live entertainment that sets the mood for the entire evening: exotic, but family-friendly. There’s a belly dancer who pulls kids from the audience on stage for impromptu dancing lessons (and some great photo ops for proud parents), and a talented acrobat who will later make an appearance in the show proper. For the show itself, we are guests at a feast celebrating the marriage of the Sultan’s daughter, Scheherazade, to Prince Khalid. But the real emcees are a pair of genies; one wise and experienced, the other just getting started in magic and whose spells tend to have unpredictable consequences. It’s just enough of a “plot” on which to string a series of scenes that show off the beauty and skills of Arabian Nights’ $4 million stable of horses. More than 60 appear in each show.
While there are plenty of stunts involved in this show, the main emphasis is on the horses themselves, with their trainers and riders playing important supporting roles. Much of the evening involves intricate dressage and group riding in which the training of the horses and the precision of the riders are essential. Horses dance, prance, and strut to the music. An old cowboy and his horse perform a hilarious alcoholic routine, and the audience roars as the horse sneaks sips of the cowboy’s whiskey. In one sequence, horses and riders do a square dance. One of the evening’s most stunning moments comes when a magnificent, riderless black stallion performs an intricate series of movements in response to the subtle signals of his trainer.
Action fans won’t be disappointed here. A circus sequence offers a chance for daring bareback riders to show their stuff and contains a hilarious comedy bit. There are cowboys and Indians with stunts straight out of the movies. Riders race around the arena standing up on the backs of two horses. There is even a Roman chariot race, complete with a spectacular “accident.” All of this is performed by a remarkably small cadre of talented performers who change costumes and wigs with amazing rapidity to reappear over and over in new guises. Still, it is the horses that command our admiration. At show’s end, many of the equine performers romp about spiritedly in the arena; many people linger just to watch them play.
Before, during, and after the show, flash photography is permitted and performers offer lots of photo opportunities to those quick with the shutter, but video recording during the show is prohibited.
Note: A VIP ticket ($15 additional for adults, $13 for kids) adds preferred seating, a souvenir poster, a free drink at the pre-show bar, and the opportunity to meet several of the show’s equine and human stars, including the aforementioned black stallion, down on the floor of the arena before the rest of the audience takes its seats.
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