Dining at Disney parks can prove to be difficult. Where should you eat? Should you make reservations? When should you take a break from rides to fill little bellies? Read on to find out everything you need to know about dining at Disney before embarking on your magical adventure.
The Best Places to Dine
As you venture through a Disney day, what and where you eat is pretty important. With all of the excitement (and the walking!) you’ll want little tummies to be filled with food that will provide them the fuel they need to make it through a very long day. While there are plenty of quick service restaurants throughout the parks, restaurants with table service make mealtimes extra special.
One thing little ones will go bananas over is character dining. They won’t even notice the break in rides as their favorite characters stand by for hugs and photos. At the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, try the Plaza Inn or Ariel’s Grotto in the California Adventure. Goofy’s Kitchen at the Disneyland Hotel is another fantastic option; enjoy an all-you-can-eat buffet while Goofy and friends stop by your table to sign autographs. The Florida parks have plenty of character dining selections as well, including the Magic Kingdom’s Cinderella’s Royal Table and the Crystal Palace; Epcot’s Akershus Royal Banquet Hall and the Garden Grill; Hollywood Studio’s Hollywood & Vine; and the Animal Kingdom’s Tusker House Restaurant.
If you’d rather skip the crowds and hunt for characters in the parks, there are plenty of alternatives to choose from. At Disneyland, consider the Blue Bayou Restaurant, located inside the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. Sitting waterside, kids will love watching the boats pass by and will be infatuated with the open air appearance of the indoor restaurant. Their unique menu includes Creole and Cajon-inspired dishes. Over at Disney World, visit Epcot for endless dining options. The World Showcase gives you the chance to explore restaurants from a variety of countries, including Germany, France, Morocco, China, Japan, Norway, Mexico, Canada, Italy and the United Kingdom.
Don’t Skip the Reservations
Although reservations aren’t required at most Disney restaurants, you definitely don’t want to skip this step. They may be able to fit you in as a walk-up, but, chances are, you will be waiting quite a while. Save yourself the hassle and make a reservation—as soon as possible.
Advanced dining reservations are available 180 days (Disney World) or 60 days (Disneyland) before you arrive and they WILL fill up. If you’re staying at a Disney hotel, you are afforded a few extra days (up to 10); so if you’re staying at a Disney World hotel for a week, you will actually have a 187-day window in which to make your dining reservations.
Make sure to book as close to the start of your window as possible. If you find that the restaurants you were interested in are all full, keep checking back in case other guests cancel their reservations. You can also do an overall search on the main dining place by inputting the date and the meal you’re trying to book (breakfast, lunch or dinner) to see which time slots are available at which restaurants. Instead of eating around noon, consider a late lunch (with midday snacks) to find open slots during the restaurants’ slower times. Staying flexible will allow you to make the most of your dining plans.
Disney Dining Plans
While Disneyland doesn’t currently have any dining plans, visitors to Orlando’s Disney World can select a plan when purchasing a Magic Your Way vacation package. For each night during your trip, everyone in your party over the age of three will receive a combination of table service meals, quick service meals and snacks. The number of meals varies with the type of package.
With the exception of Cinderella’s Royal Table, character dining experiences are excluded—something to keep in mind when you’re deciding whether or not to purchase a dining plan.
Portion sizes at Disney restaurants are usually rather large. To avoid overeating, wasting food or carrying leftovers around the park (and also to cut on costs!) you might consider sharing entrees. If you’re worried it won’t be quite enough food, you can always grab an extra appetizer to share as well. Alternatively, order kids’ meals for everyone—lower costs and less food!
One other thing that’s good to know before dining at a Disney park? Menus in quick service restaurants only list meals as a combo. If you’d rather not have the fries or fruit, request the sandwich or burger a la carte to save a few dollars.
It’s as simple as that. Happy dining, Disney lovers!
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