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Walt Disney World Dining Basics

Walt Disney World offers many dining options to their guests. Whether you are looking for a quick bite between rides or you prefer a quiet dinner for two you will find what you are looking for. There are many places to eat within the parks but you might also find something wonderful at the hotels or at Downtown Disney. Walt Disney World dining does not have to be confusing, you just need to know what you are looking for and the basics of the various options.

Full Service

Just like everything else at Walt Disney World, full service dining is made to be an experience. Disney dining is more than just a meal. The parks have themed restaurants where the atmosphere is as important as the food. The higher priced resort hotels offer world class restaurants. You will also find full service dining in other areas like Downtown Disney and Disney’s BoardWalk. There are plenty of family friendly full service restaurants, while others are designed for a more intimate occasion. Walt Disney World is known not only for the parks, but also for their signature dining. Reservations are advised, even if you are visiting during the off season.

Character Dining

One thing that many families want to experience is a meal with the characters. If you have young children this can be a great way to introduce your kids to these larger than life figures since the atmosphere is fun and friendly. Character dining is offered many different places, including the parks and several of the hotels. Characters can change so check to see who is expected to attend before you go, you do not want your children to be disappointed. If you have a child who loves princesses you might want to try to make a reservation for Cinderella’s Royal Table, held within her castle at the Magic Kingdom. This is the most difficult reservation to obtain in all of Walt Disney World. The Akershus Royal Banquet Hall at Epcot also offers a chance to dine with select princesses so it is a good second choice if you are unable to get a reservation with Cinderella.

Dinner Shows

Although they aren’t as common at the other dining options, Walt Disney World currently has three unique dinner shows. All three are different and designed with the whole family in mind. Reservations are a good idea no matter what time of year you are visiting.

Reservations

Walt Disney World accepts reservations up to 180 days in advance. If you are planning on traveling during a peek season you will want to make your reservations that far in advance, especially for the more popular restaurants. There are two ways to reserve your space. The first is online, at http://disneyworld.disney.go.com/reservations/dining. The form is easy to follow, just fill in the restaurant, the date, the time and the number in your party. If there is nothing open for the time that you request, be flexible. It is easier to get a reservation at off dining times.

Your second choice is to call 407-WDW-DINE (407-939-3463). This is the preferred method for people who are trying to make a reservation at Cinderella’s Royal Table or the other wildly popular places. If you are trying for a princess reservation call the moment the phone lines open 180 days before your trip. Spots fill up quickly, often within minutes. Remember to be polite. If you don’t receive the reservation that you want try again a bit closer to your trip. Something might have opened up.

Cinderella’s Royal Table is not the only must-make reservation for Walt Disney World dining. Even if you plan to travel during the off season you will want to save your spot as soon as possible for the dinner shows, Victoria and Albert’s (Disney’s five star experience that is located at the Grand Floridian Resort) and at the Contemporary Resort’s California Grill, which is known for its spectacular views of the fireworks at the Magic Kingdom. If there is a certain character dining experience that you want to enjoy you should also make reservations well in advance, just to be sure.

If you have arrived at Walt Disney World and still do not have dining reservations do not fret. Ask at the desk of any Disney hotel what is available and someone will make a reservation for you. It is also possible to make them at the parks. Stop by Guest Services or at the restaurant that you are interested in and ask if there are any openings. Keep in mind that the more popular restaurants will most likely be booked, even during the off season.

One more note; if you have a reservation but realize that you are not going to be able to make it, please call 407-WDW-DINE to cancel it. That will open up the spot for someone else.

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Quick Service

If you want to grab something faster while in the parks a great option is to find a quick service restaurant. All four parks have quick service Disney dining options. The hotels have counter service restaurants as well, making them a great choice for a speedy breakfast before heading out, or a snack at the end of the day. There is no wait staff involved, you look at the menu on the overhead board and you give your choices to the person behind the counter. You will them proceed to the cashier and pay for your order. No reservations are taken and it is one of the fastest ways to get something to eat. If you are visiting during a peek season you might want to plan your meal for an off-time. Quick service restaurants can become extremely busy around lunch and dinner time, and even though seating seems plenteous it can be hard to find a table. A late breakfast or a combination lunch and early dinner may make for a more enjoyable and less crowded meal for you and your party.

Snack Carts

There is another great way to pick up something quickly while you are in the parks or at Downtown Disney. There are snack carts in several different locations. These offer everything from turkey legs to Mickey ice cream bars to fresh fruit, and many things in between. The prices are semi-reasonable and a snack will give you and your party a chance to have something to tide you over until your next meal.

About PaulaK

I grew up in Western Massachusetts. When I was nine my family went to Disneyland and I was hooked. I grew up, attended New England College in Henniker, NH and eventually moved to Virginia. I worked as a disc jockey, married and became a full time mom when our daughter was born. Fast forward several years. In 2010 we moved to Central Florida and my Disney obsession grew. I now work as a freelance writer and spend my spare time in the parks. Under the name Paula Brown I penned the novels Dream Wanderers and The Coffee Cruiser. I also am a co-author of Dining at Walt Disney World: The Definitive Guide. I'm obsessed with Star Wars, so this is a good time to live in Central Florida. I've been a vegetarian for well over a decade, a choice that my daughter eventually made as well. While my husband still hasn't joined us fully he has given up most meats except for seafood. I was relieved to find that vegetarian dining is not difficult at Walt Disney World.