I feel like Walt Disney World Parks & Resorts know a thing or two about entertaining families and kids. And they have done an excellent job making many of their dining experiences kid-friendly. Where you may only be brave enough to venture out to Chick-Fil-A or McDonald’s with your kids at home, Disney’s restaurants have lots of built in features to keep them entertained and menu items that are friendly to a child’s palate. But the really great thing is that these same restaurants will have grown-up menu features and options so that everyone gets to enjoy their meal. Here are my top choices for restaurants for kids:
10. Sci-Fi Dine In Theater, Disney’s Hollywood Studios
I have to preface this by saying that you know your kids. If they are going to be frightened by cheesy mid-century “horror” flicks or dark spaces this is NOT a good choice for your family. My kids, however, love it. The whole ambiance of sitting in a car at a simulated outdoor drive in movie theater is just so much fun. The excerpts from movies shown are really just silly rather than anything else, but for some children (& maybe for myself when I was a 6 year old terrified of ET) it may be too much. The menu is kid-friendly too with great shakes, burgers, etc.
9. Chef Mickey’s, Disney’s Contemporary Resort
While Chef Mickey’s is not my first pick of character meals from an adult perspective, it definitely pleases the kids. The location is pretty amazing from a kid’s viewpoint, that huge atrium with the monorail whizzing by overhead. Then you have the characters—this is a great spot for sheer quantity of them—Mickey, Goofy, Minnie, Donald & Pluto all dressed as Chef’s. The food on the buffet has some variety but always has the kid friendly station whether it is dinner or breakfast service (or the occasional brunch/lunch they offer). Napkin swinging parties keep kids entertained, but the warning here is that they might be so into the characters and the setting that they forget to eat!
8. Cinderella’s Royal Table, Magic Kingdom
Eating inside Cinderella’s Castle at Magic Kingdom is sort of a rite of passage for girls. The anticipation builds as you enter at the ground level and meet Cinderella, then ascend the stairs into the grand dining room with all of the opulent touches you would expect from the castle of a famous prince & princess. Throughout your meal you are visited by various Disney Royalty and there are some special “shows” during your dining experience as well. I like this one because it is a little less stressful on parents as the food is served to your table rather than the buffet at many character dining experiences.
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7. Coral Reef, Epcot’s Seas Pavilion
Changing gears here a little, let’s go back to a non-character dining experience. With my kids the hardest part is keeping them happy and entertained while the adults may take a little longer to enjoy their meals. The Coral Reef has built in entertainment with the floor to ceiling “windows” looking into the aquarium. Not all seats are right up at the windows, but most spots in the restaurant offer a pretty good view. And, the children’s menu has some diversity to please more adventurous eaters and the ones like my kids who the only choice for them is pizza or chicken nuggets.
6. 50’s Prime Time Café, Disney’s Hollywood Studios
This is another super fun experience for kids (and adults) without the characters. 50’s Prime Time is themed to mom’s kitchen in mid-century America and throughout the restaurant knick-knacks and tchotchkes that harken back to that time make for a mean game of Eye Spy while you wait on your food. TVs are also spread around the restaurant showing wholesome 1950s shows and even a bit of Walt Disney himself. And don’t worry, this “home-cooking” menu is definitely well-suited for kids.
5. Whispering Canyon Café, Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
Take your little cowboys and cowgirls and mosey on over to the Wilderness Lodge for a meal at the Whispering Canyon Café where the servers are excellent with kids. While Whispering Canyon has toned down some of their antics (like yelling for ketchup), your kids will still be entertained with pony races and the overall atmosphere. Whispering Canyon Café serves American/Western style cuisine with plenty of kid-friendly picks. And, this is a nice spot to dine before, after or during a day at the Magic Kingdom—gets the kids out of the theme park hustle & bustle for a bit.
4. Splitsville, Disney Springs
This is one of my most favorite “break day” destinations away from the parks especially if it is raining, 1 million degrees, or in the winter during a freak cold snap. How can you get more kid-friendly than bowling while you eat? And the menu at Splitsville has some great options for kids and adults . . . so much fun and tasty too.
3. ‘Ohana Dinner, Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort
Dinner at ‘Ohana is a great meal option for the entire family—all you care to eat served to your table. And the menu is a variety of fire grilled meats and Asian influenced side dishes (I could eat my weight in those noodles). Depending on where you are seated in the restaurant you might have a great view of Cinderella Castle or the Polynesian’s Volcano Pool. For kids the real fun comes when the entertainment comes out . . . racing your coconut around the dining room during dinner sounds like kid-sized fun to me!
2. Be Our Guest, Magic Kingdom
While Cinderella’s Royal Table gets you inside the “big” Castle, Be Our Guest puts you inside one of the most immersive environments in Walt Disney World, the Beast’s Castle. Be Our Guest serves 3 meals a day, and I actually prefer breakfast and lunch to the dinner service for a few reasons. First of all, I like those menus better and the prices are more affordable as well. Second, you can do mobile ordering up to a month ahead of your reservation. If you can decide what you want to eat that far in advance it saves you a lot of time waiting in line so you can go right to a table and enjoy the ambiance. Last, but not least, on most occasions for breakfast and lunch you get to choose the area of the restaurant where you want to be seated. I love the West Wing with the Enchanted Rose and authentic setting, but it may be too dark and loud for some children with the “storm” happening periodically. The Ball Room is huge and opulent and a window seat puts you right by the snow outside. And for breakfast and lunch you also have the option of the room with the music box. At dinner you have a somewhat more leisurely meal where you are seated and served (that could be hard for some kids), but you also have the option to meet the Beast himself at dinner only. The setting alone at Be Our Guest makes it kid-friendly for girls and boys. The menu caters to kids as well with breakfast offering French Toast or Cereal with Fruit; lunch offers grilled cheese or turkey sandwich.
1. Garden Grill, Epcot’s Land Pavilion
My top choice for a restaurant for kids is Garden Grill in Epcot’s The Land Pavilion. This restaurant has so much going for it to entertain your kids and give them that “wow” factor that you always hope for on a Walt Disney World vacation. First of all, this restaurant is overlooking an Epcot attraction, Living with the Land. As you dine you can watch scenes from this classic boat ride. And scenes is plural because the restaurant rotates! Yes, it very slowly turns so that you have different views throughout your dining experience—how cool is that for kids (& adults)! But then you also have characters entertaining you during your meal. Mickey, Pluto, Chip & Dale all visit your table dressed in their farm gear. Garden Grill offers a family style all-you-care-to-eat meal so no worries about going back & forth to the buffet which is nice for parents and kids. Fruit, Eggs, Tater Tots and Mickey Waffles make for a kid happy breakfast menu. Lunch and dinner offer pot roast, turkey breast and side like mashed potatoes, mac & cheese, and French Fries. If nothing else the kids can carb load on the potatoes and mac & cheese between character visits. Garden Grill makes for a great restaurant for kids in the heart of Epcot.
What are your favorite restaurants for kids?