Are you the type of tourist that just has to try the restaurants wherever it is you’re traveling to? Do you think of yourself as a restaurant connoisseur? Could you work as a restaurant or food critic and feel like you’re in Heaven? If so, you’re going to love visiting the Walt Disney World Resort in central Florida.
That’s because in addition to offering Guests the very best in live entertainment, rides, attractions, nighttime spectaculars, parades and outstanding customer service, Disney World is also known for its offerings in restaurants in all four of its theme parks, at Disney Springs and inside its many resort hotels. At Walt Disney World, you will have more choices of food, atmosphere, theme and character dining experiences than you can enjoy in several trips, let alone in just one trip.
With over 150 restaurants to choose from, including quick-service options, table service dining and interactive character experiences, you may feel overwhelmed by all the choices. To make things less confusing, let’s look at ten things you really need to know about dining while on your Walt Disney World vacation.
10. There are two types of restaurants at Disney.
Disney knows that your dining experiences should be as unique as you are. And as with everything Disney, there is no such thing as “cookie cutter” restaurants. No two restaurants are the same at Disney World, and there are two different types of eateries or restaurants inside the resort. The first type is the table service restaurant (TSR). At a TSR, you are seated, and waitstaff visit your table to take your order, bring your meal to you and serve you and your family from the beginning of your experience to the end. The second type is the quick service restaurant (QSR). QSRs are either restaurants at which you order your food, pick it up at the counter and seat yourself, or window eateries at which you walk up to a window, order, pick up your food and sit at a nearby table or even keep walking around the park with your food.
9. The table service restaurants are amazing!
There are some fabulous table service restaurants inside the Walt Disney World Resort—some so amazing, you’ll forget you’re at a theme park at all! For example, at the Grand Floridian Resort, you can dine at Victoria and Albert’s, an elegantly-decorated restaurant with Victorian décor and a menu not to be duplicated elsewhere. Try the Spanish octopus or poached chicken egg with crayfish. Long Island duck with turnip kraut or Japanese beef might be more your style. All are available at Victoria and Albert’s.
Perhaps you’d rather have an elegant experience in the evening with a Disney-themed setting. Be Our Guest Restaurant inside Magic Kingdom at Fantasyland will leave you speechless! Walk inside Beast Castle and be seated in the West Wing, the Ballroom or the Castle Gallery and start with French onion soup or lemon vinaigrette salad. Then dine on dishes like roasted pork tenderloin and pan-seared chicken breast. To finish, try the Grey Stuff—it’s delicious!
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8. Don’t miss the character dining experiences.
Some of the restaurants at Disney World offer character dining experiences for breakfast, lunch, dinner or a combination of two or three meals, during which you can meet your favorite Disney friends, get their autographs and pose for pictures with them, all while enjoying your meal. Not every restaurant offers character dining, but the ones that do are table-service restaurants. Many of the eateries that host Disney characters offer buffet-style dining, but you will still enjoy the service of waitstaff at your table. There are a few character dining opportunities at which you will order your meal, and then it will be brought to your table as you visit with your favorite Disney characters. Be sure to make reservations for these experiences in advance, and have your autograph books and cameras ready!
7. Reservations can be made 180 days in advance.
There are many restaurants at Disney World for which reservations are strongly recommended or even required in order for you and your family to have the dining experience you’re hoping for. Because there are so many restaurants and so many visitors to the Walt Disney World Resort (over 50 million Guests visiting each year), Disney opens the reservation window for table service restaurants 180 days in advance. Reservations can be made at mydisneyexperience.com, on the My Disney Experience app or by calling (407) WDW-DINE.
6. Some advance reservations are an absolute must.
While some Disney restaurants have availability without reservations, there are some restaurants and dining experiences for which an advance reservation is imperative. Be Our Guest Restaurant at Magic Kingdom often books full only hours after the reservation window is open. O’hana at Disney’s Polynesian Resort books quickly, as it is a Guest favorite for breakfast and for dinner. If there are restaurants on which you and your family have your hearts set, be sure to make reservations in advance for them so no one misses the experience.
5. Adults can order from the kids’ menu.
Have you ever tried to order off the kids’ menu at your favorite local restaurant? If so, you know the frustration you feel when you either get a glare from your server, an emphatic “no, you can’t order off the kids’ menu” or an extra charge for doing so. You’ll be so happy when you get to Disney World, and you notice that whether you’re at a table service or quick service restaurant, you are more than welcome to order from the kids’ menu, even if you don’t pass for younger than age 12.
4. Dietary restrictions are no problem.
Are you sensitive to gluten? Allergic to tree nuts? Peanuts? Are you vegan or vegetarian? Are you watching your intake of fat and calories? Never fear! Disney World offers options for any Guest. If you have an allergy to certain foods, just let your server know. You’ll even be able to make a note for the restaurant staff when you make your reservation online or via the My Disney Experience app. Don’t let a food sensitivity or a diet keep you from enjoying dining at Disney.
3. An 18% gratuity is standard.
This one is a given. If you’re dining with a group of six or more, a gratuity of 18% will be added to your bill. Believe or not, though, some Disney servers are so amazing, you may even want to tip over and above the gratuity—and with a smile on your face!
2. The portions are sizable.
Contrary to what you might expect while dining in fabulous restaurants or ordering quick service lunch on vacation, the portion sizes at the restaurants at Disney World are pretty generous. Some eateries even offer portions large enough to split between two Guests. If you’re curious about portion sizes, just ask your server.
1. You’ll need to plan ahead.
For many Guests, dining is an important part of the overall Disney vacation experience. You’ll want to take some time before your vacation to plan out which restaurants you and your family want to enjoy. Then make reservations at those restaurants, but remember that if you don’t have the Park Hopper option on your tickets, you’ll want to make reservations at restaurants inside the park at which you have also made FastPass+ selections. Otherwise, you may end up at Disney’s Hollywood Studios on the same day you reserved a restaurant at EPCOT. Don’t miss out on that experience you’re really looking forward to, simply because of a lack of planning.
Walt Disney World is a wonderland of entertainment opportunities, not the least of which are the fun and fabulous restaurants inside the resort. And if you remember these ten things about dining at Disney, you’ll be in for an even more memorable experience!