Dining at Walt Disney World ® - The Definitive Guide

Make every minute & every dollar of your Disney vacation count!

Dining at Walt Disney World ® should be a magical experience, but when choosing from over 300 on property dining choices, it can be overwhelming. That is why “Dining at Walt Disney World ® – The Definitive Guide “ was created

Inside these pages you will find in-depth advice including:

  • Detailed descriptions of every Disney dining venue
  • Understanding and receiving the best value from the Disney Dining Plan
  • How to snag hard-to-get dining reservations
  • Saving time and money while dining
  • What are the “must do ” character meals?
  • Disney Dining.com exclusive Picks and Tips

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Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party is not taking place in 2020, but that doesn’t mean that there is no fall fun this year. The season has arrived at the Magic Kingdom. Like many things, the celebration is scaled back, but there is plenty of spooky magic to be found.





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On September 15, I was invited to attend a morning media event, and then I spent a few hours in the park as an Annual Passholder. The first thing that I noticed when I entered the Magic Kingdom was the decorations on Main Street, U.S.A. The main decoration this year is the Mickey pumpkins. There are plenty of them to be found. There are also extra flowers on some of the buildings. There are no scarecrows near the train station, and no giant pumpkins outside of the entrance. The decorations give to the feel of the season, without being over the top.









Some of the Character Cavalcades have been given a Halloween makeover. New for the season are The Nightmare Before Christmas cavalcade and a Villains cavalcade. If you’re looking for something a little less scary you can find Winnie the Pooh and friends, dressed for Halloween. My personal favorite was Mickey’s cavalcade. Mickey, Minnie, and some friends wore their costumes, as the Boo-To-You music from Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party played. I did not realize how much I missed it until I heard it again. Video of all four cavalcades available here!





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"Headless Horseman Rides Again"




We also had a chance to see some of the special seasonal food and drink offerings. The Hitchhiking Ghosts want to help you to take care of your hunger and your thirst. One comes with donuts, another is a sipper, and a third a popcorn bucket. The Oogie Boogie Popcorn Bucket is back, but you can also get it with churros. The Jack Skellington Sipper returns as well. One of my favorite items this year is the Headless Horseman Rides again. It is made of Strawberry Dole Whip and Fanta, and it comes with a Headless Horseman Straw. It’s a plant-based option, so that means that more people can enjoy it. You can buy it at Sunshine Seasons. Another must-try if you have a sweet tooth is the Pumpkin-spiced Mickey Waffle Sundae. Available at Sleepy Hollow, it features two flavorful Mickey Waffles, as well as vanilla ice cream, lots of whipped cream, caramel, and sprinkles. It tastes just as good as it sounds.









There is plenty
of seasonal merchandise now for sale at the Magic Kingdom. There is a good
selection of The Nightmare Before Christmas goods. Zero on a Leash is
back, it sold out last year. There’s a Giant Snake puppet, some hats, and a
bone wreath that will work for both Halloween and Christmas.









Haunted Mansion fans will love their options. While the main color on the wearables is dark gray, there is a small amount of bright green on some to make the items unique. There is a four puzzle set of the Stretching Room. If you want your dog in on the fun, there are Ghost Host and Hostess costumes for Fido and Bella. There is also Clue, Villains Edition, and general Halloween themed merchandise. Little ones who want to transform into princesses can choose from several spectacular dresses. There is also a Minnie-themed dress that has lights in the tutu.









At the
beginning of the day the park did feel busy. Although Cast Members tried to
keep people apart for the Character Cavalcades, it wasn’t always possible at
the beginning of the day. I think that part of the reason why the Magic Kingdom
was so crowded the first couple of hours was because it was the first day of
the new cavalcades. Once people had seen them all, the crowds dispersed.





Disney has put the costume rule at the Magic Kingdom on hold, they will be allowed through Halloween. There were some guests today wearing costumes. I have a feeling that the number of guests in costumes will go up significantly, the closer we get to Halloween. Disney’s costume guidelines must be followed. Costume masks are not allowed, but face coverings are still required for all guests two years old and older.









The Halloween fun at the Magic Kingdom will run daily through October 31. There is one thing that you will need to keep in mind. The Villains cavalcade and The Nightmare Before Christmas cavalcade will run on “select days”. It has not been released which days they will be on and which they will be off. Also, starting on September 20, you will be able to enjoy the Dapper Dans, as the Cadaver Dans. It has not been said where in the park they will appear, but it will be in a spot where social distancing will be possible.






- Fall Has Arrived at the Magic Kingdom!


Whether it’s from a well-meaning friend, or maybe a family member passing along second-hand stories, you’ve probably heard some lies about Walt Disney World.  And chances are that some of those lies involve dining experiences.  Well, we’re here to set the record straight!  If you’re looking for the truth about eating on property, keep reading, as we debunk ten common lies about dining at WDW.







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1. Just for Kids





Like the rest of Walt Disney World, the food on property is not just for kids.  There are restaurants to suit children and adults no matter their tastes or preferences.  While you can certainly find more child-friendly offerings, such as family-style dining with familiar dishes and character appearances, you can also choose an award-winning restaurant that specifically caters to adults and doesn’t let young children through the door.





Topolino's Terrace Breakfast




2. Too Expensive





It is certainly possible to spend a small
fortune on dining in Walt Disney World (you could splurge on a gourmet meal at
Victoria and Albert’s, or an elaborate steak dinner at Yachtsman Steakhouse,
for example).  But it’s also possible to
find meals that don’t break the bank, especially if you’re savvy enough to look
for discounts or dining plans and use them well.  Food at WDW ranges from cheap grab-and-go
items to custom-designed, chef-catered dinners with multiple courses, and
everything in between!





3. Only Table Service Meals are Worth It





There are numerous table service restaurants throughout Walt Disney World property that are well-known for their fabulous food and ambience, and deservedly so.  But that doesn’t mean you should skip the quick service options available!  In fact, some of the most interesting, fun-filled meals we’ve had have taken place at quick service spots.  Explore creative off-world dining at Satu'li Canteen, or take your paleontology-loving family member to delightfully dino-themed Restaurantosaurus, for a start.





Satu'li Canteen






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4. Don’t Bother Eating in the Resorts





Some of our favorite dining experiences on Walt
Disney World property have occurred in Disney resorts, so don’t listen to the
lie that you should leave your resort to dine. 
Disney resorts offer everything from extensive food courts where you can
grab a quick meal or even take a pizza back to your room, to award-winning,
world-class establishments, some with pretty spectacular views!  Toledo - Tapas, Steak & Seafood at
Coronado Springs, Jiko – The Cooking Place at Animal Kingdom Lodge, and The
Wave… Of American Flavors at Contemporary Resort are just a few worth trying.





5. No Need for Reservations





Dining reservations are always a good idea at Walt Disney World, so don’t listen to anyone who says you can just walk into any table service restaurant without one.  If you have your heart set on dining in a particular restaurant, make sure you book a reservation as early as possible to avoid disappointment.  Tables can book up quickly, especially at certain times of the year and for popular spots, so if you don’t get your first pick, try a different day or time.  Often, eating between peak dining times can secure you that coveted reservation!









6. Impossible to Get in Without Reservation





Of course, there is an exception to every
rule!  While it’s always best to make
advance dining reservations, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to make day-of
reservations if you’re desperate.  You
never know - you might get lucky!  We’ve even
had luck walking in and getting seated right away at Nine Dragons, Maya Grill
and Yak & Yeti – so it’s worth trying, although you shouldn’t count on it.





7. No Haute Cuisine/Cultural Experiences





If someone tries to tell you that Disney food is only for those looking for familiar American favorites, not true culinary or cultural dining experiences, feel free to laugh in his or her face.  There’s an entire world of deliciousness waiting to be discovered at WDW!  Whether you want to stop by one of the eleven World Showcase pavilions at Disney’s Epcot for some global cuisine served by cast members hailing from those countries, or munch on dishes created by world-famous chefs in Disney Springs, or indulge in a signature dining experience at your own Disney resort, there is plenty for the epicurean or globe trotter in your party.





Chefs De France




8. Been There, Dined on That





There are more than 200 restaurants in Walt
Disney World, so it would take you awhile to try out every dining location on
property.  And even then, the restaurants
are always coming up with new and exciting dishes, so you’re bound to discover
something new even at your tried and true dining spot.  So if someone tries to tell you that you only
need to experience dining at WDW once, don’t believe them!





9. No Healthy Food at WDW





It’s easy to let healthy eating fall by the wayside during a Walt Disney World vacation.  After all, the parks (and resorts) are full of tempting treats that are not exactly diet-friendly.  But it is possible to plan ahead and stick to a healthy eating plan, if you have the willpower required!  Look for healthy snacks (yes, they do exist) in each park, including fruit, veggies and yogurt, and ask your server for healthy options for children and/or adults. 





Coral Reef




10. Disney Can’t Accommodate My Dietary Requirements





I hear you. 
You’re a vegetarian, or vegan, or you have a food sensitivity or
potentially deadly food allergy, and you’re worried that you won’t be able to
find food you can eat at Walt Disney World. 
Well, WDW is probably one of the best places for you to be.  Cast members go above and beyond to cater to
all dietary requirements, and all you have to do is ask to speak to a chef
about your questions or concerns.  My mom,
who has severe allergies to just about everything, accompanied us on a Disney trip
a few years ago, and every restaurant we went to, the kitchen cooked her up a
custom-made meal.  She’s never been
happier!


- 10 Lies About Dining at Walt Disney World


Many changes have come to Walt Disney World during 2020.  Some of these changes are ones we enjoy while others leave us missing the days of old.  Come with us as we think back to a Walt Disney World prior to COVID-19.







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1. Remember When…. We would make dining reservations six months before our vacation?





A trip to Walt Disney World used to include making dining reservations six months prior to arrival.  Guests were trained to set alarms to make sure they were up early in order to snag those highly sought-after dining experiences.  Now Disney has pushed these reservations to sixty days prior to check-in.  Guests are still encouraged to make reservations as limited capacity and social distancing limits availability.  Just recently Disney has also started to provide information on the My Disney Experience app to show walk-up options while in the parks.  This new change gives guests more flexibility in their food options.





Chef Mickey's Pre-COVID




2. Remember When…. We would wake up early to make Fastpass+ reservations?





Another early morning alarm used to come at the 60-day mark when guests staying on property were allowed to make their fastpass selections.  Disney is currently no longer using fastpasses so this isn’t even needed.  The only reservation beyond food that guests need to make now is their initial Park Pass Reservation.  This books guests at a specific park on a specific day of their vacation.





FastPass Kiosk




3. Remember When….We would rush to rope drop?





Prior to COVID-19, it was strongly encouraged to get to the parks at rope drop in order to get to those highly popular rides such as Flight of Passage, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train or Slinky Dog Dash.  With limited capacity, it isn’t as important to get to the parks right at rope drop and with parks opening later there definitely isn’t the rush to get there right when they open.  It seems like park crowds are slightly higher right now in the mornings as guests are hoping to avoid the heat of the afternoons making coming in an hour or so after rope drop to be more ideal.





Morning Rush to Flight of Passage Prior to COVID-19






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4. Remember When….. We would find a spot for the parade an hour beforehand?





Disney parades are extremely magical and guests would line up hours prior to the start.  With Disney moving towards cavalcades that show up randomly throughout the day, guests don’t have to devote hours on the curb in order to participate in the magic.  Now guests can enjoy their favorite characters as they randomly travel throughout the park during the day.





Waiting for a Parade Pre-COVID




5. Remember When…. We ended our evening with fireworks?





A nighttime show of fireworks, lasers, music, projections and magic was how an evening at Disney seemed to always wrap up.  As Disney continues to enforce social distancing measures, nighttime entertainment is still not happening.  Although we hope to see this return sooner than later, right now Disney parks are closing before the sun sets giving guests more time in the evenings at their resorts or Disney Springs.









6. Remember When… We would leave the park for the afternoon?





Heading back to the resort for a quick nap, pool time or lunch was something we used to do a lot during our Disney vacation especially during the hot summer hours.  With shortened park hours, this is something that is harder to manage.  Now it seems like staying at the park the whole time it is opened is needed in order to fit everything in while the evenings and mornings are more a time for relaxing while waiting for the park to open or after the park closes.





Summer Crowd Pre-COVID




7. Remember When… There were character meet and greets?





A Disney vacation wasn’t complete without a hug from Mickey Mouse or a kiss from a favorite princess.  In order to keep guests and all cast members safe, these meet and greets have been paused.  Guests can still enjoy seeing their favorite characters during the cavalcades or randomly throughout the parks providing special experiences during this time.









8. Remember When…. We would eat at buffets?





Disney had numerous delicious buffets throughout the property that guests could take advantage of during their vacation.  In order to help keep guests safe, Disney isn’t providing the normal buffet options.  At Chef Mickey’s guests can have cast members bring them items from the buffet.  We are still waiting for Boma, Crystal Palace and Tusker House to reopen.  Until then, guests can choose to enjoy unique meals such as those at Whisper Canyon. Liberty Tree Tavern and Garden Grill that are family style.





Crystal Palace Restaurant




Even though there are a
lot of things in Walt Disney World that have changed and we can think back and
“remember when”, there are also so many new, exciting and magical experiences
being introduced and discovered daily.  Disney might be different, but it
doesn’t mean the magic isn’t there.


- Remember When… Thinking Back to a Walt Disney World Before COVID-19


When Walt Disney set out on his journey to reimagine the American amusement park, he envisioned an ever-evolving landscape that would never truly be "finished". To this day, Walt Disney World and all of its components continue to evolve and change, from its shops to its rides to even its menus. The following ten specialty beverages are some of the best and most creative family-friendly drinks that guests can experience while visiting WDW.







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1. LeFou's Brew - Magic Kingdom





Though it may sound like an adult beverage, this saccharine ode to Belle's would-be beau is sure to appeal to beauties and beasts of all ages. The drink -- which can be found in Fantasyland at Gaston's Tavern -- consists of frozen apple juice with a dash of toasted marshmallow flavoring and comes topped with a heady passion fruit-mango foam. Available in a souvenir stein, it's the ideal accompaniment for anyone looking to serenade their sweetheart. Although, unlike its namesake, this drink has been known to be overly sweet for some. We recommend you storm the castle and try it for yourself.









2. The PB&J Milkshake - Hollywood Studios





This creamy concoction reimagines the inseparable childhood lunchtime pairing as a densely delicious milkshake, which can be found at the 50's Prime Time Cafe. Topped with whipped cream and a maraschino cherry, it makes for the ideal drinkable dessert at this homey eatery devoted to yesteryear and is served with a gentle reminder to keep your elbows off the table.









3. Night Blossom - Animal Kingdom





Alternating layers of pink and green slushies help create an otherworldly beverage in the form of this World of Avatar favorite. Found at Pongo Pongo, this drink combines limeade with apple and desert pear flavors and is topped with orange passion fruit boba balls to create a bold flavor experience that'll leave you talking about it until you're blue in the face.











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4. Espresso Gelato Affogato - Epcot





Coffee lovers will appreciate this offering from Italy's gelato stand, which features espresso poured over decadent gelato, topped with a pair of cookies, a generous helping of chocolate-covered coffee beans, and served with a wafer straw. The cost is a bit high at around $10, though the drink does pack a lot of flavor into its modest-sized cup.  





5. The Dole Whip Float - Magic Kingdom





There's no wrong way to enjoy a Dole Whip. This iteration -- available at Aloha Isle -- serves up a healthy dose of delicious pineapple juice topped with a generous corkscrew of the signature pineapple soft serve to create an electrifying fusion of liqui-frozen refreshment. An adult's-only offering is also available that pairs the soft serve with Rum which is available at Disney's Animal Kingdom, Disney's Polynesian Village Resort, and is even sometimes available during EPCOT's Festivals.









6. Mystic Portal Punch - Hollywood Studios





Available at Woody's Lunch Box in Toy Story Land, this drink combines mountain berry blast Powerade with tangerine and lemon-lime flavors to create an out-of-this-world beverage that'll leave those who are sampling it oo-ing and ah-ing like wide-eyed extraterrestrials. It is also offered in a souvenir "Alien Sipper" for an additional cost. 





Photo Credit: Disney




7. Jungle Juice - Animal Kingdom





Also known as POG juice or Liliko’ i juice, this drink consists of a delightful combination of passion fruit, guava, and orange juices. Spiked versions can also be found on property, but the non-alcoholic original can be found at Tusker House as well as other locations such as the Polynesian Resort. This is also one of the easiest specialty beverages to recreate at home.





8. The American Dream - Epcot





This patriotic beverage separates layers of strawberry and blue raspberry slushies with vanilla soft serve, forming a drinkable tapestry of red, white, and blue that Betsy Ross would be proud of. Available at the Fife and Drum Tavern in (where else?!) the American Pavilion, this flavorful drink features just the right amount of creamy ice cream accompaniment to leave you whistling Dixie.





9. Coca-Cola Tasting Experiences - Disney Springs





The Coca-Cola Store's rooftop beverage bar not only offers panoramic views of the Disney Springs area, but also customizable taste testing experiences that'll tickle your taste buds with a wide array of effervescent sodas. Various freestyle experiences allow guests to sample or blend any of the 100 varieties from around the world (with up to five refills within an hour of purchase), while the Create Your Own Beverage Experience invites you to unleash your inner mad scientist by mixing ingredients to form your own creative concoctions. The Float Tray offers visitors yet another option, which includes a sampling of up to 16 of Coca-Cola's sodas from around the globe.  





Photo Credit: Disney




10. Wonderland Slush - Magic Kingdom





Yet another colorful slush, this entry comes courtesy of the Cheshire Cafe. With its pink and purple swirl, this drink is an obvious and adorable ode to the establishment's impish namesake. Featuring Fanta grape and Minute Maid raspberry lemonade and served with a strawberry candy straw, this drink is like something out of a warped, wonderful dream.  


- Top 10 Non-Alcoholic Specialty Beverages at Walt Disney World


If you are headed to Magic Kingdom, you will want to make sure to do these things when you first arrive at the most magical place on Earth.







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1. Take a picture in front of the train station





Before you even enter the streets of the Magic Kingdom, you will want to stop and take a picture in front of the train station.  Although most think of the castle when they think of Magic Kingdom, the train is just as iconic.  With beautiful flowers and holiday decorations throughout the year, this is a photo spot you won’t want to miss.









2. Take in the small details





As you travel under the
train station and into the Magic Kingdom, make sure to take in the plaque that
welcomes guests.  On this plaque is “Here you leave today and enter the
world of yesterday, tomorrow and fantasy” which reminds us all of Walt’s dream
and vision.   As you walk through the tunnel, take notice of the different
posters that represent rides of the past and how things have changed in the
park over time.  These are both great tributes to the magic that this park
has always brought to guests.





3. Picture with Roy and Minnie





Most guests will rush right down Main Street USA to head to the castle or their first ride of the day, but we suggest stopping by to take a picture with Roy and Minnie.  Located right in the middle with the main flag pole, this bench reminds us all of how these two also helped bring the magic to Disney World.  It is a beautiful picture as you can capture the castle in the background.







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4. Take in the smells





Disney does a great job at playing at all of our senses including smell.  As you enter Magic Kingdom, make sure to take a minute to take in the smells.  Our family truly believes that the best popcorn in the whole world is located right as you enter Magic Kingdom near City Hall.  The buttery smell welcomes you to the show.  Also, is the delicious smell of the Confectionary.  As Disney cast members work to create delicious treats, the sweet aroma will pull you in as you walk by.









5. Grab a treat on Main Street





While walking down Main
Street, USA consider starting the day off with a treat.  You are on
vacation, right?  The Confectionary has tons of delicious treats as does
the Main Street Bakery where you can find your favorite Starbucks drink. 
Grab something as you slowly stroll down the streets and take in the magic.





6. Grab those extras





As you enter the Magic Kingdom, Disney offers celebration buttons at the City Hall.  Make sure you grab one so everyone can help you celebrate your birthday, anniversary, graduation or anything else. Also located as the front of the park is the Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom.  This is a fun interactive game that kids, and adults, can play throughout Magic Kingdom.  As you need to get your start at the front of the park, we suggest getting these as you start your day so you don’t have to back track.  





7. Picture with Walt and the Castle





One thing that is absolutely a must each and every time we head to Magic Kingdom is to take a picture with the partner statue and the castle.  These icons are symbols of the magic and something we want to make sure we capture each and every trip.  We typically do it in the morning as crowds are less allowing for an emptier picture.





Credit: Disney




8. Walk through the Castle





As you get ready to
start your day, consider a walk through the castle.  It is truly magical
walking through the castle and emerging into Fantasyland.  Slow down and
take in the five mosaics that show a version of Cinderella in a beautiful
display of colors.  This is something that helps start the day with a sense
of wonder and magic like no other.  





9. Head to favorite land





The final thing we do when we arrive at Magic Kingdom is to head to our favorite land.  Once it is getting close to park opening, we make our way to the land we want to start on that day.  From Frontierland to Tomorrowland, each land provides magic and adventure that will bring magic and fun to all.  









These are just a few
things that we do first when we arrive at Magic Kingdom.  Sometimes it is
hard to force yourself to slow down, but there is so much detail and magic
throughout the park that we really encourage you to do some of these things
first before rushing off to rides and shows for the rest of the day.  It
is a wonderful way to take in the magic.


- First Things We Do When Arriving at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom