Last Minute Disney Dining Tips

Last Minute Disney Dining Tips

Although the number one thing I preach to my Walt Disney World Travel clients is to plan ahead, book well in advance, and make your dining reservations as soon as that six month window opens, that is not always possible.  Sometimes your trip may come up at the spur of the moment with only a couple of months, weeks, or even days (in the case of my last trip to the World) to plan.  There is certainly a lot of fun in a last minute vacation, and you don’t have to totally count out being able to dine at table service restaurants and have enjoyable, delicious meals.

Character Meals

Although the popular character meals like Cinderella’s Royal Table and Chef Mickey’s book up months in advance, you may still have the opportunity to dine with some of your favorites.  If you have a few weeks to plan you can probably find availability at the Garden Grill in the Land Pavilion at Epcot, breakfast (maybe even dinner) at 1900 Park Fare at the Grand Floridian, Hollywood and Vine at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and perhaps a few others.  A quick search for 3 weeks out from right now showed multiple times available at these restaurants.  If you only have a few days you might try breakfast at Cape May Café at the Beach Club or ‘Ohana at the Polynesian.

Resort Dining

Some of the resort restaurants, especially the signature dining, are incredibly popular and difficult to get into last minute, but there are other table service restaurants in the resorts that are less well known, but still have delicious food.  Start at the Moderate Resorts;  Boatwrights at Port Orleans Riverside, Shutters at the Caribbean Beach Resort and the Maya Grill at Coronado Springs will all likely have availability very last minute, even for walk up seating.  Each has its own unique menu, theming and dining experience to provide for an enjoyable meal.  The Turf Club at Saratoga Springs and Olivia’s at Old Key West are other good last minute options.  Some of the deluxe resorts “secondary” restaurants are also a good choice.  You get to enjoy the atmosphere and theming of the resort, and have a relaxing meal without too much planning.  At the Polynesian there is the Kona Café, The Wave at the Contemporary, The Grand Floridian Café, at (where else) the Grand Floridian, Big River Grille & Brewing Works on the BoardWalk and Sanaa at the Animal Kingdom Lodge—all of these should have reservations available last minute.

Theme Park Dining

Just because you are booking last minute doesn’t mean you won’t find anywhere in the theme parks to eat a table service meal.  You probably won’t be able to get in to the most popular establishments like Le Cellier, but there are some spots that always seem to have availability.  Restaurant Marrakesh and Biergarten in Epcot and Tony’s Town Square in Magic Kingdom are three that come to mind.  And, although it is small with limited seating, the Plaza at the Magic Kingdom is in a beautiful location with a view of the Castle, and it is not overly popular—availability might be limited by its size.

Counter Service “Plus”

There are some establishments with amazing atmosphere and delicious, unique cuisine that don’t require a reservation at all. I call these “Counter Service Plus.”  If you are traveling last minute and don’t have time to plan table service restaurants, these are a great option.  The obvious choice is Be Our Guest in the Magic Kingdom for lunch when it is counter service.  You get to take in all of the elaborate theming, have a great meal, and all without a reservation.  Other Counter Service Plus locations on my list are Sunshine Seasons in the Land Pavilion at Epcot for its varied menu and even Flame Tree Barbecue at the Animal Kingdom.  Flame Tree has some amazing seating areas down by the lake looking out toward Expedition Everest, and the barbecued meats are far from normal theme park fare.  I am also partial to the Epcot eateries that allow you to take your food and enjoy it with the World Showcase as your backdrop, like Les Halles Boulangerie & Pâtisserie, Yorkshire County Fish Shop, La Cantina de San Angel, or Kringla Bakeri Og Kafe.

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Downtown Disney

Quite often the restaurants at Downtown Disney (with the exception of T-Rex and Rainforest Café) will have availability right up to your travel dates.  There are some great table service establishments here including Raglan Road, House of Blues, Paradiso 37 and Wolfgang Puck.  There are lots of other table service restaurants there too, but quality can vary at Downtown Disney (even among those I listed).

Be Flexible

If you are planning last minute and you want to eat at table service restaurants you will need to be flexible.  You will probably be able to get a lunch (or breakfast if offered) reservation easier than dinner.  Enter off times for meals to see if you can find a reservation—4:15 dinner or 2:45 lunch.  Check different days on your trip for availability.  You could also play around with your party size.  If you are a family of 4 and you can’t find any tables for 4 at one of your “must do” restaurants, try splitting up into two parties of 2 and finding reservations at the same time or close to it.  This scenario is not ideal for me, so I would only do it if I absolutely had to eat at a particular restaurant.

Be Persistent

With the new cancellation policies and credit card guarantees in place most people will now cancel the tables they are holding at restaurants if they don’t intend to use them.  If you have a month or two to plan and don’t find the restaurant you want when you first try; try, try again.  Availability changes constantly and spots do open up.  You might even be surprised at what you can find close to your travel dates—one of the most popular restaurants might open up for you.  And, if all else fails, you can always try walking up to the podium and asking if there is any availability.  Here again the flexibility comes into play.  They may be able to seat you in 30 minutes, or they may say to come back in 2 hours.  And, of course, as the old saying goes, you get more flies with honey.  There is no telling how many guests have demanded that Cast Member to seat them immediately without a reservation, and most likely there is nothing he or she can do about it.  But if you let them know that you are willing to wait or come back there might be some wiggle room.

Your success in getting last minute dining will vary depending on the time of year you are visiting and the size of your party.  Regardless of those restraints you should be able to find dining that you will truly enjoy with a spur of the moment trip.


About Sarah Chapman

I am a long time Disney fan since I was hooked on Walt Disney World with my first trip in 1987. Since that time I’ve tried experiencing everything I can in the parks, with a total of 30 visits and counting (I’m always planning my next trip) to Walt Disney World—not to mention Disney Cruise Line and even (shhh!) Universal Orlando and Sea World. I’ve turned my Disney obsession into a profession helping others plan their magical vacations as a Dream Vacation Maker at LBAC Travel. I am a work at home mom to three wonderful boys, and each one has been properly indoctrinated with all things Disney. Walt Disney World is definitely our “Laughing Place.” Look for me on Facebook at for updates, discount announcements, tips, tricks and planning advice for your next vacation. You can also find me on Instagram (sarahdreamvacationmaker) and Pinterest (sarahlbactravel).