A trip to Walt Disney World is very different for a young child than it is for an adult. Kids live in the moment, they do not plan things out ahead of time. They also want immediate results. If they are hungry they do no want to have to wait an hour to eat, they want food right away. Walt Disney World is overwhelming for adults, imagine what it must be like to a young child! Having an idea of where to dine before you hit the parks with small children will help to make your vacation a better experience for your entire family.
The restaurants here that do serve character meals also will offer a great experience at the non-character meals. If you have a young princess fan you probably already know about Cinderella’s Royal Table and Akershus Royal Banquet Hall, which is why they weren’t included. Quite honestly, if your kids aren’t afraid of the larger than life figures, any character meal would be great for a preschooler, not just those listed here.
If you are on the Disney Dining Plan, remember that children 3-9 need to order off the kids’ menu if there is one available. Some of the restaurants here are listed in part because of the atmosphere. If your little ones are interested in their surroundings, your entire family might have a better dining experience.
You might want to look for full service restaurants that offer Mickey Check Meals. It’s a new program that is meant to serve children great food while meeting Disney’s nutritional guidelines. The meals are complete and made to be lower in saturated fat, sodium, and sugar. They are also portion controlled, giving kids enough food, but not so much that they will overeat. Mickey Check Meals come with sides, a low sugar dessert, and either lowfat milk or water. You might also notice the Mickey Check on some items that aren’t meals, both at full service and counter service restaurants. The check means that the item has met the Disney Magic of Healthy Living initiative.
Character and full service at Disney’s Polynesian Resort
‘Ohana serves breakfast and dinner. Breakfast is a character meal with Lilo and Stitch, but that is not why the restaurant made this list! In Hawaiian the word “’Ohana” means “Family”, making this a great place for you and your young kids. The food is served family style, which means that no one will have to wait long to eat. Children can play with hula hoops and sweep coconuts across the floor with brooms. The food is excellent, with things like Mickey waffles for breakfast and skewers of meat and lo mein noodles for dinner. ‘Ohana is a favorite of many Disney fans. Plan your dinner reservation near the fireworks at the Magic Kingdom. Head out to the beach when you’re done and catch the Electrical Water Pageant and Happily Ever After. They pipe in the music so you can still enjoy the fireworks but you won’t have the brave the end of the night Magic Kingdom crowd. You’ll be able to get your tired preschoolers back to your hotel and tucked away sooner, without having missed the fireworks.
4) Liberty Tree Tavern
Full service in Liberty Square, Magic Kingdom
Sometimes kids want something familiar. That is what you will find at Liberty Tree Tavern. Lunch is served a la carte and dinner is family style. For lunch, kids have their own appetizer list, with things like Chicken Noodle Soup or Apple Slices. Turkey, chicken, macaroni & cheese, and pasta with marinara sauce are the entree choices. A Mickey Check Meal of Oven-roasted Turkey is also available. The family style dinner consists of turkey with all the fixings. Liberty Tree Tavern goes out of its way to accommodate little ones, but the adults will love the food and the atmosphere as well.
3) Tusker House
Character and buffet in Africa, Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Your kids will be fascinated by the decor at Tusker House. Breakfast and lunch are character meals with Donald and friends, the restaurant is open for dinner as well. The buffet menu changes often and serves both African and American dishes. Your little ones will have a chance to try couscous for the first time, or they might prefer munching on corn dog nuggets. If your reservation is for breakfast the buffet features traditional breakfast items and fun surprises such as Sweet Plantains. If your kids are looking for familiar and fast while at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, try Pizzafari. If you want to give them a meal that they will remember, Tusker House is where you’ll want to make your reservation.
2) Coral Reef Restaurant
Full service in Future World, Epcot
You might think that Coral Reef is a little upscale for preschoolers but you’d be wrong. There is plenty to keep them entertained while they wait for their food. Ask for a table near the aquarium, try to arrive a few minutes early for your reservation so you’ll have a better chance of getting one. Use the souvenir guide that you’ll be given to help your children identify the various fish. They’ll be having so much fun that they might forget that they’re hungry! Kids can start with the Soup of the Day, Celery and Carrot Sticks, or Apple Slices. Kids entrees are Grilled Chicken Breast or Cheese Pizza. The entrees come with a kids’ beverage and dessert. Mickey Check Meals are offered here, they include Grilled Fish of the Day, Seared Mahi Mahi, and Meaty Macaroni.
Full service in the Marketplace, Disney Springs
If you’re trying to avoid loud and overdone, don’t eat at T-REX. The place is crazy! It is also the perfect restaurant for a preschooler who is all about dinosaurs. A word of warning, if your child scares easily then you might not want to dine here because of the life-sized animatronic dinosaurs. Otherwise, your whole family will have a blast. There is a huge selection of kids’ entrees; everything from pasta to sliders to popcorn shrimp and chicken. T-REX gives all of the entrees fun names, which your children will enjoy. End the meal with the Chocolate Tarpit; a decorated pudding that is made with wee ones in mind, or order the Chocolate Extinction and share it as a family. You also might want to get the Discovery Blast, a frozen beverage for kids in a souvenir cup. Children can dig for fossils in the Paleo Zone, or for an extra cost create a dinosaur to take home at the Build-a-Dino by Build-a-Bear Workshop. Rainforest Cafe is similar to T-REX, except the theme is the rainforest and its animals instead of dinosaurs.
Honorable Mention – Rainforest Cafe, as it is very similar to T-REX but with Rainforest animals! Two Rainforest locations are available at Disney World including one at Disney’s Animal Kingdom and the other at the Marketplace in Disney Springs.