Disney Dining: How to, and tips.

How this Diz Lover Plans and Does Dining at Walt Disney World!

As with any Walt Disney World Vacation, planning is KEY especially for Disney Dining! The extra time spent planning your dining is well worth it and will make for an easier more magical, guided vacation.

Mark your calendar!  Make dining reservations 180 days prior to your trip and you will want to make sure you wake up and get those dining reservations done – especially for those hard-to-get reservations like Be Our Guest and so on. You should receive an email or, you can call to find out what your date will be to mark the date you can start reserving, when booking your vacation.

*In knowing this you will need to plan out which of the parks you will be at, each day of your trip.  You will need to know this anyway 60 days prior when it’s time to make your Fast Pass Selections!

Depending upon if you are night owls or early birds….. We are normally early birds so I usually like to have early breakfast reservations to get inside the parks before they open.  Making breakfast reservations BEFORE park opening is a great way to get into the parks before the crowds as well as before park opening – which can get you on popular rides at no wait time.. I would make them for 8am or earlier.  You won’t need to make fast passes until 11am and later if you can manage to get to parks early.  Its not easy but its worth it.  We like to take an afternoon nap and head back out around dinner time to hop on rides while people eat.  We like to do a quick service dinner at our resort cafeteria most times. When traveling from hotel to park you need to give yourself enough travel time for reservations so if you have a dining reservation at 8am then you will want to be at the bus stop at your hotel by 7am.

You aren’t going to get much sleep – this IS Disney World we are talking about here…  It is not a relaxing vacation!  But one of the best ever!  If you are night owls, then this won’t work for you and you will need fast passes in the afternoons because that is when the parks crowd up.  And night owls will stay at parks later so you will want to utilize extra magic hours and stay late for rides.

You will need to CHECK prior to your vacation (when scheduling your dining and check AGAIN when it gets closer just in case times change) and take note to which parks has extra magic hours… you won’t need morning breakfast reservations because during Extra Magic Hours you can enter at 8:00am as long as you are staying Disney Property.  Morning Extra Magic hours allow everyone staying on Disney Property in early and I find it to be really crowded… so I try to avoid it…. HOWEVER extra magic hours at night – which Magic Kingdom will stay open until 12am – 2am at times is a great time to utilize the extra magic hours, if you can manage to stay up!

You can cancel dining reservations with no problem, up to 1 day before the date you are due to dine. If you need to cancel day of, you can always walk to guest services and explain what happened and they will remove the $10 a person or whatever the cancellation fee is.

Plus, you always want to keep checking for special dining events that may be offered…. back in May of 2015 I found a special once-in-a-lifetime Jedi Mickey dinner at Hollywood & Vine where Mickey and pals were dressed up like Star Wars Characters!

Disney Dining Plans – which one is best for your family?

Keeping in mind, if you don’t have deluxe dining plan but the regular Disney dining plan you won’t be able to eat at more than 1 table service per day and 1 quick service, 2 snacks per person. So one meal per day, will come out of your pocket. Here are the details for The Disney Dining Plan.

We prefer Deluxe Dining because to us, it feels all-inclusive and it is really nice to not worry about having to pay for any food while there – it is all paid for before you go! You have the flexibility of not worrying about where you are eating and if you want 3 sit-downs a day, you can do it!  3 Table Services per day, per person and each person gets an appetizer and desert as well as 1 alcoholic beverage or beverage of your choice with each meal. Deluxe Dining Plan gets you 2 snacks per day, per person. Click here for the details for THE DELUXE DINING PLAN.

A buffet is typically cheaper than a regular menu and way cheaper than a dinner show.  A buffet without the dining plan would typically cost a family of 4 about $200 for the meal depending on breakfast or dinner.  A breakfast quick service meal for 4 people will cost around $50 per family – some things to keep in mind.

If you choose the regular Disney Dining plan you could always use your snack credits for a small breakfast like yogurt or muffins.

****You do receive a refillable mug, included in ALL dining plans – which you can use inside your resort Cafeteria for all the coffee, tea, soda and water you want!  You may use your refillable mug at any resort quick service.

The third option of the Disney Dining Plans is the Quick Service, where you receive 3 quick service meals per day. Click Here for the details for Quick Service.

Magic Kingdom Dining

Character dining at Magic Kingdom would be at the Crystal Palace with Pooh and Tigger and friends. The characters are there for every meal and the buffet is good – we always go there at least once during our stay.  They do offer characters at all 3 meal times though.

*Our children had been to the Pirate’s League prior to eating here that day, so they still had some makeup leftover.  Pooh decided to play with one of their pirate hats below in the pictures.

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Disney Dining: the Crystal Palace at Magic Kingdom
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Disney Dining: the Crystal Palace at Magic Kingdom
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Disney Dining: the Crystal Palace at Magic Kingdom
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Disney Dining: the Crystal Palace at Magic Kingdom
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Disney Dining: the Crystal Palace at Magic Kingdom

Cinderella’s Royal Table –  INSIDE the Castle, with some princesses like Snow White and Belle and Aurora.  Not sure on the food as we never ate there but I do believe it takes 2 meal credits per person instead of 1.

Be Our Guest – Beast is only there during dinner hours. We had breakfast reservations and the food was nothing to brag about. I hear dinner is much better! But beware: all the food served there is French. The restaurant itself is spectacular; the room with the Rose in it that has lightning in the windows is a MUST-SEE. Go there for dinner instead if you go!

Tony’s in MK is a great restaurant but no character dining. We always have a good meal there and you can see the afternoon Move it Shake Parade pass by.

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Liberty Tree Tavern (another place in MK with no character dining)  dinner buffet is like a Thanksgiving dinner family style.
A Character Meal Must-Do is Chef Mickey’s which is located inside the Contemporary Resort.  When you arrive for check-in, there is a Disney Photographer set up for a family photo-op.

Dine as you meet Mickey, Goofy , Donald, Minnie and Pluto. The food is excellent! It’s a 15 minute walk to the entrance of MK or you can take the monorail.

To travel to Chef Mickey’s you need to bus to Magic Kingdom and then hop on the monorail or walk.   ***if you have the time*** Dining here takes up a few hours away from rides but so worth it and a great experience!

There is a quick service place in Tomorrowland and also in Fantasyland across from the Merry Go Round.  Disney quick services are similar to fast food chains except the quality is exceptional and I believe there are live cooks working; but when you order, you take a tray and carry your food to your table. Quick Services aren’t bad in Disney. All Disney Resort Hotels offer a quick service dining location.

Epcot – for Epcot you are in heaven no matter where you eat. Every food from every culture is offered there.

We have had a great meal in Italy at Via Napoli and didn’t need a reservation.

Disney Dining: Via Napoli inside Italy in Epcot
Disney Dining: Via Napoli inside Italy in Epcot

We have also dined at Le Cellier (picture below) in Canada which took 2 table service credits – it was delectable as well as a beautiful restaurant, but NOT child-friendly in the slightest and no characters.

How to SAVE $ money on your next Disney Vacation!
How to SAVE $ money on your next Disney Vacation!

Character dining in Epcot is offered at the Garden Grill, with Chip and Dale and Mickey and Pluto.  This restaurant is super cool because the venue slowly spins as you eat!  Breakfast is served family style! They have an excellent breakfast and you are located upstairs from Soarin’ and the Land ride is located to your right which you can view as you rotate.  It doesn’t go fast at all – I was afraid I would feel motion sickness, but you do not even know you’re moving because it goes so slow.

To dine with Princesses try the Akershus Royal Banquet Hall.

Another place we have heard raving reviews is the Biergarten Restaurant located in Germany where the festive German restaurant has a Bavarian buffet, oompah bands & beer served in stein.  People love the singing and dancing in the bands but it is loud –  so keep that in mind.

Coral Reef is a restaurant located near the Nemo ride – where you dine in an aquarium but you will have a better experience at T-Rex Cafe in Disney Springs, or Rainforest Cafe located in Animal Kingdom or Disney Springs (Downtown). We were not thrilled with the Coral Reef food. Not many choices but sometimes it is perfect for the convenience.

As you pass by Mexico they have delicious Margaritas.

All Disney Parks serve alcohol except for Magic Kingdom.  Alcohol is now included in the Disney Dining Plan!

Our Kids loved T-Rex Cafe in Disney Springs last year! (2016)  We enjoyed a delicious meal and drinks with a cool volcano desert – which we were able to order being on the Deluxe Dining Plan!

Hollywood Studios

NEVER go to Hollywood Studios without dining reservations!  The quick service option are limited here.

Character dining in Hollywood Studios would be at Hollywood & Vine where are 3 meals are great – all 3 meals are buffet style.  This is where you meet the Disney Jr characters.  Handy Manny, Sofia, Jake and Doc McStuffins.  We loved breakfast and lunch there. Dinner is Minnie’s Seasonal Dine with Mickey and pals.

Minnie's Seasonal Dine: Summer. Hollywood & Vine.
Minnie’s Seasonal Dine: Summer. Hollywood & Vine.

Mama Melrose Restaurant has wonderful Italian food. You can get a Fantasmic package when you reserve here – it goes along with your dining table service at no extra charge. But keep in mind they now offer a Star Wars fireworks show at night.  You would need 2 separate nights there to do both.  The seats for the Fantasmic package were amazing.

Sci-fi Drive in Dine in Theater, is exceptional.  Your table looks like a car and its set up to look like it is night-time and you are at a drive in eating. They play old Mickey Cartoons on the screen.  We really enjoyed this restaurant.  If you don’t have a reservation you may have a short wait depending on crowd levels – if you are going at heavy crowd times I would expect long waits or not to be seated at all.

Animal Kingdom

Character dining at Tusker House is a MUST.  They offer a great buffet for all 3 meals and you see Safari Mickey, Goofy, Donald, Daisy and Minnie.  Tusker House is a fantastic buffet.  At dinner there were no chicken nuggets offered on the buffet; so when I asked the waiter, the chef brought out a plate full of chicken nuggets – again some Disney Magic! Most restaurants are so accommodating!

We tried Yak n Yeti (located near Mount Everest) this summer and it was amazing!  It is an Asian themed restaurant ad it was amazing!! My kids are picky and the restaurants we eat in always have something for problem eaters.

Animal Kingdom feels like the hottest park to us.  Most rides are outside and no A/C.  Eating inside the A/C feels great.  We have only eaten at 1 quick service in Animal Kingdom and it wasn’t bad.

(Be sure to see the Lion King Show and the Nemo Show while in Animal Kingdom.)

We ate at Rainforest Cafe and LOVED it!!  You do have to walk back near park entrance to dine here and they will re-scan your magic band to re-enter the park. Rainforest Cafe IS included in the dining plan!

Like Chef Mickey’s (located at the Contemporary) another great dining experience is at the Polynesian Resort called Ohana – where you dine with Stitch, Lilo, Pluto and Mickey.  The food is excellent but since it is so popular you do spend a lot of time waiting to get in (even with a reservation) and waiting for characters.  They do a parade with your kids around the restaurant. Also, is a bar while waiting to be seated. But you have to travel to Magic Kingdom, then take a boat or monorail to the Polynesian.  We took the boat back to Magic Kingdom after we were done and it was just lovely!

Disney Dining: Ohana at the Polynesian Resort
Disney Dining: Ohana at the Polynesian Resort

Polynesian also has a dinner show called the Spirit oh Aloha – is a thrilling show with hula dancers, and the flame throwers – I have also heard it to have rave reviews. It is covered under your table service credits so you could definitely use your dining plan for this.  If you are taking it easy one night with the family, not wanting to do rides, this is something to go see.  We personally haven’t done this yet because we are always so busy trying to cram in rides.

Mickey’s Backyard BBQ (another dinner show) located at the Fort Wilderness Resort – Here you have dancing with the characters and says: Feast on an all-you-care-to-enjoy BBQ spread to cowboy rope tricks and the rootin’ tootin’ tunes of a live country-western band. Then mosey on over to the dance floor for line dancing led by Disney Friends. (characters).

The last dinner show I know about is the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue, also at Fort Wilderness Resort, is where you the join the Pioneer Hall Players for 2 hours of rousing Wild West dancing, singing and zany vaudeville comedy….. In between skits and song standards, chow down on buckets of all-you-care-to-enjoy fried chicken and smoked BBQ pork ribs, as well as a tossed green salad, baked beans, fresh-baked cornbread and strawberry shortcake. Unlimited draft beer, wine and sangria are included.  You are able to choose seating in different areas so definitely call or check it out online first.

This past Summer 2017, we tried breakfast at the Grand Floridian at 1900 Park Fare -and it was the best breakfast buffet hands down. The kids will LOVE Alice in Wonderland, the Mad Hatter, Mary Poppins, Pooh and a beautiful family photo op with Tigger when you are leaving the restaurant.  They actually had gummy bears for the kids on the buffet!  I hear lunch and dinner is great too – only different characters include: Cinderella, Prince Charming, the Step Sisters and Lady Tremaine.

Disney Dining: 1900 Park Fare at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort
Disney Dining: 1900 Park Fare at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort

On our way to Disney’s Grand Floridian for breakfast at 1900 Park Fare, we took a boat from Magic Kingdom to the Grand Floridian.  The Captain of the Boat magically knew that we were celebrating our son’s birthday and let him drive the ship and honk the horn on the way over.  What a great experience!

Another out-of-parks great dining experience is the Cape May Cafe – located at Disney’s Beach Club Resort – characters are breakfast buffet only.  The rest of the day is a Seafood buffet which I hear rave reviews about.  You would have to travel to Magic Kingdom and then take the bus to Beach Club.

You have the ability to link other guests to your dining reservations – it is easy to call or add them on www.mydisneyexperience.com .

One last dining experience I have heard about is Whispering Canyon Cafe dinner – again located at Fort Wilderness Resort, where the wait-staff entertains your table with some comedy and supposedly the food is out of this world.  People say it is a whimsical experience. Servers have tricks up their sleeves with crazy games and silly gags during your meal.

If you plan to celebrate a birthday while there, I would call Disney Dining in advance and have them make a note in ALL of your plans (- every single reservation you have -) that you will be celebrating a family member’s birthday.  Each restaurant does something different, whether its a special cupcake or they sing and you blow out a candle.

*Always call ahead to let them know of any allergies or special requests as well!

Check out our video slideshow of our Summer 2017 Walt Disney World Resort Vacation Here.

Be sure to read my article on ways to SAVE money on your next Disney World Vacation!

When is your next Walt Disney World Vacation?

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