Disney Dining

| July 20, 2015

When a friend posted on facebook asking for Disney dining recommendations, I realized that I’ve never blogged about Disneyworld, despite having visited the parks and/or resorts five times. I decided to compile our experiences at over 20 restaurants. I’m going in alphabetical order as they are listed on Disney’s dining page; the order does not reflect order of preference.

In general, we lean toward character dining in order to ensure one-on-one interactions for our daughter, Sequoia.

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(And sometimes for the grandparents!)

We also try to make daily reservations; that way, we know we’re getting at least one meal that we don’t wander around searching for.  Here are pictures not only of food, but of my daughter’s reactions, which was the most important thing to me.

1900 Park Fare (the Grand Floridian)

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Someone just met Mary Poppins

We have eaten at 1900 Park Fare two or three times, for breakfast and for dinner.  Our first experience, the Supercalifragilistic Breakfast, was awesome.

Sequoia was absolutely smitten by Mary Poppins, I was startled by Tigger, and we had an overall wonderful time. The combination buffet/table service was good enough that you didn’t feel like you were wasting your money; my husband Paul, Sequoia, and I all enjoyed the whole experience. Sequoia was 4 at the time. In attendance were Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Mary Poppins, Alice, and the Mad Hatter (who, admittedly, creeped out Sequoia).

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Four years later, Sequoia does not recall this specific meal, but Paul and I recall her excitement quite vividly. I have noticed that in this particular restaurant, the visits have taken much longer than expected; characters took forever to come by.  That’s a Disney dining Catch-22, though: you want them to spend time with your kid, but you don’t want them taking so long with others that you’re waiting for-ev-ver.  Our first visit took a full 2 hours.  Yikes.

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They’ve got pizza. That was easy!

The next time we visited was for Cinderella’s Happily Ever After Dinner: me, Sequoia, and my aunt. It was another wonderful experience. Cinderella and Prince Charming, along with the stepmother and stepsisters, visited the table. Prince Charming tried to dance with Sequoia, but she was too shy. The buffet dinner was again good enough that you didn’t feel like you were wasting your money. Sequoia was 5 at the time. Her memories are surprisingly of the stepsisters. She also recalls not wanting to dance with Prince Charming!

Akershus Royal Banquet Hall (Epcot Center)

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Awesome restaurant for the overall experience. The Princess Storybook Dining was magical. My aunt, Sequoia (aged 5 at the time), and I enjoyed every minute of it. The most memorable princess was Snow White because, during the procession in which the princesses lead kids around the room, Snow White took Sequoia’s hand and led her around.

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Worth every penny

It was absolutely magical to watch.  At age 8, she does not remember this experience, but my aunt and I hold it dear. Food was great, and the restaurant décor was well-done. I recommend their breakfast experience whole-heartedly. For me, this was a Top 3 restaurant.

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I liked the healthy food selection, as well

Animal Kingdom – see Sanaa and Boma

Art of Animation Food Court

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Uh, best cupcakes ever. Also, what a great resort to walk around. We visited for one night and really liked our Nemo suite. We didn’t eat dinner or breakfast on the property, just snacks.

Bakery/Café

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Perfect place to kick off Day 1 at the parks

I wish I knew the name of the bakery where we got croissants first thing in the morning on our first day ever visiting Disneyworld. The view from tables near the café was a perfect start to the day. It might have been Main Street Bakery where we grabbed the food, but I cannot confirm that–I just recall the convenience and then sitting down to the perfect Disney view.

Be Our Guest Restaurant (Magic Kingdom)

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I’ll be honest: I was disappointed with our lunch at Be Our Guest. We loved the restaurant itself–the décor is very well-done, and ordering from the touch-screen was fun. It’s possible that the restaurant wasn’t quite up to expectations because it was brand new. We three were traveling with one set of grandparents, who were chosen to enjoy a reservation as part of a focus group. I would probably give the restaurant a second chance, but for dinner, not for lunch. Sequoia does not recall this one at all.

Beach Club Resort – See Cape May Café

Boma – Flavors of Africa (Animal Kingdom Lodge)

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My husband and I visited this restaurant on our own as my parents watched Sequoia (woo-hoo!). The meal was excellent, for a buffet, and their presentation was cool. Just spending time at the Animal Kingdom Lodge is nice, with its views over the safari. I’d stayed at the resort a year before and really enjoyed it; I wanted to take Paul so that he, too, could experience the Lodge.

It’s an expensive meal. I wouldn’t bother to bring a kid there unless they’re fans of African food. Although there are American choices, it seems like an expensive meal without an experience that the kids would enjoy or remember.  I waffle on whether I would pay the price to eat there again.

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Although…the desserts are kind of convincing

Cape May Café (Disney’s Beach Club Resort)

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Sequoia is smitten by Goofy, who wrote “I love you” on her drawing

I’ve eaten at Cape May twice, and the experiences were very different from one another.

On our first visit, we had flown from Germany to Florida for a family emergency. I decided that after a week of being very well-behaved, Sequoia deserved a treat. Not wanting to pay to visit the park for less than a full day, I looked for a character dining experience outside of the park. Cape May was at a very convenient location, not amidst the chaos.

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It was just me and Sequoia. She was soooo excited to visit the main Disney friends: Minnie, Donald, and Goofy. All of them interacted with Sequoia, but Goofy especially. Sequoia remembers the characters signing their names on the paper tablecloth on which Sequoia had been drawing while we waited, and at age 8 she still remembers Goofy’s hug. It was, up until our next visit, one of my favorite restaurants.

Our second visit was Sequoia, myself, and my aunt. My aunt really enjoyed the Grand Floridian and its view of the lake, and again the Beach Resort was easy to get to and the parking lot uncrowded.

As for the meal, there was no paper tablecloth, which Sequoia had been looking forward to; in fact, she’d brought colored markers. It was the most rushed that I’ve felt during character dining. I felt like if the kid wasn’t younger, the characters thought that the interaction was not important.  Sequoia was 7 at the time. We had to ask for a hug. Although it’s not advertised as a Mickey meet-and-greet, Sequoia was hoping.  As the meal went on, she became more disappointed, I think because it was an overall sadder mood. I hate seeing a child disappointed at Disneyworld. My memory of this experience is just not good, and based on it, I would not pay money to eat at Cape May again.

Chef Mickey’s (the Contemporary)

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This is a restaurant I whole-heartedly recommend. We’ve eaten there twice; once for dinner and once for breakfast.

Our first experience was on our arrival night at Disneyworld on our first visit. It was me, Sequoia, Paul, and my parents. We wanted to get into the Disney mood as soon as possible and would not be hitting the parks until the next day.

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We had hyped this up to Sequoia, who was 4 at the time.  She’d be meeting her Disney friends! The only problem: Mickey, our first sighting, stopped about two tables away and then took a break! Sequoia’s face fell. We told her he probably had to go to the bathroom but would be right back. This in no way detracted from our experience.

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After Mickey returned

Once the characters came by, Sequoia was enamored. We adults were, too! It was precious. The food was good and complemented the experience well.

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Our second visit was with the same group; we chose the restaurant because our experience had been so awesome the first time, and because it was convenient while staying at the Contemporary. Sequoia was 6 for this visit. The characters did not disappoint. This is the perfect restaurant for a day when you’re not visiting the parks, or as breakfast on Day 1 of the parks. We were staying in the Contemporary, making it an easy choice. I am most pleased that we did the dinner on our arrival day.

Cinderella’s Royal Table (Magic Kingdom)

first time meeting Ariel

 

This is pretty much a must-do for a little girl, and the breakfast was phenomenal. It was again the five of us, on our first visit when Sequoia was 4 years old. Four years later, she still remembers waving her wand in the air, Cinderella’s iconic castle, and meeting the princesses. It’s expensive, but it was worth it. Sequoia puts this in her Top 3 restaurants.

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Choosing breakfast was an economical decision that I was glad I made; it was cheaper than dinner but absolutely worth it in both food and interaction.

wdw, disneyworldThe princesses took their time with Sequoia and were patient with everyone taking their own pictures. There was no rush.  The castle is a yes, at least once. For me, this is a Top 3 restaurant experience.

Coral Reef Restaurant (Epcot)

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Exactly.

This one was a dud for all five of us. It might have been a more worthwhile experience if we had been seated by an aquarium, and not a wall. It felt like any average restaurant. The food was not so amazing that it made it worth the visit. Sequoia, age 4 at the time, did enjoy her souvenir cup, but has no recollection of the restaurant. We would not return.

The Crystal Palace (Magic Kingdom)

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I think my mother was as excited to meet the Winnie the Pooh characters as Sequoia was!

Loved this restaurant for lunch. It was the five of us, when Sequoia was 4, on our first visit. To be honest, the best part of this was my mother’s interactions with the characters. It’s centrally located in the park, the buffet was good, it’s pretty inside, and we did not feel rushed. In fact, my mother was revisiting the buffet when Eeyore came by the table and he returned just for her.

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Four years later, Sequoia still remembers her interactions with Eeyore.

Disney’s Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show (‘Ohana at the Polynesian)

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When I was making reservations for our first visit to Disneyworld, there weren’t a lot of options left for a party of five for dinner on the particular night I was seeking. The phone representative for Disney Dining suggested the Polynesian for its food. He was right! In fact, dining reservation agents have almost always been spot on.

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I still recall the dessert, a pineapple upside-down cake; my mouth is watering just thinking about it. Although dinner is not character dining, it is an interactive show that the whole family will enjoy. Patrons can join in the hula dancing. Sequoia, 4 and shy at the time, was not thrilled to be dragged up there, but frankly, that’s part of the memory for me! I would most definitely eat dinner at the Polynesian again if it fit into a future visit. For me, this is a Top 3 restaurant experience.

Dino-Bite Snacks (Animal Kingdom)

Conveniently located, especially for the little ones; good for a quick meal.

Garden View Tea Room

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It made Sequoia’s Top 3 restaurants list, and was very memorable for the grandmother!

I reserved this for my mother and Sequoia; Sequoia was 6 at the time. This was a great experience for the two to share. It’s always a treat to walk into the Grand Floridian. As for the tea party, they both said that the food was good and my mother said that the show and interaction were worth it. The Aurora doll that they gave out was meh, but it didn’t make the experience any less special–they weren’t there for a doll.

The Grand Floridian – see 1900 Park Fare and Garden View Tea Room

The Lunching Pad (Magic Kingdom)

Good for a quick bite to eat.

‘Ohana – see Disney’s Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show

My Disney Girl’s Perfectly Princess Tea Party – see Garden View Tea Room 

Pinocchio Village Haus (Magic Kingdom)

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This was great for a break from walking around the park, simple counter service, and even a fun view of the It’s a Small World ride.

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There was plenty of room at the table for Sequoia, age 4 at the time, to fall asleep!

Planet Hollywood (Downtown Disney)

It’s your typical Planet Hollywood. It’s good for the nostalgic visitor or pop culture fan. It’s not a bad choice for good food and a fun atmosphere, but it’s not unique to Disney.  It was just the two of us and Sequoia, who was 6 at the time, does not remember the visit.

The Polynesian – see Disney’s Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show

Rainforest Café (Animal Kingdom)

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And yes, there was a cold snap!

This is another restaurant that is not unique to Disney.  That said, with a child I would choose this over Planet Hollywood in a heartbeat. It’s fun for the kids. We visited when it was the five of us and Sequoia was 6 years old.  She and her grandparents enjoyed it most.

Sanaa (Animal Kingdom)

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Sequoia, my aunt, and I ate dinner at Sanaa when Sequoia was 5 years old. Sequoia fell asleep during the meal and didn’t get to enjoy her dessert. The meal itself was worth the price for adults. My aunt and I both were pleased with the experience and loved the safari views. Like Boma, part of the enjoyment is just being in the Lodge, walking around looking out the windows.

Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant (Hollywood Studios)

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Cruisin’

This was a fun one. It was the five of us; Sequoia was 6 at the time. She enjoyed the movie and we all got a kick out of eating in a classic car and being served as if we were really in a drive-in theater. In fact, we had one of the best servers of all of our Disney dining experiences.

Shades of Green

The only meal we ate at the military-affiliated resort was breakfast.  We found it more expensive than its offerings merited.  Sequoia, however, loved the Mickey waffles.

Sleeping Beauty Tea Party – See Garden View Tea Room

Tea Party – See Garden View Tea Room 

T-Rex (Downtown Disney)

t-rex, dinosaur restaurant, downtown disney

What to have…

Sequoia and I had lunch at T-Rex when she was 5; she and I ate there with my aunt when Sequoia was 7, as well. She recalls how fun it was, and a little scary when the dinosaurs were active. I would not take a young child there if the child is easily frightened. Sequoia really liked her food. Both times, mine was adequate but not awesome. But you’re not there for the food so much as the atmosphere, and clearly I found enough value to return. This is another of Sequoia’s Top 3 restaurants.

Tusker House (Animal Kingdom) 

Nope. The food was fine, but we had a very (very!) negative experience with Donald. He physically (but gently) pushed Sequoia away when she was hugging him. I don’t know if he needed to fart or sneeze, or just suddenly realized he hated kids. I would not return based on this interaction. Food was fine, though, and the location was convenient.

Yak & Yeti Restaurant (Animal Kingdom) 

Paul, Sequoia, my mother and I ate lunch at Yak & Yeti. Sequoia was 6 at the time. It was pretty good Asian food. Based on the food, I would return. Based on the service, I would hesitate. It was conveniently located by Expedition Everest.

 

SEQUOIA’S MUST-EATS!

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Mickey Waffles

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Mickey Ice Cream

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CUPCAKES!

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Category: Disney stuff, Family Travel, Travel, US Travel

About the Author ()

Kari Martindale is a writer and ESL instructor. She’s visited all 50 states and 37 countries, including many of the big cities of Europe and a ton of Christmas Markets. She spends her days straddling the fence between a sense of adventure and a sense of dread. She is married to what is clearly a patient man and has a daughter who, frustratingly, is just like her. Her academic and professional backgrounds are in linguistics and foreign languages. When she's not teaching ESL, she's writing. When she's not writing, she's thinking about her next trip.

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