Hey everyone! Sorry for not posting through the weekend like I said I would, turns out I was much busier than I expected and stayed longer, and returned with a slight health issue I’m going to get looked at. But I’ll finish everything I said I would! So today’s post was Saturdays’s blog combined with Friday nights. So I’ll break it down to Disney‘s dining and activities tomorrow, soon I’ll post Sunday’s blog and Saturday night’s, and look out for the reviews soon. Let’s get started!
Dining at the Walt Disney World resort is a treat, there are so many options from fast to sit down that if I covered them all, I’d write a book. Let’s get started with ways to dine, when visiting WDW you can put your family on the Disney Dining plan if you are staying in a Disney hotel for multiple nights, add park tickets and make a magic your way vacation package which include many perks. To view all dining plan options attached to the magic your way plans visit the following Disney link: ( https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/planning-guides/in-depth-advice/disney-dining-plan/ ). There are multiple dining plan packages Disney offers, the plan works a lot like game tokens, but for your meals. When you pre-purchase the plan before your arrival, upon check in, your room key (now known as your key to the world with the new electronic systems) will be loaded with points from your select dining plan. The points are divided into different meal types, such as snacks, drinks, full meals, quick service, dessert, etc. When you approach one of the select dining venues included in the plan (around 100 locations are included) you’ll see a purple DP (Dining Plan) logo next to food items included in the plan (not all menu items at select locations are included), depending on the food type it’ll require 1 point of the select category, points are electronically tracked via your room key. If you’re not sure if the location is included, feel free to ask a cast member, but most of the time when you finish your order and proceed to pay you’ll be ask if you’re on the dining plan. How ever there are higher end dining options that will take 2+ more points depending on the food or location (such as Le Cellier at EPCOT) make sure to ask your waiter or waitress if you find your self in one of the luxury dining venues. There are pretty much 3 tiers of the dining plan (and the select added features to each tier). 1) Quick service, the cheapest yet least inclusive one. 2) Dining plan, median price, includes more sit down options, better for families. 3) Deluxe/premium, the most inclusive and literally filling, yet the most pricy. For more information on each tier as well visit a fellow bloggers page (< click on ‘page’) with a great explanation (although if you guys need any trip planning help, shoot me an e-mail)!
During special events such as the food and wine, Disney offers a gift card option you can strap around your wrist and use at each booth so you don’t have to swipe your card each time, (I’ll go further into this later in the article when I cover the food and wine). Gift cards however are a good tool to control your spending at Disney eateries. Eating at Disney can get pricy because you just want to try everything, feel free to try; it is all delicious, so grabbing one of Disney’s refillable gift cards is a great way to watch what you spend. Simply purchase the card at any disney souvenir shop on the Disney property and re-fill it every morning to the amount you want to spend (you can keep track of the balance via the instructions on the card, and soon on the Disney parks magic app). Simply swipe it at any dining location and see how much you spend making it easy to not go over budget, which is very easy, I’ve easily spent over $100 in one day on my own food. Or even without a gift card, simply pre-plan your meals by looking at menu’s and prices on the Disney site and budget accordingly. Keep in mind sales and food tax in central Florida is 7% so $0.07 per dollar. Much like the dining plan, Disney dining venues are divided into categories, from snack carts, quick dinning, sit down casual, buffets, and sit down formal (some of the sit down options including buffets can include character dinning, however these options are much more expensive). The snack and quick dining options are really only in the parks, the resorts offer a good selection of quick meal items such as granola bars and cereal at their respective markets. The parks and resorts offer the majority of the sit down and mostly the resorts offer the formal dinning options. Be aware some of the more formal sit down options inside the parks enforce a dress code that excludes shorts, tanks, flip flops (especially short short’s on girls and women, and above knee shorts for men). Feel free to contact Disney’s dining reservations and information line at 1-(407)-WDW-DINE or 1-(407)-939-3463, their phone lines are open for selected hours, which vary through out the peak and lower seasons, all their times are in east coast time (EST). The dining line can give you plenty of information, and more precise menu items and prices than the website can (some restaurants have seasonal menu’s, hence the website only offers ‘sample’ menus). Now that I’ve covered the ways to dine, let’s cover where to dine.
Disney has 4 parks and countless other guest area’s with many eating options, I’ve been fortunate enough to try a plethora of them in the 40+ times I’ve gone in the last 13 years, 20+ being in the last 2 years. I’ll give you my recommendations by area and park, and my utmost favorites at the end:
Magic Kingdom: Where you’re always a child at heart.
-Snack: The utmost in deliciousness in snacks, the Disney World turkey legs, found through out the park, the best $9-10 you’ll ever spend, try an ice cream as well, it’s great.
-Quick Dining: My utmost favorite quick dining in all the parks is here, go to the sleepy hollow bakery in Liberty Square, the waffle sandwiches are exquisite, they offer an sweet and sour chicken which consists of a huge breast in a great sauce with some kimchi salad in a belgian waffle, then a prosciutto with cheese, salad and a secret sauce is the other savory option and for dessert a nutella and fresh fruit one. These are so big you’ll only eat one and at around $7 it is the cheapest and best lunch (they are only served until 5). Post 5 head over to Casey’s corner on Main Street for a banging hot dog and corn dogs.
Sit Down Casual: I love the Pecos Bill tavern in Frontier Land/Adventure Land, they serve some rocking food, if not head over to Fantasy land for lunch or reservation needed dinner at the new Be Our Guest restaurant inside Beast’s castle. The food is fantastic and french inspired with options from croque monsieur to slow roasted meats, really a fantastic experience and food.
Sit Down Formal: Magic Kingdom doesn’t actually have any sit down formal venues, diner at Be Our Guest as well as Cinderella’s Royal Table would be the closest, Cinderella’s table can be found inside the castle, its entrance will be in the back gate of it by fantasy land, but can come with a royal price.
Buffet/Character Dinning: The Crystal Palace on Main Street USA is the only in park buffet, it is known for its breakfast and offers a fantastic opportunity to dine with many of your favorite characters accompanied with savory American style dishes. For the princess in the family Cinderella’s royal table also offers character dining experience in a fairy tale setting.
Other Recommendations: Definitely try a Dole Whip, this pineapple float is exquisite and helps cool you down! Try it by the Main Street USA entrance to Adventureland. Disney now also has a Starbucks on property on Main Street USA replacing the main street bakery, but for those who loved the dessert’s don’t be sad, most items survived the reno but are now scattered across the park at different eateries.
EPCOT: The food junkie paradise around the world.
Snack: There are no stand out snacks here for me, but why not munch on some popcorn, or a Mickey ears ice cream? EPCOT is more about meals than snacks, but to refresh head over to the Coca Cola cool zone by the fountain of the nations and try some international coke products for FREE! Some are repulsive but to hit the spot try the Israeli lemon-lime soda which taste almost exactly like American Sprite!
Quick Dining: One of my favorite quick dining options in all of the Disney Property is the German food window at the Germany Pavilion, a nice huge frankfurter with loads or sauerkraut some mustard, and as you all know, my favorite German potato salad makes an unforgettable and filling delicious fast lunch or even quick dinner. For dessert I head over to the bakery in the France pavilion to grab a quick macaroon, my favorite French dessert, and Disney’s packs a punch being filled with pastry cream, fresh fruit, and jelly like other common ones. TIP: At quick dinning and sit down casual locations don’t be afraid to as for a CUP of water, it’s free, comes with ice, it’s huge and it makes you feel better that you didn’t spend that $2.50 on a Dasani bottle.
Sit Down Casual: I highly enjoy a great falafel pita at the Merkadesh Market in Morocco, it comes with a fantastic chilled couscous salad (next time you’re at a restaurant and see couscous salad ask if it’s served warm or chilled to impress your servers). One of my new favorites is at the new sit down restaurant in Japan, it has an amazing chicken curry that is plentiful and delicious, and what better place to unwind from those lines than a zen like secluded garden complete with a waterfall and lanterns? Try it at night for a truly magical experience combined with the Japanese drum show which is a must see. For a fantastic authentic Italian experience head over to the Wine Cellar at the Italy pavilion, where you step into an old school cellar filled with tapas style bites and great wines.
Sit Down Formal: This is where EPCOT excels, the flavors of the parks formal eateries are extraordinary, I’ve had better steak here than I’ve had at many legendary Miami restaurants. Luckily I’ve been able to try many, most recently Le Cellier (review coming soon, but definitely make a reservation). EPCOT’s formal options are more adult oriented, so they require a bit more of formal wear and are much more intimate, but much more expensive, be ready to spend 50+ per person at these. I’ve dined at the ex Bistro de Paris, now Chef Paul’s, and it was exquisite, the flavors were bold and outstanding, service was perfect, the atmosphere cozy like dinning in the living room of a French family’ home in Paris. Le Cellier had the best filet mignon and pork tenderloin I’ve ever tried, combined with Canadian classics like poutine with a red wine twist, and some risotto that is out of this world. When dining here prepare to spend, but be aware your pallid will splurge with you.
Buffet/Character Dining: My utmost favorite buffet is that of the Germany pavilion, for 30 some dollars you get to take a trip to a rural German village environment, with a traditional music band and even better food. Head over to Norway for a buffet style princess dinning experience, combined with some Norwegian classics from cold salmon to fine pasta’s.
Other Recommendations: Fish and chips in the UK are fantastic, the sweet and sour pork in China with spinach noodles is a star, and for more classic park style dining head over to the Future World area and grab some great food at the Electric Umbrella or Season’s in the Land Pavilion. Why not end your day with a funnel cake at the USA pavilion?
TIP: Ride test track and mission space BEFORE you eat, unless you want to empty the tank and eat again.
Hollywood Studios: The glitz and glam of a by-gone era of hollywood combined with the modern technology of special effects.
Snack: Head over to Sunset Boulevard and grab a quick snack at the sunset ranch market under the shadow of the Hollywood Tower Hotel, or eat from a huge dinosaur on Echo lake. Like the other parks there really only are classic snacks here such as popcorn and ice cream.
Quick Dining: Head to the back lot area of the park near the studio tour ride entrance and you’ll find the Studio Cafeteria/Catering Co. A classic window service to quickly grab some grub and sit down to eat or take it walking. Also try the coffee shop in the Streets Of America area, it’s right where that area meets the Commissary Lane, it is very cozy even on a full day because most people cannot find its hidden door, it offers a Starbucks style shop with some classic Disney programing and shopping, it’s my favorite little corner of the park, they also serve some great hot chocolate in the winter.
Sit Down Casual: ABC’s Commissary Cafe offers classic American fast fare in a studio style setting with props from ABC shows like modern family and once upon a time. Or go over to the 50’s prime time cafe by Echo Lake and enjoy some classic American dishes like meatloaf and pasta, both of these are very casual but nice to eat at. And for a novelty dining head over to the famous pizza planet from Disney’s Toy Story by the muppets ride.
Sit Down Formal: Hollywood Studio’s does not offer very formal options like EPCOT, my favorite more formal like places would be the Sci-Fi Dine-In, perhaps one of the most unique dining experiences on property. Jump back in time and sit in old school Cadillac style cars turned dining tables in an old sound stage now themed as an outdoor night time drive-in playing black and white classics as if you were really there, even head to the back and grab some snacks from the booth for your table, this is an Ian MUST DO! For the most formal eatery head to the Brown Derby for some formal dining American Style.
Buffet/Character Dining: Hollywood and Vine, is fantastic! For around 30 dollars including drinks, dine on some fantastic food options from lobster mac and cheese to chipotle orange chicken, top it off with a chocolate fountain and great desserts with an ice cream machine and you got an amazing lunch or diner. For the little one’s this is also the only character dining on site, offering lunch with the Disney junior (ex playhouse Disney) characters.
TIP: Ride everything before eating or well after, Hollywood Studio’s ride can really shake you up!
Animal Kingdom: Where the animals of past, present and imaginary roam free.
Snack: Like the other parks, there is no stand-out snack here for me, it’s all very normal. This is the park I spend the least time in, yet highly enjoy? Animal Kingdom shows that it’s not about quantity but about quality. There are many snack carts along the bridges of Discovery Island, but with the giant tree of life in your face, you won’t be looking for food.
Quick Dining: Head over to Asia for the Yak and Yeti dining windows outside for some great asian inspired take out which tastes fantastic! But can be pricey, but hey your view is the Himalayas so you can’t complain. If Asian isn’t your think take a stroll over to Africa (don’t hear that everyday) to the Tamu Tamu windows for an awesome African barbecue style sandwich with some cucumber salad, or many other fast dinning options with an African kick.
Sit Down Casual: Yak and yeti offers a sit down casual experience for lunch that highlights Asian cuisine, the line’s can get lengthy though. Or stroll to Dinoland USA to restaurantosaurus and eat some fast American style food in an excavation site camp! Unless you’re hungry for some barbecue, in that case follow the smell to the flame tree barbecue and grab some delicious grub and sit at one of the surrounding tables.
Sit Down Formal: The most formal you’ll get is the later hours of the yak and yeti, be aware that due to the nature of the nature in the park, Animal Kingdom closes at 6pm so a dinner service isn’t really offered which is normally when the formality kicks in. Or head over to the rainforest cafe by the parks entrance for a wild dining experience, open till later.
Buffet/Character Dining: The tusker house restaurant in Africa is great, and offers an African style buffet combined with character dining, make reservations as getting in can be tough without them. I’ve never eaten here, but have heard it is great.
Look out for more intense strange dinning options in the future as Avatar Land has kicked off construction.
That pretty much covers dinning at the parks! So much info! I’ll give you a run down of dining at the resorts and Downtown Disney, the other Disney area’s.
Downtown Disney: The urban side of the kingdom.
Snack: So many options! But head over to Ghirardelli on the Market Place side for some great desserts and quick sweets the brand is known for. Munch on a pretzel from Wetzel’s pretzels and wash it down with a milkshake from Haggen Daaz next door at the West Side area.
Quick Dining: Grab some fast chicken dishes over at Pollo Campero on market side, some great hispanic inspired food in a Mcdonald’s style atmosphere (this used to be one actually). There you can also grab some pastries or smoothies! One of my favorite new fast food chains is Earl of Sandwich, found at the Market Place side, offers a new twist on subs, such as serving them on biscuit bread buns and with wild flavors like hawaiian barbecue and more! They also carry things like parfaits, and bite size desserts as a quick snack.
Sit Down Casual: Downtown is the king of sit down dining! Hit the hippest bowling lanes in the area at Splitsville and grab some awesome food from burgers to sushi at their restaurant (very good stuff!). Relive the blues era at the House of Blues by the Cirque du Soleil tent on the West Side area. Or if music isn’t your thing, explore great movie memorabilia at the Planet Hollywood restaurant, one of the few left standing and perhaps one of the best, take an escalator into the giant earth themed sphere sitting on the lagoon into a movie extravaganza! Dining options at downtown are endless.
Sit Down Formal: So many options here too, feel the latin flavor with Gloria Estefan at one of the few Bongos restaurants in the world at the West Side area, taste some authentic Cuban cuisine and dance the night away with some salsa, and I mean the food and dance. Feeling more like a calming formal experience? No problem Downtown delivers with places like Wolfgan Puck Cafe with some great options from the world renowned chef, or jump to the now empty Pleasure Island for Paradiso 37 and grab some great latin food with a great atmosphere. If not at the crossroads of Pleasure Island and Market Place you’ll find Fulton’s crab house on a huge old style Mississippi river boat, for some great seafood classics.
Unique Dining: Downtown does not offer buffets or character dining, so they have unique experiences. Jump into the wild at the Rainforest cafe, one of its 2 Disney locations (the other being Animal Kingdom), dine with elephants, monkeys, birds (all animatronics) and live fish, and enjoy some great tropical inspired cuisine. If the jungle isn’t your thing head back in time at T-rex, much like rainforest but highlighting dinosaur and extinct creatures instead of jungle crawlers, You can’t miss either of these one’s a smoking volcano, the other is a mountain with a dinosaur on it. For the Adults why not enjoy a movie in a recliner with table service? Go to AMC’s fork and screen experience at downtown by planet hollywood and dine while you watch current hit movies. Or grab a been at the pub by Pleasure Island, get some light courses and plenty of booze and late night celtic bands and drinking games.
Walt Disney Resort/Hotels: Love to stay here, love to eat here.
Quick Dining: The best quick dinning is on the Boardwalk area, one of my favorite areas on property. Grab a slice of pizza at the window or a cupcake at the bakery. All resorts offer a quick dinning option so I won’t elaborate on those. If you find yourself here in Christmas head over to the Grand Floridian and get a ginger bread roof shingle from the world’s largest gingerbread house!
Sit Down Casual: Many favorites, from the sushi bar at the Polynesian to the old school ice cream parlor at the Beach club. Head over to Beaches and Cream at the Beach club resort and grab a sink-full of ice cream and many other classics here with the whole family. Into sports? Head to the ESPN experience at the Boardwalk and get some bar style grub and watch the football game in a unique sporting themed dining room. Most hotels also contain a sit down casual restaurant, my other favorite would be the Maya Grill at the Coronado Springs resort.
Sit Down Formal: Disney Shines in this category, literally. Experience the only 5 diamond rated restaurant in the state at the Grand Floridian, Victoria and Alberts for a pricy tag offer a pallid pleasing dining experience envied by the finest restaurants around the world. The multi course dinner will set you back a hefty amount, but you’ll never forget it. For an even more unique experience, book the chef’s table and get personalized style meals and watch this live kitchen prepare the utmost finest cuisine there is. If you want a more laid back experience head over to Boardwalk to Food Network’s Cat Cora’s Kouzzina, or one of the many luxury options at Disney’s Swan and Dolphin resorts. You can’t miss those structures, just look out for the teal pyramid piercing the sky and in this fantastic I.M. Pei designed structures you’ll find fine dinning and lodging.
Buffet/Character/Unique Dining: Visit the Polynesian resort for my favorite buffet, Ohana, a unique Hawaiian style steak heavy buffet, think of it as a South Pacific Texas de Brazil. The flavors here are fantastic and around 9-10 pm, depending on the night, enjoy watching the Magic Kingdom’s firework show, Wishes! Also at the Polynesian enjoy a great dinner show including fire twirlers. Not into Hawaii? no problem, head over to the Fort Wilderness campgrounds for the longest running dinner show in the US, the Hoopty Doo Review, get your reservations quick! If not visit its adjoining buffet for some Southern comfort food. Perhaps the most famous character dining experience is at the Contemporary Resort, Chef Mickey’s offers a great American style buffet and experience. Wanna jump into the wild? Go to the Animal Kingdom lodge to Boma and dine on the finest African buffet which will not disappoint for either breakfast or dinner.
I’m going to stop there for restaurant recommendations, or else I’d be here all year! Feel free to contact me for customized dinning options if you wish. There are so many dinning options I didn’t even cover that it’s ridiculous! So now that I’ve covered the how and where, lets cover the When ad special dining events. Disney offers many dining events:
Special night and holiday dining packages: Disney offers a variety of dinning packages around their yearly and nightly events. For the Magic Kingdom enjoy a VIP dessert party with a special viewing area of the castle for the nightly firework show. At EPCOT book a special restaurant dinner package to then enjoy the nightly Reflections: Celebration of Earth! Firework show from a special viewing area. During the holiday’s EPCOT offers dining packages including VIP seats to the nightly candlelight processional, where celebrities read the nativity story and feature local choirs singing Christmas hymns. At Hollywood Studios book a unique dining experience that places you at the back of the Fantasmic! Theater to eat and watch that awesome show! There are many other experiences offered with the food and wine I’ll cover in the next section. Once again for more details contact me or search the Disney site.
International Food and Wine Festival at EPCOT: My favorite of all the events, for a month in late fall, normally Septembers end until Novembers beginnings, EPCOT pulls all the strings for an amazing unique dining event found no where else. Taste the cuisine of over 20+ nations prepared by chefs from their respective nation and staffed by them as well. From Greece to Singapore and the standard 11 nations found at EPCOT everyday, taste the world and drink it too! This year’s (2013) will be the longest and largest, from September 27-November 11. To enter this event you will require a standard park admission, and all food bites are separately priced from $2 to $5 per ‘bite’ (most range in the $3 area, the ‘bites’ are much larger than you think and pretty filling). I personally budget $60 to fully enjoy myself and pig out all day here. My favorites from last year have to be the shrimp tacos from Mexico, lettuce wraps from S. Korea, sushi from Japan, cheese from Greece, cake from Ireland, sausage from Canada, fondue from the cheese booth, lamb from Australia, and steak from South Africa. This event also brings along many VIP style dining events, ranging from private tastings from chefs to a chocolate/dessert party in event tents at night, but are charged extra. Many Food Network chef’s do demonstrations and many Disney chef’s as well. It really is worth a visit, I go yearly at least once, if not 3-4 times…
Flower and Garden festival at EPCOT: I told you EPCOT is a food junkie paradise! The flower and garden festival runs in the spring time and as of this year includes food booths in the style of food and wine making it a food event as well! However the food here is very different, from Florida classics, to vegetarian and vegan booths. Both festivals utilize a wrist held tiny gift card you load with your money and swipe at each location, securing your actual card doesn’t get frozen and you don’t have to bother with your wallet, they can be ‘purchased’ (there’s no charge for them) at any EPCOT gift shop or food booth during either of the festivals.
Star Wars Weekends: This isn’t a real foodie event, but! It brings some fun food to the Hollywood Studio’s park, from R2D2 shaped mugs and containers to Star Wars themed cupcakes and all, it’s more of a novelty event for the force fan in you. The weekends vary from year to year but often occur in the early summer.
Christmas: The holiday inspired events vary from park to park, in Magic Kingdom go to Mickey’s very merry christmas event at night for gingerbread and hot chocolate. Visit the deluxe resorts for stunning gingerbread displays from a carousel to full scale small house. Visit EPCOT to see how the world celebrates this time of year, and how they eat it as well! Or go to Hollywood Studio’s or Animal Kingdom for some lighter themed eats but plenty of holiday spirit. Many restaurants tweak their menu’s seasonally so you’re in for a different meal than before every year.
If you’re a Passholder or a Disney Visa member, ask if you get a discount! You’ll be surprised!
Every Day: Every day is a great day to dine at the Disney World resort, with over 50+ options you’ll never eat the same thing (I only repeat by choice!). Everyday is a new adventure for you at the happiest place on Earth and I hope I was able to guide you on your choices and your stomach! I hope you enjoyed reading my ultimate guide to Disney Dinning. Visit Disney’s website for more detailed info on each place or the dinning plan, or call their restaurant line. There’s so much I didn’t even cover, I could make a textbook if I covered them all! Look for more of the Disney series soon, sorry this is a week late! I will finish it soon guys and then go back to my Europe trip and elaborate from viewer demand! E-mail me guys! please I encourage you too, I’m happy to help! I’m also launching my trip planning services for my blog readers and to everyone soon. Contact my blog e-mail for more. Be on a look out for more guys! Adventure is out there!