In this full-course book about dining at Walt Disney World, you'll learn how to master the Disney Dining Plan and get a taste of what's on the plate at Disney World's never-ending variety of food venues, from snack stands and quick service to signature restaurants and dinner shows.
Eating stress-free at Walt Disney World requires planning—just as much planning as it took to get you to the park in the first place. The victuals in the most magical place on earth are vast and varied; it's easy to feel overwhelmed, and to just settle for wherever you can find a table. You can do better!
Theme park veteran (and former Disneyland VIP Tour Guide) Andrea Keech breaks down your dining options into short, digestible chapters, with extensive coverage of the often confusing Disney Dining Plan. In addition, she shares proven tips and methods for getting the Advanced Dining Reservations you can't do without, how to eat where you want even if you don't have a reservation, and why Disney never holds a table in your name, even if you do have a reservation.
Sure, you've come for the mouse, but it's the meals you'll remember. All the ingredients for the very best dining experiences at Walt Disney World are right here at your fingertips.
Chapter 1: Digesting the Disney Dining Plan
Chapter 2: About the Dining Reviews
Chapter 3: Magic Kingdom, Part One: Main Street, U.S.A., Adventureland, and Frontierland
Chapter 4: Magic Kingdom, Part Two: Liberty Square, Fantasyland, and Tomorrowland
Chapter 5: Epcot, Part One: Future World, United Kingdom, Canada, France, Morocco, and American Adventure
Chapter 6: Epcot, Part Two: Italy, China, Germany, Norway, and Mexico
Chapter 7: Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Part One: The Oasis, Discovery Island, Africa, and Rafiki's Planet Watch
Chapter 8: Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Part Two: Asia, Pandora, and DinoLand U.S.A.
Chapter 9: Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Part One: Hollywood Boulevard, Echo Lake, and Muppet Courtyard
Chapter 10: Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Part Two: Pixar Place, Commissary Lane, Animation Courtyard, and Sunset Boulevard
Chapter 11: Disney’s BoardWalk
Chapter 12: Disney Springs, Part One: Marketplace and The Landing
Chapter 13: Disney Springs, Part Two: Town Center and West Side
Chapter 14: Unique and Signature Dining: The Best of the Disney Resort Hotels
Chapter 15: Dinner Shows and Character Meals: The Best of the Disney Resort Hotels
Chapter 16: Getting Hard-to-Get ADRs: Twelve Tremendous Tips
Why in the Walt Disney World would you need to spend any of your valuable leisure time preparing six months ahead of your vacation for exactly where, when, and what you plan to eat on your much-anticipated visit to the Most Magical Place on Earth? The fact that you’d even ask means you desperately need help—and fast! Without doing your homework many months before the first day of your trip, you’ll miss out on some of the best experiences that can make a vacation at Walt Disney World so memorable.
If you have never visited Walt Disney World, or if it’s been awhile since your last visit, you’ll be surprised to discover how important it is these days to make Advance Dining Reservations. That’s right, the phrase is capitalized and even has its own acronym: ADRs. Securing ADRs has become almost an art form. People across the country, and indeed the world, have their eager fingers poised above their keyboards ready to hit the “submit” button at the stroke of 6:00 a.m. Orlando time on the first day they are allowed to book those critical reservations. Don’t be left out! This guide will ensure that you have the best chance to dine when and wherever you want.
Sampling entirely new flavors and cuisines, participating in one-of-a-kind themed dining experiences, and enjoying some of those unique Disney snacks only available at Walt Disney World will add significantly to how much you and your family enjoy yourselves. It’s surprising how much a character meal, dinner show, or a memorable dinner will add to the pleasure and enjoyment of your vacation.
Some guides jump back and forth like a pinball between the four theme parks (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, Disney’s Hollywood Studios), the Disney resort hotels, the BoardWalk, and Disney Springs. You’re left spinning and overwhelmed. These guides are often divided into sections like “best kids meals” or “great snacks.” You need to flip back and forth a thousand times comparing offerings among the various venues. As far as I’m concerned, that’s not the easiest nor most useful way to get a good sense of where you’ll want to eat on any given day of your vacation. As a Disneyland Tour Guide and VIP Hostess throughout college, I learned the importance of organizing any visit one area at a time. You’ll be in one place at a time, not twenty, and that’s exactly how this simple, informative guide is organized.
I won’t often tell you what I like to eat because maybe, probably, you and I differ on our preferences. When a member of the wait staff says, “I’d suggest the scallops tonight—they’re excellent,” that doesn’t help me because scallops are never my choice. Likewise, when a reviewer advises trying the fresh sashimi (raw fish) at Morimoto Asia, count me out. Honestly, I don’t care what someone else likes; I want to know what a particular place has on its menu that I might like. A guide that gives you just one or two ideas from a menu, usually what the writer ate, simply isn’t enough information to inform my decision.
While I won’t list entire menus (you can see those online easily), I will tell you the types of foods, preparation styles, and special experiences you can expect at any given place. Food critics who detail just one meal at a restaurant miss the other fifty things I’d be willing to try before I’d ever choose the charred octopus or goat cheese ravioli. Therefore, I’ll give you a very good idea of what you’ll find at the many Walt Disney World places to dine. You decide which places have menu selections that are likely to please most members of your party.
Not only that, I’ve found some guides to be so extensive that unless you’re only going to Disney World to eat, and you’re not, they’re too unwieldy to navigate and contain more information than you could use in two lifetimes. There’s a limit to how many hundreds of pages you can wade through and how many hundreds of hours you’re prepared to spend searching for relevant bits and pieces of information online. How much time are you willing to devote to sifting through the scattered entries of individual restaurants and evaluating the confusing array of websites?
It would take months to uncover for yourself all of the information I’ve put right here at your fingertips. I’d like to make your search for great food easy. It simply shouldn’t require you to spend days, weeks, or months figuring out your vacation meals. Those of us who live in the real world are too busy with work and family to devote that kind of time to meal planning!
Whether your trip is an adults-only romantic getaway or a kid-friendly romp with an emphasis on the toddlers, tadpoles, tweens, or teens in the family, you will need to do some background research and make those key dining reservations six months in advance. Yes, you heard that last bit right: six months ahead of time. A full 180 days (and make that 180+10—see chapter 16, Twelve Tremendous Tips) before your vacation starts, you need to have your fingers poised above the screen on your iPhone, iPad, or computer. Be ready to go the second you are allowed to do so because every other savvy guest you’ll be rubbing shoulders with during your upcoming vacation will be doing the exact same thing and doing it at the exact same moment.
Planning matters (more than you ever thought possible) when it comes to dining at Disney World, but it can be done with a reasonable effort. That’s where this guide will help you. It will group the many choices into manageable sections you can skim quickly. It will highlight the best places to dine that will satisfy all members of your party.
You are on vacation to enjoy the attractions and the ambience, true, but without some sustenance, it’s going to be a very rocky—and hungry—road, my friends. If you’ve ever been desperate to find a decent place to eat while starving children, famished teenagers, or peckish grandparents are complaining loudly in your ear and your own stomach is rumbling uncomfortably, you’ll appreciate how much knowing where you are going, when you need to arrive there, and what you can expect to eat at those three meals a day can make the difference between unfortunate family feuds and happy tummies that will allow your group to continue on its merry way.
Look around at those families who didn’t plan ahead like you to appreciate the value of having a workable meal-time itinerary. Those families aren’t difficult to find. They’re the ones with the tears, howls, and loud harrumphs. Luckily, that won’t be you and your family.
Whether it’s sitting down to Mickey waffles, bacon, and scrambled eggs with the kids at the Polynesian’s ’Ohana character breakfast, complete with a rollicking meet-and-greet session with Lilo, Stitch, Mickey, and Pluto, or toasting your sweetheart with vintage champagne at the Grand Floridian’s ultra-luxurious Victoria and Albert’s while savoring the 10-course chef’s tasting menu, careful planning ahead for your dining pleasure is absolutely key. Without some preparation, memorable meals at the best places in the resort with those you love best simply won’t happen.
Don’t get me wrong. There will be plenty of time during your visit for spontaneity, for grabbing something delicious on-the-go and savoring it as you head for the next attraction or shop for souvenirs. As long as you’think ahead and make a plan, however, you won’t miss out on some of the best dining options at Walt Disney World.
As Napoleon Bonaparte observed, “An army marches on its stomach.” Well, so does a vacationer, and you have a lot of marching ahead of you. Now, dig in and let’s get started!
Andrea McGann Keech grew up in southern California. Andrea and husband Ron met at Occidental College and were married in San Francisco. Ron graduated from the University of California at San Francisco Medical School, and Andrea finished college at the University of San Francisco. They lived in Portland, Oregon, for six years and then moved to Iowa City where he was a professor of medicine and surgeon in the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Iowa for twenty-two years until his death. Their children Elizabeth and Robert made them very proud and very happy parents. Liz is an attorney, and Rob is a dentist.
Andrea taught students in English and Spanish in grades K-12 during her teaching career. She was a member of the National Assessment of Educational Progress Committee that established Writing Standards, 2011–2018, for students in grades 3–12. She has written for a variety of national educational journals and presented often at teaching conferences, but the most gratifying aspect of her work, by far, was seeing her students succeed. Andrea lives in Iowa City with Shadow and Sunny, two wild and crazy standard poodles. Her most fulfilling role is that of playing Mary Poppins to beloved grandchildren Katherine and Drew and spending time with baby grandson William.
Her other Disney books include The Cream of the Crop: Tour Guide Tales from Disneyland’s Golden Years, The Indulgent Grandparent’s Guide to Walt Disney World, and Treasure of the Ten Tags: A Disneyland Adventure, all published by Theme Park Press.
This book isn't an English muffin, but it still features every nook and cranny of the often-complex Disney Dining Plan, and how you can get the most of it.
Originally, the Disney Dining Plan was offered as part of a holiday package at Walt Disney World. It proved to be so popular that it became a regular offering. At first, guests were delighted with the great value they received for the affordable price. Over the years, that value has eroded. Costs for the dining plans have risen to the point where you must be very sure you will take full advantage of your plan for it to make fiscal sense.
Before beginning an in-depth consideration of the merits of the Disney Dining Plan, there is something you should keep in mind: Disney is very definitely a for-profit corporation and doesn’t make business decisions that will cause the company to lose money. The Disney Dining Plan has its pluses and minuses, but it is not intended to lose money for the organization. That said, in the first part of this guide we will consider the merits of the various Disney dining plans based on your specific needs and preferences.
Some visitors purchase these dining plans year after and year and are satisfied they are getting good value and convenience for the cost, while others count up hundreds of dollars they’ve wasted by purchasing dining plans for the family and say “never again.” You’ll need to carefully evaluate the type of consumer you are in order to determine whether or not the Disney Dining Plan makes good sense for you.
Still interested in learning more? Then let’s proceed. These dining plans are only available to those guests staying on the grounds of Walt Disney World in one of the many Disney hotels and who book a Magic Your Way vacation package. I highly recommend that you do stay in Disney accommodations. That decision will save you a tremendous amount of time, and there are rooms available at many price levels, from deluxe suites to budget-friendly rooms to campsites. The expansive resort encompasses over 27,000 acres, and staying off-property adds significantly to your travel times to and from the resort every day.
If you decide to stay in two different Disney hotels during your stay at Walt Disney World, and this can be a great way to experience the best of what each hotel has to offer, then you must purchase two separate Disney dining plans. This would be a chance for you to try one of the dining plans for part of your vacation while you stay at one hotel and then eat on your own without a dining plan during the second part of the vacation at a second hotel. See which way you like best.
Continued in "Walt Disney World Dining Guide 2018"!
Not only is this book the most comprehensive guide to Walt Disney World dining on the market, it's also the most up to date. It's even got Pandora!
The newest addition to the Animal Kingdom opened on May 27, 2017. The land is inspired by James Cameron’s Avatar, released in 2009 and still the highest-grossing film to date. It consists of two attractions, the Avatar Flight of Passage and the Na’vi River Journey. On the first, you’ll catch a ride on a banshee for a 3D viewing experience. The second is a gentle, scenic river tour through an alien paradise, but the scenery will be entirely alien. You can also hike through the unearthly Mo’ara Valley to glimpse floating mountains and glowing plants and animals. You’ll find some new and fun places to eat here, both casual. There’s a lounge with drinks and snacks as well as a quick-service restaurant with fare different from anywhere else in Walt Disney World. If you’ve never had passion fruit boba balls sitting on top of your food and drinks, get ready!
Pandora is just getting started, but you’ll already find some unusual, one-of-a-kind snacks here. Telyu gummi candy is supposed to be a source of protein for the inhabitants of Pandora, but this candy is all sugar—dragon fruit, lemon, and fruit punch—and looks like garden-variety grubs on a stick. Celia fruit gummi candy tastes suspiciously like earthly strawberries. Kids will have fun with them. Pandoran tree spores are actually just brownie bites covered with purple or blue coconut. The Expedition Trail Mix looks just like ordinary trail mix. The same goes for Pandoran sugar crystals on a stick. The blueberry almond popcorn is mostly notable because it’s blue. One item to buy more for its looks than its flavor is the pretty Vein Pod—krispy treats have made their way across the galaxy. The pods are large enough to share and covered in white chocolate tinted green with lacy veins of regular chocolate. Don’t expect to find churros and popcorn in Pandora.
DDP: One Credit (S) / Cost: $
Type: Na’vi; Quick Service; Drinks and Snacks
Translated from Na’vi as “Party Party,” Pongu Pongu is a tucked-away quick-service restaurant just across the walkway from the Satu’li Canteen. It’s run by “a friendly expat” who visited Avatar and never returned. Find “out-of-this-world” drinks topped with pretty passion fruit boba balls. There are several non-alcoholic fruity drinks and many cocktails sold here, some of them glowing with their own bioluminescence. Pricy souvenir mugs boost the price, but you get a glowing unadelta seed on top of your drink. A new treat to try here is the pongo lupia, based on street food in the Philippines and Indonesia, that combines a sweet cream cheese and pineapple filling that’s encased in a crispy, egg-roll-type outside. Pair them with Hawkes’ Grog Ale, aka bright green beer, if you’re feeling particularly adventurous.
DDP: One Credit (Q) / Cost: $
Type: Na’vi;. Quick Service; Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner
The restaurant resembles an old Quonset hut, a galactic outpost where you can refresh and refuel the members of your expedition. As soon as you arrive, try the latest My Disney Experience app on your iPhone or other mobile device to order your food, thus saving time waiting in line to place your order. Pay online, too. You’ll receive a notification once it’s ready, and you’ll pick it up at the “Mobile Order Pick Up” sign. Because Satu’li Canteen is “owned and operated by Alpha Centauri Expeditons,” the emphasis is on the fresh, natural bounty of Pandora.
Breakfast features pretty standard fare, considering it’s in Pandora: steel-cut oatmeal, fresh fruit plate, French toast, steak and eggs, and other items. Mickey Check meals for kids include oatmeal or a traditional breakfast. A wide assortment of beverages will start the day right.
Lunch and dinner mostly feature bowls with a protein (chicken, beef, fish, or cheeseburger bao buns), a grain, and a vegetable component . Mickey Check meals for kids are smaller versions. It’s worth noting that the vegetarian options are more creative than usual: chili spiced and crispy fried tofu or vegetable filled, steamed bao buns, both served with crispy veggie chips and veggie slaw with creamy dressing. Those fancy, colorful, other-worldly drinks from Pongu Pongu are on the menu here as well, in case you missed them.
Don’t expect everything to look familiar on Pandora. The blueberry cream cheese mousse with passion fruit curd resembles a work of (Na’vian) art. The same goes for a gorgeous, rounded chocolate cake with banana cream, goji berries, and a cookie. Out of this world!
Continued in "Walt Disney World Dining Guide 2018"!