Like so many aspects of a Walt Disney World vacation, dining can be a little more complicated. For a first-time visitor, the flurry of Disney dining lingo and rules can be overwhelming. It can be so overwhelming, you may just opt for fast food. Resist this easy option. WDW has some of the most delicious and immersive restaurants you can experience on vacation. To make planning your meals a little easier, we’ve put together 10 common dining Q&As. We hope it inspires you to embrace your inner foodie!
1. Do I Need a Reservation?
For most restaurants, you will need a reservation. (We are referring to sit-down restaurants with a wait staff.) You can make dining reservations on the Disney World website or by calling 407-WDW-DINE (3463). If utilizing an Authorized Disney Vacation Planner, they can handle this on your behalf. Reservations can be made up to 60 days in advance and for many restaurants, you’re encouraged to make them as soon as possible. Additionally, if you’re staying in a Disney World hotel, you can make reservations for your entire stay at the 60-day mark. Please note though, you do need a ticket/park pass reservation to dine inside a park. If not visiting one, you can still dine at Disney World hotels and Disney Springs where no admission is required.
2. What if I Can’t Get a Reservation?
We’ve all been there. You set your heart on a dinner. You even stalk the menu ahead of time and alas, there is no availability. And sadly, some Disney restaurants are so popular, they book up quickly. Luckily, there are a couple of options. Many restaurants have something called a day-of “Walk-Up List”. This is a virtual stand-by line you can join through the My Disney Experience app. (If going this route, you’ll want to join the virtual line before it reaches capacity.) You can also stop by the restaurant itself and ask the host if/how long a standby wait is. And lastly, stalking the My Disney Experience app for a reservation to pop up can pay off. Plans change with Florida locals and tourists alike, so don’t give up on that coveted Be Our Guest dinner too quickly. (On that note, remember to cancel reservations you don’t need or can’t make. You could be charged a fee for no-shows or late cancellations.)
3. What is the Mask Policy at Restaurants?
While Disney World has recently relaxed its outdoor mask policy, masks remain in indoor locations. This means that you won’t need a mask to wait in line for the popcorn cart, but you will need one to enter an indoor restaurant. Disney’s current policy requires that guests keep their masks on, even while sitting unless actively eating or drinking. Recent visitors have found that the policy isn’t unreasonable. (Disney isn’t expecting you to put your mask on in between bites.) However, they are encouraging you to wear your mask until your food and drinks arrive. When in doubt, wear your mask inside, but don’t let it prevent you from eating some yummy food!
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4. Can My Kids Have a Meal with Mickey?
Yes! While every character meal hasn’t returned, they are slowly but surely coming back. (Keep in mind that the character dining experiences are somewhat modified.) Currently, characters are making appearances for distanced photos and interactions. Despite that, the magic is still there with joyful parades and pre-autographed cards for the whole family! You can now book a character breakfast or dinner at Chef Mickey’s and a character breakfast at Toppolino’s Terrace. Chef Mickey’s has remained a beloved standard for years. It boasts an ideal location within the Contemporary Resort atrium and a menu of family-friendly dishes. On the other hand, Toppolino’s Terrace is a newer venue. Sitting atop the recently opened Riviera Resort, this restaurant offers more sophisticated meals, even in a breakfast setting. Most importantly, Mickey and friends appear at both restaurants. So, if your little one has their heart set on seeing Mickey, these are reservations to snag.
5. Are There Any “Date Night” Restaurants?
For a family-centered resort, Disney World also has some of the most romantic locales. Whether you’re traveling without kids or you want a date night, you can book a Signature Dining location. Disney classifies a number of their restaurants as ‘Signature’ dining experiences, which means that the décor, menu, and ambiance are more on the sophisticated side. Popular (and amorous) restaurants include the California Grill, Le Cellier, and The Hollywood Brown Derby. No matter what you select, all Signature locations are known for delicious cuisine, inventive cocktails, and a meal that gives you a break from the theme park hustle. Booking at least one Signature meal per trip is highly recommended.
6. Are Buffets Being Offered?
Ordinarily, self-serve buffets are a Disney World staple. In a post-pandemic world though, changes had to be made. Restaurants that formerly served buffet-style food, are taking a different approach. Modeling other venues, they are serving all-you-can-eat platters that consist of the most popular dishes. (Some places, like The Liberty Tree Tavern, have been serving food like this for years.) So, while you can no longer pile food on your dish, a friendly server will bring the goodies to you. And trust us, they are happy to grab seconds and thirds of anything you’d like. All in all, this is a small compromise for diners.
7. Will Disney Accommodate My Dietary Restrictions?
Keeping true to their exemplary guest service standards, table-service restaurants are happy to help. Whether you have an allergy, an intolerance, or a specific diet you’re sticking to, you have a couple of ways to notify the staff. First of all, you can note it online when making a dining reservation. And secondly, you can let your server know. In some cases, the chef may even come out to speak with you. Regardless, you can count on assistance when it comes to selecting or customizing your meal.
8. Can I Get a Drink Outside of EPCOT?
For better or for worse, it is becoming easier and easier to enjoy a cocktail in Disney World. While EPCOT still has the best variety of beverages, you can get alcoholic drinks at any of the parks, resorts, and shopping areas. (The only major difference being, Magic Kingdom drinks are only served at sit-down restaurants.) Overall, you will find a large selection of craft beers, wine, specialty cocktails, and frozen beverages on property. So, whether you want something to compliment your dinner or something to sip on midday, you’ll have options galore. Cheers!
9. How Can I Cut Down on Cost?
Disney World isn’t a cheap vacation. Whether you’re looking to trim overall cost or save your food budget for nicer dinners, we have tips for you. First of all, you can save a lot of cash by only sitting down for one meal per day. Consider packing granola bars and other non-perishable snacks. Then, indulge at either lunch or dinner. Another easy money saver is skipping on drinks, whether alcoholic or non-alcoholic. Most locations can give you free cups of water with free refills. Also, consider splitting meals, especially if you have small children. (It’s amazing how many kids’ meals go untouched!) And consider splitting snacks as well. By just implementing one or two of these tips, you’ll save more than you realize. Those mickey bars and sodas add up.
10. Where Can I Get Restaurant Recommendations?
If you’re a first-time visitor, it can be overwhelming to plan these meals. Fortunately, there is a whole online community eager to help! Fansites, like this one, are full of lists recommending the trendiest, most romantic, or most family-friendly establishments. Countless YouTubers make a living visiting Disney World on a daily basis. These same YouTubers often make videos about food and their favorite restaurants. And last but not least, any Authorized Disney Vacation Planner will come armed with specific recommendations for your budget, schedule, and dining preferences. With an army of help on your side, you have nothing to fear.
We hope that this list makes your trip planning a little less daunting! Enjoy your research and try not to drool over too many menus before lunch. Your delicious vacation will be here before you know it.