Disney food and dining experiences have become just as much as of an attraction as theme park rides, if not more. The world renowned chefs, the detailed theming, the extended character interactions—it all adds up to so much more than just “eating food”. Making decisions about dining is an important pre-planning step because reservations for popular restaurants get snatched up quickly. Here’s what you need to know…
My Disney Experience (MDE)
If you haven’t already done so, download the My Disney Experience app onto your smartphone or tablet. We’ll refer to it often as MDE. As you read the following points, it might be helpful if you locate yourself in the Dining section of MDE.
At Disney World Resort, there are 4 types of dining options:
1. Table Service Dining
As you may expect, table service dining indicates that an establishment will have a server, you will be seated by a host or hostess, and your food will be brought to your table or will be available in buffet form. Food at table service restaurants can range from hearty comfort food to gourmet, five star meals. We recommend that you make reservations for ALL table service dining.
2. Character Dining
This category is a subset of table service dining, but with the added benefit of various characters visiting your table while you eat. Again, make a reservation for ALL character dining you plan to do. (Hint: Doing at least one character dining experience really adds to the magic of your trip. And it could save you a decent amount of time waiting in line for the same characters in the parks.)
3. Counter Service Dining
Counter Service means that you will order your food from a posted menu and carry it to unassigned seating on a tray. There is a wide variety of creative counter service options, from stuffed waffles to taco salads, and you cannot make reservations. Don’t be afraid to put counter service venues on your list. The food is excellent, and they can save you lots of time if you’re on a tight schedule.
4. Cart Foods (Snacks)
Delicious snacks are available throughout Disney World. Whether you’re looking for standard fare like ice cream and popcorn or want to go more unique with Dole Whips and giant cinnamon rolls, the snack establishments have got you covered.
Dining At Disney Resort Hotels
Disney Resorts are also known for their on-campus eateries, and you don’t have to be a guest of a particular resort to enjoy their restaurants. Sometimes it’s in your best interest to make a breakfast reservation at nearby resort before you head into one of the parks (like booking O’hana before Magic Kingdom or Cape May before Epcot). If you’re driving, your reservation guarantees that you can park your vehicle at the resort, then you can take Disney transportation to the park. Also—don’t forget to look into resort restaurants or Disney Springs restaurants on your non-park rest days. For our list of the top place to dine checkout: Top 10 Walt Disney World Resort Dining Experiences For Your Bucket List
OK. Now that you’re familiar with the broad options, it’s time to make some decisions. With the help of MDE and a sheet of paper, outline your ideal restaurants and the times that you wish to dine. You can begin making your Advanced Dining Reservations (ADRs) 180 days in advance. (For those staying on Disney property, you can book for your entire vacation at that point.) Have your list ready BEFORE that date for the best options. If you’re within the 180 day window, don’t fret—there will still be plenty of excellent dining options available, you may just need to be more flexible in your schedule. For detailed tips follow the steps in this article: How To Get Reservations At Disney World’s Most Exclusive Restaurants In 5 Easy Steps
Disney Dining Plan
Some people swear by the Disney Dining Plan, others say it’s not worth the cost for their family. To help you weigh the pros and cons of the Disney Dining Plan for your group, visit these helpful articles.