Everyone has different motivations when visiting Walt Disney World. Some people are focused on hitting the rides. Other may concern themselves with meeting Mickey and the gang. Still others are looking at the immersive experience provided by the parks and the various shows and attractions. My favorite motivation for visiting Walt Disney World is the food! Below are the top 10 tips for dining at Walt Disney World:
10 – Research – Disney World offers an extensive variety and selection of dining options. You can partake in a German Oktoberfest at Biergarten or an all-American buffet at Crystal Palace or some delicious sushi at California Grill at the Contemporary Resort. Make sure you research the restaurants to make sure there is something for everyone to eat. You also want to research to see if one of you selections has character dining options and when that is during the day. I recently made dinner reservations at Tusker House in Animal Kingdom forgetting that characters were not part of dinner.
9 – Don’t break the bank – getting to Disney World and in the gate is expensive in and of itself. Dining on property can be very expensive. There are a few ways to cut costs on food. First, you don’t need to eat at a table service restaurant for every meal. There are great counter service options that offer similar food for a fraction of the price. Disney does allow you to bring snacks into the park, so always consider just grabbing a granola bar or a pre-made sandwich for a snack rather than plopping down close to $10 for a bottle of water and some popcorn.
8 – Vary your table service meals – breakfast is my favorite meal to eat as table service. I always love getting a hearty breakfast before heading off to do battle with Splash, Thunder, and Space Mountains at the Crystal Palace. However, too many table service breakfasts could lead to an overdose on Mickey waffles, so change it up. Also, breakfast and lunch options at any table service restaurant are cheaper than dinner.
7 – Make ADRs – ADRs (advance dining reservations) are crucial if there is a favorite restaurant for someone in your group or a new place that you want to try. You can start making ADRs 180 days in advance, so make sure you consider where you want to eat. It is always easier to cancel an ADR than to wish that you had made one when it was available. Some places do fill up at the 180-day window (Cinderella’s Royal Table, Ohana, Le Cellier (the more popular seatings). Be sure to cancel your reservations at least 24 hours in advance if you do cancel, or else Disney will charge you $10/person if you fail to show up.
6 – Don’t overlook the resorts – when I first became an Annual Passholder, I was laser-focused on eating at all of the dining options in the parks. By doing this, I overlooked all of the quality dining options at the resorts. Grand Floridian and the Contemporary have a fantastic selection of restaurants. My favorite at Grand Floridian is 1900 Park Fare (who wouldn’t love gummy bears to put on top of your waffles?!?)
5 – Enjoy at least one classic item – Disney is home to some cult-like followings when it comes to food items. Join in on the obsession and try one of the park favorites: a Dole Whip at Aloha Isle, a Mickey pretzel or ice cream bar from any of the vendors, delicious popcorn, a turkey leg, Mickey waffles. The list can go on and on, but make sure you find your own personal favorite on your next trip.
4 – Consider a dining plan – depending on your length of stay at Disney World and how much everyone in your party likes to eat, the Disney Dining Plan may be for you. There are many articles out there for you to determine if the Disney Dining Plan makes sense for you. In addition to the Disney Dining Plan, if you are a Florida resident or purchase an annual pass (hey, it may make sense if you are there long enough even if you live out-of-state), you are eligible to purchase a Tables in Wonderland membership that entitles you to 20% off your bill (alcohol included) at a lot of restaurants.
3 – Don’t forget the sweet stuff – Disney has a wonderful selection of candy all over the parks and the resort. My fiancée cannot get enough of Goofy’s Sour Taffy. I prefer going to the Confectionary for a huge marshmallow rice square covered with chocolate and other delicious goodies. Be Our Guest serves the infamous “grey stuff” from “Beauty and the Beast.” Whatever it is, make sure you indulge your sweet tooth a little bit.
2 – Check out a unique dining option – Disney does offer a lot of buffets, but there are some dining specials offered at resorts like Spirit of Aloha at the Polynesian or the Hoop Dee Do Musical Revue at Fort Wilderness. These specials not only offer delicious food (all you care to eat), but also features some quality entertainment.
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1 – Taste around the world – during Epcot’s Flower and Garden Festival and Food and Wine Festival, Disney puts in temporary food stations for you to sample smaller tapas-sized dishes from existing pavilions in World Showcase, as well as temporary countries. Be forewarned that doing this can get very expensive, but it is definitely worth sampling the amazing food (and drink) that is only available for a small window each year!
It is easy to get wrapped up in the rides, attractions, and lodgings at Disney World, but do not neglect the dining. There are so many amazing and delicious options for you! What is your favorite?
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