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Disney Dining 101 – 10 Things You Need To Know

Are you a Disney novice planning your first trip? Are you feeling overwhelmed by all of the advice you’ve gotten about dining on your Disney vacation? If so, look no further than our Disney Dining 101 article! Here’s everything you need to know in one quick list!

8. THERE ARE TWO TYPES OF DINING EXPERIENCES

All Disney dining options are divided into two categories. There are “table service” restaurants and there are “counter service” restaurants (also called “quick service”). A “table service” meal involves being seated by a host or hostess, ordering food from a table menu, and being served your meal by a waiter or waitress. A “counter service” meal involves ordering your meal at a “counter” or out of a case, and finding a table yourself in an “open seating” area. Disney takes reservations for table service dining but not counter service dining (with the exception of Be Our Guest in the Magic Kingdom, which is counter service but will be taking reservations beginning in February of 2015)

7. COUNTER SERVICE IS MORE THAN JUST BURGERS AND PIZZA

A common misconceptions about Disney “counter service” dining is that it will resemble more typical theme-park food. The reality is that Disney has a lot more to offer in their counter service restaurants than hot dogs and fries. There are locations where you can get traditional barbecue, sushi, beautiful salads, and flatbread sandwiches, just to name a few.

6. THERE IS NO “WINGING” TABLE SERVICE DINING AT DISNEY

If you think you’re going to wander up to Cinderella’s Royal Table for a 9am breakfast on a whim, think again. With a few exceptions, there will be no availability for immediate seating at a Disney “table service” restaurant. There are some restaurants that may be able to seat you with a wait of some kind (generally between 45 and 90 minutes during the off-seasons, upwards of 3 hours during peak times). Reservations (called ADR’s or Advanced Dining Reservations) can be made up to 180 days in advance of the first day of the start of your Disney vacation, provided that you are staying in a Disney hotel. And we highly encourage you to do so.

5. SOME RESTAURANTS ARE IN HIGHER DEMAND THAN OTHERS

Generally speaking, certain types of dining experiences are more popular than others. Character dining (meals where Disney characters like the Princesses, Mickey and friends, Pooh, etc are present and available to take photos and sign autographs) tends to be in high demand year round. Certain “signature” dining experiences (like California Grill, Brown Derby, Victoria and Albert’s) also tend to be very popular. Any “new” in-park dining (like Be Our Guest, the newest table service restaurant in the Magic Kingdom) tends to be very popular. At these highly demanded locations, reservations should be made as close to 180 days in advance as possible. While there may be reservations available after that time, they may be at odd times (like a 3:30 lunch or 9:00pm dinner) or may only be available for smaller parties.

4. DISNEY OFFERS PREPAID DINING CALLED THE DISNEY DINING PLAN

For a per-diem rate, guests can partake in Disney’s prepaid dining option called the Disney Dining Plan. The standard Disney Dining Plan includes one counter service, one table service, and one “snack” per day per person, as well as a insulated mug good for unlimited fountain drinks and coffee or tea at a guest’s resort. The current price for this plan is around $60 per day for an adult and $20 per day for a child 9 and under. There is a less expensive plan called the Quick Service Dining Plan that includes two counter service meals and one snack (as well as the refillable mug) per person per day. The cost for that plan is around $42 for an adult and $16 for a child. Only Disney resort guests can purchase the Dining Plan. For more detailed information regarding the Disney Dining Plan, check out our Disney Dining Plan 101 article.

3. DISNEY WILL ACCOMMODATE ALMOST ANY DIETARY RESTRICTIONS WHEN GIVEN ENOUGH NOTICE

Disney is well known for excellent customer service and this includes making extensive accommodations when it comes to guests with food allergies or other dietary restrictions. They routinely accommodate guests with allergies to gluten, dairy, soy, nuts, fish, shellfish, corn, and eggs. They can also provide Kosher meals and even provide food for people suffering from PKU and other metabolic disorders. Guests should send an e-mail to [email protected] at least 14 days in advance of their vacations to confirm any special requests after all meals have been reserved.

2. DISNEY DINING DOESN’T HAVE TO BREAK THE BANK

While signature table service restaurants and character meals will be costly, there are several less expensive table-service options, and many reasonably-priced counter service locations with extremely high-quality food choices. The Plaza Restaurant in the Magic Kingdom is an example of a reasonably priced table-service location with entrees priced between $12 and $19 dollars. Counter service entrees at various locations can range from $8 to $12 dollars. And any counter-service location will provide guests with free cups of ice water upon request.



1. DINING IS PART OF THE DISNEY EXPERIENCE

Disney “novices” may not fully appreciate what a magical experience dining in Disney can be. Nearly every table service restaurant offers some sort of unique dining experience. You can dine under the “stars” at a drive-in movie theater, eat lunch with dinosaurs, snack inside an aquarium, or watch authentic Irish step-dancing during dinner. Epcot offers authentic cuisine from each of the eleven countries represented in the World Showcase. And where else but Disney can you dine like royalty in a castle? Take some time out to enjoy these truly unique dining opportunities. You’ll be happy you did.

Do you have any important dining info for Disney novices? Leave us your comments below!

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– 8 Restaurants That Should Be on Your Disney Dining Bucket List – Theme Park Edition

About Jessica Brosnan

Jessica is a mother of one and an elementary school teacher in New Jersey. She enjoys musical theater and loves to cook. Jessica is a Disney Vacation Club member and is perpetually planning her next Disney vacation.