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Mistruths About Dining at Walt Disney World

Planning dining experiences is a huge piece of a Walt Disney World trip plan for many families. Considerations about budgeting, where to eat, and whether or not to look for character experiences are just a few of the factors that families consider. Walt Disney World fans often have some pretty strongly held opinions about the “do’s” and “don’ts” of dining, so today we’ll unpack a few supposed truths- which we think are actually mistruths- that you may have heard about dining at Walt Disney World. 

 

Something to note, however- the Disney Dining Plan and some character dining is currently unavailable at Walt Disney World due to changes put in place during the pandemic.  The dining reservation window has also changed from 180 days to 60 days; a change that may or may not last. 

1. You Must Get the Dining Plan

NOTE: Currently, the Dining Plan is unavailable during Disney’s phased reopening. Please check the Walt Disney World website to ensure availability during your visit.

An awesome benefit of the Disney Dining Plan is that you’ve prepaid for your meals and don’t have to consider the cost of dining on your trip.  That said, plenty of people who get the dining plan find themselves obsessing about “getting their money’s worth” and making sure they use all of their credits.  You’ll have to study the details of each plan and scope out some menus (and prices) to see if the dining plan will actually result in money savings for your family.  

Buffet Cape May Cafe

2. All Character Meals Have Sub-Par Food

NOTE: Currently, several character dining experiences are unavailable or modified during Disney’s phased reopening. Please check the Walt Disney World website to ensure availability during your visit.

While it may be true that food quality isn’t the main reason people select a character dining experience, it isn’t true that you can’t get a great meal at one!  Some character meals have expansive buffets with loads of choices, like Chef Mickey’s.  Others feature meals served at your table, like Trattoria al Forno at Disney’s Boardwalk.   We love the food at Topolino’s Terrace at Disney’s Riviera Resort, Tusker House at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and 1900 Park Fare at the Grand Floridian in particular!

Storybook Dining Artist Point
Photo credit Disney

 3. Character Dining is Just for Kids

NOTE: Currently, several character dining experiences are unavailable or modified during Disney’s phased reopening. Please check the Walt Disney World website to ensure availability during your visit.

Don’t let anyone tell you that characters are just for kids- there’s nothing wrong with wanting to meet your favorites as an adult!  If you’re looking for a slightly more upscale character dining experience, consider Storybook Dining at Artist Point with Snow White for dinner or Topolino’s Terrace for breakfast.

 

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Satu’li Canteen

4. All You’ll Find is “Theme Park Food”

Walt Disney World quick service dining isn’t all burgers and fries!  From seafood at Columbia Harbor House to loaded Nachos at Pecos Bill’s Tall Tale Inn and Cafe at Magic Kingdom,  to International choices in Epcot’s World Showcase, you’ll never feel like you don’t have options!  

Disnes from Satu'li

5. You Can’t Eat Healthy Food on Vacation

You can even find plenty of healthy options throughout the parks and resorts- try the protein and veggie packed bowls at Animal Kingdom’s Satu’li Canteen, or enjoy easily accessible fresh fruit options throughout the parks.  Look for “Disney Check” items on menus for little ones (or for you- no shame!) These are healthy options that provide balanced nutrition (whole grains, lean protein, low-fat dairy, veggies, and fruit) while limiting extra sugar, sodium, and saturated fat.  When you snack at Walt Disney World, you can even find lighter options.  A dole whip (not the float, which adds a lot of sugar) is a much lighter treat than an ice cream sundae, for instance. 

California Grill
California Grill

6. You Can’t Enjoy Dining Out on Vacation if you have Food Allergies

On the contrary, Walt Disney World is known as a very allergy and food sensitivity friendly place to dine.  Allergy friendly and gluten-free menus are widely available.  According to Walt Disney World’s website, they are prepared to accommodate the following allergies: egg, fish, gluten, peanuts and tree nuts, milk, shellfish, soy, and wheat. You can indicate allergies when you make dining reservations, but it’s also best to let the Cast Member know of any allergies when you arrive at your reservation.  Cast Members at dining locations almost always ask if you have any concerns, and folks who do have allergies are accommodated and often get to speak with the chef about options.  

Disney Cast Member

7. Whatever You’ve Heard About a Restaurant is True

Another lie specific to dining at Disney is that just because you’ve heard poor opinions about a restaurant, it means you won’t like it.  Tony’s Town Square has suffered from a poor reputation for several years, but did you know they have a new chef?  Perhaps it’s time to give it another try (and besides, loads of people really enjoyed it in the first place!).  Le Cellier was once one of the absolutely most popular places to dine and very hard to get into, but it has lost popularity over time.  The Coral Reef doesn’t always get much love on the internet, but it’s one of my favorites.  The point is, you never really know if you’ll enjoy a restaurant until you try it.  

Skipper Canteen

8. Reservations are the Only Way to Get Into Restaurants You’ll Love

Currently, advance dining reservations (ADRs) are made only 60 days before travel (it was 180 days prior to travel before the pandemic).  Either way, don’t believe the lie that making these reservations is the only way to get into restaurants you’ll love.  Making ADRs is recommended in general, and especially for highly sought after meals like character dining and Walt Disney World’s newest and hard to reserve places, like Chef Mickeys, Be Our Guest, and Ohana to name a few.  However, there are always reservations available somewhere, and if you check even just a day or two before, or even the day of, you may be surprised how much is available.  Remember, people often cancel reservations in advance of the 24 hour window required to not be charged, so that’s a good time to check.  You can even try walk-up; we have done it at Sci-Fi Dine-In, which is a hard reservation to get because of it’s novelty and relatively small number of tables.   Though we were not seated in one of the cars, they were able to accommodate us at a picnic style table in the back within 10 minutes.  Another caveat- popular restaurants aren’t the only good restaurants!  Skipper Canteen in the Magic Kingdom is usually easy to get into, probably because it’s a large restaurant and still less familiar to guests, but we’ve always enjoyed our meals there.  

Have you come across any advice that you would categorize as a mistruth about Disney dining?  We’d love to hear about it!  

About Meredith Smisek

Meredith Smisek is a kid at heart and works as an elementary school guidance counselor. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, dog, and parrot. Meredith's hobbies include cooking, playing ukulele, and "talking Disney" with anyone she knows who is planning a trip to Disney or has just returned.