Readers' Dining Tips
-- Contributed by Joe Hurley
Try Something New
We will update this page monthly as we receive more dining-specific tips via our contest or just by e-mail!Updated 06/27/06
Readers' Dining Tips (over 60 and counting!)
Schedule a sit-down meal between 2:00 and 4:00. The prices are better and the "rest" will recharge the batteries for the remainder of the day and evening. Contributed by Linda Trahey (October 1999)
Character breakfast tip: Have a light breakfast snack at your motel; hit the park early having already made a priority seating for a late character breakfast. The food is generally very good, you are ready for a rest, the breakfast is not crowded and you get more time with the characters. Last year we did Early Entry at the Magic Kingdom and then took the boat to the Wilderness Lodge for their Pooh Bear breakfast; it made for a very memorable first day! Contributed by Nancy L. (October 1999)
Eat your big meal of the day mid-afternoon. Less crowds and lower prices. Contributed by Bruce Musser (October 1999)
When we go to Walt Disney World it is always with quite a group. At first it was with our four children and later with various grandchildren. Dining in the World can be very expensive for us. For people with a limited budget seeing some of the fantastic themed restaurants can be out of the question. Here is a solution for you. My children really wanted to go to the Sci-Fi Drive-In Restaurant. I looked up their menu and prices in one of my Guide Books. It would have cost a small fortune to eat dinner there. It was totally out of the question. The guide book mentioned that the Sci-Fi Drive-In had excellent Milk Shakes and Sundaes. We always figure treats and snacks into our budget. I made reservations for the Sci-Fi Drive-In and explained to the children that we would go there for dessert ONLY. We showed up for our reservation and they took us inside to be seated. It is really a great experience. The children loved it. The desserts were fantastic. They are grown now but still talk about the time they had dessert at the Sci-Fi Drive-In Contributed by Dorothy F. (October 1999)
Plan out your days a couple of months before leaving home and call for reservations for sit-down dinners and character breakfasts!! Contributed by Sheila (October 1999)
The best dinner we ever had was sitting on the patio at Rose & Crown having coffee and dessert watching IllumiNations after finishing our dinner there. Make a priority seating reservation for 7:30 at the Rose & Crown. Include a request on the reservation for a table on the patio. Arrive 15-30 minutes early and reiterate your request to be on the patio with a view of IllumiNations. Be kind and be polite.. They will do everything in their power to attempt to seat you there. Even if the weather is bad, you will be under cover. When we went it must have been 50 degrees outside. They had heaters everywhere and it wasn't too bad. Our group highly recommends the Fish & Chips and the English Pie Sampler. And my daughter (10) loved the Cottage Pie off the kid's menu. Contributed by Mike C. (October 1999)
My tip serves as a lifesaver for two problems. 1) I have three sons (now 9, 12, 13) who eat as much as their father and meals tend to get expensive and 2) I hate to stand in lines for autographs and pictures with the characters in the park. The solution : CHARACTER MEALS!! The meals are usually buffet style so we got to cut down to 2 meals a day (saves money) i.e. big character breakfast, skip lunch or have a light snack, and dinner slightly early. Then the biggest perk was the private attention the kids got from the characters and no one can cut in line or accidently sneak in your picture. Now that the kids are older we don't eat at the character meals as much, but when they were between the ages of 3 thru 12 - these were sanity saving meals for us parents. Contributed by Barb (October 1999)
When visiting Epcot, especially with picky eaters (not into foreign fare), we like to leave the park via the International Gateway (just after United Kingdom) and eat at Beaches and Cream at the Yacht and Beach Club. It is accessible from the outside of the hotel. It is a nice way to get way from the hustle and bustle of the park. They have great burgers and cherry coke made the old fashion way. This is a small restaurant so avoid during peak dining hours. One could use this opportunity to take their shoes off and walk in the sand along the hotels beach. Enjoy! Contributed by Cathy P. (October 1999)
If you're taking the kids a great idea we came up with is to have them shop for snacks to take with us and then we also bake muffins, cookies, etc. We also make sure we have plenty of nutritious snacks also. While you are there save that lunch money by eating the snacks through the day and spend it on dinner or souvenirs. It also makes the kids feel like they are a part of the vacation planning process along with getting something they want. My favorite snack we took was the one the kids made up and that was the Mickey Mouse chocolate chip cookies. Contributed by Deborach S. (October 1999)
If you get the chance, go to the Ice Cream Social at the Garden Grill in The Land pavilion at Epcot. It is an excellent place for a more private session with some of the characters. We had Chip+Dale visit us and Mickey Mouse visited with us twice. We found it to be more personal and private than at Chef Mickey's. It was great watching Mickey Mouse sit down and color with my 2 nephews without being disturbed by other people. Not very crowded at all and the Ice cream sundaes are awesome! Plus you have the restaurant rotating while you are there too. Excellent time and since I was a Gold Club member, I received a certificate with my Magic Delivery before we went and we enjoyed the time with the characters and our sundaes for FREE! Contributed by Dawn Ray (October 1999)
My tip works well if there are only two of you. Breakfast will get you through the fast paced morning but who wants to waste time at a restaurant or spend all that money? Let's face it, Breakfast at Disney is expensive. So here is my tip, either before you leave home or as soon as you get to the resort, purchase some breakfast doughnuts or pastries and some juice. While you are getting dressed you can have breakfast. It's fast, it's cheap and trust me it get's you through the morning. We woke up at 7:30 every morning and were able to get to the parks at opening because we didn't have to go to a restaurant to eat. We never had a problem with hunger. It's time saving, money saving, and a treat while you're on vacation (unless you always eat like that ;)) Contributed by Theresa Saleeby (October 1999)
So, your kids (or, let's be honest here, you) want to have breakfast with that special character you've (ahem, I mean, your kids have) always loved since, well, forever. But, all the advice you've ever read, heard, or otherwise gotten about how to have a fun vacation at Disney World without standing forever in lines is to go to Early Entry or to get to the parks first thing in the morning before they fill up. And all the early seatings at these breakfasts are all filled up before you get around to calling for reservations. So now you have a dilemma: how to go to character breakfasts and not have them blow the whole morning? My tip: schedule late character breakfasts. How does this work? Reserve a character breakfast at 10:00 or 10:15. Most serve breakfast till at least 11 AM, so this is no problem. Get up early and go to the park that has early entry that morning. Leave that park around 9:45 or 10 (depending on what time your reservation is) and go have breakfast. At 9:45 or 10 the early entry park will just be beginning to fill up, as outside guests have been allowed in since 9. Also this will give you time to use Disney transport to get to your breakfast. After breakfast, avoid the crowded early-entry park (which is always the most crowded during the day) and go to one of the other parks, which will be less crowded. The late breakfast will work as brunch, enabling you maybe not to have to buy the expensive lunch food in the parks. Also, since the breakfasts tend to be less crowded later in the morning, you'll (ahem, your kids will) have more time to interact up close with the characters, as they will be less rushed. So that's my tip for how to enjoy the early morning hours at the parks and still have character breakfasts.
Contributed by Joe Hurley (October 1999)
For lunch one day, when touring Epcot's World Showcase, try "snacking around the world." Instead of a full meal, try small tastes of many different cultures by tasting the very best of each country's offering from one of the many "snack" vendors around the "World." This is a great way to experience a lot of the World Showcase and many of Disney's different dining opportunities at the same time! Contributed by Traci Sproule (October 1999) One of my personal favorite dining experiences is to go to early entry at the MK and book the last seating for the character breakfast at Artist Point. I love the boat ride over and the food at the restaurant is so yummy! The basket of fresh breads is to die for! The service and atmosphere at the restaurant is wonderful. It's also nice to have a few hours of "fun" at the MK under your belt as the crowds of people are entering the turnstiles and you are going in the opposite direction! Contributed by Pam G. (October 1999)
We make many of our dining reservations before we even leave our home to go on our trip to ensure that we have a place to eat. This is especially helpful if you have little children with you. Contributed by Jodi R. (October 1999)
I do not eat very much, so I order a child's plate, an appetizer or share a meal at Walt Disney World. They never bother me or make me feel awkward about it. I love Walt Disney World! Contributed by Anonymous (October 1999)
Something that has really worked for us is use a character breakfast as a much-needed reward for early morning touring (which can be rough). What we'll do is get up early and eat a light breakfast on the way to the parks (granola bars, muffins, juice for example). These are things that can be easily purchased and left in the room. We get to our park of choice early and do as many attractions as we can before 10:30 (works great for early entry at the Magic Kingdom). We're then ready for a nice character breakfast and all the parks have them. If you're at the Magic Kingdom you can even hop on the monorail and have a character meal at one of the monorail resorts. This saves us both time (we get to the park early and get a lot accomplished without the time constraint of a sit-down meal) and money (the character meals serves as an early lunch and of course the quick breakfast of juice and muffins cost a few dollars at most). Contributed by MB (October 1999)
If you are with a visually impaired individual, ask for Braille menus. Some restaurants provide them. Contributed by Lori K. (October 1999)
Be sure to make priority seating for a character breakfast. My favorite is a the garden grill in the land.Contributed by Bridget M. (October 1999)
Be open to all experiences. Try new things. This is a perfect opportunity to step outside your comfort zone. You can eat your regular food when you get home. We try to always order something that we've not tried before and have discovered foods that we love! Contributed by Karen (October 1999)
Plan ahead and make reservations early. Contributed by Betsy Davis (October 1999)
Book a Fantasmic Dinner Show Package!! Reserve the "package" by calling the 407-WDW-DINE line (only 7 days prior to arrival) and request this package. The package is available currently at Mama Melrose's and Brown Derby at MGM. The only catch is that each adult must order an entree for dinner; after that each guest in your party will receive a voucher for the reserved section at the Fantasmic Show. So no need to wait in line to view the show. (Still recommend arriving a little early as the "reserved" section may fill quickly also.) You don't even have to stand in line at the regular Fantasmic entrance, the entrance "you" would enter is at the front of the park by the filling station. (You can still even use your Magic Kingdom Club card for discount on your dinner where applicable. Contributed by Cathy P. (October 1999)
I have a family full of "picky" eaters. At least 4 out of our 5 have "issues" with some type of food. I had each family member read the descriptions of the restaurants at WDW. Each person was allowed to pick 2 restaurants that they would like to dine at for each meal (Breakfast, lunch and dinner). I matched these restaurants to the areas that we would be visiting each day. This allowed for a convenient meal time and for each person to enjoy meals with foods that they liked. Contributed by Cheryl L. (October 1999)
When setting up priority seating for the character breakfast at 1900 Park Fare at the Grand Floridian, find out when they have the ladybug release (day and time) and set up your seating for about 30-45 minutes prior to that time. Our 3 year old was amazed at the lady bug release (done to help pest control in the GF gardens) and it made the meal that much more memorable. Contributed by Amy Miles (October 1999)
Since we usually travel with others, we find it useful to decided where we are going to eat before we leave. We have found it very useful to print out menus from www.allearsnet.com and have everyone decided on a restaurant ahead of time. We also read restaurant reviews found on this web site and others to help in our decision. This saves us time and also the frustration of arriving at a restaurant and not finding anything we like. We then make our Priority Seating times and start planning! Contributed by Jenny (October 1999)
In an effort to make our trip to WDW more relaxing and enjoyable we scheduled a "down" night. We started the day with a decent-sized breakfast, had a late-ish lunch at a full-service restaurant, and then snacked when we felt the need. After our day of touring we headed back to our room. It was Monday night and our favorite football team was playing Monday Night Football so we ordered a pizza to be delivered to our room and cheered our team on to victory. Of course, as soon as I finished the pizza I was out cold (around 9pm). We awoke the next morning for an early entry day refreshed and bright. Contributed by Colleen O'Brien (October 1999)
Eat at The Garden Grill at EPCOT's The Land. Not only is it inexpensive and has great food, but characters roam around and you can see various scenes from The Land! Contributed by Geoffrey K. (October 1999)
Find a seat at the Rose and Crown restaurant on the patio 1-1 1/2 hours before Illuminations begins to have dinner and enjoy the uninterrupted view of the show. Contributed by Stacy T. (October 1999)
We found that by eating just a light snack mid-morning that we could eat dinner at a full-service restaurant around 4:30. By eating earlier we were able to get the lunch discount and yet were not hungry later in the evening. Also, most of the restaurants serve very larger portions which could easily be split between two people. Contributed by Sherry S. (October 1999)
Since the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival is about to start October 23rd, through November 21st, I wanted to share this as my dining tip. Instead of dining at the restaurants in Epcot and the surrounding resorts, eat both lunch and dinner as a "sampler buffet". During the F&WF, you can sample foods from around the world at booths along World Showcase. Each sample sized item is priced between $1-3. Eat your way around World Showcase, and be bold and adventurous in your dining! No reservations required! Contributed by Lori Wagner. (October 1999)
My favorite dining tip for a Walt Disney vacation is no matter what you eat at Disney it always taste good especially when you don't have to cook it.... Contributed by Laura den Bleyker (October 1999)
Don't be afraid to try new and different experiences!! Our family found Marrakesh to be excellent. The food was great, the wait staff friendly and the atmosphere was festive. Even my three year old daughter got to bell-dance!! My picky eaters were asking when were we coming back. This was a definite treat!! I would highly recommend treating you or your family to a special dinner. Contributed by Anonymous (October 1999)
If you are going to Disney without kids, make reservations at Victoria and Albert's. It is well worth the expense (great food and service) and it is the one place to eat that you are almost assured won't have children around you. If you have your own car, use the valet service since it's a long walk from the parking lot to the hotel. Contributed by Donna E. (October 1999)
Get out of the parks and try the different resorts' restaurants for a dining change of pace. This works especially well if you have a day you do not plan on touring any of the parks. Just looking at all the different resorts is fun-you may find you want to stay at one in the future. The character meals at the resorts (except for Chef Mickey's) are usually much less crowded, and the characters spend lots of time at each table. There is so much to choose from, from the silliness of the Whispering Canyon, to the great seafood buffet at Cape May Cafe, to the romantic Victoria and Albert's, to the great views from the California Grill. So much to choose from! Give it a try! Contributed by Melissa R. (October 1999)
Always eat at Chef Mickey's and you will not go wrong. They have great food and the entertainment is fantastic. Contributed by Felecia Jackson (October 1999)
When traveling with children bring along some healthy snack food in your bag and eat during the off-peak hours. The children will be happier if they have been fed frequently and have less waiting time for their meals. We like peanuts, apples, cheese, and dried fruit. Contributed by Vikki (October 1999)
Start early, eat a large breakfast of cereals and fruit then save money by snacking on fruit you purchased ahead of time during town car market stop this works well if only there for 3-4 days Contributed by Gary Faucon (October 1999)
Always be willing to be flexible when children are involved...... We have found that Buffet dinners work so well with children. There is always something that they like. There is a lot of flexibility with the buffets. We always say that they are a Win-Win for everyone involved! Contributed by Lynn Job (October 1999)
If you are visiting with children, whether they are toddlers or teenagers, pack plenty of cheap snack items and things like juice boxes. this will save you in time, money and sanity. Contributed by Christy Waters (October 1999)
If you are on vacation without children, plan your dinners either for late afternoon or later in the evening. This will allow you to 'miss' most of the families during meal time. Contributed by Lisa (October 1999)
Make priority seating for 7:30 pm at the Rose and Crown. Check in at 7:00pm and tell the CM that you want a table outside on the patio. They might tell you that there is nothing they can do about it as you are "too early for check in", but when you come back in 15 minutes (the correct time for check in) chances are very good that a table will be waiting or available soon outside. Then, slowly order your dinner and eat leisurely and at 9:00 pm you are ring-side for Illuminations! The fireworks are released right in front of you! It is a tradition that is truly mind blowing and worth the effort! Contributed by Mary (October 1999)
We always schedule a Character Breakfast in one of the resorts for our last day at WDW. We usually have to catch a mid-day flight, so we don't have time to tour the parks, but by having breakfast with the characters, we can make the magic last a little bit longer! -- Contributed by Diane Siegler (September 1999)
Before we go we usually hit a warehouse store and stock up on snack foods for the kids. Waiting for the parades and shows the kids get hungry and you know the snacks at WDW are pricey. Goldfish, granola bars and juice boxes are a favorite! -- Contributed by Nancy Z. (September 1999)
I order from Netgrocer (http://www.netgrocer.com) juice boxes, snacks, water bottles, etc. and have the box delivered to the resort a couple days before we arrive. We then load up the room fridge, we had previously requested, with the stuff and we're off. No need to worry about $2.00 bottle water, etc. and no extra stop on the way to Walt Disney World. -- Contributed by Cora (September 1999)
If you want to do breakfast at Cinderella's Royal Table, be sure you call exactly 60 days before the day you want to dine there. Call CRO (407-WDW-DINE) if you are unsure when that day is, and they will tell you. Call right at 7 am Florida (Eastern) time. Most people assume that it is 8 am, and by that time it is usually too late. Also, use the 407-WDW-DINE number, as it is a direct line into the dining area for making priority seating. This is the one most important tips for most people, Cinderella Castle is probably the most sought after place to eat, and the one that brings the most disappointment if you can not get in to it. -- Contributed by Gale Boddy (September 1999)
Any reservations for meals (priority seating) that has a 60 day before arrival limit means 60 days!! These are the "hot events" which book very fast!! Call at 7:00 am eastern exactly 60 days before you want to go! This is not, by the way, 60 days prior to your arrival, but 60 days prior to the event. I called at 7:03 and got the last available reservation for the Once Upon a Time breakfast at Cinderella Castle. Happy planning! -- Contributed by Gail (September 1999)
Be sure to pick up some snacks before taking your spot to watch the parades. Since you are usually waiting for some time, kids tend to get bored and want to munch. Having to run out will forfeit your spot! -- Contributed by Colleen Anastasi (September 1999)
Use your time after a large meal to watch the sit down shows. This allows your food time to digest before you hit those thrill rides. -- Contributed by Carla H. (September 1999)
One that I always do is before my trip is I save up Disney Dollars to use for "meals only"... We get our menus from the Internet then approx how much we need then get Disney Dollars! That way you keep your monies separate. It has worked excellent for us every time! -- Contributed by Janet DeLeskey (September 1999)
We always take food with us to keep in the room, including breakfast items and snacks. In the morning we have a designated drink person who goes down and fills our refillable mugs, and sometimes breakfast items so that once we leave the room we don't have to stop for meals until the lines in the park start to get long and hot. -- Contributed by Kelli R. (September 1999)
Getting to the Hoop De Doo Revue at the Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground takes a long time without your own vehicle and if you take your vehicle you shouldn't drink and drive, so to get there quick and make an interesting experience out of it grab your resort bus to the Magic Kingdom, then hop on the water launch to Fort Wilderness--a really nice boat ride -- Contributed by Dave Benson (September 1999)
Note: No dining tips were submitted during our August contest.
My money saving tip is to eat a early dinner to save 20-30% off your bill at most places if you eat before 5:00 you will save your family money. -- Contributed by Kristine B. (in July 1999).
Since we go to WDW several times a year, every trip must be done on a budget. The best money saving tip we have found, is to bring an Igloo cooler. Before you leave, pack it with items such as cereal, raisins, granola bars, bread, chips, drinks, etc. Start several months before your trip collecting individual packets of mustard, mayonnaise, salt, and pepper to include also. Seal your cooler shut with duct tape and check it through as luggage on the plane. (You will probably want to purchase a cooler with wheels.) When you arrive in Orlando, use one of the town car services instead of Mears so that you can make a grocery stop on the way to your hotel. Pick up milk, yogurt, lunch meat, cheese, and fruit. You can refill your cooler with ice from the hotel ice machines daily to keep everything cold the duration of your trip. If you really want to save money on food, you can even bring a hot pot and cook Ramen noodles, soup, macaroni and cheese in your room. At the end of your trip, after you have finished everything in your cooler, you have room to bring back all those souvenirs you were able to buy with the money you saved on food! -- Contributed by Wendy (in June 1999).
Take snacks in your backpack or waist pouch for the kids. -- Contributed by Patricia McCroskey (in June 1999).
Involve children in picking places to eat. We came up with a wide variety that we hadn't even thought about. e.q. Kids like Mexican and Chinese food? -- Contributed by Sue Brown (in June 1999).
If you are only taking a short trip there (example: weekend trip 2-3 nights) you would have more actual park time and extra spending $$ if you eat a quick breakfast in your room (not room service) instead of at a dining establishment. If you are taking advantage of early mornings, you would really have the precious hour for attractions instead of eating. -- Contributed by Janine R (in June 1999).
Carry frozen juice boxes in your fanny pack each day. By the time these thaw you will have a cold drink for yourself or your thirsty child! -- Contributed by Shelley C (in June 1999).
We found that since we are constantly carrying our 1 liter water bottles with us that it was very cost effective and a nice break from drinking water to carry presweetened kool-aid pre-measured to make 1 liter in little snack sized zip-lock bags in our fanny packs. When in the mood for lemonade we would just fill up the bottle at the next water fountain, pour in the mix and shake. Sure saved a lot not buying sodas in the parks. Use this as a guide line: Measure 2 tablespoons soft drink mix for each 8 ounces and adjust to suit personal taste preference (1 liter = 33.8 oz approx 4 1/4 glasses). The kids loved this and are planning on doing this on our next trip. -- Contributed by Teresa (in June 1999).
When traveling with children, we always schedule a character dinner or lunch (depending on when you arrive) to sort of break the ice. Besides, my 5 year old must see Mickey and Goofy before we do anything else. -- Contributed by Don Lamprey (in June 1999).
Bring dry cereals and powdered milk (if you don't have a refrigerator in the hotel room) to save money on breakfast. -- Contributed by Laurie Hoffman (in June 1999).
Download a table that has the sunrise and sunset times. This can help you to decide on when to make your dinner reservations. -- Contributed by Jean Fuentes (in June 1999).