We've talked before about the hardest to get advance dining reservations (ADRs) on Walt Disney World property and some tips and tricks for how to score them.
But I've also alluded to the fact that some of the hardest to get reservations at Disney aren't usually the best spots. Sometimes they're just the newest, or have a particular draw because of their characters. Sometimes it's just self-perpetuating because people are grabbing the most popular spots 6 months out – which creates a cycle of difficult-to-get.
But, perhaps not surprisingly, the best food – and sometimes even the best character experiences – aren't at the most popular restaurants. So in the interest of both improving your vacation and easing your stress, I thought it would be worthwhile to put together a list of some of the hardest to get reservations on Disney World property…and where you should eat instead.
- Chef Mickey
There's no disputing that Chef Mickey is a sort of right of passage for any Disney family. Set in the Contemporary – Disney's original resort – with views of the monorail overhead and every single member of the Fab 5 (including Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, and Pluto) there to meet you at your table, there's a reason why it's popular. But it can be a pretty chaotic experience and while the food is fine, it's nothing to write home about.
Beach-Ready Minnie at Cape May
So where should you go instead? If you're looking to meet members of the Fab 5 in a setting where you can spend some more time with them while enjoying a pretty killer buffet, head to breakfast at Cape May at the Beach Club, where you can typically meet Minnie, Donald, and Goofy in the cutest beach gear ever. Or head over to any meal at Tusker House at Animal Kingdom, where you can meet Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, and Pluto in safari gear. I've talked elsewhere about these incredible buffets – which are two of my favorites on property.
- Cinderella's Royal Table
So many people think of Cinderella's Royal Table as the be all end all for their little girls' (or their own!) Disney vacation. After all, how wonderful to be able to have a fine dining experience and meet many of your favorite princesses right inside Cinderella Castle? But between the challenge of scoring this reservation and its price tag – not to mention that there are other places to have (more) amazing meals on property, you might want to consider your other options.
Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. Skipper Canteen
If your focus is on a foodie-level meal inside the gates of the Magic Kingdom, I would strongly consider Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. Skipper Canteen in Adventureland – which I've reviewed here before.
Cinderella at Akershus
And if you're looking for great food and lots of princesses? Akershus in the Norway Pavilion in Epcot's World Showcase is a wonderful meal where you can typically meet Snow White, Cinderella, Belle, Princess Aurora, Ariel, AND Mary Poppins!!
Drizella at 1900 Park Fare
But Akershus can be somewhat difficult to book too – and it's over in Epcot. So if you're looking for a wonderful and entertaining princess experience near the Magic Kingdom, I cannot urge you enough to make a dinner reservation at 1900 Park Fare at the Grand Floridian and take the monorail there during your Magic Kingdom day. The food on this buffet is some of the best on property and you'll not only get to meet Cinderella and Prince Charming…but Lady Tremaine, Drizella, and Anastasia too – and they're a riot.
- Be Our Guest
No “hard to get dining experiences in Disney” list would be complete without discussing dinner at Be Our Guest. And don't get me wrong – it's a wonderful meal in the absolutely stunning setting of the Beast's castle right in Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom.
But truth told, while the food is quite good and the setting is lovely – so much of the “hard to get”-ness of Be Our Guest is that it's still relatively new…and because everyone thinks it's hard to get, so everyone books it early. So it sort of self-perpetuates.
Dinner at Monsieur Paul
If you're in it for the food: If you're looking for a wonderful French meal in a beautiful setting, I cannot recommend Monsieur Paul in the France Pavilion in Epcot enough.
If you're in it for the characters: If you're looking for princes and princesses together, I would again recommend 1900 Park Fare at the Grand Floridian – but would also love for you to experience the Bon Voyage breakfast at Trattorio al Forno at Disney's Boardwalk, where you can meet Ariel with Prince Eric and Rapunzel with my favorite troublemaker, Eugene Fitzherbert (a/k/a the smoldering Flynn Rider).
I love Disney's Polynesian Village Resort…and I love ‘Ohana. Their family style breakfast with Stitch, Lilo, Mickey, and Pluto is lots of fun and their family style dinner with Brazilian steakhouse-type skewer service is delicious – but it can be tough to book and I promise you there are plenty of other amazing options out there that I enjoy as much if not more.
If you're in it for the food and fun: If you're looking for a wonderful, fun family style breakfast, head on over to Whispering Canyon at Disney's Wilderness Lodge where you can stuff your face with a meal very similar to ‘Ohana's breakfast while laughing over your server's antics.
If you're in it for the food and characters: If you want an amazing breakfast full of fun characters, head to 1900 Park Fare at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort and Spa for their Supercalifragilistic Breakfast. We've already talked about their dinner buffet…but breakfast is just as good. And you'll have the chance to meet Mary Poppins, Alice in Wonderland, the Mad Hatter and Winnie the Pooh and/or Tigger.
And if you just want some incredible food for breakfast or dinner in a setting that's at least as gorgeous as the Polynesian, head on over to Boma at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge for absolutely any meal. This shouldn't surprise anyone, as we all know I think Boma's buffets offer up some of the best food on property.
- California Grill
There's no denying that California Grill is a Disney classic for good reason. At the top of Walt Disney World's Contemporary Resort, it offers up amazing food and gorgeous views of the Magic Kingdom's Happily Ever After fireworks. But reservations are sometimes tougher to get – and there are so many other wonderful places for a fantastic romantic meal in Walt Disney World.
Cantonese Lobster at Todd English's bluezoo
You can read more about them at this link – but I cannot recommend Jiko at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge, Narcoossee's at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, Todd English's blueezoo at the Dolphin, or Flying Fish at Disney's Boardwalk enough. Every one of them offers up a stellar dining experience in a wonderfully romantic setting and you can often get reservations for the same day.
Dessert at Narcoossee's
- Le Cellier
There was a time when Le Cellier in the Canada Pavilion in Epcot's World Showcase offered up some of the best values in town when it came to great steak. And it's still a lovely place to go. But if you're looking for amazing steaks, there's a long list of spots that I'd head first and you can often score reservations for them on the very same day.
At the top of my list are The Boathouse at Disney Springs, Yachtsmen at Disney's Yacht Club, and Shula's Steak House at the Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort.
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So add that to the long list of reasons why you should NEVER stress your Walt Disney World vacation. Where is your top spot for dining in Walt Disney World? Is it a bit off the beaten path, too?