When first-time families think of dining at Walt Disney World, the main thing that comes to mind for fun is character meals. After that, they’re at a loss about ideas for amusing places to eat. What to do?
No worries; even if character experiences aren’t on your agenda, there’s still plenty of fun to be had dining at Disney. These spots are particularly good if you have children of different ages in your party. The younger kids will be having a great time, even if their older siblings are “too cool” for characters.
Here’s the primer on getting the fun…without the fur ! We have focused on restaurants that have entertainment and shows, spots that have entertaining waitstaff and themes, and places that have great kid-friendly (and interesting!) “views.”
Restaurants with Entertainment
These spots have a live show, movie, or something else that will hold your kids’ attention while they eat. Most of them are interestingly themed as well.
Sci-Fi Dine-In, Disney’s Hollywood Studios
Sit in a car-shaped table, facing a movie screen, just like you’re at an old-time Drive-In movie. The movies playing are campy clips from 1950s and 60s science fiction gems like Plan 9 From Outer Space and Attack of the 50 Foot Woman.
Along with film snippets, you see drive-in promo pieces such as a dancing hot dog advertising the refreshment stand. The movie reel is totally silly, and for many kids, this is the only way they’ll get to experience this classic slice of Americana.
The best part? Your kids can order the Picnic Burger — a hamburger AND hot dog in one! See a recent Disney Food Blog Sci-Fi Dine-In review here.
Raglan Road, Downtown Disney Orlando
Visit in the evenings and be treated to Irish bands and step dancers on the center stage.
It’s the best of all possible pub experiences, with great food and a gargantuan beer list, but without the smoke and salty language. This makes it a wonderful spot for both kids and adults.
House of Blues, Downtown Disney Orlando
Sunday brunch with fried catfish and gospel music is a family favorite, but don’t forget to check out the House of Blues website for details on top-notch concerts.
Restaurant Marrakesh, Epcot, Morocco pavilion
The food is kebabs and cous cous and the entertainment is a live band and belly dancers. You can watch from the sidelines or you can join in the performance.
Most of the guests taking part in the dance lesson part of the show are brave 8-year-old girls, but every once in a while you’ll get to see a burly man take part. Classic!
Biergarten, Epcot, Germany pavilion
Eat the best wursts around while listening to traditional German folk songs. There’s an ample dance floor, if you want to get your polka on.
AMC Dine-In Theater, Downtown Disney Orlando
This is one of the newest additions to the Disney dining scene. The AMC cinemas now features several theaters where you can eat a full meal (burgers, salads, and more) while watching a first-run film. This truly is dinner AND a movie. Check out this review.
ESPN Club, Boardwalk area
This is THE place for sports fans. TV screens are everywhere (yep — even in the restrooms; each stall has it’s own screen), showing every game imaginable. Sit in the bar area and there are video games available, too.
Restaurants with Showstopping Wait Staff
Sometimes the staff in the restaurant are a huge part of the “show!” Better watch out, or you may be, too!
50s Prime Time Cafe, Disney’s Hollywood Studios
The decor is exactly like my grandma’s kitchen, with mid-century tchotchkes and 13-inch black & white TVs. The TVs show clips of classic comedies like the Dick van Dyke Show, Father Knows Best, and Leave It to Beaver. But the real entertainment comes from the servers who take the part of family members serving your dinner. “Mom” might counsel you to eat your green beans or make sure you wash your hands before dinner.
My husband was once, very humorously, sent to stand in the corner because he kept his elbows on the table during the meal. My kids got a real hoot about seeing big old dad scolded.
Whispering Canyon Cafe, Wilderness Lodge
Your servers play the part of rootin’ tootin’ cowpokes when they bring you your BBQ vittles. The hijinks you’ll experience depend on your server, but you can expect to see a hobby horse race through the restaurants, plus ALL the ketchup you’ll ever need.
The bottomless milkshakes here might be another draw for the younger (or older, now that we think of it) members of your family.
Teppan Edo, Epcot, Japan pavilion
This is a Japanese hibachi spot, where the chefs cook your meal right on the table in front of you. The routine may be typical (onion volcano, flying shrimp), but the chefs here are real pros who make it fresh — and delish.
Restaurants with a View of Something Cool
Some restaurants don’t need a show. What’s outside the window is distraction enough!
Sanaa, Animal Kingdom Lodge
The big picture windows look out onto a the savanna at Kidani Village. You’ll be watching giraffes and zebras while munching on tandoori and curry.
T-Rex Cafe, Downtown Disney Orlando
Big, loud, moving dinosaurs. EVERYWHERE. Oh, and meteor showers. And an ice cave. Your kids will love it.
Rainforest Cafe, two locations, Downtown Disney Orlando and Animal Kingdom
Big, loud, moving animals. EVERYWHERE. Real parrots screech. Audioanimatronic gorillas bang their chests. Did I mention that it’s loud?
San Angel Inn, Epcot, Mexico pavilion
Dine by the side of a “volcano” while boats from the Gran Fiesta ride drift by. Be sure to request a waterside table and wave to the park guests floating by!
Coral Reef, Epcot, Living Seas pavilion One wall of the dining room is a glass face of the gigantic Living Seas aquarium. Your server can provide you with a list of species that live in the tank so you can identify them with accuracy. Look, a sea turtle (no, really, they sometimes come to visit)!
California Grill, Contemporary Resort
There are a few restaurants at Walt Disney World where you can watch fireworks while you dine, provided you time your meal right, but California Grill is the best of them.
You’ll have bird’s eye view of the entire Magic Kingdom and the twinkling lights above it. During the fireworks, they even dim the lights and pipe in the park music so you can experience every aspect of the show.
See? You don’t need characters to have a great time, even with the kids!
Have you dined at any of these entertaining locations?? Let us know your favorites and any we’ve missed!