Much fuss is made about the ballyhooed princess dining experiences at Disney World. So much fuss, that parents of young boys sometimes find themselves wondering, “What does Disney have that’s special for me?”
Well, never fear sports fans; I’m here to tell you that while, yes, the girly girls are pretty visible in the parks (it’s hard to miss the Florida sun glinting off a tiara), there are plenty of Disney dining experiences where the men in your family will feel right at home.
Let’s break it down …
There are 10 different character dining venues at Walt Disney World proper. Of these, only three and a half of them have princess themeing. The rest are totally gender-neutral.
Boys are certainly welcome at any of the princess meals, and many boys love them just as much as the other character meals (PLUS they’re given a neato plastic sword at the Royal Table); but honestly, they do skew more heavily toward girl interests.
All of the other character dining restaurants appeal equally to boys and girls. Your best options for boys in the character dining department are the following (characters are always subject to change):
Cape May Cafe, Beach Club Resort, characters at breakfast only. Goofy, Minnie, Donald Duck and others.
Chef Mickey’s, Contemporary Resort, breakfast and dinner. Mickey (natch), Minnie, Goofy, Donald, Pluto.
Garden Grill, Epcot, dinner. Mickey, Pluto, Chip & Dale.
Crystal Palace, Magic Kingdom, breakfast, lunch and dinner. Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore, Tigger.
Hollywood & Vine, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, breakfast and lunch. Disney Junior characters Handy Manny, Agent Oso, June & Leo.
‘Ohana, Polynesian Resort, characters at breakfast only. Lilo, Stitch, Mickey, Goofy, and others.
1900 Park Fare, Grand Floridian Resort. Serving breakfast and dinner with characters. As noted above, the dinner service is princess oriented. Breakfast is more general storybook characters including Mary Poppins, Alice & the Mad Hatter, Pooh, and others.
Tusker House, Animal Kingdom, breakfast and lunch. Donald, Daisy, Goofy, Mickey.
None of these spots have even a perfumed whiff of princess about them. There will be no uncomfortable “too girly” squirms from your he-men.
Now, in addition to the gender neutral character meals, there are many other dining opportunities that appeal to boy interests.
Four dining spots at Walt Disney World and one table-service location in Disneyland have a frontier feel to them. If you’ve got rootin’ tootin’ cowpokes in your clan, here’s where to take them.
Mickey’s Backyard BBQ, Fort Wilderness resort. This is technically a dinner show, but functions in many respects as a character meal. Your little men can line dance with Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, and Chip & Dale, then feast on chicken, ribs, hot dogs, and corn.
Hoop Dee Doo Musical Revue, Fort Wilderness resort. Americana songs, unbearably silly jokes, and all the fried chicken you can eat.
Trail’s End, Fort Wilderness resort. Biscuits and gravy in a log cabin. It’s like camping, but without the clean up.
Whispering Canyon Cafe, Wilderness Lodge. This is a humorous take on the old West, with lots of jokey servers and an obligatory hobby horse romp through the dining room. Try a manly skillet with all-you-care-to-eat BBQ and fixin’s.
Sci-Fi Dine-In, Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Sci-Fi guys will love watching clips from campy 50s and 60s alien and robot movies while sitting in a replica convertible car. It doesn’t get any cooler than that.
T-Rex Cafe, Downtown Disney Orlando. You’re transported back in time to when dinosaurs roamed the earth. It’s loud (did we say it’s LOUD), and prehistoric.
The Great Outdoors
Rainforest Cafe, Animal Kingdom or Downtown Disney. You are eating In. The. Jungle. It’s loud here, too, so if you’ve got kiddos who don’t like noises or thunder, you might want to skip this ’til they’re older.
Sanaa, Animal Kingdom Lodge Kidani Village. Many of the tables over look the African savanna. You may view zebras or other wild creatures while you eat (as long as it’s light outside).
Coral Reef, Epcot. Sit by the side of a GIANT aquarium while you dine. Watch out for the sharks!
Turf Club, Saratoga Springs Resort. When you’re done with your meal, you can shoot some pool or check out what’s happening on the big screen TV in the lounge.
ESPN Club, Boardwalk Resort. THE place to watch the big game and the best chicken wings in town. There are even TVs in the restroom, so you don’t have to miss a play — even if nature calls. And don’t forget, there’s a big ol’ arcade next door!
Planet Hollywood, Downtown Disney. You never know what cinema memorabilia you’ll be seated next to.
Counter Service Choices for Boys
Beyond all these wonderful table service options for boys, there are also numerous counter service venues that have a machismo element as well. Your boys may enjoy the counter service themeing at:
Casey’s Corner, Magic Kingdom. Hot dogs and Disney baseball cartoons. Score!
Flame Tree Barbeque, Animal Kingdom. Substantial meaty dishes, and while you eat, you can watch the folks screaming on Expedition Everest.
Restaurantosaurus, Animal Kingdom. Basic fare like burgers and dogs, served amidst dino bones and fossils. Let them run around in the “basketball court!”
End Zone Food Court, All Star Sports Resort. Standard food court offerings, but the dining room is decorated with giant renderings of sports figures.
Pizza Planet, Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Who doesn’t like a giant Arcade + Pizza?! (Well, “who” under 12 years old, that is?)
Splitsville, Downtown Disney. Opening in Fall 2012, we’re expecting the new food offerings at Splitsville will be a great addition for families with boys. You can eat and bowl a few frames! Perfect for a rainy day.
Gaston’s Tavern, Magic Kingdom. Opening in late 2012, Gaston’s Tavern will surely be the manliest of counter-service locations! After all, Gaston is a “man among men!”
Just in Case…
Sometimes your guys will like the attention they get from the princesses, so don’t rule that out…
But if you don’t think your guys are ready for all of that pixie dust, I hope you’ve found a few places here where you think they’ll be comfortable dining in the Disney parks and resorts!
Parents of boys, where have you found that appealed to your hungry crew? Have we missed any man-friendly spots? And if you’ve taken your family of boys to a princess meal, what was your experience? Let us know in the comments below.