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Tips from the DFB Guide: How to Avoid Crowds When Dining in Disney World

If you’ve ever eaten at a crowded Disney World restaurant, you KNOW it’s not something you want to repeat.

Endless lines, deafening volume, long waits for tables (or sometimes even having to sit on the floor at counter-service restaurants)…it’s definitely not a “magical moment.” After all, vacations are for relaxing — especially at meal times!

We know that you want to make the most of every moment of your trip, and that means eating when the restaurants aren’t crowded — and taking advantage of rides and attractions when restaurants are busy. You need stress-free Disney Dining!

Our recommendations will give you a chance to unwind, enjoy a great meal (or quick and tasty pick-me-up), and get you back to the Walt Disney World attractions! We’ve done the meal time research for you! After years of touring the parks and countless meals at Disney World, we’ve gathered tips to avoid the crowds!

Book an early ADR to get a great table without the crowds!

In our The DFB Guide to Walt Disney World® Dining 2013 e-Book, we have a whole section dedicated to avoiding crowds in Disney World. Pick up your copy here for an extra $4 off using code 2013 for a limited time!

With our in-depth DFB Guide, you’ll learn tips for avoiding the crazy in Disney World — and ensure  you have a relaxing and nourishing meal so you’re ready to get back out to the parks. Don’t go on your vacation without these tips for stress-free dining!

3 Awesome Tips to Avoid Disney World Dining Crowds

Let’s get right to our meal time strategies that we’ve included in the DFB Guide to make the most of your Disney Dining without the crowds.

We found Tortuga Tavern empty at 11am during a June visit! An hour later, there were no seats available!

1. Dine at “Off-Times”

If you’re visiting Disney World during a busy time (yes, Spring Breakers, Summer visitors, Christmas Folks, that includes you!), finding a restaurant without a wait will be difficult.

Still, crowds thin after the throngs depart during major meal rushes. We suggest avoiding 8-9AM, noon-1:30PM, and 6-7PM. We’ve found that booking meals for “brunch” at 10:30 or 11AM, late lunch at 3 or 4PM, or late dinner at 8 or 9PM works well for avoiding the crowd crunch. For counter-service restaurants, we enjoy arriving just as the doors open for breakfast or lunch. Usually that’s around 11 or 11:30am. Starring Rolls Cafe at Disney’s Hollywood Studios for breakfast and Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe or Tortuga Tavern in the Magic Kingdom for lunch are good “be there when they open” choices.

Tip: Parents who want to avoid meal time meltdowns should adjust eating schedules at home before traveling!

And, character meals tend to allow for more character interaction during less busy dining periods.

Dine at less busy times for extra fun with friends!

2. Go to Disney World During Slower Times of the Year

We know that your schedules might not permit going to Disney at the end of January (teachers, I’m thinking of you!) but there are better times than others to go to Disney if you want to avoid chaotic crowds.

Traveling during the off-season, called “value season” by Disney, is usually reserved for January, early February, late August, September, and early December. If you must go during busier times of the year, try to avoid peak holiday days such as the week between Christmas and New Year’s! After all, less crowds means more available restaurants, better service, and quieter meals.

Off-season and early dining is the key to quiet meals!

3. Dine at Out-Of-The-Way Locations

Okay, we know there are some restaurants that you don’t want to miss. You’ve heard the recommendations for popular restaurants — Be Our Guest Restaurant is the newest — and you’re willing to wait in long lines or tune out the extra noise. Absolutely! We agree that there are some restaurants that are worth the extra effort.

Relax in the Kona Cafe dining room!

For the times that you just want a good meal (and it doesn’t have to include a Disney character), dining at lesser known spots or locations outside the theme parks can really provide a relaxing experience.

Some of our favorite restaurants for a great meal away from the parks include Kona Café in Disney’s Polynesian Resort for lunch (escaping the Magic Kingdom). Or head to Beaches and Cream in Disney’s Beach Club Resort for lunch (escaping Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios). You don’t have to go far to escape the Animal Kingdom park, just take a short trek to Sanaa in Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge!

Tip: Dine at Sanaa for lunch to be sure you get a great daylight view of the animals on the savanna outside!

Want More Tips to Avoid Crowds in Disney World?

We’ve shared three great tips with you today and we have even more suggestions for avoiding dining crowds and getting the best out of your Disney dining experience in The DFB Guide to Walt Disney World® Dining 2013 — like where to head for underrated restaurants that are truly top-notch!

Be sure to check out The DFB Guide to Walt Disney World® Dining 2013 for valuable information on avoiding meal time crowds for your Disney vacation.

Our trip-tested methods will show you how to escape the craziness at meal time! Click here to get your copy of The DFB Guide to Walt Disney World® Dining 2013 E-book — and use code 2013 for an extra $4 discount for a limited time!

Where do you dine to escape the crowds? Share your tips in the comments below and help us all have relaxing meals on our next Disney vacation!

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12 Comments

  1. Katie says:

    A lot of times you will find that the less crowded eateries have better options food- wise. Also, getting there at opening for lunch is very important if you want a stress free lunch, for example, we got to Pinocchio’s in MK right before opening and were able to grab a table with a view of It’s A Small World. It was a relaxing break from the park as lunch should be.

  2. Galloping Gourmand says:

    Without recounting the story again, I firmly believe that a final seating of the day meal at the back of World Showcase is something everyone should enjoy at least once.

    I don’t know if you have this tip in the guide, but I like to make lunch time Snack time. Instead of a full meal you can stop at various carts and stands without getting junk food. At MK you can get yourself an egg roll, waffle or waffle sandwich, corn dog, baked potato, etc. and a drink. Eat while you walk to the next attraction. If you are doing one of TourningPlans.com’s plans you can do this during some of the criss crossing that you sometimes have to do. Every park has these opportunites and the lines are never massive.

  3. AJ says:

    Katie — Great points! We always try to get to our lunch destination around 11am.

    GG — Agreed! Just had a late reservation in the World Showcase last night and did that fun “empty walk from the park.”

  4. Amanda says:

    I totally agree with Katie! We always plan our counter service lunch for whatever time the restaurant we want to eat at is opening!

  5. Anna says:

    My family and I took a break from our one-day visit to Animal Kingdom to enjoy a quiet and tasty sit-down meal at Sanaa during our WDW vacation in August 2012. While we enjoyed the lovely lunch itself, the experience was spoiled by the long commute times between Animal Kingdom and Sanaa. It was the 30-minute wait for a shuttle in each direction (too far to walk) that came as such a shock. We lost a lot of valuable park time and spent too much time sitting in the hot sun. If you are going to eat at Sanaa for lunch, set aside three hours for the whole experience (dining time plus travel time). No exaggeration. Thanks!

  6. Sarah C. says:

    We find that eating lunch at 11-1130 allows us to then have an earlier supper and because we usually only stay for MK fireworks it gets us back to the hotel quicker at night with our small children!

  7. Cynthia D. says:

    This was one of the best suggestions we used on our trip to Disney World at the end of June. Our first night we went to Chef Mickey’s. Our reservation was at 8:55. Our boys were 13 and 10 so crankiness wasn’t an issue. The restaurant was not crowded, so each of the Big Five spent at lot of time with us. I got to flirt with Goofy and my husband gave Minnie a kiss. As we left the restaurant we watched the fireworks from the monorail. It was a magical beginning of a magical trip. Thanks for the advice!

  8. Beth says:

    We eat very light on the go breakfasts that we have brought with us such as granola bars, small box cereals, apples, etc. We eat them while waiting for busses or in line waiting for park openings. Since we are always at each park before opening and get so many rides in right away it allows us to break for lunch right at 11 which is opening of most counter service. This allows for a very quiet lunch as many people are just getting to parks. Dinner is usually a 7:00 time which is usually after all the noisy and crabby small children have dined. Most importantly make those ADR 180 days prior so you’re not waiting your vacation away.

  9. Nicole says:

    I would assert though that Kona is not the best option (at least not the last couple times I’ve been there) for a quiet meal with no wait… Without a reservation and getting there at opening for breakfast and dinner I’ve had a 45 minute wait and the restaurant gets pretty noisy. Plus Beaches and Cream also needs reservations.

    Having said that, they’re both still totally worth it and I love them.

  10. Rach says:

    For me, Kona is almost zen in it’s emptiness for late breakfast & lunch. An October trip a couple years ago we went at prime lunch time & there were a grand total of 3 tables in use. Had almost the same experience at 10am in early Dec.

    I’d also rec Kouzzina for late breakfast & late dinner. The only thing that breaks the calm are the chefs shouting “Opa” when they set fire to something. ;-)

  11. Mike B says:

    Make reservations ahead of time. Chef Mickey is great. Don’t waste your time at Hollywood and vine. Asked two different cast members to see a manager twice, and never saw one. We wastes our money, save yours and go elsewhere….

  12. Nancy says:

    I can tell you that our trips to Disney have become more stressful since the dining plan arrived. Think it is silly that you have to stress out about eating times.. Worrying that you can’t wait for a ride because you have to be across the park for dining…vacations are supposed to be fun and part of the adventure is being spontaneous. Having to book 180 days out is beyond ridiculous. We did that for the Be Our Guest restaurant and you know what – that day came and our daughter was sick…think the whole experience would be better if it was first come basis….and I am not changing our eating schedules before we get in vacation….we are vacation club members.

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