No matter how you vacation at Walt Disney World, the primary goal is always the same: to make memories that you can cherish and share for a lifetime. And with hundreds of attractions, shows, and experiences to try, there’s no shortage of ways to make those memories.
But one of our favorite ways to make new and lasting memories is by enjoying special dining experiences in the World. So if you’re officially planning your next vacay (or just daydreaming, as you should!), here are five unique and special dining experiences sure to leave you with memories to last a lifetime.
Dine Above the World
Anyone can sit at ground level and enjoy some tasty Fish and Chips or a tray of Chicken Nuggets, but if you want to elevate your dining, you gotta get above the World. And thanks to some thoughtfully placed restaurants, you can do that with ease!
California Grill is the spot for those who want a classy, memorable dinner — with all eyes on Cinderella Castle.
But what if you didn’t land that coveted show time reservation? Then just bring in your receipt from earlier in the evening, and show it to the Cast Members at the restaurant’s check-in desk on the second floor of the Contemporary.
They’ll allow your party to re-enter California Grill, where you can watch the spectacular show from the restaurant’s observation deck.
If you’re looking for something a little less formal — but still with a view from above — consider ‘Ohana. Dinner at ‘Ohana offers All-You-Care-To-Eat family-style service with Hawaiian flair in the Polynesian Village Resort.
And if you can nab an ADR for the evening’s fireworks time, go for it! And here’s the trick: you’ll want to request a window seat when you check in. But really, the view is beautiful any time of day (even if you’re there in the morning for the Best Friends Breakfast with Lilo and Stitch)!
The Magic Kingdom Resorts don’t have the only sky-high claim to fame. The World Showcase offers options for dining above the World at Epcot. The Japan Pavilion is where you’ll find Tokyo Dining, offering a lovely Lagoon view in the middle of the day, or the chance to enjoy IllumiNations right from your seat inside the restaurant at night. (But note — sometimes the view of the fireworks here is compromised by people standing on the walkway outside.)
Eat Like — and With! — Royalty
I’m hard pressed to think of a more quintessential experience at Disney World than interacting with Princesses and Princes (unless it’s meeting the Mouse himself). No matter what your age, meeting Disney Royalty is always a memorable experience, and several dining options offer that opportunity.
The signature experience, of course, is dining at Cinderella’s Royal Table, located right inside Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom. High stone arches, colorful royal flags and crests, and stunning stained glass windows set the scene for you and your Royal Hostesses.
In addition to eating in an actual castle, you’ll also meet several of Disney’s most iconic princesses. Cinderella herself greets her guests in the lobby, and four additional Royal Highnesses meander through the dining room during your meal.
But the Princesses are not limited to Cinderella Castle. Akershus Royal Banquet Hall in Epcot’s Norway Pavilion also offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner with Disney Princesses. Belle is your gracious hostess, and again, even more Princesses visit tables throughout the meal.
And we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the new Bon Voyage Adventure Character Breakfast at Trattoria al Forno on Disney’s Boardwalk. Featuring beloved Disney couples, this is where a couple of Disney Princes get to come out to play, too!
Diners nosh on foods themed to Tangled and The Little Mermaid while meeting Rapunzel and Flynn Rider along with Ariel and Prince Eric.
We did mention Flynn Rider, didn’t we? Well, just in case…
(FYI, Cinderella and her Prince Charming also pop up at 1900 Park Fare in Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort for dinner.) Check out your full list of options for Character Dining here.
Dine with an Imagineer
The real treat, though, is the conversation you and your small group of diners (you’ll all fit around one table!) will get to have with a Disney Imagineer. This is like actual, human Disney royalty, folks! And it can literally only happen at Disney World.
A similar small group experience is also available at Sanaa, but with an Animal Kingdom Lodge twist.
Dine with an Animal Specialist gives guests the chance to learn about the care, research, and conservation efforts for the 200 plus animals that call Animal Kingdom Lodge their home.
And speaking of Sanaa…
Eat Among New Friends
If you or your loved ones are more interested in creatures of the non-human variety, there are several options for dining in the World — with a side of feathers, fur, or fins! The first option is once again at Sanaa. Sanaa features Indian and African- inspired flavors, and — for diners with a window view — the opportunity to dine near animal friends.
It’s a relaxing environment with terrific food, warm cultural ambiance, and, perhaps, a crane, giraffe, or zebra right in view.
For something a little more off the beaten path, sign up for the Wild Africa Trek. This splurge-that’s-worth-it experience takes guests on a three-hour trek through Animal Kingdom’s Kilimanjaro Safari. The trails wind through the different animal environments, letting you get a close-up view of the animal friends you usually only see from a ride vehicle.
You’ll traverse a rope bridge over lazy crocodiles, spy on hippos as they stay cool in their pool, and enjoy a meal in a boma smack in the middle of the Savanna.
But if you prefer creatures of the deep, make an ADR at Coral Reef Restaurant in Epcot’s The Seas with Nemo and Friends Pavilion. Here all tables face a massive saltwater tank, where your dinner companions are sea turtles, sharks, tropical fish, and stingrays!
The menu is inspired by the sea, but there are plenty of options for guests who hold to the mantra that “fish are friends, not food!”
Enjoy Dinner and a Show
The classic combo of dinner-and-a-show is timeless, and at Disney World, the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue at Fort Wilderness Campground has been a guest favorite for over FORTY YEARS running!
This rootin’, tootin’ extravaganza features old fashioned dancin’, laughin’, and singin’, along with All-You-Care-To-Enjoy country vittles. Yeehaw!
Or you can make your way to Disney’s Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show at Polynesian Village Resort. This luau features fire dancing, hula, and Hawaiian music, along with a taste of the Islands with another All-You-Care-to-Enjoy meal.
If you have wee little ones in tow, you might want to consider Mickey’s Backyard BBQ.
Also located at Fort Wilderness, this musical variety show featuring Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, and Chip and Dale puts the focus on the kiddos, and photos and autographs are part of the experience along with all the fixins’ of a traditional BBQ (we’re talking burgers, hot dogs, corn on the cob, and much more!).
Have Dinner with a side of Attitude
Okay, yeah, so this is actually Number Six. Consider it a bonus, since there are so many ways to have a memorable dining experience in Disney World! In case the teenagers in your traveling party don’t give you enough ‘tude, Disney’s got you covered.
Whispering Canyon Cafe is home to totally-in-character waitstaff who go overboard on the straws (get ready to have a few thrown right at’cha), ketchup, and occasionally serve up sodas the size of a small child. (For a better idea, check out our review here.)
It’s all part of the rowdy fun you’ll experience at this lively restaurant at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge, where skillets of grub will stick to your ribs, along with the laughter.
If you want to step back in time to the era of June Cleaver, make your reservation for 50s Prime Time Cafe. The waiters here are “aunts,” “uncles,” and “cousins,” and remember: you’re dining in their kitchen. So, it’s elbows off the table — and be sure to eat your veggies!
Comfort food options include Aunt Liz’s Golden Fried Chicken and Mom’s Old Fashioned Pot Roast, and you’re likely to get a scolding or two while partaking of the meal. And you’ll love every second of it!
So, there you have it! Just a handful of the many ways you can make Disney Dining Memories at Walt Disney World. We don’t recommend trying to fit all of these in during one vacation… so you’ll just have to come back over and over and over again.
What’s your favorite Disney Dining memory? Tell us all about it in the comments below!