Five Dining Memories To Make at Walt Disney World

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.

Hello from Disney World!

Hello from Disney World!

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!

View of Fireworks from California Grill

View of Fireworks from California Grill

California Grill is the spot for those who want a classy, memorable dinner — with all eyes on Cinderella Castle.

Sonoma Goat Cheese Ravioli

Sonoma Goat Cheese Ravioli

Snag an Advance Dining Reservation (ADR, moving forward) for just the right time, and you’ll get to see Magic Kingdom’s nighttime spectacular, Happily Ever After, from California Grill’s balcony.

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.

California Grill Sign

California Grill Sign

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.

'Ohana Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce

‘Ohana Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce

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)!

View from 'Ohana

View from ‘Ohana

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.)

View of World Showcase Lagoon

View of World Showcase Lagoon

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.

Rapunzel

Rapunzel

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.

Cinderella's Royal Table Dining Room

Cinderella’s Royal Table Dining Room

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.

Cinderella greets guests in her castle

Cinderella greets guests in her castle

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.

Belle at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall

Belle at Akershus Royal Banquet Hall

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!

Prince Eric

Prince Eric

Diners nosh on foods themed to Tangled and The Little Mermaid while meeting Rapunzel and Flynn Rider along with Ariel and Prince Eric.

Pastry assortment

Pastry assortment

We did mention Flynn Rider, didn’t we? Well, just in case… ;)

Flynn Rider

Flynn Rider

(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

Did you know that guests 14 and older can Dine with an Imagineer?! Select either The Hollywood Brown Derby in Hollywood Studios or Citricos at the Grand Floridian for your four-course meal.

Citricos

Citricos

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.

Sanaa

Sanaa

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.

Sanaa Potjie

Sanaa Potjie

It’s a relaxing environment with terrific food, warm cultural ambiance, and, perhaps, a crane, giraffe, or zebra right in view.

Watch the Wildlife as You Dine at Sanaa

Watch the Wildlife as You Dine at Sanaa

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.

View from Wild Africa Trek

View from Wild Africa Trek

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!

Aquarium view

Aquarium view

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!”

Grilled New York Strip Steak

Grilled New York Strip Steak

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!

The Pioneer Hall Players

The Pioneer Hall Players

This rootin’, tootin’ extravaganza features old fashioned dancin’, laughin’, and singin’, along with All-You-Care-To-Enjoy country vittles. Yeehaw!

Hoop Dee Doo Review goodies

Hoop Dee Doo Review goodies

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.

Spirit of Aloha Dancers

Spirit of Aloha Dancers

If you have wee little ones in tow, you might want to consider Mickey’s Backyard BBQ.

Mickey's Backyard BBQ sign

Mickey’s Backyard BBQ sign

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.

Flip Card --Green " Jump and Play" Side

Flip Card –Green ” Jump and Play” Side

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.)

Someone Asked for Ketchup . . .

Someone Asked for Ketchup . . .

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.

All You Care to Enjoy Skillet -- Another View

All You Care to Enjoy Skillet

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!

Cast Members

Cast Members

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!

Aunt Liz's Golden Fried Chicken

Aunt Liz’s Golden Fried Chicken

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! 

Comments

  1. Essie says

    I just love the Hoop de Do, but for more of an everyday, it’s definitely 50s Prime Time! Its a ton of fun and their fried chicken is great!

  2. Kaz says

    Would love to try the wild animal trek.. If you can afford it, V&A’s can be a memorable experience, as well…

  3. Annie says

    For the best “above the world” dining in Epcot, don’t forget Monsieur Paul. M. Paul has the best above the ground view of Illuminations in Epcot, and it’s often overlooked. The food is also fantastic.

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