Tips from the DFB Guide: Best Spots for Dining with a Toddler

Many of us have been there. We’re all set to go to Walt Disney World for the trip of a lifetime, and we can’t wait to share this experience with our kiddos!

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But even though Disney is the Happiest Place on Earth, navigating its vastness with a toddler can be challenging at best, and a nightmare at worst.

And few parts of the trip are more challenging than meal times.

While we all agree that certain spots are inappropriate for small children — Victoria and Albert’s restricts patrons to the over 10 crowd — there are some choices that are better than others.

And you may be surprised to know…it doesn’t all come down to characters.

Below, we offer you a few choices from our picks for Best Spots to Eat with a Toddler – a brand new section in our just-released DFB Guide to Walt Disney World® Dining 2015. Pick up yours today for $4 off using code 2015 right here!

Chef Mickey

We Love Him — But There’s More to Eating at Disney with Kiddos Than Just This Guy!

Sanaa at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge

One of my favorite spots to dine no matter who’s with me is Sanaa. Located in Kidani Village at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, the restaurant is known for its exotic menu of African and Indian Fusion. And when I dine here, you know you’re gonna spy some incredible Butter Chicken on the table!

Tandoori trio -- chose butter chicken, spicy chicken, rice Sanaa

Tandoori Trio with Butter Chicken and Spicy Chicken

While the menu makes it a must-visit spot for guests who enjoy out of the ordinary cuisine, the restaurant is also quiet and rarely crowded — great features for guests who have a small fry in tow.

But the real attraction for toddlers is the view! Forget animatronics on the Jungle Cruise — look out the windows at Sanaa’s sweeping vistas and you’ll see the real deal!

View from Sanaa

View from Sanaa

Sanaa overlooks Sunset Savanna and spying a zebra, giraffe, or other exotic animal is practically guaranteed!

You Just Might View Some Animals While You Take in Lunch at Sanaa

You Just Might View Some Animals While You Take in Lunch at Sanaa

Here’s another TIP: Keep in mind when you make your advance dining reservation that the animals tend to retire early, and it may get dark on the savanna earlier than you think. Planning lunch or an early dinner at Sanaa during daylight hours is your best bet for seeing the wild side of the restaurant.

Play ‘n Dine at Hollywood and Vine Restaurant at Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Although there are puh-lenty of Character Dining options at Disney, some are better than others when it comes to entertaining babies and toddlers. We’ve chosen two in the DFB Guide to Walt Disney World® Dining 2015, and Play ‘n Dine at Hollywood and Vine Restaurant is one of them.

So, what sets Hollywood and Vine’s Play ‘n Dine apart? The characters! While practically all other Character Dining options at Disney involve either some subset of the Fab Five or Disney Princesses, Hollywood and Vine’s Play ‘n Dine features the original characters from the Disney Junior lineup! That means that your kiddo will come face to face with friends like Pirate Jake, Doc McStuffins, and Princess Sophia!

Jake the Pirate

Jake the Pirate Just May Try to Join You for Lunch!

Seeing these beloved characters up close and larger than life is [Read more…]

Disney Food for Families: Ideas for Successful Table Time with Kids

Let’s face it. When you’re in Disney World or Disneyland, eating out for nearly every meal, eventually there’s going to be some waiting around — waiting for your table, waiting for your food, waiting for the check.

The hobby horse parade at the Whispering Canyon Cafe is a great way for kids to blow off some steam.

In an ideal world, you’d pass the time by making polite conversation with your family. But in reality, that may be a tall order after several days of togetherness, forced sibling cooperation, and minding of manners. And for a younger child, patience and conversation making are simply developmental milestones that have not yet been reached.

Given all these challenges, how do you get through a Disney meal with happy, content, occupied kids? And how do you make sure of the following?

  1. Everyone (children and adults) gets to eat at a comfortable pace,
  2. Everyone sits at the table when they’re supposed to,
  3. No whining or complaints, and
  4. No one bothers guests at other tables.

It’s possible! First, we’ve got some things to consider when making your Disney Dining Reservations.

Then scroll down for ideas of how to keep the kids occupied and entertained at the table!

The First Step: Choose the Right Restaurants

Before making your dining reservations, take an honest look at your family. If your children are patently incapable of sitting still for a meal at your local diner, then you may want to save extended signature dining for another visit.

If your kids are generally OK at restaurants at home, but sometimes get a little squirmy, you may want to focus your dining on restaurants where noise and movement are the norm. These include buffets, character meals, and meals with entertainment.

The parade at 'Ohana also allows kids to get their groove on.

No one will notice if Junior needs to get up and stretch if everyone else in the restaurant is jumping up to [Read more…]

Disney Food for Families: Tips for Disney Dining with Young Children

In my mind, a vacation isn’t a vacation if you’re doing the same old chores you do at home, but at a different locale. I spend enough time packing lunches and cooking dinners all year long; I want a break from this when travel. That means I want to eat in restaurants when I’m on the road.

Tigger Meets a New Friend at Crystal Palace

This mindset was one of the factors that made Walt Disney World such a wonderful destination for my family when my daughters were small. There are dozens upon dozens of restaurants to choose from and they’re ALL kid friendly (with the one tiny exception of Victoria & Albert’s).

When I figured out that I could have gourmet food and wine while my toddlers were gleefully welcomed with high chairs, plain pasta, and coloring pages, I was hooked.

But while there are abundant dining options at Disney World, there are some types venues that work slightly better than others for families with babies, toddlers, and preschoolers. There are also some tips and tricks that can make dining with small fries even happier in this happiest of places.

Preparation Is Everything

Before you arrive at Walt Disney World, there are several steps you can take to make your on-site dining run more smoothly: [Read more…]

Disney Dining Plan FAQs: Kids and the Disney Dining Plan

With the Free Disney Dining Plan for August and September 2012 being announced earlier this week, I figured now was a good time to start up our Walt Disney World Disney Dining Plan FAQ Series!!

Dining With The Characters is a Great Dining Plan Option.

Our illustrious Disney Food for Families columnist, Erin Foster, has worked day and night (night and day) putting together a list of 81 Disney Dining Plan FAQs with thorough answers! (For those new to the Disney Dining Plan, see the specs here.)

You and I get to reap the benefit of her hard work as we post the first installment of our Disney Dining Plan FAQ Series — Kids and the Disney Dining Plan.

The Disney Dining Plan With Kids Under 3 Years Old

A few FAQs for those visiting with a toddler under 3 years old (Disney’s “children” classification begins at age 3 and goes through age 9).

Why can’t my under-three-year-old child can’t be on the dining plan.
That’s just the way it is. You may have a 2-year-old with a voracious appetite who you want to put on the dining plan. I don’t recommend it.

While theoretically you could fudge his age and say he was three, but then you’d be required to purchase theme park tickets for him. (Park entrance free for the under-threes.) It will be MUCH cheaper to just buy your two-year-old his own food at the restaurants.

How do I feed my 2-year-old at a traditional table service restaurant?
At regular table service restaurants, children under the age of three can [Read more…]