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!
In our The DFB Guide to Walt Disney World® Dining 2018 e-Book, we have a whole section dedicated to avoiding crowds in Disney World. Pick up your copy here!
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!
4 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.
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. Trolley Car 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 bonus: character meals tend to allow for more character interaction during less busy dining periods. Extra hugs with Tigger, anyone?
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, fewer crowds mean more available restaurants, better service, and quieter 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 being one of the most coveted spots — 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.
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!
4. Use Mobile Ordering at Quick Service Locations!
This newest tip to avoid the crowds comes courtesy of the My Disney Experience app! If the line at your favorite quick service spot is winding around the building, check to see if the location has Mobile Ordering! Many of our must-do restaurants are on the list (including Columbia Harbour House at the Magic Kingdom and Flame Tree Barbecue at Animal Kingdom!).
Mobile Ordering allows you to place your order in the app (paying with the Disney Dining Plan or credit/debit). Then, when you’re ready to pick up your meal or snack, use the app to tell the restaurant that you’re there. Pick up your order from the specially assigned Mobile Ordering Pick Up window. You can bypass the line and be digging in in no time!
Want More Tips to Avoid Crowds in Disney World?
We’ve shared four 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 2018 — 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 2019 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 2019 E-book!
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!