Dining and snacking in Disney World is almost as fun as the rides themselves! But just like the attractions, when it comes to restaurants, there are rules, guidelines, and even tricks and hacks to get the BEST experience.
Some rules and tips for Disney World restaurants are obvious (e.g. make reservations waaaaay in advance for Cinderella’s Royal Table!), but we’ve got LOTS of other insider secrets to help you level up your next Disney dining experience!
Whether you’re looking for an interactive Character Meal, a bar seat at an in-demand restaurant, or a meat-free snack on the go, we’ve got you COVERED with some secret hacks to work within the rules of Disney World! Let’s dig in!
Know Which Tables to Request
Let’s face it, not all tables in the dining room are created equal. Depending on the restaurant, each table can provide a different experience. If you’re hoping to get a good view of the fireworks at a spot like ‘Ohana, you could be disappointed to find yourself tucked away far away from the windows. Or maybe you want a table with a TV at a spot like 50’s Prime Time Cafe! Knowing ahead of time the must-get tables and tips can mean the difference between a ho-hum meal and a meal of a lifetime! We have lots more ideas in our DFB Guide, so definitely check it out!
Here are the rules and tips to follow for getting your desired table! When you check-in at the host/hostess stand for your reservation, make sure you arrive at least 30 minutes early and let them know of your table preference so the Cast Member can help make those accommodations. (Sorry, but if you have special requests, YOU want to come prepared to wait for them to be filled — don’t expect they can always accommodate requests right away!)
Be as specific as possible. If you want to see fireworks during dinner, make sure you ask for a “fireworks view.” Many tables may be outside or near a window but may not offer that view you’re hoping for. Keep in mind that Cast Members try to honor these requests, but they cannot be guaranteed, so arrive early to help them have time to make magic for you!
Look up restaurants beforehand so you know the various rooms or table types you’ll encounter. Prefer a cozy booth at The Hollywood Brown Derby in Hollywood Studios? Or maybe a table closest to the performers on stage at Biergarten in EPCOT? ASK! You’re on vacation! Live your best life and don’t be afraid to ask for your preferred seating option.
Adults CAN Order off the Kids’ Menu
Sometimes all you want is a little nosh, rather than a full-blown feast. After all, Disney isn’t exactly known for dainty portions! The menu may say “kids meal” or for “ages 9 and under,” but ANYONE can order from this selection.
If you want a lighter portion, adults can usually order off the kids’ menu at most restaurants.
Though WDW restaurants allow adults to order from the kids’ menu, some restaurants have different interpretations of how it’s executed. At some restaurants, adults will receive a larger portion of kids’ food for a higher price. Experiences vary at different restaurants and with different Cast Members, so always be sure to ask! If you’re planning to use the Disney Dining Plan (when it returns) keep in mind that whether ordering from the adult or kids menu, it’ll still cost you the full dining plan credit. But still, it’s something! And sometimes, kids’ food looks delicious tbh.
Not All Mickey Meals Are Created Equal
Everyone LOVES a good old-fashioned Character Meal! Disney has found a way to reintroduce some of our favorite character meals, even if they have been adjusted a bit for health and safety reasons for the time being. But did you know that not all Character Meals are created equally? If you want to score some quality time with the Big Cheese, himself, the automatic impulse is to book a meal at Chef Mickey’s in Disney’s Contemporary Resort.
But here’s a little trick of the trade: if you’re after some face time with the Main Mouse, you’re more likely to get interactions with him at Garden Grill in EPCOT, over Chef Mickey’s. Garden Grill is a smaller restaurant, so with fewer families and tables to visit, he’ll stop by your table more frequently and sometimes for longer! The character lineup for each restaurant is a little different, so definitely do your research before committing — but if it’s Mickey you’re after, Garden Grill is our top pick (plus the food is really good too!).
Disney is still in the process of phasing back Character Dining but there are still lots of great options to have a (still somewhat distanced) meal with your favorite characters.
Dining with Special Diets
Going meat-free? No prob! Even when some of the plant-based menu options seem a little zany (umm vegan “lobster” rolls? Don’t knock it til you try it!), Disney World at least TRIES to rise to the vegetarian occasion!
No matter what you’re craving, be it a quick snack or a full-fledged feast, EVERY Disney World dining location — including snack kiosks — has at LEAST one plant-based option. Don’t see what you need? Ask a Cast Member or server for their allergy menu information — every location has one! Not seeing anything that strikes up your fancy? Simply ask to speak with the chef. You’d be amazed at how accommodating Disney World chefs can be! No matter your dietary needs, Disney will have something for everyone.
Prepare for Menu Changes
We all have our tried and true Disney restaurant obsessions that we order EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. Seriously, if Disney ever removed fish & chips from Rose & Crown or Yorkshire County Fish Shop, we’ll feel personally attacked. But sometimes we’re craving something new!
If you’re looking for a brand new menu experience, MOST Disney restaurants update their menus at some point throughout the year, at least a little bit. We often see this change in the Fall and Springtime. Signature restaurants, though, have more freedom with food purchasing, menu development, and seasonal availability.
Places like Yachtsman Steakhouse, Tiffins, and Le Cellier could change their menus MUCH more often, sometimes as often as weekly or even daily! If you’re going to drop some substantial coin on a memorable meal, make sure you check the menu on the Disney website before your trip to avoid disappointment. Menu staples likely won’t change (if it’s a steakhouse, we’re pretty confident it’ll still have steak on the menu 😂), but some of the seasonal side dishes may vary.
Find the Unseen Discount: Non-Disney Owned Restaurants Have Their Own Rewards!
Surprise! This might come as a shock to some, but a lot of restaurants in Disney World are actually run by independent companies!
This is especially true (and much more obvious) at Disney Springs, where virtually all of the restaurants are from outside chefs and restaurant groups, but this is also true in the parks! Yak & Yeti in Animal Kingdom and La Cava del Tequila in EPCOT (actually, ALL the restaurants in Mexico, Italy, France, and more!) are prime examples of places that are neither owned nor run by Disney — they just have killer real estate!
Why should this matter to you? Because some of these restaurants have membership rewards that can make dining in WDW easier (or even cheaper) for you! Earl of Sandwich in Disney Springs has a membership program where you can receive discounts and promotions. And if you’re a Landry’s Select Club member, you can receive priority seating and other perks at their participating restaurants like Yak & Yeti and T-Rex Cafe.
Our hack for making the most of this is to ask your server when you receive your bill if there are any affiliate discounts available. Then you make sure you’re using your membership to its full advantage!
Don’t Dawdle in High-Demand Restaurants (But Don’t Be Rushed Either!)
This rule is just common courtesy, really. Some restaurants in Disney World are HOT tickets, and reservations and tables are incredibly hard to come by. So if you’re lucky enough to snag a table, don’t linger forever!
Basically, just be mindful of how much time you’re taking at in-demand restaurants. Don’t feel like you need to rush through your meal at Be Our Guest, of course, but don’t twiddle your thumbs for three hours at Sci-Fi Dine-In Restaurant, either, potentially preventing others from experiencing the restaurant.
On the flip side of this, at some of the popular restaurants (like Cinderella’s Royal Table), you might feel like your service is being rushed. In these cases, it can be perfectly acceptable to go at your own (reasonable) pace and not let your server shove you in and out in minutes! Definitely take the time to savor the experience you’re paying for — don’t feel rushed, but be mindful of others and don’t linger unnecessarily.
What’s our hack for avoiding the rush and lingering in these popular establishments? Try to eat at off-times. This way, there won’t be quite the crowd lined up ready for your table right after you and you can enjoy the meal and ambiance a bit more leisurely.
You Don’t Have to Settle For Paper Straws!
Conservation is the name of the game at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park and Animal Kingdome Lodge. Disney won’t permit balloons into Animal Kingdom for the safety of the animals. And at both the Animal Kingdom Park and Lodge, you won’t find any single-use plastic straws (actually, you’ll be somewhat hard-pressed to find these at all in Disney World!), and you can’t bring them with you from another park, either. Disney even goes so far as to list them on the prohibited items list.
Why? Because Animal Kingdom is legit! That means wild animals are all over, and in order to protect them from potentially ingesting something harmful, Disney prohibits the use of plastic straws (and balloons) on-site. But, like we said, this isn’t really just Animal Kingdom anymore. While SOME locations offer agave or other plant-based straws that look and feel more like plastic, most spots all around Disney World are rocking paper straws.
Does that mean that you have to sip your smoothie sans straw? Not necessarily! If the paper straws turn to mush on you a bit too quickly, bring your own reusable straw! Or, for that unique souvenir, you can purchase a reusable straw at Disney World to use there and bring home with you.
Because conservation doesn’t have to happen only while you’re on vacation.
Keep to the Code — the Dress Code, That Is.
Obviously, restaurants in the parks are as casual as you come (with a few notable exceptions). No need to bring an outfit change for The Jungle Navigation Co., Ltd. Skipper Canteen! But outside the parks, in some of the Disney resorts, it’s a different story.
Some of the snazzier restaurants actually have a business casual dress code (leave the tie-dye and tank tops in the room), to maintain an ambiance that matches the higher-end environment. These restaurants include Jiko, Flying Fish, California Grill, Citricos, Narcoossee’s, and Yachtsman Steakhouse. Then of course there’s Victoria & Albert’s, which is on a whole ‘NOTHER level (i.e. bring your NICEST attire!).
Even in the parks, when open, you’ll find a few spots like this. Spots like Monsieur Paul and Takumi Tei in EPCOT both maintain a dress code as well. If you’re set on dining at these spots, you’ll want to dress accordingly or make plans to head back to the room to change beforehand.
No real hack for this rule, but just be sure to know before you go. Look up each restaurant you’re planning to visit and make sure you know of any dress codes that may apply. Bonus tip: if you’re staying on property, try to arrange these meals near your hotel so you can pop into your room and change quickly before your meal or bring a change of clothes with you! If this tip doesn’t vibe with you, keep reading our next hack below.
Try the Lounge Area at Popular Restaurants
Lifehack: when you’re having an impossible time landing a ressie at one of Disney World’s more in-demand restaurants, try the lounge!
For buzzy restaurants like Citricos, California Grill, and Tiffins, there are casual lounge options that don’t take reservations and offer similar menus! So if you’re just dying to get your hands on that Tiffins Bread Service, try your luck at Nomad Lounge next door. Disney is a family destination, so even though it might be called a “lounge” it will definitely still be relatively kid-friendly!
So, next time you miss out on that coveted reservation, consider the nearby lounge as an option — sometimes, we prefer it!
Booze in Moderation
But it’s important not to get TOO wild! This is especially good advice for when Drinking Around the World. Take your time, drink LOTS of water, and make sure you’re eating enough to balance out that Pina Colada. And balance your beverages with a snack here and there!
It’s your vacation! You’ve saved for it, you’ve planned for it, and we don’t want you to miss a thing or feel crummy, so grab a treat and a sip some water while you enjoy your festive vacation beverage! Just do so responsibly!
Bring Cashless Forms of Payment
Let’s face it, we’re living in a digital world. Partly employed as a safety precaution during the pandemic, Disney World restaurants largely enforce cashless or contactless forms of payment. This means credit cards, gift cards, MagicBands, or any form of digital payment on your phone.
So the next time you bring a wad of cash to Victoria & Albert’s (when open), you might want to rethink it.
It never hurts to have a few bucks on hand for tipping or those cheaper treats, but with so many Disney vendors prioritizing cashless payments, you’ll soon be able to leave your cash in the bank and just travel with plastic. Extra tip — pack a backup form of payment. You never know what will happen! Also — don’t forget that ID!
Bonus: The Secret Behind the Craisins (…and other little snack insights)!
Have you ever wandered around Disney World and thought to yourself, “why are Craisins everywhere?” You’re not alone! And we’ve got a little secret for you…
…as such a HUGE buyer, Disney has lots of strategic alliances with different food brands. It makes sense since these brands get such a global platform and Disney can presumably bring costs down. But this is the reason why during any given summer, you’ll spot a surplus of seemingly random brand ingredients, like Craisins or Cuties, in seemingly EVERYTHING.
There are also some foods you may NOT find due to these brand alliances. This can include things like Pepsi products. Since Disney is a Coca-Cola vendor, you won’t find your favorite Pepsi drinks here. You may also have a hard time finding the brand name General Mills and the likes of Cheerios or Pepperidge Farm Goldfish crackers (though you’ll likely see some substitute snacks around the parks).
If these are your favorites, or your little one won’t be fooled by Disney knockoffs, then our little hack for you is to bring some from home or pick up some from a local store, if you have your own car or take a rideshare.
Well, there you have it! The next time you visit Disney World, keep these insider tips and hacks in mind to ensure you’re making the MOST of your reservations, your budgets, and your cravings at Disney restaurants!
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What is YOUR secret rule at Disney World restaurants? Let us know in the comments!