Here at Disney Food Blog, we’ve done a LOT of eating in Disney World.
We’ve reviewed basically every single restaurant in Disney World, eaten countless seasonal snacks, and shared years’ worth of tips with you. Now, we’re bringing you some of our absolute best pieces of advice. Let’s dive into our TOP 50 Disney dining tips!
Let’s start with some basics.
1. Research your dining options.
Disney World is a complicated place and the dining options are no different. If you’re headed on a trip soon, you might want to go ahead and research your dining picks. There are hundreds of restaurants on Disney World property and that can make it very overwhelming to decide the best place to eat during your vacation.
If you have at least part of a plan in advance, the decision can feel a LOT less stressful when you’re hungry and ready to eat in the parks. We have reviewed basically every single restaurant in Disney World and we have thoughts on ALL of them. If you’ve got your eye on a particular spot, head to DFB to check out our latest restaurant review. Our reviews are comprehensive and come with our thoughts on service, atmosphere, food, and more. We even have recommendations on what you should order!
2. Don’t miss the must-eat items!
We here at Disney Food Blog love Disney food (shocker, we know!) and we have eaten a lot of it. We’ve even worked to amass a list of must-eat treats and snacks for throughout Disney World. You’ve probably heard of cult favorites like DOLE Whip, Zebra Domes, School Bread, and Mickey’s Premium Ice Cream Bars. If any of those sound good to you, you might want to give them a try on your next visit to the World.
You’ll be in the clear if you do your research on your must-eats in advance, whether those musts are popular favorites or just something that sounds good to you. We cover everything there is to know about Disney World food so you can learn all about the different snacks and meals that you might encounter during your Disney trip. Check out some of our best-of posts like the Best Chocolate Chip Cookies in Disney World or the Best Grilled Cheese!
And don’t forget that our YouTube channel is FULL of videos to help you plan your trip, including lots of food to help you pick those must-eat snacks!
3. Embrace snacks, even as alternatives to meals.
Snacks are a pretty amazing part of Disney World. Our advice? Don’t underestimate the portion size. Snacks can even be a great alternative to full meals! Not only do they sometimes have enough food to fill up someone with an average appetite, they also tend to be cheaper than buying a whole entree portion from a Counter Service restaurant.
There are a few snacks around Disney World that we think work great in place of a meal. If you’re in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, you might want to head to Woody’s Lunch Box to try out the Totchos. Chili Cheese Fries at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe in Magic Kingdom can certainly hold you over. If you’re in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Flame Tree Barbecue has a few hearty snack options, and World Showcase in EPCOT is full of snacks that could hold you over until it’s time for a larger meal.
Click here for our list of 15 cheap but filling Disney World snacks for when you’re ballin’ on a budget!
4. Hit up resorts for meals.
You might want to head to the resorts for meals. Don’t forget that some of the best restaurants in Disney World are actually at the hotels — and, you don’t have to stick to the hotel you’re staying at when it comes to dining. If you’re looking for an upscale dining experience in Disney World, your best bet is probably heading to one of the hotels like Disney’s Contemporary Resort for California Grill or Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa for Citricos or Victoria and Albert’s (note that Victoria & Albert’s is temporarily unavailable).
The other bonus to eating at the resort hotels is that it is one of the few ways to officially resort hop right now. Since Disney World reopened in 2020, resort hopping has not been as common an occurrence as it used to be. Guests are only allowed to park at Disney World Resort hotels if they are resort guests or if they have a table service dining reservation. So, if you were hoping to see a lot of the Disney World Resort hotels, a great way to do that can be to spread your dining plans out among them.
We also like to use the monorail loop hotels as a tool when we want a break from Magic Kingdom in the middle of the day. It is so easy to access Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, and Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa from Magic Kingdom either through the monorail or even through walking paths! So, if one of the dining options at those hotels looks good to you, don’t be afraid to hop on the monorail in the middle of your Magic Kingdom day and get a break from the crowds.
5. Try new and underrated restaurants.
New restaurants are undoubtedly a popular choice when planning a visit to Disney, and we definitely get the appeal of eating in a brand new spot. If eating at a newly opened restaurant is important to you, then you can make that a priority.
But you might also want to try some underrated restaurants! New restaurants tend to be really popular, as do the tried-and-true favorites. But there are some seriously underrated restaurants in Disney World!
Sticking to only the more popular reservations might mean you’ll miss out on some amazing experiences. Some of our underrated restaurant favorites include Trail’s End Restaurant (specifically for breakfast), Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. Skipper Canteen, and Trattoria al Forno. Want to see more underrated favorites? We’ve got a whole post to take you through them.
6. Nosh at a lounge or bar in place of a sit-down dinner.
This next tip is one of our absolute favorites! If you want an upscale experience without the price or time commitment, consider dining at a lounge. Nomad Lounge is the lounge offering connected to Tiffins in Disney’s Animal Kingdom and it’s one of our favorite spots to eat in all of Disney World!
The food and drinks are still very upscale as is the environment — without quite as high of a price tag as dining at one of the table service options. Plus, lounges can give you the opportunity to get into hard to get restaurants. California Grill Lounge and other lounge spaces are typically open on a first-come-first-serve basis. If you arrive early in the evening, you might be able to “experience” the restaurant in a way, even though you might not have been able to to get a reservation. Plus, most lounges give you the opportunity to order off the full restaurant menu!
7. Fill up at a buffet or family-style meal.
Buffets can offer you a great opportunity to fill up so that you don’t have to spend as much money on meals later in the day. All-you-care-to-enjoy offerings are offered at a variety of spots around Disney World and many of them come with some amazing food options.
Specifically, we love the buffet at Boma at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge or the family-style meal being served at Tusker House in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Garden Grill Restaurant in EPCOT is also one of our favorite character meals and it’s served family-style.
Eating at a buffet might take up a larger chunk of time, but you can also fill up to the point that you might only need two meals that day. If you’re a light eater, you might even be able to get away with eating snacks until buffet time. This is a great way to save and to get a variety of food options during your meal.
8. Coordinate your reservations with park hours.
When you are making reservations you’re going to want to take a look at the park hours for the theme parks. For instance, it might be a bummer if you make a breakfast reservation at your hotel and then miss out on a solid chunk of park hours in the morning. But, if you make an earlier reservation you might be able to have a full table service experience and still make it to a park depending on its opening hours. EPCOT tends to open later, so your EPCOT day might be a great day for you to choose a longer breakfast meal.
Dining reservations can also help you get a little bit of extra time in the theme parks. Sometimes, restaurants inside the theme parks will offer reservations that are earlier than the Park’s opening hours. If you have one of these reservations, you’ll be able to enter the park before it opens and potentially be done dining by the time people are still scanning in at the front gates.
The same is true for dining reservations at the end of the day. You could find yourself walking out of a totally empty theme park if you make a reservation around the closing hours of the park. Keep in mind that some of these outside park hours reservations have been unavailable since the theme parks reopened in 2020, but it’s worth keeping an eye out for them!
Is breakfast at Cinderella’s Royal Table worth the cost right now? Click here to see our full review
Advance Dining Reservation Tips
Now for some tips to help you with your reservations!
9. Stay on-site so you can book more than 60 days prior to your visit whenever possible.
You might want to consider staying on-site as the Disney World hotels do give you a slight bump to your dining reservation window. Many of the table service restaurants in Walt Disney World require reservations and those reservations can fill up quickly. If you know that you want a reservation for a spot that is very much in-demand like Cinderella’s Royal Table or Be Our Guest, then staying on-site can be a major tool for making that happen.
All Disney guests can book their dining reservations 60 days in advance, but Walt Disney World hotel guests get an extra bump to that window. Instead of having to wait until the 60-day mark, hotel guests can book 60 days out plus the length of stay (up to a 10-day stay). Some of those reservations can go within minutes when they open up for everyone at the 60-day mark, so this can be a major plus.
10. Consider your other plans when booking dining.
You also want to make sure you consider your other plans when booking dining. Table service meals in Walt Disney World tend to take a while, especially if you’re looking at some of the more upscale meals or a meal with multiple courses. Definitely expect signature restaurants to take more than an hour.
These lengthy meals might be good for when you have some time to kill, but if you have a very tight schedule and a lot of must-dos in your Disney trip, it might be better to skip the table service meals or at least limit them so that you’re not spending a ton of time luxuriating at your table. If you’re curious about the pace of service, check our Disney restaurant reviews here on the site. You don’t want to get caught in a dining reservation for so long that you miss out on one of your must-do rides or experiences in the park!
11. Choose the right character meal for your group.
If you’re considering having a character meal in the plans, make sure you’re picking the right character meal for your group. There are a few factors that go into this. For one, you want to make sure that you’re going to like the food you’re eating. Restaurants like Cinderella’s Royal Table and Chef Mickey’s are both extremely popular for having iconic characters, the princesses and the Fab Five respectively. But, not all of their food is necessarily the best for the price.
If the quality of food is a priority, you might want to pick a restaurant like the character breakfast at Topolino’s Terrace or Storybook Dining at Artist Point with Snow White. Plus, you’ll want to keep in mind which characters are meeting at each spot. If your kiddo loves Chip ‘n’ Dale, Garden Grill might be a better choice than Chef Mickey’s. In our opinion, Garden Grill is actually one of the BEST character dining spots a lot of people miss out on.
12. Time your reservations in Magic Kingdom.
Magic Kingdom has a lot of timing tricks that you need to keep in mind. If you keep your breakfast reservation early, you’ll probably beat some of the crowds and be able to get good photos.
If rides are your priority you might want to keep in mind that booking a reservation during fireworks time or parades time could have an effect on how many rides you’re able to ride. Lines tend to be lower during the big shows! This can be a great time to take advantage of lower ride wait times. Typically, ride wait times get the longest in the middle of the day, so that could be a good time for you to book that lunch. Note that full parades are not yet available in Magic Kingdom, but cavalcades are and the Festival of Fantasy Parade is set to return in 2022.
13. Book a meal during Disney Enchantment or Harmonious for a great view of the fireworks.
If you want to get a great view of some entertainment AND eat at the same time, you can do the opposite of the above and time your reservations with things like parades and fireworks. If you get a reservation at a restaurant like California Grill or even Cinderella’s Royal Table, you could have amazing or really unique views of the Magic Kingdom fireworks from your table. Make sure you get a reservation that is around fireworks time and then consider requesting a table that has a good view of the show.
You can use Quick Service for this tip as well, but keep in mind that Quick Service locations are going to be very busy around these times. Still, is there anything better than eating corn dog nuggets while watching Disney Enchantment?
EPCOT also has some great restaurants with amazing fireworks views. The Rose and Crown Dining Room and La Cantina de San Angel both have amazing views of World Showcase Lagoon where Harmonious takes place. And you can even consider booking a fireworks dining package at EPCOT or a fireworks dessert party at Magic Kingdom to secure a good view.
14. Consider booking a dinner that combines food and entertainment.
You might want to consider booking dining that combines food and entertainment. After all, you’re in Disney World so having an extra special dining experience might make sense! Though this is limited right now due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there are still a few spots where you can find an entertaining dining experience.
For one, Raglan Road in Disney Springs still has live music and you might be able to find a few other spots with live music in the shopping and dining district. At Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, diners at ‘Ohana are often serenaded by a ukulele player. And, there are more unique forms of entertainment such as the antics at Whispering Canyon Cafe at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge or 50s Prime Time Cafe in Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
15. Know which restaurants to check out if you don’t have a reservation.
Another thing that could be a big deal is knowing which restaurants to keep an eye on if you don’t have a reservation. If you do happen to miss that 60-day window and end up not being able to make the reservations you wanted, or if you thought you were going to be okay with Quick Service but decide last-minute that you’d like a Table Service meal — you’ll want to know your options.
For one, many lounges do not require reservations and operate on a first-come-first-serve basis. But, there are also a number of restaurants that offer Mobile Dine Walk-Up Waitlist. This is a feature available on the My Disney Experience app and it lets you join the waitlist for one of these restaurants via your smart phone.
If the waitlist isn’t full, you’ll be added to the list and will get a push notification and text when your table is ready. These waits can be long at times, but this is a great way to get into some higher-demand spots. You’ll see the walk-up waitlist available at very popular places including The Hollywood Brown Derby and Nomad Lounge.
16. Skip dessert. At Table Service spots, that is.
What we are about to say might be shocking, but you might want to skip dessert. Not totally skip it, mind you! That would be total malarkey. We mean that you will generally want to skip ordering dessert when dining at Table Service restaurants. Table Service restaurants can have some absolutely stunning dessert options, but more often than not we find that we prefer one of the snacks available out and about in the parks.
Maybe forgo the chocolate bundt cake that they’re serving at your Table Service meal, and save some $$$ with a just-as-good dessert elsewhere. In many cases, the fancy desserts are nice but we might prefer a Mickey’s Premium Ice Cream Bar, DOLE Whip, or another creative Quick Service sweet. Don’t be afraid to skip that dessert course at dinner and head out to one of the snack carts in the park instead!
17. Can your kids have fun in a Disney restaurant that doesn’t feature characters? You bet.
You might be worried that if you don’t book a character meal your kids won’t have any special dining experiences — but that’s just not true. There are some amazingly themed dining experiences that will blow your kiddos away whether they’re meeting Mickey or not. Dining at Oga’s Cantina or Docking Bay 7 in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is an amazingly themed experience.
Places with fun antics like 50s Prime Time Cafe and Whispering Canyon tend to be favorites with little kiddos too. The Cast Members are absolutely wonderful at engaging guests and keeping the meal fun for everyone. Even at some of the more adult restaurants, there might be fun drink options and things for kids that come with souvenir cups and glow cubes to help keep them entertained while you eat.
18. If a reservation is unavailable, keep checking!
If you find that a reservation you really wanted is unavailable, keep checking. People cancel their reservations all the time. You never know when reservations might drop online so keep an eye on those spots that you’re hoping to snag a reservation for.
You can also keep an eye on DFB for this! If we ever spot a major change in reservation availability for a popular spot, we will typically post about it so that you don’t miss a beat!
This tip is especially important the day before you’re hoping to dine. Many people decide last minute that they’re not going to use their reservations and cancel. For the most part, reservations have to be canceled at least one day before to avoid the cancellation fee. So the day before you want to dine it might be a great time to find that last-minute dining reservation.