“Back In The Day” (aka when I was a kid – aka like 20 years ago) – there was no such thing as fastpasses, or Advance Dining Reservations, and when we wanted to go on a Disney Ride, we simply waited in line. And when we wanted to eat – we chose a place and waited for a table. Times have changed a LOT since then – Disney World Vacation Planning has become its own entity – largely due to the invention and advancement of things like the internet and cell phones and now smartphones – all of which can definitely make things easier and information more accessible and less confusing when it comes to navigating all things, Disney. I love that I can legitimately plan ahead for Disney – instead of just packing ahead of time, I can also plan my Itinerary, rides, and MEALS too! Speaking of Disney Food – I highly recommend you take advantage of the fact that they allow you to book your sit down meals 180 days before your Disney World vacation – as the popular restaurants fill up FAST – and you won’t have much (if any!) luck walking into a character meal without a reservation. So if you’re not sure where you want to eat, I recommend you book these first – some of the most popular Disney restaurants that you NEED an Advanced Dining Reservations for:
1. Boma: This is one of my favorite places to eat in all of Walt Disney World – for MANY reasons. The first being its location – situated in the beautiful Animal Kingdom Lodge, Boma overlooks the Savannah – where animals roam around freely, and aside from the amazing scenery, the Resort itself is beautiful too. I highly recommend arriving a bit early for your scheduled meal here – so you can explore the Hotel, and take a peek outside at the animals, too! The restaurant itself serves breakfast and lunch buffet-style, and the meal itself offers some truly unique items. African cuisine – salads, meats, soups, and rice and other dishes are all prepared fresh and I honestly have yet to try something I didn’t like. The desserts are awesome here too (including the infamous but delicious “adults only” Zebra Domes). Even if you don’t like African food (or even really know what it is!) – you will enjoy your meal here, as it’s truly a unique place that is not to be missed
2. Be Our Guest (Dinner): During the day, breakfast and lunch here are served in a more casual setting – counter service style. But at night the whole place transforms – different more upscale menu and a waitstaff that provides a much more elevated experience. The food itself is French inspired – and can be paired with selections from their beer and wine list (Be Our Guest was, in fact, the first place to serve Alcohol in the Magic Kingdom!). Inside the Beast’s castle, patrons are transported to the “Grand Ballroom” setting from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast – and the overall experience is just magical for those of all ages. This restaurant is fairly new, and has been popular since the moment it opened – and it shows NO sign of slowing down – so I HIGHLY recommend you make a reservation just as soon as you can if you want to have dinner here
3. California Grill – Situated high on the 15th floor of the Contemporary Resort and accessible only by private elevator, this popular dinner combines sites, smells, and tastes into what can only be described as an exquisite experience. The food itself is California themed, with fresh seasonal ingredients (like fresh fish and oak-fired filet mignon), as well as a large selection of sushi (prepared in full view from the open kitchen), and an awesome wine list (over 300 options – with sommeliers on hand to help you pick the best pairings). But the best thing about this upscale restaurant has to be the VIEW – the observation decks allow you an amazing view of Disney World from up on the 15th floor. Pro Tip – make your dinner reservation for later in the evening, so that as you’re enjoying dessert you can get an up close and personal viewing of the Magic Kingdom fireworks show
4. ‘Ohana – The name of this restaurant means “Family” and per Lilo “Family means no one gets left behind – or forgotten” – and this restaurant is the perfect personification of family – you’re greeted warmly as you enter, and the staff is so kind and attentive that you’ll feel like you’re eating at your favorite aunt’s house. The location is great too – the Polynesian Resort is just a short monorail ride from the Magic Kingdom, and the tropical theme is amazing – the perfect place to relax for dinner after a long day of pounding the pavement at the Parks. Dinner is served “family style” – and starts with an appetizer of chicken wings, followed by a dinner of rice, noodles, and assorted grilled meats. Dessert is an awesome bread pudding – served warm, and it is the perfect end to a perfect meal. Breakfast is also served here too – the food is not as spectacular – mostly typical breakfast fare, but the meal DOES feature CHARACTERs – Lilo, Stitch, and pals are on hand to help make your Ohana experience complete (the other characters rotate – but Mickey, Minnie, and Pluto have been known to be in attendance – in their best Hawaiian themed outfits, of course!) Make a reservation here, you won’t regret it, cousin!
5. Chef Mickey’s – This popular buffet serves up breakfast, “brunch” (ie – lunch with breakfast foods), and dinner daily – and is located just a quick monorail ride (or WALK!) away from the Magic Kingdom at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. The food is mainly “American” fair – typical breakfast meats/pastries etc at breakfast/brunch, and then an assortment of carved meats, salads/sides at dinner. The food is perfect for the whole family – especially KIDS – they offer several “Mickey shaped” items (Ravioli, mac and cheese, and desserts – to name a few), and always offer many dishes that are extremely kid-friendly. Now, some of you might disagree with my choice of making this a “Top Pick” – as many have said over the years that the food here is sub-par – but I personally have always LOVED it here – the food has always been good (I have a particular fondness for the self-serve ice cream sundae bar!), and the CHARACTERS are the best in the World – Mickey, Minnie, Pluto, Goofy, and Donald are the stars here – and they wear the most adorable “chef” outfits as they circulate the room for hugs and autographs. Say what you will about the food – but this spot continues to be popular, and I personally will continue to make sure I make a reservation to eat here – as there are few places that combine the Fab Five and Ice Cream Sundaes – so why not take advantage of it?
The days of spontaneously picking a Table Service Meal at Walt Disney World are pretty much over (sad but true!) – so if you’re wanting to eat at any of these dining hot spots – I suggest you make an ADR right away!