Making Sense -and Cents- of the Disney Dining Plan
I am so pleased to share this wonderful guest post with you written by one of our readers, Lucy Anderson! It warms my heart because this is exactly what I want this site to be about… parents sharing their tips with each other so we all have fun and memorable family vacations! So please, read on, leave a comment, and consider a tip you could share with us via a guest post, too. 😉
DISNEY DINING – CHILDREN VERSUS ADULTS
Our family has been going to Disney World nearly every year since 1984. As our family grew to a family of 7 with various ages, opinions and pickiness – we have to find a way to keep everyone fed and happy at the same time without letting it dominate our trip. Now, while I’d like to say that I’m the world’s best Mother and have mastered the ability to make my children eat what’s put in front of them…alas, this is often one dream, not even Disney can grant. So thank goodness that Walt Disney World is packed full of dining options. Choosing where to eat to please both children and adults is key for a family vacation. Adults, and sometimes teenagers, like to try new foods in a relaxing atmosphere while children want plain foods and characters. At Walt Disney World, it’s easy to enjoy both, often in the same restaurant.
DINING PLAN PORTIONS
The dining plan is an incredible value allowing a snack and two meals daily per person. Guests worry at first about missing that third meal but often find the dining plan is so generous in portion and option, it simply cannot be finished. Often my smaller children would split meals and have an extra for the end of the day. The portion sizes make the dining plan a better option for adults and older kids. One of the best values on the dining plan is found at Flame Tree Bar-B-Q in Animal Kingdom. The rotisserie half chicken meal with slaw, beans and a dessert is delicious and generous enough to last all day.
ATMOSPHERE and CHARACTER
Disney has done an outstanding job combining the kid’s desire to see and interact with characters while providing a pleasant atmosphere and great food for adults. An example of this ingenious blend is the character meal. Both of my daughters favorite, is the princess breakfast located in Norway’s pavilion at EPCOT. Akershus Royal Banquet Hall has medieval castle decor complete with arched windows and colorful banners hung from cathedral ceilings. Pastries, pancakes, sausage and eggs are served all-you-can-eat for a family style breakfast. Chef Mickey’s, preferred by my 3 boys, is located in The Contemporary Resort, and is best known for great food and characters. The decor at Chef Mickey’s is plain in comparison, but checking out the Contemporary and watching the monorail come through makes it a classic Disney experience. (Didn’t take me long to discover the real reason my boys ‘loved this one the best’)
ALL AGES DINING
Tony’s Town Square, located on Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom, offers a delightful mix of relaxation and good food. Turn of last century decor with Lady and the Tramp artwork, this dining experience is easily enjoyed by all ages. Kids can have plain yet delicious, cheese pizza and adults will enjoy the spaghetti and HUGE meatballs or one of several other authentic Italian options.
Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater is another fabulous dining experience enjoyed by all ages. Designed to mimic a drive in theater, diners eat in cars while watching sci-fi movie trailers from the 50s. It’s nostalgic for the older crowd and exciting for anyone who never experienced a drive in theater, plus the food and milkshakes, are incredible.
The hotel food court can also be an enjoyable option for all ages. Colorful decor plus numerous food options with lower prices, food courts work for everybody. One of the best is Pepper Market in Coronado Springs Resort but another great one is Everything Pop at the Pop Century Resort.
NOT WITH KIDS IN MIND
Colorful African decor coupled with spicy aromas make BOMA, Flavors of Africa, an amazing dining experience. Located in the lower lobby of Animal Kingdom Lodge’s Jambo House, this all you can eat buffet is unlike any other. Instead of lining up and waiting your turn in a slow grub line, Boma has food pods. Each pod offers a variety of delicious foods with flavors of Africa and around the world. The lamb or beef boboti is unusual and delicious. Other unusual choices include mealie pap or curry salmon. The large selection of desserts are also top notch with Zebra mounds and chocolate mousse among the favorites. Boma offers a kiddie pod with mac-n-cheese and mashed potatoes as well as fresh baked cookies, but for the higher price, its better suited to the adult diner or the very adventurous youngster. Truthfully, my children didn’t begin to appreciate BOMA until they were 20! But for my parents, my husband and me – it remains our all-time favorite.
FOR THE TEENAGERS
Character meals may not excite teenagers anymore making Planet Hollywood a good choice. Located in the big blue globe in Downtown Disney and literally stuffed with Hollywood props, costumes and posters, Planet Hollywood offers the excitement teens are looking for in their Disney dining experience with food that adults will enjoy. The menu is American fare with plenty of choice from BBQ sandwiches to a New York Strip. Planet Hollywood is extremely loud but teens won’t mind a bit. We discovered once we had teenagers, that we needed to have dining options outside of Disney available, so we actually began staying off-site at a local Orlando hotel, just outside of Disney Property called Enclave Suites. This gave us (and our rowdy) teenagers dining options that were more their speed.
For any restaurant experience beyond fast food, reservations are a good idea. Guests should book early by calling 1-407-939-3463 or 1-407-WDW-DINE. Making arrangements for dinner and a show at the same time is a great idea. For instance, a meal at Mama Melrose’s in Hollywood Studios at dinner time offers show tickets for Fantasmic. While special tickets are not required to see Fantasmic, the dinner and a show option offers a ticket in a reserved area so guests won’t have to arrive an hour early just to snag a seat, allowing time for a leisurely meal.
Obviously this is just brushing the surface to what Walt Disney World and the surrounding Orlando area has to offer but it’s a pretty good start. My family has seen restaurants come and go but the one’s listed above are by far some of the best options available if you have a wide range of ages to appease like we do.
Lucy Anderson is a mother of 5 and Disney enthusiasts. Since attending Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom opening day of October 1, 1971 she’s been a Disney fan for life. With endless knowledge from personal experiences Lucy enjoys sharing her adventures and advice with future Disney goers.