5 Things to Know About Dining at Disney World

Crystal Palace SignIt’s Trip Planning Tuesday here at the MouseDreams Blog and in this article we are going to share some tips on dining at Disney World. Dining is one of the most fun aspects of a Disney trip as you get to experience food from many different cultures and countries around the world while on your vacation. People often use the stereotype that the only thing you eat in theme parks are burgers and fries, but this couldn’t be further from the truth at Disney World. There are so many options for you if you know where to look, and we are going to do our best to give you all of the information you need to be successful. In this article we are going to give you the top 5 things you need to know while planning your dining options at Disney World. Keep in mind you can visit our dining page for even more information on all things dining at Disney World.

  1. The Difference Between Quick Service and Table Service – As you prepare more and more for your trip you will begin to hear restaurants referred to as either “Quick Service” or “Table Service”, so let’s define these for you. “Quick Service” restaurants are those that do not take reservations and are typically a location where you walk up to the counter, order your food, and then take it to your table yourself. Although there are a few of these that will deliver your food after ordering. “Table Service” dining on the other hand is a sit-down, full service, restaurant where you have a waiter attending to all of your needs. These meals take anywhere from 60 minutes to 2 hours depending on the level of service the restaurant provides.
  2. When Reservations are Needed for Table Service Dining – Table service dining is very popular at Disney World, even so popular that many of the most popular restaurants will book up completely 180 days in advance when guests are able to make reservations. We recommend making all of your table service dining reservations at the 180 day mark just to make sure you get what you want. Of course you can make changes after that point and move things around if there is availability, but the popularity of many of these restaurants makes reservations hard to get at times. Online reservations open at 6 AM EST, 180 days in advance of your trip, while phone reservations open at 7 AM EST.
  3. Where to Meet Characters While You Eat – There are certain meals at Disney World that are labeled “Character Dining”. These are all table service restaurants, so they will require a reservation, and many of them are popular enough they do book up very close to that 180 day mark. At these restaurants, most of which are buffets, 4-5 characters will visit your table during the course of your meal. These characters will not have a photographer with them, but you are more than welcome to take your own photos with the character interacting and posing with members of your family. Also, autographs are welcomed as well in these situations. Keep in mind when planning your itinerary it may take up to 90 minutes for all of the characters to make their way around the entire restaurant.
  4. Best Times of Day to Eat Quick Service – Quick service dining locations definitely have certain types of day where they are more and less crowded, and it will benefit you to know when those times are. First of all you will want to try to avoid the 12 PM to 2 PM time period at these locations, that is when they will be most backed up due to the lunch crowd. If you are in the park at rope drop we recommend planning on eating lunch around 11:15 so you can get out of the restaurant before the big crowds arrive. Alternatively, you can just tour right through lunch time and eat later on when you return to your resort. As far as dinner the crowds they usually arrive in a wider time frame, so the exact time is not quite as important as lunch. The most crowded times for dinner are from 6 PM to 8 PM, but again it varies a little more at dinner time. We recommend eating between 5 PM and 6 PM to have the best chance of avoiding some of the dinner rush.
  5. Are Resort Dining Locations the Same as Those in the Parks? – When it comes to dining at Disney World, especially when on the Disney Dining Plan, one of the biggest questions people ask is does it matter if I am in a theme park or in a resort? The answer is very simply that it does not matter. When on the dining plan quick service locations are the same in the resorts as in the parks and the same thing for table service restaurants. We recommend making reservations for table service restaurant in the resorts the same as we did in the parks. Another common misconception is that you can only use your dining plan in the resort you are staying in. The dining plan includes all restaurants at all resorts and theme parks on property as well as Downtown Disney, so there are really no limitations to what restaurants you can visit.

Please comment below and let us know any questions or thoughts you may have and we will do our best to help you.

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