When I planned our first trip to Walt Disney World, I believed that it would potentially be our only trip to the World. I grew up visiting Orlando every couple years in conjunction with trips to visit my aunt in nearby Tampa, but my nuclear family was living on one income in one of the most expensive counties in the country, my aunt had moved to a town forty-five minutes from us, and frequent visits to Disney seemed unlikely if not impossible.
With the goal of having the trip of a lifetime, I went about booking as many special dining opportunities as possible. I’d like to share our favorites from that trip in 2008 as well as more recent visits to the Happiest Place on Earth.
1900 Park Fare: Last January my husband had to travel unexpectedly for work, so to make the time pass more quickly, the kids and I ran away from home for a couple nights at Walt Disney World. While there we experienced the Suprecalifragilistic Breakfast at 1900 Park Fare for the first time. Characters included Mary Poppins, Alice in Wonderland, the Mad Hatter, and Winnie the Pooh. The restaurant was not crowded and the atmosphere was relaxed and playful. The food was so incredible that both of my kids helped themselves to seconds in between character visits. This is one of our favorite moments with the Mad Hatter:
Akershus Royal Banquet Hall: Earlier in the week I mentioned that the Princess Storybook Dining at the Akershus Royal Banquet Hall is one of the reasons that we love EPCOT. My family enjoyed the breakfast buffet rather than trying the Norwegian inspired menus later in the day. The beautiful dining room is subtly separated into enough unique areas to feel cozy despite the number of people dining at the same time. And as one would expect from Disney, the food is incredible!
Chef Mickey’s: One of my favorite meals from our very first trip to Disney with the kids was the buffet at Chef Mickey’s. The food reminded me of the amazing buffets you see on cruises, and seeing my father and my son eyeing the desserts together was a magical moment. The best part? This is the perfect location to relax, eat, and experience one on one interactions with everyone’s favorite Disney characters – Mickey and the gang.
The Crystal Palace: I can still remember eating at The Crystal Palace when I was a child and loved visiting this classic with both my children and my parents. We booked a late morning breakfast buffet to take advantage of the opportunity to enjoy the kids’ favorites from fresh fruit to Mickey waffles. Nothing like meeting Tigger, Piglet, Eeyore and Pooh for the first time.
Cinderella’s Royal Table: I woke up early the morning that I booked this reservation and dialed over and over again until the phone lines picked up. I blurted out, “Cindy’s Breakfast,” and squee’d with glee when they confirmed that I got in. The advanced dining reservations process has changed much since 2008 when I frantically made that call, but this meal was one of my favorites with my family. There is something incredibly magical about dining in Cinderella’s Castle at Walt Disney World.
Tusker House Restaurant: Donald’s Dining Safari Breakfast at the Tusker House Restaurant in Animal Kingdom is an often-overlooked treasure of the character dining experience. Like Chef Mickey’s, this is an opportunity to eat while visiting with classic Disney characters like Donald and Mickey, making it unnecessary to stand in long lines elsewhere in the parks for character greeting experiences. My favorite part of this African influenced breakfast buffet is the delicious jungle juice, which tastes just like the mango juice I had in Tanzania!
California Grill: My husband and I ate at California Grill on the first night of our 10th anniversary trip to Walt Disney World. I booked a reservation time that allowed us to watch the sun setting over Seven Seas Lagoon and the Magic Kingdom while eating and indicated on our reservation that we were there as part of a special celebration. When we arrived, we were led to a table that had been decorated with Mickey confetti and were treated to complimentary champagne at our table for two by the window. Later in the evening we returned to watch the Magic Kingdom fireworks from the rooftop patio adjacent to California Grill, an opportunity extended to those who have dined there that evening.
Yachtsman Steakhouse: The Yachtsman Steakhouse is our favorite place to enjoy a quiet date night meal while at Disney. My husband and I first ate there during our anniversary trip, but have returned while the kids enjoyed some time hanging out in the Sandcastle Club at Disney’s Yacht Club Resort. The decor of the Yachtsman Steakhouse is warm and inviting, with leather seats and pine ceiling beams. The food is incredible, and the staff goes to great lengths to make your special meal truly special.
Holidays Around The World – Candlelight Dining: The holiday season is our favorite time of year to visit Walt Disney World, and one of the events we love most is the Candlelight Processional at EPCOT. One year we took advantage of the Candlelight Dining reservation opportunity to book a meal at one of our favorite EPCOT restaurants, Nine Dragons, while guaranteeing a place at the Candlelight Processional later that night. I loved the ability to take care of two reservations at once, and the entire family enjoyed this special meal and event.