By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2017, from the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever. Paperback available on Amazon here. Kindle version available on Amazon here. PDF version available on Gumroad here.



yourfirstvisit.net—Disney World Instructions for the First-Time Visitor



Category — h. Where to Eat at Walt Disney World

The Scoop On Food and Wine

A couple of my imaginary internet friends have published detailed reviews/overviews of the offerings at this year’s Epcot International Food And Wine Festival, which still has about another month to go.

Check them out!

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October 12, 2014   No Comments

How to Get, and Reward, Help with Your Dining Reservations

Getting Dining Reservations Help from yourfirstvisit.netThere’s two ways to book your Disney World dining—on the web, and over the phone at (407) WDW-DINE (939-3463). (Don’t know what to book?  See this.)

Crack Commenter Disney Dining Agent noted yesterday that if you are calling, your odds of getting one of the best dining agents are increased if you call between 7a and 10a eastern.

His comment explains the details, but the short version is that the best agents get first pick of shifts, and that shift is the most popular among them.

He also notes that the way to insure that the best keep showing up at that time is to do the survey after the call, and to rate excellent help from the dining agent as a “1” when question number 5 rolls around!

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April 24, 2014   2 Comments

First Time Visitors and Dining at Walt Disney World

(A slightly different version of this first appeared in WDW Magazine.)

Dining at Disney World for First-Time Visitors from yourfirstvisit.netFirst time family visitors to Walt Disney World need to know three things about dining:

  1. Some dining venues are among the best family experiences Walt Disney Word has to offer
  2. The most popular of these can sell out months ahead, so planning really pays off in helping access them—you can—and should– start booking them 180 days before the day you plan to eat
  3. Disney World dining in general is expensive, and some of the best experiences even more so, and there’s no perfect way to cut the cost

The best rides at Walt Disney World are often called “E” Ticket rides—from the old days, when it took a most-expensive “E” Ticket to get on them.

Dining—particularly at certain “table service” restaurants that have offerings beyond the food itself–can be an E-Ticket experience as well!

(“Table service” is Disney World lingo for venues with seats, waiters, and scheduled times. Venues without waiters are called “quick” or “counter” service, may or may not have seats, and can’t be reserved.)

Guide to Disney World Dining from yourfirstvisit.netThe most fun and best-loved family dining contains some or all of the following features in addition to the food:

  • A fun setting
  • Some kind of show and/or interactive play-along elements, and
  • Visits by Disney characters like Mickey, Tigger, or the Disney Princesses.

On almost everyone’s list of the best among these are

  • The Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue, a silly dinner show with interactive elements at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Resort
  • The Princess meals Cinderella’s Royal Table at the Magic Kingdom and Akershus at Epcot.  The first has the better setting, the second is much less expensive
  • Dining with Tigger, Pooh and friends at the Crystal Palace in the Magic Kingdom
  • Dining with Mickey and friends at Chef Mickey’s at Disney’s Contemporary Resort and ‘Ohana at Disney’s Polynesian Resort
  • Various degrees of wait-staff induced silliness at 50’s Prime Time Café at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Whispering Canyon at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge
  • Exotic settings in the local versions of national chain restaurants the Rainforest Café, in both Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Downtown Disney, and T-Rex in Downtown Disney

That’s why you’ll find most of these on each of this site’s itineraries.

San Angel Inn at Epcot from yourfirstvisit.netBut, because the best dining options have limited capacity and are wildly popular, these restaurants can be filled almost as soon as reservations open for them—180 days before.

The importance of dining experiences is the Disney World topic that most surprise first-time visitors, and is where their doing some advance thinking and planning pays off most.   So you should pick your table service dining choices as soon as you can, and reserve them as soon as reservations open.

Disney World calls these reservations “Advance Dining Reservations—“ADRs” for short.

Reservations currently open 180 days before the date of dining—online at 6 a.m. and over the phone at 7 a.m. (If you are staying at a Disney World hotel, once 180 days from your arrival dates rolls around, you can make ADRs for not just that day but the first ten days of your visit.  You’ll sometimes see this referred to as “180+10.”)

Disney World dining is expensive.  The Disney Dining Plan, which has a couple of variants, is a way to prepay some of these dining expenses.  Years ago, you could save a lot of money by buying the “Disney Dining Plan,” but at current pricing levels you won’t save much—or anything—by buying it.

The Disney Dining Plan is a handy budgeting tool, and it does relieve some anxiety (because you already paid for it…) about the cost of meals in the parks.  So I do still recommend it.  But with or without it, the typical family should budget about $50+ per adult per day for dining, and somewhere between $25 and $50/day for the kids–depending on their ages and appetites.

The best way to save money eating at Disney World  is to buy ingredients and build some of your own meals.  This works best for cold breakfasts in your hotel room, and packing some lunches and/or snacks into the parks.

But these ingredients aren’t cheap (if you have a car, you can hit an off-site grocery store…but that costs time you could be spending vacationing) and may not even be available in your hotel.

Food at Disney's Grand Floridian from yourfirstvisit.netThe availability of such ingredients—lunch supplies especially– varies widely across the Disney hotels.

The best selections of such food for sale in shops are found at Fort Wilderness and in the Disney Vacation Club resorts, and the weakest are the value resorts.

The example is from a shop at the Grand Floridian after its new DVC Villas opened.

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December 23, 2013   No Comments

Review: Princess Dining at Akershus

Review of Akershus from yourfirstvisit.netStorybook Dining in Akershus Royal Banquet Hall, a table-service restaurant in Epcot’s Norway Pavilion, is one of Disney World’s three “Princess Meals”—and arguably the best of the three.

  • Cinderella’s Royal Table, in the castle in Fantasyland in the Magic Kingdom, is the most iconic, sought after, and—by far—expensive of the three.  Cinderella and other princesses visit at breakfast, lunch and dinner
  • 1900 Park Fare, in the Grand Floridian, offers dinner attended by Cinderella, Prince Charming, and Cinderella’s family. The setting is undistinguished, the food great, and the price is about half that of the Royal Table—exactly half if you are using the dining plan—one credit, rather than two.
  • Like Cinderella’s Royal Table, Akershus Royal Banquet Hall has a bucket of princesses and is set in a castle, but is priced comparably to 1900 Park Fare—more than 1900 if cash (but still not as much more as Cindy), the same as 1900 if dining plan.

STORYBOOK DINING AT AKERSHUS ROYAL BANQUET HALL

Akershus in Norway at Epcot from yourfirstvisit.netAkershus Royal Banquet Hall is in the Norway Pavilion of the Epcot’s World Showcase. (From Epcot’s Future World, the second country going clockwise, right after Mexico.)

Akershus Keep in Norway at Epcot from yourfirstvisit.netThe Banquet Hall is inside Akershus Castle.

Dining Room at Akershus from yourfirstvisit.netThe castle,  in the less interesting Romanesque style rather than the frothier Gothic style of Cinderella’s Castle in the Magic Kingdom, is not so immediately appealing, but the interior is lovely.

Breakfast is typical of what is served elsewhere but the lunch and dinner menus have many Scandinavia highlights, starting with a buffet with range of appetizers and cold dishes—fresh foods, cheeses and preserved meats and fish.  Besides the buffet, one also orders an entrée…

Magical Dad Drink at Akershus from yourfirstvisit.net…possibly a silly drink for dad and mom…

Dessert at Akershus from yourfirstvisit.net…and a dessert sampler.

Unadventurous eaters will find something to enjoy, but the adventurous, and/or lovers of preserved fish, will most enjoy the Akershus lunch and dinner menus.

Me and Son #2--Oh and Belle, too--at Akershus from yourfirstvisit.netMeals there include visits from several Disney princesses—on our visit, we were formally greeted by Belle…

Ariel at Akershus from yourfirstvisit.net…and also met Ariel…

Cinderella and Son #2 at Akershus from yourfirstvisit.net…Cinderella…

Aurora at Akershus from yourfirstvisit.net…Aurora…

Snow White at Akershus from yourfirstvisit.net…Snow White, and others.

The best features of Akershus are the princesses, the castle setting, and then the food.  The food comes higher on the list for those interested in Scandinavian cuisine.

Being in Epcot is a mixed blessing.  Epcot most rewards older kids willing to accept its invitation to think and to be creative.  There’s not as much there for kids young enough to most enjoy a princess meal—and such kids may also not be adventurous enough to enjoy the full range of food on offer.

(On the other hand, I was eating pickled herring and smoked salmon at age three, so I love this place…I was not sophisticated…but my dad ate them, so so did I. )

A great day for younger kids at Epcot would start before park open and include Soarin (if they are mature enough and at least 38 inches), The Seas with Nemo and Friends, Spaceship Earth, Turtle Talk with Crush, and a character meet ‘n greeting.

An early breakfast—early enough that you are done by park open, so you can take advantage of the lower crowds then–at Akershus fits this well.

Lunch also works just fine with this kind of morning.

For younger kids not afraid of fireworks, a visit—or return–in the evening for dinner at Akershus and the fireworks show Illuminations also works.

Kids just old enough to enjoy everything at Epcot—both the princess meals and the challenge to their intellect and imagination—will enjoy the park, including Akershus, the best!

*   *   *

PICKING BETWEEN CINDERELLA’S ROYAL TABLE AND STORYBOOK DINING AT AKERSHUS

I’m often asked, since my itineraries include two princess meals, Cindy and Akershus, if a family can afford just one, which should they pick.

If the kids are old enough to enjoy Epcot fully, I’d go with Akershus hands down.  You get the same piles of princesses at a lower price, with a more interesting menu.

But there’s a lot to be said for the iconic appeal of dining in the castle at the Magic Kingdom, and the Magic Kingdom, of course, appeals to all ages.  So for younger kids, that’s the one I’d suggest.

My itineraries promise all the best of Walt Disney World—so in them you get both!

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October 31, 2013   26 Comments

Candelight Processional 2013 Narrators; Booking Opens July 9

NARRATORS AND BOOKING DATES FOR THE 2013 CANDLELIGHT PROCESSIONAL AT EPCOT

Crack commenter DisneyDiningAgent has posted one of his—or her!—incredibly helpful comments here.

There’s a lot of “food for thought” there, which I’ll note more about later, but for now, focusing on the Candlelight Processional Dinner Package:

The Candlelight Processional Dinner Package starts booking tomorrow, 7/9/13 at 6a Eastern at disneyworld.com and 7a Eastern over the phone (407-939-3463).

The Candlelight Processional at EpcotAnd the Candlelight Processional 2013 narrators are as follows:

  • TBD: 11/30-12/3
  • Ashley Judd 12/4-12/5
  • Whoopi Goldberg 12/6-12/7
  • TBD 12/8-12/10
  • Dennis Haysbert 12/11-12/13
  • James Denton 12/14-12/16
  • Edward James Olmos 12/17-12/19
  • Trace Atkins 12/20-12/22
  • TBD 12/23-12/25
  • Blair Underwood 12/26-12/28
  • TBD 12/29
  • Amy Grant 12/30

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July 8, 2013   2 Comments

Review: The Lilo and Stitch Best Friends Character Breakfast at Disney’s Polynesian Resort

‘OHANA AT DISNEY’S POLYNESIAN RESORT

'Ohana at Disney's Polynesian Resort‘Ohana (the name is Hawaiian for “typographical error” “family”) is a deeply-loved restaurant at Disney’s Polynesian Resort.  In the evenings, dinner features flame-cooked meat skewers cooked over an open fire (menu here).

In the morning, though, the fires are out, and their entertainment value is replaced by Lilo, Stitch, Mickey, and friends.

THE LILO AND STITCH BEST FRIENDS CHARACTER BREAKFAST AT ‘OHANA IN DISNEY’S POLYNESIAN RESORT

The Lilo and Stitch Best Friends Character Breakfast features standard continental American breakfast foods in any quantity you want, highlighted with a little Polynesian flair. (Somewhat vague menu here.)

More Food Lilo and Stitch Best Friends character breakfast at ‘OhanaThe first course is fruit, yogurt, breakfast breads with a hint of the Pacific Islands, and mango juice (other standard breakfast beverages are also available).

This is followed by a skillet with biscuits, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, and breakfast potatoes.  In our visit, we were among the earliest to be served (we had a 7.45a reservation)—before the real demand on the kitchen began–and the food was hot and perfectly cooked.

'Ohana BreakfastThe potatoes and sausage each have a hint of the exotic to them—but the hint is subtle enough that even the most finicky kid won’t pine for a McDonald’s Big Breakfast instead.

The fruit, bread, and hot food are all served “family style”—your party serves themselves from the serving utensil, and you can get more of anything should you want it.

Later, the dedicated waffle service comes by!  I’d forgotten this was coming so could manage only one…a turn of events I regret as I sure do love those Mickey-head waffles…kind of a weird Disney communion…

All in this is fine but largely routine breakfast fare.

Lilo and Stitch Best Friends Character Breakfast at ‘Ohana with my son tedWhat distinguishes the Lilo and Stitch Best Friends Character Breakfast is the cool setting of the Polynesian—one of Disney World’s most kid-pleasing locales—attendance by Lilo, Stitch, Mickey and others, and fun Mickey-led marches for kids around the restaurant.

At various times during the morning, the characters come out and visit with each table, pose for pictures, and then shift into parade mode. After the parade—at least on our visit—they take a break, then return a little later.

The Mickey March Lilo and Stitch Best Friends character breakfast at ‘OhanaThe Lilo and Stitch Best Friends Character Breakfast is a great place for breakfast, and a fun alternative to this site’s recommended Chef Mickey’s character breakfast.

Chef Mickey’s has better characters, in its buffet a wider variety of food choices, and better access to the Magic Kingdom.  But the Lilo and Stitch Best Friends Character Breakfast is a fine choice as well!

HOURS, THE MAGIC KINGDOM, GETTING THERE, AND SUCH

Lilo and me at 'Ohana at the Polynesian ResortDisney’s new website—which often works—lists the hours of the Lilo and Stitch Best Friends Character Breakfast as being 7.30-11a.  I can’t tell for sure when the last seating is, but it is at least as late as 10.20a.

  • Families eating here as part of a leisurely morning can make their reservations for anytime.
  • Families combining breakfast here with a visit to the Magic Kingdom should eat as early or as late as possible.

Very early dining allows you to still make a standard 9a opening (but not morning Extra Magic Hours, or one of the 8a opening you’ll see at the busiest times of the year) while not having to rush out just as Mickey shows up.

Getting one of the latest possible reservations—10.20a, or later if you can–lets you do rope drop whenever it is, and thus see part of the Magic Kingdom while crowds are the lowest.  It also lets you sleep in a bit longer, and to treat the all-you can eat meal as a filling brunch. So that’s the way to do Best Friends.

‘Ohana is on the second floor of the Great Ceremonial House—the main building—at Disney’s Polynesian Resort.

Boat Dock at Disney's Polynesian ResortYou get there from the Magic Kingdom by either boat or monorail.

  • Check the Polynesian boat boarding area at the Magic Kingdom before you get on the monorail—if the boat is there, it’s more fun, but it’s not worth waiting for.
  • Otherwise, take the resort monorail—also fun–getting off at the Polynesian.

If you are coming from the Contemporary Resort, take the resort monorail. From the Grand Floridian, you can walk, take the boat, or take the resort monorail.

From other Disney resorts, if you have one of the early reservations, ask your hotel concierge the day before how to get to the Polynesian.  Disney runs special buses for early character breakfasts, so you may be directed to one of these, or to the resort’s standard Magic Kingdom transport if it is operating that early.

You can also drive to the Polynesian, but while construction is going on there—as it will be for a while—parking is scarce, so you may have to valet.   It’s bad form, by the way, to leave your car in the Poly lot and head off to the Magic Kingdom for the day…

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June 9, 2013   No Comments