With the exception of Victoria and Alberts, restaurants in Disney World are designed to include children in the dining experience. Many families opt for counter service, and if you are in a hurry they certainly offer a quick bite to eat. But by avoiding the sit down restaurants you are missing out on some of the fun Disney World has to offer, not to mention some good eats!
All restaurants (except some counter service ones) have high chairs and booster seats for children. Some restaurants even have infant bucket seats for the youngest diners. We have always been permitted to bring our side-by-side stroller into restaurants as well, but it is a good idea to mention it to the host or hostess so they can select the most appropriate table for you.
Most sit down restaurants accept priority seating. This is similar to a reservation in the rest of the world. While it is not a guarantee that a table will be waiting for you at the specified time, your party will be given the next available table for your party size. Basically you call ahead to avoid long waits at the restaurant of your choice. In some cases, particularly character dining options, you wont be able to eat without using the priority seating option. Depending on the restaurant you can set up your dining times up to 120 days in advance; and if you are traveling during a holiday period you may need to call that far ahead. The friendly cast members staffing the phones at (407) WDW-DINE can tell you how far in advance you can call for each individual restaurant. For some of the less popular dining options you can also select priority seating times at the restaurant the same day.
All Disney World restaurants are non-smoking. With 72 hours notice most full service restaurants can accommodate special dietary needs such as allergies (nuts, eggs, milk, gluten, soy and seafood) and prepare kosher meals. These arrangements can be made through (407) WDW-DINE. In some instances you may need to provide a credit card for special meal requests
Whispering Canyon Cafe
My first choice is one you probably arent just going to happen upon. Whispering Canyon Cafe is located in the lobby of the Wilderness Lodge Resort. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served up in the is rustic lodge setting. Meals run $15-$25 per person.
All you can eat skillets are popular meal choices. For breakfast the skillets include, eggs, sausage, bacon, biscuits and French toast. Dinner skillets include barbequed meats, potatoes, beans and bread, the food is really good and they will continue to bring you more of anything or everything that you want. The skillets are served family style and placed on a lazy-susan in the middle of the table to provide easy access for everyone while keeping small hands away from the hot serving dishes. A la carte items are also available from the menu, but most diners seem to go with the skillets.
The breakfast here is good, but the real fun comes out at dinner time. Be prepared for your server to have you wearing your cloth napkin as some sort head gear. The number of different designs the servers can fashion is impressive. You will want to keep you camera handy for the horse parade. Children are given wooden hobby horses to ride around the restaurant to the applause of all the diners. I am not going to spoil all the fun for you, but make sure you ask your server for some ketchup!
50s Prime Time Cafe
Mom wants you to join the clean plate club at this popular MGM eatery. 50s Prime Time Cafe features home style meals such as meatloaf, fried chicken and pot pies for about $12 per person.
The decor is right out of a 1950s kitchen where linoleum ruled. There are lots of small rooms in the restaurant, each with just a few tables. You will be introduced to the others diners in your room when you are first seated, all to help give your dining experience a homey feel. From your table you will be able to watch classic television episodes, featuring who else, but mom.
The food is good and the servers are a lot of fun, but you need to be a willing participant in the festivities. On our most recent visit to this restaurant I ordered the chicken pot pie. It was delicious but contained broccoli, which I just wont eat. However our server was not going to let me get away with that. He picked up my fork and made airplane noises in a playful jest to get me to eat my vegetables. I dont know who was laughing harder, me or the rest of the people in our 3 table room.
Eating Your Way Around the World
Technically this is not a restaurant but definitely something we look forward to when we go to EPCOT. We spend an entire afternoon eating something from each country pavilion around World Showcase which we refer to as Eating Around the World.. This does mean we are eating from counter service and carts rather than sit down restaurants, but it does give us the chance to experience the cuisine from different countries.
Our children also seemed to enjoy it since we dont spend a lot of time at any single place eating so they dont get bored. And for our older daughter that means more time out of the stroller! Eating an egg roll in China or Moroccan lamb is a nice change of pace from the usual burgers and fries. It is also a fairly inexpensive way to eat since we usually share a single item from each restaurant to make sure we arent full before we have worked all the way around.
We always start at Mexico and work our way clockwise around World Showcase. And why you may ask? Just as we are starting to get full from our meal we reach the France pavilion and can enjoy a rich dessert.
If your children arent afraid of the large costumed characters then consider a character meal. Located at the end on Main Street in the magic Kingdom, you and your family can enjoy breakfast, lunch or dinner with Winnie the Pooh and his friends from the Hundred Acre Wood. While you sit and dine the characters walk around to each table to great young and old alike. Both times we dined on our most recent visit Piglet was stationed near the front entrance so you did have to get up to visit him, but Pooh, Eeyore and Tigger made the rounds.
All meals are buffet style. Personally buffet eating is not my favorite because restaurants tend to focus on quantity instead of quality. However both the breakfast and dinner buffets are good. In fact, if you can allow yourself to utter very good and buffet in the same breath, this restaurant probably earns the title.
Breakfast includes all of the typical breakfast offerings, eggs, pancakes, waffles, French toast, breakfast meats, pastries fruit and cereal. Dinner offerings include salads, a carved meat station, potatoes, vegetables, pastas and breads. The dessert table was quite extensive and everything we sampled was quite good. For both meals children have their own buffet area but it is most noticeable at dinner where among the offerings are macaroni and cheese, chicken nuggets and pizza. I believe the breakfast buffet was around $15 for adults, $8 for children and kids under 3 are free, but dont hold me to it. Dinner is priced higher. The food is hot and plentiful and beverages are included.
Buffets and character dining do not necessarily mix. If you are at the buffet when a particular character visits your table, well youve missed them for that go around. The Crystal Palace is a larger restaurant and during our meals we only got a single visit from each character, which is enough. If you do miss a character visit mention it to your server and they will try to direct the character back to your table.
This is one of the restaurants that fills up early so you will want to make your priority seating reservations as far in advance as you can. Of course you will want to make sure your children are not frighten by the characters before you spend a lot of money to eat with them. There are ample opportunities for character Meet and Greets throughout all of the parks, so take the time to do that first. If your traveling party includes children who want a chance to eat with the characters and others who cower in fear, dont worry too much if you decide to try a meal. The characters try to be sensitive to children who want nothing to do with them and will invite other children at the table into the aisle for photos and autographs. Still it is best to place a fearful child as far from the aisle as possible!
Liberty Tree Tavern Character Dining
Character dining is only available for dinner at this Colonial America themed restaurant located in the Magic Kingdom. Your family will dine with Minnie Mouse, Chip & Dale, Goofy and Meeko (the raccoon from Pocahontas) all in some way dressed in colonial garb.
The food is served family style and is all you can eat for $22 for adults and $11 for children. The meal starts out with individual salads. Then out come the platters with marinated steak, ham and turkey. For side dishes we were served mashed potatoes, stuffing, string beans and macaroni and cheese. We were served individual servings of apple crisp. I find this served buffet a much more enjoyable character dining experience since you dont have to leave the table but still get a good variety of food. The food was absolutely delicious and the service was attentive; they brought us more of anything we asked for.
The Liberty Tree Tavern is one of the smaller character dining restaurants which means that you will probably get to see each character multiple times. Our 2 year old was unfamiliar with these particular characters so was a little standoffish at first. However by the third or forth visit she was in love with them and the characters recognized it. Just before we were ready to leave Minnie made her final appearance at our table and my daughter jumped out of her chair to say bye. Minnie immediately seated herself on the floor to get a hug and then had my daughter sit on her lap for a couple of priceless photos.
We had 4 different character dining experiences on our last trip and the Liberty Tree Tavern was by far the best. The characters were the friendliest and spent the most time visiting with all of the tables. Because there are so few tables characters seem to come by every few minutes to visit which really helped my older daughter adjust to the characters she was unfamiliar with. While the Liberty Tree Tavern does not feature the most popular Disney characters I highly recommend it.
Children are welcome just about everywhere at Disney World. Just like most places, some are better suited for young children than others. So, if you are looking for more than just a hot dog or pizza these are a few places to check out. In my epinion these establishments do just a little more to make dining fun for the children in your dining party while providing a pleasant experience for the folks with the money.
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