My family of four is traveling to Disney World in Orlando for the first time. Can you give us some recommendations for with and without the kids?
—Parents in Mouse Ears
There are 139 restaurants in Walt Disney World, giving you both plenty of options, and, perhaps, too many choices. As a kid, I loved the breakfast at the Polynesian, the Columbia Harbour House and the Aloha Isle (for the Dole Whips) in the Magic Kingdom and Restaurant Marrakesh in Epcot (which was the inspiration for me to take a trip to Morocco as an adult). For something quiet and off the beaten path, opt for some casual dining at Trail’s End Restaurant at the Fort Wilderness Resort & Campgrounds. Most kids love the character dining experiences. We checked with a 10 year old friend of ours who’s family goes to Disney every year. She loved the Princess Breakfast in Norway and the “Once Upon a Time Breakfast” at Cinderella’s Castle. When she was younger she liked the Winnie the Pooh Breakfast. But in the end, it comes down to which characters your children like.
Our little friend also likes the Plaza Restaurant on Main Street in the Magic Kingdom. The “Mayor” often stops in and appoints a “Junior Mayor” who gets special passes and other goodies. There’s a lot of fanfare for the kids to enjoy.
If you have older kids who are a bit more adventurous in their eating, head to the Japan pavilion in Epcot. Teppan Edo offers traditional Japanese food chopped and cooked right at your table.
If you like Italian, a great date night restaurant is Via Napoli in the Italian pavilion in Epcot. Or, head to the California Grill in the Contemporary Hotel for Californian cuisine and a great wine list. Be sure to time your dinner so you can watch the fireworks from the restaurant.
For something less on the romantic side, and more on the fun side, dine at Bongos Cuban Café in Downtown Disney. Bongos was created by Gloria Estefan and her husband Emilio and is the “recreation of a 1950s Havana night club.” The Cuban cuisine is excellent and the mojitos are very strong.
If you want higher end, and something not in the parks, we recommend Flying Fish Café, which is at Disney’s BoardWalk. If you really want a blow-the-budget meal, go to The Dining Room at Wolfgang Puck Grand Café. You’ll have a high end, fine dining experience and get to try this Chef Puck’s famous fusion Asia/Californian cuisine. One thing to note, many of the specialty restaurants and character dining experiences fill up. I recommend you plan out some of your meals and make reservations ahead of time. Restaurants in Disney will take reservations up to 180 days ahead of dining.
Donald Duck image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net