If your idea of dining at theme parks is a fast-food burger and fries from an outdoor stand, you might be surprised to find that a Walt Disney World vacation can include fine cuisine and many unique dining experiences. There are hundreds of dining options at the Walt Disney World resort. During my family’s multiple visits each year, there are some favorite restaurants that keep us coming back again and again.
Reservations are strongly recommended for all of these top Disney World restaurants. They can be made up to 180 days in advance on line or by calling (407) 939-3463. Six months in advance may seem like overkill, but during the busy season, seatings do fill up several months early, so it’s best to book your Disney dining as soon as you can.
Here are my picks for the best restaurants in Walt Disney World:
California Grill is the classic fine dining restaurant at Walt Disney World, offering California Fusion cuisine and spectacular views of the Magic Kingdom and the Seven Sea Lagoon.
Where: Disney’s Contemporary Resort
Menu highlights: Yellowfin Tuna Three Ways, Maine Lobster Risotto, Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Zinfandel Glaze and the cheese board, which changes frequently.
What I love most: Watching the fireworks explode over Cinderella Castle at the end of a wonderful meal
At Todd English’s bluezoo, you can dine on “coastal gourmet” dishes in a gorgeous restaurant designed to make you feel like you are underwater.
Where: Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort
Menu highlights: Berbere Spiced Swordfish, Tempura Haricot Vert and the Mai Tai Banana Cream Tart
What I love most: The creative cocktails, which change frequently — bacon whiskey, anyone? — and the free child care offered at Camp Dolphin while you dine.
Citricos serves a frequently changing menu of Tuscan, Provencal and Spanish cuisine in the regal surroundings of one of Disney World’s finest hotels.
Where: Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa
Menu highlights: Arancini (Crispy Risotto with Italian Sausage and White Truffle Aioli), Goat Cheese Truffle Salad and Braised Veal Shank with a Toasted Citrus Gremolata
What I love most: The extravagance of dining on a specially designed menu in Citrico’s private Chef’s Domain room.
The best breakfast at Walt Disney World is at Kona Cafe, which offers American fare with a few Asian and Polynesian twists.
Where: Disney’s Polynesian Resort
Menu highlights: Tonga Toast (banana-stuffed sourdough French toast coated in cinnamon sugar) and The Samoan (poached eggs and hollandaise over pulled pork hash)
What I love most: 100% Kona coffee served in a French-press
The Wave is all about healthy, sustainable eating at Walt Disney World. It’s a great place for a lighter dinner after all the vacation “treats” we tend to consume.
Where: Disney’s Contemporary Resort
Menu highlights: Five-Spice Chicken Lettuce Wraps and the sustainable fish of the day, served with a Cilantro Chutney
What I love most: The wine list, which features many unusual Southern Hemisphere wines to discover.
Dining in venues where Disney characters visit your table is a classic Walt Disney World experience, and The Garden Grill is my choice for the best character meal at Walt Disney World.
Where: The Land pavilion inside the EPCOT theme park
Menu highlights: Family-style meal including grilled flank steak, roast turkey and vegetables grown in The Land’s greenhouse.
What I love most: Watching little faces light up as Mickey Mouse appears to give warm hugs and pose for pictures.
The menu changes seasonally at Jiko – The Cooking Place, which successfully combines African and Indian flavors with Mediterranean cuisine in one of the most beautifully decorated restaurants at Walt Disney World.
Where: Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge
Menu highlights: Tibs Watt in Pannekoeke (beef-stuffed crepes with an olive tapenade), Braised Beet Salad with goat cheese and Spiced Crusted Tuna
What I love most: The specialty tea menu, which includes a flowery Earl Grey, Pear Tree Green Tea and a whole-fruit Tisane
At Kouzzina by Cat Cora, you can watch your food prepared in the giant open kitchen and dine on Greek and Mediterranean favorites.
Where: Disney’s Boardwalk
Menu highlights: Cinnamon Stewed Chicken, Char-grilled Lamb Burger and Sauteed Brussels Sprouts
What I love most: The wine flights offered here, which allow you to taste three great wines for around $15.
Wise-cracking servers dish out home cooking from mom’s kitchen at 50’s Prime Time Cafe, where the dining is all about the experience.
Where: Disney’s Hollywood Studios theme park
Menu highlights: Mom’s Old-Fashioned Pot Roast and Aunt Liz’s Golden Fried Chicken (both served with mashed potatoes, of course!) and the PB&J milkshake
What I love most: The banter between servers and guests, who are told to keep their elbows off the table and eat their vegetables
Teppan Edo offers dinner and a show, as a traditional Teppan chef cooks your meal tableside.
Where: Japan pavilion inside the EPCOT theme park
Menu highlights: Filet mignon, shrimp, chicken and other Teppan-yaki favorites, grilled with vegetables and Udon noodles
What I love most: The Japan pavilion is one of the prettiest places in the World Showcase, and the kids in our party always love this dining experience.