In our last post I talked about our Top 3 Dining Spots to enjoy WITHOUT kids. If you missed that post, you can check it out here. Well this week, I wanted to go over a few places at Disney where you can bring the kids and have them be as entertained and satisfied as you are! Almost every restaurant at Disney welcomes kids, however, these restaurants provide excellent food AND entertain the kids. They are a win-win.
1. Cinderella's Royal Table
So this is a bit of an obvious one since its a character meal, but the food at Cinderella's Royal Table is really delicious. Here you get the best of both worlds! Great characters and theming to keep the kids interested and happy AND great food for the adults to enjoy. My favorite thing to eat here: Steak and Shrimp! Oh definitely try "The Clock Strikes Twelve" - a dark chocolate mousse with a dark chocolate ganage topping. My one note here is that this place books up fast! Be ready on your 180 day mark to snag this reservation. Also be prepared that this is a meal that you are required to pay for at the time of booking.
2. San Angel Inn
Located in the Mexico Pavilion in Epcot, San Angel Inn is also a great choice of table service restaurant for both kids and adults. The atmosphere is truly immersive as you dine along a Mexican river overlooking Mayan Ruins and volcanoes. The food here is upscale Mexican cuisine of which I personally like the Carne Asada Tampiquena - a well cooked steak with black beans and guacamole. For the adults though this place excels at Tequila. The vast tequila and margarita menu makes San Angel a favorite among the adults, and yet the quesadillas are perfect for kids.
I also recommend the Biergarten in the Germany Pavilion at Epcot. The set up is has lots of tables surrounding a stage of lively music and dancing. Kids can watch and be entertained or join in to the Oktoberfest themed activities. Or if they are like my kids, they can be loud without disrupting other diners. The food here is, obviously, German and is served buffet style. By far my favorite of the menu selections is the assorted sausages, but they also have Schnitzel, potatoes, salmon, and other assorted offerings. For the kids, there are macaroni and cheese, hot dogs, and usually a vegetable like green beans. This restaurants fun and lively atmosphere is definitely appealing to kids who don't like to sit in quiet restaurants.
4. Coral Reef
Lastly, I would pick Coral Reef located in Future World at Epcot. This restaurant is really a hidden gem tucked in the back of the Seas building where the Nemo ride is located. The menu here is seafood and its really quite an upscale spot. The food is delicious, as is the wine, and yet there is no dress code. What makes Coral Reef appealing to kids is the fact that all the tables center around a giant aquarium. I have seen kids be mesmerized through an entire three course meal. Heck, I have found myself staring off at the gigantic aquarium as sharks and sting rays swim by. For a look at our full review of Coral Reef, check that out here. On the menu, I particularly like the ceviche with mango sorbet, the lobster bisque, and the Chocolate Wave for desert.
Have you taken your kids to any of the above? How did it go? Or is there somewhere I have missed? Let me know!
It seems this question keeps popping up on Facebook a lot lately: Can I do a Half Day at Epcot?? I get it. Disney World tickets are expensive and guests are trying to squeeze the most out of shorter trip. And so people want to be able to fit Epcot into a half day and then head either to Disney Springs for Dinner or Hollywood Studios for Fantasmic. Personally, I find Epcot to be an amazing full day of exciting attractions and incredible dining choices (especially if you are visiting during a festival!). I usually plan a full day at Epcot, but maybe you only have 3 days or you have small kids that you know you need to go take a break mid-day. So to answer the question of can you do Epcot in a half day? Yes....but its going to be pretty tough to see it all. My advice: break it down into an Morning trip around Future World (mostly) or a PM trip around the World Showcase. Need a touring plan? Take a look:
Morning in Future World
If you are a thrill seeking family and you want to get the most rides or attractions out of Epcot that you can, I suggest hitting Epcot right at rope drop. (What's Rope Drop, you say? Find out here!) Being at Epcot waiting in front of Spaceship Earth for Rope Drop will allow you to head immediately to one of the top tier attractions without the need for a Fast Pass. Epcot has a tiered fastpass system that only allows you to prebook a fastpass for 1 top tier attraction per day. So at Rope Drop head immediately to Test Track or Soarin'. Those are going to be your longest lines you will want to avoid.
Another option here for families who have a Frozen obsessed kid (or adult...no judgment) is to go right to Frozen, ride that and then swing into the line for the meet and greet with Elsa and Anna. From there I would then head back into Future World since the World Showcase does not open til later in the day.
After you've hit that first ride with little to no wait time, I recommend trying to get one more big ride. The line will have grown a bit, but most Epcot queues are indoors so at least you're not roasting in the sun! Soarin' is a good choice for this one because it lands you near The Land and Nemo if they are next on your to do list.
Now hopefully its around 10:30 - 11:00am and you can now use those fast passes! After that, I would head for lunch and stroll around the World Showcase until time for you to head to your next park or back to your amazing vacation rental (Adventureland Villa or The Turquoise Palms...just throwing those out there!).
Afternoon at The World Showcase
What about if you want to eat dinner at Epcot or enjoy any of the food booths during a festival? Well then I would say Epcot is a perfect half day park for the afternoon/evening. If you can book a fastpass at an attraction around the time you plan to arrive at Epcot, get that done first. Then head towards the World Showcase. From there you are free to walk, taste, sip and enjoy the different countries at your own pace without worrying about Fastpass times. Attractions in the World Showcase are fairly limited at the time being. Frozen in Norway is incredibly popular and you can anticipate a long line for that if you don't have a fastpass. In Mexico the Three Caballeros ride is a family favorite. Sometimes I am shocked by the length of the line, but a lot of times its fairly empty. And soon there will be a new Ratatoille ride in the France pavallion...Don't know the opening date for this yet, but once it opens expect to be fighting the crowds for those fast passes.
Once you have soaked up the World Showcase, check the times for the Fireworks show. Right now that is still Illuminations, but it was just recently announced that it will be changing soon! I usually try to head back towards the bridge that leads to Future World and watch the fireworks from there. You can beat a lot of people to the parking lot!
So, do I think Epcot can be a "Half Day" Park? Yes. But you have to make a choice as to what kind of day you want it to be: Mornings for riding rides and the thrilling attractions or evenings for exploring the pavilions. Which Epcot do you prefer?? If you'd like a bit more help on touring plans or just have a quick question, message me! You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Instagram at @glam_disney_vacay. I'm always happy to help!
Let's say you have picked your Fastpasses for Magic Kingdom (If you haven't then check out our previous blog post here!), and you got every ride you wanted at the perfect times! Yay you! You can stop reading here and check out our other blog posts! You should also go buy a lottery ticket because you got skills or major luck going for you. Now...if you are like every other Disney planning traveler I know, you maybe got 2 of your top rides or maybe you didn't get any of your top Fastpass choices. Its ok! In this post I'm going to walk you through how to still ride all the top attractions utilizing the worst kept, but under appreciated, secret in Disney planning - ROPE DROP!
What is "Rope Drop"??
So what is "Rope Drop"?? Rope drop is the time at which the Cast Members drop their ropes that block off the attractions and officially begin allowing guests into the line queues. Most of the time this is right on the hour the park opens to the public.
Tip 1: Plan Which Day to Rope Drop
To best utilize Rope Drop and to make sure its worth getting you and your family to the parks early, its best to preplan what day you are going to Rope Drop. There are a couple of reasons for this. One is that if you are staying at Adventureland Villa or The Turquoise Palms, you could be lining up to get into a park where on-property guests have already been allowed in for the previous hour or so. You can still get some quality rides in, but it won't be the best use of your time. So take a look on the Disney website for Park Hours and make sure you are not going to be competing with those EMH guests.
Tip 2: Get There 1 Hour Earlier
Above, I mentioned that Rope Drop is the opening hour of the park. This is true, BUT, the act of being at Rope Drop begins earlier than that moment...To Rope Drop a park and best use the low crowd times, you want to make sure you are in a decent spot nearest to the rope as possible. This can mean arriving up to 1 hour before the rope actually drops! The great thing about some of the parks, such as Magic Kingdom, they allow you to enter the park well in advance of this. You can get through bag check, the turnstiles, head up Main Street, get your Starbucks, and THEN find your spot to wait.
Tip 3: Know Where You're Going!
The third tip I have is to make sure you have a plan in place. What ride didn't you get a Fastpass for or do you just have a favorite ride that you need to do to start your day OR are you attempting to get all the attractions done in one day? You really can choose whichever ride/attraction appeals to you and your family. I would recommend not using this time for the rides with short wait times. For example, I wouldn't get to the parks this early to head to the Tea Cups or to Aladdin's Magic Carpets. These are rides that you can easily wait for later in the day OR even better, grab additional fast passes for after you have used your first three. So definitely pick an attraction that your family wants to ride, but know that this strategy yields the best results when aimed at the higher wait time rides.
Tip 4: Know The Route To Get There!
Whatever that first ride you have chosen is, make sure you are at the optimal spot to most efficiently get to attraction's queue. For example, if you couldn't get FP for Seven Drawfs Mine Train, but you just have to ride it, head to the rope that is to the right of the Castle that leads guests between Fantasyland and Tomorrowland. From there you will quickly be able to get around the Castle, through the Tea Cups, and land in the queue for Mine Train. (One more quick Mine Train tip here...you may see a HUGE line when this happens. It will look like its going to be an hour wait from rope drop. Most likely this is not the case and that the interior queue areas have just not been fully opened yet. Usually, rope dropping Mine Train means I am on and off within 25 minutes. So don't get thrown off by that line!)
Tip 5: What's Next?
Again, to best utilize Rope Drop, have a set plan of where you want to head next after that first ride. My suggestion is to try and hit all the top priority attractions that are right near you. For example, If you headed first to Thunder Mountain, don't try to go to Space Mountain next! Hit up Splash Mountain or Jungle Cruise, two rides that aren't too far away. You've beat the crowds, don't then waste those precious few hours in the low crowd morning walking around. Have a plan and stick to it. Leave the afternoon for impromptu choices!
Tip 6: Fastpass Times Begin at 10:30-11am
This is one of my biggest tips for hitting a park and getting as much done in a day as you can. If you rope drop a park, you can easily ride 3-4 top attractions before 10:30 am. Between 10:30 and 11am, is when the parks begin to get a little more crowded as more and more guests arrive for the day. This is when I like to schedule my FP. If you have them starting around 11, that means you have gotten in several major rides before then AND you now don't have to wait around in long queues for your next 3 attractions. By the time early afternoon hits and everyone is cranky and hot, you will have gotten in 6 -8 MAJOR attractions. You can relax. You can grab a Mickey Bar, find a shaded spot, and plan the rest of your day! Trust me when I say this is game changing.
Tip 7: Don't Overtire Yourself
My final tip is that unless you are a super early morning family and just love to go hard core ALL THE TIME, don't try to rope drop every day of your trip. While Rope Dropping can mean really optimizing your time in the parks, if overused, it can be exhausting and leading to complete Disney fatigue. No need for that! Disney World is for fun and vacation...don't overwork yourself by trying to use this every day. (This is a tip I would do well to follow myself some trips....)
Well thats it! Those are our top Tips for how to Rope Drop a park at Walt Disney World. I hope you found them helpful and let me know if you tried them out! We'd love to hear from you in the comments. And if you like reading our tips and tricks for Disney World, check out our blog post on our best tips for Relaxing at Disney World here!
There are two distinct types of Disney travelers: The Type A travelers has every meal and fastpass planned out at least 180 days ahead of arrival and the Type B well doesn't. Either they are more of the go with the flow kind of traveler or just haven't realized how much you can fit into your Disney day with a bit of fore planning. Whether you are an A or B, if you are heading to the Magic Kingdom at any time in the near future, understanding what the best Fastpasses are to maximize your enjoyment and minimize your queue time is just smart Disneying! So with that, I wanted to share what my top 5 fastness selections are for the Magic Kingdom, and why!
#1 - Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
Seven Dwarfs Mine Train gets the top spot just purely because its the newest coaster in the Magic Kingdom and the wait times for this ride are usually always over 60 minutes. On the Mine Train you travel on a mine cart through the Seven Dwarfs Gem Mine and out into the open air before coming to a halt along side the dwarfs cottage. The Mine Train is a fun "beginner" coaster since its extremely smooth and has a lower height requirement than the other coasters in the MK.
A quick reason why not to choose the Mine Train as a fastpass is that this is a ride that has an excellent interactive queue. There are several little "games" along the way to entertain the kids and provide a break from the wait time. If you do want to see the full queue, then I would head to this ride right at rope drop. Be at the rope to the right of Cinderella's Castle and be ready to make the quick walk along side the tea cups into the line. If you are there early enough you can be in line maybe 25 minutes. Definitely worth getting up for rope drop!
#2 - Peter Pan
The Peter Pan ride for me is a conundrum. While it has great nostalgia and I love the story and characters, WHY is the ride queue so long??? Logically, I know that its because it has a low capacity seating and high demand from guests. So it is what it is...So I highly highly recommend nabbing a Fastpass for this ride because a typical wait time for Peter Pan is easily between 55-70 minutes. Now, the queue for this ride has greatly improved with the renovations that occurred a few years ago and its certainly entertaining. However, I am convinced that the 90 second ride is just not worth the 60+ minute wait. Get the Fastpass.
#3 - Space Mountain
Really Space Mountain, Thunder Mountain, and Splash Mountain could all be in the same spot on this list just depending on your taste in coaster. Im a Space Mountain girl, so its always one for me to grab. I also tend to FP Space Mountain, because I like to rope drop Thunder Mountain and quickly ride Splash Mountain right after. If you are early enough you can get both of those rides in quickly and still have a ton fo early hours to ride other things. But ,on the other hand, Thunder Mountain has an outdoor queue so on a hot summer day, it might be the right choice to use the Fast Pass on. If you do Fastpass either of the Mountains, I would think about scheduling them for 11 - 3 pm when the crowds will be at their height. Save those FP for when the stand by line will be the WORST.
#4 - Thunder Mountain
#5 - Haunted Mansion
Haunted Mansion is a bit like Peter Pan for me. In some ways I don't understand the demand to ride this, BUT its a cult favorite and everyone in my family loves it too. The reason I choose to FP this ride is simply because of the outdoor queue. By the time we are ready to ride this, its hot and someone in our family is cranky. Having this fastpass is usually such a blessing! Ive even have my baby fall asleep on this slow moving dark ride...perfect spot for a nap!
What do you use your Fastpasses for??
If you'd like a bit more help choosing fast passes or just have a quick questions, message me! You can reach me at email@example.com or on Instagram at @glam_disney_vacay. I'm always happy to help!
If you follow along on my culinary journey, then you may remember back in February I posted a review of California Grill's Brunch the Top (and if you didn't, you can still read it here). It was such a delightful experience I booked my next reservation while I was still finishing my last bites. Brunch wasn't an option for us during our stay, but I was able to nab dinner for two right at firework time during our summer trip. I was genuinely excited to see what California Grill had in store for dinner. And I was not disappointed!
Location and Atmosphere
As talked about in my previous review, the location and the atmosphere of California Grill set the stage for an amazing experience. Located on the VERY TOP of the Contemporary Resort, California Grill can be accessed by either the monorail or a quick 10-15 min walk from the main entrance to the Magic Kingdom. The location makes the views spectacular and just a bit jaw-dropping. And actually the location and views are a large part of the fantastic ambiance.
The decor is very Californian with a blend of modern and mid-century styles. The end result is crisp and bright, but the view still takes center stage. Depending on your seating area, the panoramic views span from Space Mountain and Cinderella's Castle to the Seven Seas Lagoon and the other nearby resorts. Whether it is at brunch or dinner, the view is flat out amazing. As the sky darkens you are still privy to the Castle and Space Mountain lit up.
This is really the perfect spot for a romantic dinner for two. The view, the atmosphere, the wine and food selections, make this perhaps my favorite date spot in all of Disney World!
On to Dinner...
After the amazing experience I had at their brunch, my expectations were set pretty high for dinner. When you are first seated, they serve warm bread and tomato and olive oil dipping sauce. For our appetizers, we choose the charcuterie plate. The plate itself was really delicious. The meats included italian sausages, asian pork sausage, salami, and a pork and bacon terrine. The star for me was the duck pastrami. But then again I love DUCK! Overall the plate was very satisfying, I do wish there had been an option to add a cheese to the plate. I think that would have put it over the top for me. Thats really a minor suggestion. It was great just on its own!
For entrees we were quite torn, but eventually decided upon the Black Grouper and the Oak-fired Filet of Beef. The Filet was perfectly executed with tomatoes, green beans and potatoes. It was juicy and well seasoned. A solid choice.
I am the one who ventured toward the Grouper. Thats not normally a fish I would choose, but I was well rewarded for my risk! The Grouper was served with rice, bok hoy, baby shiitake mushrooms, and a lime-coconut nage (like a curry). This is not something I would normally order, but for some reason I dove in. The first bite was an explosion of delicate and clean flavors. I immediately knew I had ordered the best dish. The fish was delicious on its own, but I found myself cutting it into small bites to eat with the mushrooms and the sauce. I couldn't get enough. This was an A+++++ dish. If you are eating here in the near future, ORDER THIS! You will not regret it.
For dessert we choose the warm chocolate cake with cashews and whipped panna cotta. The cake was warm and moist with all the components doing their job. And overall this was good. It didn't blow my mind the way the grouper had and Ive had better desserts at other Disney Restaurants, but it was a great way to end the meal.
And now on to the Fireworks!
Beyond the food and views, the other huge draw for California Grill is that they have two observation decks outside of the restaurant. On one side you venture out towards the Magic Kingdom and on the other deck you can see both the Illuminations show at Epcot and the Happily Ever After fireworks at Magic Kingdom. California Grill pipes the music up to the decks so you don't miss out on the music. We choose the ones towards Epcot.
While this viewing of either fireworks show was not the "best" way to see the fireworks (that is hands down at the dessert parties inside the parks!), this was a great way to see them without paying any extra or using a park ticket to get inside the park.
Once again California Grill blew my expectations away (and they were really high!) I will say that if not for the Grouper dish, this would have been just a very good meal. But the Grouper sealed it as one of my absolutely favorites at Disney World. And again, I've already made my next reservations for January...this time with kids...wish me luck...
There are just some days on your trip when you don't want to go inside a Disney park whether that is because you saved the $$ that day and didn't get a ticket or you just need a bit more relaxes pace for the day. Or maybe you have an evening flight and just want something fun and easy for a morning activity. No matter what lands you in the situation, looking for character meals OUTSIDE of the parks is a great way to experience that Disney magic without ever actually entering the parks. And there are some really great options out there!
Chef Mickey is a hugely popular character dining experience. Why? Well kids of all ages and genders love the characters: the "fab five" of Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Pluto and Goofy. The parents love the location. The Contemporary is just a short walk away from the Magic Kingdom, so this is convenient to get to for breakfast, lunch or even dinner, and yet its outside the park so not park ticket is needed to dine here. Also while Chef Mickey's is a buffet, the menu items are Disney classics that appeal to everyone. My only issue with this place is that it is loud and a bit chaotic. If thats your scene, you're all good!
Another great character character meal if you want to stick close to the Disney magic, but not actually enter a park is 'Ohana at the Polynesian. Location is great as it is right on the monorail and has a super fun tropical theming. The characters featured are Mickey, Pluto, Lilo & Stitch. This has a been real hit with the boys in my family who LOVE Stitch, but also can't resist the Mickey & Pluto duo. The characters come around while you are eating like the typical character meals, but they also periodically will have the kids dance around or parade through the restaurant. Food wise 'Ohana was not our favorite. It is "all you care to eat" like most other meals, but the food is delivered to your table in a family-style. The plates have scrambled eggs, pork sausage, Mickey Waffles, and hash browns. Nothing bad, but nothing exciting either. The one additional item that is pretty delicious is their Pineapple-Coconut Breakfast Bread. Overall 'Ohana is great if you want to stick near Magic Kingdom, see classic characters, and save that park ticket for another day.
Bon Voyage Breakfast
Located on the Boardwalk at Trattoria al Forno, the Bon Voyage Adventure Breakfast features Rapunzel, Flynn Rider (EUGENE!), Ariel, and Eric. The breakfast runs from 7:30am - 11am and offers a menu of prix fixe options. While the restaurant is definitely Italian in decor, the menu is not. However, it is also not a standard Disney character buffet! The options include several egg dishes, but the most enticing to me is the Royale Breakfast of steak, cheesy-egg torte, roasted potatoes and crispy onions! Oh and did I mention the adorable pasty basket? The Bon Voyage Breakfast is perfect for the princess lovers in your family and is a great substitute for Cinderella's Royal Table or Askerhus. The food is definitely better here, but you miss out a bit on the more royal decor and ambiance of the other princess centered meals.
Mickey's Backyard BBQ
One of the often overlooked character experiences at Disney World is the Mickey's Backyard BBQ. One reason this is so overlooked is that its located at the Fort Wilderness Resort & Campgrounds and can be a bit trek to get to. BUT its worth the trip. First of all, the characters are classic: Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Goofy, and Chip & Dale in their hoe-down outfits. Another reason this is so amazing and fun is that the kids get to not just meet the characters, but dance with them and have a more fun, lively interaction. For the adults this is also a win because the live band is fantastic! They are so fun to just listen to while you are eating and the kids are dancing. The food is ok. I dont love it, but this is one of the few character meals where the pricing includes beer and sangria for the adults. Overall this is one of my all time favorite character experiences and cannot recommend it enough!
1900 Park Fare
While this is not my go to choice, the character meal at 1900 Park Fare is also very popular. Located in the Grand Floridian, it is a short monorail ride from the Magic Kingdom, but not in the park. To me the atmosphere is a little less than magical, but the characters can make up for that. At 1900 the characters vary depending on the meal. For breakfast you may meet the characters from Alice in Wonderland, Mary Poppins, and Winnie the Pooh. Dinner is a bit fancier with the characters from Cinderella making an appearance. Both meals are buffet and are nothing amazing. BUT if you care about characters over all else, this is a good option.
And finally to round out our recommended character meals outside of the parks is Minnie's Beach Bash Breakfast at Cape May Cafe inside the Beach Club Resort. Here, as in the other options the characters are Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck and Goofy in their "beach" attire. The food is buffet with the typical offerings of eggs, sausage, Mickey Waffles, and other assorted pastries and cereals. Nothing fun and unique but nothing terrible either. The locations of the Beach Bash is a bit tricky. While the Beach Club is within walking distance to the International Gateway in Epcot, if you are not staying within walking distance, this can take some real time to get to. I would consider just Ubering to this one to save time.
However one major plus for this is how quiet and low-key this character meal is. If there is one thing I do not like about Chef Mickey's its that the overall crowd noise and chaos can be overwhelming. If you feel the same way, this is a great option for you.
If you are looking for a fun Disney-magic filled way to eat a meal and NOT actually go inside a park, these are an absolute great idea. Just remember those autograph books!
I can't tell you how many times I hear from friends that they do not want to go to Disney World because its just too overwhelming and exhausting for themselves and their kids. They want a vacation where you can relax and not "Go Go Go". And I get it. Spending multiple days surrounded by overwhelming rides, music, characters, and sometimes heat can make any adult (and definitely their kids) cranky and just tired of the vacation.
But its doesn't have to be that way! One of the things I recommend the most to any of my friends or Adventureland Villa guests is to make time for themselves. While I have not perfected it yet, with every trip I try to find a new way to make Disney World relaxing. I know it can be done! (Check out our previous blog post about how to relax at Walt Disney World here!) One of the biggest ways to do this is to book a special dinner with just adults.
Walt Disney World is home to some of the most amazing restaurants in the Southeast United States. So book that babysitter and make that dining reservation! Here are my Top 3 Restaurants at Disney World to eat great food, have a peaceful, adult only conversation, and relax.
1. Monseiur Paul
Located in the France Pavilion at Epcot, Monsieur Paul is an upscale, signature dining experience. The ambiance is a perfect mix of luxury and peacefulness. Which really is what every parent needs. Oh and they have a pretty amazing wine list as well! I usually go with a Kir Royale and the Soupe Aux Truffes which is a broth soup with braised beef, vegetables, black winter truffles and covered in a puff pastry.
2. California Grill
California Grill is a fantastic date night (or brunch!) choice! Its view is unbeatable and the food is top notch. Located at the top of the Contemporary Resort, it also means you don't need a park ticket to dine there. The vibe at California Grill is light, modern, and definitely a sea food vibe. I particularly love the Brunch at the Top, which you can check out our review of here. But at night you get prime views of the Happily Ever After Fireworks Show at the Magic Kingdom. This restaurants has the perfect combination of delicious food and a romantic setting!
3. Epcot's Various Food Festivals
If you are lucky enough to be visiting Disney World during one of Epcot's many festivals such as the Food and Wine Festival or the Flower and Garden Festival, then I recommend having an adult night there. Just make your way through the World Showcase tasting and trying different foods and drinks as much as you like. Its the perfect way to sample lots of different foods, but also to enjoy the company and the scenery. I am particularly fond of the Food and Wine Festival, but the Flower and Garden Festival have been really uping their game!
And Victoria and Albert's
I didn't include Victoria and Alberts in the "Top 3" initially because 1) its incredibly expensive and 2) the reservation are near impossible to snag. But if you can both budget wise and reservation wise dine here, by all means do! You cannot compare this restaurant to anywhere else on property or anywhere else in Florida really. This is as close as you will come to dining like royalty. You can check out our full review here. This is the ultimate dining and date night location.
Overall, a special date night away from the kids can do wonders for both your sanity and your energy levels on a trip to Disney. Whether it is fine dining that can be best enjoyed with an adult only group or it is simply wandering through Epcot, take time for yourself. You will leave Disney World happier, more rested, and ready to come back!
If you are planning an upcoming trip to Walt Disney World, stop what you are doing (but come back!) and book yourself a meal at California Grill. Are you there over a Sunday? Even better! Book a table for their Brunch at the Top! I have enjoyed many fantastic dining experiences at Disney World, but Brunch at Top was an instant favorite! Read on to see why:
With any review of a new dining experience I like to start with location and ambiance. This is because even if a restaurant gets great reviews and the food sounds amazing, if it just doesn't fit in your plans, then you're not going. So I think its really important to understand where every restaurant is and how to access it. Luckily for the Magic Kingdom Lovers, California Grill is a quick walk away. Located on the VERY TOP of the Contemporary Resort, California Grill can be accessed by either the monorail or a quick 10-15 min walk from the main entrance to the Magic Kingdom. For me I popped in Magic Kingdom, rode a few rides, and then made my way over. Could not have been easier! The location also makes the views spectacular and just a bit jaw dropping. And actually the location and views are a large part of the fantastic ambiance.
The decor is very Californian with a blend of modern and mid-century styles. The end result is crisp and bright, but the view still takes center stage. Depending on your seating area, the panoramic views span from Space Mountain and Cinderella's Castle to the Seven Seas Lagoon and the other nearby resorts. Whether it is at brunch or dinner, the view is flat out amazing. The ambiance is further magnified by the live musicians (Cello and Keyboard) serenading the restaurant at a perfect volume.
Now onto brunch! When you enter California Grill through their private elevator, you are greeted by the hostess and immediately handed a mimosa. I love mimosas, but this was definitely champagne with boba bubbles. Didn't matter. It was delicious and I asked that they just keep coming!
Brunch here has a dual concept. First, there is an "All You Care to Eat" buffet with some amazing light eats to start or end your meal with. They have a charcuterie station with so many choices, I was in heaven! The meats and cheeses were all really very good. The only thing that was not my favorite was the pork terrine. I gave it a try though!
The other stations included selected assortments of sushi, deviled eggs, salads, parfaits, and pastries. I tried to sample as many as I could, but I knew I still had appetizers and an entree to get through!
The Eggs Benedict was divine. The eggs were perfectly poached (an overcooked egg is my biggest food pet peeve) and the hollandaise was seasoned just right. The lobster was fresh and not fishy which aded the perfect rich flavor to the dish. I would not hesitate to order this again and again and again!
If you have any room left over (you can also ask for this "To Go") there is an assortment of desserts waiting for you at the end of the meal. Since I like to photograph my food, I went ahead and forged on! Included on the plate was a gorgeous chocolate truffle, a salted caramel macaron, a dark chocolate bark, and two other pastries which at this point I just cannot remember their names. I will work on updating that! These were also quite good individually. I do perhaps wish that there was a more substantial desert option just as a choice to have. But I was so full there was no ordering anything else about to happen!
Overall, my experience at Brunch At the Top was overwhelmingly amazing. I was so impressed and happy there that I immediately book a dinner reservation for my next trip this summer! Truly, you will not be disappointed by eating here and the Brunch was a spectacular way to spend a leisurely morning. This is an A+ for me.
We all know Epcot is really at the center of Disney's culinary renaissance, but most of the attention tends to be paid to the signature restaurants in the World Showcase or on the food booths that are out during the varying festivals. But what most people miss is Coral Reef. Coral Reef is a great dining choice and also in Epcot. I, like so many guests, totally pass this place up because it is secluded and doesn't get the attention. But it is actually a great dining choice! Here is a review from our recent experience there.
I always like to start a dining review with a look at the location and decor of a place. To me that can play almost an equally important part in whether you enjoy your dining experience. Coral Reef is located on the backside of the large building that houses The Seas with Nemo & Friends. If you weren't looking for it, you might not ever even notice it. That seclusion leads to both it being a very quiet, peaceful restaurant but also that its off the beaten path. This is likely to be somewhere new for you just as it was for me!
Inside the restaurant is decorated in watery blues and greens. From the tiles to the carpets, every detail is provides for the guest a very tranquil and soothing experience. This is dramatically different than many of the other restaurants on Disney Property. So for this fact alone, I would definitely choose this restaurant as a place to retreat during a hot, long day in the parks. You can seriously recharge here.
However, the main focal point of Coral Reef is the panoramic windows into the The Seas' aquarium. The aquarium is the largest inland saltwater environment ever built and holds enough water to fill 54 Olympic-sized pools. So this thing is massive! It is also filled with over 4,000 sea creatures including fish, turtles, rays, and sharks! Every table in the restaurant is angled to the aquarium and it provides an entertainment while you dine. I found myself mesmerized by the sea creatures and the entire ambiance of the restaurant. Another plus to the aquarium is that the few children that were dining in the restaurant were relatively quiet as they were also entertained by the fish. This just further promotes the tranquility of the dining experience.
Ok, so yes, the ambiance is amazing, but what about the food?? Overall the menu is dedicated to very seasonal dishes with an emphasis on seafood. If a restaurant makes it clear that seafood is what they do, then I try to go with that so I can experience what they think is the best dish. For appetizers, I was truly torn. I wanted to try their Lobster Bisque with Brandy so badly! But as I was running the next morning, I was concerned about the heavy cream. So what did my amazing server do? She brought me a sample! It was the perfect amount to really get that taste but without getting too full on cream. The lobster bisque has been on their menu since they opened and is a perennial favorite. And I can see why! While yes, the cream is heavy, the lobster is very delicate and flavorful. I will be back for more of the bisque!
So onto the entrees! Here I was also torn! I wanted the Lobster Macaroni or the Beef Short Ribs, but the chef's favorite on the menu was the Seared Salmon Filet with Orzo Pasta and a Citrus-Beurre Blanc. I decided to give the Salmon a try. The Salmon itself was actually a tad boring. It didnt have a ton of flavor and it was also a bit on the rare side. Now with salmon that doesn't bother me, but it was not what I was hoping for. However, under the salmon, the Orzo was delicious. It was cheesy and creamy combined with a sweet cabbage slaw. The Beurre Blanc Sauce was good, but I could have used more and all over the fish. So while my choice was not that great, I did see those short ribs over at the next table was instantly jealous. Next time, short ribs...
Another thing Coral Reef is really known for is their dessert, The Chocolate Wave. Also having been served since they opened, this is a big favorite and it was worth that extra full feeling! The base of the wave is a chocolate sorbet that was incredibly warm, gooey, and chocolatey heaven. It was topped with a light raspberry cream. I planned on only eating half...that didn't happen. I ate the whole thing!
Overall, the food at Coral Reef was really quite good. It might not have broken my top 5 places to eat at Disney World, but its a solid choice. Also the ambiance alone makes this a great option on those long hot days. This is a place where you can come, recharge, eat a good meal, and then continue on your day. Disney World needs more of those!
For several years, I have considered the Tutto Italia Wine Cellar to be my secret gem. Great food in a secluded often uncrowded oasis in Epcot. But I had never ventured into the larger, more opulent restaurant, Tutto Italia. Because I am always up for a new dining experience at Disney, I was super excited to give this one a try. Its the food I already know I'll love with a bit more ambiance. But would could it compete for my love for the wine cellar?? Here's the spoiler: YES! This place was great. Highly recommend it for couples on a date night or even with kids in tow.
Tutto Italia is one of two table service restaurants located in the Italy Pavilion in Epcot. It shares a kitchen with the Wine Cellar, but is a more upscale dining environment with more elegant layout and booths. The chandeliers and dark wooded elements coupled with the murals of Italian scenery on the walls adds to the overall feeling that you are getting an upscale Italian meal. While the menu does veer to a bit to the American version of Italian cuisine, there are a lot of choices to choose from and something for everyone.
Normally, I am at Epcot with at least my husband allowing us to try multiple courses and a variety of things on the menu. This trip I was solo to run in the Princess Half Marathon Weekend events, but I still tried to give as much food as I could a try! But let me tell you, the portions at Tutto Italia were huge! First up: gotta have a glass of wine! Being it was Italy I decided to give the Spumanti a try. Spumanti is the Italian Sparkling Red Wine that is sweet and refreshing. I love it, but tend to only order it in true Italian restaurants. I also was served olives and olive oil. That was not enough olive oil for me, but I made do.
Another huge favorite of mine is Calamari Fritti. Well battered calamari is a perfect appetizer. Tutto Italia's was nothing less than great. It was also a huge portion. I ate more than I should and it was still not half gone. I needed some help on that one! The one thing I would say is that the accompanying marinara sauce was a bit heavy on the red pepper flakes making this too spicy for me. I scraped off as many as I could, but I think someone went a bit heavy handed on that. My husband would have liked it...Other appetizer options included Prosciutto, Caesar Salad, Insalata Di Mare, and Minestrone Soup.
The main courses are broken down into Pasta, Fish, and Meat Choices. I had just finished the 10k that morning and I was ready for some carbs. It was hard to make a choice on which pasta dish to choose! Lasagne Al Forno ended up being the winner for me. It is described on the menu as a traditional preparation with Meat Ragu, Bechamel and Parmesan Cheese.
Again, the portion was huge! I barely made it through half, but did manage to get this packed up and finished later that night! While lasagna is a fairly standard Italian dish that can be found almost anywhere, this one was pretty freakin' great.
The meat ragu was well seasoned and cooked perfectly, and the Bechamel cheese was in spot on proportion to the meat and noodles. This was a great lasagna and I would have no problems eating this again!
At this point, however, I was stuffed. I could not eat another bite of food and so I feel like I missed trying some truly excellent desserts. The options were a Tiramisu, a Cannoli (OH MAN I LOVE THESE!), Panna Cotta and a Lemon Ricotta Cheesecake. Next time I will come prepared and will definitely make it to dessert!
Overall, I left Tutto Italia very full and satisfied with the meal. While this may not be a new top favorite, it is a great choice of restaurant in Epcot's World Showcase and I would say that is especially true if you have picky eaters in tow. There is really something for everyone here and you don't have to sacrifice the flavor to make sure everyone is happy. This is an easy recommendation!
Tara is a Disney-obsessed Mom of two active boys!