With the opening of Disney World, Disney radically changed the experience of going to an amusement park. Florida's vast Walt Disney World upped the ante with multiple parks, hotels, shopping districts, and more, and changed the very notion of what it means to go on a vacation. Many visitors, however, chow down on the same nondescript fast food typically found at traditional amusement parks. Not that there's anything wrong with burgers and chicken strips. But they are missing out on some extraordinary restaurants at the Florida resort and an opportunity to make their vacations more memorable.
Looking for more Disney World tips? Check out the Best Things to Do at Disney World.
There are so many great places to eat, it'd be difficult for one dude (that'd be me) with one stomach and a limited budget to determine the best restaurants at Disney World. That's why I turned to some of the most popular and respected travel journalists covering the Florida theme park mecca for some help. I asked them to provide their favorite places to eat at the resort. I then threw their choices into a Cuisinart, poured them through a colander, ranked the results, and developed the top 10 lists.
Whether you're planning an elegant meal, want to grab a quick bite before you journey to Mars on Mission: SPACE at Epcot, or anything in between during your Disney World visit, you're sure to find restaurants to please your palate as well as your wallet with these top dining spots:
Our esteemed panel whittled down a vast array of dining choices available throughout the parks, hotels, the Boardwalk district, and Disney Springs, and listed a total of 48 different restaurants on their top-10 table-service lists. But there was a general consensus on the 10 restaurants that floated to the top.
Bubbling just beneath the surface are a few table-service restaurants that didn't make the cut but bear mentioning:
- Raglan Road at Downtown Disney. The pub offers interesting contemporary takes on traditional Irish dishes such as Banger & Booz (beer-infused sausages on mashed potatoes) and beef curry pie, but the appeal is at least as much about the free-flowing Guinness, the entertainment, and the atmosphere as it is about the food. The cost is moderate ($15 to $30 per adult).
- Sanaa at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge. The third restaurant at the African-themed hotel, which features exotic African- and Indian-inspired dishes, draws rave reviews and is among my personal favorites. The view, overlooking the animals on the savannah at the lodge, is an incredible bonus. The cost is high ($30 to $60 per adult).
- Boma - Flavors of Africa, also at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge. The buffet offers all-you-can-eat fare that can be surprisingly exotic and incredibly delicious. It includes African specialties as well as less adventurous American dishes. It is among my favorite restaurants anywhere, let alone at Disney World. For me, no trip to the resort is complete without a visit to Boma. The cost is high ($30 to $60 per adult). Search for discount Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge rates at Trip Advisor.
Reservations, which are highly recommended for table service eateries, can be made up to six months in advance. Get the info you'll need to make advance Disney World dining reservations.
None of the restaurants that made the list offer opportunities to meet Mickey Mouse or his pals. But meals with characters are a very popular option at the resort. Learn more about Disney World character dining.
Sometimes (usually in the off-season), Disney offers a limited-time deal that includes a hotel and park tickets package with free meals. Is it a good deal? It could be. Find out more about Disney World free dining.
Many thanks to the following panel of travel writers who participated in the best restaurant survey. They are listed along with their top pick for the best Disney World table-service restaurant.
- Robb and Elissa Alvey of Theme Park Review, Via Napoli
- Mike Collins, producer and co-host of CoasterRadio.com podcast, Be Our Guest
- Lyn Dowling, food critic, and feature writer for of Florida Today and writer for Destination Brevard, Victoria & Albert's
- Scott Joseph, publisher, Scott Joseph's Orlando Restaurant Guide, Victoria & Albert's
- Charlyn Keating, About.com's Hotels and Resorts Guide, California Grill
- Ashley Nichols of Theme Park Foodie, Be Our Guest
- Robert Niles, Editor of ThemeParkInsider.com, Monsieur Paul