Where To Dine at Disney World?

We always like to find unique, fun, and/or delicious places to eat on vacation. Disney World has a few places that we love.

Hoop Dee Doo Review – Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground

We’d heard good things about this dinner show and decided to give it a try on our last trip. To my surprise, we loved it! Hosted at the Fort Wilderness campgrounds, this Old-west themed dinner show takes place in a themed dance hall. It’s all-you-can-eat country faire – fried chicken, ribs, rice, beans, corn and strawberry shortcake – with really no options (other than the option to request Mac n cheese and a few other kid favorites). They basically toss buckets of food at you as the show progresses. All drinks, including draft beer, wine and sangria, are also included and all-you-can drink. Very dangerous. The entertainment is definitely cheesy but somehow quite hilarious all at the same time. But maybe that was thanks to the sangria.

The whole family loved this experience, and it was truly memorable. I think a lot of it is the surroundings – the campground is lush and secluded, on a lake, and unlike anything else at Disney World. If you, like me, have an romantic view of campgrounds (thanks to movies like The Parent Trap and The Great Outdoors) but don’t actually want to, er, camp, you will probably love this visit. We drove to and parked at the Wilderness Lodge and took the ferry to Fort Wilderness. I recommend this approach rather than driving to the campgrounds, as doing so requires taking a bus from the parking lot to the Hoop Dee Doo Review. You can also catch the same ferry at the Contemporary Resort. We got there early and wandered around a bit before dinner, saw the horses at the Tri-Circle-D Ranch next to the dinner hall (you can book actual horseback riding excursions, which I think would be fun to do before dinner sometime) and had a drink at the nearby tavern (which totally reminded me of the restaurant where John Candy ate the 96-ouncer in The Great Outdoors). It was relaxing after a busy week at the parks.

I also recommend the Hoop Dee Doo Review for birthdays or other celebrations where you want to embarrass – er, give attention to – the person celebrating. The performers are out in the crowd interacting with the audience and will definitely make your celebration memorable.

50s Prime Time Cafe – Disney’s Hollywood Studios

We tried this restaurant for lunch the last time we were there, and it was a blast. Located in Hollywood Studios, this is more of a 1950s home than a diner, with 1950s Leave It To Beaver-type foods – Fried chicken (delicious!), meat loaf, mac n cheese, chicken noodle soup – that kind of thing. But the theming is fantastic. The waitress repeatedly scolded the kids (and me) for putting our elbows on the table, and at one point came to the table and said “I asked my mom, and she said it’s okay for me to come with you guys today!”. There are TVs playing 1950s black and white sitcoms everywhere. Fun.

Coral Reef  – Epcot

Located in ‘The Seas’, next to the Nemo ride at Epcot, this restaurant has a large aquarium filled with fish and sharks at the front. In the past we’d seen people scuba diving in that tank, which was pretty cool, but I don’t know if they still do that. The food is pretty good, and the setting is nice.

California Grill – Contemporary Resort

Okay, we just found out about this place and haven’t actually dined here, but I wish we had. It’s as close to fine dining as Disney gets – the food looks amazing, and it has views to the fireworks! I recommend getting reservations through Disney Dining and trying to coordinate fireworks viewings either during, or after, dinner from the Contemporary Resort.
Animal Kingdom Lodge – Boma and Jiko

The Animal Kingdom Lodge is our favorite Disney World resort (see my post on that here), in part because of the good restaurants. Boma is the buffet, and although the food can be a bit exotic (African themed, so some spicy stuff there), it’s good, and there’s always some kid-friendly offerings like pasta and chicken fingers. Jiko is more fine dining, also African, and can be pricy, but the food here can be really good and the wine list is great. Kids are, of course, always welcome too. If you’re not staying at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, I recommend coming early or staying late, and wandering around a bit to see the animals, right outside the window. Go to the pool, and find the guide with night vision goggles so you can see the animals after-dark.

Downtown Disney Family Dining – Rainforest Cafe, T-Rex

We always seem to end up spending one or two dinners at the Rainforest Cafe or at T-Rex (which is dinosaur themed, but owned by the same group as T-Rex). It’s kitschy, and the food isn’t exactly inspired (T-Rex is slightly better than Rainforest) but it’s fun and it’s tradition. It gets busy so to avoid a long wait it’s best to make reservations here too – call Disney Dining and they will provide the number to call.

Let me know if you have great suggestions on where to eat at Disney World – we’re always looking for ideas!


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