What to do when you can’t get the Disney dining reservations you want.
When you start to plan a Disney vacation your neighbor, sister-in-law, or your dentist’s cousin’s hairdresser in your Facebook Moms group all come out of the woodwork to tell you that you have you eat at (enter random restaurant name here.) Getting Disney World Dining Reservations has become as competitive as an Olympic Sport.
To some people their entire vacation hinges on getting an advance dining reservation at a certain location. I have even seen people say that their vacation was ruined because they couldn’t get in somewhere. Because of this hysteria, getting into some of the Disney restaurants has become more difficult than getting into the Pentagon.
But you don’t have to worry about all that.
What you may not realize is that there are almost a hundred restaurants at Walt Disney World and so many of them are hidden gems that always have available reservations, even on the day of. To be honest, I like most of the alternatives better than the popular destinations.
Here are some great alternatives to the most popular dining experiences.
This is the most elusive dining reservation at Walt Disney World. While there is something magical about eating in the castle with princesses, I find the food and service to be lacking, especially for the astronomical price tag.
When I want to dine with princesses you will find me at Akershus at the Norway Pavilion in EPCOT. For dinner you get a cold buffet and then you are able to order a hot entree. On the dining plan it is only one table service credit (versus Cindarella’s two) and I find the food to be much better and the character interaction to be much less rushed. I love that I can meet 5 princesses there (usually Belle, Cinderella, Snow White, Aurora and Ariel) and then walk across the pavilion to meet Anna & Elsa, head to the China Pavilion to meet Mulan, and Morocco to meet Jasmine.
I know I just gave this as an alternative for Cinderella’s Royal Table and it is MUCH easier to get. Where Cinderella’s can be completely booked even when you try to make reservations 180 days in advance, Akershus is a little slower to fill and you can usually find something even a little closer to your trip if you are flexible with times. During popular travel times though it does fill up. Storybook Dining at Artist Point (with Snow White and friends) is a great alternative for dinner and the Bon Voyage Breakfast at Trattoria al Forno at the Boardwalk (with Ariel, Rapunzel and their princes) is a great way to start the day, but I am not going to offer those as the main alternative here because reservations at each are becoming increasingly hard to get as well.
What does not typically fill up and I can often find last minute reservations for is 1900 Park Faire at the Grand Floridian. Dinner here is one of my favorite character dining experiences with Cinderella and her family. Dining with the princesses is great, but dining with the step sisters is SO MUCH FUN!! They are so playful and have so much personality, it will be an experience the entire family will enjoy and talk about for years to come.
There is definitely a trend here…Chef Mickey’s is another character meal – this time a buffet – with Mickey and friends. It is located at the Contemporary Resort just a short walk away from Animal Kingdom, but the MUCH better alternative is the Tusker House in Animal Kingdom.
The buffet at Tusker House is hands down the best at Walt Disney World, with your buffet standards PLUS some African inspired dishes. That may sound intimidating to you until you realize it includes some of your Mediterranean favorites like tabouli, hummus, and couscous. There are also some more exotic items to try, like bobotie and curries. Here you get to meet Donald, Daisy, Minnie, Goofy, and the Boss himself, all in their safari gear.
This is the first place on the list that I wouldn’t automatically go to the alternative. I LOVE Ohana: it is a family style meal…because “ohana” means family, remember? It features Polynesian inspired dishes served like a brazilian steakhouse. I love the menu here and I do try to get a reservation just to get the pineapple coconut bread (I am obsessed with all things pineapple). There has been a bit of a decline in quality and service in the past few years but the flavor profiles are still some of my favorites. When I can’t get into Ohana for dinner I book a reservation for the nearby Kona Cafe.
Eat at Kona Cafe
I feel like the food quality is a little better at Kona even though it comes out of the same kitchen as Ohana. At Kona you can get incredible sushi, asian style bowls, and steaks. After dinner I always head over to the Tambu Lounge and order a Lapu Lapu (rum drink served in a pineapple) and get the bananas foster bread pudding from Ohana that they serve there. Breakfast is a completely different story. Skip the character breakfast at Ohana and plan to meet Stitch and Mickey at the Magic Kingdom and go to the Kona Cafe for breakfast. It is the best breakfast on property. The biggest problem with Kona Cafe breakfast is deciding what to get!!
This is a wonderful restaurant with an incredible view, and I know why it books quickly. While you may not be able to get a reservation for the coveted fireworks viewing time, if you save your receipt from dining earlier in the evening you can head up to the viewing location when the show is about to start. Another great location and one of my favorite restaurants on property is Narcoosee’s.
They also have incredible food and an incredible view. Sunset is breathtaking and the surf and turf is one of my favorite meals on property – this is coming from a New England girl who has a husband who goes lobstering in the morning and we eat it for dinner that night – the lobster here is grilled to perfection!!
When you can’t get into Le Cellier Steakhouse (which has been a little easier to book since they went from one to two credits on the dining plan), head to Chefs De France in the France Pavilion for a great Steak Frites or a Peppercorn-crusted Filet.
I don’t think that this is as popular as it could be because people are intimidated by French cuisine. It usually has last minute reservations available. You can get French dishes like duck and escargot (my favorites), but for the picky eater they have a great Gratin de Macaroni aka Mac & Cheese. If you are on the dining plan you also get a great bonus because Chefs de France is only one dining credit.
If you still have your heart set on a certain place, keep checking. People change their plans and cancel their reservations all the time, so if you are persistent you may be able to snag something.
Booked with Showcase the World? Check “make dining reservations” off your CVS-receipt-long list of to-dos. We will take care of recommending and making your dining reservations, and we will check availability daily if we weren’t able to secure everything you wanted.
If you are already booked but want us to help with dining, schedule a complimentary vacation consultation and we can discuss your options.
Budgeting is such an important part of trip planning, but it can be difficult to find the time to sit down and actually work out the real cost vs a package deal. My ‘Should You Add the Disney Dining Plan’ guide covers everything you need to know to make the right dining choice for you. From what is covered in each dining plan, and who it will best suit, to the average cost of each restaurant and even calculate your savings!
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