When I think of vacations and travel, I immediately think of food. My husband and I both enjoy experiencing new restaurants and amazing cuisine. Just because we have kids doesn’t mean we must limit our diets to chicken fingers and fries. With a little preparation and planning, you absolutely CAN visit nice restaurants on your vacation with children to The Walt Disney World® Resort. You can even enjoy the experience! Here are a few ways how:
Schedule for Success
Pick a time your children are not going to be exhausted, hangry, and done with the day. What works best for our family is scheduling early dinners around 5:00 p.m. We also take a break at the resort for swimming, and a rest on the days we do nice dinners. Think about your entire week as well. Typically, nice dinners on the first or last days, when kids are very wound up or exhausted, aren’t the best idea.
Do your research
Look at the menus ahead of time. All the restaurants at the Walt Disney World® Resort have children’s menus available that you can view online. Take a few minutes to find the best options for your children. Thinking outside the box can be a good idea as well. If your children aren’t big eaters, they can eat off your plate or an appetizer/bowl of soup are also great options. If you don’t see something your child will like, ask the waiter if chicken fingers or another option is available. MANY of the nicer restaurants on property have been able to get chicken fingers and fries for our kids even though they were not on the menu.
Bring something to do
After a couple of days on vacation, the coloring sheets on menus no longer entertain my children. Pack a small pad of paper, a few crayons, or small toy in your bag to keep your children entertained. While I don’t generally give my kids phones to play with during meals, I relax about it on vacation so we can all enjoy the experience. A Boogie Board Writing Tablet, sticker puzzles, tic tac toe, books, and finger puppets are great ways to keep everyone busy.
Ask for what you need
The staff at all the restaurants at Walt Disney World® are amazing. If there is something that would make your meal more pleasant, don’t be afraid to ask. Do you need some saltine crackers instead of the bread before the meal, a table in the corner, a to-go cup, a package of extra crayons? The staff wants you to enjoy your meal and be happy and will accommodate you as best they can.
Keep It Moving
With little ones, your time at a nice restaurant is limited. Don’t order both appetizers AND dessert. If your kids are getting restless by the time the food has come, let your waiter know that you are going to need to make a quick exit once you have finished your food. If you REALLY want dessert, consider ordering it to go or you could always get a treat at one of the parks… a Dole Whip, an ice cream cone or a Mickey bar is never a bad choice. We like to use dessert as a reward for excellent behavior at dinner and let the kids pick what they want.
Prepare your kids
Kids like to know what to expect. Even at eight years old, my twins want to know what the restaurant will be like, how long we will be there (I say a long time), will they get to play on our phones, and most importantly will they get to order a Sprite? Let them know this is a fancy place and they should be on their best behavior. We also tell our kids this is something Mom and Dad picked, and when we are done with our meal you can pick something the family will do.
Now…My Top Five Fancy Restaurants at the Walt Disney World® Resort
- California Grill at Disney’s Contemporary Resort– We have eaten a lot of meals here and every single one has had impeccable service and food. If you book a reservation at 5:00 p.m., which is the first seating of the night you have a very good chance of sitting next to the window. The kids love the amazing view and pointing out all their favorite rides at Magic Kingdom®. If your kids enjoy steak, the restaurant has an excellent kids steak. Located in Disney’s Contemporary Resort you simply take a bus to Magic Kingdom® and walk over.
- Yachtsmen Steakhouse at Disney’s Yacht Club Resort – Go a few minutes early before your reservation and let the kids run around the boardwalk or check out Disney’s Yacht and Beach Club Resorts. This is one of my favorite steaks on property. The children’s dessert is an interactive white chocolate puzzle the kids can “paint.” If the kids do get restless there are rocking chairs outside on the deck, which is a great place to take a quick break. Unless you are staying within walking distance, I would recommend driving or taking an Uber or Minnie Van.
- Jikko, the Cooking Place at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge– Going to Jikko gives you an opportunity to check out Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. Before dinner, step out on the balcony and watch the animals. This is another restaurant that we typically book a 5:00 p.m. reservation. I love the macaroni and cheese and steak entrée here. It is no longer on the menu, but I could still get it last time I was there by asking. Our meals here have taken a little longer than some of the other restaurants.
- Tiffins at Disney’s Animal Kingdom® – I have only eaten here once, but was blown away by the food and the atmosphere. We were seated in the Grand Gallery and the kids enjoyed checking out the artwork and artifacts. The pole animal sculptures were especially cool. This is a great option to book at an off time as the pace is a little slower than some of the other restaurants. The Rivers of Light Dining Package usually has afternoon times for this restaurant. Located inside of Disney’s Animal Kingdom® it is a great spot to cool down and relax during a busy day.
- The Hollywood Brown Derby at Disney’s Hollywood Studios® – One of our favorite spots on property. The kid’s meal has an entrée with hot dogs, chips, and grapes, which makes the kids happy and there is a lot going on in the restaurant to keep them entertained. If you can snag one of the round booths along the sides of the restaurant the kids can watch everything going on. We have found that booking at off times is a great option for this restaurant located inside Disney’s Hollywood Studios®. The Cobb Salad is supposedly wonderful, but I always find myself ordering the filet. My family and I have found the pace of this restaurant a little faster than some of the others on this list, which can be helpful with little ones.
Like everything with kids planning and preparation can go a long way!
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