Where to Eat When You Can't Get Those Hard to Get Walt Disney World Dining Reservations

Eating at the Walt Disney World Resort.  It's the reason we go there, right?? Well, it's true there may be lots of fun things to during your visit to the Disney Parks, but one of my favorite pastimes is eating my way around all the parks. . .and I know I'm not alone.


via GIPHY

Advanced dining reservations for table service restaurants open 180 days prior to your stay.  Guests staying on property at a Walt Disney World Resort hotel are offered an additional perk of being able to make reservations for the entire length of stay once they hit 180 days prior to arrival.  Still, some restaurants fill up before you have a chance to score your must-dos.  No need to fear though - there are some great alternatives when the most popular options book up quickly.  While these options are often "easier to get" it's not because they are less good.  And, as a disclaimer, even these restaurants book up at peak travel times so still follow all the tips out there to book your dining reservation early!  Let's look at great alternatives to some of the more popular options!

When Your Want to Meet the Original Gang but Chef Mickey's is Unavailable - Chef Mickey's provides a breakfast, lunch, and dinner character buffet where you can meet some of the original gang, but is also a tough reservation to get.  No worries though!  There are three great alternatives to find Mickey and friends.  The first is Tusker House Restaurant located in Disney's Animal Kingdom.  Tusker House is an African themed buffet that offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner as well.  Don't let the African flair scare you if your family is not adventurous eaters - there's plenty on the buffet for the whole family to enjoy.  Here you'll meet classic characters in apparel fit for a safari experience! The second option is Garden Grill Restaurant located inside Epcot.  I LOVE this dining experience.  Again, breakfast, lunch, and dinner are all character meals offered here and the food is deliciously served family style.  That's right - it's served to your table so you don't have to get up and miss a character interaction while visiting the buffet.  The whole restaurant is a unique experience too as it rotates through the Living with the Land ride.  Mickey and friends greet diners wearing their best farming gear.  Lastly, you can see Minnie and friends at Cape May Cafe at Disney's Beach Club Resort for a character breakfast.  The food here is good and it is typically not a busy location.  However, since this restaurant is located in a resort instead of a park, you may want to allow extra transportation time - resort hopping isn't always quick!

When Your Little Princess Wants to Meet All the Princesses but Cinderella's Royal Table is Unavailable - I'll be honest, in my 30 years of visiting the Walt Disney World Resort, I have yet to be able to get a reservation at Cinderella's Royal Table so I know how hard these reservations can be to grab.  With that in mind, there are two alternatives to princess dining to definitely check out.  Akershus Royal Banquet Hall in Epcot features character dining experiences for breakfast, lunch, and dinner that hosts an A-list cast of princesses!  This Norwegian restaurant is pricey for the food in my opinion, but it boasts great interactions with classic princesses.  The second option is the Bon Voyage Breakfast at Trattoria al Forno located on Disney's Boardwalk between Epcot and Hollywood Studios.  This was one of my favorite character meals I've experienced on property.  Here you meet two princesses AND their handsome counterparts.  Maybe it's because I'm partial to the smolder and Flynn Rider that I enjoyed this so much?!?

When You Want a Romantic Night of Deluxe Dining but California Grill is Unavailable - Let's face it. . .the entire dining experience at California Grill is hard to top.  From the fireworks, to the setting, to the high quality food, there are few places at the Walt Disney World Resort that compare.  But reservations at this location can be tricky to catch.  There are a number of signature dining experiences to choose from, but my favorite alternative to California Grill is Jiko - The Cooking Place located in Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge.  While you can't watch fireworks exploding over Cinderella Castle here, you still get some of the best food on property and may even catch a glimpse of some exotic wildlife while you're exploring the resort before or after your dinner.

The moral of this blog post is that there are so many great restaurants at the Walt Disney World Resort, you have plenty of options to explore even if you're top choice may be unavailable.  If you have your heart set on one of those hard-to-grab reservations and can't get it on the day your Advanced Dining Reservations open, don't give up hope!  I've been able to grab some great reservations just a week or so before our trip as that's the time that people start releasing reservations that they made "just in case" or that they double booked.  For even more dining reviews, including a look at dining in Disney Springs, visit my restaurant review page here.  Bon appetite!

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