Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Advanced Planning: Special Occasion Meals/Dining Experiences at Disney World

Advanced Planning: Special Occasion Meals/Dining Experiences at Disney World
By: Rebecca Farrell (@RMZFarrell)

It’s no secret that many people travel to Walt Disney World to celebrate a special occasion – birthday, anniversary, etc. Disney has even built entire advertising/marketing campaigns around this obvious fact.  But no matter what your reason for being at the happiest place on earth, you should consider a special dining experience at least once. It’s what Disney does best!

When I was planning our first trip to Disney, my “celebration” was turning 30. For this special occasion, I knew that I wanted to have breakfast at Cinderella’s Royal Table with the princesses. I could think of little else while I planned our first trip to Disney (at least for us as a couple) and I had to chuckle when the Disney reservationist asked for the age of the child. “It’s me, and I’ll be 30,” I said at the time. She laughed, too.

TIP: Always make sure you tell the reservationist that you’re celebrating a special occasion. Disney rolls out the red carpet in a lot of different and magical ways!

Fast forward a few months…the meal was a memorable one, and everyone wished me a happy birthday – and the celebration even included cake – at breakfast (this happens ALL THE TIME at Disney – so just roll with it).

During our 5th Wedding Anniversary trip in November of 2011, we treated ourselves to a character breakfast at Ohana on our actual anniversary, and it was a lot of fun. No pressure, no fancy clothes, just a lot of great food and character interactions.

So what restaurant is right for your celebration? Take a few things into account:
1. What are your food preferences? Do you like dinner or breakfast better?
2. Do you want characters or peace and quiet?
3. What’s your budget? (Some signature dining locations can put a strain on the wallet)
4. Do you want a dining room with a view?
5. What’s your threshold for ‘dressing fancy’ on vacation? (Note: I’ve seen people at California Grill in jeans, but I don’t recommend it…its just disrespectful!)

All of the Disney signature dining locations require reservations, and given the popularity of these locations as well as many character meals, they will BOOK SOLID at the 180-day advance dining reservation mark. So if you’ve got Cinderella’s Royal Table on your agenda, mark it in your calendar and set your alarm because you’ll need to work the phones fast (1-407-WDW-DINE) to get a table.

Meal Credits
If you’re on the Disney Dining Plan, make sure to take stock of how many credits are required for signature dining. For example, Cinderella’s Royal Table and California Grill require two table service credits per person, so you’ll need to factor that into your overall plans. Some locations also require a credit card to hold the reservation – keep that in mind and if you have to cancel, be sure to do so well ahead of the 24-hour mark or you’ll face a penalty.

In the chart below, I have outlined some of the signature dining and character meals that my husband and I have experienced during our Disney travels. For MUCH more information, you can visit sites such as and The “Worth It?” column represents my opinion and experiences only…be sure to do your research and find out what’s best for you and your family!

Restaurant Name
Meals Enjoyed
Worth It?
Cinderella’s Royal Table
Cinderella Castle, Main Street USA, Magic Kingdom
Breakfast and Dinner
(Princesses at both)
Yes, even without kids but for a very special occasion only
Great Ceremonial House, Polynesian Resort
Breakfast (Characters)
Yes, one of the few Mickey meals outside of the parks
California Grill
Contemporary Resort
Yes, but it’s pricey so save it for a milestone birthday or anniversary; consider a drink/appetizers at the bar otherwise
Artist Point
Wilderness Lodge
No. We had a view of nothing, and the food was just so-so.
Le Cellier
Canada Pavilion, World Showcase, Epcot
No. There’s no view and the food is too heavy.

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