One of my absolute favorite aspects of planning a Disney vacation is figuring out where I’m going to eat. Seriously, some people get excited watching ride videos or thinking about what characters they want to meet. I’m all about the FOOD. I even just bought my first premium Magic Band for the sole reason that it’s snack themed. As much fun as poring over menus and checking reservation ability is (and nope, I’m not being sarcastic), there are a few extra details to take into consideration when reserving Walt Disney World dining for large families.
Did you know this post is part of a series about travelling to Walt Disney World with a large family? Be sure to check out my other posts, Walt Disney World Accommodations for Large Families and Walt Disney World Planning Tips for Large Families.
The Best Walt Disney World Dining for Large Families
With hundreds of restaurants to choose from at Walt Disney World, there are a number of different ways you can decide where to dine. You can focus on theming, location, cuisine, or just wing it. Although I caution against that last one because nobody wants to spend an hour shuffling hungry kids or grandparents from place to place looking for a restaurant with availability and food everyone wants to eat. Those of you who have been there, you know what I mean.
There are three main factors I took into consideration to choose the best Walt Disney World dining for large families:
- Food Quality and Variety
- Reservation Availability
That last one is important. Guests can make reservations for Walt Disney World restaurants 180-days prior to their reservation date. For the most popular Disney restaurants, if you are not awake and prepared to make your reservations at 7AM on that 180-day mark, you’re out of luck. On top of that, a number of the restaurants will require putting several tables together if your group has more than four guests. The restaurants on this list are ones that can more easily accommodate large families or have advanced dining reservations available on short notice.
Now that we’ve gotten some background out of the way, let’s dig in!
Table Service Restaurants
Crystal Palace – The Magic Kingdom
Crystal Palace is a character buffet featuring the characters from Winnie the Pooh. While you can see Winnie the Pooh and Tigger in Fantasyland, this is the only place you are guaranteed to meet Piglet or Eeyore. I’m a huge proponent of character meals because it saves time in your day by giving you one less line to wait in. In addition to the characters, Crystal Palace offers a considerable variety of food. Some of my favorites are the puffed french toast and made-to-order omelettes at breakfast, and the edamame salad, peel-and-eat shrimp, and oven-roasted chicken at lunch and dinner. My nephews give a big thumbs up to the mac and cheese and soft serve ice cream, too.
Via Napoli – Epcot
In case you can’t get a good sense of it from the above picture, the pizzas at Via Napoli are MASSIVE. Located in the Italy pavilion in World Showcase, Via Napoli features a menu of Southern Italian dishes, but the Neopolitan-style pizza is the star. The largest size, the Mezzo Metro, is a half meter long! The pizzas can be customized and serve anywhere from one to five people, so you can easily feed a larger group here without difficulty. The appetizers are shareable too, especially the family-style house salad that can be ordered for two or more. I can’t rave enough about the quality of the pizza here and with Italy’s location almost directly in middle of World Showcase, it’s a nice way to take a break as you’re wandering around.
50’s Prime Time Cafe – Hollywood Studios
Since we’re talking about Walt Disney World dining for large families, how could I leave off the dining experience where they truly treat everyone like family! I’m not just talking about the homestyle cooking, featuring Grandma’s Chicken Pot Pie, Aunt Liz’s Golden Fried Chicken, and Cousin Harold’s Vegetable Lasagna. You’re also expected to set the table, keep any electronic devices put away during the meal, and don’t forget to eat all your vegetables! It’s all in good fun and as you can see in the picture above, the cast members really do feel like part of the family! This restaurant does have a few areas set up to accommodate larger families, but depending on how many others are dining there that day, it may impact your wait. It’s totally worth it though and this is one of the table service restaurants I’ve revisited the most.
Tusker House – Animal Kingdom
I told you I was a fan of character buffets. The theming, food and costumes at Tusker House reflect its location in the Africa area of Animal Kingdom. It offers you a chance to meet Mickey, Donald, Daisy, and Goofy as they are getting ready for safari. In addition to African-influenced dishes like spicy green coconut curry and tandoori tofu, there are plenty of options for pickier eaters as well, such as roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, and even corndog nuggets. And what kid (okay, or adult), wouldn’t love a mid-meal dance party with Mickey and friends?
Trail’s End – Fort Wilderness
Trail’s End is a great buffet to check out if you want one free of characters. The atmosphere and food are both best described as rustic, comfort food. There’s fried and roasted chicken, pulled pork, bbq pork ribs, and I will forever sing the praises of the chili and cornbread. It’s almost worth a visit just for those two items, in my opinion. They also have a baked potato bar for those who need a break prior to their meat coma. Due to it’s more remote location at Fort Wilderness, Trail’s End almost always has last minute reservation availability. It’s worth the trek, especially if you’ve never spent time checking out all the sights and activities Fort Wilderness has to offer. And check out this post-dinner view of the Electric Water Pageant.
I know it probably seems like this list is overrun with buffets. But when trying to agree on Walt Disney World dining with large families, I’ve found it’s one of the best ways to cut down on arguing over where to eat. And at each of the three restaurants mentioned, everybody will find something they enjoy.
Bonus! Quick Service Restaurant
Flame Tree Barbecue – Animal Kingdom
As much as I love the food at Flame Tree Barbecue (the sampler platter with smoked ribs, chicken and pulled pork served with baked beans and coleslaw is delicious and large enough for several people to share), I’m adding this to the list because of the seating area. Located behind the restaurant, Flame Tree Barbecue is home to two covered pavilions that sit right on the water, giving you a wonderfully scene view of Expedition Everest. If you’re there late enough, you may also be able to catch the performance of Rivers of Light (although the backside of Rivers of Light is not nearly as impressive as the backside of water. Or seeing it from the front).
Planning Tips for Walt Disney World Dining for Large Families
- Avoid restaurants with limited seating like Sci-Fi Dine-In and those meant to have a more intimate atmosphere like Le Cellier. While I enjoy both restaurants, neither are conducive to groups of larger than 4 people. Save them for times when you don’t have the whole family with you.
- Be flexible! Are you willing to split your group up between two smaller groups at separate tables? Can you switch the reservation for an alternate date or time?
- Take advantage of mobile ordering for quick service locations! You’re already going to be stuck in lines at Walt Disney World. Why not use that time on My Disney Experience to place an order at a quick service location? When you arrive at the restaurant later in the day, check-in on the app and your meal will be ready in minutes!
If you’ve eaten at any of these Walt Disney World restaurants with a large family, what did you think? Which ones did I leave off this list that you’d add? Leave it in the comments!