Choosing Disney restaurants for kids is a bit of a hit or miss, which is surprising if you think about it.
I certainly applaud Disney’s push to give healthy offerings to kids. It’s an appropriate model for how a responsible company should act.
But when the heat is on and the kids are getting angry, I think it shouldn’t be quite so hard to find a chicken strip and fries.
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While most of Disney’s experiences are built with children in mind, I think character dining is probably the most kid-focused activity in the park, especially when it comes to eating.
You can get chicken nuggets and fries just about anywhere, but is Mickey Mouse coming to your table? Visits from Minnie, Goofy and Donald put Disney over the top.
But guests cannot dine on character-themed restaurants alone. At least, mom and dad probably can’t afford to. In fact, at the prices Disney charges, one or two character meals are the probably the limit per trip.
With that in mind, here are the best restaurants around the Disney World Resort that your kids will love:
World Drive, Disney’s Contemporary Resort
Located in Disney’s Contemporary Resort, Chef Mickey’s is the most kid-friendly restaurant in Disney World. The monorail zooms right above it for goodness sake.
I think breakfast is the best time for Chef Mickey’s when the buffet-style meal includes Mickey Waffles. Also, the resort’s proximity to the Magic Kingdom also makes it a perfect place to kick-start your day.
Fantasyland at Cinderella Castle, Magic Kingdom
Located inside the Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom, this is probably the best character dining experience located within the park and certainly the best one featuring the princesses. For example, you have the opportunity to meet Ariel and Snow White while dining in style.
If it’s the best character dining experience in the park, why is it second on the list? It’s a valid question.
The atmosphere at Chef Mickey’s is a little looser. Somehow being in the castle makes you feel a little more upright and strait-laced, even though it’s only a pretend castle in Florida swampland. Also, I feel like Mickey just slightly trumps the princesses.
Toy Story Land, Hollywood Studios
Dining at Rodeo Roundup is perfect for kids. The theming is great as you get to live life as one of Andy’s toys. There are fun little games, too. For example, you must freeze when Andy is approaching – and it’s just a good time. The atmosphere is also bright, colorful, musical and fun.
On the menu side, it’s family style. Depending on how adventurous your kids are, they may prefer the sides to the main course. However, that just leaves more barbecue for mom and dad.
Polynesian Resort, Seven Seas Drive
Importantly, Ohana at the Polynesian Village Resort only does character dining at breakfast, at least at the time of this writing. I recommend that you schedule your breakfast on a non-park day. Specifically, I like to plan a breakfast here on our travel day home if we have time.
The Polynesian’s theming gives you a last little taste of Disney magic, and you can close your trip with a great breakfast with Lilo, Stitch and friends. Also, the POG juice is the nectar of the Gods.
Fantasyland, Magic Kingdom
Located in Beast’s Castle, this is another character dining destination – sort of.
The Beast does make appearances in each of the three dining rooms, including the West Wing, the Grand Ballroom and the Rose Gallery. However, the Beast is the only character involved. The pricing, however, is much the same as any other character meal.
Also, I think the menu for kids is not balanced. It has mac and cheese and chicken strips for picky eaters as well as shrimp, tenderloin or pan-seared chicken breast for those ready to test their palette a bit more.
Fantasyland, Magic Kingdom
Here, we take another brief break from character dining. This quick-service eatery has kid-friendly fare such as flatbread pizzas, chicken strips and fries. The flatbreads are actually pretty good.
The best seats in the house are the ones overlooking the Small World ride queue. My kids love those tables because it’s a great place to get some sillies out.
Crystal Palace, Magic Kingdom
Located in the Magic Kingdom, Crystal Palace is buffet-style eating with Winnie the Pooh and the crew from the 100 Acre Wood.
Why are Winnie the Pooh and his friends in a posh Victorian-style restaurant set in a massive glass atrium? That is a fair question.
Overall, I’ve found Crystal Palace to be an excellent way to schedule a nice, cool midday break. It’s perfect for a late lunch or early supper.
Main Street, Magic Kingdom
Tony’s restaurant has a less-than-stellar reputation among Disney foodies. However, I think it’s a pretty good spot for kids. Specifically, it has kind of a faux-fancy restaurant feel that gives the kids the feeling of a big night out.
Menu options for kids include pasta, chicken and mac and cheese.
Africa, Animal Kingdom
Located in Africa in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, this is another character dining destination featuring Donald and the gang in safari outfits.
I like the African flavors on the buffet, but there is a “Kids’ Picks” menu that features corn dog nuggets, macaroni and cheese, chicken legs, green beans and mashed potatoes as well.
Animal Kingdom and Disney Springs
With locations in Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Disney Springs, the eatery filled with animatronic animals is the Hard Rock Cafe for kids.
Disney calls it “uniquely themed” on its website, which feels a little bit like shade. There are lots of kid-friendly options, and the younger ones will be well entertained. Be aware there are periodic thunderstorms to add to the Rainforest-y theme.
This eatery is like the Rainforest Cafe but dinosaur-themed. I want to make a Bang a Gong joke here, but I fear I’m dating myself.
There are lots of kid-friendly choices here. It’s perfect for if you’ve ever wanted to eat dinner under the watchful eye of nature’s greatest predators.
Commissary Lane, Hollywood Studios
Located in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, this restaurant is themed after a classic drive-in movie. Instead of tables, diners sit in cars while they are served – they are convertibles, of course.
Options for kids include chicken bites, burgers and mac and cheese.
Mexico Pavilion, EPCOT
This eatery offers tacos and empanadas as well as chicken tenders and macaroni and cheese. Desserts include churros or the Mickey ice cream sandwich.
If your kids are picky eaters, dining in World Showcase can be tricky. Therefore, it’s best to hit the Cantina early if you’re going counterclockwise.
Asia, Animal Kingdom
Yak & Yeti has a menu built to serve kids with a wide variety of developing palettes. It has everything from stir-fried noodles to mini corn dogs.
Liberty Square, Magic Kingdom
The Liberty Tree Tavern is certainly an underrated kids’ destination among table service restaurants.
Honestly, we avoided this family-style restaurant for a long time. With its Thanksgiving-style fare, it just seemed like a heavy meal for a theme park. Who wants pot roast before stepping out into 100-degree heat? However, I was quite surprised when we stopped in.
In fact, the Johnny Tremaine-style theming was a hit with our elementary school-age kids, and they served macaroni for the picky eater in our party.
I don’t know that I would go all out at this all you care to eat establishment, but it’s a surprisingly good family place – especially if you go in the cooler months.
Echo Lake, Hollywood Studios
I’ve found that since the opening of Galaxy’s Edge, this Hollywood Studios eatery has been slightly forgotten.
However, it’s a great place to stop, grab a meal and rest in the air conditioning or outside in some shade.
For the kids, they have chicken strips or macaroni. But for the adults, it’s hard to beat the Cuban sandwich. Everyone will enjoy a Wookie Cookie for dessert.
Discovery Island, Animal Kingdom
This Animal Kingdom eatery is an example of a true Disney paradox. Disney inexplicably can’t make pizza well.
Disney barbecue? Yes, please. But Disney pizza? It doesn’t do much for me. Still, all pizza is decent pizza, and kids tend to like most pizzas.
Echo Lake, Hollywood Studios
Kids can get more than meatloaf at this fun 50s-themed diner in Hollywood Studios. Do kids care about the 50s? Probably not so much.
However, the theming is over the top enough they’ll enjoy it without necessarily getting it.
Kids’ options include salmon, sloppy joes, grilled chicken or chicken strips.
Tomorrowland, Magic Kingdom
Located in Tomorrowland in the Magic Kingdom, Cosmic Ray’s stresses me out. The burger place is frequently busy and chaotic. In particular, there’s a “Lord of the Flies” vibe when it comes to getting a table.
Additionally, the Fixin’s Bar, in my opinion, is the prison cafeteria of the Magic Kingdom. That said, the kids’ menu features chicken strips, mac and cheese or a chicken sandwich. The animatronic alien Billy Joel is nice, I guess.
Living With the Land, EPCOT
We’re back with character dining with Chip and Dale and Pluto in this EPCOT table service restaurant.
The menu isn’t overly vast here, though. And while I like Chip and Dale, the experience isn’t great. Honestly, if I’m paying the money for character dining, I’m choosing options outside of EPCOT.
World Nature, EPCOT
This upscale EPCOT eatery may not be the right spot for picky eaters. I think the kids’ menu items aren’t incredibly kid-friendly.
For instance, youngsters can get a salad appetizer or clam chowder. I don’t know a lot of kids who are into a hot steaming bowl of clam chowder.
The main courses include grilled fish, grilled chicken or grilled shrimp. They also have a Jr. Reef Prime Rib. In fact, the only saving grace at this table-service restaurant for a picky eater is a mac and cheese dish.
I’d say, for the most part, yes. Disney’s children’s menu items are listed as for those 9 and younger, but Walt Disney World is likely not going to make a thing of it.
If you – or your 12-year-old – are more comfortable with the children’s menu selection then go for it. Maybe that grilled cheese is calling your name. The cast member (probably) won’t make a fuss.
Children under three eat for free at all-you-care-to-enjoy buffet restaurants like Chef Mickey’s and the Garden Grill Restaurant.
But you should make sure you include the little one in your reservations. Disney counts humans for reservation purposes, not just adults and older kids.
Do you have a favorite Disney restaurant for kids when you’re on vacation? If so, let us know in the comments!
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