By MEL BLANKE
Photo credit goes to wesh.com.
As if they weren’t expensive enough, Walt Disney World’s day-ticket prices have become even heftier this year with the new “seasonal packages.” At peak times of the year, a single-day pass can be as high as $135, even without the popular “park-hopper” add on, which is normally $97. With the high ticket prices and the cost of staying in a Disney-themed hotel on site, many visitors opt out of going to one of the many restaurants the parks offer.
My dad would be appalled at this decision. We are a family of food connoisseurs, and our trips to Disney World would never be the same without venturing out to at least one of our favorite restaurants. While people have different priorities when going on vacation, let me say one thing: It’s totally worth it.
The atmosphere, the food, the staff… They all make the Disney experience complete. With over 140 restaurants in the four main parks, it’s challenging to choose which ones are actually worth the high costs. Although it was hard for me to narrow it down to ten, here are my favorite restaurants at Disney World that I truly think are worth all your hard-earned dough.
10. The Crystal Palace
Magic Kingdom, Main Street U.S.A.
(photo from charactercentral.net)
Roughly designed and named after the early 19th-century building that housed London’s “Great Exhibition,” Disney’s The Crystal Palace offers a large buffet full of classic American cuisine. Prices range from $15-$60 per person, and customers can get a wide variety of breakfast, lunch or dinner food.
The plus side is that it’s centrally located in the front of Magic Kingdom and is constantly filled with characters and music. The downside is that it’s centrally located in the front of Magic Kingdom and is constantly filled with characters and music. It can get crazy-crowded and clustered with the tables being so close together, but the food and fun atmosphere makes it worth the noise.
9. Sci-Fi Dine-In Restaurant
Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Commissary Lane
(photo from disneyworld.disney.go.com)
To be honest, this restaurant probably has the least impressive food on this list, but with its 50’s drive-in movie theater style and car-themed tables, it had to make an appearance. Customers get to sit in their own old-school car and enjoy old sci-fi film trailers and commercials.
It offers traditional American diner food and an impressive selection of desserts. This has always been a staple for my family, even though the food isn’t on par with several other restaurants on site. Sci-Fi Dine-In is a must for anyone with a big family with small kids or maybe a couple that wants to down a chocolate martini -- they’re pretty amazing.
8. San Angel Restaurante
Epcot, Mexico Pavilion (World Showcase)
(photo from wdwmagic.com)
This 17th-century hacienda-themed restaurant could possibly be the most beautiful eatery in all of Disney World. The entrance immediately brings you into an open-market displaying traditional Mexican art, clothing and knick-knacks that no one can take their eyes off of.
Right behind the market is the beautiful restaurant seating area that is set on a nighttime ancient Mayan ruins backdrop, complete with starry skies. The relaxing boat ride, “La Gran Fiesta,” glides right by customers eating on the edges of the seating area. The restaurant serves delicious authentic Mexican cuisine and the atmosphere is a quiet escape from the frequently overbearing crowds of Epcot.
7. Tutto Italia Ristorante
Epcot, Italy Pavilion (World Showcase)
(photo from disneytouristblog.com)
Recently renovated in the past couple years, Tutto Italia looks as if it was transported straight out of Italy. The pavilion includes Venetian, Florentine and Roman architecture. There are beautiful Italian murals on the wall and fountains holding up the corners.
One thing that makes this Italian restaurant worth the money is its large selection of wine and other alcoholic beverages. Any dish you order at Tutto Italia will be wonderful. From the Ravioli di Ricotta to the Calamari or the Sorbetti, it is always delicious.
6. The Hollywood Brown Derby
Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Hollywood Boulevard
(photo from dadsguidetowdw.com)
Based off the original “Vine Street Brown Derby” in Hollywood, California, Disney’s Brown Derby is by far the most interesting and best restaurant in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The wall behind the host’s desk is lined with celebrity caricatures, which can also be seen throughout the entire restaurant.
You’ll also see other famous artifacts, including the original Brown Derby hat lamp shade. The menu offers many of the original restaurant’s elegant takes on classic American food, such as the Cobb Salad and premium American Kobe Beef. The entrees are significantly more expensive than many restaurants on the property, but if you can afford it you won’t be disappointed.
5. Tusker House Restaurant
Animal Kingdom, Africa
(photo from www.tripadvisor.com)
This is surely the best restaurant in Animal Kingdom. Placed directly in the middle of Disney’s “Africa,” Tusker House delivers a beautiful and authentic open-market feel. Animal Kingdom was designed with a grand theme for each section of the park, and this restaurant is a good example of the African theme with its safari-themed buffet and colorful ceilings.
The African cuisine is amazing and diverse, with so many different types of rices, vegetables and meats. Any type of eater -- vegetarian, vegan or omnivore -- will be pleased. Safari Mickey can also be spotted throughout the day!
4. Tokyo Dining
Epcot, Japan (World Showcase)
(photo from disneyfoodblog.com)
I only recently tried this spot with my dad and loved it so much that I forced him to make a reservation the next time we went down, as well. It’s located in the front half of Japan’s restaurant, Teppan Edo, which also houses its Hibachi section.
Tokyo Dining offers the most beautiful view overlooking the World Showcase Lagoon that displays the nightly “IllumiNations: Reflections of Earth.” The menu includes sushi, tempura, and katsu, along with many different Japanese alcoholic beverages. The extremely polite and courteous wait staff, as well as the quiet atmosphere, provides a pleasant break form the bustling Epcot.
3. Le Cellier Steakhouse
Epcot, Canada Pavilion (World Showcase)
(photo from kingdommagicaltravel.com)
Many visitors might not think of Canada when choosing a restaurant in Epcot, but they’d be making a big mistake. Consistently at the top of many “Best Restaurants in Epcot/Disney World” lists, Le Cellier offers a wide variety of steaks that make Longhorn Steakhouse look like the McDonald’s of the steak industry.
The menu is seasonal and always has new types of dishes for guests to try. The rustic, wood and stone-themed restaurant is located in the heart of the Canada Pavilion in Epcot, and reservations are always hard to come by; so plan ahead.
2. Biergarten Restaurant
Epcot, Germany Pavilion (World Showcase)
(photo from kingdommagicaltravel.com)
Biergarten is and always will be my family’s favorite go-to restaurant in Disney World. It has the most fun and upbeat atmosphere, all alongside a huge and delicious German buffet. The interior is set up as a year-round Oktoberfest with German-style architecture and a stage for a fabulous polka band that entertains all ages.
The beer comes in giant, full-liter glasses, which definitely excites my mom and dad and many other beer-loving folks. Every dish at the buffet is traditional German food, including wiener schnitzel, sauerbraten and bratwurst. None of it is disappointing, which is unusual for a buffet.
1. Boma - Flavors of Africa
Disney’s Animal Kingdom Resort, Animal Kingdom Lodge
(photo from disneyworld.disney.go.com)
Boma is amazing. Boma is my father’s favorite restaurant -- maybe in the entire world. It’s located in the Animal Kingdom Lodge and is a very large buffet full of African cuisine. They offer an astounding selection of foods, spices and flavors, which makes it easy to please absolutely any type of eater -- picky or not.
There seems to be a never-ending choice of rices, meats, noodles, desserts, breads, etc., which makes it impossible to try everything in one meal. The restaurant is decorated in beautiful colors, animal prints and statues. Boma provides a fancier, more decadent version of Tusker House. Although somewhat expensive, the views of a wildlife preserve through its ceiling to floor windows alone makes it much more than just a place to eat.
Walt Disney World is filled with wonderful restaurants, but these are just a few I feel stand out and are worth the money. There are several more budget-friendly places in every park that are very good and just as beautiful. Disney is great at theming their restaurants and keeping them all happy and friendly. Customers really can’t go wrong with any type of eatery in the parks or at the resorts.