Couple of Newbie dining questions

Hi Everyone,

I’m a guy making a solo trip to Disney World and I’m a first timer. I’m going the first week of September and am using the standard dining plan.

While setting up the trip up to this point has been a breeze, I’ve found the dining to be the most complicated because I want to make sure I A) make good use of my dining plan and B) make sure I get the full “eating at Disney World” experience. I’ve been doing a ton of research but even after searching through the forums and most of the site of (as well as others), I’m finding myself still with a couple questions I’m hoping to get answers and opinions on.

The biggest one I have off the top of my head: What’s the best “welcome to Disney World” lunch restaurant in Magic Kingdom?
My plane is landing in MCO around 9AM, so I don’t expect to finally be walking into the Kingdom much before 10:45-11AM after all is said and done. But since I can’t be sure when exactly I’ll be walking through the gate, I’m not comfortable setting an ADR for anywhere. So what would be a great Quick Service restaurant to start my trip with? Any recommendations? I’m not a picky eater and I’m open to almost anything (but I draw the line at “monkey surprise” :smile: )

What if Free Dining happens?
While I’m not counting on it, I keep seeing that they will probably offer this promotion around the time I go. Right now, I obviously don’t have it, so if I do opt to change my current booking in any way, would I have to redo all my bookings and reservations? Do I risk getting a crappier room (I’m staying in the Contemporary with a theme park view)? I’m currently working with Small World Vacations and I figure they’ll take care of the room setup, but what about my ADRs and (depending on time frame) my Fast Pass setups? Everything seems tied to my confirmation number so will all that get erased if I change things?

Do I need ADRs for most table service places for dinner?
Since I’m alone and going in low-times, I get conflicting suggestions. Obviously, for the places I absolutely want to be at, or for the super popular places like Be Our Guest, Cinderella’s Table, and (the only other one I heard about) Le Cellier, an ADR is absolutely needed. But what about other places?

Of course ADRs will guarantee a spot, but right now my plans for my stay are extremely fluid and I’d like to keep it that way.

Thanks all!


The first trip is always the most exciting… well maybe the second because you have a better idea of what works and what doesn’t.

I would plan for 2 - 3 hours from plan landing to entering a park. There are many things that can delay that so it’s a good idea not to set an ADR for that timeframe.

MK has a few decent choices. The new menu at Pecos Bills is getting a lot of positive reviews. Columbia Harbor House has long been a favorite for a lot of people, and you might even try walking up to a table at the new Skippers Canteen since they only do reservations on the day of.

As for free dining you won’t have to worry about losing any of your ADR’s if your travel agent is able to switch you to that plan. A few things to consider though, is that it could require you to change room categories, based on what rooms they release into that package. It could be that only garden wing rooms or pool view rooms are included. There isn’t really any way to know until it’s released. Also keep in mind that in order to get that ‘free’ dining you have to pay rack rate on the room which is the highest per night cost for the room they offer. When the fall promo’s come out they will offer a room only discount as well and at deluxe resorts 30 or 35% off of a room can often be a much better deal that getting the free dining plan, and it’s usually available on a much bigger variety of rooms.

Yes you will want to have ADR’s. These days there really isn’t a slow time just slow(er). We go in those same times and I often see people without reservations getting turned away. Now if you are more open to where you want to eat and want to have more flexibility than planning this far out, you can get some great reservations the evening before. As people’s plans change lots of cancellations come in the night before as people cancel to avoid the fee. We’ve gotten lots of great high demand places that way, but of course there is no guarantee.

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Thanks a ton for the info!

Unfortunately, this will probably be my only trip to Disney. It took a small miracle to make this trip happen :smile: Which is kinda why I’m wiggin’ out a bit and don’t want to be tied down to anything. If something really catches my interest I want to be able to abandon any plans that would conflict with it.

Regarding the ADRs, thanks, that helps a lot (especially the Skippers Canteen info). I was afraid that if I didn’t schedule all my ADRs 5+ months out, I’d be stuck waiting in line.

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If free dining is offered I would run the numbers and see if the $65 or so it would save you would be more/less than a nightly room discount. Have you checked out Magical Vacations Travel? They may have the lowest September rates available.

If you are looking for value and experience Be Our Guest is a good dining plan lunch value since it gives you the experience of eating in the castle at a counter service credit.

I wouldn’t say that it’s the best “Welcome to Disney World” lunch spot but I really liked the Lobster Roll at Columbia Harbour House - and I’m a picky New Englander! :wink:
Its a pricey lunch item so a good use of a QS credit. I think Cosmic Rays has a few combo meals that are good values as well.
You could always try to get into Be Our Guest to use a QS credit - you might get lucky and find an opening for 1 later in the lunch hour.

I am with Small World Vacations also, going in September. I was told, the Free Dining would just be added on if it becomes available. Nothing else would change, unless, of course, the resort I am staying at does not participate. In that case I would just change resorts.

Nope. If you aren’t tied to having to eat at certain places and are open to trying new things, you can easily find lots of good choices. Just remember if you change your mind to cancel by midnight the evening before so you don’t get a no show charge. Or if it’s same day and you’re in a pinch call and ask them to reschedule to later in the week, and then go online later and cancel it lol. People say you can’t be spontaneous at Disney anymore which isn’t true as long as you’ve done your research and know the right way to do it lol.

Thanks all for the replies! (sorry about my own late one. Work’s kept me preoccupied)

I definitely have some ADRs lined up and am still playing around with the schedule. Hardest part now is figuring what park I’m going to be at on what day and where to eat at accordingly.

My recommendation for Welcome to the World lunch would be Crystal Palace. The food won’t wow you but the characters will. I’ve not had Be Our Guest lunch, but that would be my second choice.

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Here is my quick suggestion.

Best is so subjective because it is what is “best” to you. Do you want characters, fine food, ambiance - what is important to you.
MOST of the food in WDW is not excellent - there are some pockets of excellent food - but the everyday is rather lack luster.

However - if characters are your thing - Chef Mickey or Chrystal Palace. BOG is also acceptable. Tony’s is just awful on all accounts. If you are a foodie - you may want to have a lunch at one of the MK resorts - Contemporary, GF (Grand Floridian) Poly or Wilderness Lodge. All depends on what you want

FREE Dining is not free - however can reduce your overall cost. the BEST thing is to run the numbers. Have your agent run your room with the room discount and then with the free dining and see what the best option is for you.

As a whole - unless you are doing character meals - we have found that a dining plan really limits us. As you are staying at the Contemporary - I assume that money is not super tight. I would suggest paying $ for meals. This way you have a bit more flexibility and you won’t feel like you “have to make the best” of the dining plan. You eat what you want. We have found that it adds a lot of flexibility NOT having the dining plan. The only time we found it worth it was when we did a lot of character meals.

A few other suggestions for place to eat

Chefs de France or Monsier Pauls (if you really want to kick it up a notch)
California Grill at Contemporary
Artist Pointe in Wilderness Lodge
Any of the places in Grand Floridian
Jiko at Animal Kingdom Lodge
Hoop Dee Do review is silly and stupid and a whole lot of fun as well.

I would think as a single - you have a bit more flexibility and ability to get into places. Most of the restaurants also have supporting bars that you could eat at as well.

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To me, a “Welcome to Disney World” meal would be one that is very unlike what I can normally get in the area I live. It would be a “We’re not in Kansas anymore” type of thing - with a good theme/decor and good food. Maybe that’s why I’m eager to do BOG and Skipper’s Canteen on my next trip (it’s been a few years since my last visit). Neither should tie up the $$ and time like CRT.

After doing all the research on dining I determined that the best “Welcome to Disney World” meal for my family was Chef Mickey’s. We rode the monorail into the Contemporary and it was the perfect meal for us! However, it was an ADR (that was scheduled for 6 hours after our plane was scheduled to land so I wasn’t nervous about making it).

Something that might give you more flexibility is the quick service right next to Chef Mickey’s, Contempo Cafe. Since you’ll be staying at the Contemporary it would be a great first stop before MK and the views at the Contempo Cafe actually allow you to watch the monorail come in as you eat which is a great way to know you’ve arrived at Disney World. Then you can easily make it to the park after fueling up!

If you have your heart set on eating inside MK, I fully support the above Columbia Harbor House and Lobster Roll recommendations. We ate there twice. If you sit upstairs there are some great window tables with views overlooking Liberty Square that were a lot of fun for us. One thing I would caution at the theme park counter service is to either hit it early before 11:30 or late after 2pm. In between it will be lunch madhouse at its fullest. So I would recommend you go get your food as your first stop in MK if you do decide to eat in the park.

Whatever you decide, best of luck and hope your first trip is full of magic!!

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I’m kind of thinking that, while the food would not necessarily blow OP away, the location and atmosphere would be a big huge welcome to Magic Kingdom lunch. Right where Main Street meets the Hub, sitting in the warm sunshine, looking at that Castle, hearing the piano player?

Yep, I’m suggesting Casey’s Corner for a QS Welcome To MK.

BOG would be my other big recommendation, with better food selections and a wicked neat atmosphere. But that one’s harder to get.


like the Casey’s Corner suggestion

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