8 Best Places to Max Out the Disney Dining Plan
Do you plan to visit Walt Disney World soon? Do you plan to eat while you’re there? Well, I hope the answers to both of these questions are yes. If you did say yes to the first one but not the second, please post a message in the comments letting me know how you plan to pull that off. Anyway, let’s assume that you are visiting and eating and want the best deal possible. Read on to learn about the best eight restaurants for the Disney Dining Plan.
Explaining the Plan
Let’s start by stating terms here. The Disney Dining Plan (DDP) is a wonderful program that allows you to eat “for free” at a set number of Table Service and Quick Service restaurants during your trip. Each member of your party will receive one Table Service and one Quick Service meal credit per night during your Disney resort stay. For example, when you stay for six nights, you get six Table Service and six Quick Service credits.
By understanding the system, you can maximize the value of your dining plan. You’re not paying with cash when you eat at these restaurants. Instead, you’re using a credit. From your perspective, a $20 meal is the same as a $60 meal, as long as they’re both Table Service restaurants, the higher-quality eateries at Walt Disney World.
As such, your goal is to book the most expensive restaurants possible so that you’ll eat like royalty during your vacation. That’s the strategy listed here. The suggested restaurants are the Disney Dining Plan program participants with the highest average meal costs per person. The only caveat to these suggestions is that you are responsible for tips. I say this to point out that 20 percent tip for a $120 meal is $24, whereas it’s only $12 for a $60 meal. Please keep this in mind to avoid surprises with your vacation budget.
8) Boma: Flavors of Africa
Nestled under the stairs of the hotel lobby of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge – Jambo House, Boma: Flavors of Africa is arguably the most unique buffet at Walt Disney World. Well, Disney calls them All-You-Care-to-Enjoy (AYCE) restaurants rather than buffets, but the principal is the same. You take your plate through the line and grab a massive amount of food, all of which features delicious, authentic African flavors.
Boma serves some of the tastiest dishes you’ll eat anywhere. The only downside is the cost, which is currently $47.93 per person…but it’s only one Table Service credit on the Disney Dining Plan! Yes, a couple gets a $100 meal for two Table Service entitlements. With this one example, you should understand how the entire process works. In the right hands, the DDP is a powerful weapon for foodies!
7) Cape May Café
Another hotel restaurant costs $47.93 per person. I’m speaking of Cape May Café, which is better known for its character breakfast, Minnie’s Beach Bash. At $34.08, that meal costs significantly less, a recurring theme for AYCE eateries. Since this list is all about THE most expensive places, the dinners are the only options under consideration, which is unfortunate at Cape May Café. The seafood buffet here is a delightful meal that everyone will relish…but it would be better with Minnie Mouse and her friends, right? Ah, well. The rest of the list provides several opportunities for character dining if that’s your preference.
6) 1900 Park Fare
Speaking of which, here’s 1900 Park Fare! The character meal here is entitled Cinderella’s Happily Ever After Dinner, and it’s one of the most devilish outings in Orlando. At Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Cinderella’s wicked stepmother and stepsisters come out to play. Suffice to say that they are quite villainous, a rarity for a mainstream character meal. These three women wander the dining room area, asking vain questions, saying inappropriate things about Cinderella, and generally hamming it up for their new audience. The whole thing is great fun, but you’d have to pay $52.19 per person to eat here without the DDP. It’s an amazing deal for a single entitlement.
5) Chef Mickey’s
One of the dirty secrets about Disney character meals is that they’re pricey. Don’t get me wrong. You TOTALLY get your money’s worth from each experience, which is these restaurants book several months in advance. You want to save that money when you can, though, and that’s why the DDP is so terrific. At Chef Mickey’s, you’ll hang out with Mickey and Minnie Mouse plus Donald Duck, Pluto, and Goofy. It’s a wonderful time and the favorite of many children. With the DDP, you’ll save yourself the stiff per-person cost of $54.32 for adults.
4) Tusker House
Three of the best four options listed here share a commonality. Each one can be part of a special dining package. All four gates at Walt Disney World have some form of nightly exhibition. Disney sells packages that include a meal and reserved seating for the nighttime show. They obviously charge more for these special seats, ones that generally offer the best views of the performances.
At Disney’s Animal Kingdom, the Rivers of Light package includes only two possible restaurants, Tiffins and Tusker House. Tiffins is a Signature Dining experience, which means that it costs two Table Service credits. It’s impossible to maximize the Disney Dining Plan value at Signature Dining venues, as you’ll see in a moment. At Tusker House, a CHARACTER MEAL, however you can eat and hang out with Donald Duck while still booking reserved seats for Rivers of Light.
The cost for a Tiffins package is at most $76 at the moment, which breaks down to $38 per entitlement. A Tusker House AYCE character meal with the Rivers of Light package is $58.58 per adult. You’ll get dinner and a breathtaking show for a single DDP Table Service credit!
3) Tony’s Town Square
Are you surprised that it’s listed this high? Well, I am. Somehow, out of all the many expensive restaurants at Walt Disney World, Tony’s Town Square provides some of the best bang for the buck on the Disney Dining Plan. Well, it does with some caveats. The most important one is that I’ve previously described this place as “generic in both design and cuisine.” That statement is harsh but fair.
For people looking to maximize value on the Disney Dining Plan, Tony’s Town Square is a different story. The restaurant has antipasti and dessert musts on top of its somewhat expensive entrees. You’d be hard-pressed to eat the same food her for less than $50 when paying out of pocket.
Starting in 2017, Disney added a Festival of Fantasy Parade package. Unlike the other restaurants listed here, this deal is applicable for lunch only. You eat a meal here and then you receive reserved seating for the Festival of Fantasy Parade at 3 p.m. Well, I say seating, but it’s just a roped off area that faces Main Street Baker. The view here is AMAZING. We streamed this on our FB feed last year, and people who weren’t even friends with us started commenting about how jealous they were.
The catch is that this package started at $45, almost immediately went up to $49, and now sits in the $59 range. I think of this package as a viable option for fans of the Festival of Fantasy Parade. You’ll see it better than you ever have before. The food at Tony’s Town Square is…honestly, it’s like Olive Garden, only without the fun salad phase of the meal. So, this particular ranking is kind of in air quotes. It’s a deal for certain people in specific circumstances, the original entry of its kind I’ve included here.
2) Hollywood & Vine
I’m a huuuuge fan of Fantasmic!, one of the best nighttime displays in theme park history. I’m also a massive fan of Hollywood & Vine, which I recently suggested is a solid substitute for Chef Mickey’s. Thanks to the dining plan, I can combine my two loves with the Fantasmic! package. Through this offer, I receive designated seating for the show at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Plus, I’m an invited guest of Minnie Mouse at a seasonal party wherein her and her friends wear adorable, seasonally appropriate outfits. Their autumnal garb, Halloween costumes, makes me squeal with delight…and I’m not a big costume guy. Despite the positives, I view the price of Hollywood & Vine fairly stiff at $61.77 for this package. That’s because the food is just…okay at this AYCE establishment. Still, the ability to take pictures with Minnie and friends in adorable costumes is a wonderful deal for a single Table Service credit. The Fantasmic! tickets are a happy bonus.
1) Akershus Royal Banquet Hall
Akershus is the one restaurant in the top four that does NOT include a package, although it could. During the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, you can add Eat to the Beat seating. That’s an event that only lasts for part of the year, and you might not even want to see Air Supply in concert. So, I’m not counting that package in Akershus pricing. Even as a standalone dinner, however, this restaurant is expensive. Hanging out with princesses ain’t cheap, my friends! A meal here costs $62.84 per person, making it a terrific dining plan value. And, if you were wondering, the Eat to the Beat package is $74.55 otherwise. Hey, for all I know, you may have a Tumblr dedicated to Air Supply!