What Are the Oldest Restaurants at Walt Disney World?
Magic Kingdom has evolved mightily over the past 50 years…but maybe it hasn’t changed as you might think.
Once park officials identified some businesses that they liked, they kept those names even when they moved the location.
I’ll prove that today with a simple list. Here’s a chronological ordering of all the restaurants at Magic Kingdom!
Cinderella’s Royal Table – October 1, 1971
This date shouldn’t come as a surprise to you. After all, Cinderella Castle embodied the magic and wonder of Walt Disney World.
When Magic Kingdom opened in 1971, operating a restaurant inside the castle made good business sense.
The one quirk involved the name. Disney officials chose King Stefan’s Banquet Hall, naming the restaurant after Sleeping Beauty’s father. Weird, huh?
By the way, Disney didn’t switch the restaurant title until 1997!
The Crystal Palace – October 1, 1971
Yes, this Table Service restaurant has delighted guests since the beginning.
In fact, other than the castle dinner, Crystal Palace embodied the finest in Disney dining.
No, wait, it was the opposite of that. Are you old enough to remember cafeteria-style meals like Piccadilly Restaurants and Morrison’s Cafeteria?
Crystal Palace was like until 1996, at which point it improved its cuisine and changed the name to identify this fact.
What was the new name? The Crystal Palace!
The Diamond Horseshoe – October 1, 1971
Yes, dinner came with a show from the very beginning.
In fact, Guinness once declared this the longest running stage show in the world back in the 1980s.
During 1986, The Diamond Horseshoe became one of the first Disney restaurants to require dinner reservations, which speaks to its popularity.
Alas, another trivia note underscores how much this place has changed over the years. At one point, Disney switched it to a Quick Service meal.
Later, the restaurant introduced a new show, Goofy’s Country Dancin’ Jamboree, which failed after a few years.
Then, The Diamond Horseshoe went unused for a while before coming back with a piano rather than an entire show.
The Lunching Pad – October 1, 1971
This restaurant also switched locations over the years. It started in a different location before switching to its current spot in 1994.
Main Street Bakery – October 1, 1971
Close your eyes and try to imagine Main Street, U.S.A. without it. You can’t do it, can you?
Disney has switched its name over the years, with titles like Main Street Bake Shop and Main Street Bakery and Cookie Shop.
Whatever the name, it’s always brought joy.
Pecos Bill Tall Tale Inn & Café – October 1, 1971
This one surprised me, as it just seemed newer to me.
I have no memory of it from childhood, although the sheer volume of Magic Kingdom restaurants explains this aspect.
Apparently, Pecos Bill Café swallowed the neighboring Mile Long Bar, which is the Tall Tale Inn part now.
This change occurred in 1998.
Pinocchio Village Haus Restaurant – October 1, 1971
The history of Magic Kingdom restaurants is remarkable due to how many places remain in operation today.
Pinocchio Village Haus doesn’t shock anybody, though. After all, Disney constructed it to mirror It’s a Small World.
So, they’re kindred spirits connected for 50 years.
The Plaza – October 1, 1971
The history of this one precedes Walt Disney World. Disneyland introduced its version on opening day in 1955.
Sixteen years later, Main Street, U.S.A. at Magic Kingdom added its own version, although I’m cheating a bit here.
The actual place was The Plaza Ice Cream Parlor, and it didn’t even open under that name.
For ten years, it went by Borden’s Plaza Ice Cream Parlor.
Later, Disney expanded with the adjoining restaurant, although I cannot find an exact date. I know it’s in a map from 1993, but I’m still researching.
A 1985 map shows The Plaza Pavilion, but it appears to show what we know as Tomorrowland Terrace instead.
Sunshine Tree Terrace – October 1, 1971
Yes, the ice cream treats have mainly stayed the same for 50 years!
Even then, Sunshine Tree Terrace claimed the title of home to the Orange Bird and a fair share of Citrus Swirls.
The strangest thing that changed about Sunshine Tree Terrace since then is the location, which I’ll explain in a bit. Disney did a trade.
Tomorrowland Terrace Café – October 1, 1971
Okay, this one comes with a messy history. The Tomorrowland Terrace you know isn’t the original one from 1971.
That space belongs to a place we’ll discuss later. Still, the name of Tomorrowland Terrace has lived on, even in its new spot.
Columbia Harbour House –Summer of 1972
This Liberty Square restaurant bears the distinction of being the first post-grand opening eatery that remains in business.
Disney officials wanted to capitalize on the nautical theme of the area, particularly the Liberty Belle Steamboat.
Also, Imagineers paid tribute to a similar ship at Disneyland. Some signage acknowledges its namesake, the Sailing Ship Columbia.
Aloha Isle Refreshments – 1982
Here’s a quirky one. This restaurant has switched locations.
The move occurred in 2015 as part of Magic Kingdom’s New Fantasyland-based shuffling.
Yes, those changes spread to Adventureland, too. There, the aforementioned Sunshine Tree Terrace swapped spots in 2015.
Of course, what’s important is that Aloha Isle has doled out refreshments since 1982. See what I did there?
Tony’s Town Square Restaurant – July 24, 1989
I think it’s incredible that most of the “newer” Magic Kingdom restaurants are more than 30 years old.
As you can see, this Lady and the Tramp-themed eatery qualifies as a recent addition.
Disney built it to keep up with surging attendance at Magic Kingdom.
By that point, the park had become one of the most popular paid tourist destinations on the planet.
Casey’s Corner – April 12, 1992
I would have guessed wrong the other way on Casey’s Corner. I simply cannot imagine Main Street, U.S.A. without it.
Much of what I just said about Tony’s Town Square applies to this one, too.
Again, Disney added it to meet increased demand for culinary options inside the parks.
The Italian place caters to the sit-down meal crowd, while Casey’s Corner doles out hot dogs that would seem right at home in the bleachers at a ballgame.
Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café – 1994
Yes, Cosmic Ray’s and its star performer, Sonny Eclipse, debuted in the mid-1990s.
The restaurant opened in 1994, and then Sonny arrived in 1995.
Before then, Disney hosted live performances from real, not audio-animatronic, people.
Yes, this space belonged to the original Tomorrowland Terrace Café! Today, it’s much more playful in tone, which I love, even if the food is just so-so.
Tortuga Tavern – February 6, 2011
I’ve got a question for the old school crowd. Do you remember El Pirata Y El Perico?
Yes, that Adventureland location held down the fort here before the introduction of Tortuga Tavern ten years ago.
Disney wanted to tie together the eatery with Pirates of the Caribbean. It worked so well that I struggle to remember the old place.
Be Our Guest – December 6, 2012
The next two eateries go together. Roughly a decade ago, Disney plotted a new version of Fantasyland, one that upgraded the amenities on display.
Imagineers cleverly constructed a “giant castle” that’s shockingly short. Yes, Beast’s Castle utilizes line-of-sight tricks to appear massive.
Gaston’s Tavern – December 6, 2012
On the same date, Disney opened a snack place that has become a hidden gem at the park.
Many people miss it due to its location all the way in the back, but it’s worth making an effort to find.
Sometimes, Gaston’s Tavern even sells The Grey Stuff!
Skipper Canteen – December 16, 2015
I find this part staggering. Disney hasn’t opened a new restaurant at Magic Kingdom in five years and counting!
This restaurant arrived with plenty of hype but experienced a few setbacks early on. The menu proved divisive and arguably too ambitious.
However, the Jungle Skipper script has cracked up guests since day one. I love this place and was there when it was still new.
I cannot believe it’s already five years old! That meal feels like yesterday. And that’s the wondrous aspect of all Magic Kingdom restaurants.
These places quickly become a part of our history and memories. So, we don’t think about how little they’ve changed over the years.