Should I Leave the Park to Eat at a Disney Resort Restaurant?
Something friends ask me often about Walt Disney World is how they should plan meals.
A few of them prefer to eat at the parks due to the convenience. In contrast, others desire the superior cuisine at some Disney hotels.
Deciding where to dine is never easy, especially when you enjoy this many fantastic options.
Should you leave the park to eat at a Disney resort? Let’s weigh the pros and cons.
Pros of Eating at the Parks
The primary pro here is convenience. If you have a baseball in your hand and a decent arm, you can probably hit a restaurant from where you stand.
Snack stands and restaurants populate seemingly every corner of Disney theme parks, which is by design.
Walt Disney World claims a hard-earned reputation for selling the finest theme park cuisine in the world.
Places like Be Our Guest, Chefs de France, and Yak & Yeti Restaurant have earned a reputation for their divine flavors.
Some places inside the parks rival anything you can eat in your town.
When you look at restaurant review aggregate sites like TripAdvisor, you’ll realize how well Walt Disney World does compared to the rest of Orlando.
Many of these options rank in the top 250 in a city with roughly 3,000 restaurants.
Places like Tiffins Restaurant at Disney’s Animal Kingdom place high on the list…and for a good reason. They offer impeccable dining experiences.
Plus, when you dine at the parks, you never waste any valuable tourist time. You’re never more than a few minutes away from your dining destination.
So, you duck into a restaurant, eat a quick meal, rejuvenate a bit, and then you’re off on your next park adventure!
You’re maximizing your Disney time!
Cons of Eating at the Parks
However, other restaurants at the parks fall short of a tourist’s vacation budget goal. We want tasty food at a fair price. That’s a bit of potluck at times.
Disney has split its eateries into two categories, Quick Service and Table Service.
Most of the Quick Service offerings mirror fast food joints and the theme park fare you’ve known your whole life.
Sure, some places like Sunshine Seasons, Satu’li Canteen, and Columbia Harbour House provide exquisite dining experiences.
I would go so far as to say that most Disney Quick Service restaurants defy expectations. But some of them are nothing special, just places to eat.
Oddly, the same is true at some Table Service eateries. Think of these places as fine dining, sit-down meals where you can bask in the ambiance.
Some Table Service options at the parks, especially those at the World Showcase, will blow your mind and thrill your palate.
Others like Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano, Tony’s Town Square Restaurant, and Coral Reef Restaurant may not impress you with their flavors.
Importantly, these places are also more expensive, generally costing $35 per person or more. So, the value isn’t very good.
You’ll pay roughly the same price at most Disney Table Service restaurants, or you’ll spend slightly less for Quick Service meals.
However, the prices are relatively static. You’ll spend just as much at the parks as you would at a resort restaurant. And that’s not great because…
Pros of Eating at a Disney Resort
Here is a quick review of the current Disney resort restaurants currently ranked in the top 100 on TripAdvisor:
- Jiko – The Cooking Place
- Victoria & Albert’s
- Geyser Point Bar and Grill
- Boma Flavors of Africa
- Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto
- Ravello Italian Restaurant
- Flying Fish
- Cape May Café
Folks, ten percent of the best 100 restaurants in Orlando reside at official Disney resorts.
In fact, if I had taken this list out to the 250, the numbers would have improved, as even more resort restaurants rank that highly.
Please remember that these are average reviews from tens of thousands of tourists and Orlando locals! So, the high scores are impossible to refute!
This information tells you that A) you should always stay on campus. B) You’ll eat better when you leave the park and head to a Disney resort.
Cons of Eating at a Disney Resort
Okay, you should have guessed the obvious con by now. You must travel to reach most Disney resorts.
Yes, some exceptions exist, depending on which park you’re currently visiting.
EPCOT resides by two Disney resorts, albeit at the back of the park where the World Showcase is.
So, you can reach a Disney hotel restaurant more efficiently than ever. It just requires a bit more effort than grabbing a burger at a place 250 feet from you.
The other con is the opportunity cost of park time that you’ll lose. Let’s say that you order Quick Service at a nearby Disney resort restaurant.
Your best-case scenario is that you spend 15 minutes traveling there, 20 minutes eating, and another 15 minutes for your return trip.
If you prefer Table Service, you’re looking at 90 minutes or more. For some people – and I’m one of them – this break from the parks works well.
However, if you want to accomplish everything you possibly can during a park visit, leaving to visit a Disney hotel restaurant wastes valuable time.
Should You Leave the Park to Eat at a Disney Resort?
Here’s what I tell people when they ask. I let them know how my wife and I generally approach our Disney visits.
We combine the options, eating inside the parks at times but leaving for resorts most of the time.
When we choose a Disney hotel restaurant, we pick one that’s easy to reach from the parks.
For example, Beaches & Cream Soda Shop is only a ten-minute walk from the International Gateway at EPCOT.
Chef Mickey’s requires a short hop on the monorail from Magic Kingdom.
I mentioned three different highly regarded restaurants at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. They’re just a five-minute bus ride away from Animal Kingdom.
You shouldn’t plan to crisscross the Disney campus, especially if you’re new to the parks.
However, you can take an intelligent approach to your visits. Foodies should explore the impeccable Disney resort restaurants frequently.
Park fanatics should only leave to eat on rare occasions. You can still find delicious meals at any of Disney’s theme parks. It’s just that the resorts are slightly better.
We eat at the resorts more because we’ve done everything at the parks many times. So, we don’t mind the opportunity cost. Your mileage may vary.
Overall, you’ll never go hungry at Disney, and you’ll leave with a content, full belly.