When you think of the Magic Kingdom and sitting down to a meal, the first thing that often comes to mind is eating in the castle (and if you didn’t know that, SURPRISE! You CAN eat inside the castle. I know, shut the front door.).
You feel like royalty as you look over the kingdoms of the magical land you’ve been submersed in, taking pity on the all the commoners who didn’t score such a feast as yours. You’ve probably made your princess-obsessed little one very happy as princesses continually swirl around and about the dinning room. It’s definitely a meal fit for a princess (or prince or queen or king)!
Or, you may think of the Crystal Palace and hanging with the gang from the Hundred Acre Woods. You enjoy see how many Mickey shaped waffles you can devour in one sitting while you ponder how much you really do ‘care’ to eat on this day. Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore and Tigger and their festive parades round out your celebration (because every day is celebrate at the Crystal Palace).
Or, a third option comes to mind, as you dream of exploring the west wing at the Be Our Guest Restaurant. You dine in high-class surrounded by the beauty that is the Beast’s castle and do indeed try the gray stuff. Spoiler alert, it IS delicious.
The Crystal Palace, Cinderella’s Royal Table, Be Our Guest Restaurants are all definite hot Magic Kingdom dinning spots and often fill quickly with advanced dinning reservations.Alternatively, walk-in service becomes difficult to secure or involve a several hour wait period. Hungry tummies don’t like waiting that long to eat.
How in the world are you going to ensure you have a great sit-down meal in the Magic Kingdom? If you go the traditional route, it is recommended that you get up at 6am at your 180 days out from WDW arrival mark (if you stay on property) to snag your idea reservation date and time. If you miss the window or start booking late, you might have already missed your opportunity. Or let’s say life happens and you can’t make that time window? While there are some work arounds, that we will touch on later, sometimes the attitude from other Disney goers is, ‘Better luck next time!’.
Cue the panic and stress that can come along with a Walt Disney World vacation. It doesn’t have to be this way! Fight against the norm and take back your vacation!!
So, how do you make sure you won’t be eating solely quick-service meals on your trip? Or avoid waking up at the crack of dawn to score a reservation? What if you want to make a reservation closer to your park date or, what if, you don’t want to make a reservation until your actual park day? While, no promises can be made that anything will be open, especially during busy dates, you might have a better chance at scoring a table service meal at these 3 (sometimes) overlooked Magic Kingdom sit-down restaurants super close to your reservation date or even in the morning of your park date.
Skipper Canteen: On our last trip to Walt Disney World we had originally scheduled a buffet breakfast at the Crystal Palace in the Magic Kingdom, but decided to do a character buffet after the wine-and-dine half marathon at Disney’s Animal Kingdom at the Tusker House (which was AMAZING!) and cancelled our Crystal Palace plans. Instead, about 15 days out, we switched to the Jungle Navigation Co. LTD: Skipper Canteen.
It did NOT disappoint. While we aren’t super huge fans of the Jungle Cruise ride (sorry!) in the Magic Kingdom, which the Skipper Canteen is inspired by, we enjoyed the ambiance and ‘dad jokes’ that our waiter dished (get it?) to us throughout the meal. The options for vegans and vegetarians were substantial. Most places in Walt Disney World (although, this is greatly improving!) we usually can find one, possibly, two menu options to fit our needs, but the Skipper Canteen more than delivered. We ordered the Curried Vegetable Crew Stew, the Perkins Thai Noodles (with rice noodles), and the Jungle Green Salad (with a different dressing). We were even able to avoid getting our four-year old mac-n-cheese (as he would love to eat this at every meal) and ordered him curry soup that he actually enjoyed! All four of us were stuffed after that meal.
2. Liberty Tree Tavern
Truth be told I haven’t eaten here since I was a teenager. My family liked to dine here, but since switching over to a mostly plants based diet, I haven’t made the visit in recent years. (Although, I’ve meaning to go back, I’ve heard the vegan option now offered is fantastic!) Liberty Tree Tavern features an All-You-Care-to-Enjoy style meal featuring Thanksgiving style fare. The Liberty Tree Tavern is a popular restaurant, but I attempted to make a reservation online (just to see if we could get in) only a few weeks out during Halloween and a runDisney Event week and was able to find a reservation for lunch time and dinner both.
3. The Plaza Restaurant:
The third suggestion is the Plaza Restaurant on Main Street, USA. In a way, it’s hidden in plain sight next to the Plaza Ice Cream Parlor on the way to Tomorrowland Terrace. You might pass it thinking it was just extra seating for the ice cream parlor, but in-fact it is a stand alone restaurant!
The restaurant has a casual, relaxed atmosphere, reminding me of Mary Poppins and fitting in with the Victorian theme on Main Street, USA. The fare is pretty simple and seems to meet the needs of most palates. Again, we attempted to make a reservation here two weeks out from our visit to the Magic Kingdom and again were able to score spots for both lunch and dinner.
Reservations on Park Day
Even if you waited until right around lunch time the day you are in the park, you will still be able to most likely get a seat for that meal, especially at the above listed places in the Magic Kingdom. For example, last time we were at the Magic Kingdom we inquired about moving our Skipper Canteen reservation to a different time. The wait was going to be an hour and they were going to let us know via a text to our phones. This was a nice perk as we didn’t have to sit around in the lobby area and waste valuable park time. While we would have loved to walk right in at the exact time we wanted, that didn’t seem like it would have been too crazy of a wait for us. That included waiting with a hungry 11 month old and 4-year-old! Being able to keep ourselves busy in the parks was the thing that would have made it bearable.
Try to keep your park day reservations flexible. One technique I like to employ is scheduling a meal during ‘off-hours’. We will opt for a 10:30 breakfast meal or a 2pm lunch reservation. A majority of the park guests have already eating and we are able to score a reservation a little easier. It might even be beneficial to check with the restaurant around lunch time just to get your name on the reservation list. Following scheduling your meal you can head back to the park and get a little more fun time in before you eat.
While there is no guarantee that you’ll be able to snag any of these spots super close to your trip or the day of, the odds are in your favor. We have found that we were able to score some rare finds the day before our park date. Huh? How is that possible? Often guests who make their reservations at the 180 day mark, or at least a few months out, realize that the reservation isn’t going to work in their schedule as their vacation starts. The Walt Disney World restaurants that allow for advanced dinning reservation each have a cancellation policy that is spelled out for you when you book. Once these guests cancel, you might be able to grab your dream reservation.
(Side Note: If you don’t cancel within their terms you will be charged a per person cancellation fee. Many allow you to cancel the day before via online or calling the Disney Dinning phone number, but double check to be sure you don’t get an unexpected charge on your credit card.)
Wanting to take a break from the parks for a while, but don’t want to venture too far? Hop on the monorail and dine at one of the sit-down restaurants at any Magic Kingdom area resort. The easiest resorts to reach along the Magic Kingdom monorail track include the Contemporary, the Polynesian and the Grand Floridian. Each resort has it’s own unique theming; almost an extension of the park itself. The Contemporary has a modern, futurist vibe and is the resort closest to Tomorrowland. Pretty neat, huh? The Grand Floridian is an extension of Main Street, USA and the Polynesian fits in line nicely with Adventureland. Oh, and fitting in with the Adventureland theme, the Polynesian has dole whips. Just saying…