“Oh, you’re going to Disney World? You absolutely MUST get an ADR at CRT! And you have to get it at 180 days! Actually, 180 days plus ten! What? You don’t know what that means? Well, here, let me show you…”
Thus begins your “Disney Friend’s” helpful advice about how to start planning for Disney. She pulls out a whiteboard (that she somehow has in her purse) and starts drawing diagrams in a strange unknown language, with “ADR” and “180+10” and “Le Cellier” and “Ohana”. Suddenly, this feels less like vacation planning and more like sitting in the strategy room of some complicated war game maneuvers. This sounds less and less fun by the minute.
Never fear, I’m here not only to help translate, but ALSO to tell you why it’s okay if you don’t do what you “MUST DO”.
First of all, ADR means “Advanced Dining Reservations”. This is exactly what you think it is – dining reservations made in advance. At Disney World, you can book these at 180 days prior to check in AND you can make up to ten days worth of reservations. So this means you can call Disney’s Dining Reservation line at 7am EST, 180 days before your check-in date, and make dining reservations for your ENTIRE stay, assuming you aren’t staying 11 or more days. (If you are, then the same rules apply – wait a day. But also call me so I can help you because that sounds like a CRAZAY trip!) Unlike Fast Pass reservations, it doesn’t matter for dining reservations whether you are staying on property or not EXCEPT for that 10 day window. If you are staying off-property, then you just get the 180 days, not the “extra 10”, so you would need to make those one day at a time as they are released. It can be a a pain but doable for sure.
Guess what? It’s okay if you do not get Cinderella’s Royal Table or Be Our Guest or [insert other restaurant your friend insisted you have to eat at]. You and your family will still have an amazing time. They will not look back on the trip with disgust that their darling parent or guardian did not get that coveted dining reservation. And all shall be well. I promise. Stay tuned for some tips about what to do if you do NOT get these dining reservations.
These reservations really do go pretty fast around the 180 day mark when they open up. It’s just science. So here are the TOP 10 DISNEY WORLD DINING RESERVATIONS YOU SHOULD GET EARLY (aka, 180 days + 10, 7am-ish EST), IF you want to get exactly the time and day you want!
1) Be Our Guest (Magic Kingdom, Fantasyland)
This restaurant has been extremely popular for a few reasons – one, obviously, because it’s pretty magical to eat at the Beast’s castle, but two, because there really are not a LOT of great dining options in the Magic Kingdom, TBH. So that makes it tough to get a seat. It’s also a weird one because Breakfast and Lunch times are semi-Quick-Service (they use a QS dining credit, and you order in advance or at a kiosk and they bring you food), while Dinner is Table Service (with wine!). Personally, we prefer Breakfast at BOG, rather than Dinner, so that we only use a QS credit, don’t have to tip, and get to choose where we sit (we like the West Wing), more or less. But if you are looking for a dinner TS credit to use, or if you definitely want to meet The Beast (he’s only out at Dinner) it’s a good place to use it – if you can get it. Good luck!
2) Cinderella’s Royal Table (Magic Kingdom, Fantasyland)
I mean, who doesn’t want to eat in THE CASTLE?! Plus, you get to meet some of Disney’s most popular princesses. It makes sense that this one goes VERY fast, especially for families with little princesses who want to dine in style after their BBB makeover downstairs. Honestly? The food is just okay. But sometimes you just want the experience, right?
3) Chef Mickey’s (Contemporary Resort)
To be honest., I’ve never been sure about why this is so popular. Maybe because it’s the only “Fab 5” Buffet Character Dining within spitting distance of the Magic Kingdom, meaning you can grab a meal there and then walk or catch the monorail over to the Magic Kingdom. Or maybe it’s just that, like the Kardashians, it’s famous because it’s famous – people tell their friends to get reservations there, who tell their friends, who tell their friends….etc. If you have a better theory, let me know in the comments!
4) ‘Ohana (Polynesian Village Resort)
Unlike the above options, this one is popular because of the FOOD and not the characters or the atmosphere. While they do offer a lovely Character Breakfast with Stitch, Lilo, Mickey and Pluto (because pets, I guess?), it’s nothing particularly special. The DINNER food is worth it’s weight in gold. And that’s about how heavy you will feel after leaving this family style Polynesian dinner delight. Whatever you do, I beg of you, FOR ALL THAT IS HOLY IN THIS WORLD, make sure you save space for the Bananas Foster Bread Pudding at the end! It’s worth it, no matter how much you love those meat nuggets of delight.
5) Victoria and Albert’s (Grand Floridian Resort and Spa)
Chances are good that your friend did NOT tell you about V&As when she started telling you everything you needed to book. That’s because not a lot of people go. So why is it so hard to get a reservation, you ask? Because it is the only Michelin-starred restaurant on Disney property, and is known for being the best and fanciest with all kinds of rules and exclusivity and such things. The dining room is VERY small, and no kids under 10 are allowed, and they only take two seatings per evening. It’s swank. But very very good. The Chef’s Table (with only one seating per evening) is the MOST exclusive and hardest to get.
6) Trattoria al Forno Bon Voyage Breakfast (Disney’s Boardwalk)
This is a new one to the “challenging ADR” list this year (2017) It’s the only character dining location for Prince Eric, Rapunzel and Flynn Rider (Ariel makes an appearance as well) and it’s new, so we have yet to see how long the buzz will last. For now, it’s a tougher one to get, with some extra cute details that lots of families love. (Historically, Trattoria hasn’t been a favorite restaurant in the two years since it opened, so this is a genius move on Disney’s part – and you can still get regular lunch and dinner reservations there pretty easily.)
7) Le Cellier Steakhouse (Canada, Epcot)
This is one that has a good reputation and a tiny dining room. I really love the dark and small atmosphere here, and the food is good for sure. Plus, I just really love the Canada pavilion. And Canadians, for that matter. So much to love!
7) Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant (Hollywood Studios)
Real talk, no one goes here for the food. It’s actually not that great. But they do have tables in cars in a drive-in theatre set with movie clips playing on the big screen! And car hops and a concession stand! As atmosphere and fun theming goes, this one is definitely on the top of lots of lists. Plus, there’s only a couple of good dining options currently at DHS now, making this one even more popular.
9) Via Napoli (Italy, Epcot)
When you have a large group of people over, chances are you get a pizza to make things easy AND cheaper. While I wouldn’t call this a cheap pizza place – it is definitely specialty Italian wood-fired pizza – it CAN keep those dining costs down for larger parties paying out of pocket for meals rather than using the dining plan. Plus, pizza is something that almost everyone – even kids – will eat so it’s an easy pick for parents.
10) Any Place With a (Potential) Fireworks View
There are several dining locations that offer views of the fireworks shows at the Magic Kingdom or Epcot, including California Grill, Rose and Crown’s patio, La Hacienda de San Angel, and Narcoosee’s. (‘Ohana is also in this category, but the view is less great in part because of the trees and pool area at the Poly in my opinion.) And all of these locations have really great food! I personally try to make at least one of these happen per trip for my own family, though a little luck is also usually involved – you aren’t guaranteed the PRIME dining table that might make for the best viewing, though feel free to ask upon arrival – they usually try to accommodate. But I do love watching a fireworks show with food, drink and a CHAIR – and in the case of the Magic Kingdom shows, it’s a different experience seeing them from farther away, without the crowds of Main Street.
If any of these are on your list – particularly the top 5 on this list – then I do recommend making an effort to get on the phone at 7am EST 180+10 days in advance of your check-in date for that BOG ADR. (Look at you, reading all the Disney lingo now!)
BUT if this all is super stressful for you OR you just booked your reservations and you are WELL past that 180 day date, DO NOT FREAK OUT. WE WILL GET THROUGH THIS TOGETHER AND YOU WILL HAVE A GREAT TIME. How? Follow me to a couple other options…..
Curious about Michaela and Jared’s FAVORITE Table Service Restaurants at Disney? Listen to us discuss it way back in Episode 8 of the FastCast+ Podcast!
Still stressed out and looking for some additional help with booking and dining? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to get started!