Top 5 Overlooked Disney World Restaurants

Disney dining is a hot topic among vacationers. Sought after reservations are planned months in advance, menus are scoured, and pictures are researched. In a lot of searches, you will see the same restaurants mentioned over and over. Not only are (some) of these Disney World restaurants over rated, but a lot are near impossible to get into, especially for a last minute trip.

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In my experience, resort dining is often overlooked, but is some of the best food on Disney property. Also, these places have been known to take last minute reservations and walk ups. Check out my list below of five of my favorite hidden gem restaurants at Walt Disney World:

Name: Trails End Buffet

Location: Fort Wilderness Campground

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This buffet truly is “hidden” in the woods on Disney property. You cannot park directly at the restaurant, and instead must either park at check in and take an internal bus, or take a boat. The best way to describe this place is “comfort food”. As a born and raised southerner, I consider myself an expert on sweet tea. So far, Trail’s End has hands down, the best sweet tea, on Disney property. Also, since it’s not a character buffet, the price is very reasonable for an all you can eat. It’s usually pretty quiet, and we love sitting on the porch in the rocking chairs before or after our meal just soaking in vacation. If you want to relax, this is a great place to go!

Name: Kona Cafe

Location: Polynesian Village Resort

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Kona Café is right next door to the ever popular Ohana. On several occasions, I have been able to walk up without a reservation to Kona, even at prime dinner time. On the second floor of the lobby, Kona has a fun colorful open atmosphere, with a great menu. Since it’s on the monorail loop, you could even leave the Magic Kingdom, go eat, then go back to the part without wasting a lot of time.

Name: Grand Floridian Café

Location: Grand Floridian Resort and Spa

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This is another place I consider quiet and relaxing. We love getting a table by the window for breakfast or lunch, and enjoy the bright light that comes in through the tall windows of the restaurant. Off by itself in the back of the lobby, it’s away from the hustle and bustle of check in, and 1900 Park Fare. You can easily hop on the monorail or a boat to the Magic Kingdom, so it’s prime location is a huge draw in my opinion.

Name: Splitsville

Location: Disney Springs

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There are several reasons I love Splitsville, one being the birthday cake martini. Another great plus to this place is that it has a HUGE menu, so I’m certain you will find something for everyone here. Also, you can eat WHILE you bowl, which is pretty awesome and unique. My favorite is to ask to eat outside on the upstairs balcony. It has great views of Disney Springs, especially at sunset. Not to mention, since there is no admission to get into Disney Springs, you don’t have to have a park ticket to eat here. I have also walked up and been seated immediately many times.

Name: The Wave

Location: Contemporary Resort

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Another restaurant I picked in part to it’s great location. Just one stop after leaving the Magic Kingdom, this cool place off the lobby of the Contemporary has a very chill vibe. The drink menu is fun, and the options are plentiful. After you eat, simply walk the path back to the Magic Kingdom, or hop on the monorail to the TTC and go to EPCOT or back to the Magic Kingdom. So many options!

QOTD: What is your favorite often overlooked Disney restaurant?

Splitsville Luxury Lanes: Downtown Disney

When I was visiting Walt Disney World in February, I had the pleasure of speaking with the owners of the recently opened Splitsville Luxury Lanes at Downtown Disney.

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At first glance, many will think it’s “just a bowling alley”, but the truth is it is so much more. The pictures and my descriptions really don’t even do it justice, you will have to go check it out for yourself. It truly has a “wow” factor that can’t be explained. However, I will do my best to convince you that this is a must do on your next visit to Disney World.

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I started my morning at Splitsville with a tour of building. WOW is honestly the first word that pops into my head. There is so much to look at, you could come back 100 times and still notice new details on every visit. I had the privilege of interviewing Guy, one of the owners. Guy explained Splitsville to me as a mix of hip and retro with a fun sensory overload.

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Owners Guy and Mark were college roommates. When they came up with the idea of Splitsville, they wanted the customers to walk in and be wowed. To love the entertainment, atmosphere and the food…then say “oh, and by the way, we went bowling, too.” The claim to fame here is actually the food, and it did not disappoint (try the nachos, you will be blown away!) The menu is huge and you will find something for even the pickiest of eaters, like me.

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A lot of the portions of the food are made to be sharable. Unlike traditional locations for bowling, you can actually eat at your lane while you bowl. You will find fare such as nachos and hamburgers, as well as fancy dishes like mouth watering steak and even sushi! The food here is very fresh (hand tossed fresh pizza dough for example). There are two kitchens, several bars, and plenty of places to dine. They also have an amazing drink menu, with my favorite being the birthday cake martini complete with sprinkles dotting the rim of the glass.

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Hands down, my favorite places to enjoy a meal are the outside tables. I have eaten both out on the downstairs patio where you can sometimes be entertained by a live band, or upstairs on the covered balcony, complete with it’s own bar and breathtaking views of Downtown Disney.

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My husband Bobby and I enjoyed dinner on the upstairs balcony in April

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I had never been to a two story bowling alley, so riding up the escalator was very cool. During the day families of all sizes come to enjoy themselves, and at night the upstairs lanes become more fun for the “big kids” like me.

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There are pool tables, the second kitchen, as well as more places to dine upstairs.DSC_0678

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There is a podium to walk up to if you would like to bowl, and one if you are there to only eat. If you choose to dine in, there are several different options for seating. (Inside, outside, balcony, etc.) It was a gorgeous day, so we chose to eat and have our interview outside on the downstairs patio.

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It was great to just sit and people watch while enjoying our food, and the company. I really enjoyed hearing about the story behind Splitsville and their vision for the future.

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Guy spoke with enthusiasm about reinventing bowling for America. They are about good food as well as good entertainment, and wanted a hip carnival atmosphere for customers.

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He also talked a lot about teamwork, and the employees seemed to be a tight knit bunch. Everyone was so friendly and went out of their way to greet us and make sure we had everything we needed. You can tell they all take pride in their workplace.

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Guy also mentioned the possibility of more Splitsvilles popping up around the country. There are already locations in Texas and Virginia, as well as two other Florida locations. I know they would love to expand to Disneyland in California as well.

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When I went back to Disney with my parents in May, I took them to Splitsville for lunch and some bowling. We had a great time and can’t wait to go back next time we are in town. It was truly one of the highlights of my trip.

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I had a great time learning more about this great place and hope to be back for a visit soon!

Splitsville Luxury Lanes is located in Downtown Disney’s West Side area. You can learn more about pricing and hours on their website. You can also follow them on Twitter.

QOTD: Have you been to Splitsville? What looks the most awesome to you about this place? Do you like to bowl?

Top 5 Disney Restaurants in the Parks

Last week I wrote a post on my favorite restaurants at the Disney resorts. Now it’s time for my favorites in the parks!

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This was a tough decision, and I tried to spread them out amongst the parks as best I could so there was at least one place per park (all sit down restaurants). Just know there are a lot more great places to eat other than these, but the ones below are some of my favorites!

1.) Coral Reef: Enjoy your meal while sitting next to a gigantic fish tank! You are even given a fish guide so you know which ones you are looking at. Bobby gets fish, I get steak, but we both get warm chocolate lava cake! This is a more fancy place for a park, but kids stay entertained watching the fish. Ask for a seat next to the tank if you can. You may have to wait a little longer but it’s worth it.

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2.) Liberty Tree Tavern I love Liberty Tree for lunch in particular. Why? Four words: Ooey gooey toffee cake. This my friends is the best dessert on Disney property. I also order the pilgrims feast (turkey, dressing, potatoes, green beans) it’s a nice break from fried fried fried that I eat at a lot of other Disney meals. It’s a nice sunny restaurant, very well themed, and of course it’s right in the Magic Kingdom.

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3.) Be Our Guest: I ate here for the first time in February and think Disney did a fabulous job with the theming. We sat in the West Wing and I was bummed at first but ended up loving it. It was much more quaint and quiet than the main ballroom. I love that you can take a picture with the Beast after dinner, and the menu is very nice for a park restaurant.

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4.) Yak and Yeti: This is in Animal Kingdom, and has great theming. It is Asian inspired, so again a nice break from what a lot of the other restaurants offer. I usually get sweet and sour chicken with rice and Bobby gets some kind of shrimp which he really enjoys. We typically do lunch here, and love sitting in the room that has giant windows overlooking the park. People watching at it’s finest!

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5.) Sci Fi Dine In: Best atmosphere of the park hands down. Who doesn’t want to eat in a car at a drive in movie theater? With that being said, the menu is limited, and I honestly don’t ever order anything but a cheeseburger and fires and a cookies n cream milkshake, which is to die for. If you are looking for a fancy culinary experience, this is not the place. However if you are wanting a unique experience don’t miss this one!

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Others I love but couldn’t choose them all:

Le Cellier (Epcot)

Crystal Palace (Magic Kingdom)

Splitsville (Downtown Disney)

QOTD: Did your favorite make the cut? What am I forgetting?

*Remember I can book your trip for you at no additional cost to you! heather@travelwiththemagic.com