When my Thanksgiving plans to go out of town fell through at the last minute, I had no idea what I was going to do. My two children (ages 1 and 2 and a half) and I had never spent a holiday alone, and I had no back up plan. Then I realized that Thanksgiving week was one of the most crowded times of the year at Disney World according to the Crowd Calendar, and since we live locally, maybe we should check out the options on property.
I began to look for dining reservations for dinner, and was very quickly reminded by the lack of availability just how crowded Thanksgiving can be. I tried to find something that seemed traditional, like Liberty Tree Tavern, Diamond Horseshoe, or 50’s Prime Time, but nothing was available. I checked Disney’s list of restaurants that do Thanksgiving meals, and saw that Cape May Cafe was on the list. I thought that seemed odd, since sea food isn’t usually associated with the holiday, so I called a friend who worked there to find out the deal. To celebrate the day, Cape May serves a large portion of the regular sea food buffet AND a traditional Thanksgiving meal including turkey, stuffing, and all the trimmings. Suddenly, all you can eat turkey and crab legs seemed like the perfect way to enjoy the holiday.
After repeatedly checking the online dining reservation system, I finally got a reservation for my children and me for 3:40 in the afternoon. At first I balked at the holiday price for the buffet ($40.99 for adults), but when I thought about how much money I spent last year cooking dinner, I realized I was coming out ahead. Also, we had never been to Cape May, and I was super excited for our unconventional Thanksgiving.
Fearing heavy crowds, we arrived at the Beach Club Resort early, around 3:10, to check in. We had to wait a bit for a table, but it was no problem as the kids were totally entranced by the gingerbread carousel in the lobby of the resort. Because we weren’t eating at peak lunch or dinner times, we only had to wait about 5 minutes before we were seated.
From the moment we arrived, the service was fantastic. The seater showed us around the buffet and made sure the kids and I were situated at our table before he passed us off to our server, Barbi. The seater had mentioned that Barbi was new, and I was a bit apprehensive, but right away she proved to be outstanding. She immediately brought a plate of macaroni & cheese and chicken nuggets for the kids so they wouldn’t have to wait (seriously parents, tell me that’s not the most perfect thing ever for a server to do!). Barbi also offered to sit with the children while I went to the buffet to get us all food. At first I declined, but they were comfortable, and the buffet wasn’t far from our table, so I let her. When I returned my one year old was best friends with her as they ate and colored and talked to the next table. I was so grateful for how easy Barbi made the entire experience.
The buffet itself was what dreams are made of. It started with the traditional fare, turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, yams…and then came crab legs, steamed mussels, clam chowder, carving station…it was fabulous. The selection and variety were a welcome twist on Thanksgiving. Buffets don’t always offer the highest quality food, but I was very impressed with my dinner. Everything was fresh and delicious. The crab legs were a bit skimpy, but I wasn’t concerned since I could get as many as I wanted.
The main thing I was worried about with dining out for Thanksgiving was the atmosphere. I was afraid I would miss my family and feel alone. However, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Not only did the staff do an amazing job of bringing the spirit to the restaurant, but other guests were outstanding, too. We spent a lot of time talking to people at the table next to us, and children from surrounding tables were all playing together. It was like we became one big family all spending the meal together. Barbi even told me that she was thankful that if she couldn’t be with her family, she could be with all of ours.
All in all, it was a much more magical meal than I ever would have imagined. Just because families are at Disney World for Thanksgiving, it doesn’t mean they have to miss out on the holiday.
Have you spent a major holiday at Disney World? Would you? Where did you (or would you) go?