Tips for Dining Solo in Disney World

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How many of you out there have been to a Disney park all by yourself before? Raise your hands! If you’re not raising your hand, then you’ve never been a solo traveler to Disney World. That’s okay! Until January, I was a solo virgin as well. I made up my mind to travel from Michigan to Florida alone and I had such a wonderful time 8 months ago that I’ve decided to do it again in September. If you happened to read my previous post on my first solo trip then you might remember how new and fun the experience was for me. It was a real eye-opener as a female, a Disney fan, and a tourist.

I took a really brave, big girl step in January on my trip. I ate at a restaurant… all by myself! Yeah! It was wild! There were two wonderful experiences that changed my thoughts on being a solo diner, one at Mama Melrose’s and one at Jiko. The latter was one of the most incredible dining experiences of my life. All of that being said, I couldn’t have done it without some encouragement and stupendous tips given to me by readers of the TouringPlans.com blog. I even learned a few things for myself along the way about dining solo and I’d like to share my suggestions with you readers out there that are planning a solo trip or would like to travel alone to the Disney parks someday.

First of all, customize your dining schedule based on YOUR eating habits. It’s tough to imagine it if you’ve never done it before, but being alone means that if you’re not hungry, you don’t have to eat just yet. What works best for me, since I’m an active Disney traveler, is to pack protein bars in my suitcase and then take one with me and eat it on my way to the bus stop. I don’t waste any time eating over-priced scrambled eggs. From then on I just roll with my day and my appetite. If you had a big lunch and aren’t hungry for dinner.. skip it! If all you want for dinner is a delicious Dole Whip Float… by all means, eat it! The great thing about traveling solo is no one is there to stop you or judge you after you’ve eaten your body weight in popcorn while waiting for the parade.

My next suggestion is completely against the Disney travel bible but I’m going to say it anyway. Don’t make any Advanced Dining Reservations. I know! It’s shocking! This especially rings true if you’re traveling during a slower month like January or September. Obviously, if you want to eat at one of the few insanely popular restaurants like Chef Mickey’s or Cinderella’s Royal Table, go ahead and make that reservation. Otherwise, you’ll probably be just fine walking into any restaurant and getting a table with little to no wait at all. It’s so much fun to be able to decide on the spot what you’re in the mood for rather than having planned out what you’ll be eating six months in advance.

Without a doubt, the absolute best table service restaurants to visit when you’re by yourself are those with “counter” dining. That would include Jiko, California Grill, and Flying Fish Cafe and Wolfgang Puck Cafe. While the level of attention from chefs varies at each of these restaurants, your experience will still undoubtedly be memorable. You don’t have to worry about staring across the table at an empty chair. If you’re a social butterfly, you might even find yourself having a conversation with a total stranger sitting next to you, much like I experienced at Jiko back in January. It ended up being one of my favorite memories from my solo trip. I know that during my meal at Jiko, sitting at “The Cooking Place” made me notice less that I was alone and the chef’s did a great job putting me at ease. All of the restaurants I mentioned come with a high price tag. However, it’s much easier to afford a nice meal for one than for five. Think of a solo trip as the perfect excuse to pamper yourself and indulge without feeling guilty.

If you’re more of a wallflower (like I thought I was until my solo trip) and you think to yourself, “But, what will I DO? Won’t I just sit there thinking about how alone I am? Won’t people notice me sitting by myself?” Well then my friend, you need a good distraction. This is easy at Disney World because so many restaurants have entertainment built right in. Think about Sci-Fi Dine In Theater, where you can lounge in a car and watch the fun retro television commercials and clips being played. Raglan Road is one of my favorite restaurants in all of Disney World simply because of the excellent live entertainment. The music and irish dancing starts later in the evening and isn’t every night so make sure that you plan accordingly. Another great place to consider is Restaurant Marrakesh in Epcot. Especially if you’re usually traveling with picky eaters and you’ve always wanted to branch out. Marrakesh has belly dancers and traditional Moroccan music to keep your mind off the fact that you’re dining solo.

Now that I’ve shared some of my solo dining tips, I’d like to hear yours! Leave me a message in the comment section!

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Posted on August 7, 2012

25 Responses to “Tips for Dining Solo in Disney World”

  • My first Solo trip was 2 months ago during a business conference, where I snuck away to catch EMH at the Magic Kingdom. Although I only have time enough for a Pecos Bill’s Burger that night, I love the thought of returning for a Sci-Fi meal. I always feel rushed out of there by my family when at that point all I want to do is sip a milkshake and finish the movie reel.

  • as a single child-free male, the majority of my eating out – in the world and not – are solo dines, so I long ago got over whatever social anxiety causes people to be uncomfortable with the experience. I completely agree that ADRs are much less necessary when dining solo. Rare is the occasion when I can’t get a walkup when going by myself.

    One restaurant that’s especially good for us Solo travellers is Dad’s Tune In Lounge. No ADRs required, and you can order from the complete 50′s Prime Time Cafe menu. Similarly, Kona’s Sushi-bar is walk-ups only, and you can order from either the sushi menu or the full Kona Cafe menu.

    As for “what will I do??”, rest at ease. We all have smart phones these days. Use yours to play your games, browse Facebook, and text your friends to brag about how you’re at WDW and they’re not! :-)

    • As a single, child-free female, I often dine alone as well. At home, I will read while I dine, but in the World, I will take that time to go through the pictures I have taken.

      • For me, I made sure to communicate on Twitter (@Stacey87) during my trip. It made me feel more connected to people. I loved showing what I was doing and any interesting things that happened to me. However, when it was time for a meal, I forced myself to not mess with my phone. I just didn’t want to disturb the experience of dining alone. It’s relaxing to be able to forget about the rest of the world sometimes.

  • by @Chasoneering on August 7, 2012, at 2:36 pm EDT

    I have not taken a solo trip yet, but on my last vacation to WDW, my sister and I splintered off from the rest of the family for a couple dinners together. We highly recommend solo and small group travelers try a meal at Teppan Edo. The communal teppan means you will sit with other travelers. My sister and I sat next to a very jovial three-generation family who have been traveling to WDW annually for decades, an we ended up running into them a few more times during our trip. Much like the counter recommendations in the article, this is a great way to ensure more than an empty chair is staring back at you, and the antics of the hibachi chef will be an excellent ice breaker!

    • Similar to Teppan, Biergarten is another restaurant where you’re seated with another party. The seating arrangements at both also make them virtually sure things for a solo-diner without ADRs. It’s like a Single Rider line for dining!

      • I think doing a group dining experience as a solo traveler is something I’m going to have to work up to. Somehow, I feel like I’ll be invading a families meal. Once I get more comfortable with dining without friends and family, I’ll give Biergarten (one of my favorites) a shot.

  • I’m frothing at the mouth for the opportunity to go on my own. One of these days, my wife is going to get to go on some crazy awesome trip for work, and I’ll be able to guilt-trip her into allowing me to go to WDW by myself.
    Or maybe I can somehow convince one of my friends to use my DVC points for a bachelor party. Though, I don’t think many grooms would be into that option for a bachelor party. What didn’t I think of it at the time?!
    Oh, that’ll be that day!

    • Frothing at the mouth? Oops! Didn’t mean to make you ill! :)

      You can convince most guys how awesome a bachelor party at Disney would be just be talking about “drinking around the world!”

  • by Michelle B. on August 7, 2012, at 5:11 pm EDT

    I’ve done a few solo WDW dining trips. And I will never again not have ADRs. On 1 trip each of my 3 nights for dinner I ended up with counter service. At Epcot I could not get in to Coral Reef, or anywhere else. Admittedly I did not try Marakesh as I was too tired to walk that far. On the 2nd night it was a 2 hour wait for Ohana, and 1.5 hours for Kona Cafe. So even the hotels didn’t have openings. Oh and this was the 1st week of December, so typically a slow time.

    • Coral Reef and ‘Ohana are tough restaurants to get into to begin with even when you’re trying to book 180 days out. I think if I wanted to dine at one of those I’d make a reservation. Next time you want Kona Cafe and can’t get in, try the sushi bar where you can order off the full Kona Cafe menu.

  • Nice! I would never be able to leave my house with out my family if they knew I was going to Disneyworld. Haha! Hope we can meet up in September. Great post!

  • I’m actually going to WDW solo the week of labor day. I’m using that time to try all the restaurants that I’ve always wanted to go to but the people that I go to Disney with either don’t want to or can’t afford. My plan is to hit up Coral Reef, San Angel Inn, Sci-Fi Diner, Kona, Sanaa, and Yak and Yeti. I’m super excited :)

    • Awesome choices! Yak and Yeti is one of my new “hidden” treasures. You’re going to love it. If you’re there at the end of the week of Labor Day, you just might run into myself and some other TouringPlans.com folks!

  • After many years of going to Disney World I will actually be going to DL by my self in a couple weeks, so your post intrigued me for sure. It is going to be weird but my wife says I would talk to a tree so I guess I will likely be okay :) I am so curious to see how it will feel to be on my own and to dine alone. I am going to try some of your ideas about dining!

  • Great article! I have never done a completely solo trip, but most trips I do a lot of touring alone. It is such a different experience, and a great deal of fun. I always end up having conversations with other guests, or end up trying new and fun things while I am in the parks alone. I am a total social media junkie too. I have so much fun tweeting and instagramming while I wander the parks.

    I got used to dining alone back when I lived in Chicago, because I was not going to let being alone keep me from awesome food! Disney is such a great place to dine and tour alone, because the people and the cast members are so friendly. Although you are technically alone, I have never felt lonely there at all.

  • I’ve dined solo in WDW many times. My only advice is — just do it! It may be a bit awkward at first but you get used to it, especially when you realize people are so caught up in THEIR lives they don’t even notice you. The only place I really felt awkward was San Angel Inn, because of the romantic atmosphere. And some place put the tables REALLY close together, so be sure to ask for a table in the back or away from others (if that would bother you).

    I still haven’t worked up the courage to do a character meal or a group meal (like Beirgarten or Tappen Edo) yet, but maybe one day.

    Also, it’s still a good idea to make ADRs if you KNOW you want to eat at certain places. I usually plan my day around meals, so ADRs are a must.

  • by Debbie from Chicago on August 8, 2012, at 5:52 pm EDT

    I’m soooo jealous. Have a 6 year old, so don’t think I will get away with it any time soon. Loved reading about your alone time though.

  • Your article is really making me want to take a solo trip. I have wanted to do a solo trip for awhile. Seems like no one can keep up with me. Dining solo would be the hardest thing to do but it would be a lot of fun just taking in the atmosphere around you. I’m sure the more you do it the easier it gets. And I am a planner, so making ADRs would be important to me for the restaurants that I really want to go to.

    • I think with the ADR thing, it’s a matter of preference. I’ve always been a super planner (ask my family) and find that I like to loosen up and change my plans around but with ADRs, it’s hard to do. Being solo is a great time to just NOT plan if you want to try that. It’s nearly impossible to go witout some type of plan if you are traveling with a big family.

  • by Wendy Cuthbertson on August 9, 2012, at 2:12 pm EDT

    I did WDW solo a couple of years ago, had a blast. Went back the next year with my mom and had just as much fun. My tip for eating in any restaurant alone is to take a book. A small paperback fits in my purse and I am good to go. Some people will stare but ignore them, enjoy a drink your food and a book. I ate at Coral Reef, Tony`s, Brown Derby, Fultons, Spoodles and San Angel Inn, loved them all. Can hardly wait to go to Disneyland in May 2013 for my 40th birthday and back to WDW soon too I hope.