Copyright – Disney
Sure, Chef Gusteau had it right… anyone can cook. But sometimes, isn’t it nice to let someone else do all the mise en place-ery and take care of the dishes? As much as my husband and I love Disney World for the atmosphere, the attractions, the getting unnecessarily teared up because you met Ariel and she was literally the first movie you remember going to oh noes am I crying DON’T LOOK AT ME, we also love it for the food in a big, big way. Living less than an hour away, we always make a point to plan our trip around where we’re going to eat, and over the years Disney World has provided us with some truly amazing meals. Don’t get me wrong… I love a good burger and fries, and few things are finer than a big plate of buffalo chicken wings. Sometimes, though, you want to try something different. You don’t have to visit during Epcot’s annual Food and Wine festival for some primo nosh, and if you’re willing to spend a little more, Disney dining can be decadent and delicious in ways you might not expect.
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I understand there are a lot of mixed feelings out there about reviewing a restaurant on opening night. Let’s, then, consider this a “set of paragraphs with some helpful recommendations” written by the designated vegan, shall we?
After years of waiting, I finally had the opportunity to dine at California Grill on the night of its grand re-opening. I was stoked. Having absolutely no point of reference for comparison, I was blown away by the atmosphere, the view, and the awesome window shades that automatically raised as the sun was setting in the distance. Before even having a taste of my pineapple juice, I made up my mind that I was going to love everything about the evening that followed.
My dietary preferences had been noted in the reservation ahead of time, and confirmed again with the host a few hours prior to our reservation. Upon being seated, our server confirmed to me that both types of bread – a lavender focaccia and whole wheat sourdough rolls – were both vegan. I was very surprised by this, since many restaurants in Walt Disney World use bread that contains eggs. I even asked twice, but was assured that both types of bread were vegan. Both options were delicious, I could have eaten the whole basket on my own.
After quickly perusing the menu, I noticed there were no options that were vegan by default, but gave an extra glance to the Roasted Squash Ravioli, since it sounded delicious (Root spinach and parsnips? Don’t mind if I do, but I didn’t.). I was also really interested in the Carrot and Cilantro Soup, but unfortunately it was cream-based and contains halibut. Two strikes, soup! Our server, Abdou, coached me through the Soup, Salads, and Appetizers section of the menu. He recommended the “Romaine Salad,” to which I agreed. When it arrived, it was tomatoes atop leaves of Romaine lettuce seasoned with oil, a bit too much salt, and pepper. There wasn’t much to the dish, as you can see, I was underwhelmed yet hopeful for what was to come next.
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To me, dining at a restaurant with a beautiful view makes the meal taste just a bit better. Maybe it’s because I’ve lived so much of my life in snowy trundra and urban wastelands (where very few restaurants have wonderful views); or maybe I’ve just always been the type of eater who’s greatly influenced by surroundings like table location, smells, sounds, crowd level, etc.; but an incredible view from my table is something I’m willing to fight for.
So, whether you want to do some people-watching, see the Magic Kingdom fireworks or Illuminations from your table, spend your dinner spotting African wildlife, or just relax with a tranquil lookout, here are a few Disney World dining spots that I think afford incredible views:
California Grill Sunset
The California Grill in Disney’s Contemporary Resort is probably my top suggestion when someone wants an outstanding restaurant view. From the top floor of the resort, the floor to ceiling windows offer amazing views of the whole of Walt Disney World — and the rest of Orlando. Watching the sun set behind the Grand Floridian Resort, or catching the nightly Magic Kingdom fireworks show from this location, will probably be one of your grandest memories from your vacation.
Rose and Crown Pub and Dining Room
Because this is one of the most well-known “good view” locations, it’s also one of the very crowded! Guests line up nightly to wait for Rose and Crown‘s outdoor patio tables where the view of Illuminations is one of the most spectacular in Epcot, but I also suggest booking a table for lunch. Sitting outside on the lovely patio, watching the boats glide back and forth over World Showcase Lagoon, and taking in the detail of the other pavilions within your view is a wonderful way to spend a mealtime.
View of Giraffe from Sanaa Table
Sanaa‘s casual, relaxed atmosphere and tucked-away location make it a wonderful place to detox after a hectic morning in the theme parks. But what I find enchanting about this place is that it’s the only Animal Kingdom Lodge Resort restaurant that actually has a view of the hotel’s main draw — the African animals on the savanna. Go for lunch or an early dinner to guarantee plenty of daylight, and request to be seated next to one of the restaurants large picture windows. Expect to see giraffe, zebras, Ankole cattle, African birds, and other incredible animals.
Another one of the best views in Walt Disney World, ‘Ohana‘s wall-to-wall windows give guests a generous view of Seven Seas Lagoon, the Polynesian Resort grounds and Volcano pool, and the major landmarks of the Magic Kingdom. Book a spot here when the restaurant opens for dinner at 5pm to take in the relaxing late-afternoon and evening sunlight spilling over Seven Seas Lagoon, or make an advanced dining reservation just in time to catch the Magic Kingdom fireworks and the Electrical Water Pageant!
The View From Tokyo Dining
An excellent restaurant for sushi gourmands, Tokyo Dining also offers one of the best views in Epcot’s World Showcase. During the day, look out over the World Showcase promenade and amuse yourself with some wonderful people-watching; in the evening, schedule your meal in time to see Illuminations: Reflections of Earth explode over World Showcase Lagoon.
Other great spots to enjoy the view, in my opinion of course, are Narcoosee’s, in Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort; Cantina de San Angel in Epcot’s Mexico — I imagine the new incarnation opening in the Fall will have some astounding views of the World Showcase Lagoon; and Animal Kingdom’s Flame Tree Barbecue, where you can enjoy a stunning view of Expedition Everest from the seating area.
What are your thoughts? Any additions to the list or experiences you can share about great views from Disney restaurants — and whether or not they make the meal better for you?
You can find more Disney Restaurant information from AJ Wolfe over at The Disney Food Blog.